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Poetry from the PM's pen

An over-rich, '80s style film orchestra accompanies A B Vajpayee's poetry

Nayi Disha
Rs 55

Here is an ultra special poet. Our PM, Atal Behari Vajpayee. Eight of his poems are set to tune by Lataji Premji and Jagjit Singh.

First a question: just when did our prime minister, living a political life so hectic, find the time and the inclination to write verse? How did he free himself from problems of governance, not to mention the tantrums of 'friends' like Jayalalitha, to put his thoughts in metre?

Well, the answer is that he has been writing poetry for many many years, and his admirers have now got a recording done.

Vajpayee doesn't use his verse to demolish political rivals like Sonia, if that's what you expected! Jagjit Singh, Shankar Mahadevan and Alka Yagnik sing his Hindi poems, mostly ruminations on life, and death.

Jeevan banjaron ka dera...
...andhiyara aakash aseemith
pranon ke pankhon ko tole

Life is a gypsy camp,
its wings are measured
by the dark limitless sky.

The tunes by Lataji Premji borrow the violin-rich style of composers like Kalyanji Anandji. Perhaps if the poet had been anyone else, you'd have said the tape was okay, but when he's the prime minister, well, you expect tunes closer to our soil than to Mumbai's tinsel world!

If Lataji Premji's tunes are filmi, the songs composed by Jagjit Singh are in his formula ghazal style. Jhuki na alken and Kya khoya are slow paced. Aao phir se diya jalayen (Lataji Premji's tune) has a subdued flute intro and is painted on a vast scape of drums and violins. Jagjit's deep voice is, of course, a delight, but then the background has nothing fresh to offer.

Than gayee is by far the best song in the album. Shankar Mahadevan sings this bleak song about meeting death at some turn of life. The music is broken by patches of silence.

Life's course, the poet says, is unmindful of death; the poem dares death to come face to face.

Tu dabe paon chori chupi se na aa
saamne vaar kar tu mujhe aazma
Don't come upon me by stealth
Come up front and take me
Yamuna that by Alka Yagnik advises you to open your heart to the Ramayan your mother recites. Toote huye taaron se has a distinct Japanese music intro and talks of courageously rebuilding life. There's a lot of romantic optimism in poems like this.

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