Amid explorations, it’s time to ring curtain up

The lights flood a stage. A youngster, in his glittering attire, addresses the audience, introducing himself as Laxmi Vilas Palace, while a caricature rails past him to establish the proclamation. Welcome to the world of theatre in Vadodara, which is exploring new terrains, right from a Vad (Banyan Tree) looking for a place in Vadodara, a group of impoverished Russians living in a shelter near the Volga in the winter of 1901, a group of ten girls voicing their dissent against rape and atrocities against women, a modern-day poet conversing with Mirza Ghalib or two couples musing over love and their relationships – the city is exploring theatre like never before.

“When I was planning to stage Vadodara Ka Safarnaama, a play written by Prakash Gowda, which chronicles the history of Vadodara, I wanted the play to be both engaging, as well as informative. So we came up with this concept of monuments of Vadodara speaking to the audience and narrating their stories. We had created an ambience replete with live music and folk dance which were performed for the first time in Vadodara,” informs PS Chari, a veteran playwright and torchbearer of Triveni, a theatre group which was founded by Late Markand Bhatt.

While one traced the history of Vadodara, a talented youngster decided to recreate the winter of 1901 in Russia. Rasatal – a Hindi version of the classic play, ‘The Lower Depths’ written by writer Maxim Gorky, directed by Gaurav Chaturvedi was performed at Play Box, MSU – Department of Performing Arts, Vadodara. The original play has been source of inspiration for many filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa and closer home, Chetan Anand who directed Neecha Ghar, which won the Best Film Award at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946, becoming the first Indian independent film to get international recognition.

Jay Merchant, a renowned name in Vadodara’s theatre, came up with the concept ‘Yun hota to kya hota’, a short play based on the book, ‘Ghalib Unplugged: a prose-poetic chronicle’ by Prakash Gowda. “We created a ‘what-if’ situation of a modern-day poet conversing with Mirza Ghalib. Their conversation draws parallels with both eras they dwelled in, only to realise that nothing much has changed. This 10-minute short play was extremely well-received by an educationist like Tejal Amin.”

In the recent college event, Paramarsh, Jay Merchant won the first prize in a state-level competition judged by Nisarg Trivedi, a theatre artist from Ahmedabad. The play, ‘To Mombattiyaan Bujha Do’ resonated with the angst among today’s youngsters against rape and molestation. A topic, often considered too bold for a college play, ‘To Mombattiyaan Bujha Do’ was performed by 10 girls and presented as a street play that made the audience wonder over how safe women are in our country.

‘Hot & Sour’, a play by Applause, a theatre group founded by Apsara Iyengar and Chitra Parmar, treaded a different path with a contemporary play divided into two stories. One has two girls contemplating over love in our times while savouring blueberry cheesecake, while the other had two couples pondering over their relationships over a bottle of wine.
Despite such varied endeavours, the theatre scenario in Vadodara isn’t able to cross the national threshold.

Ask Jay Merchant and he is quick to respond, “Where are the funds? Plays from Mumbai and Ahmedabad easily find producers and viewers. We have to shell out our own money. We are also planning a zero-budget short play concept called ‘Curtain Raiser – Theatre thrills without the frills’, which again, is dependent on venue partner. There are exceptions like Paramarsh, organised by Faculty of Technology, MSU, where students approach corporates to raise funds. But if writers, directors and actors start marketing themselves, when will they focus on their creativity?”

Well, this is a Third Bell Call for Barodians who can change the theatre scenario of their city. Curtains fall.

SHOLAY: The greatest story ever told

For someone who, as a kid ‘heard’ Sholay for about 5 years before actually ‘watching’, ‘Sholay’ isn’t just a film but an integral part of my growing up years. I vividly remember the cover of a ‘double-cassette’ pack of ‘Dialogues from Sholay’, which my father had bought for me.

Each and every dialogue, background score (The rust-ridden swing’s sound that terrified me every time I played the cassette), were something I could mouth with much alacrity than Math ‘tables’. A digression here: I was in the fourth grade and had watched an Amitabh Bachchan film, last show with parents. The next day, in the middle of school lecture, I suddenly started uttering dialogues from Sholay, much to the chagrin of my class teacher. Reeling with anger, she wrote a remark in the school diary, addressing my parents: Please come and see me and STOP SHOWING AMITABH BACHCHAN FILMS TO YOUR SON.

Once the ‘ban’ was lifted, I finally got the privilege of watching Sholay on a rented VCR – this time with visuals, and not just dialogues on a cassette set. I devoured it as if it were a buffet of forbidden fruits, and ended up watching Sholay thrice over till the wee hours. The anonymous voices of characters like Jai, Veeru, Thakur, Gabbar, Basanti, Angrezo ke zamaane ke Jailor entrenched in my memory finally found faces. Even after so many years, I often indulge in Sholay dialogues on iPod while travelling.

Despite being hailed as ‘The greatest movie ever made’, Sholay didn’t even win Filmfare Award, except for one award to M.S. Shinde for editing. It later bagged the Best Film in 50 years by Filmfare in 2005, perhaps as an apology.

In fact, when Sholay was released on 15th August 1975, it flopped. The critics were harsh on it and had already written it off. During its first screening, the audience seemed to be in a stupor, with no reaction. Some dismissed it as a second-rate version on Mera Gaon Mera Desh, which had a similar storyline. Film magazines wrote it off as a film that remains imitation of a Western – neither here nor there.

Amitabh Bachchan, who was shooting for Kabhi Kabhi, broke down on Shashi Kapoor’s shoulder. But the worst-affected among the cast was Amjad Khan, who had no other film but Sholay. Furthermore,  the critics had already made digs at his voice, which reminded him of writers Salim-Javed, who according to Amjad Khan, had allegedly convinced Ramesh Sippy during the film’s shoot that they made a mistake in suggesting his name to play Gabbar, owing to his voice that lacked baritone of a villain.

As luck would have it, Sholay picked up pace after the first week of its release, so much so that it ran for over 5 years at Minerva Theatre Mumbai and went on to become a milestone in Hindi Cinema.  The film marked the trend of including writer’s name in film posters, thanks to insistence of writer duo Salim-Javed. With passage of time, Sholay, for me, evolved to become as much about Salim-Javed than about Jai-Veeru.

The writing of this film never ceases to inspire awe for the writer duo. They used to pay from their pockets to publish ads in film trade magazines with their names printed in larger font size than the makers. Never before did any writers have such audacity. I believe, writers of our times should be thankful to Salim- Javed for proving that writers are indeed the true heroes of a good film.

The film originally had an ending where Thakur kills Gabbar with his feet. There was a scene where Ramlal fashions the shoes made of nails and offers to Thakur. The armless Thakur crushes Gabbar’s arms first, so as to make him an equal warrior. And then Thakur pounds Gabbar to death, uttering the dialogues, “Saanp ko kuchalne ke liye pairr hi kaafi hai, Gabbar!”  Though the end seemed justified, Ramesh Sippy was forced to end it on a politically correct note.  The alternate ending is available on original DVD.

While watching Sholay on TV, DVD or online, today’s youngsters might wonder how a village can have an overhead tank when they have no electricity. ‘How did they transport water up there?” “Hey how did the villager ‘Dholia’s character suddenly become ‘Shankar’ in the second half of the film?”

Well, such questions of logic die an illogical death the moment Gabbar Singh growls: Soowar ke bachho!


Baar Baar Dekho is an engaging hypothesis



It isn’t every day that you get to relive a day. It isn’t every day that you feel like revisiting a film, gleefully bashed by every critic worth his salt, just to figure out what went so wrong that these Fellini worshipers wrote it off.

Directed by debutant Nitya Mehra, Baar Baar Dekho, produced by Dharma Productions and Excel Films, Baar Baar Dekho is a film on the importance of ‘choti choti baatein’, and not just the bigger picture.

To begin with, it’s the ‘choti choti baatein’ i.e. the meticulous attention to details in cinematography that makes Baar Baar Dekho an interesting film. The film has been beautifully captured by Ravi K. Chandran, so much so that you’ll be tempted to revisit Terrence Malick’s visual poetry, ‘Tree of life’ starring Brad Pitt. Cinematographer Ravi K. Chandran and Editor Amitabh Shukla, take a bow.

While we are at it, one wonders how we’d have reacted if this film had been made in Hollywood starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We’d have probably hailed it as one of the finest films of 2016. But here, since we have Katrina Kaif and Siddharth Malhotra as the lead pair, who aren’t known for their acting skills, it’s their good looks that gets noticed and talked about.

Well, Baar Baar Dekho has a rare thing which is amiss in films these days: Story. Yup, the film has an interesting story. Kudos to writer Sri Rao and other writers Anuvab Pal (Also terrific stand-up comedian and playwright), Anvita Dutt (For dialogues, which tread the route of minimalism with effortless ease), and Nitya Mehra.

One more clarification: Baar Baar Dekho is not a rom-com, but a premise based on a what-if situation i.e. hypothesis or postulation in mathematical parlance. Remember that scene in 3 Idiots, where Rancho asks Maddy to follow his dream, else one day, when he looks back at life, he’d repent that if he had mustered up courage, life would have been different.

Now picture this scenario in its literal sense. What if you had a chance to fix your life and value things that you otherwise take for granted? Well, that’s Baar Baar Dekho for you.

The song, ‘Kho gaye hum kahaan’, which is the opening sequence (and an endearing sequence towards the end) deserves a special mention here. The song has been beautifully shot and is quite a breather from those jump cuts that we have gotten used to while watching a love song video. The song chronicles the growing up years of the lead characters, Jai and Diya and is easily something that stays with you after watching the film.

Siddharth Malhotra essays the role of Jai Varma to perfection, barring some hiccups in few scenes when he turns old. The body language is quite inconsistent in these scenes, especially the one where he confronts a much-older Katrina Kaif’s Diya at a funeral. She looks lovely and approaches her role of Diya just like she does every other role, right from Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani to Bang Bang, which thankfully, doesn’t actually harm the film much.

Jai Varma’s obsession for Vedic Mathematics is well-established, but Diya’s artistic pursuit is royally ignored. She is shown only at art exhibitions and her yearning for a personal studio (Which is apparently an important aspect of the story) is never depicted. A few scenes of an artist’s madness and struggle to create something spectacular wouldn’t have hurt and wouldn’t have marred the beauty of the shots.

Ram Kapoor, like always, is spot-on as the bride’s father and Lord Hanuman Bhakt. Sarika makes her presence felt and one wishes to see more of her. Rajit Kapoor as the all-knowing Pandit is first-rate, more so, in the song, Kaala Chashma.

To sum it up, Baar Baar Dekho is a ‘beautiful looking’ film with a ‘beautiful message’ about striking balance in one’s work and personal life. Like the senior professor in the film would like to put it: Balance ke bina koi bhi equation adhoora hota hai. Baar Baar Dekho is a postulate (Assumption a mathematician makes in order to derive a conclusion) that makes this hypothesis engaging, Baar Baar!


Wrong Side Raju has its heart in the right place


The line you’re reading isn’t about how Gujarati cinema has come a long way from Kedias to College so let’s drop those obligatory intro lines while referring to a Gujarati film. We don’t do that for Marathi, Bengali, Punjabi, Tamil or Assamese (Yup, the state exists, and so does its cinema) cinema, do we? More so, if the film happens to be ‘Wrong Side Raju’, a thriller to the core, with its heart in the right place.

A Gujarati film backed by production houses like Cineman (Abhishek Jain, the director of Kevi Rite Jaish and Bey Yaar) and Phantom Films (Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Behl and Vikramaditya Motwane) was easily one of the reasons people flocked to watch ‘Wrong Side Raju’, right on its first day of release.

Here’s the good news: The film doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it keeps you engaged all through its screen time of 130 minutes. The real hero here is director Mikhil Musale, who makes you forget you are carrying a mobile phone with you.

The film, as expected, begins with an accident, on which it is pegged upon, but later takes a course of its own, revealing the darker truths of our society, system and the ever-widening gaps between haves and have-nots.

Writers Karan Vyas, Niren Bhatt, and Mikhil Musale must be applauded for coming up with a screenplay that does away from the clichéd ‘Three friends dream big, face obstacles and emerge triumphant’ kind of storyline rampant across the Gujarati ‘Urban’ Cinema. The film never loses its focus from being a thriller and keeps the audience guessing till the last 20 minutes.

Among the actors, Pratik Gandhi is first-rate. There’s an unmistakable endearment in his eyes, which makes you root for him. He is someone who has done the Gujarati theatre proud with his play, Mohan No Masaalo, wherein he essays the role of Mahatma Gandhi along with other characters as a solo actor.

In the same vein, Pratik’s approach in playing Raju Bambani in ‘Wrong Side Raju’, too, encapsulates varied characters in him – a bootlegger supplying the best-in-class brewery including French Wine, a dreamer aspiring for a ‘startup’ travel agency, a lovelorn guy yearning for the attention of Shailey Asher ‘medam’ (Played to perfection by Kimberley Louisa McBeath), and a meek driver who doesn’t bat an eyelid before lying to his boss (Kavi Shastri in a brilliant performance) while trying to woo his ‘medam’.

Asif Basra, playing Amitabh Shah, the business honcho who is always hard-pressed for time, wastes no time here in making you convince that this ‘villain’ is going to be a tough nut to crack for Raju Bambani. The other actor who deserves a special mention is Jayesh More as the corrupt cop. An ace actor who has already won many a heart with his Gujarati plays like ‘Aaj jaane ki zidd na karo’ and ‘102 Not Out’ directed by Saumya Joshi, Jayesh More adds layers to his character with his nuanced performance.

Though gripping to the core, ‘Wrong Side Raju’ does meander aimlessly towards the second half, especially in the court scene. To begin with, this one was supposed to be a high profile case and there had to be no room for those filmy references like Taare Zameen Par and Ghajini. Just because you have Siddharth Randeria in cameo doesn’t make it mandatory for the screenplay to have lighter moments. Remember, there was humour in ‘Jolly LLB’ too, but that had many layers to it. As an audience rooting for a path-breaking Gujarati film, this wasn’t too much to ask for.

Furthermore, the character of Tanmay Shah (Kavi Shastri) is established as an indifferent guy who isn’t even interested in his parents’ broken marriage and isn’t remotely possessive for his supposedly ‘girlfriend’ Shailey.

But there’s a sudden transformation in his character after the ‘Garba song’, where he threatens Raju of dire consequences. For what? Teaching Garba to his girlfriend? In fact, wasn’t it Tanmay who was looking for a Garba teacher and Raju pitched in, recommending his sister’s name to him? So what was all the fuss about, especially when his priority should have been procuring money from his rich dad.

In hindsight, one also feels why ‘Wrong Side Raju’ was made in Gujarati? The local flavor once guiltlessly savoured in films like Kevi Rite Jaish and Bey Yaar is often missing in the screenplay. The film could have well been made in Hindi and it won’t have made much difference.

Barring such speed breakers, ‘Wrong Side Raju’ is indeed a trip worth embarking upon. The music by Sachin Jigar is one of the best things about the film. The song, ‘Satrangi’ by Arijit Singh has already become a chartbuster. Cinematographer Tribhuvan Babu captures the film’s moments in a unique style. The opening montage of night sequences, reminiscent of ‘Be a rebel’ song from Rang De Basanti, employing the slow shutter speed technique is brilliant, and so is the crisp editing by Cheragh Todiwala.

So, fasten your seat-belts folks, ‘Wrong Side Raju’ has just crossed the divider of language and is on his way to win your hearts.

Rasatal excels at exploring lower depths

Rasatal – a Hindi version of the classic play, ‘The Lower Depths’ written by Russian writer Maxim Gorky, directed by Gaurav Chaturvedi was performed at Play Box, the ‘Prithvi-like’ auditorium (With real bats flying over the stage) of MSU – Department of Performing Arts, Vadodara.


Played to perfection, each actor made his/her presence felt, especially the actor, Ranganath Gopalratham playing the old man, Luka (A brilliant actor with immense command over diction and pitch of his voice) and Aparna Menon essaying the role of Vassilisa, who was brilliant with her nuanced histrionics. The ensemble of these 18 actors including Mehul Suru (Cop), Veer Singh (Actor), Mamta Pandya (Anna), Simant Rana (Nawab), Mitresh Bhavsar (Small boy), Omer Shah (Makhally), Purthvish Metha (Klech), Raj Chaudhary (Bobnoff) to name a few, indeed deserve an applause.


The original play has been source of inspiration for many filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa and closer home, Chetan Anand who directed Neecha Ghar, which Palme d’Or (Best Film Award), at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946, becoming the first Indian independent film to get international recognition.

The only problem with Rasatal is that the play has been translated, rather than trans-created for an audience (really less, mostly comprising students of the Performing Arts Dept.), who would have loved to behold an Indian adaptation, perhaps on the lines of Neecha Nagar. This might have been able to connect with the audience in a much effective manner.



Nevertheless, the performance of this wonderful ensemble of actors ensure that you are sucked into the world they create and familiarize yourself with each character, which is precisely what writer Maxim Gorky set out for – to create a character-based play rather than plot-driven one.


Kudos to the entire team of Rastal, especially director Gaurav Chaturvedi. This young chap, student of Theatre Director, Jay Merchant, has indeed come a long way and is sure to go places! We would love to see your Indian adaptation of ‘The lower depths’ someday.


Akira suffers from amnesia


A corrupt cop. A hostel thief. A college student. And all these three strands connected to a highway accident thread. Result: An entangled coil of a film with multiple loopholes, which prevent Akira, directed by AR Murugadoss to be one of the finest films this year. Sigh. Hold on, there’s some hope in here. Akira isn’t a bad film by any sense, but the problem is it isn’t good either. Hadn’t it been for…Sonakshi, did you say? Nope, it’s Anurag Kashyap who steals the show, so much so that the film could have well been christened as ‘Rane’.

Anurag Kashyap seems to be having a great time in the film, right from the Salman-style ‘driving test’, to the ‘direction’ he gives to the other cops about how to write the FIR. This one’s a boss nobody would wish to work under, a man no woman would like to know, and a cop no country would want to hire.

Either the character of ACP Rane is really well-written, or the director in him took over while enacting a very much 90s film character. Either ways, this film undoubtedly will win Anurag Kashyap an award on two in the Best Actor in a Negative Role, hands down. The only place he falters at is the film’s climax, where he fails to create the impact a Prakash Raj could have pulled off in his sleep. Well, with a sinister smirk on his face in every frame, all’s forgiven.

Talking of Sonakshi Sinha as Akira Sharma, this could have been her Vishwanath (The 1978 thriller starring her dad, Shatrughan Sinha), if only her character had such nuanced writing. Heck, the writers AR Murugadoss and Santha Kumar neither bother to add any layers to her inner turmoil or even lend her a few one-liners.

We’d have been happy with even a ludicrous ‘Mein jo bolta hoon woh karta hoon aur jo mein nahi bolta woh mein definitely karta hoon’. We were prepared for an out-and-out masala potboiler here. And what we get instead is a character sitting cross-legged in the middle of a student protesters v/s Mumbai Police with the guitar riffs playing in the background.

One could notice a consistent problem in Akira’s character, where she appears confident and agile in front of Anurag Kashyap & Co. but whenever confronted by the Fargo-like cop Konkana Sensharma or her (indifferent) family and (more indifferent) prospective boyfriend Amit Sadh as Siddharth, she suddenly starts behaving like a mental patient. Add to that the frivolous climax scene with some mumbo-jumbo on Christ and the Cross.

Apart from these, the screenplay by Santha Kumar and AR Murugadoss suffers from short-term memory loss (the Ghajini effect?). To begin with, a high-profile person’s accident, on which this entire film’s story is pegged upon, is at first passed off as just one of the 5 road accidents in the city, and all of a sudden, the same accident takes a communal or rather convenient turn.

So much so that Konkana Sensharma becomes ‘majboor’ when she makes a hero-waali entry. Really? The same Konkana Sensharma’s character, SP Rabia is almost forgotten at a juncture of time when she was supposed to investigate the two criminals who ‘escaped’ from the police van. Forget Rabia, at one point of time, the director even loses track of Akira’s character, perhaps he was reveling in the character of Anurag Kashyap.

Atul Kulkarni, though in a small role, leaves an impact with his ‘silent’ character. The first fifteen minutes of the film makes one root for the key character who might ‘grow up’ to fight evils against women. Alas, the director ‘forgets’ that angle he began with, blame it on amnesia.

Having said that, Akira’s screenplay is so fast-paced or rather ‘tight’ in the filmy parlance, that one doesn’t notice these loopholes all the way through. It’s only when you reach the parking lot, you suddenly stumble upon your logic that you left behind before bracing yourself up for a commercial Hindi film.

Think it of as the weed that Anurag Kashyap’s character Rane smokes in his ‘entry wala’ scene, which you could only enjoy while it lasts. Like ‘Rane’ would love to put: Acha hai, lagta hai South ka maal hai…

Reading ‘Baat niklegi to phir’ is an inward journey strewn with melancholy


I was never a Jagjit Singh fan. Even in the entire album of Mirza Ghalib, it was Gulzar saab who was my hero. Having read all the books by Sathya Saran, right from ’10 years with Guru Dutt – Abrar Alvi’s journey’, ‘Sun mere bandhu re – The musical world of SD Burman, I was intrigued by ‘Baat niklegi to phir’, but the very thought of reading a ghazal singer’s journey to fame, losing his son and then moving on with life didn’t stimulate the film buff in me.

Pyar ka pehla khat likhne mein waqt to lagta hai,
Naye parindon ko uddne mein waqt to lagta hai…

Tum itna jo muskura rahi ho was more of a reminder to revisit Mahesh Bhatt’s brilliant, ‘Arth’. ‘Yeh tera ghar yeh mera ghar’ never failed to reach out for that DVD of ‘Saath Saath’ and marvel at the simplicity of Faroque Shaikh and Deepti Naval. ‘Hoshwalon ko khabar kya’ was more of an Aamir Khan nostalgia when he was an effortless actor sans tag of perfectionist.

The only song that connected me to Jagjit Singh was ‘Koi yeh kaise bataaye’. Never before was an acoustic guitar used to such perfection in a ghazal. Like Jagjit Singh’s legendary talent, this book, too, remained unnoticed since its launch. Until an opportunity to interact with the author fuelled my curiosity and I finally ‘experienced’ this wonderful journey.

Woh pal ke jis mein mohabbat jawaan hoti hain,
Us ek pal ka tujhe intezaar hai ke naheen…

The best part about ‘Baat niklegi to phir’ is the blossoming of love between young Jagjit and the young married-with-kid Chitra. The ‘I will wait’ line defines the entire personality of the singer, who patiently waits for Chitra to be separated from her ex-husband Debu Dutta and supports her all throughout, even mentoring her as a ‘senior’ singer.

Hamaare hauslon ka ghar,
Hamaari himmaton ka ghar…

This endearing love story makes one wonder how simple people used to be back then. With passage of time, we seem to have lost that innocence and simplicity. We are living in times when a slightest provocation can spell doom for relationships, where we believe in ‘replacing’ things rather than ‘repairing’ them. The Jagjit-Chitra love story is about braving through troubled times, enduring each other’s idiosyncrasies, diverse cultural background, ways of dealing with loss, rather than giving up on each other.

Kabhi yun bhi to ho, dariyaa ka saahil ho,
Poore chaand ki raat ho…aur tum aao…

Their struggle is surely akin to any other talent seeking opportunity in Indian film industry, but the difference here is the genre of their art. They created their own platform for an ‘unusual’ genre of ghazals, which went on to become the signature ‘Jagjit Singh’ style. Lata Mangeshkar, in a way seems like a metaphor for Indian film industry here – a dream that remains elusive for a very long time and when it does come true, the maestro had entrenched his name in non-film sector as the ‘King of ghazals’.

Har waqt yehi hai gham,
Us waqt kahan thhe hum, kahan tum chale gaye…

Sathya Saran knows her readers very well. She knows they are anticipating the demise of Vivek aka Baboo, but she keeps building up the bond the father-son shared, to such extent that as reader, you end up relating with their story. Jagjit-Chitra’s loss is no longer their loss. By now, it becomes the reader’s loss. You no longer empathize with the couple, you start introspecting on your own life, asking yourself how many things we take for granted in our day-to-day lives. What if our world comes crashing down at the most unexpected moment? How well can we prepare ourselves to lose someone we love dearly? The answer, I guess, is – never.

Jaate jaate vo mujhe achchhi nishaani de gayaa,
Umr bhar dohraaoongaa aisi kahaani de gaya…

The bonding shared between Jagjit Singh and his musicians, sound recording artists, lyricists like Javed Akhtar and Gulzar saab have been well-documented and narrated in an engaging style. Sample this excerpt that describes the Jagjit-Gulzar collaboration for the classic television series, Mirza Ghalib, where Gulzar saab states:

The singing had to be straightforward. Ghalib was a poet, not a singer, so there was no place for complicated music taans. He would have recited the poetry, so I kept the music simple with a few varations. I never felt that this is Jagjit Singh composing for Mirza Ghalib, so I must display my musical virtuosity. No, it should be Ghalib. Jagjit Singh should become Ghalib and sing, only then will the poetry come forth. The result of this introspection on Jagjit’s part was that Gulzar went on record saying in high praise that, Mirza Ghalib is Jagjit beyond Jagjit.

The chapter goes on to narrate the bonding the duo shared:

The two creative men shared a deep understanding of each other’s work and genius. According to the poet, ‘Jagjit was younger, but he would scold me. He’d say, “Give me a sher that will touch my heart,” and I would respond with, “I try hard, but it does not reach your heart. Nishaana chook jaata hai.” The link between them remained strong.

Woh umr kar raha tha meri,
Mein saal apne badhaa raha tha…

The demise of Jagjit Singh precedes with one more death that comes as a rude shock for the reader, which I’d better leave for you to discover. The transformation of Jagjit after his son passes away in a way prepares ground for his own immortality. The generous nature of Jagjit, right from his struggling days makes him remain alive in the memories of people close to him and few strangers who barely knew him.

The biography chronicles not only the strengths of the singer, but also his weaknesses with utmost honesty, thanks to Chitra Singh, who doesn’t mince her words even while sharing their story. It’s the noble deeds and an illustrious career that spans decades of singing, composing and reinventing ghazals that keep Jagjit Singh alive – converting ‘non-Jagjit’ fans like me into devout Jagjit worshipper. Thanks Sathya Saran for writing and recommending this wonderful journey.

Having said that, I must admit that reading this biography wasn’t easy as it leaves you with a melancholy that lingers over the mind for days after reading it. Well, I could go on sharing nuggets from it but I’d better stop here because…

Baat niklegi to phir door talak jaaeygi,
Log be-wajah udaasi ka sabab poochenge…