In recent years when I have been away from India, I have lost touch with the new songs that are churned out in our movies. Yet I am confident enough to assert that Ghazals are not as popular now as they were when I was growing up.
Ghazals in Hindi movies were popularized by Ghulam Ali and Jagjit Singh. Contemporaries and even rivals to an extent they still gave us classic numbers like ‘Chupke Chupke Raat Din Aasoon Bahaana Yaad Hai …’ and ‘Tum Jog Itna Muskura Rahe Ho, Kya Gham Hai Jisko Chupa Rahe Ho…’
It may have something to do with the fact that Ghazals have come to be associated with pain and melancholia. And the popular refrains being in Urdu also make it a bit inaccessible to the masses. But the charm is unmistakable and one just needs to be initiated to fall in love with it. A bit unfortunate that not many popular ditties are coming in now and language anyways is not a priority in our films.
Two themes tend to dominate the world of Ghazals. One is the aashiq beseeching his imperious lover who chooses to remain unattainable or worse betrays him. The second universal theme revolves around saqi and sharaab though intoxication needs to be seen as a metaphor for all addictions that divert our focus from the spiritual.
The lehzaa matters indeed and it can be cheerful too, conveying the arrival of spring in the season of romance. Remember Jagjit Singh’s ‘Hoshwalon Ko Khabhar Kya Bekhudi Kya Cheez Hai…’ in Sarfarosh. In fact Jagjit Singh made a career in bringing Ghazal to mainstream audience and he used an effective device of simplifying the lyrics to connect with the audience. The thoughts were meaningful and conveyed with a stylish caress in simple numbers like ‘Tumko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayal Aaya …’, ‘Hoton Se Choolo Tum Mera Geet Amar Kar Do …’, ‘Tera Chehra Kitna Suhaana Lagta Hai …’
Not all his compositions were simplistic. He found an audience for his more complex numbers as well such as ‘Baat Niklegi Toh Door Talak Jayegi …’, ‘Woh Kagaz Ki Kashti …’, ‘Sarakti Jaaye Hai Rukh Se Naqab Aahista Aahista …’ etc.
Ghulam Ali’s repertoire is more classical but he is best known to Indian audience for ‘Chupke Chupke Raat Din Aasoon Bahaana Yaad Hai …’ from the movie Nikaah. His songs are far and few in Hindi films but they are memorable. Be it ‘Chamatke Chand Ko Toota Hua Tara Bana Dala …’ from Awaargi or ‘Kal Chaudhvi Ki Raat Thi…’ one keeps humming it.
He is also known for his popular ghazals like ‘Hungama Hai Kyon Barpa …’, ‘Humko Kis Ke Gham Ne Mara …’, ‘Ye Dil Ye Pagal Dil Mera …’, ‘Dil Dhadakne Ka Sabab Yaad Aaya …’. What always catches your note is the nuanced enunciation of the composition notwithstanding that he usually prefers to render complex ones.
There are many other names and faces driving the movement but the duo’s yeoman service is heads and shoulders above the rest. Of course they represent the generation of the yesteryear – we need new blood to replace them. One sees a spark or two once in a while; only time will tell whether the modern tastes and audience will permit one to bloom to full glory as the Masters. In the memory of another Master, Mehdi Hassan, one hopes for a bright future – ‘Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka karobaar chale …’