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.