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Ghazal maestro Pankaj Udhas has said he never expected that Khazana – A Festival of Ghazals will be so successful among the audience.

Launching the 17th edition of Khazana… that also features Rekha Bharadwaj, Richa Sharma, Sudeep Banerjee, a special act by Mame Khan, the Ghazal singer said this on Wednesday. Anup Jalota and Talat Aziz were also present.

Talking about the growing popularity of Khazana…, Udhas said, “It’s really joyous moment as we enter the 17th year.”

Started in 2000, “the collection was never expected to continue for this long or be so successful. I am feeling really happy,” said the singer who enthralled the audience with hits like Chandi jaisa rang hai tera, Chitthi aayi hai for years.

Khazana… supports cancer and thalassemia patients through its earnings. Anup Jaota, Talat Aziz and I thought about hosting ghazal festival in India.

“Through it, we thought of supporting needy people and popularise ghazal across the world,” Udhas said.

“New talents are now associating themselves with this festival. In this edition, we have six new singers. It will be beneficial to promote ghazal for the future generation,” he said.

Asked whether the popularity of ghazal has declined in the last few years, he said: “No… admirers of ghazal are still the same all over the world, I don’t think there is a decline in the popularity.”

The artiste line-up this year would be Anup Jalota, Talat Aziz, Rekha Bharadwaj, Richa Sharma, Sudeep Banerjee, a special act by Mame Khan and a fusion curated by Kaushiki Chakraborty, Rakesh Chaurasia, Purbayan Chatterjee, Deepak Pandit and Ojas Adhiya.

It will be held on July 27-28 in Mumbai.