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Interviews |  22 Sep 2009 16:46 |  By AnitaIyer

Falguni Pathak - 'Navratri music has to be more traditional than Bollywood'

Her name is synonymous with the dandiya festivities in Mumbai, the annual song and dance routine that is staged by various organisations for the nine day Navratri festival.

After being in hibernation throughout the year, Falguni Pathak resurfaces at this time every year, looking the same she's always done  Performing live each year for two decades during a single festival is no mean feat and Pathak has achieved that. She is now all geared up to make the audiences groove to traditional Gujarati numbers. In an engaging conversation with's Anita Iyer, Pathak comments on the commercialisation of Navratri, change in music preferences at dandiya venues, revival of non-film genres and much more.. 


What is your take on the Bollywood songs being played at dandiya venues?

Being a Gujarati festival, the music at these venues should be more Gujarati folk music and we at Sankalp would be concentrating on singing more Gujarati songs. Every year before Navratri, I go to Gujarat and bring the latest  songs - â€?garbe'. I collect the latest CDs before Navratri, shortlist tracks, work on them to fit them into Gujarati beats for urban audiences.

When do you start the process of shortlisting songs for Navratri?

I start searching for songs two months prior to the festival. We mainly look for melody in songs because there are an equal number of people who gather to hear the songs, apart from the ones coming to dance. So, we have to keep in mind that we give value for money for both types of audiences and keep them entertained 

How do you pick Bollywood music in your list? Which Bollywood songs would you be singing this year?

This year, we won't be concentrating on contemporary Bollywood music as songs this year aren't the ones which could fit in for dandiya. When I come across a Bollywood track that can be squeezed in for dandiya, I hear it myself for 15-20 times and then convince the troupe to set the song with garba beats. It is only after numerous rehearsals with the troupe that a song is selected for performance for nine days  

Tell me something about your troupe members?

There are some rhythmists and musicians in my troupe who have been with me since the time I started performing with Sankalp about 15 years back. There are some changes which keep happening every year in the troupe but the musicians remain the same.

There were news of your singing partner Nilesh Thakkar, joining the rival group. Also tell us something about the new singer Tushar Trivedi?

Newspapers had mentioned that he would be singing for the rival group but there is no rivalry in real sense, these are all publicity gimmicks. We both are singers and our motto is to entertain audiences and we would be doing that this year as well, although differently. The singer replacing him is not new in the troupe; he has been performing with me for a couple of years 

How has the audiences changed in the last decade you have been performing?

Some years back, the audiences wanted more Bollywood music to be sung at pandals but now majority of the crowd consists of youngsters and they look for more regional gujarati music. It is impressive to see youngsters inclined towards regional gujarati music in today's times. Also, the crowd coming for dandiya are more cosmopolitan with many non-gujaratis swaying to the beats although they don't have an understanding of the language.

Navratri has become more commercial with Sankalp tying up exclusively and film promotions happening at the venues. What is your take on it?

We try to keep up the festival fervour by singing traditional songs at Sankalp. Sankalp over the years has become larger and is one of the biggest dandiya venues in Mumbai. Sankalp spends over crores for the festival every year and getting advertisers over board and tying exclusively with television and radio platforms is a way to recover the crores being spent. There is nothing wrong with trying different avenues to recover costs   

Does the 10 pm deadline act as a spoiler during Navratri festival?

The 10 pm has dampened the festive spirit of the professional who come down from their workplace around 9 and have to wind up by 10. We see a lot of crowd gathering during the weekends as audiences make it a point to be early at the venue. But the deadline needs to be extended atleast till 11 pm as the nine day festival comes only once a year and winding up at 10 disappoints the audiences 

You have been performing live during Navratri for almost two decades now. When did you start the journey?

I started about 22 years back, initially I started singing for a Mumbai based orchestra called â€?Roop Kala' in Fort area. In those days, there was less emphasis on songs and more on instrumental versions of the songs. The role of the singers was only to sing in chorus and I was singing in chorus when somebody from the audience asked the organsier to make me sing in the lead. I rendered two gujarati songs on stage and some other organiser noticed me and I joined his troupe 

When did you start leading the troupe at dandiya venues?

I started singing in the lead with Sankalp about 15 years back. Having taken the responsibility to be the lead singer, we used to brainstorm before every performance about the improvements to be implemented like concentrating on the rhythm, how to make the audiences groove to a beat. I believe it is vital to judge yourself rather than letting others point finger at you, so we have improved as a group in the past many years.

Post singing live at venues, I launched my albums which got me further recognition and more footfalls at events. In the past couple of years, I have also taken up singing at international venues.

You just came from an international tour…

Prior to Mumbai, I performed at Australia and would be going to the United States post the Navratri season in Mumbai. The spirit of the festival is same every where, they also wait through out the year for the festivities. This was the first time when I performed in Australia and the response was very impressive 

With the non-film music on the back burner, do you have any plans to come up with an album?

After Navratri, I am planning to launch a solo album. There was a time when non-film ruled and co-existed with Bollywood. Times will change and non-film will again gain importance it had some years back. To revive non-film, artists must give good music, keep trying and not give up before Bollywood music.

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