Chandigarh, Friday, March 12, 1999

Keeping Sufi tradition alive
By Nonika Singh
WHEN a young child nursing dreams of making it big in the realm of wrestling is pushed into the world of “saat suron ki sargam” through threats of physical punishment, you would expect his disdain towards music to last forever.

Actor with boyish looks
By Jyoti Mahajan
BUDDING actor Inder Kumar, who is playing the lead role with Madhuri Dixit in celebrated painter MF Husain’s latest film “Gajgamini”, is confident that this film will give a boost to his film career and enable him to find a firm footing in the competitive world of Bollywood.

The next Bhangra star?
By Sanjeev Kumar
IN the new album, “Dil le Gayee”, Jasbir Jassi adapts a unique musical style to suit the preferences of youngsters. It is the latest craze with young boys and girls.

Punjabi singers come of age
By Arvind Katyal
PLAYBACK singers of Punjab and Punjabi music never had it so good. Recently, two Punjabi singers, Sukhwinder and Jaspinder Narula, bagged the Screen Videocon awards and only a few days ago were adjudged the best for Filmfare awards.

'Art and Soul




Keeping Sufi tradition alive
By Nonika Singh

WHEN a young child nursing dreams of making it big in the realm of wrestling is pushed into the world of “saat suron ki sargam” through threats of physical punishment, you would expect his disdain towards music to last forever. Yet, surprisingly, Puran Chand Wadali, the elder sibling of the Sangeet Natak Academy award-winner Wadali brothers — so named for they hail from a village, Guru ki Wadali — grew up into a singer of formidable repute. Simultaneously, influenced by the presence of musical pairs like Nazakat Ali Salamat Ali and Amanat Ali Fateh Ali, he trained his brother Piara Lal (younger by eight years) to accompany him en route his singing odyssey.

Today as they sing together in the long-forgotten Sufiyana tradition, rendering, qawwalis, Sufi kalaams, even ghazals and folk songs in their inimitable style steeped in Bharatiya shastriya sangeet, their music is like balm to frayed nerves. Especially in times when Punjabi music has translated into dhol dhamaka, a cacophony of sounds in which voices are drowned in a sea of acoustic instruments. The Wadali duo rely upon just two musical props — tabla and harmonium — to embellish their well-honed vioces.

Of course, at first glance Puran Chand’s thick curled-up moustache, hurly-burly demeanour belies his vast musical talent. But scratch the surface and a voice transending the entire gamut of musical graph, leaves you mesmerised. The talented Piara Lal too concedes that he can never match the wide range and versatility of his bhai-cum-ustaad. He gushes, “Often during our shows I am forced into a reverie of silence for this born singer drifts alone on a musical journey, I am incapable of undertaking”.

Though to date they have held several shows (in every nook and corner of India as well in the UK and USA), only recently the duo appeared in the Divali episode of popular TV programme “Sa Re Ga Ma”.

Piara Lal recalled their first tryst with the electronic medium. Reminiscing an incident which occurred way back in 1971, he says, “Spotted at the Harballabh Sangeet Samellan, we were huddled off to the radio station. But we refused to sing as our elders had drilled into us that reverberations of the mike are detrimental to the vocal chords”. Today laughing at their foolhardiness they recount several anecdotes: How during interviews they are dumbfounded when pitted against the English-speaking skills of other artistes, how they were oblivious to the significance of honour (Sangeet Natak...) bestowed upon them...

But then these semi-literate simple artistes stand apart in a world teaming with smart alec go-getters, almost like an anachronism. Yet, strangely enough, the onus to dig out literary gems rests on their rustic shoulders. Unfolding the lyrical poetry of Baba Farid, Bule Shah, Shah Hussein and others, music for them is the unswerving devotion for the Almighty. As Puran Chand hums, Man atkeya beparvah de naal, us din dooni de Shah de naal... (We are connected to the Lord and master of universe).

Undeterred by the dwindling tribe of followers of their brand of music, Piara Lal asserts, “Pop music is ephemeral, which vanishes in a few seconds. But our music is like an incense whose fragrance lasts even after it burns out”.

Small wonder they have spurned offers to cast them in the marketable commercial prototype. Acutely conscious of the strength of their music with roots in the Patiala Gharana, modelling themselves after singers of ilk Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Aashiq Ali Khan et al, however, not even in their wildest imagination do they feel that they have arrived. Puran Chand muses, “Jyon khoji nu khoj agire, tyon ilm pare pare”. (Knowledge has no end). Well, modesty as they say is a hallmark of every sincere artiste.Top


Actor with boyish looks
By Jyoti Mahajan

BUDDING actor Inder Kumar, who is playing the lead role with Madhuri Dixit in celebrated painter MF Husain’s latest film “Gajgamini”, is confident that this film will give a boost to his film career and enable him to find a firm footing in the competitive world of Bollywood.

The slim and soft-spoken actor was recently in the Queen of Hills, Shimla, in connection with the shooting of the film “Baaghi” being produced by Ramesh Sharma and directed by newcomer Rajesh Singh.

Inder Kumar says he is very excited about “Gajgamini” not because it is being directed by the noted painter, but because it will give him an ample opportunity to display his acting prowess.

During a tete-tete with this writer at the sets of “Baaghi” on The Ridge, Inder Kumar said in “Gajgamini” he was displaying a diverse range of roles right from Dushyant to Kamdeva with Madhuri as Shakuntala and Sangeeta. The film is an off-beat film which seeks to explore a whole range of woman’s emotions as a mother, daughter and sister. Though the film is centred around Madhuri, Husain’s favourite actress, Inder also plays a significant role. He says excitedly, “I am very happy to work in ‘Gajgamini’ in which I am portraying five kinds of roles and thus getting an ample scope to display my acting ability”.

Twentyfive-year-old Inder Kumar (born on August 26) is a natural actor who gained recognition with his films “Masoom” and “Ghoonghat” in which he impressed the masses with his acting and dancing skills. The song Daddy mera bada pareshan... from his newly released film “Tirchi Topiwale” has brought him instant fame.

For the self-made boy from Calcutta without any godfather who came to Bollywood eight years ago, Inder Kumar seems to have fared pretty well and has currently seven films in hand. He is confident that he will rise to the top in due course of time and believes in the theory, “Slow and steady wins the race”.

Originally hailing from a business family of Rajasthan, Inder is the second of five children born and brought up in Calcutta. He had a penchant for acting and dancing right from his school days at Dholpur Military School, Rajasthan, and aspired to become an Air Force pilot at that time. It was only after joining his family business after graduation from Calcutta that he seriously thought of making a career in the celluloid world and charged for Bombay with stars in his eyes.

Success has not come easily to the youngster who struggled for four years in Mumbai and even thought of returning to Calcutta. Although he did act in the hit film “Khiladiyon ke Khiladi”, he went unnoticed. However, the turning point in his career came when Praveen Shah of Time Audio Magnetics Limited introduced him as the main lead in the film “Masoom” which brought him instant popularity and was a turning point in his career. This was followed by “Ghoonghat” and now “Tirchi Topiwaale” which gave him an opportunity to display his dancing skills.

The actor with boyish looks presently has seven films in hand. He is very excited about the film “Baaghi” a part of which is being picturised in the picturesque environs of Shimla comprising Naldhera, The Ridge and Viceregal Lodge. “Baaghi” is a multi-starrer films based on relationships and emotions. Inder is playing the role of a boy from a poor family who falls in love with the heroine. The film also stars Dharmendra, Sanjay Dutt and Manisha Koirala. When asked whether he felt uneasy working with renowned actors, pat replies Inder, “All actors have been very cooperative. I get along well with Sanjay Dutt whom I know personally”. In the film “Majboor” he is paired opposite Namrata.

The young actor does not intend taking a short-cut to stardom and would like to his career go steadily. When asked if he is satisfied with his career and how does he feel after the new-found adulation he says, “Adulation is a pretty normal thing. I am going slow and steady and am happy right now with seven-eight films in hand. My movies are comparatively better than other films”.

Armed with his hard work, dedication and acting capabilities, Inder Kumar wants to touch the heights of popularity. With his feet firmly on the ground, he thinks his best is yet to come.Top


The next Bhangra star?
By Sanjeev Kumar

IN the new album, “Dil le Gayee”, Jasbir Jassi adapts a unique musical style to suit the preferences of youngsters. It is the latest craze with young boys and girls. “Dil le Gayee” is a capturing ode to the winsome ways of a Gujrati lass set amidst rhythemic, foot-tapping dance music. The track is the latest on the Punjabi pop scene.

All eight songs in the cassette are an expression of energy, passion, love and zeal for life. And each song is particularly adapted to suit Jassi’s distinct singing style and presentation.

When one meets Jassi for the first time, he seems just like another youngster high on ambition. But five minutes into conversation, one discovers that Jassi is an epitome of sincerity. This talented young singer, who has been slotted as the next Bhangra star, always greets one and all with a warm “Sat Sri Akal”. He is equally at home in English, Hindi and polite Punjabi.

Though he is very simple, his singing potential just cannot be ignored. For Jassi is unlike most other wannabes. At a time when performers rely heavily on stage-antics and screen-gimmicks, Jassi reveals his clear focus on sur-based performances. His belief is simple. “More than catchy lyrics and technically savvy music videos, what really matters in a song is the melody. My attempt is to offer such melodious tunes, which people can play over and over again”, he says calmly.

He claims that his daily riyaaz of five hours is a sacred duty: “A singer can not afford to compromise on his vocal talent, for this is what makes him different from the usual run-of-the-mill crop of singers”.

Music is obviously not a passing fad for this talented youngster from Gurdaspur, the border area of Punjab. He quit engineering to study classical music. He recounts his family contribution in harbouring an inclination for singing and good music. “Ours was a joint family and all of the children were always competing to outclass one another at singing the traditional Jhalla. Be it any function in the village, a wedding or Gurpurab, we would all sing,” he recalls.

Formal training in classical music started later in life. After grasping the essential knowledge of sur-tall from V.S. Jolly, Jassi trained under Puran Shah Koti of Sufiana fame.

Jassi has participated in many musical plays, notable among them being “Sadha Bugdu Bulo.” He was widely noticed due to the performances he gave for the North Zone Cultural Centre. He has been featured along with Charanjit Ahuja in the music video “Channa ve Teri Channi”. He also has a long musical association with Puran Chand Wadali.

A young and sensitive performer Jassi echoes the sentiments of an unpretentious lover, who is feeling disillusioned by his beloved’s response, in Kaagzi Pyar Nu.... Putt Jattan Da... is representative of a new revolution in the Punjabi electric pop scene. Jassi has coined the catchy lyrics of this song himself, which reaffirms that the rustic sons of the Punjabi soil are die-hard romantics.

Inspired with the ageless romantic tales from the land of five rivers, Jassi weaves yet another soulful Punjabi love-ballad Surma Nimma Nimma....

The music of Jassi speaks about a vibe, an aura straight from the hearth of his homeland. He feels, “A musician not only entertains, but is also a cultural harbinger.” The traditional song Ek tara wajda... is rendered in “Dil le Gayee” in a unique folksy way that moves the body and touches the inner cores of the soul.

“Dil le Gayee” is bound to strike an instant rapport with party-hoppers and connoisseurs of traditional-laced Punjabi fare alike. Watch out for “Punjab da puttar” Jassi capture the pulse of people’s hearts with his fresh talent and novel appeal.Top


Punjabi singers come of age
By Arvind Katyal

PLAYBACK singers of Punjab and Punjabi music never had it so good. Recently, two Punjabi singers, Sukhwinder and Jaspinder Narula, bagged the Screen Videocon awards and only a few days ago were adjudged the best for Filmfare awards. Sukhwinder, who was given a break in Hindi films by Yash Chopra, got the award for “Dil Se” film song “Chaiyya chaiyya...., while Jaspinder won it for the title song of “Pyar To Hona Hi Tha”, which she sang with Remo Fernandes.

There was a time when Punjabi music and singers used to have a back seat, be it in Hindi films or in society. But now the situation has undergone a dramatic change with the changing trends in the vast film industry. The recent awards will certainly give the desired fillip to the Punjabi music and singers.

Daler Mehndi is a household name and enjoying the popularity once enjoyed by the elite Hindi playback singers. It was Gurdas Mann with Dil da mamla hai.... and then Malkit Singh with tutak tutak Tutiyan. The film industry had given average importance to the Punjabi touch in Hindi songs. Now it actually has Punjabi songs, such as in “Major Saab” and “Soldier”. Amitabh Bachchan dancing with other leading stars Ajay Devgun and Nafisa Ali in “Major Saab” sings Sona, sona... while Preity Zinta tries to imitate the bhangra style with Bobby Deol for Tera rang balle balle.... Punjabi music indeed has entered the Hindi film world in a big way.

The electronic media was the first to notice the greatness of Punjabi music as ATN presented many young and budding artistes Zee, V Channel and MTV followed suit. Punjabi World Channel last year further brightened the hopes of this industry and quite a number of Punjabi singers are making a beeline for it.

Punjabi music belongs to the new, fast-moving generation. Be it a marriage function or a cultural programme at a college or school club, Punjabi music is given preference. Besides Punjab, in North India and Hindi-speaking areas of the country, the mood is upbeat for Punjabi music. Punjabi cassettes of Daler Mehndi, and a host of reputed singers are sold even in South India and the rights are now bagged by top cassette manufacturers who have earned well with the sale of the cassettes.

There is a long list of actors and actresses from Punjab, such as Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Raj Babbar, Rajesh Khanna, Sunil Dutt, Neetu Singh and Poonam Dhillon, and directors like Yash Chopra, Prakash Mehra, Harmesh Malhotra, B.R. Chopra and so many others. So why cannot playback singers from Punjab make it to the top in this multi-crore Hindi film industry? Indians settled abroad must be thanked as they are the ones who have given a thrust to Punjabi music and its singers by excessive coverage on the small screen. Singers from Punjab have a bright future and so has Punjabi music.Top

Art and Soul by B.N. Goswami

Emblems of divinity, royalty

WE were looking at one of those great pichhwais — these are ‘Temple hangings of the Vallabha Sect’ of the Vaishnavas, just in case one does not know — at the Sarabhai Foundation in Ahmedabad. The group was part of a three-day workshop that I was conducting there on these painted textiles, and one had the uncommon opportunity of standing in front of these to talk about them: their visual splendour, their rasa-drenched feeling, the fragrance that seems to rise from them.

Krishna may or may not have figured in each one of them, but his presence could be felt everywhere. There he was, represented in all his melting grace, in textile after painted textile, receiving the homage of priests and lay devotees, standing in the midst of his beloved cows, or, even more frequently, playing upon his flute to enchant the gopis who are but symbols of individual souls. The gopis bring offerings, or simply gaze at his countenance, ranging themselves on either side, holding in their hands various objects denoting devotion, sewa. Noticing that among the objects they carried were fly-whisks of different kinds — from a chamara-flywhisk made from a yak’s tail and a morchhal made from peacock’s feathers, to a circular, ornately embroidered fan — one of the young participants wished to know more about these.

I asked questions in return, about where else in art, or in life, might they have noticed these. There were some answers, but little was known with precision about the significance of these. This led to the opening up of an area of inquiry, to excited sharing of information.

Again, we were looking at some slides of paintings on paper. In the works in which the haveli-shrine of Nathdwara — the home of Krishna as Shrinathji, from where most of these pichhwais come — was represented, one could see fluttering above it a flag made up of seven triangular strips. These signified, one could explain with reference to the literature of the sect, the seven svarupas or other icons of Krishna which are installed and receive worship in affiliated shrines spread over Mathura, Rajasthan and Gujarat. But also seen in the paintings were other flags, some with serrated but fewer ends with a tassel attached, and others carrying symbols painted on them, like the great Suryavanshi flag of Mewar with a resplendent sun on it. This led to further questions. Discussion turned to symbols of royalty, divinity.

The subject is complex, and subtle: many-layered, in some ways. Emblems of divinity, royalty, power, vary a great deal from culture to culture, space to space. But among the most ancient, and the most clearly defining, symbols of exalted, sovereign status in India, two stand out: a chamara, and a Chhatra, the first a yak’s tail fly-whisk, known also as a chauri in common parlance, and one the latter a royal parasol or umbrella.

There is a host of others of course which denote status or power: one can think for instance of various kinds of seats, of anointment, of falcons and halos, of the exclusive use of some animals as mounts. But these two, the chamara and the chhatra, have a very special place in our tradition. Divinity is proclaimed by them, and so is royalty, the latter being but a reflection of it. They are a part of the iconography of these, as it were.

The visual evidence in this respect is overwhelming, as is the literary. And it is difficult to pick up any traditional image or text, or see ritual practice anywhere, without becoming aware of the presence of these. A Jaina tirthankara being worshipped, the Buddha seated preaching, Vishnu surrounded by attendants, the Guru Granth Sahib being carried in procession: One would see the chamara everywhere. Deity or king, in the presence of the figure over whom the chamara is waved, everyone else is subservient.

The message conveyed is instantaneous, and one registers it very quickly. The chhatra may not be as frequent in appearance, but its significance, again, is unmistakable. The two together make a clear, powerful statement. The morchhal — flywhisk made from peacock-feathers — is also not thoughtlessly used, and certainly denotes very high status. But it does not necessarily establish sovereign status. And the fan, or a rumal-cloth flywhisk, take one still further away from divine or sovereign rank. As I said, the subject is complex, and one has to read works of art with care.

In the Islamic tradition, things are somewhat, but not entirely, different. His chapter on “The Ensigns of Royalty” in the celebrated Ani-i Akbari, Abu’l Fazl opens with a reference to the shamsa, the halo-like “arch of royalty”. This, he says, “is a divine light, which God directly transfers to kings, without the assistance of men; and kings are fond of external splendour, because they consider it an image of the Divine glory.” But then he speaks of the four “insignia used at present” by royalty alone.

“1. The Awrang, or throne, is made of several forms; some are inlaid with precious stones, and other are made of gold, silver, etc. 2. The Chatr, or umbrella, is adorned with the most precious jewels, of which there are never less than seven. 3. The Saya-ban is of an oval form, a yard in length, and its handle, like that of the umbrella, is covered with brocade and ornamented with precious stones. One of the attendants holds it, to keep off the rays of the sun. It is also called aftab-gir. 4. The Kawkaba, of which several are hung up before the assembly hall.”

From this, he gets on to other important, but not defining, insignia: among them, the ‘alam or standard, the chatratoq, adorned with the tails of the Tibetan yak, the jhanda, or the Indian flag....

A strict enforcement

Not at the exact time that Abu’l Fazl was writing, but around then, the chamara, made up of the yak’s tail, seems to have become a part of the defining insignia of sovereignty at the Mughal court, too. There is a revealing reference in one of the documents of Aurangzeb’s reign, the Ruqquat-i Alamgiri, I think. In this, the Emperor speaks of news reaching him of one of his sons celebrating his victory over the enemy on the north-western frontier, by holding a durbar in the field in which some lieutenants of his waved a pair of chamara flywhisks over him. When the prince returned to Delhi, instead of honouring him, the emperor had him thrown into prison! For in those troubled times, when rebellions by sons against their fathers were all too common, this was seen as an assumption of sovereign power, a rebellious assertion, in defiance of his father’s authority.Top

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