Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bodyline & Composing Vinda

Vinda Karandikar has won the Dnyanpeeth Award this year. It’s big news for Marathi. Vinda was a professor of English and he won the Dnyanpeeth for his contribution to Marathi. Some of his students will swear that Vinda was one of the best teachers of the English language. It just goes on to confirm that the actual Art is being friendly with language and not just a language. If one has an aptitude for Marathi, he/she has an aptitude for English as well. It’s just a matter of showing the interest to learn the languages. That is why I do not, and will never, subscribe to terrorism in language and literature. Three years ago, there was a ridiculous proposition to ban all those litterateurs from the Sahitya Sammellans and other public platforms, whose children went to English medium schools. It reminded me of the story Andher Nagari, Chaupat Raja where the King sentences a thin man, who’s innocent, to the gallows instead of the fat convict, whose guilt has been proven, just because the noose won’t fit him!
However, that is not the topic of my blog today. For me, Vinda’s winning the Dnyanpeeth gives me an opportunity to relive my moments with his poetry… especially those poems which I have had the pleasure of composing.
The first Vinda Karandikar poem that I set to tune was ten years ago when we first staged the programme अमृताचा वसा in Chhabildas auditorium. The poem was:
पर्वतांनो दूर व्हा रे, सागरांनो दूर व्हा रे
उघडिले मी दार माझे, मानवांनो आत या रे
I remember the first time I had taken the book स्वेदगंगा in my hand. This was the poem that had me hooked. I just had to set it to tune. So I sat with the harmonium and the book. An hour passed, but I could not think of any tune. I read the poem again and again. I tried playing various permutations of notes that I could think that went well with the poem and its meaning. The whole exercise was irritating. Finally, I decided to the easiest thing in life. Go the living room and watch television. My brother was watching a cricket match. For sometime I got engrossed in the match and forgot the pains of composing the song.
On the TV screen, the fast bowler marched up to the run-up mark and came back at the batsman. He bowled a terrific bouncer that struck on the batsman’s helmet. My brother remarked casually that the bowlers were resorting to Bodyline tactics. Suddenly, a memory struck me like a flash of lightening. I remembered a scene from the TV series Bodyline, where the young Douglas Jardine is told by a mentor, “You don’t bowl at a batsman’s stumps; you bowl at his mind.
This line from Bodyline told me what I was doing wrong with the song. Sometimes it is not enough to set the words to a tune. You have to compose the man… the philosophy. I went to the room and read the poem all over again. This time I could see it differently. I was seeing the mind behind the words. I rediscovered the meaning of the phrase between the lines.

© Kaushal S. Inamdar 2005: Photo Credit - Sanjay Pethe