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Art is not a luxury, but a necessity.

‘Celebrating Centenarians (Hundred Years) Of Majrooh Sultanpuri And Rajendra Kishan


Ali Peter John

I first heard the priests and nuns in my church and school talking about the soul and how man hurt and even destroyed the soul everytime he did something wrong or committed a sin as they called it. I kept listening to mahatma’s and spiritual and even fake philosophers and spiritual leaders (who appoints them leaders?) talk about the soul and how one needed a clean soul in one has to go to heaven (has there been any man or woman or saint and see coming back from that so called heaven to prove that there is a heaven?). I have been listening to any number of rishis,maharishi, popes and bhakts preaching about some place called heaven, but I have always taken all this talk about heaven as so many inches of salt. The only time I was tempted to believe in heaven was when I heard Lata Mangeshkar or Mohammad Rafi sing or Pyarelal playing the violin all alone….

I never could imagine that I would know that I was a blasphemer by not believing in heaven as I raised towards the last round of my race through life. And little did I imagine that I would find my first few clues of there being a soul in man was when I heard a group of singers who were called amateur singers but were much much better than those who were called geniune singers at a musical show called ‘Soulful Saturdays’ organised by an old friend Rajesh Subramaniam with the cooperation of Mani Subramaniam and other passionate lovers of vintage music..

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The first Saturday evening when I could see visions of a soul was when a number of men and women of all ages sang and danced and celebrated the songs and music of some of the greats of the past. The evening gave me a better high than all the hundreds of highs I had on Saturdays and every day at all the big, small and shady bars of Mumbai. Rajesh, Mani and his team gave me a new sense of high when they decided to release my fourteenth book,‘One Man So Many Storms’ at the same celebration. I have had many other big releases where I had chief guests like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand, Amitabh Bachchan and Subhash Ghai among others, and at the evening of my book on celebrities and legends of cinema, I had eighteen stars in the stage and some equally great and popular stars, writers and directors in the auditorium. But this release at the Prabhodhankar Thackeray Krida Sankulan at Vile Parle gave me the kind of happiness which the other releases failed to do in such a special way, may be it was because I felt that those who took away my books would certainly read them and my thinking was right because after the function was over, I saw people in the audience coming to me and asking for more copies and I couldn’t help but promised them to bring more copies the next time.

The magic of ‘Soulful Saturdays’ was so strong that I waited for the second Saturday to come as soon as possible. And when it came, I was in for another soulful evening when I was told that the evening was dedicated to two of the most popular, successful and thoughtful poets who wrote songs for films, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Rajendra Kishan who had both completed hundred years of life to live on forever.

That ‘Soulful Saturdays’ evening proved that the two poets were very much alive as a number of their devotees were singing some of their evergreen songs which had different composers and a variety of singers who were all brought together and in the best possible way by the team of ‘Soulful Saturdays’.

As one singer after another belted out their assigned numbers, Rajesh Subramaniam went into narrating anecdotes about them and I in my own silent way had my own ways of celebrating the work and contribution of the two poets…

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Rajesh must have surprised the eager to know more audience about how Majrooh had written songs for more than fifty years, from K.L Saigal to Aamir Khan and Salman Khan. And as he talked about Majrooh’s achievements I thought about my own one and only bitter experience with him. I was working with K.A Abbas who himself was not very happy paying me hundred rupees a month and looked for ways of making some more money for me, like he got me to write articles about his hopeless actor who had discovered himself with his money power and Shabana Azmi in some smaller magazines which paid me twenty-five rupees per article once in a way and the hopeless actor who saw hopeless dreams of being another Rajesh Khanna tried to help me by palming off some of his old shirts to me which I even in that pecuniary state refused to wear. His big talk used to drive me and others in the unit and even Abbas Sahab himself mad, but what could we helpless human beings do when he was the star/boss? He also helped me by asking me to read the books of James Hadley Chase and make synopses of them for his friend and writer, Inder Raj Anand who paid me twenty-five rupees for every synopsis. I can now confess that I cheated and never read any of the books as I just didn’t like reading such books and I who was as poor as poor can be handed over the books to a sardar friend called Kiran Uday Singh who gladly read those books even wrote the synopsis and all the twenty-five rupees I received, I honestly handed over to Kiran Singh and we had a grand booze party in one of those mat-walled speakeasies (addas) where we never knew whether we were drinking alcohol or poison for two rupees of some liquid which was drawn out from a dirty plastic bucket by a heavily sweating young man dressed only in a vest and a lungi…

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It was in continuation with this large-heartedness that Abbas Sahab asked me to interview Majrooh Sultanpur. I said I didn’t know anything about him and Abbas Sahab said, “go and meet him, he is my friend and how can you know people if you don’t meet them?”And Sahab gave me an introduction letter to Majrooh and I went to the poet’s bungalow the same evening (the bungalow was demolished twenty years ago for a new building to come up where Venus Records and Tapes now have their office). I tried showing the letter from Abbas Sahab to three different people and they just kept playing volleyball with me or was it ping-pong? The letter finally reached the great poet and I could hear his voice so clearly that I still remember every word and every pause. He said, “yeh Abbas Sahab ko bhi koi kaam nahi hai lagta hai. Na jaane kaha kaha se kaise kaise ajeeb ladko ko bhejte hai mere paas.Le jaao yeh kaagaz aur us ladke se kaho ki woh agli Eid pe aaye.”I could take any insult, but I couldn’t tolerate that great man, however great he thought he was insulting Abbas Sahab. I took the letter and kept it with me. I told Abbas Sahab I had a very nice interview with the great poet, but I never thought of meeting him or taking to him till the last days of his life. I had grown so hostile to the sensitive poet that when I saw him suffering from acute Parkinsons, I quietly said, “that horrible man deserves it”. This may sound cruel and even inhuman, but I think I have kept this thought buried four too long and because in all my years I have realised how some of the most sensitive poets and writers who write about the deepest human feelings are basically some of the most cruel and insensitive men. And if anyone denies this truth, I can say with my newly developing soul that they are lying, of course there are exceptions like Sahir Ludhianvi, Rajinder Singh Bedi and above all Anand Bakshi. And please don’t incite me by asking me my opinion about two of the most so called sensitive poets of today, Javed Akhtar and the guru of all insensitivity and even cruelty, Gulzar.

Coming back to Rajendra Kishan, one of the poets we celebrated by Rajesh Subramaniam and ‘Soulful Saturdays’, I must thank Rajesh for reminding the audience about the poet who lived life to celebrate life. I specially liked the ‘Chole Bhatture’ story narrated by Rajesh….

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One morning Rajendra Kishan drove to ‘Vachan’, the bungalow of the music director Ravi. He asked Ravi to come down and get into his car. They drove to the Santa Cruz Airport. The poet bought two tickets for the flight to Delhi. Ravi was silent all the time. They landed at Palam Airport as the airport in Delhi was then called. They got into a cab and the poet asked the driver to take him to some unknown place in Chandni Chowk. They walked and crossed a ‘naala’ and finally reached a ‘Choley Bhature’ shop. Ravi was struggling with one plate while the poet was relishing his third plate which he drowned with a large glass of lassi. They then took the same way back to the airport, took a flight to Bombay and Rajendra Kishan dropped Ravi at ‘Vachan’. After all the long journey to and fro Ravi asked the poet only one question, “pagal ho kya?”And the poet said something to the effect of life being to live and may the best of it and if that was pagalpan, he would continue being a paagal all his life, and there are countless other stories to prove what he believed in about life…

The next day, the over-enthusiastic horse-racer won the Jackpot at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse and made front page headlines when he was declared the winner of rupees sixty-seven lakhs of rupees, without any tax. A tax on racing was leived the very next day and the poet didn’t go mad while leaving with the money he had won. He alloted starts of it to his entire family, but made sure that he is also kept a good amount for himself so that he could live the dream life he always wanted to live and lived till he died a peaceful death while he was still only in his early sixties.

That ‘Soulful Saturdays’ when the songs,“jo unki tamanna hai ki hum barbaad ho jaaye”reminded me of “Inteqaam” which was the first film I had seen in the Sangam Theatre near my house which was the first theatre to have an elevator….

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That ‘Soulful Saturdays’ as the song ‘huee sham, unki yaad aayi’ reminded me of the first full day shooting I had witnessed at the Ranjit Studios. The film was “Mere Humdum Mere Dost” with Dharmendra looking his handsome best and looking more concerned about the curl in his hair in front than the colourful clothes he was wearing. The song kept being picturerised and I did not feel like leaving the studio, especially after the grand lunch which I had the pleasure of having in the company of Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore, the director Amar Kumar and the geniunely great writers, Rajinder Singh Bedi. Little did I know then when I was a student in the tenth standard that this was going to be my life and great people like Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore, Amar Kumar and above all Rajinder Singh Bedi would be my very close friends….

Every song on that ‘Soulful Saturdays’ had some anecdote or memory about it which I remembered very clearly and whatever I couldn’t remember, I could always fall back on Rajesh Subramaniam….

Since the last two weeks I have been thinking about what valuable service these groups like ‘Soulful Saturdays’ are doing to lovers of vintage music, the kind I don’t think we will get to hear again and the way they are lifting up the spirits of people who are old but young at heart, the lonely and the sick and those suffering from incurable ailments and more than anything else reminding the youth of today that what was music at one time was MUSIC and not the noise, the sound, the fury and the futile words which go in the name of lyrics and poetry…

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And as I heard a singer singing the song,‘pukarta chala hoon main’ sung by Mohammad Rafi, tuned by O.P Nayyar and picturerised on Biswajeet, my mind went out into the world of today where Mohammad Rafi and O.P Nayyar have become a part of the club of the legends while Biswajeet walks alone and looks for work and is even willing to sing for one of these many groups, but there are not many who feel he is good enough to sing the same song that made him a big star, so what if his stardom didn’t last as long as it should have….

I carried home many new memories that ‘Soulful Saturdays’, but most soulful scene for me was a seventy-three year old man dancing the waltz to a song that went with their dance and the way they looked into the eyes of one another could only be compared to the way Dilip Kumar (Salim) and Madhubala (Anarkali) look into their eyes during the famous love scene between the two with Dilip Kumar running a feather around the beautiful face of Madhubala with her eyes closed in ecstasy….

With just two ‘Soulful Saturdays’ I can feel the life of a soul. I don’t know what the soulful Saturdays to come will do to me and to my soul which I didn’t believe existed in me. Thank you,‘Soulful Saturdays’, wish you and ‘Soulful Saturday’ many more ‘Soulful Saturdays’ to come because one ‘Soulful Saturday’ is all one needs to make all the days to come more soulful and more meaningful and more livable.

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Rajendra Kishan