4 comments on “Mirza Ghalib… The Playful Muse, Episodes 1 and 3

  1. Thanks for this.

    I like the concept of the programme, it is a pity that they seem so scared to put anything black & white or old in it.

    The first episode seems to be episode saying how to interpret a most beautiful & profound ghazal from bad (Ravi) to absolute pits (the Arab thingee)!
    Because I would put K L Saigal or Begum Akhtar for a classical rendering, or Asad Amanat Ali Khan’s (I like all that family’s singing!) Mehndi Hassan/Jagjit Singh for modern orchestration.

    Suraiya’s singing and elegant dancing is outstanding for a “courtesan” version, nobody to touch her.
    The quawali is saved to a an extent by the Mahendra Kapoor singing, but for some reason, despite having such a spine-tingling form & lyrics to match, it really ends up being pedestrian and boring.

    As for the “Arab” version, I could just about listen to the first two lines, Ghalib must be busy plugging his ears somewhere!

    Lastly, the translation was a bit poor as well, missed out some key things in every couplet.

    Episode 3: In this episode I liked the more adventurous choices of interpretation. I certainly had never seen Ghalib (or a ghazal) in a Carnatic style, and it was good. Apart from the usual suspects, I really like Iqbal Bano and Abida Parveen’s rendering of this ghazal.

  2. Bawa, since it seems you can understand Ghalib in the original Urdu, if you have looked at any English translations then may I please ask what you think of the Ralph Russell translations ? I looked at a number of translations into English (suggested by a colleague whose first language is Urdu but who is elegantly expert in English) and liked Russell the best. Apologies if you are referring only to the English subtitle translations of perhaps Hindi renditions of the Urdu and Persian ghazals. Thank you and Best Regards.

  3. Bawa. thank you for your very amusing review. I don’t have any argument here – all the singers you mentioned are far better than anyone in these episodes (but wait, you didn’t mention Madam Noor Jehan!)…

    Still, I liked finding this program for a couple of reasons. One was that, being from British TV, it had nice introductory explanations in English about the meaning of Ghalib’s ghazal and the forms of dancing being presented (in addition to having subtitles – which are always appreciated here). I enjoyed that, given that I have never found this sort of program before. I also thought it would be particularly amusing to readers of this blog who have seen me present countless mujras to hear this English language explanation that sounds as though it was taken right out of Mujra 101 class.

    But, actually, for aesthetic enjoyment, this time I was more focused on the dancing. I know that it’s ironic for a program that’s about Mirza Ghalib ghazals to become much more appealing for the dancing, but I think that’s how it turned out. In the first video, the Kathak/mujra dancing isn’t bad (in fact, it was good enough for Tripmonk to post as a separate dance all on its own, and I think he’s a pretty good judge of these things). The Arab dancing is amusing, even if the singing isn’t up to greatness, and since I have watched many belly dances in my time (in my pursuit of aesthetic/cultural enrichment), I didn’t think it was a bad scene, either.

    I think you are right, though, that Episode #3 is much better. The outstanding moment in this video is the bharatanatyam dance by Sudha Chandra, the inspiring dancer-actress who famously continued performing even after losing her leg in an accident. (Minai has written a bit about her on her blog – and about a movie that was made about her.) The Marathi dance is also a lot of fun. (I’m not at all familiar with that kind of dancing, but I have seen Sandhya do it in a couple of V. Shantaram films.)

    Anyway, so I did have some reasons to put these clips up here – other than to show everyone examples of singing that isn’t as good as most of the videos I’ve put up here.

  4. By the way, speaking of modern renditions and introductions to the ghazal, I first started to look up ghazals close to 20 years ago, after hearing the British-born fusion singer Najma Akhtar. Najma did some interesting “crossover” work in the ’90s, performing with Jah Wobble (who was once the bassist for Johnny Rotten’s band Public Image Limited) as well as with Robert Plant from Led Zepplin. In fact, I read somewhere that she was actually engaged to Robert Plant for about two years. (Hmm, guess that didn’t work out for some reason.)

    This is something from the first Najma album I heard, Qareeb (1989):

    And this clip includes Najma’s own explanation of the ghazal (as well as what she did to it):

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