Thought Box

Retroscope - Jagjit Singh- A Sweet Recollection

Retroscope - Jagjit Singh- A Sweet Recollection

by Rinki Roy Bhattacharya February 13 2016, 3:59 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 39 secs

I don’t recall when I first met the two, Jagjit and Chitra Singh. It must be sometime in the early 1970s, when Chitra came round to our tiny apartment on 29th Road TPS III. Basu Bhattacharya, my husband, about whom his friends joked: “Basu is a budding director taking too long to bud!” had become almost famous after his debut Teesri Kasam won the President’s Gold. And even the modest Anubhav that came after four years did well for itself. From those early times I have lost count of the number of aspiring actors, singers, musicians – especially Bengalis – who came knocking on one pretext or another. That list today would sound like the who’s who of the movie industry.

Coming back to Chitra – she had, I think recently been divorced at the time and hoped to become a playback singer. Being a Bengali plus a filmy aspirant was her visit visa to our home, and to Basu. Before she left us that day, Chitra sang a few lines of a popular film song to prove her credentials. I remember hearing her say that she would come back soon with her music teacher.

One evening, I opened the door to find the impeccable Chitra with a rather shy, casually dressed man standing at the door. Rounds of tea were ordered for the couple. I got a fleeting glimpse of them in passing but it is what I heard that made me stop in my tracks. The music teacher’s sensational voice made the walls of our flat reverberate with life. His name, by the way, was Jagjit Singh. The two, Jagjit and Chitra, became frequent visitors after that. A jolly man, the enthusiastic Jagjit would lug his harmonium from the boot of his Fiat car. Every time they came, I waited to hear his golden voice throb like a beating heart.

The couple’s visits continued after we moved to Raj Kutir in Khar, the place that was turned overnight into a set for Aavishkar. I was expected to be the set designer for the film starring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore and got down to business, dressing it up gloriously. By then Chitra and Jagjit were more like family. I remember them being there when I came home with the new born Anwesha. Basu was doing post production for Avishkar at the time. He suddenly decided to ask thecouple to render a background song in Avishkar. Composer, Kanu Roy got busy rehearsing with them at our place. The song was Babul Mora, inspired by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s soulful composition in the solemn Bhairavi raaga. I would wait to hear Jagjit's voice render Babul Mora – what an extraordinary experience it was. The KL Saigal rendition from the film Street Singer considered an iconic version of the song was not what Basu wanted Jagjit to sing. Basu need not have worried. In Jagjit’s textured voice Babul Mora became a profoundly spiritual Sufi experience. The warm cadence of his rich voice reinvented the pathos of Wajid Ali’s lyrics, regarded in musical history as one of the most heart wrenching songs on longing for one’s natal home, one’s country or one could interpret it as separation form the beloved. Written by the exiled Nawab of Lucknow for his beloved city, it is a jewel of a composition. With this Avishkar background duet Babul Mora, Chitra-Jagjit cut their very first music disc. By the time the final take was recorded at Mehboob Studios, it was 4 am, the perfect time for Bhairavi.

In 1978, Basu was making Griha Pravesh, starring Sanjeev Kumar and Sharmila Tagore. Thescript required a suitable background song to convey remorse and sadness when the husband rediscovers his wife’s hidden beauty. Jagjit’s evergreen “Baat Niklegi to bahut door talak jayegi” seemed to convey the inner turmoil of a man on the verge of having a secret affair. I suggested Basu use this song. That sequence is one of the most gracious highlights of Grihapravesh

For me Jagjit's exquisite rendition of Babul mora remains his most evocative song. It is Jagjit at his purest. How privileged I am to have personally known the Ghazal Emperor Jagjit Singh- that simple, unassuming man, with rustic wit and humour …

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