Introspective melodies Jagjit Singh Kundanlal Saigal Sad Songs Swarabhaskar Bharatratna Bhimsen Joshi

Paradise lost…..

The title might remind some of John Milton. It is indeed a rare event when a piece of poetry remains fresh in popular memory more than 160 years after it was first written. The original context has been interpreted in a different sense and still looks relevant and apt.

The song first:

बाबुल मोरा, नैहर छूटो ही जाए…

चार कहार मिल, मोरी डोलिया सजावें (उठायें)
मोरा अपना बेगाना छूटो जाए…

नैहर छूटो ही जाए…

आँगना तो पर्बत भयो और देहरी भयी बिदेश
जाए बाबुल घर आपनो मैं चली पीया के देश…

बाबुल मोरा …  

The lines were written by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, the fief of Awadh, who was externed by the thieving Brits from his own principality. This happened in the mid 1850s, before the first war of Indian Independence. They were written as a lament on being thrown out of his own homeland by the invaders and his limp acknowledgement of an inability to be able to do much about it. The decadent Moghul regime after Aurangzeb’s bloodthirsty years and his brutal, long drawn out conflict with the Marathas that hemorrhaged him more than he could have ever imagined led to a brutal invader regime turning powerless. The rise of the Marathas was followed by their defeat at Panipat by Abdali’s Afghan forces only due to their forgetting the lessons of war given by the great Peshwa warrior Bajirao (I) & internal dissonance that led to reinforcements not happening in time and great destruction of an empire . The Brits moved into the power vacuum, used one Indian against the other and grabbed a rich land that accounted for more than a quarter of the global GDP at the time, and proceeded to loot, rape and pillage in the name of a religion and a monarch. They proceeded to loot $45 trillion till their Indian armed forces rebelled against the “masters”. This brought about an exit that was accompanied by a division of a land into a handful of countries. The division was accompanied by a great loss of life and very viciously engineered to ensure that the blame would never be laid at the doorstep of the guilty Brits but would lead to three quarters of a century of conflict of neighbours with consequences that India is still suffering.

During the 1840-50s they proceeded with impunity and high handedness to force many an Indian ruler to abdicate or even suffer banishment from their own lands. The Nawab of Awadh was one such victim. A soft hearted person who was much more into song and dance (with the accompanying wine and women, of course) he was thrown out and his province annexed. The sad lamentation has been used in multiple movies, two very famous renditions stand out. The first by the incomparable Kundanlal Saigal, in a late 1930s movie, Street Singer. The movie, made by New Theatres, the Calcutta based powerhouse, was directed by Phani Mujamdar and had music by R C Boral, a giant of the time.

The thumri, aptly composed in Bhairavi has had an enormous impact on the Indian musical world. The thumri has never been composed in any other raag for 90 years since the original piece came out in the late 1930s.

The same song was used by Basu Bhattacharya in the second of his trilogy on metropolitan marital life and discord , Aavishkar, with Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore at the peak of their skills. Notionally for this song, the credits go to Kanu Roy, as the composer.

The tragic romanticism of the verse lends itself to being interpreted on a much higher, spiritual plane and even Bhimsen Joshi has performed it. I have heard him sing this twice in live concerts and at the end, very few eyes were left dry in the audience, such was the pathos he conveyed so effectively.

Nothing can ever be ( or needs to be) said after Panditji’s impassioned lament.

Stay safe, folks and pray that the rain gods oblige us with plenty of munificence, so essential this year, after a dry June.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

16 replies on “Paradise lost…..”

Babul Mora is a topic which can be discussed over and over.

Nice write up.

SAIGAL’s version is the one which touches the heart
A winner, in my opinion

Liked by 1 person

What a look into the Indian history 👌🙏🏾
Yess Wajid ali Shah was much more than what was taught to us in history books🤔🤔
…. What a brilliant composition and lyrics remaining unchanged for 90 yrs as you say…
Can you believe? I heard this first in Avishkar
And then now heard Saigal something like 6 yrs ago👍…
Reminds me of Lal quila movie based on same story which you have narrated 👆🏼 And the most beautiful song… my very favourite
न किसी की आंख का नूर हू….🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

Liked by 1 person

Lovely piece of artwork by 3 generations so to say. Artistically described the background by you Anirudh.
Greatness allover.

Liked by 1 person

The same haunting song was used in the first documentary about the 1990 exodus of Kashmiri Hindus. I saw it in the early 1990s but forgot the title of the documentary. I have a very poor VHS copy of it that I haven’t been able to play back. Let me know if you find a good copy. It is worth resurrecting it as a precursor to the shocking movie The Kashmir Files by Vivek Agnihotri and Pallavi Joshi.

Liked by 1 person

I notice your main subject is art. I am not much of an artist, but do enjoy other people’s work including music, dance, drama, cinema. My comment had more to do with music than with the art. Therefore I might be a misfit in this group. I have relatives from Pune & Nagar areas named Chandorkar.

Liked by 1 person

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