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'He was building a Taj Mahal'

Zindagi ek safar, hai suhana/ Yahan kal kya ho kisne jana (Life's a pleasant journey/ Who cares what tomorrow holds!) he wrote. That was just one of 8,000 songs he gave Indian cinema in a career spanning 50 years.

Majrooh Sultanpuri, Urdu poet and Hindi cinema's versatile lyricist, died in Mumbai on Wednesday, May 24. "He was one of the greatest poets of our language," said Khayyam, music composer. Kaifi Azmi, poet and friend of Majrooh, said he hadn't written a great deal of poetry outside cinema, but what little he had written had value. "He was building a Taj Mahal in the world of the ghazal, but died before he could complete it," he said.

Hundreds from the film industry came to bid goodbye to the man who began his career in the Saigal-starrer Shahjahan, and continued to write till the recent Hum To Mohabbat Karega.

That he could write with equal ease melancholic songs like Jab dil hi toot gaya and cheerful numbers like Papa kehte hai bada naam karega surprised many, and showed his versatility. He was 80 when he died, and had worked with directors and music composers of at least three generations.

Majrooh recently criticised the song Aati kya Khandala from the Amir Khan film Ghulam and said it was in poor taste. That controversy died down, but not before the producer of that film allegedly called him up and abused him in foul language.

New voices for Saregama

Amaan and Ayaan Ali Bangash: another kind of SaregamaAyaan and Amaan, sarod players, will take over from Sonu Nigam as hosts of the popular music programme TVS Saregama.

Stage fright is something the brothers, barely 20, will not have to worry about. They have been performing with their father, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, for some years. What will be a challenge is adapting to the demands of a TV programme with participants from many parts of the country. Saregama is one of India's most popular televison programmes. Its music contests are open to anyone who can sing; Saregama offers prizes sponsored by all kinds of consumer goods manufacturers.

In an interview some years ago, the ustad had said his children felt comfortable in both the classical and the film-music worlds, playing ragas on the sarod and songs like Papa kehte hain bada naam karna on the synth.

The brothers say they took a month to decide whether this was something they could handle. Their TV foray follows Sonu Nigam's decision to devote all his time to playback singing. He has just sung for the Abhishek-Kareena starrer Refugee.

Sugama sangeeta singer dead

G V Atri, singer and music composer for over a hundred cassettes, was drowned in river Tunga near Sringeri on 30 April.

Tragedy struck when Atri's nephew was caught in a current. His wife tried to pull him out, and got caught herself. Seven people died, one after the other, trying to save their kin.

Atri had composed music for several Kannada songs, and had recently acted in the popular TV serial Mayamruga. The organisation he founded, Sangeeta Ganga, was actively promoting sugama sangeeta.

Atri was not in the same class as Kalinga Rao or Mysore Ananthaswamy, but he was a very enthusiastic singer and organiser. His singing was influenced by the style of P B Srinivas, and he often gave concerts of old Kannada hits, especially those sung originally by PB.

Honouring Master Deenanath Mangeshkar

The Deenanath memorial hall in Sangli The Hindi film industry turned up in full strength at the Deenanath Mangeshkar birth centenary celebrations at Mumbai’s Andheri stadium on 22 April. Newspapers put out pictures of Rani Mukherjee, Rekha and other stars watching the proceedings. Not so widely reported was the way in which Sangli, a little Maharashtra town, honoured its most famous citizen.

Master Deenanath Mangeshkar Natyagrih is the name of the hall the Sangli municipal corporation has built in his memory. Lata and Asha drove to the town for its inauguration in February. Their brother Hridaynath was there too. (By the way, the lesser known Mangeshkar specialises in composing bhakti songs.) The celebrity children garlanded the senior Mangeshkar’s bust.

It was a big day for Sangli, where decades ago Deenanath had sung and acted. The enthusiasm on the streets led to a stampede and police lathi charge.

Lata recalled her days in Sangli. She went to school for just one day in this town, and was forced to drop out when teachers refused to let her bring along Ashalata, as Asha was then called. The family left Sangli when Hridaynath was just one. Deenanath died leaving Lata to earn a living not just for herself but for the entire family. In the process, she grew into a hardworking singer who gave India some of its loveliest songs. And, some say, a sharp professional who couldn’t put aside her trying times enough to be able to treat new singers as colleagues rather than competitors.

Rahman goes to the opera house

A R Rahman, the Madras music man who has Bombay in his thrall, will now take on Broadway. Andrew Lloyd Webber, writer of musical plays like Cats and Phantom of the Opera, has chosen A R Rahman for a new musical, Bombay Dreams. The man who introduced Rahman to Webber is Shekhar Kapur of Elizabeth fame.

Kapur, who began his career as an actor in films like Mausam, is now an internationally sought after director. If Bandit Queen brought him controversy, the more recent Elizabeth has brought him worldwide acclaim. Incidentally, Kapur is making the film version of Webber's play Phantom of the Opera.

Kapur showed a song clip from a Mani Ratnam movie, Dil Se, to Webber, who was at once impressed by Rahman's tune and the way he had handled rhythm. Webber feels the time has arrived for Asian music to make a strong mark on Broadway and West End, and for India to take the lead. He is convinced Rahman can bring a "different flavour" to the proceedings there, and wants to leave all the musicmaking for Bombay Dreams to him.

Webber's earlier collaboration with Kapur's wife Suchitra Krishnamurthy, on a song called Zindagi, only resulted in a pale number. That single was put in an album of the same name with tunes even more insipid.

On the domestic front, Rahman is happy he can do different kinds of music for different kinds of films. He's now doing a Aamir Khan's Lagaan, Deepa Mehta's Water and Shyam Bengal's Zubeida.

Rajkumar will act more

His return to acting after six years couldn't save Shabdavedi. The film is not doing too well, at least not as well as a Rajkumar film is expected to do.

No Rajkumar film makes a loss, which means this one too will get by without harming its producers.

Now comes the news that the Kannada star will act in two long-promised films. One is Bhakta Ambarisha, which will give him a chance to play a mythological role again. This is something he loves, and something that gives him an opportunity to sing raga-based songs. Rajkumar's songs for mythologicals like Babruvahana make it to the radio favourites even today. The other film is on king Nrupathunga, whose glories are part of folklore.

Ila Arun gets 'Fresh'

Ila Arun, the singer whose Choli ke peeche became the subject of a court case, has just come out with a "pop-folk" album with music by Kartik Raja. It's called Fresh.

On his chat show, Shekhar Suman teased her about her being like a departmental store because she tries everything from song writing to play writing to designing clothes. We should call you Selfridges Ila, or Shoppers Stop Ila, he said, and Ila returned the compliment by saying Shekhar was versatile himself. She wasn't as modest in taking credit for creating a genre called "pop folk", and gushed, "I love Ganesh," when Shekhar gifted her a small carving of the god.

Taking music to children

Ananya, the cultural organisation familiar to Bangaloreans, has drawn up a plan to take classical music to children.

Residents of Malleswaram know that Ananya regularly hosts classical music concerts at a basement auditorium. Not that Malleswaram lacks in concerts, being one of this city's most musically active localities, but Ananya's offerings are more intimate than most big-hall concerts. Perhaps what is not so well known is that Dr R V Raghavendra, the moving spirit behind Ananya, also organises literary programmes where writers read out their recent work or discuss an issue. Those engagements are mostly in Jayanagar.

Ananya now plans to educate children about Karnatak music, and invites schools both within the city and outside to take part in its music awareness programme. Well-known musicians like Bangalore K Venkataram (ghata), D Balakrishna (veena), Anur Ananthakrishna Sharma (mridanga), T S Sathyavati, M S Sheela and V Kalavathy (all vocal) have generously offered to lend their services. School authorities who wish to introduce their children to an appeciation of classical music may write to Ananya GML Cultural Academy, 91/2, 4th Main, Malleswaram, Bangalore 560 003. Or call (080) 334 5069.

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