ETERNAL GLORY OF INDIAN CINEMA: THE CLASSICAL SONGS OF OLD HINDI AND GUJARATI FILMS

DEDICATED TO MY MA:

India has seen the hay day of traditional music in some of the most erudite compositions by legendary music directors of the Hindi and Gujarati films of the yester years. I feel, almost everyone who has a flair for Indian classical music would somewhat agree that the films made earlier (in the period known as the Golden era of Indian cinema) displayed an extraordinary unbreakable tie with classical raga based music incorporated by the film makers almost regularly in most of their films. The remarkable musicians like C. Ramchandra, S.N. Tripathi, Khemchand Prakash, Kundanlal Saigal, Anil Biswas, Naushad, Shanker Jaikishan, Jaidev, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Kalyanji Anandji, Madan Mohan et al made Hindi cinema indelible by giving place to the classical Indian music in the Hindi films. The songs like Diya jalaao jagmag jagmag (Tansen 1943), Do Naina Matware tihare(Meri Behen 1944), jab dil hi toot gaya (Shahjehan 1946), Ayega aanewala (Mahal 1949), Kare Kare Badra (Bhabhi 1957) Are Ja re hat Natkhat (Navrang 1959), Vande Matram (Anand Math 1952), Manmohana Bade Jhoote (Seema 1955) , Nain So Nain Nahi Milao (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje 1955), Madhuban mein Radhika Nache re (Kohinoor 1960) Kabhi Tanhaiyon Mein Hamari yaad aayegi (Hamari Yaad Ayegi 1961)O pawan Veg se udne wale ghode (Jai Chittod 1961), Jyoti Kalash Chalke (Bhabhi ki Chudiyan 1961) Allah Tero Naam (Hum Dono 1961), Tum Gagan Ke Chandrama Ho (Sati Savitri 1964), Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya (Mughale Azam 1960), O duniya Ke Rakhwale (Baiju Bawra 1952), tu Ganga Ki mauj main jamuna ka dhara (Baiju Bawra 1952), pucho na kaise maine rain bitayi,(Meri surat teri aankhen 19 63)… Radhike Tune Bansari Churai(Beti Bete 1964) Tora Man Darpan Kehlaye(Kajal 1965), gori tori Paijaniya (Mehbooba 1976), and many more are an ineffaceable part of the music library of those that still acknowledge the worth of the traditional Indian music. Besides, the Hindi films, the Gujarati films have also given us exceptionally talent musicians that have made some of the old Gujarati movies immortal through their immaculate compositions based on classical Indian music. The veterans Dilip Dholakia, Avinash Vyas, Ajit Merchant or the respected duo Mahesh Naresh for instance have given us perennial classics of Indian cinema through songs like Garaj Garaj Barso Jaldhar (Tana riri 1975 Mahesh Naresh) Tari Aankh no afini (Deevadandi 1950 Ajit Merchant), SajanMari Pritadi Sadiyo Purani (Jigar Ami, 1970 Mahesh Naresh), Dhuni Re Dhakavi Beli ame tara Naam ni (jesal Toral 1971 Avinash Vyas etc.,) which are still regarded as creations par excellence. It may not be fair to categorically dismiss the contemporary music of today’s Indian cinema heavily influenced by the modern Western trends by comparing it with such historic work. However, most of us may assent to the fact that classical raga based songs gave an unparalleled dignity to the cinema of the yester years which is often absent as we see the movies today. Moreover, the choice of Indian classical music by their makers reveals their interest in being rooted in their native tradition in a profession that constantly demands accompanying the need for change. This effort of retaining the cultural identity in films through classical music makes some of the songs of those times true representatives of the “primeval” Indian tradition which regards art as a sacred practice or invocation to divine and is far from merely being a means to regale an audience. In fact, this elevated conception of art as worship has its origin in The Natyasastra, an important treatise of Indian artistic tradition that postulates the unique theory of dramatic art as the fifth Veda presenting theater synonymous to the ritual of Yajna or the fire sacrifice. Indian classical music is defined at length in this treatise which uplifts the raga based endeavors in the field of Indian music as paradigms of the spiritual Indian art. Art as a holy practice described in the Natyaveda implicitly propagates that bhakti or devotion is the core of the country’s artistic tradition; the spirit that is witnessed in most of our classical songs like bhajans composed by our renowned Indian saints like Meerabai, Tulsidas, Raidas, Narsih Mehta et al. These hymns for ordinary mortals are merely songs but for the connoisseurs that construe their significance, these evince the devotee’s faith in the deity which brings extraordinary results beyond the material understanding. The devotional music of India also witnessed in its religious folk musical tradition is in fact, the most veritable proof of the country’s unbending belief in the inherent sacred power of its musical tradition which transforms a mortal into a divine. It overthrows skepticism and restores human belief in god. Some of the most inimitable songs of the Indian films illustrate this miraculous Indian music rooted in the spirit of devotion which upholds classical Indian music as the redeeming divine force that makes the impossible possible. Let us revisit some of the valuable classics of the Hindi and Gujarati films which categorically ascertain that Indian classical music is the magical elixir which cures all illness and restores life. It is the wondrous potion that performs unimaginable deeds beyond human comprehension as it is not merely a means of attaining name, fame and money for the artists but is a holy practice for them that paves way for the attainment of divine bliss. A glance at some of these timeless songs facilitates the understanding of the holiness perennially latent in “traditional Indian music”.

The Veteran singer Tansen is suffering extreme agony after having sung Deepak Raga for saving the life of a princess in a moribund state. Deepak Raga ignited numerous diyas-lamps indicating the resurrection of the princess’ life but it resulted into a ceaseless incineration in the classical singer’s body which has brought him near his death end. Only an accomplished singer who is able to bring rain by singing Megha Malhar can save the legendary singer’s life. Tana riri, two sisters from a remote village in Gujarat are popular on account of their finesse in Indian classical singing. Their father happens to invite Tansen to bless his daughters after hearing their recital. The venerable singer agrees to come as for him, nothing else matters in front of the privilege of appreciating great talent in music; not even his discomfort on account of his ill health. The performance space is all-set. Tana and Riri sit with their awesome instrument Tanpura surrounded by hoards of villagers who are here to watch the show and get regaled. Tansen the great himself arrives in hope to soothe his pain momentarily by listening to some good music. A Goddess’ statue adorns the show representing the initiation of devotional art and to everybody’s pleasant surprise; the two sisters choose to sing Megha Malhar; the song Garaj Garaj Barso Jaldhar. The awe inspiring recital by these girls manages to accomplish an awe-inspiring task i.e. to bring thunderous rain which relieves Tansen from his pathos. The much acclaimed song is the part of the Gujarati film Tana riri (Gujarati Movie Tanariri (1975) – Kanti-Ashok – Music : Mahesh-Naresh )

Sant Haridasji, the devotee of Lord Krishna is on the verge of his death end. He is counting the number of hours he would probably survive. All his disciples are in a despondent state wherein no medicine or cure seems to have a promising effect on the elderly saint. At this moment of extreme distress comes a light of hope as everyone hear’s Baiju, (popular as Bawra or insane) invoke his Guru Haridas in the most poignant words “Mana Tadapata Hari Darshan Ko Aaj”. This song from the film Baiju Bawra enjoys a place of pride in the Hindi film industry and remains unconquered as singer Mohammad Rafi’s Best playback which no song by any other singer ever has been able to or probably will replace. Mana Tadapat belongs to the category of Bhajans or hymns sung in the praise of the almighty wherein the devotee urges his God to appear in front of him. Listening to Baiju’s devotional imploration, with everyone’s astonishment, Sant Haridas is able to get on to his feet and descend down the stairs to have darshan of his deity Lord Krishna. It seems Baiju’s voice brings energy to the Guru’s fading body, it perhaps stimulates his will to live and we see the power of music in restoring life proving to us that true art can do wonders.

Rani Rupmati is one of the most popular singers in Malva. Samrat Tansen, the glorious singer happens to hear about the prestige of this talented artist and decides to test the sincerity in her art. He disguises himself and reaches Malva only to challenge this versatile singer. Tansen puts Rupmati to an arduous challenge but in an implicit manner. Introducing himself as a singer in front of the royal court, he happens to sing the most melodious song which forces a honeybee to pop out of the Lotus flower and fly into the garden. Everyone present there are motivated to appreciate the marvelous knack of the artist but for Rani Rupmati. Instead of getting pleased, the Queen becomes sad and expresses her pathos by singing a song which interprets the act of sending the honeybee away from the flower as a mark of separation of the lovers and makes sure the honeybee returns to the flower listening to her musical call. Everyone who is the witness of this spectacular event including Tansen is pleased with the dexterity of this artist and utter panegyrics in her praise. The song Udja Bhawar Maya Kamal from the film Rani Rupmati is remembered by many music lovers without a tinge of exaggeration as one of the most beautiful compositions of the Indian film industry. The competition depicted between Tansen and Rani Rupmati is not meant to point a better artist of the two. Instead it diminishes the conception of the Good, the Better and the Best in art and promotes humility for those that wish to be disciples of the artistic tradition. Similar message is promulgated in the film Baiju Bawra’s inspiring song Aj Gawat Mana Mero Jhumke Teri Tan Bhagwan. Baiju beats Tansen in the competition of melting a stone through their musical art. Nevertheless, Tansen accepts this defeat graciously as he does in front of Rani Rupmati and adorns the musical talent baiju in the most praiseworthy manner. For lovers of Indian classical music, this song is a paradigm of unmatched classic which occupies a place of prestige in the Indian film industry.

Some of these the most renowned songs of the Indian film industry that have been adopted by many a classical singers far and wide stand unconquered as classics even today after so many years since their inception. The songs are exemplary of the most unparalleled precision that is required to execute Indian classical raga based singing; far from any amateur’s or untrained artist’s reach. It cannot be contested that these songs are very difficult for any ordinary singer to sing and one cannot even just hum these compositions momentarily without making serious errors while trying the same. This gives us a clear idea of the expertise that is required for any maker in comprehending the essence of the classical Indian ragas before giving it a form of a film song. Nonetheless, these musical compositions are not just a presentation of the scholarship inherent in the classical raga based songs. It engenders the realization in us that any form of art if practiced selflessly with utter dedication can be life-saving. Moreover, Tana Riri and Baiju Bawra’s recitals are not just exemplary of the healing spirit of music. These songs are also an evidence of the fact that a form of art possesses that intrinsic ability to bring about unbelievable miracles as we see in Aj Gavat Man Mero Jhoomake and Udja Bhanwar Maya kamal as well. All these awe-inspiring occurrences demonstrated in these songs indicate that art brings desired results only when a human being surrenders one’s ego completely. Self-effacement on the part of the artist is the sole means that encourages the positive feelings of paropakara or altruism which benefits the entire humanity. The song Garaj garaj barso, clearly puts the feelings of selflessness to the forefront when tana riri sing, “paradukh ma thaine dukhiyara laiye khoda ma angara(we participate in others’ sorrow and audaciously invite their problems in our life)…which encourages the philanthropic ideal of compassion and when Baiju invokes hari or the lord by singing Mana tadapat hari darshan and gradually calls his guru by musically uttering, “Bina guru gyan kahan se pao”(where and how will I get knowledge without a preceptor), it bears the connotation of complete submission in front of art, and consecutively the Guru that represents that art. It is this sort of total resignation that brings the blessings of the divine and tansen is cured of his illness as tana riri’s song brings rain and swami Haridas is restored to life from his moribund state with Baiju’s musical incantation. Similarly, when Rani Rupmati calls the honeybee back to the flower, she does not prove herself to be a greater artist than Tansen who is capable of provoking a creature to escape out of the flower. It is her complete abnegation of her worldly ego in front of the art that in turn ascertains her greatness as an artist. When she musically calls the insect back in the flower, her canorous chant bears not a learned artist’s flamboyant display of artistic knowledge but instead a lover’s pathos that urges its lover to return to her in spite of the fact that it requires him to be in a state of lifetime imprisonment. Thus, instead of enjoying his freedom, the honeybee chooses to be with the one and only love that beckons him earnestly. However, it is not that the song only elevates the emotion of true love. It has a profound philosophical implication which makes it perpetually relevant to the human world. In a larger context, the lyrics of the song hint that Tansen’s musical address to the bee is the means by which an artist judiciously utilizes his art for achieving a higher aim to illumine the people regarding the need to liberate themselves from the false enticements of the material world and reach a state of liberation – Moksha or beatitude which is the state of supreme bliss. The saints in the Hindu tradition often speak at length about the irrelevance of this Jagata or the world terming it as Mithya or lie and Brahman or the ultimate creator of the universe (god) as the only truth or Satya that pervades in the universe. The key to the attainment of freedom from the mundane cycle of life and death in the Hindu spiritual terrain is believed to be the ultimate union of the human soul with the supreme soul termed as salvation or Moksha which emancipates humans from the incarceration of the material world. The same connotation seems to be presented in the song udja bhanwar maya kamal when Tansen musically explains the honeybee regarding the futility of his clinging to the lotus flower being lured by its Maya(Woh tera Janjal hai) and therefore, the creature gradually manages to free itself from the material bondage which symbolizes human enlightenment regarding the constantly fleeting life and the uselessness of craving for hedonistic pleasures. Despite such high sounding aim intrinsic in singer Tansen’s call, the honey bee chooses to answer Rani Rupmati’s request as she does not challenge the inspiring message of the artist in her musical assertions to the honeybee. Instead, when she calls the creature back, she explains to him the extreme agony the loved ones face when the ones they love go away from them forever. Viraha vyatha or the pain of losing a lover may be a very worldly sentiment far from the immensely exalted philosophical targets of abnegating material desires and aspiring towards a higher goal but the very emotion is so strong that it has the power of overtaking any other worldly phenomenon. This spirit however is far removed from materialism in spite of apparently being an adherence to the worldly emotion of amorous love. It is the escalation towards the transcendental essence of love through the means of an earthly emotional bond. When Mirabai called Krishna her husband, it clearly conveyed the inspiring message of reaching the abode of the spiritual through using worldly emotion as a medium to establish connection between heaven and earth which is possibly the way in which the ordinary mortals can experience the immortal blend of Jiva and Shiva. Her musical verses represent the art which bestows the redeeming pleasure of the “sat chit ananda”. The same message is imbibed in all these classical songs of Indian cinema which promulgate the inherent sacredness in raga based Indian music that becomes the means through which humans can attain divine bliss. Therefore, I feel These compositions are indisputably “The Eternal Glory of Indian Cinema”.

Dr. Payal Trivedi

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