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The man who captures classical music

The man who captures classical music
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Capturing legends at work is never easy, but then trust diplomat cum shutterbug Prashant Agarwal, for knowing what it takes to freeze just the right...

New Delhi: Capturing legends at work is never easy, but then trust diplomat-cum-shutterbug Prashant Agarwal, for knowing what it takes to freeze just the right frame for eternity.

The evidence, captured in some breath-taking frames, is currently hanging on the walls of the gallery at the India International Centre where one can witness pictures of maestros of Indian classical music striking just the right note.

The exhibition is his tribute to great Indian artistes including Kishori Amonkar, Amjad Ali Khan, and SPIC-MACAY for their contribution in preserving the country's classical music heritage.

Agarwal, who is also a 1998-batch Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer, said he couldn't make peace with the fact that he missed out on Kishori Amonkar's last concert in Delhi in 2016, and came up with the idea of paying his tribute to the great Indian classical vocalist with this exhibition.

"Missing this opportunity to witness the legendary Amonkar in action was something I deeply regretted. That is when I thought why not preserve the memory of our great classical musicians, capturing them as they perform," he said.

Amonkar, 84, passed away on April 3, 2017 at her residence in Mumbai. "Of course, their music is already preserved; so, as a photographer, I thought of capturing their images for posterity... (and) pay my tribute," Agarwal, whose work includes images from concerts he attended over the past two-and-a-half years, told PTI.

And, it was a co-incidence that his tribute came at a day when another doyenne of Indian classical music Annapurna Devi breathed her last. Does he have her photograph in the exhibition? "No.

The fact is that Annapurna Devi stopped performing after her divorce with Ravi Shankar," he said.

As many as 28 photographs of different artistes, capturing their moods and expressions while they played their soulful renditions, were put on display at the exhibition.

A picture of Ustad Amjad Ali Khan playing Sarod has been put right next to his son Ayaan Ali Bangash's picture - playing the same instrument.
"See this photo of Amjad sahab, here he can be seen looking at the direction of young Ayaan Ali's photograph.

You know a father is always worried about his son and want to make sure that he is doing things rightly or not," an onlooker at the exhibition said with a smile.

Also, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's picture happens to be the photographer's favourite one of the lot. But then that was not the only father-son duo photograph displayed at the exhibition.

There were photographs of Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar and Rahul Kumar too.

Though here too they were playing the same instrument, this time the two photos were at some distance.

Pandit Shiv Kumar was the only black and white portrait in the whole exhibition, which includes pictures of great artistes like sitarist Shujaat Khan, Ustaad Aashish Khan and three generations of accomplished violinists N Rajam, daughter Sangeeta, and grand-daughters Ragini and Nandini – all captured when they were immersed in their performances.

Currently posted as a joint secretary in Ministry of External Affairs, Agarwal is all set for his next posting as the High Commissioner of India to the Republic of Namibia.

"Yes, I know I have a full-time job... but then you manage and take out some time on Saturday nights or Sundays," Agarwal, whose interests also include nature and wildlife photography, said.

Namibia should beckon this man who wears too many hats and wields his camera with considerable skill.

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