The passionate praise
This is a review written by Gan Sharma, of a song that is well-known but probably not listened to with the passion it deserves!
It is well known that Rafi saab’s ability to sing a woman’s praise is unparalleled. There are hundreds of such songs that Rafi saab has sung, and many have been reviewed in this excellent website.
However, there is one song that I have not paid close attention to, and which falls in this category. You know how it is. Although it is a sin to fast-forward any Rafi song, you tend to gravitate towards your favourites, and skip songs in your iPod or CD to get to the next one. I have been guilty of this too!
Last week, as I was driving back from a friend’s place 240 kms away, I was listening to Rafi saab in my car, and was thinking of something else when this song (that I’d have ordinarily fast-forwarded!) was playing, and suddenly I thought, “My God, what a beautiful song, what beautiful words, and how magically has Rafi saab has sung it”.
I later looked up the song and found that it was from a movie released in 1980, the year the Master died, so it must have been one of his last few (tens? hundreds?) of songs; yet, the magic in his voice hadn’t faltered, his gentle enfolding of the beloved in passionate praise was as warm as ever. “Maine poocha chaand se…”, from Abdullah, picturized on Zeenat Aman and Sanjay Khan, is one of his enduring classics.
To those of us who are caught in a time-warp of the 50’s and 60’s, to diehard retro music fans like us, bred in the warmth of Sahir Ludhianvi and Shakeel Badayuni, and drowned in the music of Naushad and Madan Mohan, an Anand Bakshi / RD Burman number might seem, well, less than stellar. Not so, Rafi bhakton. This song has the magic of the best of them.
Watch the song Maine Poocha Chand Se from Abdullah. Coutesy imtiyaz123456 @ Youtube
Unbridled praise is difficult. When done improperly, it sounds cheesy, insincere and smacks of flattery. However, if the poetry is top-grade, and if Rafi saab sings it, such lavish praise seems just right, perfectly appropriate, and full of the warmth of passionate love. Let’s start with the words:
Maine poocha chand se ke dekha hai kahin, mera yaar sa haseen
Chand ne kaha, Chandni ki kasam, nahi nahi nahi
Maine yeh hi jaab tera dhoondha, har jageh shabab tera dhoondha
kaliyon se misaal teri poochi, phoolon me jawaab tera dhoondha
maine poocha baag se falak ho ya zameen, aisa phool hai kahin
baag ne kaha har kali ki kasam, nahi nahi nahi
Wah, saab! Tareef ho to aisa ho varna na ho! The poet has thrown restraint to the winds, and indulged in the most eloquent of praises. Metaphorically, the moon and moonlight are the ultimate benchmarks of beauty and fairness in Urdu poetry. You could compare the beloved to the moon, but rarely is it surpassed. Anand Bakshi decided to go for it, and did he ever?!
Is there such a flower as my beloved, the poet asks? Not just on terra firma, but on earth as well as in the heavens? The “nahi, nahi, nahi…” is reminiscent of definiteness; traditionally, saying yes (or no) thrice is a mark of absolute surety. There are no half-measures here. This is it, says the poet. She’s the best, the most wonderful. Take it or leave it!
Chaal hai ke mauj ki ravaani, Zulf hai ke raat ki kahani
Hont hain ke aaine kawal ke, aankh hai ke maikhadon ki rani
maine poocha jaam se falak ho ya zameen, aisi mai bhi hai kahin
jaam ne kaha mehkashi ki kasam, nahi nahi nahi
Oh, let’s go for it, says Anand Bakshi. Take every known metaphor for bewitching beauty, and break it up and cast it to the winds. Whether it is the flow of waves, the hidden secrets of the night, the petals of the lotus or the charm of the tavern, they all are subservient to the beauty of my beloved. Her walk, her locks, her lips, they are not the best in the universe, they ARE the universe!!
Khoobsurati jo tune paayi, lut gayi khuda ki bas khudaayi
meer ke gazal kahun tujhe main, ya kahun khaiyyaam ki rubaayi
main jo poochun shayaron se aisa dilnashi koyi sheyr hai kahin
shayar kahen shayari ki kasam, nahi nahi nahi
“You want extravagance”, asks the poet, “You’ve got it”. This verse goes way beyond what’s ordinarily allowed, and is almost blasphemous! I’ll talk about the second line first. Those of you who are students of the ghazal, will know that the quintessence of all things beautiful is a poem by the great Meer Taqi Meer. Even Mirza Ghalib, the acknowledged master of the Urdu ghazal, said in the maqta of one of his poems, and which has his takhallus:
Rekhte ke tumheen ustaad naheen ho Ghalib!
Kehte hain agle zamaane mein koi Meer bhee thaa
To compare a beloved’s beauty to a Meer ghazal is almost outrageous, but to add to it the beauty of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam takes it to unprecedented heights. Bakshi saab knocked it out of the ballpark when he said, “lut gayi khuda ki bas khudaai”. There’s nothing left to be said. She’s the one; she’s the only; she’s a sight for the Gods, and she’s mine.
Aadmi khudgarz hota hai. I wish this song was picturized on Waheeda Rehman, my personal all-time favourite heroine, but you can’t ask for everything!!! Sanjay Khan and Zeenat Aman are quite all right; the scene is almost tastefully shot; I wish there was less physical contact in the song; it might have enhanced the beauty of the song if she’s worshipped instead of possessed.
Rahul Dev Burman once again proves that he was a brilliant music director. Some of us diehard Rafi fans berate him for using Kishore saab more than Rafi; I don’t comment on such things. Things are never what they seem, and there’s always an alternative viewpoint. However, beauty is usually a thing of quality, never quantity. In this song, RD Burman uses a mixture of modern instrumentation and old-style composition brilliantly; he knew that the complexity of the score would be handled with ease by Rafi saab.
Of course, that’s where all our ability to write ends. No one, and I repeat no one, can describe the beauty of Rafi’s singing. You just bask in the glory of his voice and the brilliance of his rendering. Only he could balance the melody with the passion in this song; the outrageous comparisons with the gentleness of ascribing divinity to the beloved; and the hot breath of longing passion with the coolness of a gentle brook. How else can you describe this beautiful singing, sung in the late evening of his life – but who’d know it? Rafi saab might have aged; his voice didn’t; his body might have sagged, but his passion for a beautiful song remained as firm as ever.
I will always cherish this song; I hope when you listen again to it, you’ll feel the beauty too, and turn to your beloved and say, “I love you”. For Rafi saab sang this song on your behalf, to your partner, whoever he or she may be. He gave us his all, never held back, and compared to his selflessness, even this song pales.