After he set up the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in New Delhi in 1939, Vinay Chandra Maudgalya would visit people at their homes on his bicycle and try to convince them to send their daughters to learn Hindustani classical music. Finally, some gathered the courage to discard antiquated notions of “respectability” and send their children to learn music and later, classical dance. Ahead of the Mahavidyalaya’s 70th anniversary, we spoke to Maudgalya’s son and current principal of the institution, the noted Hindustani vocalist Madhup Mudgal. Edited excerpts:
Fine artist: Madhup Mudgal at the Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. Harikrishna Katragadda / Mint
Has the Mahavidyalaya succeeded in its stated mission of popularizing classical music?
Today we have 1,200 students. During admission time, we have waiting lists and have to turn applicants down. Newspapers are eager to list our courses in their ‘Careers’ section even though I tell them not to. You see, it’s a little different from a computer course. The goal now is to make our teaching even better quality-wise and more scientific.
How does your way of teaching differ from the guru-shishya style of the gharanas?
We are like the schools and colleges one attends before moving on to more specialized studies. I teach advanced students interested in a professional career. One advantage we have is that we bring senior musicians and stalwarts from the different gharanas from time to time, giving our students great exposure.
Are you disheartened by the limited following classical music has?
This is how it has always been, whether it is Hindustani music or Western chamber music; and it will always be so. Classical music is for finely trained ears. A truck driver listens to Daler Mehndi and that is good too. The origin of classical ragas and melodies lies in folk tunes, after all. But there is a deeper ananda (joy) in listening to Bhimsen Joshi—besides the senses, it involves the mind too.
Who supports classical music today?
The government is doing a lot—whether it is by way of awards and scholarships or providing historical monuments as venues for performances. It is heartening that in the last 15 years, state governments have also begun supporting classical arts.
Who would you call a bigger success among Gandharva students—popular singers such as Kailash Kher or a classical musician?
Personally, a Hindustani classical musician. But success is good—after all, it is their life and their career. Popular music is a quicker route to fame and money.
How viable is it to be a classical musician today?
Much better than earlier. There are new avenues such as fusion music—many learn classical and opt for it. For pure classical music you need passion without bothering about money. But things like PR are important now. As Zakir Hussain stresses, it is important to market yourself. I can’t do it! I don’t have a website, but I tell my daughter that she should.
How do you manage with an average monthly fee of Rs500 per student?
We manage, and we get students from all walks of life. We have daughters of industrialists learning alongside children of autorickshaw drivers and peons.
Not all stay for the eight-year alankar degree?
No, usually they are here for two-three years. Then the more complex training in vilambit khayal begins and many leave.
Any regional patterns in student enrolment?
(About) 25-30% of the students tend to be Bengalis. It’s always been like that. But we get students from everywhere.
Nirat—The Eternal Journey, a music and dance festival from 17-22 March at Kamani auditorium in New Delhi, will feature, among others, Madhup Mudgal, Leela Samson and Vasundhara Komakali. For details, contact Gandharva Mahavidyalaya at 011-23233791/23238784.