1. Remembering Madam Noor Jehan (today and every day!)… She left us on Deember 23, 2000, but, of course, her voice and image remain immortal.
2. Mohammed Rafi. His birthday is December 24.
3. I just found this one out recently… The supreme artist who composed the two songs above was born on December 25. Naushad was the best! For my third Naushad selection today, I thought I’d post an instrumental, one of a kind that we don’t normally associate with Naushad – a snake dance. And it is one of my favorite snake dances, especially for the music.
(BTW, this video was prepared by Tom Daniel – one of close to three dozen of his on my channel that have not disappeared due to some suspension…yet.)
A very interesting description of Begum Akhtar’s ghazal singing that I found in Agha Shahid Ali’s introduction to The Rebel’s Silhouette, a book of his translations of poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
What Begum Akhtar did was to place the ghazal gently on the raga until the raga opened itself to that whispered love, gave itself willingly, guiding the syllables to the prescribed resting places, until note by syllable, syllable by note, the two merged compellingly into yet another aesthetic ethos for the Urdu lovers of the South Asian subcontinent. She, in effect, allowed the ghazal to be caressed into music… For unlike so many other ghazal singers, who clothe their words until they can’t be seen, she stripped them to resplendent nudity.
Just in case people haven’t noticed yet, there are now a whole lot of videos on this blog that I’ll need to replace…if I can replace them… And even if I can replace them to some extent, it might be more difficult to really replace most of them.
I think it might be for good this time, but that’s what I thought the last couple of times over the years, so who knows?
Very sorry to see this, Tom.
Dev Anand died this morning in London from cardiac arrest. This one threw me – I am at the moment at a loss for words. Some of us might have made a few remarks about his quirks, especially from the times a bit past his prime, but he was an invaluable talent for the Golden Age, starring in many of the greatest films, an undeniably compelling screen presence, and a fascinating person as well.
Farewell, Dev Anand.
I said in my last post about this book that I would “probably get back to this sometime soon.” Well, I am getting back to it, but “soon” turned out to be two years and three months later. I put the book down for a while shortly after I wrote that promise and actually left it somewhere else for a couple of years, retrieving it only recently. When I picked it up again, I found myself becoming more engrossed than I had been before, because of its highly vivid descriptions of life in Lahore’s Heera Mandi district, from the day-to-day hardships of the brothels to the dramatic and flamboyant rituals that take place in Lahore on the death anniversary of Shahbaz Qalandar (a subject that some people who’ve been visiting this blog might have guessed would appeal to me). The book is also very absorbing for the sympathetic but realistic way that it delves into the personalities of some of those dancing girls. The jacket copy says that Lousie Brown “turns a novelistic eye on a true story.” While that line might be a bit cliched, it is still accurate.
In one of the last chapters, I found a passage pertaining to a favorite topic on this blog. So I decided to excerpt that passage first this time around, and I’ll post some more quotes from earlier parts of the book soon (with “soon” this time around meaning a lot less than two-and-a-quarter yeas later). When reading this passage, notice that it is about a real-life contemporary tawaif (of sorts) looking up to the legendary historic-fictional one in the movies and wanting to be her. That is something that I haven’t seen before…
We are sitting in the best room, talking about my work and the book I’m writing about Heera Mandi. Maha wants to know what new things I’m saying about her. I say, “Everything,” and she’s pleased.
“I’m the star of the book, aren’t I?” she questions.
I confirm she is and that the children are stars too.
I think I understand the kind of star Maha wants to be. She enjoys lots of Bollywood films and she knows one especially well – Pakeezah, which means “Pure Heart,” a classic film made in the early 1970s. It’s a story about a tawaif who is rejected by her lover’s family and who dies in childbirth. Her daughter, a courtesan too, struggles for honor and fulfillment. The film romanticizes the world of the tawaifs even as it damns it. Meena Kumari, the legendary Bollywood actress, played both the lead characters, alluring and gracious even as she neared death both in the film and in reality. Sumptuously dressed, adored by men, technically skilled in the performing arts, innocent and yet battered by life, the courtesans in Pakeezah possessed the pure heart of the film’s title. It was Meena Kumari’s last movie – arguably her most famous – and one that immortalized the tragedy of the courtesans she played and her own tragic death from alcohol-induced cirrhosis of the liver. Perhaps Maha wants this kind of immortality too – a lasting record of her life, something to lift her out of the ghetto.