Sunday, March 29, 2015

Angels & Prophets … and Ghalib

“Appreciation of poetry is a complex process, especially in the context of Urdu poetry. Besides a good understanding of the language, it is important for a reader to understand the cultural backdrop and conventions of Urdu poetry…”

Some years ago, I had written a short piece about how ‘Knowledge’ is essential to the understanding of ‘poetry’. I am reminded about that today in the context of how poets refer to historical/ legendary/ mythical characters in their poetry. And that takes me to an unpublished ghazal by Ghalib that abounds with references to Proper Nouns, especially Angels, Prophets and other references from the mythology of Abrahamic religions.

This ghazal per se is not very exciting in terms of themes covered. However it demands knowledge and understanding of religious texts, mythology and history. In order to make some sense of it, I had to refer to a lot of other material. If the usual thrill of breaking one’s head over deciphering the meaning(s) of the verses was missing, there was an excitement of trying to learn more about other religions and cultures.

What is unique about this Ghazal is that 4 out of the 6 verses have Proper Nouns that are crucial to the understanding of the verses. If one verse talks about the Horn of Archangel Raphael that signals the arrival of doomsday, another talks about the Prophet Jacob’s blindness on account of grieving for his son Joseph and the river Nile (Joseph was incarcerated in Egypt). One invokes the Crown of Archangel Gabriel, while another talks of the Evangel or gospel truth. The final verse, obviously, has another Proper Noun – the poet’s pen name. In addition, one must also know that in Persia, blue was the colour of mourning. And of course, what most Indians would be familiar with, that a black mark is meant to ward off the evil eye.

Here is the ghazal (written in 1821). I have tried to do a literal translation of it in English, but as we know, translating successfully  in another language is a are skill, which I certainly do not possess.

फूँकता है नाला हर शब सूर इस्राफ़ील की
हम को जल्दी है मगर तूने क़यामत ढील की

(नालह = lament; सूर = horn; इस्राफ़ील = Angel Raphael)

Phoonkta hai naala har shab soor Israafeel ki
ham ko jaldi hai magar tune qayamat dheel ki

Each night the lament blows the horn of Raphael
I’m impatient, but doomsday pays no heed

की हैं किस पानी से याँ याक़ूब ने आँखें सुफैद
है जो आबी पैरहन हर मौज रूद-ए-नील की

(याक़ूब = Jacob; सुफैद = white; आबी = like water, light blue; मौज = wave; रूद-ए-नील = River Nile)

Ki hain kis paani se yaaN Yaqoob ne aakhen sufaid
hai jo aabi pairahan har mauj rood-e-Neel ki

With what has Jacob washed his eyes clean
Every wave of Nile mourns in blue clothes

’अर्श पर तेरे क़दम से है दिमाग़-ए-गर्द-ए-रह
आज तनख़्वाह-ए-शिकस्तन है कुलह जिबरील की

(‘अर्श = skies; तनख़्वाह-ए-शिकस्तन = the reward of destruction; कुलह = crown; जिबरील = Angel Gabriel)

’arsh par tere qadam se hai dimaagh-e-gard-e-raah
aaj tankhwah-e-shikastan hai kulah Jibreel ki

The dust on the road feels proud that you step on it
the trampling is a reward as great as Gabriel’s crown

मुद्द'आ दर-पर्दा या'नी जो कहूँ बातिल समझ
वो फ़िरन्गीज़ादा खाता है क़सम इंजील की

(मुद्द'आ = complain; दर-पर्दा = aside; बातिल = permanent, truth; फ़िरन्गीज़ादा = British; इंजील = The New Testament)

Mudd’a dar parda ya’ani jo kahoon baatil samajh
wo firangizaada khaata hai qasam Injeel ki

“Forget everything else, whatever I say is the gospel truth”
So says the British lad, taking an oath on the Evangel

ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद हूँ अज़-बहरे दफ़'अ-ए-चश्म-ए-ज़ख्म
खेंचता हूँ अपनी आँखों में सलाई नील की

(ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद = well-wisher of the eyes; अज़-बहरे = on account of; दफ़'अ-ए-चश्म-ए-ज़ख्म = banish the wound of the eye i.e. evil eye; सलाई = needle; नील = black)

Khairkhwah-e-deed hoon az behr-e-dafa’-e-chashm-e-zakhm
kheenchta hoon apni aankhon mein salayi neel ki

I am a well-wisher of the eye, so to ward off the evil eye
I draw a black mark on the eye with a needle

नाला खेंचा है सरापा दाग़-ए-जुर'अत हूँ असद
क्या सज़ा हैं मेरे जुर्म-ए-आरज़ू तावील की

(नालह = lament; सरापा = completely; दाग़-ए-जुर'अत = guilty of courage; जुर्म-ए-आरज़ू तावील = crime of expressing the desire)

Naala khencha hai saraapa daagh-e-jur’at hoon Asad
kya saza hai mere jurm-e-aarzoo taaveel ki

Having expressed my lament, I’m guilty of intrepidity
Now, what is the punishment of my crime of expressing my desire?

I am not giving detailed explanation for this entire ghazal, but would want to highlight one couplet that I find the most interesting due to multiplicity of meaning.

ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद हूँ अज़-बहरे दफ़'अ-ए-चश्म-ए-ज़ख्म
खेंचता हूँ अपनी आँखों में सलाई नील की

The way one looks at the first word (ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद) would determine how the couplet unfolds itself. Let’s ask the question - well-wisher of whose eyes?

  1. I am a well-wisher my own eye, so in order to save it from evil’s eye, I draw a black mark on it.
  2. I am a well-wisher of your eyes… for this to make sense, one would have to look at the implied meaning i.e. I blind myself by pricking my eyes, so that I cannot cast my evil eye on your beautiful eyes.
  3. A third meaning emerges if the poet considers the harm caused by the evil eye to be much worse than that caused by blindness. As a well-wisher of his own eyes, he prefers to blind himself than let an evil eye fall on them.

I don’t think I have been able to capture the essence of नज़र लगाना in the above explication. But that’s the best I could.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tune, Composer, Language - It’s All the Same

There is no shortage of instances where music composers have re-used their tunes across many songs, either as-is or with variations. A vast majority of such instances happen in the case of composers who work in multiple languages and freely port their tunes from one language to another. Composers like Salil Chowdhury, S. D Burman, R. D Burman, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Ilaiyaraja, A. R Rahman, etc. would dominate this category. However, there have also been many examples where composers have done that within the same language.

In this post I am highlighting some examples where such re-use has happened within the same language. It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list, not only because such a list is very large, but also because it is not humanly possible to be aware of all such cases.  I have only tried to look at various categories of such re-use and tried to provide one example for each. I have also tried to cover a wide range of composers and time periods (1940s-90s).

So let’s dive in …

Masters of Re-use

No discussion on re-use of tunes within the same language can be complete without the mention of Pt. S. N Tripathi and Rahul Dev Burman who did this several times. Both belong to completely different schools of composing, which reflects in the way the re-use appears in their compositions.

S. N Tripathi 

Phulbagiya Mein Bulbul Bole - Rani Roopmati (1959) - Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd. Rafi - S. N Tripathi - Bharat Vyas
Been Baja Mere Mast Sapere - Naag Champa (1976) - Asha Bhosle - S. N Tripathi - Bharat Vyas

Rahul Dev Burman

Saajan Kahan Jaoongi Main - Jaise Ko Taisa (1973) - Lata Mangeshkar - Rahul Dev Burman - Anand Bakshi
Jahan Pe Savera Ho - Basera (1981) - Lata Mangeshkar - Rahul Dev Burman - Gulzar

Let’s now look at some categories in which one can classify re-use of a tune within the same language:

Exact Replica

What does a composer do when he loves a tune very much, but the film for which he composes that doesn’t reach the audience? He re-uses it of course. With the hope that it reaches more people the second time round. This is probably what happened with Aziz Hindi when he composed a song in Rajkumari’s voice in Dil Ke Tukde (1940s). The film did not get a release, so he created another song for Biwi (1950), which was an almost exact replica.

Kaali Kaali Raat Beeti Jaaye Barsaat - Dil Ke Tukde (Unreleased, 1940s) - Rajkumari - Aziz Hindi - Nazim Panipati
Birha Ki Raat Mose Kaati Nahin Jaat - Biwi (1950) - Asha Bhosle - Aziz Hindi - Nazim Panipati

Same Mukhda, Different Antaras

There are many instances where a composer uses just a portion of the tune of one song in another. Here is an example where S. Mohinder re-used the tune of the mukhda of one of his songs in another song. The antaras, however, were tuned differently. The lyricist was the same.

Husn Ki Mehfil Saji Saji - Sun To Le Haseena (1958) - Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle - S. Mohinder - Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Raat Ki Dulhan Saji Saji - Captain Sheroo (1963) - Asha Bhosle - S. Mohinder - Raja Mehdi Ali Khan

Different Mukhda, Same Antaras

There have been instances where the composers have chosen the tune of an antara to be repeated. Like this case where the antara of a seductive song is lifted and dropped as-is into a romantic song.

Band Kamre Mein Ek Ladki - Agent Vinod (1977) - Asha Bhosle & Mahendra Sandhu - Raamlaxman - Ravinder Rawal
Ye Mausam Ka Jadoo - Hum Aapke Hain Kaun - Lata Mangeshkar & S. P Balasubramanyam - Raamlaxman - Ravinder Rawal

Parts Re-used in Different Songs

Some composers have re-used their tunes across different songs. Take this case for example. Laxmikant Pyarelal created a bhajan for Kala Aadmi (1978), which had the chorus singing one tune, and the mukhda was in another tune.

He Jagpaalak - Kala Aadmi (1978) - Manna Dey & Suman Kalyanpur - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Verma Malik

Around 13 years later, they reused the tune of the chorus portion of this song for the initial portion (Natkhat Bansiwale Gokul Ke Raja) of  this song from Saudagar (1991).

Radha Nachegi - Saudagar (1991) - Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd. Aziz - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Anand Bakshi

And the mukhda of the Kala Aadmi song resurfaced a few years later as the mukhda of this song from Bhairavi (1996)

Moh Maya Ko Tyag Re Praani - Bhairavi (1996) - Roop Kumar Rathod - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Amit Khanna

Re-created, then Dubbed!!

There have been a few curious cases where a composer re-use his tune from another language, but at the same time someone decided to dub the original film. So you end up with a tune appearing twice in one language without the composer intending to do so. A. R Rahman had created a brilliant song in the Tamil film Duet (1994). The tune was picked up for the Hindi film, Kabhi Na Kabhi (1997), but while the Hindi film was still being made, the Tamil film was dubbed in Hindi as Tu Hi Mera Dil (1995). And we got these two songs in Hindi, one with some really atrocious lyrics, and another where the singers were simply not able to catch up with the high notes. The recreated version, however, had a different arrangement and the antaras were also slightly different.

Anjali Anjali Pushpanjali - Tu Hi Mera Dil (1995) - S. P Balasubramanyam & Chitra - A. R Rahman - P. K Mishra
Mil Gayin Mil Gayin Wo Manzilen - Kabhi Na Kabhi (1997) - Alka Yagnik & Kumar Sanu - A. R Rahman - Javed Akhtar

Same Language? Not Quite…

There is at least one instance I am aware of where two similar songs are in the same language, but the films are in different languages. Sachin Dev Burman had composed a few Hindi songs for a Bengali film Chaitali (1969). He took the mukhda tune of one of them, made a few modifications, and turned into another song that turned out to be his swan song. The Hindi film was Deewangee (1976).

Paayal Baaj Gayi - Chaitali (1969) - Lata Mangeshkar - Sachin Dev Burman - Anand Bakshi
Chal Sapnon Ke Shahar - Deewangee (1976) - Kishore Kumar - Sachin Dev Burman - Anand Bakshi

Crossing the Borders

Now, the final category for this post. Same composer, same language… but the tune has travelled past national borders. Nisar Bazmi never got much success while he was composing for Indian films. He migrated to Pakistan in the early 60s, and became quite successful as a composer there. In this example, he reused one his tunes sung by Lata Mangeshkar in India (co-composed with Chic Chocolate) for a Noor Jehan song in Pakistan.

Balam Ji Bade Naadaan - Kar Bhala (1956) - Lata Mangeshkar - Nisar Bazmi & Chic Chocolate - Majrooh Sultanpuri
Nayanva Chalayen Baan - Anjuman (1969, Pakistan) - Noor Jehan - Nisar Bazmi