There’s mutiny on board maestrodom. Weeks after the ailing shehnai legend Ustad Bismillah Khan’s public lamentations over his penury moved governments and music lovers alike into loosening their purse-strings, a note of dissent has been struck—ironically, by another giant in the fraternity. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the flamboyant Hindustani vocalist, says he’s disgusted by these pleas for help. And even more so by the shehnai king’s financial fogginess.
Holding forth in Pune this week, the octogenarian doyen of Kirana maintained it was "undignified" for an artiste of Khan’s stature to seek financial help. "A big artiste has to maintain his dignity," Joshi thundered. And then came the real slammer. The Pandit accused the Ustad of asking to be bailed out of a "self-created financial crisis". Joshi told Outlook from his Pune home: "He has earned all his life. He should have put aside money for his old age. Why should such a big artiste be waiting for the state to help him? I don’t like this." Drawing on his experiences with Khan—the two were colleagues at the Lucknow All India Radio in the 1940s—Joshi pointed out that Khan had never thought about putting things aside for the rainy day.