Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Rear Window: The Chalice & The Drinker

A beautiful Urdu she'r (couplet) says:

इश्क़ की चोट तो पडती है दिलों पे यक्सां
ज़र्फ़ के फ़र्क़ से आवाज़ बदल जाती है।

It means that in love, the blow is similar to all hearts. But the sound changes depending on the vessel. Figuratively, it means that different people react differently depending on the constitution of their own self.

Not just in love, people react differently even to music. The same piece of music means different things to different people at different times.

I often hear people talking about the 'common man'. I think that the idea of a 'common' man is a fantasy. I believe that every person perceives a song differently. He interprets a song with reference to his mental make-up, environment, emotional and intelligence quotient, and the chest of his experience, which presents a unique combination.

The very idea of finding a lowest common denominator to the understanding of a work of art is highly inartistic This is one place where ambiguity can be a virtue. So how do I view this blog and the purpose of writing this in the first place? The answer is that we make a travel from possibility to probability. As I write my impressions of a song, I am sure that there will be echoes in your head too.

I throw a stone into still waters and there are ripples in your mind. That is what we do. And so, readers and listeners, let us raise the chalice... it might be the same drink inside, but we have different tongues and taste is not the virtue of the drink alone, but its chemistry with the tongue!

I share with you the song that first awakened me to the fact that composition was an art... and that there was something intoxicating about music... and that those who missed this intoxication missed a higher awareness!

GHULAM ALI - Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rear Window: The First Peep

I had actually started a new blog by the name - REAR WINDOW and also wrote two posts on it. But later I realised that I was just doubling my efforts by starting another blog when this blog was quite capable of carrying this topic in its womb. So I am reproducing the posts here. All posts that are to do with the analysis and commentary on music or my make up as a musician will be under the label of REAR WINDOW.

As the name of the blog suggests, I am an ardent Hitchcock fan. But no, this blog has nothing to do with his movies or TV shows, nor does it have to do anything with spying on neighbours with binoculars. I chose this name because it suggests to me among other things, a different perspective which is uncommon. The front window is basically meant to provide a view. You see what is meant to be seen. It is a given perspective. The Rear Window, however, seemingly offers nothing to view. But it usually offers a lot to observe!

It is often the case with music. The creators give you a view of the music. But as a student of music and a student of human nature, I often find that there are different perspectives to looking at a song. Sometimes they even are the perspectives that the creators wish to give you but are not successful. That doesn't take away anything from the song. At other times, we see things in a song that were not meant for us to see!

Years of being a musician has changed the way I experience or consume music. I have given up my urge to be judgemental. When I listen to a song now, I am not in a hurry to pass a verdict. Instead, I let it influence me. I try and submit to it. Like a wine connoisseur, I let it linger in my system.

This blog is a sum of my impressions and analyses, my opinions and my experiences, my insights and my prejudices. Because that is how you experience a song. Holistically. I hope you enjoy the exercise as much as I do. 

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2015

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year: Then & Now

I started writing this blog exactly nine years ago on January 1, 2006. I haven't been much of a regular blogger in these nine years but have managed to keep the blog alive. Some of the posts that I wrote received terrific response and so I have managed to garner 58000+ views. My last post on my trip to Scotland and the referendum fever also got a terrific number of views and some fantastic response outside India. Another post that truly increased the readership of the blog was the post on A.R. Rahman and the analysis of his music. All the posts that were fairly popular have been listed in the right hand side column of this blog.

I had resolved that I shall be a regular writer, which I have been in these nine years though not on this blog. I did some amount of writing for Marathi newspapers like Prahar, Sakal, Divya Marathi. Most of this writing was on music and in Marathi. The collected articles were finally published as a book two years ago by Maitreya Prakashan, a reputed publisher in Marathi.

A lot has changed within me as a person and as a music composer in these nine years. I did films like Balgandharva, Ajintha, Pitruroon, Sanshaykallol and of course, the National Award winning film, Yellow! I also composed the music and wrote the songs for a Hindi film 'It's Breaking News', a good movie that I believe was killed due to bad marketing and the vindictiveness of the English media. I also composed and executed the Marathi Abhimaangeet, an experience that changed me not only as a music composer but also as a human being. I am writing separately about my journey of the Marathi Abhimaangeet on a different blog. I suggest you all read it.


And so as they say in Marathi, in these nine years a lot of water has passed under the bridge. But the basic quest has remain unchanged. As I wrote in my first blogpost:

At every point of my existence as a music composer and a human being I stumble across question marks. These question marks are very tricky and they do not dissect my life into questions posed to music composer and questions posed to a human being. Somewhat like the famous line in the film Deewar - "Lagta hai bhai ke bhes mein mujrim baat kar raha hai!".
- See more at: http://musicandnoise.blogspot.in/2006/01/introduction.html#sthash.FGvEsEkm.dpuf
2014 has been good to me. I performed KaushalKatta on three continents, did a terrific film like YELLOW, won some awards, met some fantastic people and retained my optimism. As a goodwill gesture I have decided that I will be good to 2015!

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2015

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scotland Picture Diaries: Music in Interesting Times

Rajashree Gore & I on the T2 terminal of the
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
We live in interesting times. These are times of political and civil unrest. Not just in India but in the whole world. Today, on the 18th of September, Scotland goes in for a referendum. There are some moments which define history, some moments that change its course. Tomorrow will be one such moment.

Just two weeks prior to this referendum, I happened to be in Scotland for a programme organised by the Marathi Mandal of Scotland, Glasgow on the account of their Ganesh Festival celebrations. I had been to Scotland once before but only for a brief period of two days.

Rajashree Gore, talented singer and colleague was accompanying me on this trip. Our Emirates flight was to Glasgow with a brief halt at Dubai.

I was aware of the general unrest brewing in Scotland due to my previous trip to Aberdeen last year. At the time, I was told by the Marathi speaking Scottish citizens that Scotland had a party called the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) which they had interestingly compared with Raj Thackeray's MNS.

This time around the atmosphere in Scotland was definitely politically charged with houses, establishments sporting a 'YES' or a 'NO THANKS' sign on their facades. I am kicking my leg for not taking at least one picture of the boards. I do pride myself on being politically aware but missed out the significance of such a vital photograph.

A Street in Aberdeen
We arrived in Glasgow and on the same day headed towards Aberdeen. Aberdeen is a beautiful city on the northeast of Scotland and is known as the Oil Capital of Europe. We stayed with a friend, Vishwas Shinde, a Scottish citizen proud of his Marathi roots. Most of the Marathi immigrants to Scotland work in the Oil & Petroleum industry. I talked to almost everybody I met about the impending referendum. The reactions were mixed. Vishwas Shinde himself was for a YES and his 12 year old daughter was for an emphatic NO. She has grown up in Scotland and gave her reasons (mainly economic) for staying with the Union. The mother was more with the daughter than the husband! So in the Shinde household the majority was for a NO, THANKS with a vote of 2:1!

The next day Mr Shinde took us for a drive to Inverness, a scenic town to the northwest of Aberdeen. Following are some of the pictures that I clicked in and around Inverness.
On the way to Inverness

Vishwas Shinde, Rajashree and I in Inverness

The River Ness in Inverness

Scotland is extremely serene. If you allow yourself the luxury of not thinking, you can virtually experience time stopping. We stopped by this lake and that is exactly the feeling that I got.

A lake in Scotland

Our next visit to Scotland was to Urquhart Castle, which is again a glowing symbol of the fierce Scottish National pride. Read the wikipedia article on Urquhart Castle to know more about it. One is compelled to compare their preservation of monuments with ours. And even the serene atmosphere for a minute disturbs us, when we think about the irreverence we show towards our national monuments.

Castle Urquhart

Even the remains and the ruins are well cared for.

The Lonely Bagpiper (Catch the video below)

What fascinated me at the Castle Urquhart was the presence of a sole bagpiper playing a melancholy tune. I took a video on my iphone. I think one of my best candid catches of the trip.

Prashant Kurle's depiction of Ganapati as Sir William Wallace.
In the evening after the beautiful drive, we paid a social visit to a Ganapati celebration at the residence of Shri Prashant Kurle who had himself made a very interesting Ganesh idol. The idol was dressed in the clothes of Sir William Wallace, a Scottish land-owner who fought for the independence of Scotland. Sir William Wallace happens to be the subject of the Mel Gibson movie, Braveheart. In the times of the referendum, it seemed to be an interesting political comment. In Maharashtra, we see politically relevant 'dekhaave' (visuals) in Sarvajanik (Public) Ganeshotsav Mandals, but Ganapati as William Wallace was still a new one! Notice that in the picture the two towers hold flags of the UK and Scotland, but Ganesh's mouse holds the flag of India! Draw your own conclusions!
Performing in Glasgow

We returned to Glasgow to give our performance. The programme was titled Eka Sangeetkarachi Mushaphiri (Wanderings of a Music Composer). Among other songs, I talked about the Marathi Abhimaangeet. There were no native Scots in the auditorium and yet as I spoke about the song, I got the feeling that the desire to sustain and preserve a language and a culture sometimes overtakes economic compulsions and is a much more powerful emotion. It would be a serious mistake to disregard or even dismiss emotions as being irrational or illogical. Sanity does not always reside in logic. As Alfred North Whitehead so rightly puts it.
"Logic is the soul of wit, and not wisdom. That is why wit is so funny."
After the performance with Dhananjay Modak and Rajashree Gore
The Scottish people are demanding independence not just because they feel that they are in a bondage. They feel that this is their only chance at sustaining their culture and language and as a result, their identity. The English have threatened them in the language they know - that Scotland won't be able to use the Pound once it is granted independence. In doing so, they might have just showed their ignorance about the will of a motivated people. Do read about the concerns of the sustainability of the Gaelic language in this article.

The Marathi Abhimaan Geet received a rousing response in Glasgow. People rose to their feet to clap and some of them had tears in their eyes. There were a few Scottish technicians in the auditorium. I wonder if they could identify Marathi Asmita with the Scottish Asmita!

The next day we travelled to the Scottish highlands and also took a tour of a Scotch distillery - Glengoyne. Apart from the signboards of YES and NO, THANKS, nothing reminded us of politics.

The Glengoyne Distillery

At the Glengoyne Distillery

The Scottish Highlands

Loch Lamond
With Rajashree Gore & Joe Walters
We came back to London for a day where we met my dear friend, musician Joe Walters. Joe has his origins in Scotland. I asked him what he felt about the referendum and he said that he felt 'torn'. I looked at him and nodded. Sometimes, there are no sides to take and no hedge to sit on. I could very well understand his emotion. You just have to watch events unfold.

As my friend Yashodhan Gokhale wrote on his facebook wall, not a single bus is burnt, there is no sign of slightest of violence even in face of such politically charged atmosphere.

That is a sign of political maturity. I wish we displayed at least a fraction of it. Perhaps we will someday.

Looking back I feel that we live in interesting times and are witnesses of some great history unfolding. The only hitch is that we are not aware of it. The awareness might turn us from witnesses to those who shape history albeit in a small or even miniscule manner. On a personal note, the trip to Scotland reiterated my belief that music travels beyond the realm of entertainment.

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sampooran Singh Kalra and Shrikrishna

On August 18, 1934, a boy was born to Makhan Singh Kalra and Sujan Kaur in the Jhelum District (now in the Punjab province in Pakistan). He was named Sampooran Singh. Sampooran (meaning Complete) had a flair for writing but initially worked as a car mechanic in Bombay. He renounced his name to adopt another one, but in doing so in fact justified his original name as he became 'Sampoorna' in every way - a poet, a storyteller, a screenplay writer, a prolific lyricist, a filmmaker and even a producer. Yes, you could say that Sampooran Singh became truly 'Sampoorna' as he perfected every aspect of filmmaking and storytelling. The name that Sampooran Singh adopted was Gulzar.

Eighty years later, it seemed interesting to me that Gulzar sahab's birthday should fall on Janmashtami (Lord Krishna's birthday according to the Hindu calendar). The feeling was further accentuated when Rahul Roushan on twitter put up a very relevant poster of the film 'Meera' which Gulzar sahab had directed. It struck me Shrikrishna might as well have been named 'Sampooran' had he been born in Punjab!

We know the Dashavatara of Vishnu as mythology but ancient Indian scriptures were not just about religion. Dashavatara is actually the Theory of Evolution told in parables. The first avatar - Matsya (Fish) is an aquatic being. Then comes Koorma (Tortoise), the amphibian. The third avatar is Varaha (Boar), a terrestrial animal followed by fourth avatar of Narasimha (Half man, half beast). The fifth avatar is Waman - the short man or the pygmy. The sixth - Parashuram (Stone Age Man) who works with iron tools. The seventh avatar is Ram (Administrator and social animal). The eighth avatar is Krishna, the Shrimant Yogi (The complete man.) Plato's Philosopher King is very close to the concept of Krishna! The only avatar above Krishna is Buddha (the Evolved Being). Buddha is more than complete! This can only be succeeded by the tenth avatar, Kalki (Destruction).

The coincidence also reminded me of Acharya Rajneesh's lecture on Meera. Rajneesh started off by saying that Meera was a calm lake and that he was inviting the listener on a cruise of this lake!

In his discourse on Meera, Osho Rajneesh says that it is significant that Krishna's symbol should be the peacock feather. It implies that Krishna has all the colours in him. He is complete. He doesn't have to rush to the Himalayas to find peace. He can stand on the battlefield and can be calm because the Himalaya is within him! His hand holds the flute and the Sudarshan Chakra! Gulzar may have done a lot of things in his lifetime, but poetry is his life; whereas Shrikrishna's life was poetry!

Gulzar's lyrics have often made references to Krishna even when there was no direct mention of Shrikrishna in the scene or the screenplay. For example in Mora Gora Ang Lai Le, Mohe Shaam rang Dai De (Sujata). In Phir Se Aiyo Badara Bidesi (Namkeen) and then again in Kajara Re (Bunty Aur Bubly) he makes reference to 'Kaali kamli wala'. Interestingly the phrase has been used for Krishna, Mohammed, Vishuddhanadji Maharaj, and Meher Baba! Quite like Krishna's peacock feather!

A very happy birthday to Gulzar and Lord Shrikrishna as well! Enjoy this song of Namkeen where the dark clouds (which is a good omen in this land of the monsoon unlike in the West where dark clouds are regarded ominous) are as abstract as Krishna or as abstract as Gulzar's poetry - whatever you choose!

Phir Se Aaiyo Badra Bidesi Tere Pankhon Pe ( Asha Bhosle ) RD Burman & Gulzar`s -Namkeen- by Coffee House

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Staying Alive

The morning began on a surreal note. I woke up to find twitter abuzz with the hashtag of #RIPRobinWilliams and hushed mentions of suicide.

Suicide is always disturbing. May it be beautiful Jiah Khan or Viveka Babajee or even the forlorn Gurudutt, or the anonymous boy who jumps off from the terrace of a building after faring badly in his exams. Within the inner walls of the soul, some people live with a locked door to which the key melts as soon as the lever of that lock clicks. The walls of this inner sanctum are transparent but totally sound proof. People from both sides see each other, but none hears the other.

But Robin Williams was a comedian! That is the starkest truth about the whole matter. Not even a sense of humour saves you once you once you slip into the abyss of melancholy. Not fame, not money, not even a sense of humour.

Robin Williams, with his actor friends, Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Crystal started a huge charity called Comic Relief Inc., a charity that raised funds for the homeless. It would seem that there is a cure for homelessness, but none for hopelessness.

Is there a way out? I don't know. More often that not, we look for simplistic solutions to a very complex problem.

There is no simplistic solution. It is a dark world outside, but there may be a darker world inside which we all battle everyday, each moment. The only ray of light I see is in love. Love everything. That is why I find Kusumagraj, the Dnyanpeeth Award winning Marathi poet, a lighthouse. In his poem, 'Prem Yog' (प्रेमयोग) he advocates loving the fire of jealousy in Kansa's heart as much as we ought to love Radha's affectionate, tender breast. Because, writes Kusumagraj, Love is the essence of the human civilisation, the conclusion of our history, and the sole hope for tomorrow.

I pay my respects to Robin Williams who died a tragic death, but not before creating moments of happiness in the lives of many like me.

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2014

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Bond with Kishore Kumar

As a child, I don't remember having cried at anybody's death or funeral. Death was, perhaps, beyond comprehension. Then as one went into teens, it was quite common to be imprisoned by the stereotypical theory of 'Boys don't cry'. So tears were resisted. But on the 13th day of October 1987, just 10 days after I turned 16, I cried a lot. There was no way that I could bar my tears from flowing. The reason was that Kishore Kumar had passed away.

It was heart-breaking. I remember that I went to the elevator and cried. I was myself surprised that I could turn sentimental. I never thought I was the type. But often one discovers oneself when one is off guard.

There is a lot that one could write on Kishore Kumar, his songs, his music, his acting, even his lyric writing and his movies. And I do propose to do it soon in my new blog - Rear Window. But that is not the purpose of this post. It was Kishore Kumar's birthday yesterday and I wanted to share one exclusive moment that I shared with his music.

I never had the good fortune to meet him, but I did share an exclusive moment with one of his songs. This song is not talked about much even among music lovers, but I think, happens to be among his best renditions.

It so happened that Sai Paranjape was hunting for a 'chawl' for her film, 'Katha'. (At that time the film was called 'Kachhua aur Khargosh'. They changed the name later probably for the ease of pronunciation.) The film starred Farooq Shaikh, Naseeruddin Shah and Deepti Naval. The chawl that Sai Paranjape finalised was in Pune and happened to be the residence of my maternal grandparents. My grandfather, Shankarrao Biniwale, a well-known violinist and my mother, Lalakari were well known to Sai Paranjape. (My mother was part of a children's music programme called Bal Durbar on Pune radio, which Sai Paranjape used to compere.)

The shoot of Katha was like a festival for the residents of Salunke Wada. The usually sleepy chawl had come to life with the hustle-bustle of the shooting and arrival of film stars. On their part, even the film stars behaved like an extended family of the residents of the Salunke Wada.

I had a long holiday in school and I visited my maternal grandparents often. This time I was surprised to see the chawl in such a gay mood. The first star that I saw was Deepti Naval. Dark and beautiful, I remember she was quiet and very dignified. Farooque Shaikh on the other hand was quite pally with all the local residents. When I went to him for an autograph, he signed my book with a smile and asked me in Marathi about which school I went to. When I told him I was from Mumbai, he said: "अरे वा! मीसुद्धा मुंबईचाच!" (I too am from Mumbai!)

Watching Katha takes me back in time. There are so many signs of the past in the film that nostalgia grips me every time I watch the film.

The scene where Leela Mishra gives a thalipeeth (a traditional Maharashtrian dish made with multiple flours) to Farooque Shaikh was shot in our kitchen. The curtains in Deepti Naval's house were made by my grandmother and the wall-hangings by my mother. My grandparents are seen in different scenes in the film.

But even today the one memory that holds sway over me is the shooting of the song - Maine Tumse Kuchch Nahin Maanga! Music director Rajkamal has some of the sweetest melodies to his name. But this is a rare song which was sung by Kishore Kumar. You don't associate Sai Paranjape's films with a Kishore Kumar song and this was one of the rare occasions! The shooting of the song was fixed for a night shift. Not only the unit and the actors but the entire Salunke Wada was awake to watch the shoot of this song.

When the song was played on the Nagra, it was magic. I was looking out of the window when Kishore Kumar's deep baritone voice filled up the entire space.

मैंने तुमसे कुछ नहीं माँगा
आज दे दो, सौ बरस से जगे इन नैनों को...
नींद का वरदान दे दो।

The beautiful lyric by Indu Jain, soothing music by Rajkamal, and exquisitely sung by Kishore Kumar. The scene was such that Naseeruddin had to catch the hem of Deepti Naval's saree as she went up the stairs and hold it and then she gently pulls it out of his hand and he releases it watching her go. The particular shot went into takes and retakes as the two veteran actors just could not get the timing right. Sai Paranjape was adamant (and rightfully so) that she wanted Naseeruddin to release the saree on a downbeat, but somehow that moment eluded him every time and he released the hem either too early or too late. It was quite a number of takes before the actors and the unit heaved a sigh of relief.

I'll never forget that final shot. It was too perfect!

Kishore Kumar has always been my favourite playback singer. But with this song, that bond became personal. Years have passed since that night and my grandparents have since then passed away. So have Kishore Kumar and Farooque Shaikh. A few years ago Salunkhe Wada, one day, simply collapsed and was razed to the ground due to indiscriminate building work around it. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. Whatever remains now remains on a DVD. But, the moment I hear Kishore Kumar singing Maine Tumse Kuchch Nahin Maanga - my mind goes back to those vacations of 1982. Some memories can never be razed to the ground.

© Kaushal S. Inamdar, 2014