Written By Kiran Krishna
Publishing a discography of Kannada Bhavageethe has been my dream since almost a decade. I meet a lot of musicians, poets and their families in this regard. Today was one such day where I met Smt.Radha Kulkarni, granddaughter of Kannada poet, dramatist and the freedom fighter Huyilgol Narayana Rao. I recently came to know that she was the niece of the lyricist Vatsala.P – the name often seen on Amirbai Karnataki’s Kannada shellac discs. She is now nearly 82 years old. She was very cooperative and told lot of incidents about their neighbours Pt.Bhimsen Joshi, Prof. D.R. Bendre etc
The discussion started with Smt. Radha remembering the days of Gadag when she was pretty young. She belonged to the Page family and the neighbours were Garud family. Almost everyone in both the families were artists. Starting from Huyilgol Narayana Rao, Sripad Rao Garud, P Vatsala, Kamala Page etc, are the names we see on Shellac records. Vatsala was from Garud family and she got married to Vasant Rao from Page family. Vasant Rao later joined HMV company and hence they shifted to Bombay.
The legendary musician Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and poet Prof. D R Bendre were very close to Page family. Pt. Bhimsen Joshi used to be a regular visitor to Page family since he had a hockey mate there. She told me how food was shared between the families many a times. Everyone were fascinated by Bhimanna’s voice then. She shared the well documented train incident of Bhimsen Joshi’s when he was very young. It seems he used his uncle’s name who was a railway employee to escape from TTE.
When Bhimsen Joshi later moved to Maharashtra and when he had concerts in Mumbai, he used to visit Vatsala and Vasant Rao’s family. Vatsala used to prepare his favourite Gadag style food. Dinner was served on so many late nights after the concerts.
When Radha Kulkarni visited Bheemsen Joshi just a few months before his death, he was so happy. Radha Kulkarni gave a book on Vatsala. When he saw it, tears flowed from his eyes and he said she was like his mother who served him food for so many years. He thanked Radha Kulkarni for the nostalgia.
After few more anecdotes, I had to leave back to escape the traffic jam of current Bangalore.