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Oh these faithless relationships!

An accepting, despondent tone
pervades Gulzar's contemplation
of relationships

Rs 65

There's poetry on this tape. And it takes a wistful look at relationships.

Jagjit Singh and Gulzar are old friends. Jagjit Singh composed the music for Gulzar's serial on Mirza Ghalib, and that was when they struck a warm friendship. They say it took them six years to create Marasim.

A ghazal is Urdu poetry set to music. Unlike poetic forms which build up a case over some stanzas and then present the resolution, the ghazal works with couplets complete in themselves. Perhaps the self-contained couplet also prompts its music. In Marasim, there are no progressions, no sweeping movements, no peaks. Its music flows steady from beginning to end.

The first song is about the transience of relationships.

Shehd jeene ka mila karta hai thoda thoda
Jaane walon ke liye dil nahin toda karte

The honey of living gathers little by little
It's not done to break your heart for those who leave

The poem is a gentle plea to let things be, let people go, let pictures remain shattered. This accepting, despondent tone pervades Gulzar's poetry.

Gunshots on the border

The second track opens with Gulzar ruminating about a hallucination where sad-eyed guests disappear mysteriously, leaving behind only a sweet taste. He recalls gunshots on the border, and the murder of dreams. That certainly is a timely reminder of the broken ties between two neighbours. Ek purana mousam laut aaya follows, with the breeze of nostalgia sweeping through loneliness. There's only silence now:

Khamoshi ka haasil bhi ik lambi si khamoshi hai
Unki baat suni bhi hamne, apni baat sunayi bhi

The silence only reaps longer silences
I listened to her and was heard out too.

The predominant image in Aankhon se jal raha hai kyon is smoke. Inescapable, stubborn smoke, eye stinging smoke, which will not be ignored. The smoke of recrimination perhaps, of bewildering loss… Now the relationship is only befuddling, choking smoke.

The lavish sitar phrases combine with a plaintive violin and a lively guitar, and make this one of the more memorable tunes:

Aankhon se aansuon ke marasim purana hai
Mahaman ye ghar me aaye tho, chubtha nahi dhuan

The tie between eyes and tears is old
Guests come home, but the smoke does not prick their eyes

Here is friendship gone sour with Woh kath ke purze uda raha tha. The worst moment of betrayal comes, devastatingly, when

Woh ek din ek ajnabi ko
Meri kahani suna raha tha

One day to a stranger
He was recounting my story.

The tune itself is far from melancholic or pained and seems to take this betrayal in its stride. Sham se aakh me nami si hai runs along predictable lines; it describes the strangle-hold of the other's memories and the lover can live only in this paradox:

Dafan kardo hame ki saans mile

Bury me so that I may breathe!

The loneliness in Zindagi yoon hui basar tanha resounds in every line:

Apne saye se chounk jaate hai
Umr guzri hai is kadr tanha

My own shadow scares me
My life has been spent in such loneliness

The backing harmonium makes the ghazal sound different from mainstream film music. Ek parvaaz dikhai di hai talks of the pain and loneliness a friendship has left behind. A striking but brief solo violin gives it a good introduction. The violin accompanies the words throughout. Jagjit Singh tries to capture the subtleties of the poem with intricate phrases.

Jiski aankhon main kati thi sadiyaan
Usne sadiyon ki judai di hai

In whose eyes were spent ages
He/she has given me an age of separation

Din kuch aise guzarata hai koi records the passage of time, painful, lonely, silent, regret-filled, in the absence of someone:

Aina dekhke tassalli hui
Humko is ghar main jaanta hai koi

I looked in the mirror and was consoled
At least someone in this house recognises me

The tune is restrained, as is every one of Jagjit Singh's tunes. But the repose is only a mask, the lyrics throw up all the anguish. This strain on the song where the tune seems peaceful and the lyrics, pained, creates an interesting tautness.

Most of the poems deal with the anguish of separation and loneliness with varying intensity. The background score is well arranged, soothing and flowing along the melody, but does not try anything new. The usual sitar, violins, flute, tabla and the guitar play along, much like they have in earlier ghazal tapes. That's a pity. Gulzar's poetry definitely deserves a more thinking orchestra.

This is Sony's first ghazal album. Neatly packaged, it comes with the lyrics (in Hindi) on the inlay card.

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