Prithvi Cafe’s most intriguing regular is the man with the flute, aka Guruji, reports Rishi Majumder

Photographer: Rana Chakraborty

   Right here, right now, time stands still. On an everyday evening at Prithvi Theatre Café, Juhu, with young and old chattering away on round tables overhung with orange bulbs and surrounded with potted greens. A melody wafts in from behind the café’s banyan tree. “ Kaali ghata chaye mera jeeya tarsaye” from Sujata steals into the senses and surroundings till many a conversation ceases. Some continue sitting silently at their table. Some walk around the banyan tree to sit before a rotund Pied Piper with a flowing white beard and black kurta—his lips pressed to a bamboo flute, his eyes shut. “He’s not a theatrewallah, he’s a practicing architect,” answers a young theatre rookie. “I don’t know his name —we all call him Guruji.” 

Suhas Joshi aka 'Guruji'

Suhas Joshi aka 'Guruji'

   Suhas Joshi pursued theatre and music as passionate hobbies till the end of his college architecture course. “Even after that, I was an ardent follower of experimental plays and classical music concerts,” Joshi remembers. And then, for 20 years he didn’t attend a single play or concert: “I was obsessed with my work and my family, post marriage.” Till the Prithvi Theatre Festival of 1995. “My friend actor Mohan Agashe invited me for this play and there was a party after that at the theatre itself,” he remembers, twirling the beard, absent-mindedly.
   “My introduction to Guruji was over whiskey and a classical alaap at the same party,” recounts playwrightdirector Makarand Deshpande. Guruji’s alaap “soared above all the other voices in that party”, according to theatre person Teddy Maurya. He then went on to sing Kumar Gandharva’s Guruji mai to ek niranjan janoo ji. “I’ve come to Prithvi almost every evening after that day. And people drew from that song to call me Guruji,” Joshi guffaws, playing Aankhon mein udaasi chayee from Taraana now.
   A pause later Joshi continues, “I decided to learn the flute then. Because the memory of Ravi Shankar’s flute composition in Ray’s Pather Panchali, complete with the picture of Apu and Durga running towards a train, enchanted me—I wanted to play that!” He does now, and plays it at every gathering as a “tribute to what inspired me to learn.” Even as his daily jaunts inspire others. Says Maurya, “I used to play the flute before. But he taught me about the uninhibited dedication needed to master something.” And what of his architecture—doesn’t such a specialised field demand attention? “I have a thriving practice at office between eight to seven. After that I come into my other life,” he informs before playing Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam from Kagaz Ke Phool. “It’s essential, for your profession especially, to keep doing new things to keep your mind alive. Also, music is a kind of nostalgia for me – the old tunes and compositions take me back to my younger days.” This nostalgia is contagious, for as office-goer Rahul Chabria who hangs out at Prithvi observes: “His flute notes continue to reverberate, bringing back my father’s era—when time was not as expensive.”

'Guruji' at Prithvi Theatre Cafe

'Guruji' at Prithvi Cafe


This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India:


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