Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Vande Mataram: In rewind mode


The present controversy over the song Vande Mataram is a rerun of fragments of the political discourse of the 1930s.
Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. The first two stanzas of Vande Mataram and the later stanzas belong to two different strata of his literary life.
THE present controversy over the song "Vande Mataram" may be seen as a re-enactment of what happened decades earlier. At the same time, it may be worthwhile to ponder whether there is a new meaning in the battle of words that has been started against the "compulsion" to sing the song. It is a rerun of fragments of the political discourse of the 1930s, which has played over and again many times since then. But whether that carries a new message, in that it speaks of a fragility of confidence in the integrity of a historically evolved community identity, is an issue that should be a common concern.
To set the record straight, the issue of compulsion was settled about 70 years ago, during 1937-39. Mohammed Ali Jinnah purportedly gave vent to the anxiety of the Muslim community, that its members would be compelled to sing Vande Mataram. At a time when the nationalist leadership or the Indian National Congress did not have much power to compel, how genuine this anxiety was is a matter of debate. However, Jinnah put this point at the top of his agenda in his talks with Jawaharlal Nehru; among the Quaid-e-Azam papers, now in Pakistan, his discussion notes of February 1, 1938, bear this out: "Vande Mataram must go."
On March 1, 1938, in an article in The New Times of Lahore, Jinnah stated: "Muslims all over [India] have refused to accept Vande Mataram or any expurgated edition of the anti-Muslim song as a binding national anthem." On April 16, 1938, in his presidential address at the special session of the All India Muslim League in Calcutta, he focussed attention on the charge that the Indian National Congress "endeavoured to impose the Vande Mataram song in the legislatures".
In his presidential address at the Sind Provincial Muslim League Conference, Jinnah reiterated the charge as indeed he did on many other occasions.
While one must acknowledge the build-up of considerable opposition to a song thus targeted by Jinnah, one must not forget the other side of the story. Although Vande Mataram, as a song and as a slogan, had been a part of the freedom struggle since the Swadeshi movement of 1905, there were doubts in Congress circles about its acceptability as a whole. The "expurgated edition" of the song, which Jinnah refers to in his article, was the outcome of these doubts.
A part of the song was indeed dropped by the Congress from the "officially" accepted version, by a resolution of the Congress Working Committee in October 1937.
Gandhi's words
This was the part against which Muslim sentiment was strong. Further, the Congress addressed the issue of "compulsion" with a series of steps leading to the resolution drafted by Mahatma Gandhi himself in January 1939. The resolution was of vital importance in guiding the party as well as, in the long run, the Constituent Assembly in its decision to designate Vande Mataram as the national song, while "Jana-gana-mana" was given the status of the national anthem.
It is evident from the draft resolution that Gandhi wrote with great caution and circumspection, and he wrote on top: "Strictly Confidential: Not for Publication."
The resolution said: "As to the singing of the long established national song, Vande Mataram, the Congress, anticipating objections, has retained as national song only those stanzas to which no objection could be taken on religious and other grounds. But except at purely Congress gatherings it should be left open to individuals whether they will stand up when the stanzas are sung. In the present state of things, in Local Board and Assembly meetings, which their members are obliged to attend, the singing of Vande Mataram should be discontinued."
Dissenting voices
There were some dissenting voices in the Congress. C. Rajagopalachari thought that such a "concession will not save the situation" (Rajagopalachari to Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, January 7, 1939), and even G.B. Pant was quite lukewarm about the idea (Pant to Nehru, January 8, 1939). Nevertheless, Gandhi and, by and large, the top leadership of the Congress regarded the measure as essential. The main idea was to decisively remove any apprehension of compulsion.
It was nevertheless a decision that went against the grain of Gandhi's cast of mind, and he wrote a sort of apologia in Harijan (July 1, 1939): ".now we have fallen on evil days.. I will not risk a single quarrel over singing Vande Mataram at a mixed gathering. It will never suffer from disuse. It is enthroned in the hearts of millions."
Differences among leaders
Mohammed Ali Jinnah (sixth from left) with Muslim leaders at a conference in Bombay. On April 16, 1938, Jinnah, while addressing a special session of the All India Muslim League in Calcutta, focussed attention on the charge that the Indian National Congress "endeavoured to impose the Vande Mataram song in the legislatures".
Of these two policy decisions, that of October 1937 on "expurgating" the song and that of January 1939 recognising freedom from any compulsory participation in events where the song was sung, the first one caused agonising moments to the national leaders for it was the first time that they faced the task of reappraisal of a song sanctified by its historical associations. Thereby hangs a tale, which has as its protagonists not only Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Subhas Chandra Bose and others in political decision-making but also Rabindranath Tagore.
Nehru was one of those Congress members who were not familiar with the song - in fact as late as October 20, 1937, he wrote, "I do not understand it without the help of a dictionary", but he had "managed to get an English translation". He read for the first time Bankim Chandra Chatterjee's novel in which the song features only six days before the Working Committee meeting to decide the fate of the song. There were others among his peers who had a strong attachment to it. Congress members noted that Vallabbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad concluded their address as Congress presidents, in 1931 and 1934, with the Vande Mataram slogan; Nehru did not in 1929 and 1936. Thus, there was a difference in attitude within the leadership.
Dropping any part of the song was not an easy task. (The same difference probably persisted until the Constituent Assembly passed its resolution making "Jana-gana-mana", not Vande Mataram, the national anthem. Since it was moved from the Chair by Rajendra Prasad, it was neither discussed nor put to vote and that conveniently put a stop to the controversy on the song's status.)
The problem due to differences within Congress was exacerbated by two factors. The Hindu Mahasabha organised a Vanda Mataram day in Pune and Bombay in October 1937, and elsewhere on other occasions, the party spokesmen began to urge the adoption of that song as the national anthem. Subhas Chandra Bose, in the meanwhile, was up in arms in favour of Vande Mataram. Nehru's response to him was that considering that there was an outcry against the song and "people who have been communistically inclined" were watching the Congress actions in this regard, the Congress must "meet real grievances where they exist", without pandering to communalism (Nehru to Bose, October 20, 1937).
Tagore's advice
Nehru sought a way out of the situation by appealing to Tagore, who delivered a judgment that ultimately decided the issue for the Congress. Tagore's reply was complex since he squarely faced the dilemma of reconciling loyalty to literary sensibility with political expediency.
The basic advice he offered was as follows: The first two stanzas of the song were unexceptionable. As regards the rest of the song, there could be objections from those with "monotheistic ideals", and these stanzas could be dissociated from the first two. His advice was that while the song taken as a whole "might wound Muslim susceptibilities", delinked from the rest of the lyric the first two stanzas might be accepted since they appeal to everyone on account of "the spirit of tenderness and devotion expressed".
In his letter to Nehru (October 26, 1937), Tagore also mentioned that he "was the first person to sing it at a session of the Indian National Congress", presumably the session in 1896 in Calcutta.
Different parts, different times
Recent research has established that Vande Mataram was indeed written in two distinctly different parts, and at different times. When Bankim Chandra wrote the first two stanzas sometime around 1872, it was just a beautiful hymn, the classical vandana in Sanskrit, to the motherland, richly watered, richly fruited, dark with the crops of the harvest, sweet of laughter, sweet of speech, the giver of bliss.
For several years, these first two stanzas remained unpublished. In 1881, this poem was included by Bankim Chandra in the novel Anandamath, and then it was expanded to endow the motherland with militant religious symbolism as the context of the narrative demanded. There now emerged a new icon of the motherland, "terrible with the clamour of seventy million throats", likened to "Durga holding ten weapons of war". The first two stanzas and the later stanzas belong to two different strata of Bankim Chandra's literary life. Thus, the two parts of the song can be justifiably separated. However, when the decision was made to drop the latter part of the song, these facts were not known to the decision-makers.
Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi at a reception given by Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan. Tagore, at Jawaharlal Nehru's behest, delivered a judgment on the "Vande Mataram" situation that ultimately decided the issue for the Congress.
On the lines of Tagore's advice, the Congress Working Committee passed the resolution mentioned earlier. "The committee recognises the validity of the objection raised by Muslim friends to certain parts of the song." The committee accepted only the first two stanzas of Vande Mataram and not the other stanzas.
Most important was the degree of freedom conceded in the resolution: "The committee recommends that wherever Vande Mataram is sung at national gatherings only the first two stanzas should be sung, with perfect freedom to the organisers to sing any other song of an unobjectionable character, in addition to, or in the place of, the Vande Mataram song."
The attempts to eliminate the element of compulsion are beyond question, but that did not satisfy the song's opponents. Jinnah continued with his tirades.
The political appropriation or conspicuous rejection of cultural symbols and artefacts was part of the identity assertion that a political agenda demanded.
There were a number of Muslim intellectuals and public spokespersons who accepted the song, specially the amended version that the Congress adopted. Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, for instance, considered the attitude of Jinnah as only a subterfuge. He pointed out that for years the song was sung at the beginning of Congress sessions and no objections were raised by Muslim members including Jinnah (Kidwai's press statement, The Pioneer, October 19, 1937).
Widely shared discomfort
Likewise, Dr Syed Mahmood of the Bihar Legislative Assembly or Professor Reza-ul Karim in Bengal were not persuaded by Jinnah's arguments about the song. At the same time, there was undoubtedly a widely shared discomfort with the song in Muslim political circles in these provinces as well as Sind, Madras and Bombay. Jinnah gave voice to it stridently, but it was not entirely his creation.
Today, when there are reassertions of old charges and re-enactments of old battles, it is encouraging to see how many Muslim intellectuals and public persons have reacted. Of the many enlightened reactions, perhaps, the most delightful for its directness is that of the poet Javed Akhtar. He reportedly said:
"What is this new resistance? The objection is redundant. You don't want to sing Vande Mataram, don't. Who is forcing you? I sing it. I don't see it as objectionable. If you do, don't sing it."
However, perhaps there is an inadequacy and a probably widespread intellectual tendency to say that at the root of it there is ignorance about the battles that are over. It is not enough to say that. What makes uninformed conceptions acceptable to a number of people? It is not enough to say that the misconception originated among a section of clerics; some of them may be plebeians among the intellectuals, but there are also intellectuals among the plebeians. They exercise great influence and merit attention.
And finally, if there is a generalised perception of a threat to cultural identity, even if it is based on wrong premises, it needs to be studied and addressed.
In these few pages an attempt has been made to put the record straight in terms of history, but one has to think of tasks beyond that.
Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, formerly Professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University and Vice-Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University at Santiniketan, is Chairman, Indian Council of Historical Research. The views expressed in this essay are entirely personal.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

While surfing on the Net, I came across this piece of info about the unforgettable play-back singer of yester-years. It again reminded me of the golden era of Indian cinema. The article follows:


Talat Mahmood is known as 'velvet-voice' singer, 'unique transparent voice' singer, 'silky voice' singer,' satin-voice singer,' golden-voice singer,' 'king of ghazals', 'king of sad and soulful songs' etc. He was born on February 24, 1924, in Lucknow, India, in a conservative, middle-class family with a musical background in the sense that his father and sisters were talented singers. However, he was essentially left with two options: either to keep a low profile and remain in the background, or to embark upon a movie career. He thought for a while and then decided to become a singer. It took Talat ten years to regain the confidence and respect from his near and dear ones, because by that time, the then Indian film industry had achieved considerable respect and recognition. Talat took music lessons for three years and then completed his music course at Morris college, Lucknow.

Soon he moved to Calcutta in 1945, at the age of 22, and began his career in broadcasting from 'All-India radio',Calcutta, where he achieved popularity as a singer, and his songs were regularly broadcast from the radio station. Anil Biswas, gave Talat his first major break-through in Bombay, at the end of 1948, for film 'Arzoo':' Aye dil mujhe aesi jagah lay chal'.

Apart from being a legend in the music world, Talat was an extremely friendly and a highly refined gentleman. His typical smile was his hallmark. He was at peace with himself all his life. Since he was born and bred in Lucknow, therefore, he was immaculate in urdu literature and poetry. His pronunciation was flawless. He spoke softly and he was a very softhearted person. He had too much respect for other singers and music directors. Those who met him once never forgot his hospitality and kind nature. His immediate family was comprised of a wife, a son, and a daughter, and they always enjoyed mutual trust and understanding. He never engaged in backbiting, nor spoke loudly; these things were not in his habit.

From day one, Talat knew his limitations. He was acquainted with the fact that his extra-soft voice was not conducive for loud songs, which required a high-pitched voice. Thus, Talat's songs, geeth and ghazals have a selected audience. His fans are proud of the fact that Talat, with his unique voice had ruled the Indian music for twenty years. Primarily due to his high moral character and superb family background, he always kept away from scandals and rumors.

In the endless list of super hits, there is one song, which is not only filled with utter pathos, but it conspicuously combines complain and pain. Who could have done justice to that tragic score other then Talat: 'Dekh lee teri khudai, bus mera dil bhar gaya'.

Talat played the lead role in a few movies, including:

Dil-e-nadan, [1953] Malik, Waris, Babul, Sonay ki chirya, Aik gaaon ki kahani etc.


Some of his popular songs are:

'Tujhko parda rukh-e-roshan say hatana hoga': Music: Khayyam, Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi) Film: Uran Khatola,'Bay-reham Aasmaan, meri manzil: Film: Bahana, Composer: Madan Mohan'

Ham say Aaya na gaya':Film: Dekh kabira roya, Composer: Madan Mohan
'Dau dinki mohabbat mein': Film: Chotay babu, Composer: Madan Mohan
'Jab chhayekabhi sawan ki ghata: Film: Reshmi roomal, Composer: Babul
'Ashkon mein jo paya hai': Film: Chandi ki deewar, Composer:N.Dutta.
'Ghazal kay saaz uthao, bariudaas hai raat'
'Jahan mein koye naheen apna'.
'Nigahon ko chura kar reh'
'Gham-e- zindagi ka ya rub'.
'Dil ki duniya basa gaya'
'Phir mujhay deedaitar yaad Aaya'
'Ishq mujh ko na sahi'
'Dil-e-nadan tujhay'
'Mera pyar mujhay lauta dau'
'Tum ko neend ayegi, tum tau'
'Ro,ro beeta, jeewan sara'
'Kiya itna bhi adhi kaar naheen'

Talat's velvet-voice was literally immortalized under the baton of Burman Dada (Sajan Dev Burman). Take, for instance, this inimitable ghazal: 'Jaltay hain jis kay liye': Film: 'Sujata', film director:Bimal Roy, Lyric: Majrooh Sultan Puri, music: S.D.Burman. Some other great songs with S D Burman.

'Bharam teri wafaon ka, bata detay tau kiya hota':Film:' Armaan', music: S.D.Burman
'Jaayein tau jaayein kahan':Film: Taxi driver, music: S.D.Burman, picturised on Dev Anand.
'Teray saath chal rahayhain: Film: 'Ungaray', music: S.D.Burman

Madan Mohan was convinced about the enormous potentials of Talat from the beginning, and Talat's silky voice gave new dimensions to the Indian music. Talat-Madan team created one masterpiece after another, like:

'Mein pagal, mera munwa pagal':Film: 'Aashiana, music: Madan Mohan
'Teri chamakti Aankhon kay Aagay': Film: 'Chotay babu' music: Madan Mohan

Music lovers will never forget that evergreen Talat-Rafi duet, highlighting the harsh reality of life:'Gham ki andheri raat mein': Film:'Sushila', Composer: C.Arjun. lyrics: Jan Nisar Akhtar. Similarly, tens of hundreds of movie -goers have found solace in the following lyrics, which brings a ray of hope for the heart-broken people:'Jab gham ka andhera ghir Aaye, sumjho kay sawera dooor nahi'

Talat teamed up with Anil Biswas and produced numerous hits like:'Seenay mein sulagtay hain armaan': Film: 'Tarana': Talat- Lata, music: Anil Biswas. 'Tera khayal dil say mitaya naheen abhi': Film: Doraha, music: Anil Biswas.

Talat always felt at ease with the music maestro, Naushad. The two had tremendous understanding and respect for each other. The first song which Talat recorded for Naushad was: 'Mera jiwan saathi bichar gaya': Film: Babul, picturised on Dilip Kumar. 'Husn waalon ko na dil dau': Film : Babul, picturised on Dilip Kumar.

Likewise, composer Ghulam Mohammed did full justice to the silky-voice Talat to record tragic numbers like:'Zindagi denaywalay': Film: 'Dil-e-nadan': 1953. Super performer Talat brought laurels for composer Roshan with scores like:

'Kisi soorat lagi dil ki': Film: 'Naubahar', music: Roshan.
'Mein dil hoon ik armaan bhara': Film: 'Unhoni', music: Roshan, picturised on Raj Kapoor.
'Dil-e- bay qaraar so ja': Film: Raagran, music: Roshan.

Shankar-Jaikishan produced marvelous compositions for the golden-voice Talat, which resulted in magnificent numbers like:

'Hain sub say mudhur wo geeth jinhein': Film:'Patita', music: Shankar-Jaikishan
'Hum dard kay maaron ka': Film:'Daagh':music: Shankar-Jaikishan, picturised on Dilip Kumar.

Further, composer Salil Chowdhury availed Talat's satin voice for hit numbers like:

'Aansoo samajh kay kyon mujhay: Film: 'Chhya, music:Salil Chowdhury.
'Dil diwana, dil mastana': Film: 'Aawaaz': music: Salil Chowdhury.

Furthermore, Talat's soulful songs brought fame and glory for many other musicians, for instance:

'Teri zulfon say pyar kaun karay': Film: 'Joru ka bhai', music: Jaider.
'Pyar per bus tau naheen': Film: 'Sonay ki chirya', music: O.P.Nayyar.
"Sub kuchh luta kay hosh mein aye': Film: Aik Saal, music:Ravi.
'Teiray dar pay Aaya hoon': Film: Laila mujnu, music:Sardar Malik
'Mohabbat main aye say zamanay': Film: 'Sagaai', music: C.Ramchandar
'Raaz seenay mein mohabbat ka': Film: 'Hum hain rahi pyar kay', music:Khayyam.

Moreover, melancholy strains like:'Aye gham-e-dil kiya karun': Talat-Asha Bhonsle, is yet another example of Talat's artistry. Although Talat was the king of tragic songs, however, he gave excellent performance for relatively faster scores like:

'Raat nay kya, kya, khwab dikhaye'
'Itna na mujh say tu pyar barha:Talat-Lata.

Aankhon mein masti sharab ki.

Andhay jahan kay andhay rastay.
Neela amber jhoomay, dharti ko choomay

Talat had been battling with parkinson's for a long time, which had virtually stopped him from singing. Slowly but surely, his health grew from bad to worse, so much so that people could not understand a word he spoke. Besides, he could not properly sit, stand or walk. He went into profound depression and was bed-ridden.

Amidst immense misery and acute affliction, Talat greeted all his visitors with his peculiar smile, though his adorers knew what Talat felt in the innermost recesses of his shattered heart. Talat did spend long, lonely evenings, looking at the four walls of his room and the door, as if to say: 'Sham-e-gham ki qasam, Aaj ghamgeen hain hum':Film: 'Footpath': 1953,music:khayyam, picturised on Dilip Kumar. And also: 'Sunnay walay meri Aawaz tau suni, dil bhi toota hai mera, uski bhi jhankar suni'.

Talat breathed his last due to a heart attack, on Saturday morning, May 9, 1998 at his 'Sunbeam' house at Bandra, which is located in northwest Bombay. He was 74: 'Teri rehmath chup rahi, mein rotay, rotay mar gaya'. Today, 11 years after his death, he is still very much here. His innumerable loyal fans who share enthusiasm and interest agree that Talat was one of the most decent artist, ever to grace the Indian film industry, with his charismatic personality.

He was a friend of friends. Apparently, his admirers will keep his name alive by listening to his songs again and again. 'Daleel -e- qurb-e- qayamath tau wo na tha laykin, juda hua tau qayamath see dha gaya ik shaks' This is, indeed, the greatest reward, appreciation and tribute that we can offer to the singer with the wistful magic, whom we all know as Talat Mahmood.