Uma Vasudev’s biography of Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, the renowned flautist, comes across as a mixed bag. At one level, there is little to distinguish it from most run-of-the-mill hagiographical accounts of musicians and their lives. Other reviewers hold that it reads more like an autobiography. I feel compelled to agree; to my mind it comes across exactly like a ghosted autobiography written for some reason in the third person. And yet the book contains several strongly redeeming features. Hagiographical or not, it is a sensitively rendered portrayal of the maestro’s life. More importantly, it manages to shed light on a crucial period in the history of Hindustani music. The narrative starts on a rather drab note. It frequently tends towards the overblown and sentimental, which is underscored by the extensive use it makes of the active voice. In an autobiographical account, such a device comes across as perfectly normal. However, in a work rendered from a third-person perspective, it only serves to test our credibility.
January 2006, volume 30, No 1