Saturday, 30 June 2007

'Pancham': Remembering RD Burman

If he were alive today, music composer RD Burman would have turned 68. His father Sachin Dev Burman was the scion of a small princely state in Assam but instead ruled over the hearts of music lovers in the sub-continent.

He affectionately called his son, 'Pancham'. RD was just nine when he hummed a tune for 'Aye meri topi palat ke aa' in Devanand's Funtoosh. SD liked it so much that he recorded it after some polishing and the song with the same tune was released.

At the age of 16, Pancham composed the music for the song 'Sar jo tera chakraye' in Pyaasa and on the set he struck friendship with Mahmood. Later Mahmood asked Pancham to compose music for Chhotey Nawab. For the song 'Ghir aaye kare badra', Lata reached Pancham's house and then remembered that she was not on talking terms with Sachin Dev Burman, in those days. And she sat outside the flat, on the stairs, for rehearsal along with Pancham.

In Mehmood's next movie Bhoot Bunglow, Pancham not only composed music but also acted. Amin Sayani was also an actor in this movie. A football freak, Pancham was also addicted to laying chess. He loved to cook. He and his wife Asha Bhonsle kept experimenting with recipes as much as they did with music and songs.

Whether it was blowing air in an empty bottle to create the background music in Sholay or striking the spoon with teacup to create the tune for 'Chura liya hai', Pancham could create music during any activity. After SD Burman's illness and subsequent death, his wife lost her mental balance. And Pancham served his mother with a rare dedication.

Rahul Dev Burman alias Pancham was born in Kolkata (then Calcutta) on June 27, 1934. He gave music in 331 movies apart from four albums. The beat stopped on January 4, 1994.

Jai Prakash Chouskey
(This article was first published in a Hindi daily)

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Sikhs visiting holy shrines in Pakistan


It is heartening to see hundreds of Sikh pilgrims taking trains for Pakistan, to pay obeisance at their holy shrines, and crossing the border easily after nearly six decades.

The family seen waving hands, was going to Gurudwara Dera Sahib to observe the 40th martyrdom of Guru Arjun Dev. No less than 500 'jatthas' had left for Pakistan then. The photograph was taken at Attari railway station, sometime back.

Pakistan has one of the holiest sites for Sikhs and once it was a dream for pilgrims to visit these holy shrines. The other photograph was taken recently when pilgrims were leaving for Lahore.

On the left is the recent photograph of a Sikh pilgrim on board a special train, carrying 253 passengers. He is leaving for Pakistan on the occasion of the death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

For the sub-continent, it's great news. In the post-partition riots, millions of Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were displaced. The Sikhs, being a small minority, suffered most due to this displacement, in the sense that a micro minuscule population of the community, remained in Pakistan.

Of course, there was a similar exodus of Muslims from Indian Punjab but that was only restricted mainly to one state. There are no less than 156 Sikh shrines in Pakistan, many of them in a bad shape.

Nankana Sahib, one of the holiest shrines of the Sikhs, is in Pakistan and so is Panja Sahib. One only wishes that the restrictions would ease further and Sikhs/Muslims and Hindus, who are the same people bound by common culture, can move across the border, freely and easily just like Europe.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Madam Prez: First woman president in India?

Pratibha Patil may become the first woman president of India. Many may term it as a reward for her loyalty to Nehru-Gandhi family or the politics of symbolism but the fact is that in the last six decades we never had a female President.

Vinod Mehta terms it a master stroke. She is a woman that makes it difficult for BJP to oppose. She is also a Shekhawati and either she or Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, would take oath as India's next President on June 25, the day APJ Abdul Kalam leaves the Raisina Hills.

Is it tokenism? It could be but let's face it. In Indian politics bigwigs often lose out and non-controversial 'dark horses' emerge as winners. Just like Inder Kumar Gujaral and HD Deve Gowda, who just became Prime Ministers because nobody had anything against them.

When we can have a President like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed (signed the order promulgating emergency) who was a mere rubber stamp and Giani Zail Singh, who was also ready to take up broom for Indira Gandhi, at least Pratibha looks a far better option. May be she will prove to be different.

The 72-year-old is a lawyer by profession and was deputy chairperson of Rajya Sabha in the late eighties. A Marathi by birth, she married Devi Singh Ram Singh Shekhawat, an educationist. She was a table tennis player at college level. Pratibha Patil has set up working women's hostels in Mumbai and Delhi, apart from engineering college for rural youths.

So we can't say that she is just anybody and has also shown concern towards the common man. As Governor of Rajasthan, she had refused to sign the controversial Freedom of Religion (Conversion) Bill.

It is common knowledge that for anybody who would step into the Rashtrapati Bhawan after Avul Pakir Jainulabideen Kalam, it is going to be a daunting task to meet the expectations. After all, Kalam has not only restored the dignity of President' s house but also emerged as a role model for millions especially kids in an era when the nation was frustrated with its leaders.

Pratibha, who is the Governor of Rajasthan, is no novice. She has the credentials and may be she will prove her critics wrong. Hindustaniat doesn't support the UPA candidate. Of course, we do support Pratibha Patil as India's next president. Is there any difference. Yes, there is!

We had a woman Prime Minister in Indira Gandhi though we had no President in 60 years. And we may have a woman president also within the next ten days. And United States is yet to have a woman head of state ever since the post was established way back in 1789!

There have been selections merely on the basis of religion (Sikh, Muslim) and also caste (Dalit/OBC) for the top posts in this country. Who has the moral gumption now to counter her candidature that she is just being pushed because of her gender?

Monday, 4 June 2007

Mumtaz Mahal's Mausoleum: Celebrating 350 years of love

Indians are waking up to the ongoing poll for selecting the new seven wonders of the world and gearing up to vote to ensure that Taj gets into the list of modern wonders.

As we all know, the Emperor of Hindustan Shah Jehan had constructed this magnificent mausoleum at an astronomical cost in memory of his wife Mumtaz Begum who had died on the banks of Tapti river in Burhanpur.

It is a different story though that Mumtaz' eldest daughter Jehan Aara was buried at almost the same time in a grave that was covered only with grass.

Jehan Aara felt that ultimately grass outgrows all graves, howsoever magnificent they may be. (She had Sufi leanings and had written a book on Khwaja Moiunddin Chishti.) But Taj proved to be an exception.

Six months after her burial in a temporary grave at the gateway of Deccan, Burhanpur, the body of Mumtaz Mahal was exhumed and rested in a grave in Agra on December 28, 1631 . Again, after two months (Feb 9, 1632) the body was finally buried in the mazaar meant for her in the Taj Mahal.

Ustad Isa Afandi was brought for Iran for construction of this magnificent tomb. The biggest problem for them was to save the monument was erosion of the foundation from the waters of Jamna (Yamuna). Hundreds of deep wells were dug and tonnes of lime, rubble, brick pieces and sand were deposited in these wells so that the water could be soaked. Recently some such wells were found during digging near Taj.

Ustad Isa Afandi was brought for Iran for construction of this magnificent tomb. The biggest problem for them was to save its foundation from the waters of Jamna (Yamuna).

Hundreds of deep wells were dug and tonnes of lime, rubble, brick pieces and sand were deposited in these wells so that the water could be soaked. Recently some such wells were found during digging near Taj.

Taj Mahal has fascinated the world for the last 350 years. In 1927 Himanshu Rai had made a film Shirazi that was based on the Taj. It's sole print is available in a Pune museum which was shown in Australia last year. In the decade of sixties Mahboob Khan had hired famous Hollywood writer Rober Bolt to write a story of Taj Mahal.

Just like Shahjehan had called a Persian architect to build Taj, Mahboob Khan, himself a Mughal, called a European to write the story. The script couldn't be completed but a copy of this incomplete work was in possession of Sunil Dutt. Do we expect that his son, Sanjay Dutt, would be having it with him?

Taj is described as a tear on the cheek of time. It has inspired poets and writers though we have verses like Sahir Ludhianvi's nazm 'Taj Mahal' that says 'an emperor on the strength of wealth has played a cruel joke on the poor'.[ek shahanshah ne daulat ka sahaara le kar/ham gharibon ki mohabbat ka udaaya hai mazaq]
Taaj tere liye ik mazahar-e-ulfat hii sahii
tum ko is vaadii-e-ra.ngii.n se aqiidat hii sahii
mere mahabuub kahii.n aur milaa kar mujh se!

bazm-e-shaahii me.n Gariibo.n kaa guzar kyaa maanii
sabt jis raah pe ho.n satavat-e-shaahii ke nishaa.N
us pe ulfat bharii ruuho.n kaa safar kyaa maanii....


A symbol of love is Taj for you,
A place of fun, frolic for you.
But my dear, for my sake, Meet me at another place.

Not for poor this palace
Royal grandeur fills this place.
How can young innocent hearts Be at peace in these parts?

In 1963 movie Taj Mahal, Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai played the role of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz. The lyrics of the film were an instant hit. In 2005, Akbar Khan's ambitious project, Taj Mahal, that was a Rs 100 crore project, bombed at the box office.

main Taj hun
waqt ke chehre par thamaa huaa aansu hun
sangmarmari jism mein qaid awaz hun
main insani hauslon aur iraadon ki bulandi ka parcham hun
main tavarikh ke warqon men insaani jazbaat ka khilaa huaa gulaab hun
main waqt ke darya ke bahar nikle haathon ke zuban hun
main hazaron mehnat kashon ke....
main Taj hun
Isa Afandi aur Shahjehan jo kahin duur dafan hain
voh tarikh ki parton se nikalne ke liye beqarar hain
aur main unki beqarari ka bayaan hun
main Taj hun...

Every person who is passionate and puts in a great effort in his work with utmost integrity and devotion is creating a Taj Mahal.

(Translated from Jai Prakash Chaukse's story published in a Hindi daily on June 4, 2007),

Friday, 1 June 2007

Vanmala: The ethereal beauty

She was so gorgeous that a 10-year-old kid fell in love with her on the movie sets and would stand for hours, intently watching her.

The child was Raj Kapoor and the actress was Vanmala who was acting along side his father Prithvi Raj Kapoor in the movie Sikandar.

Vanmala, who worked in many Hindi and Marathi movies including 'Sharbati Ankhen', 'Vasantsena' & Marathi movie 'Shyamchi Aai' passed away in Gwalior recently.

She was 92. Few were aware that she was still alive and small obituaries hardly did justice to the actress who stole a million hearts in the 30s and 40s.

Sushiladevi Pawar alias Vanmala was born in 1915 and started her career with Minerva Movietone's blockbuster Sikander with Sohrab Modi and Prithvi Raj Kapoor as lead actors in the film.

Oldies still remember the dreamy eyed Rukhsana whose character she played in the movie. A staunch nationalist who was actively involved in freedom movement along with Aruna Asaf Ali and Achyut Patwardhan, Vanmala is best remembered for her role in Marathi movie Shyamchi Aai. She actively participated in the Quit India movement.

In her old age, she was involved in social causes and even when she was in her early 90s, the former actress ran school to train children in culture and traditional Indian arts. Close friends said that she loved her solitude and enjoyed this sort of life. She was a religious person.

Vanmala was daughter of Sardar Bapurao Pawar, who was related to the ruling family of Gwalior (Scindias). After graduation she had started teaching in a school in Pune and later had an unsuccessful marriage with PK Sawant (who later became a state minister).

She acted in 33 movies including Vasantsena, Gharjavai and Shyamchi Aai. In the last she played the role of a doting mother. She had won the President's award for best actress. Susheeladevi Pawar, like many other actresses of yesteryears was living a quiet life and was remembered only in her death.

The 'sharbati aankhein' are closed for ever.

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