BENGALURU: Walking into ITC Windsor in the evenings, before the pandemic, always meant a sweet welcome with the sound of the accordion wafting from all corners. Perched on the first floor with an aerial view of the space, MB Prakash (72), one of the few accordions in the country, would often play a varied set of tunes.
Now, documentary filmmaker Adithyaa Sadashiv has collaborated with classical harmonium player Ravindra Katoti to make a 35-minute film, Whispering Melodies, which chronicles Prakash’s journey. It is now available on YouTube. Sadashiv says, “I was introduced to Prakash sir by Katoti in July and we took about two months to complete the film. He’s an inspiration to many and I felt that it was a story worth telling the world.”
Katoti, who has known Prakash for 15 years, has collaborated with him in the past. Having performed on stage together and even released an album in 2007. “He does so much to ensure that the accordion culture still survives,” Katoti says.
Prakash, a self-taught musician, has been playing at the hotel for 15 years and played till the day before the country-wide lockdown was announced in March 2020. His tryst with the instrument began way back in college when he would also play the harmonica which he had to give up due to health issues. “That’s when my father encouraged me to learn the accordion and there’s been no looking back since,” says Prakash, adding, “During my college days in the ’70s, we had to return home by 7 pm. Houses and yards were large and neighbours used to play instruments in the evening. With windows open, melodies were loud and clear...That’s what led me to becoming a musician.”
Since there was no platform like YouTube to learn from, he would borrow books from music stores to learn the notes. Till the pandemic, he was part of a small band called The Tremolos. “We used to hang out quite often and play together. But since the pandemic, everyone has taken a break,” Prakash adds.
Adding to his list of accomplishments, Prakash also has the distinction of being the first Indian accordionist to participate by invitation as a jury member at the Trophee Mondial de L’Accordeon, a premiere international Accordion Championship held in France. In 2020, he led a team of jurors as the head juror of the World Category during the Premio Internazionale della Fisarmonica di Castelfidardo, Italia. Since then he has been a mainstay as a juror at international music competitions and festivals.
Whispering Melodies captures it all. “Foreigners, many of whom enjoyed western music, used to stop by at the hotel and kids would dance around. Some of them even offered to bring drinks for me because they enjoyed my work,” Prakash chuckles.