ARTS TRIBUNE Friday, July 21, 2000, Chandigarh, India
Chaste songs her forte
By Raj Kumar Prashar
NLIKE in the past, vulgar dances by scantily dressed bewitching belles of various stage troupes, salacious jokes by stage announcers, cameo appearances of local artistes, stereotyped group dances and many more insipid performances marked the three-day Kangra Valley Summer Festival-2000 held at Dharamsala recently.







Chaste songs her forte
By Raj Kumar Prashar

UNLIKE in the past, vulgar dances by scantily dressed bewitching belles of various stage troupes, salacious jokes by stage announcers, cameo appearances of local artistes, stereotyped group dances and many more insipid performances marked the three-day Kangra Valley Summer Festival-2000 held at Dharamsala recently. However, a chaste and lively performance by Vandana Bajpai on the last day of the festival was the only redeeming feature of the customary summer festival.

Owing her indebtedness to Lata Mangeshkar, the legendary icon of the music world, Vandana began her performance on an emotional note paying homage to the Kargil martyrs of the Kangra valley through the song originally sung by Lata, Aey mere watan ke logo..., that kept the audience in thoughtful languor for a while. Then she continued with Lata’s saccharin oldies like, Raat dhalne lagee... and Kanton se kheench... and many more.

Not caring that old still continues to be gold, the jampacked audience made a vociferous choice and asked her to give them the latest. Ductile Vandana, playing upon their popular demand, switched over to the tinkling song, Tune payal jo chhankai... that won her rapturous applause.

She also sang a few duets with Pawan Sharma and Sunny. Watching the relaxed mood of the audience, she quickly gave a twist and embarked upon the throbbing Punjabi song, Mera long gwacha....

However, her perky presentation of the “Taal” number: Dil ye bechain hai... was overwhelmingly applauded and had the audience screaming for an encore.

Earlier in an interview with this writer, Vandana said she had imbibed initial training in classical music from Balram Thakur of Hyderabad, Ustad Naseer Khan and one of the Daggar brothers. She confined herself to classical music and amateur singing as long as her father was alive, as he was antithetical to her becoming a professional artiste. Her father had so much love for classical music that he would organise concerts of great musicians of the calibre of Ghulam Ali Khan.

Though she never acquired formal training in vocal music at any institute, her success story is a saga of personal triumphs. Having been trained and coached at home since the age of six by her father, she rose to fame, fulfilling his aspirations. Her painstaking assiduity since childhood has now shaped her into a unique and popular singer.

The commercial element in her voice was first discovered at Jamia Milia University, Delhi, where she was first exposed to a ghazal concert by a prominent ghazal singer Hilal Ahmed Khan. It is a satisfying thought for her that she has achieved success solely on the basis of her talent. As a sequel, offers from the film industry swamped her home and late Gulshan Kumar of T-Series was the first one to tap her talent way back in 1986.

Her first record (LP) “Jaamumina” for HMV includes romantic ghazals written by old poets. She is presently doing an album of ghazals by contemporary poets like Dr Basheer Badr.

Vandana takes pride in having dubbed melodies of Bollywood’s eminent playback singers Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Suman Kalyanpur. Though many small-time and big-time singers claim to follow the vestiges of Lata, none except Vandana’s voice bears a close similarity with the great singer’s.

To further attain perfection and equip herself with the finer subtleties of classical music, Vandana has been under the tutelage of Balram Thakur, a disciple of Kumar Gandharava, who taught her music on the Maharashtra style, and Pt Ram Saran Dass of Delhi.

Deeply concerned about the present forms of music, Vandana laments that contemporary music virtually has no life, no lyrics, no melody and no beauty. She questions music barons as to how a song produced today turns old and tasteless the very next day. She continues: “It is not we who sell music. there are big companies, traders who sell music without having any knowledge of the art”.

She blames the music companies that are engaged in selling music as a “commodity; evidently to satiate their lust for lucre and that too at the cost of its quality. She apprehends that modern trends of song and music can easily erode our cultural ethos if we don’t follow the traditional legacy that originated in gharanas.

Vandana has staged performance in the USA, England, Africa and other European countries. It was during these visits she felt heartened to note that thousands of Indians residing there were keeping the old tradition of Indian music alive.

It goes to Vandana’s credit and is a pointer to her talent that without going through the normal routine of institutes and theatre organisations, she has achieved the present stature of being an eminent singer. Having sung in films in different languages, she would now like to devote herself more to religious, patriotic and educative songs. She now owns a music company named YPM based in Delhi in which she would offer opportunities to those who are talented but don’t have an access to reach their goal.

When asked as to what kind of songs she would like to sing in future, Vandana says: “Pure music and chaste songs that have an everlasting appeal; they don’t require half-naked dancing models to establish their popularity before the audience.”


by Amita Malik

Covering the crash

In the course of a little over a year, the electronics media have had to cope with three major crisis situations: Kargil, the hijack of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar and, most recently, the tragic air crash at Patna. Usually, Star TV is first off the mark (as it was over the crash since its Patna correspondent Manish Kumar happened to be in the area at the crucial moment) followed a close second by Zee News, which claimed that the Minister for Civil Aviation had seen them first...As for DD, first of all my cable operator refuses to give the DD News Channel. While Star and Zee were racing ahead with moment to moment coverage and the latest possible updates, with NDTV mostly in the lead, I monitored DD’s National Channel for anything similar. But there was no cutting into regular programmes to give anxious viewers instant news, although DD thinks nothing of cutting into tennis and cricket matches at crucial moments for routine news bulletins. DD’s bland coverage in its headlines and news bulletins tended towards the usual sarkari slant: “The minister has said”, “The PM has condoled” line. Their reporter, Sudhansu Ranjan, should have been much more on screen with graphic visuals.There are certain golden rules about crisis reporting which were not always followed. I would like to remind commentators about the BBC newscaster who went right on reading his bulletin without batting an eyelid when a bomb came through the roof of the studio during World War II. Conceding that Manish Kumar did a sterling, day-long job, and also conceding how traumatic such an event can be, I still think he should have been a little more calm at the beginning. He spoke fast, and in gasps, and at times it was difficult to follow what he was saying. But he collected himself as the day wore on and ended on a splendid note. I also think that the victims should be treated with extreme caution, no matter how tempting the news angle. I felt very sorry for the crash victim, a young boy with large gashes on his face, who had microphones thrust into his face and had to put his hand across his face to protect himself from the lights. By and large, the interviewing by all concerned, was done with tact and care, Mr Bopanna giving an amazingly clear account of the crash to Star News which ought to be of great value to the inquiry committee.

The follow-up, with Star News getting quick reactions from Air Marshals Keelor and Malhotra was timely, while Zee concentrated on a top office-bearer of the Air Controllers’ Association, which brought out many technical details. I also admired Mr Dayal, I think an ex-pilot, who refused stoutly to be drawn into speculation about pilot error. A very great tragedy, graphically covered and with compassion. But DD, where were you, in comparison with the private channels? I must also remind newscasters that important telephone numbers for the families of victims have to be read at dictation speed and repeated. The woman anchor Ms Razdan from Star was particularly slap-dash at this, not even repeating the area codes and skipping the first few digits of continuous numbers. Vishnu Som did rather better.

It is difficult to believe that Aaj Tak completed only five years of its existence on July 17, because in that short period it has done so much to restore credibility and professionalism to Doordarshan.Tucked away on DD Metro at an hour when it has to compete with News Hour on Star News, with Prime Time on Zee and with BBC’s India-orientated programmes, it has built up a steady clientele with ordinary terrestrial viewers. For this we must remember again and again the late S.P. Singh, who revolutionised the anchoring of Hindi news on TV because he used a simple but racy language which viewers were able to follow without difficulty and because his entire style of presentation was informal and communicative which was such a refreshing contrast to DD’s routine dreary colonial style bulletins, out-dated in style and confused in language. I would also like to mention two stalwarts: Dibang, who came as a young lad from Arunachal and mastered English for the print medium and Hindi for television and has so many firsts to his credit. Also Alka Saxena, who has been steady and committed although I think she looked more professional and pretty before she started playing about with her hair and make-up.

Tail-piece: I have failed to understand why Star News , with its large fund of experienced talent, sometimes chooses juvenile voices with no suggestion of authority, to do crucial long-distance interviews. That was a pathetic voice, wobbly and without either good questions or intelligent follow-up of answers, which interviewed General Jetley (whose name was spelt wrong on the screen) after the Indian soldiers broke free from their captors. Quite inexplicable and very disappointing.Top


by Suparna Saraswati

A new theatre beginning

“BRINGING to the people of Chandigarh and promoting the performance of classical plays of India and all over the world” is the main aim of NATWA, a theatre platform that launched itself with the maiden performance of their play in Hindi titled “Rashomon”. Arts (music, painting, poetry) is the highest pinnacle that human creativity can aspire to conquer. Throughout history, a civilisation zenith has nearly always been marked by it’s progress in the field of arts. But is art, as Plato said, an external force which expresses itself through the artiste? Is it an inner flash of awakening, when the conscious mind reaches out and touches the core of existence?

Theatre and dance are two of the world’s major performing arts. And both have a deeper, more therapeutic and psychological import than was first highlighted in the ancient texts of Bharat Muni’s “Natya Shastra” and Aristotle’s “Poetics”. Talent is not synonymous with creativity. For, unlike talent, which most often means being good in a certain field, creativity is a point of view, an approach towards the mundane that transforms every blade of grass into a wonder of life. The human mind is an infinitely mysterious reason peopled with arcane labyrinths and cryptic passageways. This shadowy quality is what is most intriguing. For just as you were beginning to feel master of yourself, you are made to realise that the conscious self is nothing but a spoonful in the ocean of your subconscious. The ways of the mind are indeed mysterious! Our conscience is probably the greatest factor segregating us from our fellow creatures. A sense of right and wrong, moral twinges, guilt pangs — arguably man is the only earthy creature to be plagued by such ethical inconveniences. Since times immemorial, we’ve been a rule-bound race. But it’s another matter altogether that such laws have often remained time and culture specific.

NATWA’s Hindi adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s legendary film, “Rashomon”, is a powerfully depictive narrative of “forbidden love, passion, lust and man’s eternal desire to transgress the false limits of the societal law”. There is a conflict between the individual and his immediate social environment that instructs his existence and his attempts of searching for truth. As Kurosawa believed that truth “often sits in the middle and dances”, it is this strange yet compelling desire of a mortal that twists and turns his ordinary life into a mysterious one. Hence, as presented in this play a tale of human dishonour and murder, circumstances and situations provide a metamorphosis of human behaviour and raise inconclusive yet pertinent inquiries about “saving one’s skin” at all costs even if it means falsifying one’s real identity.

NATWA group of dedicated and committed performers was able to convincingly portray the subtle nuances of this extremely intense script. Derived from the original word “Rajomon”, quite literally, “Rashomon” means the main gate leading to the outer grounds of a castle. The entrance for this production metaphorically interpreted the “tripartite structure of human psyche as well as the history of its evolution”. The sets of the play i.e. “forest”, “priest” and “trial chamber” itself were designed to signify the three levels of the human mind (id, ego and superego).

The young actors of this adaptation displayed great versatility in their characterisation “swinging back and forth from one space zone to another and from one time zone to another, giving to the play, its sense of fluidity, even extensionality.” This is perhaps the real power behind the script of “Rashomon” that made it travel the globe to diverse cultural dens and not limiting itself to the tradition of the Japanese people.

Even though the beginning of the play appeared to be a bit slow, it unfolded in the latter half into an interesting and gripping performance. Actors Raj Sharma, Sunil Chitkara, Gorky and Harinder Sandhu rightly deserved the spontaneous applaud of the audience. It was heartening to experience their sense of commitment and professionalism through a contemporary socio-culturally relevant production as “Rashomon”. These products of the Department of Indian Theatre, Panjab University, have indeed taken up a challenge by constituting NATWA and, therefore, require due support from all those sensitive people who are in a position to extend the means and resources for these talented performers. Under the patronage of the well-known theatre and television artiste Prof Mohan Maharishi, one is confident that NATWA has just begun its journey into the realm of contemporary relevant theatre and we wish them success for the arduous task that lies ahead for these dynamic travellers.


Pankaj Udhas impresses

HUMSAFAR (Tips): Of late, Pankaj Udhas has not been coming up with many new cassettes. He breaks the fast with this one and how! He has here an album which impresses both in terms of quality as well as variety.

The eight ghazals speak of happiness and sorrow, union and separation, success and failure, despair and hope, love and longing. Each of them is outstanding in its own right.

Still, somehow the better four are there on the A side. Chaahat desh se aane wale … sets the magic ball rolling and there is no looking back with Tum sare aam …, Kaise likhoge muhabbat ki kitaab … and Besabab rooth ke ….

Sadhana Sargam has given a good account of herself in the two duets that she has rendered with Pankaj. Bada ajeeb mohabbat ka ye fasana … also boasts of excellent music.

Lyrics are by Zameer Kazmi, Sudarshan Fakir, Sayeed Rahi, Qaisar-ul-Jaffri, Azim Malik, Hasan Imam and Qateel Rajasthani. Music is by Ghani and Ali.

HEY JI RE (Virgin): Bina Mistry was just about OK in her earlier offerings. Well, she is better than that in this latest album. The girl from Tanzania who is now settled in London has not only sung but also composed nearly half of these seven songs. The others have been composed by Noel Ram. What is more, she is also the writer of a number of them, either herself or with Gulshan Ul-Amin.

The music of Pukaro mera naam …seems “inspired” by Alisha Chianai’s Hai dil lagane ki kisi se, wo saja payee hai, ke bas….

While trying her hand at a bit of Punjabi, she makes such a strange rendition of the word Bhabhiye in the song with that title that it is difficult to make out whether she is talking of a sister-in-law or of a papiye.

NOORJAHAN (Venus): Period films are passé but they enjoy considerable fan following on the telly. If Mirza Ghalib is still remembered, Noorjahan too has been lavishly mounted. It has excellent music by Talat Aziz and lyrics by Nida Fazli.

So far, Jaspinder Narula has been known only as a pop or Punjabi singer but this album gives her a chance to widen her horizon with heavyweight songs like Mere phoolon ke … and Yun na kisi ko …. Sonu Nigam also sheds his set image to sing Gul bhi wo …. Mohini has an unusual voice which stands her good stead in Dil ka mazhab ….

The scene stealer is Jaise mere yaar … by Talat Aziz. The title song is a quawwali sung by Sarfaraz Chishty, Nigam and party. One ghazal and one bhajan have been rendered by Sadhana Sargam.