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MK Patel: It is the love of artists that takes the show forward
- Vijay Shanker

September 12, 2017

Mumbai's leading cultural organization Sur Singar Samsad, established more than seventy years back, is going through a difficult phase. Some of the senior members have backed out and are not willing to continue to organize the festivals that have attracted the attention of several performers for decades, in the field of classical dance and music.

M.K. Patel with Pt Birju Maharaj

M.K. Patel with Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra

Sur Singar Samsad was founded by Sangeetdas Brij Narain. As the name suggests, Brij Narain was a great promoter and organizer of the festivals that formed the main cultural agenda of Mumbai city. Dancers and musicians would eagerly look forward to participate in the Kal-ke-Kalakar (Artists of Tomorrow) and the Swami Haridas Sangeet Sammelan, besides the Bhajan Sammelan and Jaidev Film Sangeet Sammelan. Performers from various parts of the country and abroad too would participate in the festivals. Most of the greats like Bismillah Khan, Pt Ravi Shankar. M.S. Subbulakshmi, Sonal Mansingh, Yamini Krishnamurthi and Swapnasundari have all performed for the festival at the start of their career. The performers who excel in dance would be given the title of 'Singar Mani,' the musicians who excel in vocal and instrumental music would be given the title of 'Sur Mani' and the musicians who excel in percussion instruments would be given the title of 'Taal Mani' and would be invited to perform in the Swami Haridas Sangeet Sammelan which was organized every year in the month of December-January.

Pt. Purshottamdas Jalota felicitates Patel
After the demise of Brij Narain, everything changed including the management but one person who has continued to serve artists and art as the general secretary of Sur Singar Samsad is M.K. Patel. In spite of the non-cooperation of some of the members, Patel has continued to organize the festival with little support from well wishers like veteran dance critic Satish Mehta and tabla maestro Nar Hari. I still remember Brij Narain quite well as he would ask dancers, "Aap ne TV may dance kiya hai?" (Have you danced for television?) If you say yes, then you would be selected to perform in his festival. I also remember when any artiste would perform beyond the time limit, he would come forward and raise his hand, indicating you should stop which was quite embarrassing for the performer.

M.K. Patel says, "I am not a musician or a dancer, hence I do not understand the technical aspect but I definitely enjoy the beauty and the divine aspect of classical music and dance. Ultimately it is the love of the artists that has inspired me to take the show forward in spite of the shortcomings and no corporate support. When I realized that some of the members of Sur Singar are not willing to cooperate, I decided to launch my own organization, hence the Patel Cultural Foundation was formed."

Patel Cultural Foundation has organized the Girnar Festival in Junagadh (Gujarat) and other festivals in Rajkot and Porbandar. The forthcoming Girnar festival for five days starts from 15th September and would feature dancers and musicians in different styles. Patel is planning to organize the Kal-ke-Kalakar festival in ten cities all over India that would include the metros and smaller cities in the month of November and December. Patel is also planning to felicitate some of the outstanding mentors. As the saying goes, "If there is a will, there is a way." The show must go on!

Vijay Shanker is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.