Chandigarh, Friday, August 20, 1999
of first Dogri telefilm
Keeping ghazal-singing alive
REMEMBER the heydays of ghazal singing when apart from the ghazal maestro Jagjit Singhs voice, another voice reverberated across the national skies? Scaling the notes of popularity graph his oh-so-hummable ghazals echoed in every nook and corner of the country. Be it the living rooms of the elite or the nukkad paanwala, his melody-soaked voice filled the ears. That was the inimitable Pankaj Udhas whose chartbusters Chitthi aai hain..., Sharab cheez hi aisi hai..., Woh bade khush naseeb hote hai..., had the entire nation in a thrall
But the musical frenzy which Pankaj whipped up seems to be distant memory today. The mercurial, fickle hordes of listeners drifted away and the critics almost wrote his epitaph. Undeterred, however, the singer continued and now returns as his new album Stolen Moments notches points on popularity ratings. The melodious strains Aur aahista kijiye baaten not only casts a mesmerising spell, but also sums up his soft-spoken genteel demeanour.
Attired in an elegant embroidered white ensemble, minutes before his live musical show organised by the Pinnacle Club, Chandigarh, he is an epitome of poise and grace.
Unflappable, he isnt a wee bit ruffled by irksome queries. About the waning popularity of ghazals he reasons, Musical tastes are forever in a state of flux. It is part of an ongoing cycle. At this moment the public is lapping up all that is being dished out in the name of pop or Punjabi Bhangra. But ultimately singers will survive on sheer mettle and not by aping trend-setters like Daler Mehandi. He reminisces how earlier singers will mediocre talent had jumped upon the ghazal bandwagon which eroded the niche carved by gifted singers. Still, he argues, that even now ghazal singers are selling more than an average pop crooner. His own album Mukarrar which came 19 years ago is still going strong.
Sensing a change in mood Pankaj too is pitching in to rejuvenate the ghazal movement. Through his television programme Aadaab Arz Hai, a kind of platform for fresh talent, he is trying his utmost to rekindle the near-forgotten musical sensibilities amongst audiences, especially the youth. Unlike singers of his ilk, who continue to harp on times gone by, Pankaj doesnt revel in the halo of nostalgia. Realising the need to be in step with times, he fully backs the video musicals and fathoms the complementarity between music and visual imagery. He remarks, The Visual medium is incredibly potent. But instead of dominating the singers, it has given a new lease of life to languishing singers.
Does he regret his earlier foray the uncalled for obsession for maikhana songs which apart from earning a place in the sun also turned out to be his Achilles heel?
He brushes aside any doubts that his choice of ghazals was an attention-seeking ploy. He reasons, See Urdu poetry is teeming with references to intoxication. Only the poets arent talking about sharab. For instance, take Omar Khayaams poetry. Now the cup of wine connotes life itself. Unfortunately, audiences took some of my ghazals literally and failed to read the deeper subtext of Urdu poetry which is replete with philosophical musings.
His own affair with the language dates back to 1969 when his popular brother Manhar (playback singer) was taking Urdu classes from a maulavi. Struck by its sheer lyrical beauty and depth, 30 years later the singer remains as smitten as ever. Only now he is fascinated by the other facet of Urdu poetry i.e. nazms as well. Hitherto unexplored, his future album will be a compilation of lyrical gems of greats like Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azami, Faiz Ahmed Faiz and others. Besides, an audio of geets woven around the fusion style of late Anand Shankar, nephew of Pt. Ravi Shankar, is also on the cards. Plus, his association with the tinsel town, which gave birth to many super hit numbers continues unbroken. There is an informal understanding with an audio company also involved in film making.
But all these are
regular stopovers en route the musical Odyssey. At the
end of the day, this disciple of Master Navrang
also the guru of Asha Bhosle wants to go down as
an artiste of mettle. Not an unreasonable demand from
some who hasnt tasted overnight success, but has
been on the musical galaxy for nearly three decades,
working with unswerving commitment. As his find Radhika
Chopra gushes, Pankajs devotion is
unparalleled. Perhaps the only parallel it finds is
in his down-to-earth, feet family planted on the Mother
Earth approach. Aware that man is but a cog in the
universe, he quotes Ghalib, Na tha kuch to khuda
tha, kuch na hota to Khuda hota, Duboya mujh ko honi ne,
na main hota to kay hota.
Promoting Punjabi music
IF music and culture represent the universal language of love, then 35-year-old NRI Maninder Gill, born in Nakodar (Punjab), surely could be one of its preachers. He is the man who has promoted Punjabi culture in more than 65 countries. It was because of Maninders efforts that the Canadian Government recommended Punjabi to be the second language in that country.
This hard-working and ambitious owner of Raja Entertainers was in Chandigarh recently to complete the cassette of his new Punjabi singer Kuldip Toor. Maninder is growing into one of major players in audio cassette production, a producer who takes every adventure and risk in his stride. His only mission is to take the best in Punjabi music to the largest number of people in India and abroad, people who love Punjabi culture, for whom Punjabi is the very breath of life.
Maninder went to Canada in 1981 and graduated from there. His love for Punjabi culture, music and Punjabi artistes is evident from the fact that from late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to Hans Raj Hans every Punjabi singer has worked with him. He was the first to introduce Gurdas Mann in Canada, England and America. Malkit Singh, Sardul Sikandar, Kuldeep Manak, Harbhajan Maan and Sarabjeet Cheema have already performed in his shows in various countries. The joy these artistes bring into the lives of many people from various walks of life, from different classes, gives Maninder happiness.
He calls himself a lucky producer since he has always had good Punjabi artistes who know the pulse of the people and he knows how to get the best out of the entertainers. Maninder says he started with Gurdas Maan, Malkit Singh and Hans Raj Hans and that was a boon to the Punjab culture.
The sudden interest of the West in Sufi music is due to its soft soul-soothing spiritual content and tune and Maninder should be given the credit for putting late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khans name on international charts. He organised many of Nusrat Sahibs shows in India and abroad. Besides this, he organised six mega Hindi shows in Canada, America and England.
A former Editor of Canadian Darpan, Maninder has produced 42 albums of Indian and Pakistani artistes in India and 150 albums abroad. In a market where new videos are released practically every day, Maninder is the first producer who brought out a Punjabi video album of Sarabjeet Cheema. This video album has become a regular feature in music channels on the television.
Maker of first Dogri telefilm
FOR those who are associated with radio and television, his name needs no introduction. From a small artiste who used to act in Ram Lilas, he has reached the level of a producer and director by dint of hard work and has achieved a lot of recognition in this field. Not only has he made the first Dogri telefilm, but has also tried to bring to the limelight many unexplored places of Jammu and Kashmir through his serials and telefilms. Shanker Bhan, whose latest serial, Ahsaas, starring Rishabh Shukla, Virender Razdan, Sudhir Delvi, Asha Sharma and Girish Malik, was recently telecast from DD-Metro, was in town for the shooting of his new serial starring Ashish Koul (of Manzil fame which was aired recently on Star Plus).
Going down the memory lane, Bhan remembers the days when he used to perform the character of Ravana at Ram Lila in Jammu. The role was quite powerful and well-appreciated by people. But the artiste within him was restless and wanted to do something more creative. During those days, he also used to act in Dogri, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu plays from Radio Kashmir, Jammu, as he was an audition drama artiste.
His life took a new turn when he cleared audition from Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar, and was immediately booked for the plays Pinjre ka Qaidi, Manvata di Lau etc which became very popular on Srinagar Doordarshan. With the firm determination to make it big in Delhi, he, in the early 80 resigned from the job in J&K and took the first flight to the capital. He remembers that in Delhi, he worked in different capacities like sound recordist, actor, production-manager, assistant director etc.
About his experiences during the making of the first-even Dogri telefilm, Chanchlo, for Srinagar Doordarshan, Bhan says the film won rave reviews from art critics and renowned directors. He had shot the film in Bombay, Patnitop, Kud, Sanasar etc. Some of the musical pieces for the film have been given by the international santoor maestro, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma, who had initially refused to give music. But after Bhans outburst that he being a Kashmiri Pandit was making a Dogri telefilm whereas Panditji himself being a Dogra has not been contributing anything in it, he agreed to give the music and that too without charging any money. Not only this, he also invited him to his house and also made his wife listen to the music. Panditjis wife listened to the music of Chanchlo and appreciated it very much.
The story of Chanchlo, a love story, is written by Mr D.C. Prashant, former Member of Parliament. The screenplay dialogue is by B.R. Ishara, a renowned filmmaker. For this telefilm, the main music directors are Jeetu-Tapan and the songs have been sung by Asha Bhonsle and Suresh Wadekar.
His other major productions in Delhi include Mujhe Jawab Do, a short TV film based on the theme of social relevance written by Vijay Suri. The film which had veteran film actor late Bharat Bhushan in the main lead, was telecast from the national network of Doordarshan. The film was also an official entry of Doordarshan in the competition section of the National Film Festival of 1985.
His other projects such as Aane Wala Kal was a short film on family welfare and Ganges Comes to Delhi was a documentary on the project of bringing Ganges water to augment the Capitals water supply system. Kab Tak, Pehli Tareekh, Jammu, City of Temples, Ek Naya Mode and Aarti are some of his other productions.
Bhans another ambitious venture, Manjdhaar, with a starcast of Zarina Wahab, Rameshwari, Rishab Shukla and a few other artists from Jammu, was a 13-episode serial which got the prime slot on DD-1.
Bhan says he is very sentimental about his home state and wants to project its people at the national level through his productions. He is also full of praise for the state government which provided him with every facility required, including police security during the shooting of Chanchlo.
Presently, he is working
on serials like Mujrim which has been
selected by DD-1 under the sponsored category. Based on
real crime stories, it is written by the DCP, Crime,
Delhi Police, Mr Deepak Mishra. Besides, a serial,
Wadi Pyar ki, written by Pushkar Nath, and a
telefilm, Deemak, written by Abhilash, are
also in the pipeline.
TOGETHER (Tips): Time was when Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh sang together in most of the concerts. Even the albums featured both of them. Then came the tragic death of their son and she stopped singing. Now she is back after all these years and the cassette has been aptly named Together. Surprisingly, the jacket does not have her photograph with Jagjit but that of Aamir Khan and Sonali Bendre, the excuse being that the album features one ghazal from their Sarfarosh.
Chitra is at a stage where her voice is missed for nostalgic reasons and it is indeed a pleasure to welcome her back. She sings a solo ghazal here, Kanton ki chubhan payee hai , and one along with Jagjit (Baat saqi ki na tali jayegi ).
Jagjit Singh renders the rest. Some of them like Tera chehra kitna suhana lagta hai have been heard before. Hoshwalon ko khabar kya is from the film.
As usual, Jagjit elevates even ordinary lyrics to a sublime level. Perhaps the finest of them all is Gulshan ki faqat phoolon se nahin, kanton se bhi zeenat hoti hai . Not only his singing but also his compositions are superb.
KASAK (Magnasound): Mohammed Vakil was the winner of the Zee TVs Sa Re Ga Ma megafinals and as promised, Magnasound has given him the big break. In these eight ghazals, Vakil gives a good account of himself although it is evident that he needs a lot more riyaz. Incidentally, it is only on hearing a new voice that one realises how much grace established singers like Jagjit Singh have, which would take even the most talented newcomer decades to emulate.
Vakil is helped by some good music composed and arranged by Jolly Mukherjee, a good singer in his own right. The lyrics too are good, including Bashir Badrs celebrated Woh chandani ka badan .
To Vakils credit, he has not indulged in any vocal calisthenics and has sung the ghazals as they ought to be sung. With practice, he should have a place in the sun.
PHIR DIL TOOT GAYA (Venus): This is one of those mix and match efforts where popular songs of various artistes are compiled to come up with a new album. The strange partners here are Altaf Raja and Gurdas Mann. No, they dont sing together. Its just that the cassette features three songs of each of them. Apparently, the hope is that the cassette will appeal to the fans of both.
Mann sings Maston ka
jhoomna bhi, bandagi se kam nahin
; jahar vee deve
yaar taan pee ja chup kar ke
and Ye ishq hai meri
while Rajas repertoire consists of Lo
phir dil toot gaya
, Aap ke hathon mein hamko aina
and kitni baar din bhar mein tum
singaar karte ho
. In the last song, he repeatedly
pronounces singaar as singhaar.