lalita larking

An obsession with cryptic crosswords. Everything else falls in place.

Location: Kolkata, India

Saturday, November 11, 2006

An evening at chez Em

"Young love," I mused as I rang off, after a long chat with a young friend.

She was in the throes of puppy love and its attendant angst. She was worried that her swain might think she is dumb because she got tongue-tied with overwhelming shyness in his presence; worried that he might misinterpret her silences as disinterest; was worried that she might seem too eager if she initiated a phone call, or sent more than six text messages in a day.

Having negotiated these turbulent rapids of passionate romances, infatuations and crushes a few decades ago and now floating serenely in the placid pools of affection and fondness, I listened to her outpourings with benevolent interest, but with detachment, too.

Falling in love is a fraught thing. The intensity of young love is frighteningly singular. The obsessive thinking about the person, the need to bring his or her name up in conversations whatever the subject, the helpless longing to be with them- all very sapping, in hindsight.

"Chup jaaungi raat hi mein, mohe pee ka sang dai de." I quoted.

"Hmm, that is Shochin karta, isn't it?" said the Resident Musician. I said it was Gulzar, but conceded that the music was S D Burman's, and added that it was sung by Lata Mangeshkar. I like to be thorough, after all. "Bandini," I said.

"Let's hear the whole of it," he said. He assumes I know the entire lyric of any song I quote, but this time he assumed right. So I recited 'Mora gora ang lai le' at him.

'Mora gora ang lai le' is a song I know; I've listened to it countless times, while in love, in lust, and in great affection and abiding fondness. I know the story of Gulzar writing it, S D Burman persuading Bimal Roy to shoot it outdoors.

"It's a marvellous poem," I said. It is; the meter is perfect, and I always liked the classical device of chandra dooshaNa. It was a must in classical works, and Telugu poets were very good at railing at the moonlight as the heroine suffered pangs of love and separation. It's one of the mandatory descriptions in classical Telugu poetry. To find it in a film song is delicious.

We listened to the song, and sang along. "The beat is intriguing," said the Resident Musician.

"It's rupakam, honey," I said. "Dadra," he said. "Same difference," I sniffed. "A rose by any other name, and all that."

But there is a twist, I must say. The use of dialect enabled Gulzar to condense sixteen syllables to twelve, and he adhered to the meter rigidly. Perhaps he wrote to an already decided upon beat, but the entire song in the couplet form is a perfect example of the six-beat rhythm.

"No Lali, you recited it with pauses, like a poem. But as a song the beat is unusual, it starts on the fifth," said the Resident Musician.

"So?"I said. "I know a lot of songs that start on the fourth or seventh beat of the taalam."

"Dadras don't, not usually. They start on the sam or the khali but this is different."

"Hmm, the eduppu," I said, and we listened some more.

"Just listen to her," rhapsodised the Resident Musician. "That 'oh, oh, oh' and that microsecond precision of catching the beat! You need to be an instinctive musician to do that."

"Yeah, quite interesting, really, the convention of the eighteen mandatory descriptions of classic literature being given a nod at." I said.

There's a list of eighteen mandatory descriptions that a poet had to tackle if he wrote a prabandham. These include praise of the patron, description of the city, the seasons, and the pangs of love the protagonists go through; among them the cursing and calling names of moonlight, as it hurts the poor besotted soul, who needs his or her own true love to savour the moonlight with and without whom it becomes unbearable.

"And Shochin karta maintains the beat throughout the song. That's unusual, too. Off hand, I can think of only one other song like that. 'Oki elo, oki elo na'," said the Resident Musician. We considered that song.

"'Koyalia mat kar pukaar' starts on the sam and is a typical dadra," the Resident Musician went on, and sang a demonstration.

"'Mohe panghat pe'," is a classic which starts on the khali," he said. We considered this song too, sang it ourselves and granted that this was so.

I sighed. As usual, he was ignoring the poetry.

"Play it again, Sam," said the Resident Musician. I complied. "Everybody gets it wrong. That's a misquote, actually," I grumbled.

And, dear reader, we were off again.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

jaaoon kidhar na janoon, humka koi batai de. What a lovely post, Lali.

I never thought about this song in terms of meter and rhythm. The Resident Mathematician is a musician, too?

Secret admirer

7:42 pm  
Blogger abhorigine said...

Mohe panghat pe! Is there another film song in Gara? Enlighten?
Lovely post, and thank you for the wonderful songs you reminded me of.

8:11 pm  
Anonymous Ash said...

Having negotiated these turbulent rapids of passionate romances, infatuations and crushes a few decades ago and now floating serenely in the placid pools of affection and fondness,
That's lovely.

I like the line 'Jaaoon kidhar na jaanoon humka koi batai de' too. Cut your secret admirer some slack, Lady.

9:43 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Anon- Get a name.

Ram- The Resident Musician opines that 'Mohe Panghat Pe' is 'pancham se' Gara, rather than plain Gara.

There is a recording in home archives somewhere of Vilayat Khan playing 'Paani bharane' and singing along, and off hand, we can think of 'Ramnagari chod kaise jaaungi'(Abdul Karim Khan), but no film song comes to mind.

Have to check, like my father would have said.

Ash- 'Kahaan le chalaa hai manva, mohe baavari banaike' and all that, yeah, but Anon can like it or lump it. So there.

7:21 pm  
Blogger Priya said...

Was refreshing everyday last week and waiting for this post, but now am just too tongue-tied to comment, thank you .

6:24 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ms. Loquacity is too tongue-tied? Pull the other one, it has bells on.

6:47 pm  
Blogger Praveen said...

as far as this post goes, i am the donkey know camphor smell dhaan :D

1:49 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Prav- *swoons* Ooh, look who is here!

Why? Just because it is an old song? It's a nice song, chellam.

4:17 pm  
Blogger abhorigine said...

We speak of Mohe panghat pe and whom should I meet but Shruti Sadolikar-Katkar, whose Murlivale Shyam I had heard often in the past. I vaguely remember it to be Gara or Misra Gara or something. What would the Resident Musician say about that?

6:15 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram, the Resident Musician says he hasn't heard that one, so he has no idea. Do you have a link or an album title I can refer to him?

2:57 pm  
Blogger abhorigine said...

Here are some links referring to Misr Gara and Jagla Gara (!!).
I do remember how Sadolikar's lovely Murlivale Shyam is!

2:45 pm  
Blogger abhorigine said...

Oops! Here they are:


3:39 pm  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Ram- Thanks, will inform the Resident Musician. Jangla Gara, forsooth! The Hindustani raaga names have no poetry in them, I tell you.

Jangla Pilu I know of, but let me tell RM about this

8:25 pm  
Anonymous dipali said...

Such a delightful post! You guys know so much about everything, it seems, we are very very impressed.

11:10 am  
Blogger Lalita Mukherjea said...

Dipali- It is just that though our personal interests are different fields, combined they make for a large pool of trivia. This is two dilettantes playing, nothing more.

3:58 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another song addressed to the moon: Varayo Vennilave (Missyamma), even in translation to Hindi (O raat ke musafir/ Miss Mary) they kept the moon in, perhaps also because of the picturisation.

Cute song that. Prefer the Tamil though, the lyrics seem to have more layers.

This seem to be a common divide - women hear the lyrics, men the ragam and talam. I only know the words, he only knows the tune. Not a bad combination, though.

11:39 pm  
Blogger Lalita said...

Varali- There are quite a few songs addressed to the moon in films, actually.

You are right about the divide though. He never hears the song and its poetry first, and I never pay attention to the beat.

4:05 am  
Blogger Abhik Majumdar said...

Just wanted to point out, the original to 'mohe panghat pe', which goes 'panghatwa pe nandalaala gher layi re', starts from beat 5. Incidentally, it is set to plain ornery Gara, no fancy Shadj-Pancham scale transposition here. Azmat Hussain Khan's 78rpm rendition is available online:

7:55 am  

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