Oct 092016

Bhimsen Joshi

A lovely little documentary (about an hour), on Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, by Gulzar.

One lovely bit, where Panditji says, just call me Bhimsen. Mujhe Pandit se nafrat hai, aaj koi bhi pandit ban jaata hai. He is referring to the tradition, where a master singer /musician earned the title Panditji (if Hindu) or Ustad (if Muslims). That tradition had been diluted, when new comers are given the title almost after the first concert.

Another lovely moment in the documentary, refers to his jugalbandi with Manna De, in ketaki gulab juhi. Both men, shot at different times and spaces, recollect. And, Gulzar puts together a great edit (including them singing this together in differnet spaces). Bhimsen Joshi ends the piece by saying — Manna de ne mujhe hara diya (Manna De defeated me).

Favorite ragas: Todi (in the morning) , Multani in the afternoon. Yaman /Darbari/Puriya at night. No wonder these are my favourites too, i ended up hearing him sing his best ragas, at his best – all through the time i have been listening to music.

And, the origins of the Kirana Gharana – near Gurgaon, the village where Karna settled . It denotes purpose, do or die, he says. and, it shows in his journey. His favourite students – lots of names, he says with a smile, but only three who can sing. Featured is a little clip with him singing Todi – langarka kariya jin maaro – with a student (a young Anand Bhate). Watch out for him, he says. And, Anand Bhate is one of my favorite new singers. He sang extensively for the Marathi Film Balgandharva 

And, my favorite piece – when do you figure which song you will perform? when i get the tanpura in my hand.

If you have an hour to spare, watch it.


For those interested, My Bhimsen Joshi playlist on youtube.

Jun 062016

Most mass media practitioners will tell you that classical music is elitist. that it is mean to be enjoyed in rarified atmospheres, with others in their social class. There is a general perception that mass audiences will not enjoy classical music. And, that, ‘mass’ is defined as lower socio economic classes.

54f3d7137fa52ef85622ab2adcead570Like most mass audience assumptions, this is untrue. As children, even as young adults, when we went for concerts – usually open air concerts in various grounds across Mumbai, what you would see is a sprinkling of people across classes – auto rickshawallahs to CEO’s and promoters – sitting next to each other, and just becoming part of the music.

Consistent litigation, and the banning of open air, all night concerts – i have been to one, at shivaji park,  where it began with a puriya (at 7 pm, and ended with an Aahir Bhairav at dawn), – and consistent middle class intolerance with other people enjoying themselves; as well as judicial intervention has led to the mass dissemination of classical, and mass participation, declining. Also, it has led to a decline in innovative solutions for noise pollution.  There are technical ways of limiting sound within a given perimeter. Ban is so bloody binary. solutions are so much more interesting.

But, i digress. One of the reasons why classical is considered elitist, is because we – mass media professionals – like stereotyping our audiences. If you are 16-18 you must be a cool chaser; if you are young, you must want edgy and rude; if you are a guy you must want to watch other guys talk about sex; if you are a girl, you must talk about men, kids and make up. Which tells you why there is such a rate of churn on shows, and why so many films flop. Formula work, till a point that they don’t work. And, in today’s market, most tried and tested formulae are failing.

Unfortunately, audiences are people And, people are complex. And, in a digital world, these assumptions are not just wrong, but to work with them, is suicidal stupidity 🙂

Just as a case in point, here is a video from America’s got talent. Hear the singer (from the second minute) and more importantly, watch the audience. And, note your own reactions to the song. And, tell me, you won’t mind sampling, watching or listening to stuff like this

Laura Bretan sings.

Btw – this is Pavarotti with Nessun Dorma –

i don’t understand a word of what he says, but the music my soul understands.


Oct 172015

Bhimsen Joshi having a lot of fun, signing this very famous composition in Raga Yaman.

It is a drut bandish – drut (fast tempo), and bandish (literally a composition that is relatively fixed).  I have, in my collection somewhere, the same bandish sung by a much younger Bhimsen Joshi – that performance was seductive. The song is about a woman in the throes of longing for her piya ( lover or beloved  ) . Bhimsen Joshi with his deep baritone voice singing a part that is about the pangs of longing felt by a woman, is quite outstanding.

This is a version by Lata Mangeshkar

And, this is a very different variation of the same bandish – Abida Parveen



Oct 242013

The Last of the Great Playback singers of Indian Cinema has passed on today, marking the end of a glorious era of Film Music. Manna De is no more. His music however, lives on.  Compared to Mohd. Rafi or Kishore Kumar – he didn’t sing as much for Hindi films, but the songs that he sang left a mark.

It’s been a long time since i put together a compilation of songs, for quite sometime my music consumption has been predominantly Hindustani Classical Music.But, Manna De along with Mohd. Rafi gave me my first ever taste of the classical, something that has been with me for life.

Manna De, more than any other Hindi singer – was completely at ease with classical music. A voice like honey, he was comfortable with all sorts of songs – the philosophical (Tu Pyaar ka Saagar Hai) l, the romantic (Yeh raat bhigi bhigi) , the teasing (dil ki umange hai Jawan) , the classical (Ketaki Gulab Juhi), the tragic (sur Na saje)  .

Here in no order of preference, are some of my favourite songs sung by Manna De. if you have your favourites, please post them.

Yeh Raat Bhigi Bhigi – Mukesh is said to be the voice of Raj Kapoor, but i personally preferred the duets that Manna De sang for him with Lata. Be it this, or Pyaar huva or Aaja Sanam …. Shankar Jaikishen composed the music, and the film is Chori Chori . The guitar as the prelude is possibly one of the most distinctive pieces of Hindi film music. i need to hear two chords to identify the song. Enjoy Raj Kapoor & Nargis in this brilliant composition.

Na to Karvan Ki Talaash Hai – My favourte Qawalli from Hindi Films. Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle, Mohd. Rafi and others. The song runs for almost 10 minutes. Manna De opens the classic piece and Rafi ends it… both are at their best in this song. Roshan Sahab (the father of Rakesh & grand father of Hrithik) composes a masterpiece, lyrics are by Shailendra –

Tu Pyaar ka Saagar Hai – I used to have this huge crush on Balraj Sahani when i was a kid. in those glorious days of watching Chitrahaar and Hindi films on Doordarshan. I could never understand his films in those days – but i simply thought he looked yummmm 🙂 i still do. and of all his songs, this one was played the most frequently. Soul stirring stuff. Balraj Sahani & Nutan in the film Seema. Music by Shankar Jaikishen.

 Kaun Aaya mere Dil ke Dwaare – I cannot remember watching this film, though i must i have. i devoured everything on Doordarshan whether it was Krishi Darshan or Santakukdi or Kilbil … Anoop Kumar (Kishore Kumar’s brother) and Anita Guha in Dekh Kabira Roya. Music by Madan Mohan

Dil Ki Girah Khol Do – the film “Raat aur Din”. The subject multiple personality disorder. The year 1967. And a commercial success. Nargis in her last leading role. Fabulous film. Fabulous music. Watch it also for a very young Feroze Khan. Music Shankar Jaikishen

Ja Tose Nahin Bolu Kanhaya – Raga Hamsadhwani. Lata Mangeshkar & Manna De. The movie is Parivaar and the music director is Salil Choudhary .

Hoke Majboor Mujhe – The film Haqeeqat. Possibly the finest war film ever made in India. From the point of view of the men who serve. Directed by Chetan Anand it starred Balraj Sahni (him again), Dharmendra and a host of others it is set around the 1962 war – which no one talks about. The song ‘kar chale ham fida jaan aur tan saathiyo’ by Rafi is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. But, this song, more philosophical is equally good. Check out Manna De in this

Mausam Beeta Jaye – The film “Do Bhiga Zamin”, the director Bimal Roy. Music Salil Choudhary. Actor Balraj Sahni and the voice Manna De. I cry everytime is see this film – nothing has changed for the farmer. When we decided to make our film “Jhing Chik Jhing” i went and rewatched this film — the famers’ lot is the same. there is a line in Jhing Chik Jhing where Bharat Jadhav says ‘we are farmers, we grow food but our children go hungry; we grow cotton and our kids wear torn clothes’. This is not the post to call for agricultral reform or greater support to farmers, but consider it said :(.

By the way, despite the subject this was not an art film. it was a commercially viable film .

Ketaki Gulab Juhi – a duet with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The song is a competition between the two singers, and in typical Hindi Film ishtyle … Pandit Bhimsen Joshi loses. If your mind can overcome this fact… listen to the song…

Zindagi kaisi yeh Paheli – Manna De sings for Rajesh Khanna – a man with a medical death sentance. the music by Salil Da. The film Anand. Lyrics by Yogesh.

Laga Chunri Mein Daag – Music by Roshan (grandfather to Hrithik ). The film is Dil Hi to Hai starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan

O Meri Zohra Zabeen – the Film is Waqt – the first of the last and found sagas …. The song is picturised on Balraj Sahni (be still my fluttering heart),the music is by Ravi and lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi.

Mud Mud ke Na Dekh Mud Mud Ke – Asha and Manna De in this fabulous number from Shree 420. Picturised on Nadira & Raj Kapoor. The music is by Shankar Jaikishen and lyrics by Shailendra. The film is about a young idealist Raj Kapoor, who is seduced by wealth, fame and fortune – represented by Maya (nadira) … and brought back to the straight and narrow (not to mention poverty) by Vidya. The song marks the turning point in the film when Raj Kapoor goes over to the evil side….

Pucho na Kaise Man – The film was hackneyed but the music was great. Staring Ashok Kumar in a triple role , the film is Meri Surat Teri Aankhen. Music by S.D.Burman

Sur Na Saje Kya Gaaon Mein – the film Basant Bahar. music by Shankar Jaikishen – who hitherto had been considered to be ‘pop’ music composers without a handle on classical – and how they proved the world wrong. Starring Bharat Bhushan who possibly had some of the best classical songs featured on him. The other great song in this film is Ketki Gulab Juhi sung by Manna De and Bhimsen Joshi !

Phir Kahi Koi Phul Khila – the film is Anubhav – a complicated tangle of marital relationships. It has a wonderful sound track. Other classics in this film include the brilliant number by Geeta Dutt – Mujhe jaan na Kahon, meri Jaan. The film stars Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja as the newly married couple with more than than their share of problems.

And, today when it seems that the heavens are spring cleaning (atleast in Mumbai) one of the most famous duets sung by Manna De and Lata Mangeshkar … his ease with both high and low notes, and the sheer beauty of his voice.

Jul 012012

There was something about the way Rajesh Khanna smiled that made your heart lurch. It wasn’t a perfect smile by any stretch of imagination. It was slightly crooked. But there was a twinkle in the eye that went with the smile – a slight tilt of the head and  a swagger. It is hardly surprising that women of all ages fell for him like a ton of bricks. He was possibly the first Star to get mobbed and police would be deployed to keep the women away from him. In his hey day there was no other actor or star who could come close to his popularity . He was the original Superstar of India.


Rajesh Khanna (born Jatin Khanna) was the product of a talent hunt run by Filmfare and United Producers, in 1965. In a world without reality television or indeed 24 hour television – it is difficult to believe how a short, pimply, slightly podgy person, with really small eyes and poor skin won a talent hunt. But, obviously the panellists saw something that modern television does not. That something was Star Quality. The X factor that we all talk about but can never define. It is strange that none of the superstars produced by India have ever been the ‘gora, chikna’ varieties that television repeatedly throws up.


Rajesh Khanna’s first big – though big is an understatement – hit was Aaradhna, that set up the hit pairing of him and Sharmila Tagore. The film has Rajesh Khanna in a double role. Two songs in that film helped build the myth of Rajesh Khanna – super Romantic hero. The first was the wet song. The smouldering eyes of Rajesh Khanna following a very wet, blanket clad Sharmila in “roop tera mastana, pyaar mera deewana, bhool koyi humsena hojaye’. And the second is “Mere Sapnon ki Rani Kab Aaye gi tu” – the carefree lover boy song for that generation. Rajesh Khanna and Sharmilla Tagore was a hit jodi starring in some fabulous films- tragedies in which the loving couple never gets together. Amar Prem a film in which e he plays a dissolute landowner in Calcuttaand she a courtesan, and their unfulfilled love story. Songs such as Chingari Koi Bhadke, and Kuch toh Log Kahenge add to the pain of two good people (despite her profession and his habits) who will never see happiness in their lives. The same is the case in Safar – a story of sacrifice and tears and unconsummated love.

If the pairing between Sharmila and Rajesh Khanna was riddled with angst and guilt , the pairing between Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz was zany and fun. Who can forge the scene where like Jack and Jill they come tumbling down the hill under the influence of bhang in the film “aap ki kasam” – Jai Jai Shiv Shankar encapsulates the zing of the pairing. While the film is a tragedy (his possessiveness drives her away), their pairing was not. Films such as Apna Desh – remember Rajesh Khanna in that ghastly red jacket and peach trousers and Mumtaz in a blonde wig singing Duniya Mein Logon Ko Dhoka Kabhi Ho jaata hai – Sachcha Jhoota and Roti brought audiences in droves to the theatres.


While Rajesh Khanna played a great romantic hero, wooing his heroine with a light tough, he played the heart broken hero with more panache. There was something terribly vulnerable about him as the man who is pining for love. It is hardly surprising that his fanclub was predominantly women. They probably wanted to hug away all his sorrows. In films like Kati Patang , Safar, Aap ki Kasam or even Anand – his pain at rejection is palpable. Songs like Zindagi ke Safar mein bichad jayege (aap ki kasam),  Jeevan se Bhaari in Aankho mein, Zindagi ka Safar hai yeh kaisa safar (both in Safar)  – all added to the aura of Rajesh Khanna. The Rajesh Khanna Kishore Kumar combination is as much a part of Indian film legend as was the Raj Kapoor Mukesh or the Shammi Kapoor Mohd. Rafi Combination. IF people loved to see him fall in love, they also seemed to love to see him lose in love. And more importantly die before he can tell the one he loves that he loves her. The films in which he doesn’t get together with the heroine are numerous. Movies such as Aap Ki Kasam, Safar, Anand, Khamoshi, Namak Haram, Amar Prem saw the hero lose, women cry buckets in the theatre and box office registers ringing over and over again.

There were accusations of him being a light actor – but films like Safar and Anand– where he plays a cancer patient who knows he is dying – Khamoshi – where he plays a man committed to an asylum because he has had a nervous breakdown because he has lost in love or even Avtaar where he is the unforgiving father to ungrateful children – laid to rest that notion. But, audiences wanted to see him as the romantic hero, when romantic films were going tout of vogue. Audiences moved away from the romantic classics to the angry young man films – that were personified by Amitabh Bachchan. And Rajesh Khanna could not make the transition. Its possibly because audiences could not imagine him smouldering with anger, with passion maybe, with unrequited love maybe – but not with the desire to change society. His persona was very much – my corner of the world rather than I will change the world. And, he stuck to that. No matter how the industry or the fans treated him – he maintained his dignity and his distance and remained the star.


Top 10 films

  1. Aaradhna
  2. Aapki Kasam
  3. Anand
  4. Amar Prem
  5. Apna Desh
  6. Avtaar
  7. Kati Patang
  8. Khamoshi
  9. Namak Haram
  10. Roti