Monday, December 5, 2011


In the last decade or so listeners have been showing a lot of
interest in ghazals written, tuned and sung in Malayalam and a number of such albums have come out to the delight of those who love this genre of music. Malayalees, especially from the Malabar area, has a tradition of loving Hindustani music including geets and ghazals and there was a rich culture of music clubs/groups and ‘mehfils’ where, along with Hindi film songs, the ghazals of Mirza Ghalib, Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali and so on had found a prominent place. In the 70s and 80s the ghazals of Jagjit Singh, Pankaj Udhas, Talat Aziz, Anup Jalota and others were very popular among even the young generation and they continue to be so. Among filmy ghazals the soft,romantic, often grief filled ghazals of Talat Mahmood were a rage among the young and old.

As far as the ordinary Malayalee listeners were concerned, their exposure to Malayalam ghazals was limited mainly to those filmy compositions, in Hindustani ragas of Baburaj like, for example, Surumaezhuthiya mizhikale”, ‘Oru pushpam mathramen”, "Prana sakhi njan” and so on. It was often pointed out that the main hurdles in the way of ghazals being made in its traditional format in Malayalam were two. First, the limitations of the language and words which make it difficult to fit them strictly into the framework/rules of ghazals. Second, the reluctance of Malayalam poets, especially the prominent among them, to allow their poems to be tuned in ghazal style as they feared that it may result in loss of beauty of their poems. But with the realisation that the strict adherence to the rules of ghazal is limiting its universal appeal and confining it to a sort of ‘experts’ zone,’ more composers started to compose ghazals in Malayalam. Poets also started to shed their inhibitions to associate with ghazal making.

It was the pionee
ring efforts of Cochin based singer Umbayi during the last more than a decade to compose, sing and release albums of Malayalam g that gave a huge impetus in this direction. His first album PRANAMAM was released in 1998. It contained nine poems, of Venu V. Desom, tuned in Hindusatani ragas and rendered by Umbayi himself. While all of them captured the attention of listeners, ‘ Ethrasudhamayam, ‘Manasse neeyen’ and ‘Oru nokku kanuvanai’, were, to me, the most impressive. In the wake of the success of ‘Pranamam’,Umbayi came out with his second album GHAZALMALA with ten compositions of lyrics by poet Yousafali Kecheri. This album was a bigger success and gave Umbayi a lot of recognition and space in the media. What struck a chord with the listeners is his beautiful voice and the feeling and bhav he imparted to the ghazals. ‘Veendum padaam sakhi’, Nilave kanduvo nee’and ’Manaswini madhumalini’ are outstanding ghazals for the sweetness of the voice, lyrical charm and beauty of the compositions.

Then followed the album
ORUMUKHAM MATHRAM with ten ghazals from the lyrics of poet Pradeep Ashtamichira. The ghazals were sung by Umabyi and singer Gayatri. The best of the lot is the one by Umbayi and Gayatri, 'Priyane nee pournamiyakumengil”(പ്രിയനേ നീ പൌര്ന്നമിയാകുമെങ്കില്‍ ഇവിടെ ഞാന്‍ രാപ്പാടിയാകാം), the sweetness of Umbayi’s voice and trained singing of Gayatri coming to the fore.

In as
sociation with poet Sachthanandan Umbayi composed and released the album AKALE MOUNAMPOL . All the nine ghazals penned by Sachthanandan were rendered by Umbayi in his characteristic style , the title song and ‘ Ekanthamee muri ‘ impressing the most. The next album by Umbayi was ITHUVARE SAKHI NINNE KATHIRUNNU with nine compositions of poems of Pradeep Ashtamichira which was also well received by listeners.There is also an album ORIKKAL NEE PARANJU in which Umbayi gives nine ghazals out of lyrics penned by East Coast Vijayan. The ghazals were rendered by Umbayi and the talented singer Manjari.

The long cherished desire of Umbayi to create ghazals out of the lyrics of the great Malayalam poet O.N.V. Kurup bore fruit when they joined together to create the album PAADUKA SAIGAL PADU. All the nine ghazals rendered by Umbayi in the album brought the best out of Umbayi and they are examples for lyrical charm, beauty of composition and voice together resulting in great music. The title song,’Paduka Saigal Padu’(പാടുക സൈഗാള്‍ പാടു, നിന്റെ രാജ കുമാരിയെ പാടി പാടിയുറക്കു ))inspired by K.L.Saigal’s “Soja Raj Kumari’ is the best of the lot invoking nostalgia in listeners.The success of this album led the duo to create another album NANDI PRIYA SAKHI NANDI again well received by ghazal lovers. The ghazalPuthiyoru ragam paduka Tansen”(പുതിയൊരു രാഗം പാടുക താന്‍സെന്‍) is again nostalgic for listeners who love old Hindi film songs.

What made the efforts of Umbayi noteworthy was the sincerity wi
th which he stuck to his task of creating ghazals in Malayalam as well as popularising ghazals in general. Through his several interviews in the TV channels he was able to explain the intricacies of ghazals to listeners and create an interest in them. He never used electronic instruments in the background or allowed the voice to be hampered/modulated by electronics and he always tried to compose within the traditional framework. The beauty of human voice is all there to enjoy in Umbayi’s ghazals.

Close on the heels of Umbayi others also came out with ghazal albums in Malayalam, two of the notables among them being NEEYUM NILAVUM and ‘ALAKALKKU’ both by that highly gifted singer-composer Shahabaz Aman with Gayatri giving the female voice support. Shahbaz Aman is endowed with a rich, versatile voice which he used with great effect in all the ghazals he sang in the first. The solo by Gayatri, ‘Puzhayude geetham kelkkam’, penned by Poovachal Khader, is a haunting number.The album ‘ Alakalkku has lyrics by prominent poets like Kamaladas, Sachitanandan, D.Vinayachandran, Rose Mary, Kadammanitta and so on. The compositions are serious and within the rules making them more attractive to the experts/connoisseurs eventhough the voice and style of singing make ordinary listeners also to take note of them.

Two other notable ghazal albums are GHAZALUKAL POOKKUNNA RATRI and ETHRA MADHURAMAI PAADUNNU NEE . The first is an album of nine ghazals composed by Dr. Muhammed Shakeel using the lyrics of Sri O.N.V.Kurup and rendered by Hariharan, Vani Jayaram, Jayachandran, Aparna, Dr.Muneer and Dr.Shakeel Muhammed himself. The two ghazals ,viz., ‘Ghazalukal pookkunna ratri’ and Enguninnethiyen’ by Hariharan are, in fact, a demonstration as to how a ghazal is to be rendered if one can forget the pronounciation of Malayalam words. All the ghazals are endowed with lyrical charm and the rendering of Pularkala pushpame’ by Dr.Shakeel Ahmed and’Onam pinneyum vannu poyi’ by Aparna could stand up to the illustrious singers of the other ghazals. The other album ‘Ethra madhuramai padunnu nee’is by the upcoming Hindustani singer Nisa Azeezi . Of the nine ghazals penned by different poets and composed by Nisa Azeezi herself and a few others, two,viz., Neela nilavinte’ (lyrics. Alankode Leelakrishnan) and ‘Ariyatha bhazhayil(അറിയാത്ത ഭാഷയില്‍ കേള്‍ക്കാത്ത ശബ്ദത്തില്‍ എത്ര മധുരമായ് പാടുന്നു നീ) ’ penned by T.P.Rajeevan and composed by Nisa are the most appealing. The singer has a unique voice and style reminding us of the great Parveen Sultana and this is an album worth listening to.

There is one more album which came to my notice
recently. It is ENIKKU NEEYENNUM , an album of ten ghazals from Jubilee Audios. Music is by Najeeb and lyrics by Sasi N, Nair andP.L.Sreedharan. The singers are Jayachandran, Jithesh and Gayathri. The beautifully rendered ghazals are a welcome addition to Malayalam ghazals.

In the current year there were two other releases of importance, The first is ENNUMEE SWARAM , containing eight ghazals penned by Rafeeq Ahmed and composed by Jithesh Sundaram (Jithesh, who rendered the beautiful ghazal ‘Rangath teri zulfon ki’ in Malayalam film Megha Malhar), the well known ghazal singer and disciple of Sri Anup Jalota, and who hails from Thalassery. One ghazal is rendered by Pankaj Udhas and another by Anup jalota. The others are by Jithesh himself. To me the best of the lot is ‘Rathriyil mazha'(രാത്രിയില്‍ മഴ പെയ്തോഴിഞ്ഞുവോ നേര്‍ത്ത തെന്നലകന്നുവോ .....) by Jithesh in his silken voice. The album, on the whole, is well made and well presented in an attractive folder. The other recent album is MRIDU MALHAR of eight ghazals composed and rendered by Pt.Ramesh Naryanan using the lyrics of Vijay Sursen with female voice by Sujatha. The composition complying with the rules of Ghazals is again a connoisseurs’ delight but a must listen album for those ghazal lovers who want to know the style of ghazals more.

I have to mention also about another album, in fact a music video, released by East Coast, containing nine ghazals rendered by Venugopal, Gayatri and Sangeetha and composed by T.C.K. Calicut using the lyrics of P.M.A. Samad. The 'sangeetha madhurima' rendered by G.Venugopal and picturised on him is very pleasing.

It is encouraging to see that more and more Malayalam ghazal albums are coming out . Yes, ghazals are for those who also love the purity of human voice, clarity of expression, beauty and content of lyrics, style of rendering especially of nuances, richness of tradition and so on. They are for serious concentrated listening.

One last line; let us have more ghazals in Malayalam. But please spare us the agony and embarrassment of listening to stalwarts, not knowing Malayalam, struggling with and mutilating words.

Tail piece: Ghazal for Ghazalians, Lajjavathiye for Lajjavathiyans, Kolaveri di for Kolaverians. There is enough space for all to play.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


One of the notable events of the early 60s was the release of Mehboob Productions' film SON OF INDIA written, produced and directed by the renowned director Mehboob Khan who had given us such wonderful films like Jagirdar, Watan and Ek hi Raasta in the 30s, Anmol Ghadi, Aurat, Andaz and Anokhi Ada in the 40s and Amar, Aan, and Mother India in the 50s. In fact after the release of the film Mother India in 1959 there was not a single significant film from him. The film Son of India was ,therefore, a much awaited release from Mehbood Khan’s stable.
There was a lot of excitement ever since the film was announced and launched by Mehboob. The casting of his son Sajid Khan as the real hero-cum child artiste was the vital USP. There were extensive advertisements in film magazines like the Screeen and over the radio especially the Commercial Services of Radio Ceylon. The cast included, apart from Sajid Khan, Kamaljeet, Kum Kum, Simi Garewal, Jayant and so on. The music was by Naushad and along with Rafi, Lata and Geeta Dutt a new singer Shanti Mathur was introduced to sing the songs of the boy hero Sajid khan.

The film did not disappoint the film goers and it ran to packed houses throughout the country. The story, direction, acting and the songs all made it a hit. The Rafi number ‘Zindagi aaj mere naam se ‘ was a typical Naushad tune and the duet ‘Dil Torne wale tujhe dil dhoond raha hein’ (Rafi – Lata) was haunting. But the three songs rendered by the new singer Shanti Mathur in a boyish voice were the most popular. The song ‘Insan tha pehle bunder’ was good. Sajid khan as a newspaper boy running around singing the song,’Aaj ki taza khabar’ was a great hit. But the song ‘Nanna munna raahi hoon, Desh ka sipahi hoon, bolo mere sang, Jaihind’, was the most appealing ranking even now as one of the greats in the patriotic/childrens’ songs category. The LP album containing the songs of the film was released in 1985 and it was in the nostalgic memory of seeing the film when it was premiered and hearing the songs so many times over the radio that I acquired the LP record in my collection.

Although the film was a big hit and a landmark in the history of Indian cinema it turned out to be the last directorial venture of Mehboob Khan as death overtook him in the year 1964. Though Son of India was a success his production house, Mehboob Productions, had incurred debts and had stopped work. The famous Mehboob studios survived as it was leased out to other producers . I understand that the studios are still there being used as an art gallery. The lead actor of the film Kamaljeet could not hit it big in Hindi films in spite of roles in films like Mr.India, Shagoon, Sher Khan, Bhai Bhai etc. The child artist Sajid Khan who gave huge promise also did not hit it big in spite of a number of films like Zindagi aur Toofan, Savera, Heat and Dust and the successful U.S. Production Maya. Actress Kum Kum was already a busy actress and Son of India did not add much to further the position. Simi Garewal, in spite of some ‘revealing’ role in film ‘Mera Naam Joker’ and more revealing, in fact leaving nothing much to imagination, role in Conrad Rook’s ‘Sidhartha’ could not make it really big in films eventhough she did make a lot of impact with TV chat shows like ‘Rendezvous with Simi’.

As to the talented singer Shanti Mathur it appears she sang for a few more films but without the success she deserved. That reminded me about a very popular jingle, repeatedly heard on Radio Ceylon in the 60s and early 70s, for a prominent brand of tooth paste. Papa Kahte hai, I love you, Mummy Kahti hai, I love you, Mein bhi kahte hain, I love you, My My, Bi.......... Flouride. Not many knew that the voice behind this sweet and catchy jingle was that of Shanti Mathur!

Tail: That again reminded me about another song of Kishore Kumar, this from the Dev Aanand- Rakhee film Banarasi Babu(1973) with music by Kalyanji Aanandji. The tune matched the jingle of Shanti Mathur though the jingle was fast and the song slow. . (The errors if any, in the reproduced lyrics may please corrected by readers if any!).
‘Bure bhi hum Bhale bhi hum,
Samajhiyo na kisi se kum
Hamara naam Banarasi Babu,
Hum hain Banarasi Babu.

Friday, November 4, 2011


The release of the Tamil film KATHALIKKA NERAMILLAI in the year 1964 was an important event in the history of Tamil film industry. The film produced by Chitralaya and directed by late C.V.Sridhar, the celebrated producer director of Tamil films, was probably the first full length romantic comedy in Tamil and was a trend setter and an instant super-hit at the box office. The film, with an array of damsels, dances, disguises and witty dialogues had in it a big star cast comprising Muthuraman, Ravichander, Nagesh, Kanchana, Rajshri, Sachu, T.S.Balaih and so on.It was a wholesome entertainer and what made the comedy so enjoyable was that it was never allowed to be vulgar or fall below level.

Apart from the slick direction, and other tec
hnical values what contributed to the appeal of the film was the beautiful songs penned by Kannadasan, tuned by the outstanding duo of Viswanathan-Ramamoorthy and rendered melodiously by P.B. Sreenivos, P.Susheela,L.R.Easwari and Jesudoss.The soft number 'Unga ponnana kaigal' by P.B.Sreenivos is an outstanding melody in his remarkable sweet voice. The romantic duet 'Enna parvai' by Susheela and Jesudoss with the typical MSV beats in the background is another superb effort. The hilarious number 'Madi mele kodi katti kodi kodi nedi vetra sreemanee', with the intermittent shouting of the slogan 'Viswanathan Velavendum', by P.B. Sreenivos with the energetic background music was a trend setter and it still stands as one of the greats in the category of 'rollicks'.The song scene with the heroes staging a sort of 'dharna' singing and dancing in front of the house of their antagonist was a fresh and till then unfamiliar form of pressure tactic catching the imagination of the audience who thronged in large numbers at the theatres. Equally good are the duet 'Nalam nalaam' by P.B.Sreenivos and Susheela and the chorus 'Nenjathil' by Susheela,Jesudoss and Easwari. What made all the songs so catchy was the foot tapping , rhythmic background music so enchantingly used by the maestros MSV and Ramamurthy. The LP record of the film gives all these songs on side 2 with the side 1, for a change, giving the dialogues of the several scenes enacted by Nagesh and Saraswathy(Sachu) who dominated the comedy scenes of the film.

The film was a feather in the cap of director Sridhar who had earned a place for himself in Indian cinema with his debut film 'Kalyana Parisu' which was later made by him in Hindi titled "NAZRANA with Raj Kapur and Vyjayanhimala in the lead with music by Ravi.The songs of this film,viz., the interactive duet 'Bikhrake zulfen chaman' by Lata and Mukesh and the melodious Rafi number 'Baazi kisine pyarki were very popular besides the pathos filled 'Ek woh bhi Diwali thi' by Mukesh. The film 'Kathalikka Neramillai' itself was remade in Hindi by Sridhar titled 'Pyar Kiye Ja' with Sashi Kapur, KishorKumar and Mahmood doing the roles done by Ravichandran, Muthuraman and Nagesh. The female roles were done by Mumtaz, Kalpana and Rajshri. The music was by Laximikant -Pyarelel. In fact Rajshri had the distinction of acting also in the Telugu version of the film, 'Premichi Choodu'.Besides, she had also acted in several Malayalam films in the screen name Gracy.

An enviable feature of the film Kathalikka Neramillai was th
e fact that all its actors had very successful career in films with Ravichandran active till his death in July 2011. The contributions of Muthuraman and Nagesh to Tamil films were great as those of director Sridhar with so many successful films in Tamil and Hindi; Vennira Aadai, Nenjam Marappathillai, Nenjil Oru Alayam, Theen Nilavu, Saathi, Dil-e-Naadan and the remake 'Dil Ek Mandir', of Nenjil Oru Aalayam to name a few. In Dil-Ek-Mandir the roles handled by Muthuraman, Kalyan Kumar and Devika in the Tamil version were done by Rajinder Kumar, Raaj Kumar and the legendary Meena Kumari and the film had outstanding music by Shankar Jaikishen. The title song, a duet by Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur,' Dil -ek mandir hai' was extremely popular.

That also reminded me about Sridhar's Rajanikant-Kamal Hasan film 'Ilamai Oonjal Adukirathu' which was remade in Hindi in 1982 as 'Dil-E-Nadaan' with super stars Rajesh Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha,Jayaprada and Smitha Patil with music by the great Khayyam. This also was a great hit at the box office. The LP record of this film has a well designed two fold jacket with a huge centre spread in beautiful colour.

Tail piece:One of the earliest full length rollicking comedies is Satyan Bose's
'Chalti ka Naam Gadi'(1958) starring the Ganguly brothers, Asok Kumar, Kishor Kumar and Anup Kumar, with Madhubala as the leading lady and music by S.D.Burman. The film had inspired Kishor Kumar to make another film later titled'Badthi ka Naam Dhadi'!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The 10th of October 2011 was a forgettable day for Indian music in general and for Ghazal music in particular as it was on that day that the 'Unforgettable' and one of the greatest exponents of modern Indian ghazal, Jagjit Singh ,choose to make an exit from this world. A lot has appeared since then in the print media and on the visual media about Jagjit Singh's attributes as a singer, his background, his early days of struggle and set backs in life, his remarkable successes and his contributions to the world of ghazals.

To me, his greatest contribution was the way he brought Indian ghazal, from the unreachable height it was held in the realm of experts and stalwarts like Mehdi Hassan, Ghulam Ali, Begum Akthar and so on, down to the hearts of ordinary music lovers not only by his soulful singing of traditional lyrics but also through his own compositions. For many, during the 60s and early 70s, ghazals meant filmy ghazals especially the wonderful songs rendered by Talat Mahmood in his silken trembling voice which were a treat to the ears. Songs of Rafi in light ghazal style were also there. But it was with the advent of Jagjit Singh with his silken, deep, pathos filled voice, clarity of words and beautiful expression of the subtleties that the modern Indian ghazal that could capture popular acceptance was born. While his vocal rendering towed the traditional line what made him different and attractive to music lovers was the way he used modern and even Western music in the background . Thus his ghazals supported by his beautiful romance filled voice could easily gel with the young generation. A comparable event was that in Malayalam music with the arrival of Jesudas with his classical Carnatic 'katcheris' in his inimitable style and sweet melodious voice.It was Jesudas who made Carnatic music popular in Kerala and audience thronged at his 'katcheris' just as they did at his light music programs. Classical compositions did get the benefit of melody and sweetness of voice, thanks to Jesudas just as Hindustani ghazals were embellished by the sweet voice and melodious singing of Jagjit. Later when Jesudas started his own recording studio, Tharangini at Thiruvananthapuram, several classical music albums were released by them covering his live programs making more listeners 'classical friendly'.

Yes, it was mainly Jagjit Singh followed by the likes of Pankaj Udhas, Peenaz Masani, Chandan Das, Hariharan,Talat Aziz, the husband-wife duos of Bhupinder Singh- Mitale and Roop Kumar Rathod - Sonali and so on who gave ghazal the popularity and acceptance it richly deserved. After the initial failure to get himself established in Hindi film music he returned after his marriage with singer Chitra to Bombay to be busy there. His first LP Album of ghazals THE UNFORGETTABLES with wife Chitra released by Gramophone Company of India in 1976 was an outstanding success and it continues to be a 'must possess' LP album for gramophone record collectors. All the ghazals in it were hits and the one 'Baat niklegi to phir door talak jayegi' in Jagjit's voice continues to be soul stirring. There was no looking back for Jagit singh and several LP albums came out including ' A MILESTONE Jagjit Singh- Chitra singh' with ten beautiful ghazals, including 'Pareshan raat sari hai sitaro tum so jao, all composed by Jagjit Singh himself.There is also an LP album covering the live concert of the singing duo at Wembley, London. The superhit song 'Kal chaudhvin ki raat thi' was one of the songs at the concert. Music India also had released a LP album, 'The Best of Jagjit & Chitra Singh', again a big hit.

In the early 80s Jagjit was very busy in Hindi films as a singer as well as a Music director. In film 'Saath Saath' with music by Kuldip Singh, there were two memorable ghazals by Jagjit,viz.,'Tum to dekha to yeh khayal aaya' and "Pyar mujhse jo kiya tumne to kya paayogi'
both sweetness and melody oozing out. In film ARTH with music by Jagjit Singh there are two great songs, 'Jhuki jhuki si nazar' and 'Tum itna jo muskura rahi ho'. In both Jagjit was at his best.

When Jagjit was at the height of success, tragedy struck him when his only son, Vivek, lost his life in an accident. Even as wife Chitra did chose not to sing thereafter Jagjit found solace in ghazals and several albums continued to be released by him viz.,KHAMOSHI, SAHER, TUM TO HAHIN TO, AFSANA, SOZ, MARASIM, MIRAGE, AAEENA and so on. There is also one album TOGETHER with a few songs of himself and his friend and admirer Pankaj Udhas, himself an acclaimed singer of ghazals.

It is seldom that a reputed singer/music director sang and recorded songs of other singers/music directors.The greatness of Jagjit showed in his album CLOSE TO MY HEART in which he rendered ten very popular songs of Hindi films. In his accompanying commentary Jagjit revealed that he loved these songs from early years and that he held them very close to his heart. The selection included Talat Mahmoods's 'Seeneme sulagte hain' from film Tarana and 'Tasveer banata hoon'fron film Baradari, Hemant Kumar's 'Yeh nayan dare dare' from film Kohra, his duet with Lata, 'Yaad kiya dilne' from film Patita and the famous 'Jane woh kaise log tha' from film Pyasa, Kishor Kumar's 'Dukhi man mera' from film Fantoosh and so on. Some of those who loved only the original may find it difficult to accept them. But I found them highly engrossing in the rich soulful voice of Jagjit. He could not have rendered these songs so enchantingly had they not been really close to his heart. Again, Jagjit singing and recording Ghulam Ali's 'Chupke chupke' was a risky and brave attempt and the success he achieved in it was mainly due to his golden voice.

Though he had his share of success and limelight in Hindi films, he was unhappy with the trends and started concentrating in ghazals and stage programs which were highly successful. The album 'PARWAAS' released in 2003 covering his stage program in Singapore showed he had not lost his touch. Now, with his departure coupled with that of his son and stepdaughter, his wife Chitra has been left all alone.Jagjit and Chitra formed a formidable but a rare husband wife team of singers like that of Bhupinder-Mitale and Roop Kumar Rathod - Sonali. It is sad that one team is no more.

There are certain songs like,e.g., Mehdi Hasan's 'Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhane keliye aa', Ghulam Ali's 'Baharon ko chaman', Rafi's 'Oh duniya ke rekhwale', Lata's 'Ayega aanewale' and 'Yeh mere watan ke logon' etc.where the singer could take the songs to a sublime level leaving listeners spell bound. I always thought that the song 'Hothon se choo lo tum, mera geet amar kar do' penned by Indivar and tuned and rendered by Jagjit for the film Prem Geet (1981)was such a masterpiece. Whenever I heard it on my gramophone I felt Jagjit was singing it in a zone, the singer and the song merging and attaining immortality.

Tail piece: Roger Federer, in his prime, with his talent, technique, speed, stamina, style and grace, had often lifted tennis to a supreme level obliterating the line between the player and play.