A difficult morning melody

My introduction to this raag was actually through this song. I heard this song when we saw the movie in Secunderabad. The brutal China war had been spent in Tezpur in Assam and we had lost a dear family friend in the war and the stories around that haunt me to this day, 60 years later. Hakimpet and the adjoining twin cities with its vibrant urban life was a very welcome change from the challenges of essentially a living in the village close to Tezpur, with the wildlife that we would come into contact with, a wide variety of snakes, scorpions, apes and even elephants were part of the “entertainment”. While the idea of your sharing your abode with snakes may sound very scary to a citydweller, it was the norm in the village we stayed in barely a few Km away from Tezpur. I had picked up Assamese , Bhojpuri and Bangla then, thanks to our neighbours. Malay Nandi ( pronounced Moloy of course) was the first friend I ever made in life and it is amazing I remember him and his mom. I once brought in (what I thought was) a long Kesu from outside balanced on a stick I was playing with it and showed it to mom. She was mortified and snatched the stick and flung it far away into the nearby brush. Turns out what I thought was an earthworm was a snake…

One Saturday evening saw us and our neighbours troop into a theater in Secunderabad where the Raj Kapoor movie Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai was playing. The one thing I remember is my dad whispering to mom, on whose lap I was seated, This is Basant Mukhari. The song was wonderful, a classic by Lata Mangeshkar, (currently ailing, may God help her recover quickly) & sounded amazing not just in the theater that evening, it continues to resonate in my ears even today.

It is a very melodious and unforgettable composition that came from Raj Kapoor’s great friends from his Prithvi days, Shankar Jaikishan. It is also such a tough one to sing. Shot in the jagged marble rocks of Bhedaghat, close to Jabalpur, the song shows Padmini scaling down the rocks gingerly donning an attire more suited for a different locale.

Bollywood presumes all village belles to be always fully decked up 24/7/365 which of course doesn’t ever happen anywhere but Bollywood. Pran and Raj Kapoor make up the leading troika of the last Black and white movie made by RK Films. It was actually directed by the long time cinematographer, Radhu Karmakar, who saw a change of role, having been a lensman for the showman.

The song itself is based on a morning raag, Basant Mukhari. A wonderful morning melody, it tests the novitiate vocalist/instrumentalist. A Bhairav thaat raag, it has Bhairav and Bhairavi in its poorvang and uttarang respectively. The transition from one to the other is tricky and only an accomplished artiste can pull it off with elán. An ordinary artiste would fumble and stumble and the rendition would be jarring.

I love this rendition by the incomparable, Swarmartand Pandit Jasraj, my go to maestro who has sustained my soul over the last six decades after I first saw him at a live performance in 1967/8 in Pune.

He and his divine voice with his soulful renditions are part of my DNA. I love the unique aspect of his singing where he always starts with a devotional line or two, often a Sanskrit Shlok that immediately elevates the act to a spiritual plane from merely a musical rendition. The last time I heard Basant Mukhari performed live was during Diwali Pahaat in 2019. Kaushiki Chakraborty was on song with that one on a slightly chilly early morning mehfil.

Stay blessed and happy, folks. Stay safe and healthy. Stay away from the Chinese bioterror and enjoy your weekend.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

2 replies on “A difficult morning melody”

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