Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

Here's wishing you all good, successful and most importantly, peaceful times in the coming year!

A few lines from Dylan's 'New Morning' from the album of the same name released in 1970.

Can't you hear that rooster crowin'?
Rabbit runnin' down across the road
Underneath the bridge where the water flowed through
So happy just to see you smile
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Discovery on a Cold Evening

Shankar Jaikishen was a duo of prolific and very talented music composers who composed for over 150 Hindi movies. At one point of time, they were the highest paid music directors in the circuit and a regular feature of all Raj Kapoor banner productions.

The small town evening was cold and dull with nothing much to do. Thinking that some good Shankar-Jaikishen melodies might just brighten things up, I pushed the music DVD of Raj Kapoor songs inside the player. Half an hour later, things did brighten up with an interesting discovery and the idea for this post started taking shape in my mind.

Raga Bhairavi belongs to the Bhairavi Thaat. It is a late morning Raga, and traditionally is the last raga performed at an Indian Classical session. Shuddh Bhairavi uses all the 6 full notes in the ascending and descending order with D & E and A & B being flat. Many Hindi film composers have used this evergreen Raga to make many beautiful songs.

Out of the 11 songs that played in that half an hour, 8 were based on Raga Bhairavi.

The 8 Bhairavi laced beautiful songs were:

Awaara Hoon (Mukesh, Awaara, 1951)
Mera Joota Hai Japaani (Mukesh, Shri 420, 1955)
Sab Kucch Seekha Hamne (Mukesh, Anari, 1959)
Ramaiyya Vasta Vaiya (Manna Dey, Shri 420, 1955)
Barsaat Mein Humse Mile Tum (Lata, Barsaat, 1955)
Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye (do)
Hoton Pe Sacchai Rehti Hai (Mukesh, Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960)
Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat (Lata, Aah, 1953)

The duo had a great penchant for the Raga and used it beautifully and differently in all the above songs. Later my father, an expert on the subject of Old Hindi Film music and Indian Classical music informed me that all the songs of the movie Barsaat(1955) are set on variations of Raga Bharavi. Astounding!

Why were the masters so much in love with one particular Raga? We will never be able to get their answer to this question. According to me, perhaps it’s the robustness of the Raga because of the usage of all seven notes. The last song in the DVD was ‘Jeena Yahaan, Marna Yahaan’ sung by Mukesh from the movie Mera Naam Joker (1970). Once again set to Raga Bhairavi!

In a similar manner, the great composer of yesteryears, Roshan (grandfather of Hrithik Roshan) had his muse in Yaman, another beautiful Raga.

Today, barring AR Rehman, no other musician has the sense or inclination to use Raga Bhairavi, in its pure form and beautifully. Try listening to the intense ‘Enge Enathu Kavithai’ sung by Chitra from the movie Kandukondein Kandukondein or the little known ‘Sabak Aisa’ sung by Saadhna Sargam from the movie, Tehzeeb or the popular ‘Jiya Jale na Jale’ sung by Lata from the movie, ‘Dil Se’.

ps: Im' not a fan of Raj Kapoor. Just felt like making that clear.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The 'not so mild' winter - 2

I’m’ back to the big city from a trip to my hometown with a visit to an ancient university thrown in. I shall try to give you taste of that experience in the coming posts. First, I have to present the 2nd edition of the Delhi Winter.

Narendra enthusiastic driving skills saw us entering the gates of Dilli Haat within twenty minutes of leaving Central Delhi, despite the rush hour. Haat is a word in Hindi for a weekly village market and true to the meaning; the place has the charm and feel of a village fair.

Having heard from many about the place, I was expecting it to be a mere marketplace selling articles and goods from the different parts of rural India. And, the first look suggested the same. Two hours later I walked out of the place with a sense of appreciation and a feeling of pride for our country’s rich and superbly diverse culture. The place isn’t a mere marketplace…it’s a showcase of the skills and craft of many small, unknown and unsung artistes and craftsmen from different corners of the country. It’s a nurturing ground for such talents, a great idea and a massive effort. I couldn’t have brought Farhan to a better place and he was almost euphoric. I shared this feeling with him.

Apart from the artifacts from the many parts of India, it has stalls carrying the distinct food from the different states. We chose the authentic filter coffee from the Tamil Nadu stall. The excellent coffee went very well with the rising chill of the evening.

Once again, Farhan picked up a few things for his family while I managed with much needed key rings, made from coconut wood, an EkTaara (a one string musical instrument) and a Damroo (a percussion instrument, supposed to be the favorite of Lord Shiva). The Ektaara player was an obscure talent, playing many popular Hindi tracks on a ONE-STRINGED instrument. The melodies of Mera Joota Hai Japaani, Reshmi Salwaar Kurta Jaalidaar, Ek Do Teen, just kept flowing from one string. It was a stunning performance!

Just near the exit, a puppet show was in full swing and it held us captive for the next 20 minutes. The kids and the puppeteer were the guys having most fun. The themes of a show varied between ‘a snake-charmer unsuccessfully trying to manage a cobra’ and ‘a gallant horse-rider displaying his skills on the horse’. The last time when I saw a puppet show, I was a kid. While watching this one, I became a kid again. Mesmerized and Charmed!

The evening ended with a delicious meal at Punjabi by Nature, a restaurant recommended by an old friend and a Delhi old timer who later joined us at the joint. The Reshami Kebab was of the size of a loaf of bread and we had to use a knife to cut slices of it. It was one of the finest Kebaabs, I’ve ever tasted and we thanked the ‘Delhi friend’ for his excellent recommendation.

The long day and a great meal had made the two of us amply sedate. We said our goodbyes to the ‘Delhi friend’ and headed towards the guesthouse with Narendra. A calm and satisfied look on Farhan’s face with sleep getting ready to take over suggested that he had a good time. I smiled inside my mind and looked outside the window of the moving car.

The picture above is from the puppet show. Can you catch a fleeting glimpse of the cobra and the snake-charmer?

Wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An announced break

I'm taking a 2 week break from this space on the account of a visit to my home-town. My apologies for doing so between a series, but I shall try to post the second edition of Delhi Winter during this period.

From the cold evening of New Delhi railway station, I will be boarding a night-train to reach the land of Buddha's Nirvana in the morning.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The 'not so mild' winter - 1

This post should have appeared a week ago but certain situations and perhaps my ennui towards writing kept it away, somewhere in the pages of my mind. With a big meeting getting postponed one more time, I thought of pulling it out and putting it here.

My friend Farhan Shaffie from the ‘Emerald Isle’ was in India for professional reasons and we caught up with each other in the early winters of the Capital. Those who know Delhi would know that early winters here is not as mild as the one I mentioned in my last post.

Between the many business meetings we managed to steal some time, an office vehicle and Narendra, the enthusiastic driver for Farhan’s ‘Dilli Darshan’(which included Tourist shopping). Actually, the prospect of this venture was quite attractive to me too as ‘Dilli’ had become very faint in my memory. Some 10 years ago, I lived in this city for a while.

Narendra had everything fixed in his mind regarding the structure of this trip and interestingly, his structure tallied with the one in my mind. We set out after putting in some good north Indian food inside our system.

Our first stop was at the ‘seat of power’ and ‘shot of history’ with the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate et al. The whole area with its grand and beautiful architectural achievements of Lutyen has the powers to fill everyone with awe and that’s exactly what it did to us. Farhan’s camera was working overtime.

After a few circles around the big circular shopping arcade called the Connaught Place (popularly known as CeePee) we moved on to the famous tourist – shopping lane in the vicinity. It’s called ‘Janpath’ and is famous for fleecing the tourists. Thankfully, Farhan’s focused shopping agenda and my presence (with ‘Hindi’) saved him from getting fleeced. One walk down the lane and he was done with his shopping with an item each for all the important people back home. I picked up a pack of Darjeeling Tea for a Ceylon tea loving Chaga, another friend from the Isle. Farhan readily agreed to be the carrier.

Apples picked up from a roadside fruit-seller satiated our small evening hunger. An early darkness, typical of north Indian winters was descending on the city. Narendra was driving us to our next destination, Dilli Haat. More on that in the next post.

The picture above is of an X-Mas Greeting postcard sent to London from WAC Hostel, New Delhi in 1944.