A popular classical music singer, Padma Shri Awardee and versatile artist, Shubha Mudgal, is once again the curator at the Serendipity Arts Festival this year.

Mudgal has not only reminisced the audience with her soulful voice, but also sung songs for films like ‘Laaga Chunri Mein Daag’, ‘Lajja’ and more.

Born into a musically-dedicated family, Mudgal always received support from her artistic-minded family. Her parents were professors in English literature at Allahabad University. She has been trained by composer Pandit Ramashreya Jha and received guidance from Pandit Vinaya Chandra Maudgalya and Pandit Vasant Thakar. Apart from this, Mudgal has received training in thumri from Naina Devi. Being a composer adds another feather to her hat.

Opening up about her experience as a curator at SAF for the second time, Mudgal revealed that the festival is not a platform only for the young and aspiring talent of the country, but it also presents some leading artistes and acclaimed performers from multiple disciplines. Exerpts of the interview:

How has your experience at SAF been? Should we be looking forward to you being a part of this festival in the coming years as well?

I am delighted to be one of the music curators for SAF for the second time and look forward to a long association with the Trust and the Festival. However, I am unable to say at this point whether or not I will be invited as a curator in forthcoming years as well.

Has the festival grown in its second edition?

Yes, I believe the festival is growing in its second year, both in terms of the many performances, exhibitions and events. There have been many additions in this year’s programming such as the Arts Spectrum Awards and the lecture series titled “Talking Culture”.

Does this festival make for a perfect platform for aspiring artistes?

I think, it would be inaccurate to describe the festival only as a perfect platform for upcoming artistes, because it also presents leading artistes and acclaimed performers from multiple disciplines. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe it as a common meeting ground and platform for multiple arts and artistes to meet, interact and innovate.

Do projects like SAF evoke mass appeal?

I am of the opinion that art can touch the hearts and minds of anyone and in different ways. So, I believe that the festival has much to offer to art lovers with diverse preferences and orientations. As for mass appeal, I’m not sure if I can quantify that or predict how many hundreds, thousands, lakhs, or crores of people will end up witnessing the event.

River Raga cruise is an innovative idea. What other things would we get to witness during the festival this year?

Music lovers will get the opportunity to witness “Dhamaal” a special performance highlighting the drumming and percussion traditions of India, directed by Aneesh Pradhan who brings together as many as 67 drummers and musicians. Sonic City, a special sound installation showcases the sounds of Delhi, for which my collaborators are master scenographer Sumant Jayakrishnan and technology whiz Himanshu Bublani.

Does film music do justice to the music industry?

Unless a film or its script requires classical music, I see no point in insisting that classical music must have a place in film music. As it happens, some of the greatest maestros of Hindustani classical music have had a long standing involvement with film music. For example, Pandit Ravi Shankar, Pandit Ram Narayan, Ustad Alla Rakha Khan, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Ustad Sultan Khan, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma, Ustad Halim Jaffar Khan, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia to name only a few, have played and composed for films for years. But they did not always play or compose classical music only for films.

Should classical singing be introduced in schools?

I believe a robust arts education programme that includes multiple arts such as movement, music, fine arts, theatre, and photography must be made a part of mainstream school curriculum. But I do not propose a strict classical music curriculum for all students, and neither do I believe that there is any need to deliberately crush any interest in Western music or film music.