Vasant Ritu – Kalidasa and Bollywood



Kalidasa was undoubtedly one of the greatest poets in classical Sanskrit literature. He was a poet and a dramatist and is known for some of  the best works in Sanskrit such as “Malavikagnimitram“, “Abhigyana Shakuntalam“, “Meghadootam“, “Raghuvamsham” etc.

Vasanta Ritu (spring season) has set in  and there is a sense of excitement in the air-the romance, the gaiety, nature’s finest manifestation in all her beauty- Vasanta, as Kalidasa calls it, is certainly the “Rituraja“, or the king of seasons.

It is impossible to accurately translate his works whilst preserving the lyrical beauty, and even more difficult to compare it to the lyrical visions of Vasanta of the lyricists of the yesteryears. Yet, there are moments of brilliance of various poets in chaste Hindi, some of which correspond to the ideas of Kalidasa.

Through this post, I will attempt to interpret Kalidasa’s vivid description of Vasanta in Raghuvamsham , and correspondingly examine the overlap with the bollywood lyricists on the said subject, and how the picturization of the songs have also derived inspiration by his works.

kalidasa

Kalidasa

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Kumkum – Tribute to a great dancer


Hindi cinema has featured some great exponents of classical dancing during the golden age. When one thinks of classical dancers to have graced the cinema scene, images of Vyjyanthimala, Padmini, Raagini etc flow in.

This post examines the graceful dancing abilities of Kumkum, who has several classical pieces picturised on her, and some non-classical hits. Kumkum was an excellent actress too.

Born Mehrun nisa from Hussainabad in Bihar, she was trained in Kathak

kumkum-kajra

Nainan Me Kajra Laga Ke (Madhuban me Radhika – Kohinoor)

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AVM and classical music


There  is a usual tendency to talk at length about the literary contributions of renowned lyricists to Hindi cinema, be it Urdu or chaste Hindi, or music directors who, through their immense talent, produced great classical pieces. However, not much is spoken of  the production units who created these situations in their movies, hence providing a rich ground for the birth of gems which live on after half a decade of their creation.

This post is dedicated to one of the earliest production units of India, AVM, who produced superb movies in Hindi, Tamil, Telugu.

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Vasant Desai and classical artistes


Vasant Desai was an outstanding composer in Chitrapat and Marathi drama. He had great knowledge of classical music, and used it to create some immortal compositions. It is one to create a classical composition, but another to invite some of the most respected performing artistes in Hindustani classical, be it gayaki or tantrakari, and earn their respect. Vasant Desai regularly partnered with these stalwarts to produce some great gems.

This post is a humble tribute to his collaborations with the greats of his time.

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Classical music in titles


Titles are a favourite with me. They are much more than listing actors and credits, and if used imaginatively, can add a lot of value to the art of story telling. Titles carry a wealth of information which make viewing pleasure – the fonts, the colour, the content and of course the background score.

Classical music has been used very innovatively in the titles of several memorable musicals, and this post will discuss them.

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A tale of two qawwalis


Qawwali is a form of devotional music that expresses the mystical Sufi practice of Islam in South Asia, mainly in areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The term qawwali comes from the Arabic word “qaul,” meaning “to speak” or “to say,” thus emphasizing the importance of words of these songs. Its main function is to make the listeners understand the words or message of the songs.

The modern qawwali owes its existance to the legendary Amir Khusro, who fused the Persian and Hindustani elements to give shape to the formal format of the qawwali. His guru Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, who was a Sufi Saint, imparted great knowledge to Amir Khusro.

Amir Khusro and Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya

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Colours of the raga – Brindabani Sarang


This is the first of my few posts which will focus on one raga, while explaining the technical details of the raga. I will try and make it simple and hopefully can help people identify songs in this raga.

I am starting off with Brindabani Sarang, which is a celebrated traditional melody of the Hindustani music system.

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Riyaaz and Taleem


The importance of “riyaaz while acquiring “taleem“,  cannot be stressed enough while learning classical music, and this is the central theme of this post.

Several interesting sequences of different kinds, have been picturized in Hindi movies, of the student of music performing riyaaz or acquiring ‘taleem’. Needless to say, these make up some memorable songs, and the musical talents of the composers are on display. I have chosen songs where the artiste is performing riyaaz with a tanpura or learning from his/her Guru.

Mian Tansen performing riyaaz

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Payal Ki Jhankaar


Payal, or the anklet, has been a favourite theme in Indian classical music and many lovely compositions abound based on this theme.  It has been used extensively in Hindi cinema, especially in compositions based on classical music, and this post focuses on the same.

Nataraja performing cosmic dance

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Sardar Malik


I was meaning to write a series of posts on the contributions of some of the lesser recognised music directors, and the first in the series is Sardar Malik.

He was an extremely gifted music composer, and it is unfortunate that like Madan Mohan, he too composed for a string of B-Grade and C-Grade movies. The movies were not successful at the box office, but the music lives on after half a century. This post will focus upon some of his lesser known compositions.

More about Sardar Malik here

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