Nov 15, 2008

The ghazal in Hindi films

The ghazal has existed since Hindi film music has, though like all creative genres it is barely heard today, because it is a poetic rather than musical format
The ghazal has been described as an “intimate journey from one heart to another”. While usually - but not exclusively - expressive of love or its allied emotions, it is a form of verse that scintillates through its sheer elegance of language and freshness of thought that is often tangential or metaphorical, and often conveys subliminal dimensions and imagery even in simple words like Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aaftaab ho/ Jo bhi ho tum Khuda ki kasam laajawaab ho (Chaudhvin Ka Chand/ Shakeel Badayuni).

By definition, a ghazal is a collection of two-line couplets that may or may not have a thematic link but are each complete thoughts by themselves. These couplets are written in ‘metre’ (harmonious phonetic rhythms) and the only connections between them are the allegiance to identical metres as well as a rhyming format wherein the first two lines rhyme with each other and after that with every second line. Since this form of poetry has existed for centuries, it is traditionally permitted to take the first two lines of an existing ghazal and add original lines to them without being accused of plagiarism. Using this formula, poets have penned innumerable verse, including many popular numbers in films like Patta patta buta buta (Ek Nazar/ Majrooh Sultanpuri).

Obviously, the exquisite phonetic rhythms of the ghazal has attracted music composers both within and outside cinema, so much so that voices like Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Talat Aziz and others in India and Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali in Pakistan have become synonymous with the ghazal as a musical form. On the female side, Begum Akhtar remains the greatest legend, though even today we have names like Penaz Masani who are known for their association with this form.

In films, for obvious reasons, the ghazal was experimented with in various ways. The film song, for example, had to have continuity of thought since ghazals here are almost exclusively romantic. The film song also broke the rhyming norm as the traditional mukhda-antara format got precedence over the poetic rules. And gradually the ghazal came to be identified more with a mood and a flowery quality in words, like in Jeeye to jeeye kaise bin aapke (Saajan/ Sameer), Jaane kyoon log mohabbat (Mehboob Ki Mehndi/Anand Bakshi) and Honthon se chhoo lo tum (Prem Geet/Indeewar) among many others.

Space does not permit an extensive analysis of the use of ghazals in our movies, but we must point out some interesting aspects. Several songs, while not being ghazals even in a modified format, had the aura or feel of this genre, like Chitthi aayi hai (Naam/Anand Bakshi). Others were ghazals in part (Dard-e-dil/Karz/Anand Bakshi) despite a Westernised musical and audiovisual presentation. The mujra was another genre that used this form of verse (as in the two film versions of Umrao Jaan with lyrics respectively by Shahryar and Javed Akhtar, the mujras of Ek Nazar by Majrooh Sultanpuri and the classic Chalte chalte yun hi koi/ Pakeezah/Kaifi Azmi).

Always remembering the fact that this was a form of verse rather than music, the pure ghazal could even be concealed, so to speak, within seemingly routine romantic songs like Uthaye jaa unke sitam (the 1949 Andaz/ Majrooh) and Na tum bewafa ho (Ek Kali Muskayee/ Rajendra Krishan) or even Agar tum mil jaao (Zeher/ Sayeed Quadri).

On the other hand, the poems by the legendary ghazal pioneers - Mir Taqi Mir and Mirza Ghalib as well as later masters like Ameer Meenai, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Makhdoom Moinuddin - were also employed in Hindi films. Mir’s Dikhayi diye yun was used with stunning musical effect in Bazaar. Ghalib’s biopic Mirza Ghalib used his verse set to music by Ghulam Mohammed, with legends singing Dil-e-nadaan (Suraiya-Talat Mahmood) and Nuktachin hai(Suraiya), Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Mughal emperor-poet, wrote Na kisiki aankh ka noor hoon, a litany of lost love used in three films including Lal Qila and the 2002 Sharaarat. Ameer Meenai’s Sarakti jaaye hain was incorporated in Deedaar-E-Yaar, while Makhdoom Moinnudin’s Aap ki yaad (Gaman) and Phir chhidi raat (Bazaar) were other examples of such songs.

But even original songs in cinema followed the purity of construction, like Qateel Shifai’s Tere dar par sanam (Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Ayee), Sahir’s Aap aaye to khayaal-e-dil-e-nashad aaya (Gumrah) and Simti hui yeh ghadiyaan (Chambal Ki Kasam) among many others (the lyricist was a master in this genre), Kaifi Azmi’s Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho (Arth), Hasan Kamaal’s Dil ke armaan (Nikaah), Shakeel Badayuni’s Koi sagar dil ko (Dil Diya Dard Liya) and Nida Fazli’s Hoshwalon ko khabar kya (Sarfarosh).

In keeping with the degeneration in poetry (you cannot write ghazals in part-English and part-pop-Punjabi!), the film ghazal is almost extinct today. Rare examples come through in the more arty films (Chausar, Kahani Gudiya Ki) as well as the rare remake of Umrao Jaan or a few songs from the films of Mukesh and Mahesh Bhatt. With filmmakers and composers ignorant of Hindi and Urdu it remains to be seen whether the ghazal will survive or will be guzzled away by pernicious blends of ‘worse’ like Put your hands together and Jee karda.


Gulam Ali - I have lived ghazals for past 52 years

Chupke Chupke raat din

aansoo bahana yaad hai,

Humko ab tak aashiqui ka

woh zamana yaad hai

The touching composition rocked the nation and transcended borders by portraying the feelings of a broken heart, and in the process made the already famous Ustad Gulam Ali an icon among the ‘aashiqs’.

When asked about the popularity of ghazals in this era of electronic music, he says, "Ghazals, being the most romantic and delicate genre of music, are liked by romantic people from all age groups. We have loyal listeners, and since love cannot go out of date and ghazals will not either."

The maestro will perform live in Pune on Saturday during the programme ‘Tere Sherhar Mein’, the event is being organised by Banyan Tree, an event management firm.

A disciple of Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Gulam Ali belongs to Patiala Gharana and is equally good at classical but he is head over heels in love with the delicate form of music. Elaborating, he says, "I have lived ghazals for past 52 years. To me it's the most live and beautiful form of expression, where each word carries deep meaning. Ghazals can be rightly called feelings of ‘sur’, where pain is also presented in a touching and melodious way."

Talking about his most memorable performance, he says that once in London, the audience comprised people from Punjab, Bengal, Pakistan and England, but everyone, despite the language difference, not only enjoyed the performance but also requested for an encore. "I felt the boundaries melting in the tunes and people sharing a common view despite vast cultural and linguistic differences," he says.

The maestro was positive about reality shows and says that they not only provide a platform for young talent but also add to the harmony across borders. "Judges are invited from across the borders. Music is worshipped and not people's origins. Music has the power to melt boundaries and touch our soul," he says.

Over the years, like all other genres, ghazals have also undergone change. However, Gulam Ali's signature style continues to rule the heart of connoisseurs and commoners alike. Be it the blissful emotion like love or a painful feeling of loneliness, ghazals gives a melodious touch to every emotion.

Anand Lalwani, senior manager, Banyan Tree Events says the number of youngsters coming for the show proves that the magic of ghazals still lingers. This time, the firm is joining hands with Tata Indicom to organise the event.

On an emotional note, the maestro explains that doing justice to any art is the sole responsibility of the artiste and this would happen only when one puts in heart and soul into it. Putting the message in a poetic form, "Lagta hai kai raaton ka jaga hai mussawir; tasweer ki aankhon se thakan jhank rahi hai," he signs off.


Dec 16, 2007

A sound affair: Jagjit Singh

As a packed audience at the Taramati Baradari awaits the ghazal maestro's entry, there are excited conjectures about what songs he will sing.

Discussions about the legend's health (he was only very recently hospitalised). However, the man puts all worries to rest as he greets the audience, and at once breaks into the prelude to a popular ghazal.

What follows is almost three hours of musical marvel, as he sings one famous ghazal after another, hardly pausing, even between songs as he makes the trademark effortless transition from one ghazal to the next. All this, while the entertainer commands the audience's rapt attention, who sing-along some of those immortal Urdu lyrics, applaud as he delivers the refrain of a song, and he laughs, his characteristic laugh as he presents a sher, dedicated to an aged friend's love life, who is sitting in the audience.

Meeting Jagjitji up close, the first thing that strikes you is the impression of a hearty person, who answers questions, not with the political correctness of a diplomat, but with the markedly carefree manner of one who speaks his mind.

He is an entertainer, not just on stage, but off it, as he punctuates his conversation with humour, which can tend to be on the wry side at times, but makes up for it with the gaiety with which he delivers it. Comment on him having brought ghazals from the elite to the masses, with his amalgamation of western instruments into traditional sound, and he says, "It just happened. It's not something I started out doing in a planned manner." But didn't he get his share of scepticism, on the grounds of deviating from tradition? "What is tradition?" he asks, and then adds after a pause, "Tradition is a fake word, used by people as an excuse to avoid progress. What was tradition 50 years ago, cannot be so now. Maybe, 50 years from now, what I've done will be tradition."
Having made evident that he's not a stickler for orthodoxy, he clarifies that he has nothing against the classical raagas, or dhrupad and thumri, being applied to modern fusion songs. He says, "All music is ultimately based on the raagas, and I don't think using them with modern rock or fusion takes anything away from their beauty. If adding a modern instrument and a long-haired guy on the guitar makes young people love it, then so be it!"

However, talking about music in Bollywood and the dearth of ghazals there, he scoffs with a sharp impulsive remark, "Those people don't have any background in ghazals, or in the literature of classical music, for that matter. They just know how to steal and make music."

Again, in a sudden moment of eccentricity (and enjoying the amusement his humour generates) when asked why he changed earlier album titles from English to Urdu- "I pick titles only on the basis of appropriateness. For that matter, I think our (Jagjit and wife, Chitra Singh's) most appropriate title was A Sound Affair. It was all about sound, and you can guess about the affair bit," he chuckles.

Has he softened his stance, that Pakistani singers shouldn't be given added privileges to sing in India, he says, "No, I stand for that. I'm not against them performing here, but why the extra favour? Why is it that when Ghulam Ali performs, he doesn't have to pay any taxes? Rules should be the same for all."
Talking about Hyderabad, he pauses for a while before reflecting, "When I used to come earlier, I would sing in small mehfils now I get to sing in big venues. But, people enjoy music just the same."

The man who has dedicated a lifetime to music is a thorough optimist about the future and popularity of ghazals, "It's not true that ghazals or classical music have depleting audiences. My fans range across all age groups. Even young people love to listen to ghazals," he signs off.

This article is from: Times of India

Mehdi Hassan to receive Rs 1 million for treatment

Mehdi Hassan, the King of Ghazals is to receive Rs 10 million from the Pakistan Government for his treatment. The minister for sports and culture will hand over a cheque to Mehdi hassan at his residence in Karachi. May this legend of Ghazal live long.