Kal Raat Zindagi Se
This song review is written by Mr. Gan Sharma
The reason modern Hindi songs lack the nuances, the twists and the folds of older numbers is simply that life itself has lost them. You cannot divorce poetry from life, and when life has grace, pain, fortitude, gentleness and a value system, poetry has them too. Today’s life, unfortunately, is all straight lines: clean-cut, neatly shaven, and artificially perfumed â€“ and so todayâ€™s music is either just technical or cynical. In the days gone by, though, grace in daily life was important; restraint was important; bearing was important. Therefore, the poetry of those days was beautiful too.
I cry when I hear good poetry. Do I cry because the words are lovely, or because I yearn for a day when life is not so rushed, and there is time for politeness?
Itâ€™s not that grace and fortitude did not have a negative aspect to them â€“ people had to live with some problems simply because tradition demanded that they grin and bear. This allowed for the creation of pathos-filled situations in many Hindi movies â€“ it did not require villains!! Palki, made in 1967, was one of them. Set in Lucknow, against the backdrop of its graceful and yet hide-bound Muslim culture, the story of a talented poet who would not sacrifice his dignity for money was the perfect setting for good poetry, set to great music and some mesmerizing singing.
This poet, faced with unimaginable pain, shows a capacity for tremendous stoicism. In those days, a decent man was not one who won a battle, but who could show fortitude in the face of pain. One such song in Palki exemplifies this courage; it is steeped in pain.Â Shakeel Badayuni wrote the lovely verses; Naushad gave it life, and Rafi saab immortalized it with the able support of two Rehmans on screen (one, the powerful male presence, and the other, Waheeda, the queen of grace) and was successful despite Rajender Kumar’s usual absence of histrionic ability.
â€œkal raat zindagi se mulaaqaat ho gayiâ€ â€“ thatâ€™s the first line of the song.
Today, it would be unmanly to dwell on the memory of a dead wife. In the times of the movie, there was no pride lost in wasting away because of the grief of widower-hood. When he (as he thinks at that time) sees his wife’s ghost, he comes face to face with what he is all about – his obsession, his grief; and how ironic, that a ghost should be described as “zindagi“, or life. Shakeel managed to tell an entire story in one that one line â€“ and that was simply because people at that time lived an entire lifetime in one moment.
â€œlab thartharra rahe the magar baat ho gayiâ€
In those days, speechlessness was the language of the heartâ€¦and silence was eloquent; if a man, with trembling lips, could manage to say something to his beloved, he was not considered any less: it was the quintessence of manhood to be hesitant in love. That was the music Shakeel wrote and Naushad scored. And which Rafi sang with such feeling.
When I cry as I listen to these words, am I crying for the beautiful words? For the heartrending music? For Rafi’s soulful rendering of the song? Or for the loss of our essential guidance, for the loss of our grace? For the loss of true manhood, that can be unashamed of grief?
The poet W.H. Davies said, “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?” If true love is a form of keen attention, we probably donâ€™t love our partners very much, for many of us could hardly describe them! In this beautiful song, though, look at the way Shakeel describes Waheeda Rehman! And when Rafi sings it, that verse comes alive; even the story line is forgotten; the pain of the singer is forgotten – all that is left is the lyrical quality of the description of an exceedingly beautiful woman. We don’t pay attention to the kind of detail Shakeel goes into. We have become a people who have to place everything in context; everything has to fit an objective; we are expected to work towards a goal, and not lose the forest for the trees. However, what is a forest? It is just an idea, a generalization that lies in our minds as a map whose territory we do not care to traverse. Unfortunately, beauty does not lie in these generalizations; it lies in our ability to savour the moment, to experience it fully. If all you had was five minutes with your beloved, you can either choose to rue the lack of sufficient time, or you could convert them into an eternity. See how Shakeel, Naushad and Rafi do the latter:
ek husn saamane tha qayaamat ke roop mein
ek khwaab jalvaagar tha haqeeqat ke roop mein
chehara vahi gulaab ki rangat lie hue
nazaren vahi payaam-e-muhabbat lie hue
zulfen vahi ki jaise dhundhalaka ho shaam ka
aankhen vahi jin aankhon pe dhokha ho jaam ka
I can tell you this: if you can capture the spirit of those precious moments, live them fully – you don’t need any more. I’d rather have five minutes of reality than an eternity of ideology.
Only if you have spent those minutes living fully, can you understand the pathos in this line:
â€œkuch der ko tasallee-e-jazbaat ho gayiâ€
lab thartharra rahe …
Listen to how Rafi, the master, sings these lines. He screams in agony, melodiously! Screaming in deep agony is a cry of the heart â€“ whereas screaming with dissatisfaction is a tantrum. The former is musical, the latter is piercing, in your face, and unpleasant. Only Rafi could bring out the inherent melody in piteous grief; because he was telling a story with his voice, and not merely singing a song.
Why do I cry when I hear these lines? Is it Rafi’s voice alone? Or is it because of the story of the heart he’s telling? Or am I missing that value system that values experience over accomplishment?
Shakeel saab was the master of describing pain. He produced henna with his words, that beautiful adornment of the bridal limb. You can say it in English, but it is only beautiful when said in Hindi – “patthar par ghisne ke baad, rang laati hai hina“. Shakeel did exactly that – he put his words through a mill powered by his imagination, and ground them into beauty before he put them on paper. This whole song is one where it was almost as if Shakeel wanted to add just one more line before finishing the verse, and yet he was not satisfied. The sheer mastery over the words he uses to describe a woman’s grief is evident in the way he has sculpted them, albeit with great care; and I don’t want to comment on them. I simply state the verse, for I cannot pretend to fathom the grief he must have personally felt as he wrote them – and if I did describe the beauty of the verse, then Shakeel’s spirit would slap me and say, “paayal ke gamon ka ilm nahin, jhankaar ki baaten karte ho?”
Only Rafi saab would be permitted to interpret Shakeel saab’s words through his vocal chords: to you and me, the message is simple: listen, and weep. That’s all we are allowed to do:
dekha use to daaman-e-ruksaar nam bhi tha
vallaah usake dil ko kuch ehasaas-e-gam bhi tha
the uski hasraton ke kazaane lute hue
lab par tadap rahe the fasaane ghute hue
kaante chubhe hue the sisakati umang mein
doobi hui thi phir bhi vo vafaao ke rang mein
dam bhar ko katm gardish-e-haalaat ho gayi
lab thartharra rahe …
In how many ways can you express the fact that you miss someone? Innumerable they may be, but today, each one of them will beg the question, “and what are you going to do about it?” Well, in days past, it was considered acceptable to say, “I miss her”, and accept the reality of it. It was not unmanly, and Rafi could bring out the sadness of that feeling â€“ and which makes our heart go out to the actor on the screen. He changes the tonal quality of his singing in this verse; if you pay attention to it carefully, you’ll be compelled to feel sympathy:
ai meri rooh-e-ishq meri jaan-e-shaayari
dil maanata nahi ki tu mujhase bichhad gayi
maayoosiyaan hain phir bhi mere dil ko aas hai
mahsoos ho raha hai ke tu mere paas hai
samjhaan kis tarah se dil-e-beqaraar ko
vaapas kahaan se laaoon main guzri bahaar ko
majaboor dil ke saath badi ghaat ho gayi
Naushad finishes the song with a characteristic flourish, emphasizing the drama of the situation in the movie, but I am left with tears in my eyes.
I don’t know what I cry for…for the beauty of the poetry, for the soulfulness of the music, for the incomparable singing, or for the times when life was not ruled by a Blackberry, it’s red light signifying the arrival of yet another mail or message, of the need to stop savouring the moment and lurch towards the next – blindly, pointlessly.
In the end, does it matter?