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