Rainbow, Music and Tears

December 14, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Sir and me after the talk.

Sir and me after the talk.

“Once as a small boy,” started recollecting K.P. Rao, “I saw a rainbow on the hill near our village and walked towards it. As I went closer and then under it, all the seven colors vanished and turned into mere droplets. I could only feel the moist, nothing else. It got me wet and I could hear a strange sound in my ears.” Remembering this childhood incident he asked, “How can I speak of this experience of mine?” Pausing for a brief moment he continued. “It is the same with music. It is colorful from distance but when you go under/ within it the colors vanish and it absorbs you and you get drenched in that state of being possessed by the rainbow.”

K.P. Rao, my mentor, was speaking at SaRiGaMa Bharathi, Parkala last evening (13 Dec 2016) on music and musicians in his life.

Taking us through his journey of life, closely associated with, violinist Sridhar Parsekar who taught him that music means to see through ears, Salil Chaudhary who composed music in ‘vaadi-samvaadi’ manner, Vilayat Khan, Amir Hussain Khan, narrating stories of his initial refusal to meet or listen to Ravishankar and he becoming the disciple of Annapurna Devi, Sir not just made us listen to some music clips saying, “See this music,” but also provided us with insights on their music and their personalities.

“Nikhil Banerjee was once critiqued heavily by Annapuruna Devi for one of his performance. When we stepped out of her house Nikhil was heartbroken and was almost in tears. He was considering quitting music. We drove sense into him saying Annapurna Devi had only asked him to do more rehearsals to better himself and had not suggested him to stop.” That night, recollected Sir, Nikhil Banerjee sang, in pain and out of will to better himself, from around 10:00 pm till 4:00 in the morning next day.

“I have never heard him perform so well,” said Sir. As Sir said that his lump in this throat and and his eyes became misty, becoming one with the tears of Nikhil Banerjee, of decades ago.

“How do I speak of all these experiences? How can I share what I felt and have carried within me always?” asked Sir.

Hearing of Nikhil Banerjee’s tears for failing in music and pushing him to music, seeing tears in the eyes of my mentor recollecting music and the tapasya for music, my eyes became wet. In that moment I felt/ realized that the language of tears is the closest to the language of music.

You get drenched by both, in an explicable manner, like by the rainbow, when absorbed by it, possessed by it.

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Library of Experience

December 9, 2016 at 9:15 AMDec (Cinema, Friends, Literature, Media, Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Photo: Hiren Patel

Photo: Hiren Patel

Last night I had a strange dream.

In my dream all of Amrit Gangar sir’s experience- reading, viewing, listening etc- was turned into a library where he would visit every now and then to access the huge archive of experience and knowledge. It was a huge huge huge library.

In that library of experience, I was the librarian. Of course I was feeling extremely happy that I have access, though second hand, to all that Sir has read, heard, viewed, experienced and understood.

On waking up I realized the trigger for this dream was my envy for all the experiences in reading, listening and viewing Sir has had and my deep felt desire to be able to access all of them through him.

This was one of the two most beautiful dreams I have ever had, the other being one where I was a line of poetry in the heart of Gulzar.

Thanks for everything Amrit Sir.

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Gazals and Memories of Lost Love

November 1, 2016 at 9:15 PMNov (Music, Poetry, Slice Of Life)

“Baba” he called me, as he always does, while I was reading and asked me who the singer is of the gazal that I had introduced him to couple of years ago. He recollected the matlaa of the gazal as:

tumhaarey shehar ka mausam badaa suhaana lagey,
main ek shaam churaa loon agar buraa na lagey.

“Munni Begum,” I answered and a smile slipped out. The reason for the smile was the gazal being in my mind over the last few days.

I had entered the city late in the evening few days ago and as I was entering the city seeing a necklace of streetlights decorating the evening I had recollected the same gazal remembering someone who lives in that city. On the last evening, of this trip, in the city he asked me about the gazal and I smiled like a lover whose inner thoughts had been caught by a friend.

Playing the song of Munni Begum on his laptop, switching on a fancy speaker which illuminates while giving wings to music, he asked what other gazals I would like to listen. I requested him to play, “woh jo hum mein tum mein qaraar tha,” and “aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya,” by Begum Akthar.

He queued the gazals on the player and asked, listening to Munni Begum, why I wanted to listen to these gazals in particular. I smiled again a smile which left a bitter sweet taste on the lips. Those were, I told him, the last songs that someone had sent me during our long long correspondence which became a story in itself.

Listening to my recollection of a distant past that still echoes in my heart endlessly he said, “kaafi sahi laDki lagti hai. kaun ending ko bhi itna romantic karta hai. sahi hai.” I smiled again and the smile left a bitter sweet taste yet again as Begum Akthar followed Munni Begum to sing, “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho.

Did she remember anything from the past? I had sent a text which revealed that I was in the city she now lives in. There was no response, as expected. I had invited her to come meet. She dint, as expected.

kabhi hum mein tum mein bhi chaah thi kabhi hum sey tum sey bhi raah thi,
kabhi hum bhi tum bhi tey aashnaa tumhein yaad ho kay na yaad ho.

phir kya hua?” he asked. “kuch nahi,” I said and added, “kaash kuch hota.”

aye muhobbat terey anjaam pey rona aaya
jaaney kyun aaj terey naam pey rona aaya.

There was mist in the eyes. I had controlled myself all through the trip but the last evening became difficult because hope was dying every time and love wasnt.

youn toh har shaam ummeedon mein guzar jaati hai,
aaj kuch baat jo shaam pey rona aayaa.

How beautifully she had worded her interpretation of these gazals, which I now wanted to sing to her again.

That night he took me around the city on his scooter. Lonely roads, yellow street lights, cool breeze. I sat behind singing the same gazals that we heard back that evening. Tears took flight from my eyes. As I wiped them I wished the tears that held the fingers of the breeze wrote poetry in air which she would be able to read sometime while passing through that road some day in that city after I have left as my invisible letter remembering everything that once was and of so many things that still remain within me.

tumhaarey bas mein agar ho toh bhool jaao humein,
tujhey bhulaaney mein shaayad humein zamaana lagey.

We went to the beach and stood there as some unknown people were bursting crackers, a run through to the festival of lights. I saw my shadow scattered on the sand because of multiple lights. With no original and multiples around me I wondered what the truth is, like I wondered several times with only written correspondences between us, “does she exist in real?” recollecting the lines by Sylvia Plath, “I think I made you up in my head,” and singing the lines from Bombay Velvet, “merey har ek armaan sey zyaada chaahey rey tujh ko piyaa, kaisey karoon yakeen tu hai dilbar na koi veham piya, bharoopiyaa haseen kusoor kiya beharoopiyaa.”

samandar zara peechey chalaa gaya hai shaayad,” he said as I stared at the waves running forth and backwards. “shaayad,” I said and looked for traces of waves on the shore which made it evident that the sea had retracted.

kuch iss adaaa sey mujh sey tu bewafaayi kar,
kay terey baad mujhey koi bewafaa na lagey.

The problem to get over someone is when there bewafaayi. It is just bad timing. Such endings feel like the sea that has retracted on some night and will come forward some day again. It always leaves behind an ambiguity such as “tumhey yaad ho kay na yaad ho,” which refuses to end, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it is a matter of the past and that the same wave never comes back to the shore.

You just live with some hope, the same love and the same songs and yes, the same bitter sweet smile on your lips.

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Of Borders and Songs

October 6, 2016 at 9:15 AMOct (Activism, Media, Music, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Cutting through the dusty roads and then the mist on NH-01, when we reached Patnitop it was almost 14:00 hrs.

Starting our journey from Jammu at around 8:00 in the morning we had reached Patnitop, pausing our journey at several places for temples-Dargah visits and for tea.

The driver initially played some bhajans in the car but slowly as our journey proceeded he started playing old Hindustani film songs, all stored in his pendrive. We joined our sincere though un-melodic voices with those songs. He narrated stories of his association with some songs and so did I.

When we crossed Udhampur and started getting on the hills he said, “There is a dhaba run by a friend nearby. We will have lunch there and then proceed.” I agreed. When we stopped the car by the dhaba for lunch the music also stopped and we forgot to play it again when we continued the journey after a good meal.

When we reached Patnitop I was amazed by the beauty of the place and felt the need to underline the experience with some good music. I requested him to play the music. He said, “Let us listen to radio. It catches the signal of Sialkot station.” He tuned the radio to Sialkot station which played good old Hindustani film songs from Bombay cinema. We sang along and continued the journey.

I was thrilled about the radio catching signals of a radio station across the border and the station across the border playing old HIndustani films songs of Bombay cinema.

When we stopped for a cup of chai at Patnitop the shopkeeper told us about 18 soldiers being killed at Uri that morning.

Few days into this incident it felt like a war had begun not just at the border but also everywhere. There came a demand to ban all Pakistani artists from Indian cinema. Those who defended the Pakistani artists not surprisingly got branded as anti-nationals. There was a call for boycotting the films which had Pakistani artists. As I kept reading and hearing about these I recollected the moment of the radio catching signals from across the border and the radio station across the border playing Hindustani film songs from Bombay cinema. This memory would bring a smile on my face and to this moment I cant figure out if that smile is an indication of agony or ecstasy. But everytime I remember that moment I also remember a song penned by Javed Akthar, whose opening lines are:

panchi nadiya pawan kay jhonkay,
koi sarhad na inhey rokay.

(birds, river and the blow of wind
no national borders ever stop them.)

~ Javed Akthar

But the paradox/ tragedy of our times is that someone like Javed Akthar (has been brought to a position where he) questions/ condemns the silence of Pakistani artists over Uri.

On one hand nobody, even the line of control, could stop the radio signals/ waves coming from across the border and the broadcasting of Bombay film music by a radio station across the border. On the other hand the situation has built such pressures on the likes of Javed Akthar to make statements which given an ideal, equal and fair world they wouldn’t feel compelled to make. The unhindered music makes me happy but the poet’s heart being taken over by political pressure pains me.

May the heart of the poet write again of the futility of wars. And this time, I pray, let these songs not just cross borders but also erase borders.

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Saahvari

July 6, 2016 at 9:15 AMJul (Music, Musings, Poetry, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Almost two decades ago while I was fast asleep in my grandparent’s house in Byndoor, I heard a drum beat. Along with the sound of drum was the sound of a jingle. A voice followed the sounds, singing something in a language which I did not understand back then as a child.

The sound did not just wake me up but also scared me. I held my mother, sleeping next to me, tightly and tried waking her up calling for her. She, very casually, said that the sound of the drum was to wake up the Muslim neighbors since it is the month of fasting and they have to eat before the dawn breaks and assured me that there is nothing to feel scared about. I went back to sleep.

After that in the following years, as a child, I must have visited Byndoor couple of times during Ramzaan month and all of these had got hidden under the dust of time.

Last month after a long, real long, time I was in Byndoor yet again during the month of Ramzaan. A set of playing cards kept my cousins and me awake till midnight. Sleep eluded me even after we all hit the bed. After long texting with a friend I was slowly dissolving in slumber when I heard the sound of a drum and jingle followed by a voice saying in tune “Ramzaan ka maheena hai...” and the remaining words remained unclear. Sleep sucked me in again, immediately.

In the morning when I mentioned how I had forgotten about the drum beats waking people up during Ramzaan a cousin, resident of Byndoor, told me, “They come from some far off place and are here only during the month of Ramzaan to wake people up in the morning.” This piece of information, not known to me until then, triggered curiosity in me.

Deciding to stop the man that night, for a conversation, while he comes to wake people up I went to sleep that night asking all my cousins and relatives to wake me up in case the drum sound doesnt wake me up that night.

As I had predicted that night I was so deep asleep that the drum sound did not wake me up. My aunt woke me up saying the “drummer” was in our lane. Jumping off my bed I ran out. The man would go five houses ahead of our house in the lane where our house is located and come back since there are no Muslim houses after that. I waited as he was walking back.

with Rahmatullah Shaah Rafaayi

with Rahmatullah Shaah Rafaayi

Adaab

Adaab

When I expressed my desire to have a conversation with me, as expected, he asked me why I wanted to speak to him and what is that I wanted to speak to him. When I spelled out my wish to know where he comes from and from how many years he has been coming the man said, “I am actually from Hyderabad.” He told me that he stays near the Mosque of Byndoor. When I said I need to talk him at length he asked me to come near the Mosque at 16:00 hrs. Disappointed me asked him if I could meet him in the day time. “I am either in Shiroor or Bhatkal during the day. I return only in the evening,” he said. I remembered my uncle telling me the previous day that during day time the man goes to collect alms.

“Okay then. I will see you in the evening.”

“Fine. Meet me in the evening.”

“What is your name?”

“Rahmatullaa Shaah Rafaayi.”

My plan was to return to Manipal that afternoon which I had to cancel and I did.

But I couldnt wait till evening. Convincing my cousin to take me to Shiroor-Bhatkal on his scooter, I sat on the scooter.

We thought of first checking at the Byndoor mosque if he was around. But he wasnt. In a small shop next to the mosque the shopkeeper said, “those people are called Saahvari. They are here only during the month of Ramzaan to wake people up. On the day of the feast, at the end of month, they accept whatever is given to them, in cash or kind, by the villagers. With that they go back to their place and come back the next Ramzaan.”

“Does every village has a Saahvari coming from elsewhere?

“I dont know if they go to every village. I know there is one Saahvari in Shiroor. I am not sure about Bhatkal.”

He also told me that these people come voluntarily and are not invited by the Mosque people. But when they arrive the mosque provides them with a place to stay.

Thanking the shopkeeper my cousin and I cut through the Ottinenne hill went to Shiroor. In Shiroor we went to a Mosque, crossing the railway line only to find the mosque closed. An elderly man passing by the Mosque told us that the secretary of the Mosque owned a shop in the market place and we could spot him there. Turning our scooter in the market direction we turned the accelerator applying brake only in front of the shop owned by the secretary of the Mosque.

It was a small shop selling fancy items. When I asked him about the Saahvaris he said no Saahvari comes to Shiroor and the responsibility of waking people up during Ramzaan month during the hour of sehri was taken by the villagers themselves till few years ago. “Now there are alarms and mobile phones to wake people up. So there is no need for someone to wake you up with a drum,” he said and made me listen to his mobile alarm singing azaan, which he said was his alarm tone.

 

In the conversation that followed he mentioned that there were 16-17 mosques in Shiroor alone. So immediately I asked if Saahvaris came to any of the other Mosques? “No,” he said in a stern voice. When I asked him how many Dargaa was there in Shiroor he said, “Four to five,” in a tone that exhibited his irritation without any hesitation. In a restless manner he said, “Some idiots do go to Dargaa, what can be done?” making his intolerance towards the Dargaa culture evident. “See, Ghalib has said,” he said and uttered the lines, “there is no dearth of idiots in the world Ghalib, look for one and you will find a thousand.” When I asked him if Ghalib actually said that his tone changed and he requested, “Please do not write about this. It is just a saying.”

Disappointed by the response and the failure of not finding Saahvari I moved out of his shop. Ten steps from his shop I must have walked before taking a right turn, staring at the notes I had made till then when I saw four Saahvaris getting down from an auto.

One old man. One young man. One adolescent and one child.

with Irfaanullah Shaah Rafaayi and his kin.

with Irfaanullah Shaah Rafaayi and his kin.

Greeting them I introduced myself and expressed my desire to speak to them. “Afternoon namaaz time is nearing. Can we talk in the evening?” I said I had to meet the Saahvari in Byndoor that evening. “He is my brother,” said the eldest one among them.

Agreeing to talk to me for two minutes the eldest among them introduced the other three to me as his son Mohammad Baasha, his another brother’s son “Hussain” and his younger brother.

His name, he said, is “Irfaanulla Shah Rafaayi,” who has been coming to Shiroor every Ramzaan from 35 years now, “sehri uthaaney kay liye,” (to wake people up for food before fast begins.)

He had first come to coastal Karnataka with his uncle who would be coming to a place called Nagoor “sehri uthaaney kay liye.” Along with him first came Irfaanullaah and chose Shiroor “sehri uthaaney kay liye.” From 35 years, he said, during his visit to Shiroor during the month of Ramzaan he stays in the Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa in Shiroor. With his ‘daff‘ like instrument called ‘daayraa‘ which makes the sound of a daff with jingles, and singings ‘naath’, he wakes people up before the dawn breaks around the Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa. During other months of the year they all are in Hyderabad and in the Dargaas in and around Hyderabad performing their rituals.

“It is time now,” said Irfaanullaa and gave me an option of seeing him by the Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa after 15:00 hours.

“Can you sing one kawwaali for me now before you leave?”

Making a slightly sad face he said, “Come after 15:00 hours. I will sing a kawwali for you.”

Promising him to see him by Junglee Peer Baba Dargaa my cousin and I went to Bhatkal. Finishing our lunch and shopping a bit in Bhatkal we hit the national high way yet again to reach Shiroor.

Breaking away from the National Highway we took to the tarr road and after a while diverting from the tarr road we entered a mud road and came close to a very narrow bridge which could be crossed only by a cycle. Across the bridge stood Jungleee Peer Baba Dargaa.

Stopping our scooter we crossed the bridge constructed over a rivulet. It was a beautiful sigh. Clicking some photos of the environ I walked to Irfaanullaah who was resting my the river under the shadow casted of the narrow bridge.

While speaking to him I recollected the words spoken by the Secretary of the Shiroor mosque. “Some sects with Islaam do not approve of Sufism,” he said and added to it, “Yes, there is no need for us now since alarm and mobile phone have come into existence. But still we come for the love of the people who we know for over three decades now and for the devotion of God.”

Our conversation was interrupted by two young boys who in a harsh tone asked me who I am and why I had clicked photos of the Dargaa. I explained my purpose.

“We dont mind you talking to him. But why click photos of the Dargaa?” Skipping through the photos in the camera they recollected an incident where a “media person” had photographed and video-graphed the Dargaa and then created a “controversy” relaying “false news.” No photo in our camera appeared objectionable to them and let the interview continue.

Irfaanullah said his uncle had first come to Bababudan(giri) first years ago and from there he got down from the western ghats and reached Nagoor for the first time. In Bababudan(giri), he said, a yearly ritual takes place attended by followers of Sufism. “Now my uncle is dead. So there is no Saahvari in Nagoor to wake people up during Ramzaan,” explained Irfaanullah. It seems his uncle had no children.

Irfaanullah Shah Rafaayi near Junglee Peer Baaba Dagraa

Irfaanullah Shah Rafaayi near Junglee Peer Baaba Dagraa

“Will your son come to Shiroor after you?”

“Yes. Dont you see, he comes even now with me.”

Irfanullaah laughed saying so. His son laughed. I laughed and even the boys who interrupted the interview laughed.

That evening when I met Rahmatullaah in Byndoor he had the contrary to say. “My children are not interested in this. I cant even force them to do what they do not like to do. So I am the last Saahvari coming to Byndoor. There will probably be none after me. He has been coming to Byndoor from 30 years now and has learnt Kannada too. He kind of echoes his brother when he says he comes “sehri uthaaney kay liye,” even when technological advancements have made their work redundant for “muhobbat”  and “puraani pehchaan.”

During the other months of the year Rahmatullah is a seller of gems and precious stone. “I have my business to make money. I do this for the love of people and love of God,” he says. “In recent times,” said Rahmatullah, “in other parts the Saahvaris have been facing objections from people not following Islaam.” Their objection is to the sleep of non-Muslimas are being “disturbed” when the ‘daayra‘ is beaten and ‘naath‘ sung to wake Muslims up. “But thankfully no such objections have been faced by me in Byndoor nor by my brother in Shiroor,” said Rahmatullaah with a smile.

I feel sad that I couldnt speak more to Rahmatullah and Irfaanullah and that I couldnt extract more information and insights from them. I lacked preparation too not just time and the two seemed lacking in rooting and also also communication. So several questions remained unasked and unanswered.

Where to go for those answers, I do not know. For how long will Rahmatullah and Irfaanulllah will come to coastal Karnataka also remains unknown to me.

[Originally written for Karavali Karnataka website for my column Shadow of Life there]

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Lost Self and Search for Meaning

June 11, 2016 at 9:15 PMJun (Cinema, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

Hemanth Rao has made a promising debut with Godhi Banna Saadhaarana Maikattu as a director and a screenplay writer driving the point to the Kannada movie going audience that it is the writer-director who basically makes a cinema work.

GBSM

Venkoba Rao (Ananth Nag) aged 66, goes missing after his son Shiva (Rakshit Shetty) takes him from the old-age home for shopping. The interaction between the two and the fact that Venkoba is in an old-age house reveals the troubled relationship between father and son. Shiva with the help of Venkoba’s doctor Dr. Sahana, sets out to search for the missing Venkoba.

The missing Venkoba accidentally lands up in the vehicle driven by Ranga (Vasishta Simha) and his assistant Manja (Ravikiran Rajendran) who are carrying the dead-body of a murdered official. The vehicle meets with an accident and accidentally Kumaar (Achyuth) ends up with the three of them.

While Shiva and Dr. Sahana are searching for Venkoba, the politician who has masterminded the murder is looking for Ranga and Manja who have failed to do their job of burying the dead-body without it becoming known to the outside world.

All the three who are sought; Venkoba, Ranga and Manja, end up in the house of Kumaar where his wife and son also reside.

As the search of Shiva continues and escape of Ranga continues the audience realize that Venkoba going missing is just a pretext for the writer-director to explore the personal journeys of these two characters that are lost in life and have lost the memory of what their actual potentials are.

Shiva in his aspiration driven life has forgotten his art and has been dissatisfied with the middle-class family and father. Ranga being an abandoned child has not been able to touch and awaken the humane side of his. Being pushed to a harmful life Ranga and diving into a market-oriented life Shiva both have lost touch with their inner core and realizing this existential level of getting lost becomes the journey of the film, at a deeper level.

While Shiva has to reconcile with the lost self, Ranga is forced to accept defeat and the inability to walk into a future since the shadow of past is inescapable. But the only way he can make his life achieve meaning is by saving lives and the only way Shiva can bring meaning to his life is by enabling himself to love, his father and also achieve romantic love. Thus both have to find themselves to find meaning for their lives.

GBSM..

Dr. Sahana who was once lost and found herself with Venkoba’s support is capable of loving someone unconditionally.

While Venkoba is missing in his own city, Shiva and Ranga are lost within their own lives and the search for self and meaning should take place within oneself. And these are journeys by themselves. And nothing lost is the same when you find them again. Things have transformed. Quite a lot.

What looks like a story of a lost father with a lost memory grows to be a film about lost childhood, lost innocence, lost future and a lost ability to love and live! It is in creating such layers that Hemanth Rao turns an explored arena of old age and Alzheimer disease into a fresh work of art and story-telling.

Neat cinematography by Nanda Kishore helps the film and music by debudant Charan Raj strengthens the mood. One should mention, without fail, that the music and visuals, at places, are not in harmonious synchronization. Editing, quite evidently, could have been more tight and crisp.

But the centre forward who finally kicks the ball to the opposite post is his actors, especially Ananth Nag and Vasishta Simha, though not to forget Achyuth, Shruthi Hariharan and Ravikiran Rajendran.

What is commendable about the writer-director is his ability to avoid a moralistic position about the actions of any of its characters, especially that of Shiva for neglecting his father and Ranga who has turned violent being abandoned in life. Hemanth, the writer-director, has a sympathetic gaze towards all characters caught in the whirlpool of life, which makes him a promising director, who has a fair command over the medium.

[Originally written fors the newsportal News Karnataka, where an edited version of the same has been published]

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Remembering Nair Sahab

March 4, 2016 at 9:15 AMMar (Cinema, Friends, Media, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life, Soliloquy)

P.K. Nair is no more.

Language is inadequate to speak of his contribution and also of the vacuum his death has left behind.
When I got into the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in the year 2012 one of the things I was eagerly looking forward to, in Pune, was seeing P.K. Nair the man whose effort gave us the National Film Archives of India and through it all the films that we have watched and learned from. But never could I gather the courage to call him take an appointment and go meet him.

325811_346812162008975_1070199381_o

But slightly over a month after I joined the course my teacher Rahamat Tarikere, who was then writing a book on Amirbai Karnataki came to Pune researching on his subject. One day while walking with Sir to the NFAI library I said, “May be you should also speak to P.K. Nair,” to which Sir said, “Yes, I do intend to.” Without waiting for further instruction I had pulled out my phone from my pocket saying, “Let me take an appointment,” and rang Nair sahab who on knowing someone was writing on Amirbai and wanted to meet him said, “Come now,” and said that he was in his office (PK Nair committee) at the Institute. Rahmat Sir and I took an above turn and walked to the Institute.

As Rahamat Sir and I entered his room he shook hands with us and asked whereabouts. When Rahamat Sir explained to him about the book he is writing on Amirbai Karnataki and immediately Nair sahab started recollecting the songs of Amirbai and also started humming some of them. He also spoke about the voice culture and also the shift that the voice culture took in the 50s. As I sat there listening to him I realized that Nair sahab, who effortlessly recollected songs and would quote the year of its release and other details about the song, was not someone who just built the film archives in India but is/was also an archive in himself.

Later in that year a film made on him Celluloid Man was released which we had the fortune of watching with Nair sahab himself during the occasion of 100 years of Indian cinema. While watching the film Celluloid Man I realized that my Masters’ thesis wouldnt have been possible if not for Nair sahab. In the film Girish Kasaravalli says how his first film Ghatashraddha was lying in some studio in the then Bombay which Nair sahab got hold of and preserved if not for which a copy of the film wouldnt have been available now. My post-graduation dissertation was on the film Ghatashraddha.

That day when the screening got over and I was about to walk out of the NFAI I got a call from B.M. Basheer, a senior friend, who is also the editor of the Kannada daily Vaartha Bhaarathi. He asked me to do a special article for their annual issue and I immediately asked him if I could interview Nair sahab to which he said, “Ok.” As he said “Ok” I turned back and went into NFAI again where Nair sahab was still sitting. I went to him and asked him if I could interview him for the annual issue of a Kannada daily and all he said was, “Sunday morning.”

After quite a long interview that day my friends Rahul and Pooraj along with me sat for a while with Nair sahab without wanting to leave immediately after the interview. He asked us how the course was running and if the recommendations made by him were taken seriously. Even in the informal conversation that followed the interview he kept repeating something which he kept uttering during the interview: “There is a lot more to be done,” which seemed to be his preoccupation and to that he would add, “Someone should take it forward.”

Yes, there is a lot more to be done and someone should take it forward. Nair sahab did what he could do which was more than the share of a single person in the history of a nation.

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The Hurt Male Ego

October 24, 2015 at 9:15 PMOct (Activism, Cinema, Literature, Music, Musings, Slice Of Life)

The remark made by K.S. Bhagwan at the Periyar Birth Anniversary function in Bangalore has triggered a major controversy. What fanned the fire is the State Sahitya Akademi Award being conferred on him on the very same day. Speaking at the function Mr. Bhagwan said, “Rama was not born of his father.”

Angered citizens not only raised objection but also started getting a petition signed by people requesting the Akademi to withdraw the award conferred on K.S. Bhagwaan.

In the last few months K.S. Bhagwaan has been in news for quite a few controversies. But never before has he managed to anger people to this extent. What has angered people so much this time? Why are people so angry this particular time?

Looking at the statement made by K.S. Bhagwaan factually there is absolutely nothing to be outraged about. His statement did not twist facts or misinterpret them in any which way. He has just said what is said in the text of Ramayana including the Ramayana written by Valmiki which many consider to be the authentic Ramayana.

Dasharata calls Sumantra and tells him that he needs to perform a yaga to have children. Listening to this Sumantra tells Dasharata that long ago a sage named Saantakumara had told him that Dasharata to have children will need to take the assistance of Rushyashrunga and his wife Shaanta. Dasharata on listening to this goes to his friend Romapada and requests him to send his daughter Shaanta and son-in-law Rushyashrunga along with him to Ayodhya. Romapaada agrees. Back in Ayodhya all arrangements are made for the yaga to be performed by Vasishta, Vaamadeva, Jabaali and Kaashyap in the presence of Rushyashrunga. From the fire of the yaaga a representative of Prajaapati comes and hands over a jug of paayasa to Dasharata and asks him to distribute it to his wives and assures that after consuming the paayasa they would bear children. Dasharata obliges and thus Rama, Bharata, Lakshmana, Shatrughna are born.

So it is Valmiki who is hinting that Dasharata is not the father of Rama (and also Bharata, Lakshmana and Shatrughna) and not K.S. Bhagwaan. But why did this anger people so badly? The anger of people is not because the statement of K.S. Bhagwaan has hurt their religious sentiments, as I look at it. The anger is triggered because their male ego has been hurt by the statement made by K.S. Bhagwaan. Let me try explaining this.

In a patriarchal society the male ego is high and masculinity is celebrated in different ways like conquer, martyrdom, bravery etc. At the same time what is prevalent in a patriarchal society fear about impotency and infertility. They are also a matter of shame. These factors are quite closely associated with the idea of manhood and if any question is raised about the potency of a man then the male ego gets terribly hurt and angered.

The reason the statement of K.S. Bhagwaan irked so many people is because his statement kind of mocked Dasharata’s impotency and infertility and also reminded the mass about the collective unconscious fear hidden deep within them regarding impotency and infertility. This is the reason why people are reacting so aggressively. There is a masculine aggression in the reaction of the people and that is because the male ego has been hurt and not ‘religious sentiments’ as many are saying and want to believe.

If it was actually the ‘religious sentiment’ which was hurt then the anger should have been more towards Kalai Selvi, who on the same day and in the same occasion, sharing the stage with K.S. Bhagwaan, made a much more ridiculous statement saying reading of Mahabharata has caused increase in child abuse.

But no. The statement of K.S. Bhagwaan has hurt the people more. And nobody has a word to say against the illogical unscientific statement made by Kalai Selvi. That is exactly why, to me, it appears like its not the religious sentiments which has been hurt but the male ego.

While writing about the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi writer and social thinker Ashis Nandy examines not just the political and social background of Nathuram Godse but also explores his mindspace. One of the major complaints Godse had against Gandhi is saying Gandhi turned Indian politics feminine and thus made it “impotent.” His anger is also against the Mughals and the British invaded India and made it sterile. Nandy recollects the observation made by L. Collins and D. Lapierre which makes note of the sexual metaphors in the speech and writings of Godse which expressed fear and shame regarding impotency and infertility.

In such a society which is high on sperm when someone reminds people of impotency and infertility which is a nightmarish fear hidden deep in the male ego, the ego is certainly going to get hurt and invoke aggressive reaction.

After having watched the Polish film ‘Jan’ at the International Film Festival of India, Goa in the year 2012 I was not able to make my mind about the film. To my luck I met the veteran M.S. Sathyu while walking out of the hall. When asked how he liked the film M.S. Sathyu instead of remarking about the film said something related to the storyline of the film. He said, “Every woman has the right to conceive or not conceive. When she wants to conceive and conceives nobody, not even the husband, has the right to ask where she got the seed from. Anybody questioning it actually holds the desire within him to control her right and that is quite patriarchal.”

So when K.S. Bhagwaan states that Rama is not the son of Dasharata in a mocking way he too is representing patriarchal mindset and those who are trying to prove that Rama’s mother conceived from her husband and in no other way are also representing patriarchal mindset where there is a desire to control the female sexuality and her right to conceive. There is nothing revolutionary in remarking that Rama is not the son of Dasharata nor is there any religious sentiment attached to the defense of Rama as being the son of Dasharata.

[written for my column ‘baaLkaTTey’ in the daily newspaper Kannada Prabha and published on 5 Oct 2015]

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Towards an Understanding of Salman Khan Phenomenon

January 19, 2015 at 9:15 PMJan (Cinema, Music, Musings)

After having listened to Gaston Roberge say that there is something about the popular films which is in tune with the collective cultural unconscious of this nation which makes the public accept them though a lot appears illogical [as the heart has a reason which reason does not understand], I was preoccupied with that thought. I could see some point in it because I too have been a fan of popular cinema.

With those thoughts [and other thoughts] I boarded the train to Bangalore where I was sharing the compartment with three Hare Ram Hare Krishna devotees! I was recollecting my conversation with Sir and was thinking about popular culture.

raas-leela-QC04_lOne of the things that I always kept wondering, in spite of my great love for Hindi film songs, as to how could twenty strangers suddenly pop up from nowhere and dance along with the hero and heroine when they would be singing to each other about a private emotion!! This question came back to me. And may be because of the presence of Hare Ram Hare Krishna people my unconscious connected some dots and I felt that the Indian psyche somehow had accepted these strangers dancing with the hero and heroine in their expression of love because it is a reminder of the raas-leela from the mythology where the whole of the village dances around Krishna and Radha. [I am referring to the two not as religious figures but as mythological figures.] So to the Indian psyche Krishna and Radha are like Romeo-Juliet, Heer-Ranjha etc. and in their expression of love through dance there is a presence of the villagers who also dance with the lovers. So in Indian cinema when love is in the air suddenly from nowhere 20 dancers descend and dance knowing the steps very well. And Indian audience accepts it because, I guess, in the collective cultural unconscious, it somewhere reminds them of the raas-leela!

With that thought dawning I suddenly felt that Salman Khan could actually be playing the Krishna archetype, like SRK is a Rama archetype. So then I started recollecting KICK, the latest of Salman films which I had watched.

The film begins with the scene of Salman driving a weird vehicle – something like an auto- with a to be married couple and the heroine [bride’s friend] to the shaadi ka mantap as the bride’s parents are chasing them [obviously they dont want the marriage to happen]. He is playing the saarathi here. And as the film unfolds we see Salman, like most of his film, is a very playful character which is a quintessential Krishna quality during his Gokula days. In one of the songs we see Salman bending and biting the short skirt of the heroine [yeah… that is a step in the dance] I was wondering if the public, with its newly gained feminist sensitivity and political correctness would accept the same if it were someone other than Salman. Probably no [correct me if I am wrong]. Because Salman in the past few years has been playing this Krishna archetype it is kind of okay with us. Krishna also used to steal/ hide the clothes of women who were bathing in the river and we find it “oh-so-cute.” So Salman as the commercial Krishna archetype gets away with it even in our newly found political correctness and feminist sensitivity.

Salman_Kan_to_play_Lord_Krishna_in_animated_Mahabharat_3DThe playful Salman almost during the interval changes the gear and leaves behind his playfulness and wages a war against the system to correct something which has gone wrong. It is like Krishna leaving his flute behind in Gokula and taking up the conch [blown to mark the beginning and closing of the day at the war field] as he moves to Mathura. The playfulness of Krishna becomes quite strategic as he master plans the war for justice [dharma yuddha]. Salman in the film also becomes a strategist and does illegal stuff to restore justice. This illegal method becomes accepted to the Indian psyche because Kurukshetra was a WAR for restoration of justice and Krishna was master planning it “dharma samstaapanaarthaaya” [for the restoration of dharma] Probably because we are okay with war for justice so we are okay with illegal methods to restore justice also! To kill the Kauravas you need to play their way! So its okay! – that is how the Indian mind thinks, I suppose, and hence Salman Khan’s path in Kick becomes acceptable and no objection is raised.

Partially a Robin Hood kind of character but Salman is playing more of Krishna than Robin Hood as this playful man who wages a war against the system to restore justice and in this process leaves behind his playfulness and becomes a strategist who master plans the war and wins it too.

So Kick and Salman works for the Indian mind because the Indian mind if familiar, unconsciously, with the Krishna archetype and Salman and Kick plays to it.

[I thank my friends Pallavi Rao and Shireen Azam and my Sir Ashwini Malik who patiently heard my loud thinking of Salman Khan as the Krishna archetype, which I narrated to them passionately even while being skeptical of making any sense in what I was uttering and if I was stretching it too far.]

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In Memory/ Pretext of Amrita. In Search of Imroz

December 14, 2014 at 9:15 PMDec (Activism, Cinema, Literature, Music, Poetry)

The title of Raynuka Nidagundi’s new book amrutha nenapugaLu suggests it being memories [nenapugaLu] of Amrita Pritam but literally it means fond/ immortal [amrutha] memories [nenapugaLu]. As the words are woven into sentences, sentences into paragraphs and paragraphs into pages in this book of conversation with Imroz one realizes that the book is not just Imroz’s fond/ immortal memories of Amrita but also Raynuka’s fond/ immortal memories of her moments and conversations with Imroz.

But this book is not just about memories but also love and longing. Love and longing of Amrita for Sahir, a narrative which is unavoidable, the longing of Imroz for Amrita and along with it the subtle invisible yet omnipresent love and longing of Raynuka for Imroz. But that love and longing for Imroz should be understood, I guess, as a love and longing for Imroz not as a person but as an essence and also the desire to be Amrita, not as a poet but as the partner of Imroz.

All in all this book where the nenapu [memory] is only a nepa [pretext] is a book of multiple loves in which one can see various shades of love: Sahir’s inability to love, Amrita’s passionate love, Imroz’s unwaxed divinely love and Raynuka’s inaccessible love.

***

amrutha

The author recollects an anecdote from Amrita’s childhood. The story goes like this: Amrita’s father used to insist that everyone at home reads a chapter from Gurugranth Sahib before going to sleep. He was of the belief that reading of it will build an invisible castle around the person which evil powers will not be able to cross and a sound sleep is guaranteed. Amrita in her autobiography says, ‘parchaaiyaan bahut badi haqeeqat hoti hai‘ and names this ‘parchaayi‘ as Rajan who she wants to cross the castle and invade her dreams. She would try and skip a few lines from the chapter like leaving a small gap in the castle by missing a few bricks for Rajan to enter.

Narrating this the author Raynuka wonders who Rajan was- Sahir or Imroz and says it could be Imroz for it is he who came into his life and stayed. But there is a strange co-incidence here which makes me believe that Rajan was Sahir.

One of the most celebrated poems of Sahir is Parchaaiyaan. And Sahir is actually the one who invades her dreams and Imroz is someone who said, “Tumhaare saath jaaga hoon.” The one who came into her dreams and one who came into her life were different. Not just different people but also different kind of people.

The most popular anecdotes about Amrita’s love for Sahir are her smoking the cigarette buds that Sahir had smoked and her deep desire during her pregnancy to want a child who is like Sahir. There is another anecdote about she writing the name of Sahir on Imroz’s back while sitting behind him on the scooter as he drove her to the AIR office where she was working. Such was her love for Sahir. Writing about this episode in one of his poems Imroz writes, “manchaahi peet per manchaaha naam” and continues to write:

uski kalam jab bhi likhti
manchaaha hee likhti
aur uski zindagi manchaaha hee jeeti
apne aap ke saath aur
apne manchaahe ke saath bhi.

images (4)

Now that was Amrita. Free will. Passionate. Intense. Such was her love too. Not just for Sahir but also for Imroz and also for Pritam Singh.

Amrita married Pritam Singh and also had two kids with him. Then they got divorced. But at the dusk of his life when he was unwell Amrita brings her home where she is living with her kids and Imroz and takes care of him till the dusk in his eyes slips silently into the night. At the dusk of her life Amrita asks Imroz to be next to her to be by her. What ever she did she did it the way she wanted to and did it passionately.

On second thoughts it appears that she never read the chapter from Gurugranth Sahib and there was no one Rajan and there was no castle built around her. Her name carried, till the end, and still carries the name of her husband Pritam. She wrote on air on sand on floor everywhere the name of Sahir and she lived her life with Imroz. Such passionate lover and true lover!

When partition took place Amrita wrote her most famous poem, “aaj akhan waarish shaah noon” which Kushwant Singh in his dismissive tone says as the only piece of writing from Amrita worth mentioning. The first para of the poem reads:

aaj akhan waarish shaah noon
kitaan qabraan wichon bol
tey ajj kitaab-e-ishq da koi agla waraq pol

to mean

“Today I call Warish Shah
“Speak from inside your grave”
and turn today the book of love’s next affectionate page.”

From here she goes on to describe the plight of Punjab saying:

ek royi si di punjaab dhi
tu likh likh waare wain
ajj lakhan diyaa rodhiyaa
tenu waaish shaah noon kain”

to mean

“Once one daughter of Punjab cried
you wrote a wailing saga
Today a million daughter cry to you Warish Shaah.”

In this now historical poem Amrita is not just asking Warish Shah to give voice to the pain but also to speak of love- ‘turn today the book of love’s next affectionate page’. This amidst all the mindless violence of partition.

This if juxtaposed with Faiz’s most quoted poem ‘mujhse pehli si muhobbat mere mehboob na maang‘ then we see a striking difference. While Faiz asks his lover to not ask for love like before and gives the reason, “hai aur bhi gam duniyaa mein muhobbat ke siwaa” Amrita amidst all the “aur bhi gam duniya mein” asks for love for she finds it to be the need.

The person who she loved immensely- Sahir- sadly, was more with the mindset of Faiz’s poetry it appears at one level for he in his poem titled Gurez writes these lines:

Main zindagi ke hakaayak sey bhaag aaya tha,
Ki mujhko khud mein chupaa le teri phoosoon-e-zaaye

Kahaan talak koi zinda haqeeqaton sey bachey,
Kahaan talak khade chup chupke naghma-pairaayee
.”

[I had run away from the realities of life,
To find shelter in the wonder of your beauty
But for how long can one avoid the realities of life,
For how long can one sing songs from the shadow?]

But Sahir was more complicated than that…

***

Sahir

Sahir was a giant. Giant poet too. His innumerable admirers to this day associate most of his songs with Amrita Pritam. More than any his “kabhi kabhi” and “chalo ek baar phir se ajnabee ban jaaye hum dono.” The possibilities are high.

In “Kabhi kabhi” after long descriptions about what he feels and imagines in the end he says, “main jaantaa hoon kay tu gair hai magar youn hee, kabhi kabhi mere dil mein khayaal aata hai” like a lost lover who sings even after the curtains are closed hallucinating an opera. In “chalo ek baar phir se” he is in the most difficult situation struggling with the necessity to become strangers again- not just forgetting- and the impossibility of becoming strangers again after having lived life and shared moments of life together.

There is a poem that Imroz has written about Sahir and Amrita where he says, “muhobbat zindagi bhi hoti hai, sirf kavita ya nazm nahi” [Love is life as well/ Not just a poem or song] which rings true because Sahir who wrote some of the finest lines on love and some of the most romantic lines did not have a sound and healthy love life.

Sahir tells Amrita that in Lahore he used stand for hours outside her house nearby a cigarette shop looking at the road-facing window of her house hoping to catch a glance of Amrita. He looks no less passionate than Amrita nor any less sensitive.Imroz in the concluding stanza of his poem writes:

nau sou meel ka faaslaa koi faaslaa nahi hota
aur bhi hongey faasle jo tay nahi huye
waqt ke saath uski kavita behtreen kavita tak pahunch gayee
aur uske nazm bhi behtreen nazm tak pahunch gayee

Par dono zindagi tak nahi pahunchey
pahunch jaatey toh dono ki zindagi bhi
kavita kavita ho jaati nazm nazm ho jaati

[A distance of nine hundred miles can be bridged
There may have been other distances that weren’t bridged
With time her poems got better and better
And his songs too got better and better

But both couldnt reach each other’s lives
Had they, then their lives Would’ve resembled a beautiful poem]

Why dint his love for Amrita did not translate itself into a relationship, companionship? What is the distance, pointed by Imroz, that Sahir couldnt cover? There cannot be one answer to this.

getimage

In Sahir’s biography by Akshay Manwani we get to see quite a few possible reasons. Kaifi Azmi points at the inferiority complex that Sahir suffered with because of his not-so-pleasant looks. Javed Akhtar points at the, “strange, unhealthy, even complicated,” relationship Sahir shared with his mother which Kushwant Singh bluntly and straightly calls, “mother-fixation” and pins the term “Oedipus complex,” which according to him made Sahir, “incapable of consummating the few love affairs he had in the short life of 59 years.” Akshay Manwani draws our attention the poem Hiraas [Fear] by Sahir to point at his strong anxiety of rejection. This could have stemmed from his average looks which Kaifi sahab points at. But then Imroz, in Akshay Manwani’s book, speaks of the distressed upbringing and troubled childhood which could have crippled him.

“Hardships and distress at an impressionable age”, as Dilip Chitre says speaking of Namdeo Dhasal, “is not an easy burden to carry and to shed it after years of conditioning requires superhuman strength of spirit.” What complicates it further are the issues that keep entangling with the already existing ones.

Caught in all this Sahir, the one who gave all of us our anthems of love and pain of love, was crippled emotionally and cursed by some sort of inability to love, which cost not just him but also his mother who wanted to see him happy in a relationship and obviously Amrita Pritam and also to an extent also cost Sudha Malhotra who is said to have had a fling with Sahir but denies it.

Probably Sahir knew his inability to love. Hence when Amrita goes with Imroz he accepts it and lets her go gracefully. In this book by Raynuka we also come across Pritam who is also a sensitive human but his marriage with Amrita was not warm. But when she moves in with Imroz lets her gracefully. Probably even Pritam, like Sahir, was incapable of love. But both seem to have accepted it gracefully.

***

Imroz in his conversation with Raynuka says, “Sahir would have never married.” Listening to this Raynuka says, “Possibly Imroz understood Sahir better than Amrita.” Possibly. It is easy to understand why Amrita also chooses Imroz over Sahir eventually when one puts Sahir and Imroz side by side.

In a self portrait poem by Imroz the first line reads, “main ek lok-geet.” What a desire. To become a folk song. Now see this alongside Sahir’s demand for lyricist’s name on film posters and to be announced in radio along with the name of the singers. Imroz never signed his paintings. Sahir had ego battles with Lata Mangeshkar which made him take an oath that he will not write for her voice till he earns a penny more than her per song. Sahir’s ego battle with S.D. Burman saying a lyricist is more important for a song and not the music composer ending up in both agreeing to not work with each other ever, is also quite famous.

While Sahir was all for authorship and its supremacy Imroz desires to be a folksong where there is no authorship. Folk is unself conscious. Sahir was a shayar while Imroz was lok-geet. One wrote about love and the other lived love. While one was a, “chalta phirtaa taaj mahal” the other sees the structure of Taj Mahal, in a poem of the same title, as a pompous show of power.

***

imroz 2[1]

In the initial pages of this book by Raynuka we hear Imroz speaking of some mundane things. Imroz speaks of him and Amrita doing household things together. Him bringing groceries, she cooking, him getting her cigarettes being a nonsmoker, him preparing her cups of tea at ungodly hours in the night. Him picking up her kids from the school in the afternoon for lunch while she cooked.

Speaking of Sahir to Akshay Manwani Imroz says, “Its just that a creative woman was drawn towards another very talented man.” The true test of any relationship is the dailiness. Imroz becomes a partner in the dailiness of Amrita’s life. There mundane is the spiritual.

Amrita and Imroz, at their house, had different rooms for themselves. Under the same roof they inside the same house yet in different rooms. One cannot help but recollect the words of Khalil Gibran: “… Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love… Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music…”

Imroz in his conversation with Raynuka tells her about an incident with Amrita where Amrita is still dodging the idea of living with Imroz who was seven years younger to him and tells him, “duniya dekh aao aur phir sochtey hain.” Imroz immediately gets up and goes around Amrita seven times. Imroz also speaks about his lack of faith in astrology, his feelings about the futility of religion and worshiping. But he does a kundali of Amrita asking her to replace the nine gruha with some other nine words. This new kundali of Amrita becomes a painting in itself. His love for Amrita becomes no less to a faith in itself and a worship in itself. At one point he says, “I do not live in a way that is unsatisfactory to the God. I never disappoint the God.” But who is the God here, becomes the question. Was it Amrita? Probably.

Imroz speaking generally about history to Raynuka asks how those who looted can be called as baadshaah? and asks further if they won the land through means of love and peace? Imroz was named by his family as Indrajit [One who triumphed over lord Indra] and was rechristened as Imroz by Amrita. His aversion for triumph in any means other than love and peace is also reflected in him foregoing his name which indicates a kind of triumph. He becomes Imroz which means ‘today’ i.e. present continuous. Tomorrow is a dream, yesterday is a memory but today is a truth. Today was a truth even yesterday and will be a truth even tomorrow. In that sense it is immortal through amrutha!!!

***

What one senses from the first page till the last page is the subtle yet omnipresent love of Raynuka for Imroz. From the way she describes to the kind of questions she poses to Imroz and the way in which she does one can infer her love for him in the most non-worldly way. Looking through her eyes it is impossible to not love Imroz.

images (3)There is some kind of femininity in Imroz. He is fragile. He is soft. There is a very lovable child like innocence in him. As the great filmmaker Tarkovsky says, “When a tree is growing it is tender and pliant. But when it is dry and hard, it dies. Hardness and strength are death’s companions. Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being.” The tenderness of Imroz is like a just born child unlike the body hardened at the time of death. There is a beautiful mix of the feminine and masculine in Imroz which makes him beautiful, lovable and natural.

The paintings of Radha and Krishna are usually in blue [Krishna] and slightly golden [Radha] and when they both come close, in paintings, at the point where their cheeks meet the shade is green. Green is the colour of nature. The place where the masculine and feminine meet that is closest to the nature and that is natural.

So inevitably there is a beautiful attraction that Raynuka feels towards Imroz naturally and this love as said earlier is subtle and omnipresent throughout the book. With the love stories of Sahir, Amrita and Imroz we also get to see soft and silent love story of the author Raynuka. Hence it appears like Amrita and memory of Amrita is just a pretext to meet Imroz be with him and converse with him. One can also not help but wonder if there is a secret desire of the author to become Amrita, not as the poet but as the one who has won the love of Imroz.

***

When Amrita wrote the name of Sahir on Imroz’s back he says, “For once I thought my name was Sahir.” Once at the Asian Writer’s Conference Sahir and Amrita had exchanged their name badges. Sahir became Amrita and Amrita became Sahir. In this beautiful conversation between Imroz and Raynuka we wonder if the author is longing to be Amrita.

In all these becoming of the other and foregoing off the self is beautiful love story in itself. There are, they say, two kinds of Ishq i.e. Ishq Haqeeki and Ishq Majaazi. The earlier one is love for/ of God or divinely and the latter refers to the love for God’s creatures. One school of Sufism believes that the latter can grow into the earlier like a branch can become a tree in/ by itself. The earlier is where the lover and the loved become one. The latter is slightly self indulgent.

In this book where we see the love of four individuals we see both these kinds of love and various shades of love.

***

The book also gives some sociological glimpses: the popularity of cinema of those days, the usage of lingua-franca Urdu by commoners, the Hindu-Muslim divide [separate glasses for Hindu and Muslims in Amrita’s house], the houses allotted to refugees in Delhi.

Speaking of the poem main tenu phir milaangi [I will meet you again] which has been popularized, by media, as the poems Amrita wrote for Imroz on her death bed Imroz says it isnt a poem she wrote on her death bed as many believe but some time long before and got popular only after her death. This punctures the mythic stature of their love story as we have constructed. This makes us wonder if their entire love story is some myth we have created and romanticized? Or probably for us lesser mortals it is mythic and for the unusual and extraordinary like Imroz it is just mundane and matter-of-fact.

***

main1a

Post script: When the author, in one of the pages, says its only the fortunate will ever meet and have an Imroz the man himself dismisses of anything called as luck destiny and fortune. Why wouldnt he believe so? This is how one of his poems read:

Zindagi Tasweer Bhi Hai
Aur Taqdeer Bhi..

Man Chaahey Rangon Sey Ban Jaaye Toh Tasweer
Anchaahey Rangon Sey Baney Toh Takdeer…

Life is a reflection
And also destiny

If colored in accordance
With your dreams, a reflection
And if not in accordance with
Your dreams, destiny.

Imroz was fortunate to have the colours of his life in accordance with his dreams.

Amrita had written, ‘arey kismat ko koi aawaaz do, kareeb sey guzarti jaa rahi hai.” [Please call and stop fortune which is passing by so close]. Some times fortune favours some…

Sahir in his original poem Kabhi Kabhi which he later altered for the film writes, “Yeh teergi jo mere zeest ka muqaddar hai, teri nazar ki shuaaon mein kho bhi sakti thi…” [This darkness written on my life’s fate, could have been erased by the light of your eyes…” and in a later line says, “Magar yeh ho na saka…” [But this could not happen] Sahir, may be, was weak not to fight against destiny or fate but was certainly quite weak when it came to romantic relationships and could not open the doors for his good luck even when it knocked on his door. He wrote:

tadbeer se bighadi hui taqdeer banaa lein,
apne pe bharosa hai toh ek daaon lagaa le
,”

[Through action mend your rotten luck,
if you believe in yourself play the odds this once]

But he couldn’t mend his rotten luck through his actions. Probably he, being entangled way too much within himself, did not believe in himself enough when it came to romantic relationships.

[Special thanks to Shireen Azam]

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