Friday, December 11, 2009


In my collection of gramophone records, there are several records of Hindustani ghazals. One among them is a record specially released by 'The Gramophone Company of India' in connection with the Ghalib Centenary Celebrations in 1969. This is a record containing 11 songs from Minerva Movieton's film Mirza Ghalib(1954). Mirza Azadullah Beg Khan,whose pen name was Mirza Ghalib,was a legendary Urdu-Persian poet who lived in India(1797-1869) and his beautiful ghazals of love and philosophy have lived and flourished through generations and continue to be loved even today. According to knowledgeable ghazal lovers, no better poetry and ghazals had happened prior to Ghalib or after.

His ghazals were used in Hindi films and popularised by music directors like Khayyam and sung by great singers, especially Talat Mahmood in albums like "Ghazals to remember' and 'Memorable ghazals of Talat Mahmood' in his silken voice which make them a treat to the ears.

The film Mirza Ghalib, starring Bharat Bhushan as Ghalib and and Suraiya as his lover Chaudvin, contains eight popular ghazals of Ghalib tuned by music director Ghulam Mohammed sung mainly by Talat Mahmood and Suraiya. 'Phir mujhe deda-i-tar' and 'Wahshat sahi' by Talat Mahmood are soul stirring and has Talat at his best. 'Nukta cheen hai' and 'Aah ko chahiye ek umar 'are by Suraiya. There is also the most popular Ghalib ghazal, 'Yeh na thi hamari kismat' by Suraiya. A Rafi number, 'Hai baski har ek unke' embellishes this record, a great collectors' item.

Efforts to bring this great branch of music to Malayalam have been on since the days of music director M.S.Baburaj and P.Bhaskaran and are even now continued by Ramesh Narayanan,Umbayi, Shahbaz Aman etc. The limitations of the language and the initial reluctance ( as revealed by Umbayi in his interviews) of top Malayalam poets to allow their poems to be tuned as ghazals made Malayalam ghazals not reaching beyond the peripherals of Malayalam music.Who can forget Baburaj's ' Orupushpam mathram', 'Suruma Ezhuthiya mizhikale', and 'Pranasakhi' and several other songs?

Fortunately, things are changing for the better. Umbayi, Ramesh Narayan and Shahbaz Aman have come out with several albums of ghazals penned by Malayalam poets like O.N.V.Kurup,Yousufali Kechery, Sachithanandan, Pradeep Ashtamichira, Kamala Das,Vinayachandran, Kadammanita, Rafeeq Ahmed and others. Ghazal albums of Umbayi (songs sung by Umbayi himself and other singers) like Ghazalmala(Yousufali Kechery).Akale Mounampol(Sachidanandan), Ithuvare Sakhi ninne kathirunnu(Pradeep Ashtamichira) contain pleasing melodious ghazals. In association with O.N.V.Kurup Umbayi has brought out two albums,"Paaduka Saigal Paadoo' and 'Nandi Priyasakhi Nandi'. With the song 'Orunaru pushpamay' and his ghazals in films like RaathriMazha, Ramesh Narayan has given a new stimulus to ghazals in Malayalam. With his album 'Alakalkku', singer and composer Shahbaz Aman along with singer Gayathri has taken ghazals to a different plane in Malayalam by tuning the poetry of Kamala Das, Sachidanandan,Kadammanitta, D.Vinayachandran etc. His earlier album,'Neeyum Nilavum' with the poetry of Poovachal Khader and a few others also was a worthwhile effort.

No doubt the music lovers in Kerala are pleased with their efforts and the fact that more and more established and upcoming singers are taking up Hindustani music and ghazals very seriously. But, at the risk being accused of thinking backwards , I would have been happier if gramophone records of these ghazals are also made available. May be a futile wish.

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