Poetry by any other name……….

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The late Jagjit Singh was not just a well-known name for Indians across the world. He metaphorised all things poetic. An indelible part of our growing up years, in an easy uncomplicated way, he took away the difficult language and rendering of the ghazal to reach it out to a larger non-urdu speaking audience too – sensitizing them to the romance of poetry and beauty of music. Despite being closely associated with the Indian film industry and part of several films, he still maintained his non-film identity.  Filmfare Middle East had a chance to interact with Jagjit Singh over the years he came to Dubai. Excerpts from various interviews….

Madhu Arora and Amit Pateria

Sir! They are All like this…

I admit, I could not survive in the world of films – it was probably something lacking in me, some limitations, perhaps. So I hid those weaknesses as best I could and began on a journey of my own. In my early years I remember attending an audition with a very big producer. I sang 5 or 6 of my ghazal compositions and after a while, the gentleman conducting the auditions asked to hear ‘something else’. I told him that “Sir, they are all like this!”

Be Passionate. Shamelessly Passionate…

When you follow something you believe in shamelessly and with your heart, the competition eventually moves on. Till the time you do not expose the younger generations to this genre of music – how would they truly know what a ghazal is? Or what the poetry behind it is? Back in the day when we were studying, we read the works of Kabir, Surdas, Meera bhai, Guru Nanak. Now, it has all evolved into computers and technology. At one point films were like a part of literature. Now however, it  is more of entertainment.  This is the difference.

ghazal cannot be altered…

With time ghazals have changed but main format can never be altered..then it just wouldn’t be a ghazal anymore. It is more the discipline and heart behind a ghazal that cannot be touched – that particular discipline that exists in the writing of a ghazal, is the common thread between ghazals over the years. The way you sing it, the arrangement, lyrics and instruments you use – these change with time.

Persevere Devotedly

For today’s youth, it is important to know that the end to end art of ghazals, is not only in ghazal singing. It is a long process, wherein you first need to learn music for a good 8 to 20 years. Once you know music, you learn different styles and eventually find one that suits you. But that said, once you master the music and style, then you can sing whatever your heart desires. By reading poetry you’ll also learn how to present it best along with a tune – it will all come to you automatically.

Poetry is Dynamic

Poetry will always change. I can’t always sing the same verses isn’t it? Each ghazal will have different prose and similarly, a different thought process behind it. The poet will also have a different offering with each ghazal, so the words will always be different. Also, with time, poetry styles have changed.  For example, if I sing something from the Ghalib era, many may not necessarily follow it. Times are ever changing!  As far as music is concerned, again, so much has changed. Recording systems, new instruments, newer sounds – technologically, there are so many upgrades. And in order to stay with the times you need to incorporate all this into your music, so as to still reach your audiences in the newer favorable media.

Soul Music

Jagjit Singh – the name and the person evokes very many memories. Once, ten years ago, after his late night performance, I went backstage to interview him. As I walked to the green room, I met him near the wings and got interviewed instead by the maestro himself. He asked me which were the ghazals I liked and why I liked them and drew out my personality based on my likes. He hadn’t sung a favourite of mine Maana ke Mushtakhakhse and  when I asked him why, he said, it wasn’t  a popular one and was a ghazal about the ego and promised to sing it the next time. There was rumour that time that his wife ChitraSingh who had stopped singing after their son Vivek passed away was going to start singing again and I asked him when they’ll sing together. “ Woh ghar pe hi gaati hain,” he added with a warm smile. At yet another time, when he had launched the Jagjit Singh kurtas, he stunned the audiences by stopping his show midway and asked a talkative front bencher to leave the audience at once!  Needless to say, there was pin-drop silence after that (not even the rustle of potato wafer packets). At the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai where he performed, the crowd hummed Hoton se choo lo tum……….. as if it were a hymn. The same way the crowds hummed everywhere else. Soulful, stirring and part of our growing up years, each Jagjit Singh ghazal exemplies a mood of an age of our lives. If he drew us back to our childhood with Woh Kagaz ki Kashti, he brought in the tenderness of romance with Tum ko Dekha ( Saath Saath) or the ‘lost in love emotion’ with Hosh waalon ko (Sarfarosh)  or the  playfulKiska Chehra Main Dekhoon (Tarkeib) or the intense Koi Fariyaad (Tum Bin) or the mournful Chitti na Koi Sandes ( Dushman). His ghazals have been part of our lives riding with us throughout our lives ever so gently, that we don’t notice that when we are actually humming them. Maybe true art is like this!

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