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Manohar Iyer The Modern Day Maestro Staked His Life To Keep Vintage Music Alive

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 Ali Peter John

Some twenty years ago (or may be more), there were clear signs of good and great music being murdered and mutilated by meaningless noise that was supposed to be the music of the changing times. And, there seemed to be a feeling and a belief that vintage music was slowly but surely being crushed by the roaring and wild sounds of noise in the name of modernity!

But vintage music had a ‘Messiah’ who was not going to allow vintage music to be humiliated and pushed into oblivion. His name is Manohar Iyer, who was born and brought up in Bombay and who grew up entranced with the music of the golden era. His love and madness for Hindi film songs of yore was infinite and indescribable.

The lover in him was only getting more and more restless. He wanted to keep vintage music alive, come what may. He gathered around him some like minded music lovers like him, his most trusted lieutenant and soulmate Krishnan Iyer and others and started ‘Keep Alive’, an organisation to resurrect the golden era and save music which was close to their hearts. Manohar knew that there would be many who would love to hear this genre of music which was slowly fading away from the public memory and collecting dust in the shelves of some connoisseurs.

Manohar’s madness inspired him to quit his attractive job in a leading financial institution and dedicate the rest of his life to keep vintage music alive. His passion paid off in a big way as ‘Keep Alive’ made every effort to reach its goal. The info~tainment oriented events of ‘Keep Alive’ ran to packed houses in the prestigious Shanmukhananda Hall and other leading halls in the major suburbs of Bombay. The ‘Keep Alive’ events became a new trend and a role model in music and Manohar Iyer was a big star in his own way.

There were many other musical event in Bombay, but none of them could come anywhere close to the ‘Keep Alive’ offerings. And the dominant reasons for its success was the passionate performance of Manohar Iyer and his team of talented artistes. He could stand on any stage with unabated enthusiasm for more than four hours and give the starving audience more than what they expected.

Down the years, Manohar’s events gave a new life to all the legendary composers, the lyricists, the singers and even the stars of the good old days. There were many reasons for Manohar to be hailed as a lovable hero and an enviable star but the one big reason was his complete command over every film, every song with all its finest nuances including what went into their making. The magic of Manohar was that he never referred to any notes or any guidelines written on paper. Indeed incredible. One has to witness his throbbing passion on stage to believe.

The passing of time however had its impact on Manohar’s grand events too. For reasons which are still difficult to find, the same niche audience that rushed to his shows kept dwindling; may be because of the changing tastes, rising costs and the monstrous invasion of mobile. Manohar took a wise decision and finally brought down the curtains on his creations.  He had the grand finale on his birthday and I don’t know why he sounded very much like the poet Vijay (Guru Dutt) in Pyaasa, who cried out ‘jalaado jalaado ise phoonk daalo ye duniya… ye duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai??

‘Keep Alive’ was unarguably the pioneer and inspired many other such groups. Today, there are more than five hundred such groups in Mumbai, but there will always be one ‘Keep Alive’. And one and only Manohar Iyer!

Manohar calls himself Manohar ‘Mohabbat’ Iyer (Mohabbat being his pen name) and couldn’t give up his beloved (vintage music). To keep himself busy, he started conducting Antaksharis, Talk Shows, Ghazal Workshops and musical soirées for senior citizen ladies of his area through which he continues to inspire all sections of people to appreciate vintage music, participate and sing and get enlightened on the lesser known facts of the golden era  He also started the now famous ‘Manohar Monologues’ in which he, in his inimitable way, narrates interesting and little known trivias revolving around the life, careers and films of the great legendary actors, prolific writers, iconic studios and pathbreaking filmmakers of the bygone era!

He was preparing for one such show on his favourite poet, the romantic rebel: Sahir Ludhianvi for more than three months. He was all set and geared up for the show to start. The show started with great excitement. Manohar was on the stage for hardly fifteen minutes when he started feeling uneasy, his voice slurred, he lost control, cried out for medical help and collapsed. He had suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed immediately to the nearby Hinduja hospital where an angioplasty was done for a hundred percent blockage. He was in the ICU for four days and within a week, he was discharged. He is now convalescing and relaxing in his native place, Thrissur, Kerala, but his heart is still in Mumbai where he wants to return and start a fresh movement to keep good music alive. His philosophy was no different from that of his favourite actor Raj Kapoor: Jeena yahan marna yahan!

The multi-talented Manohar lives the life of an ascetic, cooks his own food and makes a great host. He is the master and maid of his home. He does the sweeping and mopping himself, washes his clothes and utensils, waters his plants; in short, he is the monarch of all he surveys. His door remains open all through the day and entry to his abode is without any discrimination.

For the past many months, he was in the thick of planning his first film “Dua”, a high voltage emotional story as sensitive like him. Interestingly, he has written the story, screenplay, dialogues, Iyrics and he himself will be producing and directing it. Quite a multi tasking by the multitalented maverick.

I know my ‘dua’ (prayers) and the ‘duas’ of all those whose hearts and minds he soothed and touched will all cry out to every God and ask them to save Manohar from any further harm because in having Manohar with us, we have poets, saints, thinkers and musicians in one man whose name is and will always be Manohar ‘Mohabbat’ Iyer.

Reproducing a poignant poem written by Manohar ‘Mohabbat’ Iyer about the harrowing night when he collapsed on the stage:

*ज़ीस्त की ज़ुबानी ~ मौत की मेहरबानी*

(ज़ीस्त: ज़िन्दगी)

संगीन मौत किसपे कब हुई है मेहरबां,

जां लेते लेते बख़्श दे गई मुझे ये जां।

साहिर की दास्तां मैं कर रहा था जब बयां,

बस आप ही बंधने लगा ग़ज़ब का इक समां;

फिर पल में लड़खड़ाने लग गई मेरी ज़बां,

दम घुटने लगा, जैसे निकली जा रही थी जां।

समझो कि ख़त्म हो गई मेरी भी दास्तां,

जां लेते लेते बख़्श दे गई मुझे ये जां।

सब सामने थे पर कोई आया नज़र नहीं,

सब हाथ उठे दुआ में, दुआ बेअसर नहीं;

सजदे में ना झुका हो, ऐसा कोई सर नहीं,

फिर भी लगा उस‌ रात की कोई सहर नहीं।

सब रौशनी बुझने लगी, उठने लगा धुआं,

जां लेते लेते बख़्श दे गई मुझे ये जां।

ये सच है कि हर रात का होता है सवेरा,

होने लगा दुनिया से मेरी दूर अंधेरा;

उम्मीद की किरनों ने किया दिल में बसेरा,

चमकी मेरी दुनिया, हुआ उजला जहां मेरा।

बसने लगा फिर उजड़ी ज़िन्दगी का आशियां,

जां लेते लेते बख़्श दे गई मुझे ये जां।

*मनोहर ‘मोहब्बत’ अय्यर*

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Tags: Bollywood, Bollywood News, Bollywood Updates, Television, Telly News, Manohar Iyer

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