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Review

A poet's selection


My favourites
Javed Akhtar
HMV
Rs 45

Javed is perhaps the most sought-after poet in Hindi cinema today. His association with the industry began when, along with Salim, he adapted to the idiom of the Mumbai industry the blockbusters of Hollywood.

The Salim-Javed team is best remembered for hits like Deewar and Sholay. After his script-writing partnership with Salim broke up, Javed has been writing songs for films. He has chosen nine songs from his prolific output to put together this album. Six are from films and three from private albums.

Side A features Sandese aate hain from the war film Border. Nostalgia overwhelms people who work far away from home. Javed's song, shot on soldiers guarding the frontiers, opens with their fond feelings for the trees, flowers and streets back home. The men remember their lullabies and childhood games, and ask the breeze to convey their love to their mothers back in the village. The tune matches the simplicity of Javed's words, and places it among Anu Malik's better compositions.

In Ek ladki from 1942 A Love Story, Javed falls back on images of the rosebud, the moonlit night, and the temple lamp to express the celebratory mood in the hero's mind. The images string into a decorative garland, content in their pictorial prettiness and unconcerned with the evocation of larger poetic truths. This is one of R D Burman's last tunes, and, with its repetitive melody, hardly compares with his best.

Breathless, the Shankar Mahadevan number that has been on television for some time, is noteworthy for its Yaman raga-based tune. The seamless continuity is simulated, an illusion achieved with the help of new recording technology. Javed's images are much the same as in his other songs. But the resolution, when the raga suddenly changes to Puriya Dhanasri, is unexpected and gives the song a fresh turn. The romantic images are broken, without any hint, in the second line of the last couplet:

Khabon ki duniya thi kitni haseen aur kaisi rangeen thi,
Khabon ki duniya jo kahne ko thi par kahin bhi nahin thi

(It was a world of dreams, it was so lovely, so colourful A world of dreams I could boast of, but which existed nowhere)

Just as the lovers were destined to meet so too were they to separate and the lover remains alone with memories. That part is very beautifully done; the music changes suitably for the pensive resolution.

Kathai aankhen wali ed ladki from Duplicate is in the fashion of classical Sanskrit poetry where the poet describes the girl's anger at his many lover-like lapses. Awara bhawra from Sapnay, for which A R Rahman has made the music, gives chirpy expression to the anticipation of a girl on the threshold of love.

Afreen afreen is from Sangam, an album Javed brought out with Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. This is perhaps his best song in the album. The moods on the beloved's face and the movement of her eyes become poetry, and Javed clearly places himself with the romantic tradition of the Urdu ghazal.

Saare sapney from the private album Tum yaad aaye is about lost dreams and broken promises. The video filmed on this song has a happy ending whereas the song itself does not. Ghar se nikalte thi from Papa kahte hain opens with the unusual picture of a girl combing her hair at the window, but does not rise above the mediocre.

Javed understands the needs of the Hindi film industry. The formula film offers formula situations, and lyricists are called upon to churn out song after song for the very same situations. Subtlety usually gives way to generalisation. The challenge is to produce fresh-sounding songs for hackneyed situations. Javed has accepted this challenge, and uncomplainingly written songs: some indifferent, some good. My Favourites represents both the ordinary and the more inspired from the recent work of Javed.


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