Saturday, 10 December 2011


तुम जो मिल गये हो , तो ये लगता है
के जहां मिल गया.
Film: Haste Jakhm ( 1973)
Lyrics : Kaifi Azmi
Music : Madan Mohan
Sang by : Mohd. Rafi & Lata Mangeshkar

Its well nigh impossible that any fan of Rafisaab’s hasn’t listened to this song many , many times over and hasn’t  found himself perplexed over who deserves the lions share of credit for the magic this song creates every time  . Is it the much celebrated singers who are the immortal doyens of their field ? The lyricist who, even at the ever present risk of sounding clichéd and stereotyped, has managed to capture the essence of that most common and popular word “Love”, Or, the Composer who has not only outdone himself by getting out of his forte which really is ‘Ghazal’ and carving out a masterpiece that is a collage, a rainbow of different genres of music ?. Then to round it all off, the way it is picturized leaves you with an experience which is  like a rollercoaster ride that is completely devoid of the  spinning head and the churning insides that are normally associated with it. Quite on the contrary, it sooths you. It drenches you in the incomparable Mumbai rains and makes you feel snug and warm all at once.

While the percussions and the whirlwind orchestration of  40 violins are worthy of  any RD song,  the basic tune holds true to the mellifluous style of Madan Mohan. The way the western and the Indian styles switch back and forth, they feed off each other, then blend into each other and yet maintain their individuality . The tune plays hide and seek in between these two, and yet acts as the thread that keeps all the “Queens Necklace” together as the quintessential Mumbai Taxi roams the Marine Drive , getting pounded by the winds and rains. The flute dances as well as it sings as it addresses both the Western and Indian styles that are interwoven throughout the song. And on this backdrop, Rafisaab caresses the words the way only he could with his voice that is a combination of masculinity and vulnerability .   

Then comes Lataji’s voice, sans any background score, and  plays the showstopper. It comes forth as if floating on a cloud. It haunts, permeates and  pervades the whole song in the matter of a minute and fades away just as inconspicuously as it had arrived. This one minute leaps out at your senses with a whole new dimension, gets you in a trancelike mood and then vanishes, leaving you wanting more. And that’s the moment the 40 piece orchestra chooses to take you on yet another mindbender just in case you had forgotten it was a rollercoaster ride you were on.              

No two stranzas, nor the interludes  are identical , and hence not in keeping with the familiar style of ‘Signature-Stranza-Signature’ which was almost a ritualistically popular way of composing in the 60’s and 70’s. Take a bow Mr. Madan Mohan, for taking the road less traveled and making the journey almost unbearably beautiful for all of us.      

70’s was the period when my generation had just started out, exploring sounds, sights, collecting experiences and generally speaking , “ getting a life” . A big part of our making were the Hindi films and their songs. When you are born and brought up in Mumbai, even a day without filmsongs is impossible to imagine. One is never without music no matter where he is and irrespective of what time of the day or night it is. This song is just one of those countless ones that I have heard countless number of times since those days and have enjoyed them every single time without really bothering to understand what made them work.

So, what made me sit up, pay attention and enjoy this song one more time ? 
Mr. Jorawar Kesariya did . I met him on a train from Andheri to Virar.

Jorawar, a 40+ Rajasthani ,makes his living by singing old Hindi songs in trains,  accompanied by a self-played strings-instrument called ‘Koka’. Blessed with a darned good voice, he sings well enough to go a few rounds in one of those musical reality shows on TV. I was impressed with his demeanor and the dignity with which went about his job. Enjoying his own music seemed to be his priority and if his public enjoyed it enough to reward him with small change, or occasionally a bigger note, it was just a welcome bonus. As the train was nearing Virar, he broke into this song and had me hooked enough to hang about till the compartment was almost empty. He understood the limitations of his Koka well enough to bring in some well thought-out improvisations wherever an orchestra was supposed to fill in. He finished his song, completely oblivious to the near empty compartment, came out of his reverie and accepted my humble offering with an expression that blended grace and gratitude. I complimented him on his performance and thanked him for playing that song which has always been a favorite.

That’s when I hit pay dirt and he started talking enthusiastically about the song. He was so well informed about Hindi film music and its musical dignitaries, he had me zapped with his comparisons between some of them and their styles. He also took me on an impromptu tour of this favorite song of mine and showed me the highlights and the subtle nuances exhibited by both the singers and the composer. I felt as if I had listened to that song for the first time in my life, such was his understanding and  knowledge of music, not to mention his passion for it. I thanked him profusely and we parted.  I will never know the feeling that he is chosen to feel with his gift, and he will never know how, in just a days work, he had enriched my life .

The first thing I did when I reached home that day was to find a video of that song, put on my headset and tried to watch it from Jorawars eyes and hear it through his ears. The experience was worth every journey I have made in Mumbai trains all my life. Want to watch it ? Here you go…..

How do you like to travel, fellow traveler ?  What’s your style ? Being a free explorer without a map,  or , being a meticulously well-prepared traveler who understands the importance of a guided tour ? Sometimes ‘different strokes for different folks’ is just a clichéd way of sitting on the fence when you can’t quite decide what is it that you really want. Sometimes your machismo might just prompt you to choose being the explorer when your pragmatism might have made a better choice at the given time. And , vise versa might just be as true in a different situation. I used to take some unfounded pride in the fact that I always wanted to explore things on my own and enjoyed it wherever the next trail took me. But this musical encounter with Jorawar opened me up to the fact that  there is a lot to be said for a guided tour too.

Thanks Jorawar , for the lesson : Allow your spirit to break free and enjoy the adventure when  exploring the unknown,  but ,  also put your trust in a guide who lends his vision and his wisdom to you in order to ensure that no highlights are missed by you.   

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