24 April, 2007

Greatest hindi film music composer of all times - an analysis

From the past 2 sundays, HINDUSTAN TIMES is running a series on hindi film music directors, written by Ravi Patwardhan. This started me thinking - who's the greatest of them all? The question is formidable and answer is not easy to seek at all! Consider the array of music directors for this award. You got to choose between, Naushad, Madan Mohan, Shanker - Jaikishen, S D Burman and his son, O P Nayyar, Ravi, Khayyam, Laxmikant - Pyarelaal, Kalyanji - Anandji, Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Ghulam Mohammad, Sajjad Hussain, A R Rehman, Jatin - Lalit, Anu Mallik and last but not the least Himmesh Reshammiya!

How do we begin? First of all we must decide the criteria on which to award. I think the criteria must include - versatility, sound knowledge of music, commercial appeal, appeal across all ages (controversial!) and quality of music (again a subjective matter).

1. Versatility - For this criteria, we can exclude most composers and retain SD, RD, AR, S-J and L-P. I would not like to include O P Nayyar, as his music had started to become repititive in the early 70s after hitting an all time high in the late 50s and throughout the 60s. Naushad saab was more in the mould of a classicist and rarely if ever gave compositions apart from folk tunes or pure classical. At this let juncture let me clarify that versatility according to me means compositions of all types viz, Indian classical, western, devotionals, folk etc. Roshan and Madan Mohan were more into classical music although in "Manmauji", Madan Mohan did give a good western tune in the form of Nakhrewaali!

2. Knowledge - Here, I must include Naushad, SD, S-J and almost all the old timers, since all of them came from the old school of classical musical training. I will include AR also here.

3. Commercial appeal - surely Reshammiya can fit in here if not anywhere else!!! Jokes apart, SD, RD, S-J, Naushad, O P, L-P, K-A, A R, Anu Mallik and Jatin- Lalit can easily make the grade in this category.

4. Appeal across all ages - Songs composed by SD, RD, S-J, O P, L-P, Roshan and Madan Mohan have stood the test of time. Same may not be true of a Rehman or Reshammiya or even Anu Malik.

5. Quality of music - has no relation to its saleability. So, I think all old timers can easily be fitted in this category. As far as newer composers are concerned I'm not very sure of their quality, with the possible exception of Rehman.

Now, to shortlist the nominees. I find SD, RD, S-J and L-P in all the categories. We must therefore find out the greatest amongst these. I must reluctantly add that fans of Naushad, Madan Mohan, Nayyarsaab and Roshan may very well kill me for this act! Now L-P's quality of music I find very slightly inferior to those of SD, RD and S-J, although that's purely subjective. That leaves us with 3 composers. Out of them I will remove RD, as his duration as the top composer was much shorter than that of his father or Shanker - Jaikishen. Both SD and S-J reigned supreme for over four decades and thats no mean acheivement! Now comes the biggest challenge. How do you decide amongst SD and SJ as the greatest? Both reigned at the very top for decades and their careers culminated almost simultaneously. Personally, I favour SD a bit more as most of my favourite songs are SD's. I think I will not go any further and declare both as joint winners!

Readers, please let me know if I have committed any serious acts of omissions and notify me. I apologize to all genuine fans if I have inadvertantly hurt anybody's feeling or offended any sensibilities.

01 April, 2007

A vibrant dance drama form of coastal Karnataka - Yakshagana

I'm ashamed to admit that though I hail from coastal Karnataka (Village - Karki, Taluk - Honnavar), I've never ever watched a live performance of a Yakshagana! This, after coming to know years back that our surname BHAGWATH is derived from our forefathers who were singers (called a Bhagwatha) in Yakshaganas! Therefore, when I came to know that Keremane Shambhu Hegdeis going to perform a Yakshagana during the "Anushruti"series of functions in Ravindra Bhavan at Bhopal on 26th March, I decided that the time has finally arrived when I MUST watch a Yakshagana. For the uninitiated, Yakshagana or the song by Yakshas, is a vibrant, vivacious dance - drama form native to coastal Karnataka. Its a centuries old style of narrating mythological stories mainly from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Puranas etc. On this day, it was to "Duryodhana Vadha", recounting the Pandava's search for Duryodhana and his subsequent killing. The performance began with the "Ranga Pooje" or worshipping of the stage by a lady (actually a male dressed in feminine attire). But I couldn't get the point about worshipping a draped deity, as is evident in the picture below. Any answers anyone ?

Next, came the Pandavas, also draped and revealed their identity later while dancing (pic below).
Pandavas search for the elusive Duryodhana and confer amongst themselves as to his whereabouts (pic below).
Duryodhana in the meanwhile is desparate to hide himself. Sanjaya (old man), who's blessed with divine vision comes to kow of duryodhana's fate and comes to meet him in the forest (pic below). Duryodhana confides to him that he's about to hide himself in a nearby lake.
A Gowda (farmer / woodcutter) eavesdrops on them and rushes to inform the Pandavas about Duryodhana's whereabouts (pic below).
Pandavas reach the lake and try to challenge duryodhana to urge him to come out of his hiding (pic below).
Even Lord Krishna tries his hand at it (pic below), but he comes out only after hearing the challenge of his sworn enemy Bhima.
Duryodhana is given a choice to fight with any one of the Pandavas of his choice. As expected, he chooses Bhima! (pic below)
In the initial encouinter, Duryodhana seriously hurts Bhima who is now fallen down in a swoon. Pandavas are shocked and crestfallen at this turn of events (pic below)
After the divine intervention from Lord Krishna, Bhima is resurrected as it were and after a most controversial prompt from Krishna, strikes Duryodhana on his thigh (pic below)
Duryodhana bites the dust and thus Pandavas avenge themselves (Pic below).
At the end of the super performance when I went backstage to meet the performers I found that all were gathered and were praying to Lord Shiva before removing their attire. It was rather unfortunate that Keremane Shambhu Hegde himself couldn't make the trip and instaed, his son Shivram Hegde performed the lead role of Duryodhana (pic below)
Let me tell the uninformed that Keremane Shambhu Hegde is probably the greatest ever Yakshagana performer. In conclusion I must add that I'm now addicted to this uniquee dance drama form. Actually I never was much interested in ANY form of dance, born as it is I am with two left feet and have absolutely no understanding of rhythm! However, ever since I started accompanying my daughter to her Bharatnatyam classes I have begun to appreciate the dance forms. Thus I wanted to take my daughter & wife to the Yakshagana so that they could enjoy it. However, once the show began, I was rooted to the seat !