Chandigarh, Friday, October 9, 1998
Life is a lovely journey
A mother for all seasons
ART is the essence of our culture. So songs should be such that keep this tradition in mind. Songs which embarrass listeners can hardly have lyrics worth mentioning about.
With this plea to writers of songs, Majrooh Sultanpuri expressed his displeasure at the current trends in music. Winner of Dada Saheb Phalke Award for his contribution to Indian cinema and of Iqbal Sammaan for his work in the field of Urdu literature, Majrooh said he was grateful that he was recognised in both spheres of film and ilm in which he had been involved for the past more than 50 years. As he has written in one of his well-known verses: Main akela hi chala tha, janib-e-manzil magar, Log saath aate gaye aur caravan banta gaya..., Majrooh today is at the stage where he has a long queue of followers.
Majrooh was speaking at the Rafi Memorial Nite organised by the Yaadgar-e-Rafi Society at Tagore Theatre, Chandigarh, last Sunday.
Listening to the poet-lyricist was a jam-packed hall of music lovers who had gathered there to savour Hindi film songs of yesteryear. They also watched the trophies presented by the special invitee from Bombay to the winners of this years Rafi Award to the best singers: Veenu Kautish (first), Rimi Chopra (second) and Manjit Kaur (third) in the female category; and Narinder Kumar (first), Sukhdev Sagar (second) and Amarjit Singh (third) in the male category.
When the selection of songs was from those penned by a mature lyricist like Majrooh, and the singers talented artistes from the region, the programme was bound to be a memorable one.
Narinder Kumar, winner of this years Rafi Award, sang one of the soft numbers of the late singer: Jaag dil-e-deewana... (Unche Log). Needless to say, the effect was most soothing. More so when one thinks of all that loud noise one hears these days in the name of music.
Ajay Bakshi sang Raahi manva dukh ki chinta kyon sataati hai... (Dosti), a song with a message to fight off discouragement in life.
Another song with very meaningful lyrics was Dil, jo na keh saka, wohi raaz-e-dil... (Bheegi Raat). The high-pitched song was sung capably by Arvind Verma who used expressive gestures to match.
Na ja, kahin ab na ja... (Mere Humdam Mere Dost) too was on a higher note. Raman Kant expectedly sang it with ease.
Sandeep Jassal sang Bolo bolo, kuchh to bolo... (Dil Deke Dekho) one of Majroohs lighter songs.
When Kiran Kumar sang Baar baar dekho... (China Town), one could easily visualize Shammi Kapoor doing a night club number.
But the dark horse of the evening was a new entrant Hemant Handa. His delightful rendition of Lakhon hain nigah mein... (Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon) transported one to the joyful 60s era of Asha Parekh-Joy Mukherjee, when life was one big song.
The duets were begun by a melodious number Deewana mastana hua dil... (Bambai Ka Babu) sung tunefully by talented Rinku Kalia and Sukhdev Sagar. Rinku not only started the alaap well, but also kept up the zest of Asha Bhonsles voice. Sukhdev too did a perfect job.
Dil pukare, aa re, aa re aa re... (Jewel Thief) by B.D. Sharma and Bhavna Khanna was another of S.D.Burmans numbers sung quite well.
T.S.Saluja and Shashi Joshi sang Sar par topi lal... (Tumsa Nahin Dekha). Saluja gave the audience an entertaining performance complete with the balle-balles and brr-r-r-r-rs.
Another zestful song with classical tones was Baar baar tohe kya samjhaye... (Aarti) by Dharna Pahwa and R.S. Kala. One marvelled at the tuneful pick-up of Dharna.
Again a very musical and a bit complex song Aaj to jhunli raat ma... (Talaash) was rendered rather well by Nikhat Ali and Shashi Pal Attri.
A very talented pair, Veenu Kautish and Amarjit Singh, sang a musical duet Roka kai baar maine dil ki umang ko... (Mere Sanam). While Veenu was good, Amarjits performance was simply effortless.
Wo hain zara, khafa khafa... (Shagird) by Yuvraj Singh and Darshan Saini was leisurely and smoothly rendered.
This years amazing new talent on the Rafi Nites horizon has been Rimi Chopra. Along with Sukhdev Singh, she sang a romantic special Chura liya hai... (Yaadon ki Baraat) with ease and melody.
An all-time hit number O haseena zulfon wali jaane jahan... (Teesri Manzil), which had several talents in perfect unison, was sung by Devendra Kaushik and Namrata Madan. The magic was well brought out.
the artistes had done a commendable job. They had enabled
the audience relive memories of a bygone era. And what an
era it was! Melodious tunes, beautiful lyrics and sweet
voices a perfect combination!
Life is a
Zindagi ek safar hai
KISHORE KUMAR reached his journeys end 11 years back. With that was also gone the third side of the triangle he formed Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh.
Big Three would be a better description. For, after Saigal, Pankaj Mullick and Surender, no (male) singer ruled the hearts of Hindi film song lovers as did this trio.
Rafi was essentially a singer. So was Mukesh. But Kishore was a singer, actor, director and composer, rolled into one.
His was also a comic spirit, both on the screen and off it. He even indulged in clowning. But a clown is not all laughter. There is a pang in his heart, a sob in his throat or a tear in his eye. If Kishore could rattle off Main hoon jhumroo..., he could also chant movingly Door gagan ki chhaon mein...
The latter is the theme song of one of the movies he made. In it he was a different Kishore Kumar.
One wonders whether his clowning some called it eccentricity was a mask. Or was it a facet of his personality, a part that was must to make up the whole?
Everybody is more complex than he or she seems. Kishore always began his concerts with some antics. Maybe the funny and naughty boy in him stayed on there. At certain moments he came to the fore, and Kishore could not restrain or repress him. Hence his puckish behaviour.
But he could be a delightful comedian too. Padosan has more than one comic characters. As the heres pal Kishore plays a secondary role. But he is the soul of the comedy that the film is.
Bombay lured him from the Madhya Pradesh town of Khandwa. He spent nearly four decades there. He acted and sang and also romanced there. In Juhu he built a house which he, after his mother, named Gauri Kunj.
And yet he desired to return to his home town to live his last years there. But Bombay would not spare him. So he wished that his last rites be performed in the town where he had lived his early years.
Kishore acted in numerous films. In some he did very well indeed. But he will be remembered more for the songs he sang in these and many other movies.
He lent his singing voice to several stars. Dev Anand, Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan are just three of them. They have been top heroes. But it has yet to be assessed how much of their success they owed to the playback singer.
Kishores songs in Jewel Thief, Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Sharmilee and Aradhana are among the best Hindi songs. Take away the songs, and the films all of them were hits lose much of their charm or flavour.
We have had many new singers since Kishores death. Each has done well in his own way. But none of them equals the man who yodelled and sang with full-throated ease.
A mother for all
A typical Hindi Masala movie has to have its share of a debonair hero, an angelic heroine, a bewitching vamp, a frightfully villainous Thakur, car races and lots of action. But it certainly would not be complete without a lachrymose widowed mother or a blind Ma who has either lost her sons in a mela, or while changing trains! And this is how the quintessential mother of the Hindi silver screen, Achala Sachdev, is best remembered.
In Chandigarh to attend the wedding of her late sisters grandsons wedding, Achala looks every inch of a good-natured mother, who is fond of butter-splattered paranthas, gud ke ladoos and maltas which I miss terribly in Pube. Her short crop of silver streaks and her petite frame draped in a sari do beckon you to sit with her for hours together to listen to the tales of yore.
I accepted Mas roles in films when I was hardly 21 years old, she recall wistfully. Pointing to her silver streaks Achala says, At that time these were black and had to be dyed all the time with a whitener, which sometimes used to take all night to wash off. And my face had to have all kinds of horrible lines drawn on them to make me look old.
While working in the drama section of All India Radio in Lahore, Achala had to leave for Amritsar after partition when things became just terrible. Without recounting much of the horrors of those times, Ive forgotten it somewhere, she speaks about her travails in the tinsel town of Bollywood. After getting herself a job with Delhi Radio Station, which paid her Rs 250 per month, she got transferred to Srinagar where Achala, while selling some tickets landed herself on a film set which was waiting for Zohra Sehgal to reach the sets to play the role of a mother. Having gone on a tour with Prithvi Theatre, Zohra failed to reach the sets and the film, which had listened to some dramas of Achala on radio, offered her to play the role of the mother. And this was how Achala appeared on the big screen, in her first film Kashmir, in which one of her three sons included the father of todays crowd-puller star Govinda Arun.
As an after-thought Achala adds, I never wanted films to be my profession. But I had a family that included my little son, who is now settled in the USA, and my husband had never worked. This left me, the only earning member. Also that was the time, during the early 50s when girls of good families did not join films. In the role of a Ma it was not easy to recognise me just 21 years old that did not give society a chance to say anything to my own dear mother.
Though a mother to many and most of the film stars of the Hindi film industry, who can forget her as the blushing young wife of Balraj Sahni in the adorably romantic song Ae meri Zohra jabi in Waqt? As a mother I was delivering the goods that were asked for. And given a chance to play something else I would have done that as well, but destiny said something else, she remarked. So the ever-sacrificing, always-forgiving and forever-pious mother.
Adding to the sweet memories of the film Waqt Achala recounted, After the premiere of this film Nargis came to me and said that all heroines should be sent to Achala to learn how to blush. Hundreds of men have come up to me and said that though they have made their wives see the film a number of times, yet they havent picked up my way of blushing. As a favour, she happily flashed the famous blush across her now-creased but still pretty and pleasant face.
seen in Aditya Chopras block-buster Dilwale
Dulhaniya le Jayenge, which she did after nearly
three decades of leaving the industry, Achala has an
intense desire to act in a Mani Ratnam film.
Ive stopped seeing films or even television
and have also left Bombay to live in Pune. The last two
films that I saw were Mani Ratnams Roja
and now Dil Se. If asked Ill go walking
even on my head to do his film, she said with a
passion in her eyes.
HOWARD Hodgkin is one of the most respected names in contemporary art in the west. But he also inhabits another world that of Indian paintings where lissom Nayikas lie languorously on moonlit terraces, princesses take aim from crystalline balconies and shoot unerring arrows, elephants run amuck, and kings sit in balconies with flowers held daintily in their hands.
Hodgkin is a collector. This brief article is in fact about this distinguished painters passion for collecting, not his own work. There is no discussion here about what he owns, only about how his collectors mind operates, and what he sees in these works which are so utterly different from all that he must have grown up with in his own, very western, environment, and all that he paints himself.
I am well aware of the complex issues that both private and public collections of Indian paintings abroad raise issues relating to economics, morality, national pride, among others for I have engaged with them both in forums here and abroad. But those need to be taken up elsewhere: here I wish to lead the reader simply into the exciting world of collecting: the thoughts that course through the collectors head, the agonies that he goes through in his search of ecstasy, the manner in which works picked up and garnered can alter the course of lives.
The English scholar, Topsfield, who knows both Hodgkin and the field of Indian painting well, speaks of there being two extreme types among collectors, moved by different urges. One is the scholar-collector who moves into the field like a museum curator, eager to have at least one example of everything in his field. The other is the intuitive enthusiast, whose judgements and acquisitions are informed more by individual eye and taste than by academic intellect.
Hodgkin belongs clearly to the latter type. He is not in it for prestige, or for money he makes an enormous amount from what he paints himself but because most of the things he has bought and collected move him, enhance his life in some manner.
Almost the first statement Hodgkin makes in the introduction to the recent catalogue of his Indian paintings is startling. Most definitions of collecting come down to one word greed, he says. However, one quickly realises that it is not monetary greed he is speaking of.
For he goes on to say: But once the wanting stage has passed, usually when large amounts of money are to be spent on serious acquisitions, and the need for them distorts your life, then you make the horrible discovery that a collection has a life of its own: it makes its own demands. Once its design begins to form in your mind, things have to be acquired out of necessity, as well as passion. And that perhaps is the most dangerous and yet the most creative part of making a collection...
There are many statements like this that he makes, brooding, inwardly tuned, as if examining his own career as a collector. And then, suddenly, he would pronounce strict judgements.
But over the years he has rummaged through piles of collections brought by dealers or crammed into auction catalogues, to come up with an unexpected treasure. He describes one such painting, a work by the 19th century Deogarh painter, Bakhta, a large painting of a lake with a palace set inside it, which he picked up.
When I found it I felt I was buying a piece of India it was like hanging a fragment of the sub-continent on my wall. I have never seen most of the activities depicted there people in full court dress shooting waterfowl outside their palace and so on. But it is a picture of amazing actuality: people who have never been to India experience the same emotion about it that I do. This sense of nearness, of nakedness, of tangible reality within an art form which is , on the whole, third, fourth and fifth hand, is rare.
... Once you have had this experience, once youve found a picture like this, then you feel differently about looking through daunting piles of pictures or auction catalogues, knowing that where one Indian picture has been reproduced, there is probably another just like this somewhere else... every now and then you receive and authentic shot to the heart. Then you are off again and you buy another picture.
Almost wistfully, he concludes this passage by saying that he is not going to buy any more. I have decided that these little shots to the heart must cease.
But if one knows collectors and the obsession that collecting can turn into, one doubts if this will come about. Perhaps a few years from now, he would have received other, unexpected shots to his heart, and one might be looking at yet another catalogue of works in Howard Hodgkins collection.
Meanwhile, some of these paintings hang on the the walls of his home and his studio, for he says they have become a part of his life. One goes back to the simple opening sentence of his essay: I started buying them (Indian paintings) because I thought they were beautiful.
A matter of influences
Hodgkins own work is so important in the context of
contemporary art in the west, a steady debate has gone on
for years about the nature and the extent of the
influence of Indian paintings on it. One critic has gone
on to say that any retrospective exhibition of
Howards own paintings would... be incomplete
without the Indian collection hanging beside them.
But Hodgkin contests the influences that others see. Not
that he would be reluctant to acknowledge them, for he so
admires Indian painting. But the two are different, he
says. All this speculation about the two being related is
glib talk, he asserts.
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