Friday, December 27, 2013

Khabar Nigah Ko … Ghalib’s Unpublished Ghazal

On Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib’s birth anniversary, I’m tempted to write about an unpublished ghazal that I came across very recently. When Ghalib compiled his Urdu deewan (collection of poetry), he was quite ruthless in selecting the verses that were deemed worthy of publishing. There are very many couplets and ghazals that he kept aside simply because they did not meet his own exacting standards. Just to give you an idea of the kind of ‘editing’ he did, only 234 Urdu ghazals made it to his deewan as opposed to 441 that are known to exist. Add to that the countless couplets from his published ghazals that did not make the cut. Many such unpublished verses later came to light through the efforts of people like Arshi, Gyan Chand Jain and Kalidas Gupta ‘Raza’.

I came across this ghazal when I bought a compilation of Ghalib ghazals sung by Pakistani artistes. I had never read this one before, so I quickly opened my copy of Deewan-e-Ghalib to read the complete ghazal. I searched, and I searched, but how could I find it there? It was an unpublished ghazal afterall (unpublished may not be the right word to use as Raza did publish many of these a few decades back).

Here is that ghazal. I have made a feeble attempt at interpreting the same, but I cannot say for sure if I have been able to get them totally. Ghalib’s poetry has so many layers that it is impossible for me to get all of them in a few readings.

ख़बर निगह को निगह चश्म को 'उदू जाने
वो जलवह कर कि न मैं जानूँ और न तू जाने

(ख़बर = awareness; निगह = sight;  चश्म = eye; 'उदू = enemy)

This couplet is seemingly based on the premise that for any event to register in the mind it has to traverse the path from the eye to the sense of sight, and finally to the mind as awareness. What if the sense of 'awareness' is an enemy of ‘sight’, which in turn is an enemy to the ‘eye’? Will the 'eye' share an occurrence with its enemy i.e 'sight'? And even if that happens, will the ‘sight’ let the mind be 'aware' of it? Isn’t this a very complicated way of expressing a simple thought that the lover does not want the beloved to make a spectacle of her beauty. If at all, it should be done in such secrecy that even the lover does not get to know of it. I’m sure there is more to it, but I haven’t got it yet. Or maybe there isn’t and hence Ghalib discarded it.

नफ़स ब नालह रक़ीब ओ निगह ब अश्क 'उदू
ज़ियादह इस से गिरफ्तार हूँ कि तू जाने

(नफ़स = breath; ब = for; नालह = lamentation; रक़ीब = enemy; अश्क = tears;  'उदू = enemy)

Here Ghalib carries forward the same metaphor of two enemies. The lover is possibly telling the beloved (or could even be any third person), “You can never sense how badly troubled I am. You can at best hear my laments or see my tears, but can you sense how they affect me? My tears cannot coexist with my sight, and my breath cannot share the same space as my lamentations, just like when two enemies come face to face, one must perish. The extent of my troubled existence is such that my I cannot see (things that I hold dear) or can even breathe (the basis of my existence). In other words, it’s not merely my tears and laments that you see, what you see is a lifeless me.”

Now, the cause for the troubled existence is left to one’s imagination. Is it because of lack of reciprocity in love, or the beloved who is feigning ignorance to test the intensity of the lover’s feelings, or some impediment in the path of love, or something totally different? Figure it out yourself.

ब किसवत-ए-अरक़-ए-शर्म क़तरहज़न है ख़याल
मुबाद हौसलह म'अज़ूर-ए-जुस्तजू जाने

(किसवत = garb; अरक़ = perspiration, sweat; क़तरहज़न = running quickly; मुबाद = God forbid, lest, by no means; हौसलह = courage; म'अज़ूर = excused from, helpless; जुस्तजू = search)

This one has me foxed. It is one of those verses that slips out of your grip as soon as you think you have got it. The first line, as I see it, is another way of expressing the idiom शर्म से पानी-पानी होना. What makes this one a little difficult to understand is the question as to what is it that is making the poet so ashamed. And then the second line totally throws one off-guard. Could it be that the poet has given up the courage to search for something and is so ashamed of this fact that he is perspiring, but hopes that the others believe that the perspiration is due to the hard work he has been doing in that search? Or in other words, hoping that his failure is mistaken for genuine effort? Or maybe there is in fact a genuine effort, but the results are not forthcoming, hence the shame? These lines are still ambiguous in my mind. Maybe someone can help me get a better handle on this.

What I find interesting is the use of the word क़तरहज़न for ‘running quickly’, which works beautifully against the imagery of drops (क़तरह) of sweat (अरक़)

ज़बाँ से 'अर्ज़-ए-तमन्ना-ए-ख़ामुशी म'अलूम
मगर वो ख़ानह-बर-अंदाज़ गुफ़तगू जाने

('अर्ज़-ए-तमन्ना-ए-ख़ामुशी = expression of the desire to be silent; म'अलूम = Known, evident; ख़ानह-बर-अंदाज़ = a metaphor for the beloved; गुफ़तगू = conversation)

At first, this verse appeared very straightforward to me. But on careful reading, multiple meanings emerged depending on how one looks at ख़ानह-बर-अंदाज़ and whose silence or conversation is being talked about. The first two meanings assume the metaphorical meaning of ख़ानह-बर-अंदाज़  i.e the beloved. There could be multiple interpretations depending on who that subject is and whose silence is being talked about.

  • Let's first look at it this way. The lover wants some alone time and can express his desire to be silent in words, but the beloved cannot understand that. The very fact that the lover has opened his mouth to say something, even if it is the desire to remain silent, the beloved would assume it to be the start of a conversation and the lover's desire for some solitude will not be fulfilled.
  • Alternatively, one could look at the request for silence as being directed at the beloved. Can the beloved who is interested in a conversation pay heed to the lover's request for silence?
  • A completely different meaning emerges if one considers the literal meaning of ख़ानह-बर-अंदाज़ as someone who destroys a home through his spendthrift nature, a sort of a curse. In other words, one knows how to request the tongue to keep quiet, but the cursed tongue only knows how to talk and squander away the 'wealth' of thought. The request for silence could be with the intent of keeping a secret / hiding the truth, which the tongue blurts out. Or, the intent could be for some peace and quiet to reflect over things, which is difficult to achieve if one is by nature drawn to a conversation.

जुनूँ फ़सुर्दह-ए-तमकीं है काश 'अहद-ए-वफ़ा
गुदाज़-ए-हौसलह को पास-ए-आबरू जाने

(जुनूँ = passion; फ़सुर्दह = frozen, cold; तमकीं = power; 'अहद-ए-वफ़ा = promise of allegiance; गुदाज़ = melted, not firm; हौसलह = courage; पास = regard; आबरू = dignity)

Two meanings emerge from this. The difference is subtle. One, the lover’s passion has grown cold and has lost its power, but the lover does not want to call it quits yet and hopes that the beloved (personifying the promise of allegiance) mistakes the lover’s dithering courage to express his passion for his regard for maintaining dignity. Here, the relationship has probably started going on a downward spiral, but the lover does not want to quit yet and hopes the beloved lives under a false impression till the situation is resolved. The other way of looking at this could be that the lover says that the apparent dying of passion is not real and is just a manifestation of his regard for maintaining dignity, and hopes that the beloved understands that and doesn’t suspect his allegiance.

What I find interesting in this couplet is the use of the words फ़सुर्दह and गुदाज़, which at one level are opposites ( frozen vs. melted), but signify the same thing.

न होवे क्यूँकर उसे फ़र्ज़ क़त्ल-ए-अहल-ए-वफ़ा
लहू में हाथ के भरने को जो वुज़ू जाने

(फ़र्ज़ = duty; अहल-ए-वफ़ा = lovers; वुज़ू = ablution (a religious ritual))

For someone who considers washing his hands in blood to be as pure as ablution, killing of lovers is but a ‘duty’ for him. What exactly is going on here? This one seems too trite to me. Am I missing the underlying implications?

मसीह-ए-कुश्तह-ए-उलफ़त बबर 'अली खाँ हैं
कि जो असद तपिश-ए-नब्ज़-ए-आरज़ू जाने

(मसीह = a person who can sure illness; कुश्तह = slain, a form of herbo-mineral preparation used mostly as an aphrodisiac in the Unani system of medicine; तपिश = fever, agitation; नब्ज़ = pulse; आरज़ू = desire)

I found this a very odd couplet as I had no clue who Babar Ali Khan was? After some search I came across two references to Babar Ali Khan. First one was in one of Ghalib’s letters to the Nawab of Rampur in the summer of 1865. On hearing about the Nawab’s ill-health, Ghalib writes a detailed letter to him telling him about some cures and a fairly elaborate diet plan. There he mentions the recipe of an old hakeem by the name of Babar Ali Khan. The other reference I got was in the history of Murshidabad, where Babar Ali Diler Jang is mentioned as the Nawab of Murshidabad from 1796-1810. I would have dismissed this as just a case of two men with similar names, till I read this line about the Nawab,

“He was very fond of tonics, in the shape of kushtas. He always searched for and inquired after Jogis and others who were experts in the making of kushtas

Now it gets interesting… Although the place where I read about the Nawab of Murshidabad doesn’t refer to him as a hakeem, it is possible that Ghalib is referring to the same person. Even if that is not the case, the search for the Nawab took me to the other meaning of kushta, which makes this seemingly simple verse resonate with a Ghalibian touch - a wordplay between the two meanings of kushta - slain (i.e.a lover) and a recipe for an aphrodisiac.

Now let’s look at the verse. It simply says that Babar Ali Khan has a remedy for lovers (those ‘slain’ in love) because he knows what can make the pulse of passion run fast - kushta - an aphrodisiac. This is a smart verse in that it makes use of both the meanings of kushta and also of tapish, which can imply both a fever/ illness (negative implication) and agitation/ excitement (positive implication in the context of love). But apart from that, there doesn’t seem to be much depth to it. Also, it is not clear why Babar Ali Khan is referred to in this verse. Was he that famous a man during Ghalib’s time? Even if he was, since the name is long forgotten now, the verse too cannot stand the test of time.

Here are four verses of this ghazal in the voice of Samina Zaidi

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Interpreting My Poem - XI

This ghazal has a history. Much before I knew about the importance of meter (behr) in the ghazal form, I had written a ghazal (or at least I thought it was one) of six couplets. After learning about the concept of behr, I realized that what I had written was technically totally wrong. While it adhered to the rules of rhyme (qaafiya) and refrain (radeef), there was no consistent meter running through the couplets. There was no way I could fit my chosen rhyming words within the same meter. Not willing to discard some couplets completely, I decided to compose two separate ghazals in different meter. The first one can be read here.

Like always, the English translation and interpretations are by Archana Gupta.


वो कू-ए-यार को जाते हैं बेनियाज़ नहीं

हैं सन्गदिल ही वहाँ कोई दिलनवाज़ नहीं
His visit to the lover's lane is not aimless or fortuitous
But little does he know, folks there are not bounteous, just gratuitous

कू-ए-यार = lane of the lover; बेनियाज़ = not dependent or needy; सन्गदिल = hard-hearted or merciless; दिलनवाज़ = generous, one who soothes the heart

He goes to the lane of the lover in hope of being satisfied - may be just by seeing her or maybe by getting a favor but there is certainly an aim/need/expectation behind the action, its not purposeless.  What he does not realize is that the lover (and perhaps others in that lane) is merciless, not the kind and generous one and is quite unlikely to comply or grant any favors. On the surface, this seems to be a straightforward expression of knowledge that expectations from one's lover are likely to remain unrealized, but could be extended if one chooses to interpret "lover" differently.   For example, people go to and keep going to government offices in the hope of getting a job done but who is there to listen?  Same for judiciary - who gets timely justice, etc.


है मुख़्तसर सा ही क़िस्सा हयात का लोगो

किसी के हिस्से की तो उम्र कुछ दराज़ नहीं
O people, the story of a life is really pithy

After all, it’s just a lifetime, not an eternity

मुख़्तसर = brief, short, in essence; हयात =  life; दराज़  =  long, extended

Literally, this one translates to "The story of my life is quite short, just like everyone else.  Its not like anyone gets to live extraordinarily long!!"  This one has me a little stumped - is the poet complaining about shortness of life, or is this a comment in an attempt to self-console and prevent oneself from getting discouraged with life? 

So one way to look at it is that it’s a taunt on oneself -  People always complain that there is no time to do the things they want to do, but hey that is true for everyone - even others have approximately the same amount of time, yet they are able to achieve what they want.

Second way to look at this one is that maybe the poet's circumstances are so dire that he takes comfort in the thought that after all a lifetime is short enough (no one's life is extended) and can be somehow endured.


दिखाये राह मगर कैसा आफ़ताब है वो

हो जिसको मशरिक़-ओ-मग़रिब में इम्तियाज़ नहीं
How can I this Sun's direction trust

Who himself can't tell East from West

आफ़ताब = Sun; मशरिक़ = East or Orient; मग़रिब = West or Occident; इम्तियाज़ =  distinction, differentiation

This could easily be a remark on political leadership or a boss or a teacher or any other supposed "leader" in any walk of life.  It’s a simple comment that states that the leader has the right to lead but how can he, who himself can't differentiate between right and wrong predictably, show (me) the right path.  Literal translation of course is "What kind of Sun is it who can't differentiate between east and west and how can he be used to decide directions?"


बुरी नहीं है ख़ुदआराई पर ये ठीक नहीं

कि समझो ख़ुद सा जहाँ में है सरफ़राज़ नहीं
A little vanity, a little confidence and a little pride is no sin
But arrogance, egotism and superiority is never in

ख़ुदआराई = To beautify or groom oneself; सरफ़राज़ = exalted, eminent, distinguished, honored

This again seems to be a straightforward she’r that is a comment on an individual's tendency to be self-centered rather have a superiority complex. The poet seems to be cautioning against excessive vanity, not necessarily in one's appearance though he refers to grooming self.  What I gather is that the poet is stating that there is nothing wrong in taking care of one's needs or working to improve one's body or mind or intellect as long as one does not become so self-absorbed that he/she starts considering themselves most exalted or distinguished.


ये आबशार से मग़्मूम चश्म से जो गिरे

क्या कर भी पायेंगे पत्थर का दिल गुदाज़ नहीं
From these woeful eyes, tears flow excessively and often
Alas, may lover's heart is such a stone even they can't soften

आबशार = Waterfall; मग़्मूम = melancholy, sorrowful, woeful; चश्म = eye; गुदाज़ = one that is capable of melting

In this she’r the lover is compared to or called stone-hearted and the poet claims that even these abundant tears that are like a waterfall flowing out of woeful eyes are not enough to move the lover or melt her/his stone-like heart.


करेंगे सज्दा जहाँ पर दिखे तेरा पैकर

है बुतपरस्ती को दरकार-ए-जानमाज़ नहीं
I shall bow my head wherever I see your form or reflection
Availability of a prayer mat is no compulsion for my idolization

सज्दा  = bow in prayer; बुतपरस्ती  =  idol-worship; दरकार-ए-जानमाज़ = need for a prayer mat

On the surface it appears to be an extremely romantic sher :-) Now if true, that would be a first in this poet's repertoire, I haven't seen any other truly "Diwana" sher in the ghazals I have examined so far and frankly would be quite surprised.  Simply read, this couplet indicates that the poet is quiet enamored by the lover and is promising to bow in prayer wherever he sees her form.  The claim is that his "worship" of her is not dependent on availability of a prayer mat -  basically, he does not need to have a perfect surroundings to express his love / reverence.

OK, the translator found her bearings, while the basic meaning remains the same, I believe the "lover" is actually "God" or rather the practical manifestation of "God" - the essential goodness in human beings.  The poet promises to bow/rever/follow the goodness and godliness in the humans no matter where (in whom) he finds it and claims that this reverence is not dependent on any rituals or regard for protocol.

Another interpretation of this "lover" could be anything that one desires to achieve in life -  an ambition, a creative pursuit and the form (paikar) is the Urge to achieve it.  Then the meaning takes the form of "If you have the strong urge to achieve something in life, you can start anywhere. There is no need for all resources to be available upfront".


ग़ुरूब-ओ-शर्क़ हैं तक़दीर-ए-ख़ुर मगर मुझ को

नशेब ही नज़र आता है अब फ़राज़ नहीं
To rise and set and then rise again is the Sun's inevitable cycle
But in this bleakness, I see only nadir after nadir and no pinnacle

ग़ुरूब = setting of sun; शर्क़ = rising of sun; ख़ुर = sun; नशेब = low point (sorrow); फ़राज़ =  high point (joy)

Though rising and setting is the destiny of Sun, an unchangeable cycle, I only see the setting/low point and can't locate the rising/high point at all.  Obvious reference is that though the poet knows life is inevitably an unending cycle of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, he is so depressed and dejected at this time that he can only see bleakness, the lows, the sorrows and sees none of the highs, no brightness even in distant horizon.  It seems to be an expression of extreme hopelessness.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dance Makes the World Go Round

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances…
(William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Act II Scene VII)

Long before Indeevar did an almost literal translation of the Bard’s words in a song in Kasauti, Qamar Jalalabadi captured the essence of it in these lines:

सारी दुनिया एक नाटक है हम नाचन को आये
आशा और निराशा देखो क्या क्या नाच नचाये
फिर एक दिन जीवन का पर्दा चुपके से गिर जाए

These lines are taken from a song written by Qamar Jalalabadi for the film Laxmi (1957). This ‘dance’ song explores the various hues that the word ‘naach’ can take. As the song begins, it appears that people are being exhorted to dance and enjoy life – a simple and straightforward meaning of the word ‘naach’.

नाचो नाचो नाचो ऐ दुनियावालो दुनिया नाच रही
छुन छुन छुन छुन पायल बाज रही

As we move into the first stanza, Shakespeare is invoked, and ‘naach’ implies ‘playing one’s part’, only to move to the eternal ‘chakra’ of hope and hopelessness.

The poet moves on, and ‘naach’ becomes a synonym for lust – lust for money, lust for carnal pleasures and lust for power…

कोई लक्ष्मी के पीछे नाचे पैसे की छन छन पर
कोई स्त्री के पीछे नाचे मतवाले जोबन पर
कोई शक्ति पर, कोई भक्ति पर नाचत है जीवन भर

The co-existence of ‘shakti’ and ‘bhakti’ in the last line is important. It is not merely the usage of two rhyming words, but a crucial transition of the meaning of ‘naach’ from lust to devotion and spirituality, as the song segues into the next stanza.

तुलसीदास उत्तर में नाचे, गौर प्रभु पूरब में
नरसी मेहता पश्चिम नाचे, तुकाराम दक्षिण में
मध्य हिन्द में मीरा नाचे, मोहन की गलियन में

In a span of a few lines, the poet has successfully captured the multivalence of one word from worldliness to spirituality, making this song rise above a stock song and dance routine.

Avinash Vyas’s composition and Asha Bhosle’s voice further add to the charm of this song.

Naacho Naacho Naacho Ae Duniyawaalo - Laxmi (1957) - Asha Bhosle & Chorus - Avinash Vyas - Qamar Jalalabadi

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Life is a Long Song …

Ever since the advent of sound, songs have played an important role in Indian films. In the early days, most songs in Hindi films used to be of short duration, typically a little over 3 minutes. The technological limitations at that time restricted the length of songs, especially the ones that were to be released on records for public consumption outside of the film. Since each side of a 78 rpm gramophone record had a restriction of a little over 3 minutes duration, most songs adhered to that limit, or at the most were double that duration, appearing on two sides of the same record. However, there have been instances of songs in excess of 6 minutes on film even as far back as the 1930s, but such instances were few and far between. With technological advancements, the average length of a Hindi film song increased beyond the 1960s.

Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook, ran a theme last week where one had to post film songs that were longer the 7 minutes. It was quite a revelation to see a wide variety of long songs belonging to different genres and types.

If one looks at the various long songs that have appeared in Hindi films, one can see that they fall into several different categories. I have made an attempt here to classify them in a few categories based on genre or the way they have been filmed. I must add that these categories are neither exhaustive nor mutually exclusive.


Qawwali - The most obvious category where most of the songs are typically long is the qawwali. Although the qawwalis that we get to see in films today is mostly restricted to devotional or sufiyana type, one has seen quite a variety in the qawwalis that have made their way into films. Probably most famous, and my most favourite, qawwali of all time is the one from Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) - the mother of all filmi qawwalis. Running for more than 12 minutes, the words, the music and the singing all come together brilliantly.

Na To Karwaan Ki Talash Hai - Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) - Manna Dey, Mohd. Rafi, S. D Batish, Asha Bhosle, Sudha Malhotra & Chorus - Roshan - Sahir Ludhiyanvi

At the other end of the spectrum is a modern qawwali - modern in terms of approach but still retaining the traditionalism in terms of lyrics and orchestration (barring the portions that highlight the impending doom that the characters are blissfully oblivious to). The film is The Burning Train (1980) and this qawwali runs just shy of 11 minutes.

Pal Do Pal Ka Saath Hamara - The Burning Train (1980) - Mohd. Rafi, Asha Bhosle & Chorus - Rahul Dev Burman - Sahir Ludhiyanvi

Medley - There have been several instances in Hindi films where a number of songs that appear separately in the audio releases, are filmed as a single unit i.e as a medley of multiple songs. In some cases such a medley is used to show simultaneous state of mind of different characters as in this medley of three outstanding songs from Dekh Kabira Roya (1957), composed by Madan Mohan.

Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye, Ashkon Se Teri & Tu Pyar Kare Ya Thukraye - Dekh Kabira Roya (1957) - Lata Mangeshkar & Asha Bhosle - Madan Mohan - Rajinder Krishan

In many post 70s films, especially those of Nasir Hussain, medleys have been effectively used to show a competition between various characters.

COmpetition Medley - Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977) - Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Rahul Dev Burman & Asha Bhosle - Rahul Dev Burman - Majrooh Sultanpuri

Narrative Song - Medleys can also become a tool to narrate a story, like this medley of four songs from Ram Rajya (1967) that tells the story of creation.

Tha Andhera Chhaya Hua, Aaja Tujh Bin, Dar Laage Garje Badariya & Hato Jaao - Ram Rajya (1967) - Manna Dey, Mohd. Rafi & Lata Mangeshkar - Vasant Desai - Bharat Vyas.

Or this one from Anuradha (1960) where a story is narrated in the form of a dance drama

Bahut Din Huye/ Sama Albela - Anuradha (1960) _ Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey & Lata Mangeshkar - Pt. Ravi Shankar - Shailendra

Apart from medleys, single long songs have also been used in films to narrate a story. One the longest songs ever filmed in Hindi films is from Rani Aur Lal Pari (1975). The sequence tells the story of Cinderella in the form of a song running for more than 20 minutes. More often than not, such songs are only meant for watching and have virtually no audio-only appeal.

Ek Baar Ek Ladki Thi - Rani Aur Lal Pari (1975) - Asha Bhosle, Dilraj Kaur, Pramila Dattar, Kumari Faiyyaz & Manna Dey - Vasant Desai - Balkavi Bairagi

One song from recent times that competes with the Rani Aur Lal Pari is a song from Aaja Nachle (2007). The tale of Laila Majnoon is narrated through this song.

Laila Majnoon - Aaja Nachle (2007) - Madhuri Dixit, Sukhvinder Singh, Sonu Nigam, Sunidhi Chauhan, Shreya Ghoshal & Others - Salim Suleiman - Piyush Mishra


Dance Song - Many films feature really long songs with the primary aim of showcasing the dancing prowess of the lead characters. Such songs typically have long instrumental passages. Here is one song from Raj Tilak (1958) where two exceptional dancers are pitted against each other as a sort of competition.

Aaja Tu Raja Aaja - Raj Tilak (1958) - Asha Bhosle & Sudha Malhotra - C. Ramchandra - Pyarelal Santoshi

In relatively recent times, Madhuri Dixit song several such long songs right from Ek Do Teen that made her famous. One such song from a 90s flop - Rajkumar…

Aankhon Ke Aage Peechhe - Rajkumar (1996) - Kavita Krishnamurthy - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Anand Bakshi

Multilingual Song - Multilingual songs are often used in films to depict national integration and many times, such songs end up being quite long. Like, for example, this song from Pyar Ki Pyaas (1961)…

Uttar Mein Hai Khada Himalay - Pyar Ki Pyaas (1961) - Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Manna Dey, Lakshmi Shankar, Manna Dey & Ranu Mukherjee - Vasant Desai - Bharat Vyas

Or this delightful one from Teen Batti Chaar Rasta (1953) where family members from various regions of India sing praises of their respective regions through a medley of songlets in different languages.

Multilingual Song - Teen Batti Chaar Rasta (1953) - various composers, lyricists and singers

Sometimes, a multilingual song may be used just for fun. Aadmi (1939), was one of the earliest films with a 7 minute plus song.

Kis LIye Kal Ki Baat - Aadmi (1939) - Shanta Hublikar - Master Krishna Rao - Munshi Aziz

Multi-starrer - Many multi-starrer films have at least one song that includes all the characters, and if one were to do justice to all the characters in that song, the song is bound to be long. One films that takes the cake in this category is J. P Dutta’s LOC Kargil. Although all his films tend to have at least one very long song, but LOC Kargil was unique that it had 4 songs that exceeded 7 minutes. The longest amongst them was this song that had as many as 15 characters lip-syncing at least a few words:

Main Kahin Bhi Rahoon - LOC Kargil (2003) - Roop Kumar Rathod, Sonu Nigam, Sukhvinder Singh, Hariharan & Udit Narayan - Anu Malik - Javed Akhtar

Another long song from this film had one playback singer singing for 8 different characters.


Multi-part Song - There have been several instances down the years that a song is fragmented into many parts and used to provide a narrative through the film. The longest songs in Hindi films actually belong to this category. I am told that Mahapavan Teerth Yatra (1975) had a 75 minute song spread across the entire film. I found the film on youtube and saw a portion of this song, but am yet to count the total duration of all parts put together. On similar lines, there is a 42 minute song in Sampoorna Teerth Yatra (1970), composed by Shivram and sung by Mahendra Kapoor. Then there is this song from Ziarat Gah-e-Hind aka Zeenat (1970), sung by Mohd. Rafi. All these songs appear in the film in a fragmented manner and talk about the various holy places in the country.

Chalo Ziarat Ko Ahl-e-Imaan - Ziaratgah-e-Hind (1970) - Mohd. Rafi - Mustafa Yusuf & Sajjad Hussain - Abdur Rab Chaush

One more example of a multi-part song will be a mother’s song from Phoolon Ki Sej, that appears in three parts through the film.

Taaron Ki aankhon Ka Taara Tu - Phoolon Ki Sej (1964) - Lata Mangeshkar - Adi Narayan Rao - Hasrat Jaipuri

Raagmala - By their very definition, raagmalas have the potential to be long. The very fact that 3-4 four different ragas are depicted in a raagmala, they usually tend to be longer than regular songs. Most of the well-known raagmalas in Hindi films have been between 6-7 minutes long. Here is one from Sau Saal Baad (1966) that manages to touch the 7 minute threshold.

Ik Ritu Aaye - Sau Saal Baad (1966) - Manna Dey & Lata Mangeshkar - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Anand Bakshi

Celebratory - This is one category where a significant number of long songs have been appeared in Hindi films in the last two decades or so. Typically, such songs depict friends and family taking part in some sort of celebration, either some marriage or other family rituals or simply having fun together.

Didi Tera Devar Deewana - Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) - Lata Mangeshkar & S. P Balasubramaniam - Raamlaxman - Dev Kohli

In the same category would fall this parody song from Lamhe, where the characters are simply having fun at home.

Parody - Lamhe (1991) - Pamela Chopra & Sudesh Bhosle - Shiv Hari


As I mentioned earlier, this list is not exhaustive. There could be several other categories. And some songs are just simply long, for no particular reason. This trend has been more common in recent times. Interestingly, many of these songs are quite long in audio format, but used only partially within the film.

In a majority of these long songs, I find them enjoyable only as a visual experience. Listening to only audio makes one wish that the songs end quickly. Yet, there are definitely some songs that despite being long, feel like they end too soon. As the famous Jethro Tull song goes:

Life's a long song….
But the tune ends too soon for the song.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pandit Indra Chandra - Remembering a Forgotten Lyricist

PtIndra

Let me start with a quiz. How would you relate the numbers 400059, 19.112245 and 72.869997 to Hindi Film Music? Stumped? Let me show you the way…

If you go to Mumbai by air, head west from the airport, go straight till you hit Andheri-Kurla Road, take a left turn, another left after approximately 750m, keep going…. another left after 110m, then take the first right, and then another right after 100m, and lo you’ve reached your destination.

But where? And how does that relate to those weird numbers? And how does Hindi film music come into the picture?

Well, the place you’ve reached lies on latitude 19.112245, longitude 72.869997, and has a PIN code 400059 – Kavivar Pandit Indra Marg, a road named after a forgotten lyricist of yesteryears.

मौसीक़ी गर मलबूस है अलफ़ाज़ रूह-ओ-जिस्म हैं
जिस्म-ए-हसीं पर मुन्हसिर है दिलकशी-ए-पैरहन

(मौसीक़ी = music; मलबूस = costume; अलफ़ाज़ = words; जिस्म-ए-हसीं = beautiful body, मुन्हसिर = dependent; दिलकशी-ए-पैरहन = attractiveness of the costume)

If music be the costume, words are the body and soul
A beautiful body enhances a beautiful outfit

It’s a sad reality that among all the contributors that embellish film songs, the lyricists are probably the least remembered (except the musicians and chorus singer, of course). Pt. Indra’s is a classic case in point. One of the most prolific Hindi film lyricists of his time, Pt. Indra had a career spanning three decades during which he wrote more than 875 songs in 128 films. Yet his name is hardly known.

Not much is known about the early life of Pandit Indra Chandra Dadhich. Hailing from Churu district in Rajasthan, Pt. Indra came to Bombay in 1933. He was first hired as a writer and lyricist for Gandharv Cinetone’s Sati Mahananda (1933). He continued to be associated exclusively with them for the first few years and worked on films like Maharani (1934) and Pardesi Saiyan (1935). When Master Vinayak co-founded his company - Huns Chitra - in 1936, he hired Pt. Indra for Chhaya (1936), where he was responsible for translating from the original Marathi. Pt. Indra continued to work for Huns Chitra for the next couple of years, while expanding his association with other film companies like Sagar Movietone and a few others.

TansenIt was in 1939 that he got the first opportunity to work with Chandulal Shah’s Ranjit Movietone in Sant Tulsidas. But it wasn’t until 1942, with Dheeraj and Iqraar (Tyaag), that Pt. Indra became a regular lyricist with Ranjit Movietone. By 1950 he had worked in 33 films produced by Ranjit Movietone, his most significant association with any film company. Some of the noteworthy films of this association include Tansen (1944), Dhanna Bhagat (1945), Moorti (1945), Prabhu Ka Ghar (1945), Rajputani (1946), Chheen Le Azadi (1947), Piya Ghar Aaja (1947), Gunsundari (1948) and Jogan (1950). Many years later when Chandulal Shah directed Zameen Ke Taare (1960) he once again called Pt. Indra for his services, although the film was made under the banner of Chadra Movies.

Apart from Ranjit Movietone for whom he produced a bulk of his output, Pt. Indra also did considerable amount of work for Vijay Bhatt’s Prakash Pictures (9 films), Homi Wadia’s Wadia Movietone (8 films), Huns Chitra (7 films) and Sagar Movietone (6 films). Since he had close relations with both, when Ranjit Movietone and Wadia Movietone decided to co-produce Return of Toofan Mail in 1942, Pt. Indra was the obvious choice for the main lyricist.

ChandralekhaIn 1948, S. S Vasan decided to remake his super hit film Chandralekha in Hindi. The responsibility of writing the lyrics as well as the dialogues fell on Pt. Indra. Thus began another fruitful association for Pt. Indra. He became an in-house lyricist for Gemini Films, writing for all their subsequent Hindi films like Nishaan (1949), Mangala (1950), Sansar (1951), Mr. Sampat (1952), Bahut Din Hue (1954) and Do Dulhe (1955).

Those were the days when artistes were closely tied to film companies, working on a monthly salary. It is, therefore, natural that the music directors Pt. Indra worked with was dependent on the film companies he was associated with. From Govindrao Tembe in his first film to Dhaniram, Jamal Sen and Shivram Krishna in his final films, Pt. Indra worked with around 50 different composers. Yet, a fairly large proportion of his work is with composers who were closely associated with Ranjit Movietone i.e. Bulo C. Rani (21 films), Gyan Dutt (17 films), Khemchand Prakash (12 films) and Hansraj Bahl (11 films). Jogan (1950) with Bulo C. Rani, Geet Govind (1947) with Gyan Dutt, and Tansen (1943) with Khemchand Prakash can be considered as Pt. Indra’s milestone films. While working with Gemini, he got the opportunity to work with prominent composers of South India like S. Rajeshwar Rao, E. Sankara Shastri, B.S Kalla and M. D Parthasarthy. Other prominent composers he worked with include S. N Tripathi (6 films), Anil Biswas (5 films) and Dada Chandekar (4 films).

After his very first film Sati Mahanada, Pt. Indra had several more opportunities to show his mettle as a dialogue writer. Some of the films for which he wrote the story/dialogues include Maharani (1934), Pardesi Saiyan (1935), Chhaya (1936), Sati Pingala (1937), Jwala (1938), Brahmachari (1938), Brandy Ki Botal (1939), Sant Tulsidas (1939), Ghar Ki Rani (1940), Chandralekha (1949), Jalsa (1948) and Bahut Din Hue (1954). Many of these films were dubbed versions/remakes of regional language films.

GangaurPt. Indra also tried his hand at production when he co-produced Sheikh Chilli (1956) with Ramchandra Thakur. He also produced a few Rajasthani films like Babasa Ri Ladli (1961), Nanibai Ko Maayro (1962), Gangaur (1964) and Gopichand Bharthari (1965). He wrote the lyrics for these films as well, as also for other Rajasthani films like Dhani Lugai (1964) and Gogaji Pir (1969). Even in Hindi films he brought in the flavor of Rajasthan whenever an opportunity arose. Songs like ‘mharo chhail bhanwar ro kangasiyo’ (Karwaan 1944), ‘kunwar thane mujro kar kar haari’ (Rajputani 1946) and ‘mora chhail bhanwar ’ (Rajputani 1946) were either completely or partially written in Rajasthani.

O Rang Rangeelo Aalijo - Baba Sa Ri Ladli (1961 Rajasthani) - Asha Bhosle - Pt. Shivram - Pt. Indra

A glance at his work reveals that at the beginning of his career, there was a noticeable literary influence in his choice of words both in Hindi and Urdu. For example, ‘saavan ghan barse chaatak kyun tarse’ (Maharani 1934), ‘mansarovar taj chale rajhans’ (Chhaya 1936), ‘yakta ye husn mana farsh-e-zameen pe ho’ (Pardesi Saiyan 1935), ‘mere dil-e-saudai kis waqt haya aayi’ (Pardesi Saiyan, 1935), etc. But largely, the language he used was simple and colloquial as was in vogue in the films of 1930s and 40s. He primarily stuck to the demands of the film rather than overtly and incongruously exhibiting his language skills. However, whenever he had the opportunity, either due to the subject of the film or when he got a free hand from the film makers, he did revert to pure, literary language. A case in point will be his songs from Geet Govind (1947), where he penned songs like ‘viyogini deepshikha se jare’ or ‘chamakat damakat daamini’. He also used the literary device of anupraas alankaar (alliteration) whenever he could as is evident in songs like ‘o mrignayani madhubani menaka’ (Mr. Sampat 1952), ‘kookat koyaliya kunjan mein’ (Bharthari 1944) and ‘maai ri main to madhuban mein’ (Chandalekha 1948). In the last example, which is jointly credited to Pt. Indra & Bharat Vyas, the use of alliteration was not restricted only to the mukhda. The last antara of that song had another lovely usage of alliteration when the singer sings ‘ho gaye naina nihaal nirakh liyo nandlal’.

Maai Ri Main To Madhuban Mein - Chandraleka (1948) - Uma Devi - S. Rajeshwar Rao - Pt. Indra

Radha---krishnaIt is difficult to compartmentalize Pt. Indra’s writing style. He was truly versatile, writing just about every kind of song. However, there are a few recurring motifs that appear in his songs. One cannot call that as something unique to him as those themes were quite prevalent in that era in general, but given his prolificacy those themes appear more often in his work as compared to some other lyricists. One such theme is that of Radha Krishna, either alone or together. This seems to be quite a favorite among most lyric writers till around the 70s. In Pt. Indra’s oeuvre this theme emerges not only in films based on this subject like Geet Govind (1947), where he penned songs like ‘shyam meri bindiya bikhar na jaye’, ‘kit ho nand kumar’, ‘meethi meethi murali shyam bajaye’, or Krishna Kanhaiya (1952) where almost every song referred to Radha and/or Shyam, but also films with varied themes. Some of these examples include ‘bijli chamak gayi shyam’, ‘kunj mein dole akeli aaj raadhika shyam bina’(Maharani 1934), ‘aao jhoola jhoolen kanha’ (Brandy Ki Botal 1939), ‘matwale mere shyam’ (Amrit 1941), ‘radha jhoola jhoole jhulaven ghanshyam’ (Raj Nartaki 1941), ‘madhuban mein radha jhoole hindole’ (Prabhu Ka Ghar 1945) ‘radha paniya bharan kaise jaye’ (Dharti 1946), ‘bol bol gokul ke gwale’ (Gwalan 1946), and many more.

Shyam Se Naina Mila Aayi - Raj Nartaki (1941) - Suprava Sarkar - Timir Baran - Pt. Indra

Another recurring character that has been a favorite of poets from time immemorial, and which found its way into Pt. Indra’s work as well, is the moon. I must add that he mostly stuck to the conventional roles of the moon, and I don’t find any innovative invocation of the moon in his work. His moon is fairly comfortable wearing the conventional garb. It becomes a messenger in ‘chanda desh piya ke ja’ (Bharthari 1944) or ‘sheetal chandni khili khili’ (Draupadi 1944), transforms into a close confidante in ‘o sharad poonam ki chandni’ (Gunsundari 1948), is advised not to cast an evil eye in ‘ae chand nazar na lagana’ (Moorti 1945), becomes a playful mate in ‘chanda khele aankh michauli’ (Jogan 1950), is equated to the beloved in ‘chanda chamke neel gagan mein’ (Bahut Din Hue 1954), is used a metaphor for beauty as well as accused of being a thief in ‘chandavadani sundar sajni’ (Man Ka Meet 1950), or simply transforms into an object decorating the mise-en-scene in a romantic song like ‘chanda chamkti raat’ (Do Dulhe 1955). And of course, a mother equating her child to the moon as she sings a lori cannot be far behind, as in ‘pyare more chanda ae mere ladle’ (Mangala 1950).

Chandavadani Sundar Sajni - Man Ka Meet (1950) - Geeta Roy - Sardul Kwatra - Pt. Indra

Pt. Indra also had his share of patriotic or nationalistic songs of various hues and tones. While ‘ajab hindustan ghazab hindustan’ (Pardesi Mehman 1948) was a stinging satirical attack on the state of the nation immediately after independence, ‘hindustan mahan hamara’ (Mr. Sampat 1952) was an expression of pride, yet an utopian and idealistic view. National leaders were invoked in Brandy Ki Botal (1939) with songs like ‘gandhi baba ka aaya raaj’, a song about Gandhi’s call for prohibition, and ‘bharat mata ke rajdulare’, which referenced Jawaharlal Nehru. His words exhorted people to rise and fight for their motherland in songs like ‘veer chalo janani pukare maiya bharati’ (Maharani 1934) and ‘jaag jaag mewar’ (Rajputani 1946).

Ajab Hindustan Ghazab Hindustan - Pardesi Mehman (1948) - Mohd. Farouqui - Hansraj Bahl - Pt. Indra

I will now turn my attention to some light and frothy fun songs penned by Pt. Indra. In Brandy Ki Botal (1939) he addressed the theme of prohibition through ‘mora botal wala baalma’, a song that also included an advertisement of sorts for Congress and praise for Gandhi. A lot of his fun songs were from the films produced by Gemini. Sansar (1951) had ‘lakhnau chalo ab rani’, while Do Dulhe featured ‘mohabbat ki motor mein puncture’(1955). Nishaan (1949) had a multi-lingual song ‘jaiyo jaiyo sipahiya bajaar’, while Mr. Sampat (1952) featured ‘lo main layi suiyan’. For a comedy film like Makkheechoos (1956) he wrote songs such as ‘o arabpati ki chhori’ and ‘sethji tumne kiya kamaal’.

Jaiyo Jaoyo Sipahiya Bajaar - Nishaan (1949) - Shamshad Begum - M. D. Parthasarthi, E. Shankar Sastry, B.S Kalla - Pt. Indra

But one song of his in this category that stands out for a stinging attack on the government in the guise of a fun song is ‘gehoon ke phulke khila de’ from Insaan (1944). Just look at the lyrics here.

The lady cribs:

गेहूँ के फुलके खिला दे
हाँ हाँ रे पिया मोहे बाजरी न भाए
दिल्ली से चावल मँगा दे
हाँ हाँ रे पिया मोहे बाजरी न भाए

To which the man responds:

चन्द्रवदन अब बाजरी ही खैयो
जर्मन करे है लड़ाई

Then she complains:

रेशम की अँगिया सिला दे मोरे राजा
गोटा किनारी लगा दे मोरे राजा
जाड़े से जिया घबराए

And the man says,

नाज़ुक नार बनो न हठीली
जापान खड़ा है किनारे

Then she says,

हाय मोरा खाना पहनना छूटा
इस पापी ने सुख मेरा लूटा 

At an overt level it seems like a usual banter where a wife is making demands and the husband is ready with bizarre excuses. But look at it in the political context. The film came in 1944, when we were in the midst of the Second World War. 1943 was the year when the Great Bengal Famine occurred, a result of both shortages of production as well as due to export of food grains to feed the British Indian Army participating in the World War. Japan’s occupation of Burma also hit Bengal hard because Burma was an important source of rice for Bengal and it also resulted in a sudden influx of refugees from Burma. So in this song, the writer has cleverly brought in the contemporary socio-economic and political scenario while at the same time blaming the government in a veiled manner (is paapi ne sukh mera loota).

 

Gehoon Ke Phulke Khila De - Insaan (1944) - Zohrabai Ambalewali & Unknown Male - Gyan Dutt - Pt. Indra

Pt. Indra’s body of work is so huge that it is impossible to deeply analyze his work in a short write-up like this. Add to that the unavailability of a large volume of his work from the 30s and early 40s. I do wish that this write-up has piqued some curiosity in the reader’s mind. I sincerely hope that after today we will remember him more for his work than a short stretch of asphalt in Mumbai that bears his name.

 


FILMOGRAPHY:

Hindi Films

1. Sati Mahananda (1933)

2. Maharani (1934)

3. Pardesi Saiyan (1935)

4. Chhaya (1936)

5. Jiwan Lata (1936)

6. Begunaah (1937)

7. Jaageerdaar (1937)

8. Meri Bhool (1937)

9. Premveer (1937)

10. Sati Pingla (1937)

11. Brahmachari (1938)

12. Dynamite (1938)

13. Jwala (1938)

14. Brandy Ki Botal (1939)

15. Ek Hi Raasta (1939)

16. Pati Patni (1939)

17. Sant Tulsidas (1939)

18. Service Limited (1939)

19. Uski Tamanna (1939)

20. Achhoot (1940)

21. Ghar Ki Rani (1940)

22. Punarmilan (1940)

23. Sajani (1940)

24. Suhaag (1940)

25. Amrit (1941)

26. Chandan (1941)

27. Darshan (1941)

28. Holiday In Bombay (1941)

29. Raj Nartaki (1941)

30. Swaami (1941)

31. Aankh Michauli (1942)

32. Apna Paraaya (1942)

33. Chooriyaan (1942)

34. Dheeraj (1942)

35. Gareeb (1942)

36. Iqraar (Tyag) (1942)

37. Jungle Princess (1942)

38. Khilauna (1942)

39. Mehmaan (1942)

40. Return of Toofaan Mail (1942)

41. Savera (1942)

42. Shobha (1942)

43. Station Master (1942)

44. Aadaab Arz (1943)

45. Aankh Ki Sharam (1943)

46. Aashirwaad (1943)

47. Andhera (1943)

48. Bansari (1943)

49. Chiraag (1943)

50. Dulhan (1943)

51. Paigaam (1943)

52. Panghat (1943)

53. School Master (1943)

54. Shahenshaah Akbar (1943)

55. Shankar Paarvati (1943)

56. Taansen (1943)

57. Vishwaas (1943)

58. Bhanwara (1944)

59. Bharthari (1944)

60. Carvaan (1944)

61. Draupadi (1944)

62. Gaali (1944)

63. Insaan (1944)

64. Krishna Bhakt Bodana (1944)

65. Pagli Duniya (1944)

66. Shahenshaah Baabar (1944)

67. Chaand Chakori (1945)

68. Chalis Karor (1945)

69. Chhamia (1945)

70. Dhanna Bhagat (1945)

71. Ji Haan (1945)

72. Moorti (1945)

73. Prabhu Ka Ghar (1945)

74. Sharbati Aankhen (1945)

75. Dharti (1946)

76. Gwaalan (1946)

77. Magadh Raj (1946)

78. Panihari (1946)

79. Phulwaari (1946)

80. Pujaari (1946)

81. Rajputani (1946)

82. Royal Mail (1946)

83. Subhadra (1946)

84. Bhakt Dhruv (1947)

85. Chheen Le Aazaadi (1947)

86. Geet Govind (1947)

87. Kaun Hamaara (1947)

88. Laakhon Men Ek (1947)

89. Pahli Pahchaan (1947)

90. Piya Ghar Aaja (1947)

91. Samaaj Ko Badal Daalo (1947)

92. Woh Zamaana (1947)

93. Bichhare Balam (1948)

94. Chandralekha (1948)

95. Gunsundari (1948)

96. Jai Hanumaan (1948)

97. Jharna (1948)

98. Mitti Ke Khilaune (1948)

99. Pardesi Mehmaan (1948)

100. Ram Baan (1948)

101. Satya Narayan (1948)

102. Satyavan Savitri (1948)

103. Shri Rambhakta Hanuman (1948)

104. Bhikhaari (1949)

105. Bhool Bhulaiyaan (1949)

106. Naarad Muni (1949)

107. Nanad Bhaujaai (1949)

108. Nishaan (1949)

109. Sudhar (1949)

110. Usha Haran (1949)

111. Jogan (1950)

112. Man Ka Meet (1950)

113. Mangala (1950)

114. Ghaayal (1951)

115. Sansaar (1951)

116. Krishna Kanhaiya (1952)

117. Mr. Sampat (1952)

118. Pataal Bhairavi (1952)

119. Veer Arjun (1952)

120. Bahut Din Huye (1954)

121. Do Dulhe (1955)

122. Makkheechoos (1956)

123. Sheikh Chilli (1956)

124. Zameen Ke Taare (1960)

125. Baghdad (1961)

126. Aalha-Udal (1962)

127. Durga Pooja (1962)

128. Meri Bahen (1962)

 

Rajasthani Films

  1. Babasa Ri Ladli (1961)
  2. Nanibai Ko Maayro (1962)
  3. Dhani Lugai (1963)
  4. Gangaur (1964)
  5. Gopichand Bharthari (1965)
  6. Gogaji Pir (1969)


SOURCES

  1. Hindi Filmon Ke Geetkaar by Anil Bhargava
  2. Hindi Film Geet Kosh by Harmandar Singh Hamraaz
  3. Complete Index of World Films (http://www.citwf.com)
  4. Myswar (http://www.myswar.com)
  5. Earthmusic Network (http://www.earthmusic.net/)
  6. Bigger than the Sky – Ranjit Studio by Shishir Krishna Sharma (http://beetehuedin.blogspot.in/2012/07/biggerthan-sky-ranjit-studio.html)

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This piece was written as part of the Guzra Hua Zamana series on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook.

I would like to thank Surajit Bose for agreeing to my request and taking the effort to validate Pt. Indra’s filmography from the 1930s and 1940s with Hindi Film Geet Kosh. Thanks are also due to Girdharilal Vishwakarma, for not only answering some of my questions regarding Pt. Indra’s work and validating information about his Rajasthani work, but also for making so many rare songs from 1930s and 1940s available over the years. And of course, Dr. Surjit Singh, whose website is a treasure trove of songs. Most of the rare songs of Pt. Indra that I heard during the course of writing this piece were thanks to all the collectors who have painstakingly collected rare songs over the years and have been generous enough to share them through Dr. Surjit Singh’s web site.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Anil Biswas and His Mastery over the Folk Idiom

This article has been compiled from several posts and comments made by Shri Arun Mudgal on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group of Facebook. One cannot but marvel at his deep understanding of the folk music of India in general, and Anil Biswas’s mastery over it in particular.


“भारतीय संगीत में शास्त्रीय संगीत की महान परम्परा को हमारे संगीत में मौजूद समृद्ध लोकसंगीत की परम्परा से ही महानता प्राप्त हुई है. लोकसंगीत की परम्परा से ही शास्त्रीय संगीत की परम्परा का जन्म हुआ है. और वह उस की बदौलत बनी रह पाई है. संगीत में शास्त्रीय परम्परा के प्रति निष्ठा में मैं किसी से पीछे नहीं हूँ, लेकिन भारतीय लोकसंगीत प्रेमियों के बीच मैं इस संगीत के प्रति अपनी निष्ठा में किसी से हरगिज़ पीछे नहीं रहना चाहूँगा….

"फिल्मों में जीवन को उसी रूप में प्रस्तुत किया जाता है, जिस रूप में उसे जिया जाता है. उसमें जीवन को हरकत और हलचल भरा दिखाया जाता है . वह जीवन स्थिर न होकर बहती धारा के समान होता है . ऐसे फिल्म जगत से जुड़े रहकर मुझे यह अच्छी तरह से एहसास हो गया कि संगीत ही -चाहे वह शास्त्रीय संगीत हो या लोकसंगीत --हमारे अस्तित्व के दिक्काल तत्वों को प्रतिबिम्बित कर सकता है. असली भारतीय फिल्म संगीत की मांग यह होती है , कि उसे शास्त्रीय और लोकसंगीत , दोनों ही से सजाया जाएगा और भारतीय जीवन और उसके स्वरुप की अभिव्यक्ति सही मायनों में संगीत के मुहावरों से ही की जा सकती है"
(Anil Biswas )

This is a portion of the paper on ‘भारतीय शास्त्रीय संगीत तथा लोकसंगीत की संपदा और फिल्मों में उसका उपयोग’ which Anil Biswas presented in the seminar organized by Sangeet Natak Academy in 1957. He read the paper in English which was translated in Hindi by Shamsher singh and the above quoted portion is from this Hindi Translation.
In the same paper Anil Biswas latter says that that India is a country of Temples and Fields. The music of Temples has its roots in classical while the music of fields which are more connected to the common man (Janasaadhaaran) always has the love for Lok Sangeet which has local idiom and flavor both. And because in Indian films both Temples and fields, Cities and villages, are part of the depiction and story line so the nature of our film music is such that these two streams of music classical and folk are there in plenty. Also we should understand this fact that the kind of films we made requires both these genres of music.

And those who know and have listened and enjoyed Anil Da’s songs can very well see how true and faithful Anil Da remained to this belief and commitment to the classical and folk traditions of Indian Music in his compositions.

Though he had a great flavor for both classical and folk music in his songs but his knowledge, command and approach to the folk music traditions of India is something unrivalled in HFM.

Here I would also like to mention another aspect of Indian Music which is constant interaction between folk and classical music from centuries. A folk bandish or a folk song when sung by the hardcore classical exponents can easily become a milestone in classical rendition. Also there is a whole genre of semi-classical songs which are replete with folk traditions and folk songs.

But despite that interaction, Indian Folk Music and traditions and songs have their own personality when it comes to pure or as they say in folk language (Khantee) folk with some distinct and easily identifiable features. The rustic flavor, lyrics depicting the concerns, joys and sorrows of common man and woman of the land, the powerful throw of singers voice, the rural and rustic imagery and the kind of limited number instruments used, a Dholak or Dhol or Duf here and a set of Manjeera, khanjadee, khadtaal there with Harmonium and Ravan Hattha thrown in many a times. In folk songs one may also notice how certain word or a phrase will keep on recurring in form of a call or a teep in a buland voice from the group of singers piercing through the listeners and giving the song a distinct rustic and earthy touch and feel. Also various regions of India are replete with their own genres of folk traditions , be it Kirtan from Bengal; Hori, Sohar, Jhoola, Nautanki from UP; Alha Udal from Bundelkhand - the list can go on and on and on...

What surprises me most about Anil Da’s folk songs is the kind of range he has in folk traditions of India. At one place he could easily use folk music of Punjab, U P, South, Bihar, Bengal in a single song seamlessly creating a classy folk melody (kachhi hai uamariya ….), while at another he could easily convert a folk genre song in to semi classical rendition by introducing the classical notes bereft of the rusticity and earthiness of the folk (Ka sang khelun faag ree…..), and at the same time keeping the folk intentions of the lyrics intact not an ordinary task!

Kachchi Hai Umariya - Chaar Dil Chaar Raahen (1959) - Meena Kapoor - Anil Biswas - Sahir Ludhiyanvi
Kaa Sang Kheloon Phaag - Mahatama Kabeer (1954) - Asha Bhosle - Anil Biswas - Sant Kabeer

And for a man from Bengal to know and understand about the ‘Paipatta’ singing which is practiced in a very limited part of UP and Rajasthan in Holi singing is nothing short of a wonder. Anil da introduced this ‘Paipatta’ singing in a sophisticated veiled way, as in the original form it at times crosses the boundaries of decency, in his Holi song in Raahi , the composition of which can be a case study in folk music!

Holi Khelen Nandlala - Raahi (1953) - Ira Majumdar & Anil Biswas - Prem Dhawan

Let me mention some of Anil Da’s songs with distinct features of folk and which are very dear to me as keep on listening these off and on.

Anil Da composed one of the most authentic Sohar songs, which is a distinct folk genre of UP, Bihar, MP and Rajasthan , in HFM in Aurat 1940 ‘Ghoonghar wale hain baal mere lala ke…’ celebrating the ’Chhatee’ after the child birth. In the Muslim community of these areas also Sohar songs were sung but the ‘Chhatee’ was not celebrated as in the case of Hindu Families. In 1954 film Mahatma Kabeer, AnilDa adopted a tradition tune from these areas used in Sohar, and Banna and Banni songs (sung in marriages) and composed this beautiful Sohar song of Muslim families. Let’s enjoy the flair which Anil da has for the folk tradition of India.

बाबा अँगनवा खिलावे ललनवा
मैय्या बरोठे झुलावे पलनवा
ललना की मोरे बलाएँ दूर ,
तेरी गली में बरसे नूर अल्लाह तेरी गली में बरसे नूर .......

Allah Teri Gali Mein Barse Noor - Mahatama Kabeer (1954) - Chandbala & Chorus - Ilham Malihabadi

In Aarzoo 1950 Anil Da not only composed but also sung a Nautanki style song ‘ Hamen maar chala ye khyaal ye gham na idhar ke rahe na udhar ke rahe….’ , not the instrumentation and the style in which the he sings the antara and visualize a Nautanki performance taking place before your eyes!

Humein Maar Chala Ye Khayal - Arzoo (1950) - Anil Biswas - Anil Biswas - Majrooh Sultanpuri

And then there is the Abhiman 1957 song ‘Palla dori palla…..’ set in Lavanee mode and a mix of Nautanki style is kind of a fun song which has all those elements of a folk song, note the use and adayagee of the words ‘ae samhaal’ and ‘phirrr’ by Anil Da himself and you know how deeply he knew the finer and rustic nuances of folk music and how well he could put these in the use to give the song an authentic folk personality!

Palla Dori Palla - Abhimaan (1957) - Asha Bhosle & Anil Biswas - Anil Biswas - Indeevar

In his Calcutta days one night when he was returning home after completing his work in theatre he saw that a group of Bihari people sitting around an 'alaav' and singing a folk song ' madhubanawa gaile na, more nand ke dularwaa madubanwa gaile na, kunjanwaa gaie na ...' Anil Da got impressed by the tune and he used that tune in the song 'Mori baali re umariya ...' in Chhotii Chhotii Baaten. Listen and feel the real folk nuances at their delicate and sweetest best!

Mori Baali Re Umariya - Chhoti Chhoti Baaten (1965) - Lata Mangeshkar - Anil Biswas - Shailendra


And the epitome of Anil Da’s command on the folk genre can be seen in the two Holi songs, one which he composed in Mahatma Kabeer ‘Holi hai be, siyavar Ramchandra ki jai …..’ I am yet to come across a Holi song in Toli style in rural India where the Toli of Holi Hulladbaazi and the delicate singing of Holi by womenfolk of the villages is composed in better way than in this song. This song is kind of a case study in Holi or Faag singing on the occasion of Holi in small towns and kasbas of India. This is typical Holi song where the Hudangi Toli of man's way of Holi singing and the gentle and romantic Holi singing and celebration by women folk not only come together in a single song but in a seamless and most realistic manner too.

Listen to the song and see the picture taking shape in your mind through music and lyrics where at the start of the song the listener can not only feel but can become the part of a Hudadangi Toli of Holi Rasiyas who are having fun and teasing whosoever comes across, Note the collective call of 'Siyavar Ramchandra Ki Jay ...' this motif is used to silence the opposition and the kind of angry response by the teased person. And just after this call a Holi Hudadangi saying to the teased person ' Hloi hai Be....' i.e ‘why mind friend it is Holi’ and thereby making the teased person also a part of the gang so the next moment this teased soul becomes the teaser for other victims.

And then after having this Hudadangi fun in the streets of the village this Toli reaches the residential mohallla where the womenfolk of the village are singing on the thaap of Dholak and dancing by taking gentle circles with the rang and gullal saying 'Bhar Bhar Maare Pichkaarii mora Baalmaa Holi Aayee Re..' and the gentle and romantic play of combined Holi is on with rang and gulaal and pichkaariis. And the intensity of the rang from the pichkaari is so that one feels as if saawan has come in the faagun and it is raining the rang.

And the way Anil Da himself renders the funny and teasing part of the song is the proof of his great command and knowledge of Indian Folk Music!

There are very few songs in HFM which so completely gives such a vivid picture of the celebration of the festival of Holi in its fine gentle romantic flavor and at the same time in its truly rustic manner. It is one of finest combination of romance and rusticity of Holi singing ... !!

 
Siyavar Ramchandra Ki Jai … Holi Hai - Mahatama Kabeer (1954) -  Anil Biswas & Chorus - Anil Biswas

And finally the Holi song which Anil Da composed in Jwaar Bhaata 1944 - ‘sararara ararara gao kabeer…..’ is a song which only a maestro like Anil Da could have composed, the way he brings the ‘Alah Udal’ style of singing in the antara and then with the harmonium and by repeating the words Chali ae chali aji chali … returns to a Khantee UP and Bihari Holi, is the kind of stuff of which melodious dreams are made of …. !!

Sa Ra Ra Ra Gaao Kabeer - Jwar Bhata(1944) - Anil Biswas & Chorus - Anil Biswas - Pt. Narendra Sharma