Archive for October 3, 2017

Before you read this, let’s set the mood! 🙂 Just go and listen to the first 10 seconds of this (embedded below also) song. And then the next 10. And then the entire song, the verses as well.  And the interludes, especially the one at 3.08 sec.

It does something to you, right? Not at one place, but at thousand different places. Not one thing, a thousand different things. All those things carefully placed side by side or on top of each other or front and behind, all resonating against one another, the instruments and the senses they evoke, all combined into one rich, wild forest of music.

The first time I heard it, I went whoa, this is crazy! So carefree, so unique, so much banjarapan, so much more than Mehbooba mehbooba. I loved it! It was in cable TV times, CVO, I think. Had little clue who this R.D.Burman chap was, but knew he was somewhat special because Dad spoke highly of him and sister’s eyes began to shine when his songs played. Slowly, mine began too.

 

Manzil khoyi, dil bhi khoya milke aapse

That’s the thing with his music, it’s not about his prolificacy it’s about the richness that stays with you long after the song is over. Yet, on repeat listening, seems as fresh. So it feels it’s always been around yet it gives some new joy next time. Yes, it’s true, I must admit, of Chura liya hain tumne too, a song so ghisaoed that even Asha can’t make me listen to it anymore. But then sometimes, R.D. does, even today. I give in helplessly when the glasses start clinking mischievously. Ting ti-ding, ting ti-ding. R. D. is a sly musician, you know. Oh, did I say musician? I meant magician.

Years went by in the safe familiarity of his presence, never really actively sought though. The news of his passing had hit a dull spot, he wasn’t a potent memory, wasn’t attached to his music in my heart and mind yet. And then 1942, A Love Story happened. It rekindled all that sheer amazement I had when I heard Kaho kaise for the first time. Just that now I knew who this Burman chap was and promptly proceeded to fall in love with him; after his death and also much after I had fallen in love with his music.

Kaho kaise rasta bhool pade

It wasn’t until Jhankar Beats happened in 2003 that I actually realized this man is a cult in himself. And that he is still alive. Fourteen years later, watching that very fine documentary, Pancham Unmixed, reaffirmed this fact.

Just like R.D., this film seems to have been around me for the longest time. I happened to first know of it in 2009. I couldn’t watch it then, and it has crossed my path many times since and finally, like lost opportunities that are actually hidden boons, it fell in my lap the other day.

I’ve always wanted to understand the man and his music better but I didn’t go to know the technicalities of his music or the history of his life. I already knew what those who were closest to him thought and felt about him. So much is spoken of him everywhere you keep coming across these things all the time even if you are not looking. They are important of course, but yesterday I just wanted to feel the joy of knowing R.D., better, again. I wanted to feel that joy of familiarity and the joy of rediscovering him, again and again, just like I do with his music. Also watching old, favorite, Hindi films and film songs in NFAI gives an especially delicious, romantic kick. I went in smiling and came out crying.

Bahut door hoke bahut paas ho tum

I am a sucker for documentaries loaded with great artists and experts, especially Hindi film legends. Where else do you get to listen to so many great minds at the same time? There is a certain precision in their articulation and incisiveness in their observations that lends another dimension to the subject. The film is a huge knowledge base for R.D. Burman historiography but that is not the main reason it is important. There is something that binds the experts, friends, colleagues, and fans in the film and it is above the man or his music. It is the nature of their love for him; reverence, admiration, adoration, protectiveness, affection and a strange kind of happy-sad nostalgia of still feeling a man long-gone around them. It fills the film to the brim and I think it is this effusive romance of R.D. that makes the film far more valuable and memorable. It is this that I wanted to soak in and soak in I did, fully. It is this that told me that the man is still alive, and will remain alive now.

Actually, not exactly this. I had an inkling in June. A random FB post led to one song and that to another and for three whole days, I listened to these three songs non-stop, only three songs on loop, amazed yet again at the genius of this man. It made me so happy to listen to them I thought I will keep listening till I get bored. But it didn’t happen and I didn’t want it to happen either. There was this mad joy surrounding me and I was content to exult in it, the only thing I wanted to know, as always, was if the man knew how much happiness his music was still capable of spreading. Teer kya patthar bhi nahi haath mein dikhlane ko, kis ada se maare hain aapne deewane ko…And it all happened around his birthday and that was so maddeningly filmy I loved it even more. It was like he was around, taking me through the intricate, delicate joys of his music.

Koi mera…tujhsa kaha…

Pancham is a shared joy but a personal love, a very intimate bond, an individual connect each fan has with him, very similar but never the same. It’s like you will share your love story only with him, only he will get it. And get it he does, and how. And if you go to him when you have none he will give you one to dream about. A little like Shahrukh.

Those three to five days, as I was soaring up and down, in and out, this way and that on the tunes of O Meri Jaan, sharing love stories with RD, I kept thinking about the man who could do this. I got to know him much better through the film than the image I had created in my mind, it wasn’t different but it had holes. I had safely obscured his low phase from my mind. I had conveniently forgotten he may not have been as happy and happy-go-lucky as I like to imagine him. All of us want to remember him that way and the documentary affirms it loud and clear. My favourite image is him in his white shirt, white shoes, red muffler, red cap and sauve shades, sharing smiles of ever-lasting happiness with Asha Bhonsle, with just a hint of naughtiness as Katra katra plays in the background. That’s how I want to imagine he spent his entire life and is somewhere, even now.

Ek din bik jaayega maati ke mol

The image of the fallen R.D. still remains with me. A lot of the interviewees agreed he was ‘naïve’, and in his own words his ‘mind wasn’t understood well enough by those around him’. It was surprising but by the end of the film I knew he wasn’t naïve as associates think, nor a mad genius as fans want to believe, he was the most self-aware artist we will see.

And it is this self-awareness, more than his phoenix-like rebirth or a pied piper image, R.D. must have wanted to be known for, I think. Because only when your art is this self-aware can it flow so free, so fluid, so rich, so mysterious. Because only when your art is self-aware will you take great pains to stay with your melody and nurture it and nourish it, as Gulzaarsaab reminisces he liked to do, in Gulzar Remembers Pancham. Only when your art is self-aware will you blow bottles and trumpets with the same flair and only then will it be infused with that undying spirit of life, wriggling to be set free, that underlines every song of his.

The film introduced me to this R.D., scientist as much as an artist, maverick as much as disciplined, hero as much as human. I think it is possible that this very self-awareness told him that maybe he was too ahead of his times, and someday he would be understood better through his music. I think he let go early because he knew his music will live.

Tumne mujhe dekha hoke meherbaan

Almost 3/4th of the film is an effusive celebration of both the man and his music, detailed, descriptive, articulate and incisive – both in the observations and the weave of the film, the text and context, thematic relationship everything; bringing alive his persona and the palpable love for him. But when it comes to this part no one wants to acknowledge it, not even the film, it looks like. Suddenly no one has words; all that effusive articulation has evaporated. It is like even the film doesn’t know what to do…it lingers shortly, respectfully, on the wordless and graceful emotional moments, and leaves it in silence. As though gently laying a flower on R.D.’s memories in the same way Shammi Kapoor did on the memories of his beloved wife Geeta Bali, in that beautiful debut of R.D.’s … ruk gayi yeh zameen, tham gaya aasman… There was silence and stillness in the hall too.

It’s been three months and I still haven’t gotten bored of those three songs, life takes over from time to time but so does R.D., sometimes insistently, and I am happy to let him do so. After all, aisa sama na hota, kuchh bhi yaha na hota, mere humrahi jo tum na hote.

 Thank you for the music Panchamda 🙂

Fatema Kagalwala