Rafi and his ever increasing population

Mohammed Rafi was undoubtedly one of the finest male playback singers that country had ever heard and though it’s been more than four decades that he died a premature death, his popularity, if anything, seems to be increasing. His fan club continues to add newer members, many of whom are millennials, who are becoming his diehard fans, in spite of being fed on an overdose of what’s popularly called as fusion music.

More surprisingly, when he died, he was not exactly at the peak of his career. He ruled the decades of 50s and 60s, but by the time 60s were paving way for 70s, a new phenomenon called Kishore Kumar had stormed the playback industry, sweeping away all the veterans – Rafi, Manna Dey, Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor. Combining with the then newly crowned superstar, Rajesh Khanna, there was a monopolisation of playback scene that was hitherto unseen. There are stories of how even great Rafi had started wondering whether he needed to change his style to match Kishore’s.

However, you could not keep a good thing down and even at the peak of Kishore era, there were few songs that only great Rafi could sing and this was endorsed by none other than the reigning champion Kishore himself. By the time the decade was reaching it’s end, Rafi had almost reclaimed his unmatched status in the industry.

However, the great man died at the age of 56 plunging the nation into deep sorrow. While his death led to an eruption of clones imitating him – Shabbir, Munna Aziz etc, the original man was simply irreplaceable. What is a matter of far greater pleasant surprise is that as aforesaid, more than 4 decades after his death, the man’s popularity and idol worship has only gone up. I have seen so many vlogs, talk shows, fan clubs and even a temple dedicated to the great man, all flourishing in last few years, much after Rafi’s death.

In his lifetime, he was simplicity personified, a deeply religious man with his feet firmly on the ground. He was extremely humble and generous to an extent that his finances had to be dealt with by his wife’s brother as the great man himself was shortchanged easily. A simple plea of lack of resource would make him sing without any fee for that particular producer or music director.

The idea for this blog came to me from an article that I came across that celebrated several great achievers who were not felicitated enough during their lifetime. They either died of heart break or with deep grudge of not having received their due. I think it’s more important to create a body of quality work than to crave for immediate or at least delayed recognition within one’s lifetime. Mohammed Rafi’s life is an example of divine performance and understated personality that’s being celebrated more and more with the passage of time!

Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare – these lines amply testify the man that Rafi was – truly great but highly satisfied who treated his work as worship without any craving for any reward.

Main hoon Don

A WhatsApp post tells me that it was this day 44 years ago on 12th May 1978 to be precise, Amitabh starrer blockbuster Don was released. Directed by a relatively unknown and probably a first timer Chandra Barot, Don went on to becoming a milestone movie in the annals of Hindi filmdom.

Though Amitabh, who was at the zenith of his popularity and superstardom, was the mainstay of this out and out masala potboiler playing a memorable double role, he was ably supported by other team members – the supporting star cast comprising Zeenat, Pran, Iftekhar, Helen, lyricist Anjan whose command over bhojpuri/ poorvi led to some beautiful lyrics such as khaike pan Banaras wala, ih hai Mumbai Nagariya amongst others composed to popular foot tapping tunes by Kalyanji Anandji duo and of course Chandra Barot, who converted a regular masala fare into an iconic movie.

It’s also in the records that making of Don ran into series of problems and it was Chandra’s perseverance that the movie could finally reach the cinemas. But once released, it went on to earning undiluted adoration of the viewers, setting the cash register ringing. And it’s success was all round from acting to lyrics to music that was evident from the awards it won.

It’s also a fact that before singing all time great number khaike pan Banaras wala, Kishore Kumar actually asked for a Pan, put it in his mouth and then sang the song to produce a natural effect. There is lots of other trivia associated with the making of this cult movie.

Such was its longevity that Farhan Akhtar decided to recreate the magic of the original Don by remaking it with the raging superstar Shahrukh Khan and almost ended up creating the similar impact as original. Udit Narayan and Sunidhi Chauhan went on to singing the iconic original songs khaike pan and yeh Mera Dil.

While box office registers have started ringing again after a prolonged spell of pandemic, what Bollywood needs is a real blockbuster like Don to bring its business firmly back on the track.

Mumbai and Music

I have an ear for music right since my childhood thanks to my mother, who was a singer of some repute. There was musical atmosphere at our home in Delhi and musicians of various hues used to visit off and on. I, as a child, had one grand desire – to listen to Bollywood icons – Lata, Rafi, Kishore, Asha, Mukesh – performing live on the stage and this one thought used to attract me to this Mayanagari called Mumbai. Unfortunately, Mukesh died quite early in my adolescence and when I was still in my teens, Rafi bade adieu. Kishore was still there when I was about to turn professional and hoped to catch up on his live performance, if posted in Mumbai. Unfortunately, Kishore also died in 1987, while my first visit to Mumbai, albeit fleeting , happened in 1993. Of course, though a short visit, I made it a point to go to Pedder Road to see Prabhu Kunj, the abode of Lata , albeit from outside.

I finally shifted to Mumbai in 2001 by which time, Asha and especially Lata were already in retirement mode. Of course, the advantage of being in Mumbai was indeed availed of by me and I did get to witness live performances by quite a few icons – Salim Sulaiman, Bappi Lahiri, A R Rahman and above all my this generation favourite Sonu Nigam. But this is what makes Mumbai a magical place for the lovers of music, art and films. When you see Shankar Jaikishan Chowk, Laxmikant Chowk, Mohd Rafi Chowk, RD Burman Chowk and even N Dutta Lane, you can virtually hear the strains of music.

The idea of this article clicked to me when I read the news that Santoor maestro, Padam Vibhushan, all time great Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma expired at his Pali Hill residence. This is another loss to the musical scene of Mumbai after deaths of Lata , Bappi , Pt Jasraj ( I think he was in Pune) and now Pt Sharma in rather quick succession. May their legacy continue and May local administration continue to honour these greats by naming streets and chowks after them.

My name is Bond – James Bond

I laid my hands on the compendium of James Bond novels penned by Ian Fleming and started reading them one by one. Side by side I also decided to watch the movies on OTT based on the books that I read. It’s been a rather enjoyable experience and it’s very evident that James Bond movies, a few filmed as early as mid 60s and 70s, were well ahead of times as far as technology was concerned. And much before we had super heroes in Hollywood and he-men in Bollywood, we had James Bond, an evergreen action hero, a one man army who was virtually invincible.

Most amazingly, it seems that except the title and the very basic premise, the films are vastly different from the books these are based on. As I read somewhere, due to the time lag between the book and the movie, the plot of the movies was given twists and turns to make them more contemporary.

Four movies seen by me based on four books had 3 different artists playing Bond – Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Daniel Craig. Apart from these three, Timothy Dalton, George Lazenby, David Niven and Pierce Brosnan also played Bond at various points of time, though as per the popular verdict, Sean Connery, the first Bond remains the ultimate soul and heart of this famous fictional character.

Another fascinating feature of James Bond franchise is the theme song that would run along with the opening credits. Popular welsh singing Diva, Shirley Bassey sang three of the famous title songs for Goldfinger, Diamonds are forever and Moonraker. Now at the ripe age old of 86, Shirley Bassey performed live at BAFTA award night commemorating 60 years of James Bond franchise, the first movie Dr No having hit the screens in 1962. It’s amazing that how this super dame maintains the same high pitch in her voice and chutzpah in her performance, at an age when most of the people would find even walking and standing challenging.

There’s lot of other trivia around James Bond. How few of the recent films are actually not based on books authored by Ian Fleming but other ghost writers, how M, Bond’s boss got transformed from a gentleman to lady ( redoubtable Judi Dench making this character unforgettable) and how instances of a particular book have been used in different movies not based on that book etc.

But it’s been a remarkable franchise that has sustained viewers and readers interest even after 7 decades ( first book was written in 1954 while the movie came in 1962). Ian Fleming, the actors reprising the role of James Bond, Albert Broccoli, who bought the rights from Ian Fleming and of course the fictional character of James Bond are all etched in the golden annals of Hollywood.

Unconditional gratitude

I continue to receive thoughts expressed by the great Mahatria, courtesy my former colleague and friend, an ardent follower of the holy guru. What makes Mahatria a tad different from other gurus is the practicality of his teaching. All his teaching relates to our day to day life, relationships, conduct etc.

Today’s thought made a deep impression on my mind. It reads:

What your parents
‘do or do not do’
should never alter your gratitude for them.

I have come across several persons holding a childhood grudge – better opportunities provided to a sibling, higher study abroad not funded, no property inherited, deprivation from childhood pleasures due to strict attitude or insufficient means and the list is endless. I myself intended to go for higher studies and desired to make a career in academics, but had to abandon my studies for a job as my father was retiring soon and in middle class families, parents aimed at fulfilling familial responsibilities before stoppage of regular income.

However, Mahatria’s thought took me back to my childhood days reminding me of the sacrifices made by both my parents in bringing their children up. How they cut their own expenses and virtually lived on shoestring budget to fulfil our requirements to the best of their ability came in front of my eyes in a flash! And they never let their children experience the constraints that they underwent.

It’s foolish of children to accuse their parents of discriminating between siblings or holding any other form of grudge against them. Parents always live for their children and what they do or do not do can be attributed to their circumstances, but definitely not intent. Our gratitude towards our parents should be unconditional without any caveats. We seek peace and happiness and run to religious abodes but the same eludes us if we ignore our parents or are begrudged with them.

I bow my head before Mahatria for in our day to day struggle and rigmarole, we sometimes forget simple wisdom.

Six decades of existence

Born in early 60s, I have very faint and obscured memories of early childhood. I very vaguely remember the war of 1965, when we used to have blackouts and were expected to hide under the table should there be bombardment. I also remember being unwilling to go to my first school and my shift to Central School, where I had to repeat class 1.

70s were growing up years. I remember shortage of supplies and eventual imposition of emergency. The elections of 1977 and euphoria around Janta party are very well etched in my memory. In fact, that was my initiation into politics as we used to animatedly discuss the likelihood of Congress’s a debacle, a new thing for this nation. The decade also marked the end of my schooling.

80s marked my evolution from being a student to a professional, a child to an adult and a dependent into independent. It was action packed decade highlighted by success in becoming Probationary officer in State Bank, my marriage and fatherhood.

90s saw my transition from public sector to private sector and hard work to achieve my aspirations. It was a decade of mixed feelings – disappointment, disenchantment, regret interspersed with happy phases.

And then there was start of the new century. The first decade of the 21st century was perhaps the best, highlighted by professional excellence, career progression, asset acquisition, financial gains and was in a way sort of the peak phase.

In a sense the second decade of the new century was continuation of the journey of the previous decade, with more material gains, marriage of my daughter, birth of my grandsons and attempt to make future more secured.

And now the third decade of the century is the one during which I complete my six decades of existence. I retire professionally after superannuating next month. It’s an important milestone of this journey called life!

Next decade will mark the next inning and I don’t want to slow down but to continue with the same zeal as the previous decades.

I don’t think that there’s anything unique or exclusive about my journey so far and the aspirations that I hold for the next innings. I think it’s same for the most of us, but the need is to come out of the rut and try and leave some imprint on this world. Let’s see how it spans out.

Relived the moment

Just finished watching 83 on OTT and relived the glorious moment of India’s totally unexpected but unforgettable victory over the mighty West Indies to lift the World Cup. The way Kapil lifted the spirits of his team members from “ also ran” type to earn the sobriquet of “ Kapil’s devil” is what the film is all about. Of course, there was no surprise or suspense as the outcome was already well known, but the journey up to the victory was as fascinating as the final triumph.

The film also highlights the importance of the game of cricket in the life of a nation – India in this case. How communal riots in the parts of the country get converted into a show of unity, how the tension at the Indo-Pak border eases for a day with Pak line commander assuring his Indian counterpart of no firing from his side to let Indian forces watch the match to the celebratory mood of Indians cutting through all divisions across the world come to re-emphasise the importance of the game of cricket in our milieu.

The film has several high points – disdain of the English media towards the Indian team, smugness of the mighty West Indian team, Indian team’s struggle to get decent Indian food, nationalism evoked by this game, mannerisms of the original players followed to a T by the actors – a few known and others not so well known and of course, Ranveer Singh who lives and breathes Kapil Dev in the film.

India repeated the feat in 2011, has also done well in other formats of cricket, has several world class cricketers who have several records against their names and India now boasts of a world class premier league IPL that attracts the best talent from around the globe and entails big money. But the seed for all the above was sown by Kapil’s devils and for this very reason World Cup victory of 1983 will continue to remain very special. Kudos to Kabir Khan for capturing the spirit of the moment, which I relived while watching the film.

Cohesion and division

In continuation of my previous blog on Alzheimer’s, I received another “feel good” post from a friend of mine, who has a way with forwarding meaningful stuff on social media; to my mind that’s the real strength of social media – to spread happiness, valuable information and nothing but truth!

While this post has all that’s being done in various parts of the world concerning environment, nature, global warming, endangered species etc ( India also finds a mention – an Indian village celebrates the birth of a girl child by planting 111 trees; so far 3.5 lakh trees have been planted so far! ), the change that’s also happening immediately around us is also not insubstantial. How city bus service BEST has seamlessly moved from diesel to CNG to now electric is something absolutely commendable. I read somewhere that by 2024, BEST will have zero carbon emission! An elaborate metro network will ensure decongestion of Mumbai roads and comfortable travel for Mumbaikars, who struggled for longtime in overcrowded locals ( in fact, while Kolkata pioneered metro by going for this transit system as early as 70s, now several tier 2 cities – Jaipur, Lucknow, Pune, Nagpur apart from Delhi, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai boast of metros ). I also understand that any new real estate project in Mumbai gets the approval only if it has sufficient parking slots and water treatment plant to generate recycled water for flushing the toilets.

All the above is not significant and should be highlighted to inspire more people to join the crusade rather than wasting energy on the divisive issues!

Old age is not all about physical frailty

As I often maintain that everything doing rounds on social media is not junk and sometimes the posts or videos that we receive can make a very deep and lasting impression.

Received a three minutes video from an old friend of mine, where an old man with a chessboard set in front of him is waiting for his partner, his son to be precise, to be seated opposite to him so that game can be commenced. A lady comes walking and occupies the seat opposite to the old man much to his chagrin. He admonishes lady to have checked with him before sitting as this is reserved for his son who’s joining him soon for a round of chess. She apologises and moves away slightly vacating the spot directly opposite the old man. A young boy comes and sits opposite the old man and starts the game. The old man appreciates the skill of this young boy and tells him that his son also makes the same opening gambit. In conversation with the young boy, he laments about his son not finding a girl to get married. Meanwhile, the young boy loses the round and moves to the lady sitting close by as he’s her son. The old man praises the young guy to his mother and checks about the others in the family. When the lady keeps quite, he sympathises and asks whether her man has left her. She says sort of – he’s dead! The old man apologises for having touched a raw nerve and proposes that he’d be glad to have her as his son’s bride and her son as his grandson. She breaks down and starts sobbing. The old man looks for his handkerchief to offer it to the lady for wiping her tears, but is unable to find one! That’s when the lady gets up and tells him, “ Jerry, handkerchief is in your upper left pocket.” Meanwhile, the young boy comes back and tell his mother, “ Mom let’s take grandpa home as it’s time for dinner”.

The commentary then tells us that 1 in 9 individuals above 65 suffers from Alzheimer’s and we should respect those who take care of such affected people.

The video raises goosebumps as such is the viciousness of this condition that one neither remembers the immediate nears and dears taking care of him day and night, nor those nears and dears who cease to exist!

We worry about age related ailments – BP, sugar, heart condition, rheumatism, cataract, hearing loss et al, but there are much worse things in the form of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Let’s keep our minds active, relationships healthy and emotions in check. Strong family support and hobbies can be a panacea for such conditions.

Season of festivals

Our strength lies in diversity – of languages, eating habits, customs, religions, creeds- and the fact that our society is pluralistic and our nation secular are matters of great pride for all peace loving citizens of this country. Internal peace and unity will ensure that the country can focus on important socioeconomic issues to better the life of its countrymen.

We have in the past most peacefully and with full reverence celebrated different festivals that have coincided. In a sense, even the current month of April packs in it a whole lot of festivals – Navratri culminating into Ram Navami, Ramadan that will culminate into Eid, the period of lent that will end with Easter Sunday and new year of various regions – Baisakhi, Bihu, Vishu and Poila Baisakh.

It’s very unfortunate that Ram Navami processions at certain places were met with resistance and violence leading to riots. Now in a riot like situation, it’s very difficult to pin blame on any community for as there are peace living people in every community so exist the rabble rousers. But all sane minded people should frustrate the attempts by these rabble rousers to disturb peace and amity.

Right now, we can see many states around us crumbling. Srilanka is in economic mess and serious shortage of essentials has led to virtual civil disobedience. Pakistan is facing unprecedented economic downturn and inflation, leading to change in Government there within 3.5 years. And no early end to the woes of the common citizens seems to be in sight in both these countries. Bangladesh seems to have got its economy on the right path, but religious intolerance there is very unfortunate as Bengal ( undivided) is a land of Tagore and Kazi Nazrul. In contrast, though we in India are not totally unaffected by Russia- Ukraine war and are facing general inflation due to sharp increase in fuel prices, we are still best off! And India demonstrated tremendous resilience by emerging strongly out of 2 pandemic marred years.

Let’s preserve this unique feature of India of unity in diversity. That’s our strength. Let’s keep our emotions and feelings in check and work collectively towards building a strong nation, a role model and benefactor for the entire world !

Happy new year !