December 20, 2009

Ya dil ki suno duniya waalon, yaa mujhko abhi chup rehne do….

Music or lyrics? I always ask people this question in today’s age of de-emphasis on lyrics in Hindi music. A friend once told me that playing music from The Doors guaranteed a cleared out room and an end to the party! Hindi film music today is like The Doors of the days gone by – wonderful music that accompanied lyrics like “There’s a killer on the road, his mind is squirming like a toad!” (Riders on the Storm). Today’s Hindi songs lose their luster within a few weeks, and it is not the musical composition but the words that are the culprit! Look at this from Sameer:

Jadoo se Jadoo kiya re
Uski yaadon mein,
Uske khwabon mein
Jhume jiya re! (quite nice IMO)

And then Crazy Kiya re? Followed by Sexy Lady on the Floor?

Sameer is of course an egregious offender with such lyrics:

Once time touch me like this
I like what you want
What you give its a risk
Two time touch me like this
Together wanna fasa d style the way tat a lover (WTF? and I am struggling for words here)
Three time touch me by far
Gets over here comes the crazy with me in my car

Lyrics that seem to have come straight out of the Hokey Pokey song-
put your left foot it,
pull your left foot out,
put left foot in
and shake it all about…..
Do the Hokey Pokey, and diddly diddly dum
That’s what its all about!

So what is wrong with lyricists today? Why do these songs sound like they are being peddled by wandering transvestite singers of yore? I think they lack sensitivity and soul because they have sacrificed these to the altar of Hinglish and chalu language. There are not many Gulzars today who can use Hinglish and everyday language to spin magic :

Aankhein bhi kamal karti hain
Personal se sawaal karti hain
Palkon ko uthati bhi nahin
Parde ka khayal karti hain


Makke ki roti gud rakh ke
Misri se meethe lab chakh ke
Tandoor jalaa ke jhoom jhoom jhoom

There is an aggressiveness in the language and sentiments to keep in time with the modern age, but it is at the cost of the dreaminess and the symbolism that made us wonder and think about the verse, and come back to it again and again to sample the inherent mystery and allure in the song.

Gone are the days when the poet gently reminded his lover of their past connection:

Who jo hum mein tum mein qarar tha
Tumhe yaad ho ke na yaad ho
Wohi yaani vaada nibah ka
Tumhe yaad ho ki na yaad ho
Kabhi hum mein tum mein bhi chaah thi
Kabhi humse tumse bhi raah thi
Kabhi hum bhi tum bhi the aashna
Tumhe yaad ho ki na yaad ho

(By the way Momin fans should try the Begum Akhtar version – it is divine

And this rare modern one is quite reminiscent of Momin’s gentle pleas (apologies for my Tamil spelling!)

Illei illei sollei oru ganam pothum
Illei yendra sollei thanguvathendral
Innum innum yennukor janamam vendum
Yenna solla pogirai…?

It only takes you a moment to say No.
To bear the hurt
I will have to be born again and again
Oh! What will your answer be…? (Kandukondain Kandukondain – by Vairamuthu)

Today the poet (Vishal) spurs the protagonist on to be bold and not hide his sentiments:

Kadakti heat mein ban jaa dheeth
Nainan se nain mila re,
Baat dil ki na chupa re,
Ho, aaja mujhko tu bata re!

And it not surprising that this occurs in a film where the leading lady whips out her undergarments and gives them to the hero to spread dry! No time for finesse, or obliqueness of any sort.

The biggest loss in the current age of cinema is that of the ghazal. Of course these were best seen in the films where the hero was a shareef Muslim male and expressed his love in most gentle and polite terms (Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam; Chaudavin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho, jo bhi ho tum khuda ki kasam laajawaab ho). But this poetry of rhyming couplets, was used in many contexts and not limited to Muslim themes. The 50 – 70s (and into the 80s or even 90s) saw lyricists like Shakeel Badayuni (yeh zindagi ke mele duniya mein kam na honge – afsos hum na honge; Suhani raat dhal chuki, naa jaane tum kab aaoge);

Majrooh Sultanpuri (Yaad aa gaayin woh nashili nigahen, yaaron thaam lena thaam lena meri baahein; Maana janab ne pukara nahin, kya mera saath bhi gawara nahin);

Sahir Ludhianvi (Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaayen hum dono; Jaane who kaise log the jinke pyaar ko pyaar mila; Choo lene do nazuk hothon ko, kuch aur nahin bas jaam hain yeh);

Hasrat Jaipuri (Tu kahan yeh bata is nashili raat mein, mane na mera dil deewana; Teri zulfon se judaii to nahin mangi thi, qaid mangi thi rihai to nahin mangi thi; and the seductive Tu mere samne hai, teri zulfein hain khuli, tera anchal hai dhala, main bhala hosh mein kaise rahoon);

Anand Bakshi (Tujhe dekha to yeh jaan sanam, pyaar hota hai deewana sanam; Dil kya kare jab kisi ko kisi se pyaar ho jaaye; Jadoo teri nazar, khushboo tera badan, tu haan kar ya naa ker, tu hai meri kiran; Tere mere beech mein kaisa hai yeh bandhan anjaana – the SPB version is to die for!);

Shailendra (Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai, aaj phir marne ka irada hai; Dost Dost naa raha. Pyaar pyaar naa raha)

They invoked poetry by their very names! And why are there not more poet who are known by their domicile? Is it a reflection of the mobile and fragmented society of modern times, an indication of unrooted people?

There was also the decline and disappearance of the qawwali. This qawwali had its roots in Sufi devotional music but was used in many different ways in Hindi cinema. From a true devotional experience – the kind of number one would see at a dargah (Maula Salim Chishti, Khwaja Salim Chishti – Garam Hawa) to celebrating a man’s love for his wife (Sahir’s Ai meri zohra jabeen, tujhe maloom nahin, tu abhi tak hai haseen aur main jawaan, tujhpe qurbaan meri jaan meri jaan! – Waqt), qawwalis turned into a competition between two friendly or warring factions. The verve and exuberance that could border on trance was utilized well in songs like Teri mahafil mein kismat aazamaa kar ham bhi dekhenge, Ghadii bhar ko tere nazadiik aakar ham bhI dekhenge (by Shakeel from Mughal-e-azam). Here the competition was the ultimate one – that for the love of a crown prince. The qawwali went into a decline and then recently resurfaced in the devotional form in Maqbool (Tu mere ru baru hai, meri aankhon ki ibadat hai), as a declaration of love in Veer Zaara (Aaaye tere dar pe deewana, tere ishq mein hai ise mar jaana), and as an impudent fusion with pop in Main Hoon Naa (Tumse milke dil ka hai jo haal kya kahen, ho gaya hai kaisa yeh kamala kya kahein). Then a few years later we see it in its purest trance inducing devotional form in Jodhaa Akbar (Khwaja mere khwaja, dil mein samaa jaa). It would seem that there is still some life in the qawwali, but the ghazals and geets are on the verge of gasping for breath!

So is all lost? I pray daily for the long life of Gulzar Saab and Javed Akhtar! They have managed to hold on to some standards and to modernize with class and style. Some modern classics from Gulzar:

1. (played out yes, but undeniably beautiful)
Woh yaar hai jo khushboo ki tarah
Woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah
Meri shaam raat meri qayanaat
Who yaar mera saiyyan saiyyan

(By equating the language of Urdu to poetry and that to the lady’s speech or zubaan, Gulzar forces us to leap from metaphor to metaphor with dizzying speed)

2. Kabhi ankhiyon se peena
Kabhi hothon se peena
Kabhi achcha lage marna
Kabhi mushkil lage jeena

Tez tha jhonka kya karoon, sisi karti main maroon
Dali bhar dala re dala re namak issk kaa

(The contrast that is love – marna/jeena, and the saltiness that flavors the sweetness of love)

3. Tu neel samandar hai, main ret ka saahil hoon
Aaagosh mein lele, main der se pyaasi hoon
Ek sauda raat ka, ek kaudi chand ki
Chahe to chum le tu ek todi chand ki
Ek chand ki kashti mein, chal paar utarna hai
Tu dheere dheera khena dariya na chalke!!

(row slowly, lest the water spill over – and the boat is the moon!)

And Javed Sahab comes close:

1. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga
Jaise Naachta Mor
Jaise Resham Ki Dor
Jaise Pariyon Ka Raag
Jaise Sandal Ki Aag
Jaise Solah Sighaar
Jaise Ras ki Fuhaar
Jaise Aahista Aahista Badhta Nasha!!

(seeing her was like a slowly growing intoxication – I think this is the most amazing analogy I have seen)

2. Yeh jo des hai tera swades hai tera
Tujhe hai pukaara
Miiti ki hai jo khushboo
Tu kaise bhulayega
Tu chahe khin jaaye
Tu laut ke aayega

(amidst all the earnest and sincere yet preachy desh bhakti songs, this one manges to stand out as straight from the heart and reaching into the heart)

3. Koi kahe kehta rahe
Kitane bhi humko deewana
Hum login ki
Thokar mein hai yeh zamaana

(if even a song captures truly the attitude of youth – the invincibility and cockiness and charm, this is it)

Some new names of note: - read about them here


Khanabadosh said...

Nice post. Agree with sentiments but I have moved on to listen to NPR :)
I like Prasoon Joshi in new breed. Jaideep Sahni is also decent. But they are not work horse. Their output is generally very low.

Pardesi said...

NPR ? I used to Like All Things Considered but they retired Bob Edwards :-( Gulzar Saab still leads the pack, and I like Piyush Mishra in the newer lot!

Khanabadosh said...

My office is barely couple of miles. I don't know any particular commentators but I like listening to commentaries/interviews on different subjects.

Pardesi said...

Yes - All Things Considered and Morning Edition are great for providing vignettes of most news of the day. I was in India recently and my cousin would get 6 newspapers - we spent 2 hours every morning lingering over chai and breakfast and news! It became quite clear to me that apart from The Hindu most Indian news-media is a sellout and more in the business of creating news than reporting it.

Khanabadosh said...

Hindu was recommended during college if you wanted to increase your stamina of reading. I liked Indian Express for its editorial and columns. I still go to their website. But agree news channels/papers mostly propogate sensionalism. Punjab Kesri and Amar Ujala were filled with barely dressed girls. The bigger problem is that an average reader barely has enough knowhow to distinguish genuine news from gossip. But with small newspaper it is matter of survival when audiences/readers themselves want entertainment rather than news.

Pardesi said...

I was reading TOI and they reported as news the "impending" removal of Lalit Modi, and next day he was very much there, re-confirmed. Then they reported that there was "NO TIFF" between him and his opponents!

Entertainment can be provided with special sections and most newspapers seem to do that these days. But dilution of actual "reporting" and using the regular columns to editorialize is a bigger issue. However, I cannot blame just Indian media for this, even in the US it is hard to separate news from opinions.

Neo said...

Lalit modi was definately going until sharad pawar realised if he joins opposite camp he would be in trouble and his wish to become icc chairman would be in problem . the Rajasthan cricket association too talked with modi other day and ipl matches were going to be organised there . but this is just smokescreen as bigger game is being played there .

Post a Comment