Shobha Gurtu

On Shobha Gurtu - artist unparalleled, on the occasion of her being awarded the Padma Bhushan this year.

Refreshingly humble for so experienced an artist, Shobha Gurtu is exceedingly modest about her achievements. The media has been writing reems about her being awarded the Padma Bhushan. Recently, a classical programme titled Mharo Pranam was held at the Shanmukhananda Hall, Mumbai, to felicitate the singer on being given the prestigious award. Veteran musicians including her son Trilok Gurtu, Ustad Zakir Hussain, Shankar Mahadevan and Shobha Mudgal performed at this function. Gurtu is extremely happy about a function being organized in her honor.

Though a hip surgery made it difficult to walk and perform, she has bounced back and has decided that she will perform more often. Especially after the success after Mharo Pranam. She wants to sing until her death and always wants to be remembered as a musician who contributed her bit to classical music.

One wonders how she feels considering that the Padma Bhushan has come so late in her life. As usual, the answer is optimistic. She thinks it is a prestigious award and honor - an honor that is better got late than never. She says that she is glad that people have remembered to honor her at least now! Typically, she says that she would have been happier still if Dhondutai Kulkarni too had been honored with the Padma Bhushan since she too has worked so hard to excel in her field. She is extremely touched by the fact that so many people came to call upon her. People as big as Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Kishori Amonkar, among others.

It was her grandmother Krishnabai who encouraged her to learn music as a child. Her mother, Menakabai Shirodkar, a classical singer, and dancer, also encouraged and guided her. Though she began with classical singing, it was thumri that she fell in love with. And that love continues until today. Even while very young, Gurtu learnt the difference between morning and evening ragas. She later trained under Ustad Ghammam Khan but does not believe in long hours of riyaz. She has always been inspired by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan and Begum Akthar, she says.

What are her comments on today's music? She loves listening to pop music (surprise, surprise) and feels like dancing to the tunes of today. When she was in Germany (where her son, musician Trilok Gurtu is based, she says she went to a concert where (as she frankly admits), though she didn't the music, she enjoyed the rhythm. Unlike many other classical musicians, she has only good things to say about them. She says that though classical music has taken a backseat, it will always carve a special niche for itself.

These days, she is trying her hand at teaching classical, ghazal and thumri to the younger generation, which she finds very fulfilling. When asked about her son, Trilok Gurtu, she proudly says that she is happy that he is making a name for himself in the world of pop and fusion music.

Future plans? At the moment, she does not have any plans for releasing any more albums but says she will consider working on one when Trilok returns from Germany. And so we leave her basking in the warmth of the Padma Bhushan and await more musical dreams from her.