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(ARCHIVE) VOL. XXII No. 16, December 1-15, 2012
Songs, films and essays
By Savitha Gautam

Mohammed Rafi: My Abba – Yasmin Khalid Rafi – translated by Rupa Srikumar and A.K. Srikumar (Tranquebar, Rs.250)

My earliest recollections of this legendary singer date to the Cibaca Geetmala days of AIR. Every time the announcer said, 'Is geet ko gaaya hai Mohammed Rafine..." (Mohammed Rafi has sung this song...), my father would stop whatever he was doing and come closer to the radio and listen. And when that remarkable voice flowed, he would exclaim, "What a voice... he is able to portray any emotion with just his voice. That is greatness."

How true! Joy or sorrow, love or hate, description of a pretty face or a dark cloud, fear or fame, Rafi's voice captured it like no other. When music director Naushad Ali described him as India's "new Tansen", he was as close to the truth as possible.

What better person than Rafi's daughter-in-law Yasmin to string together tidbits about Mohd. Rafi when most people have little idea about them. Like, how when the 13-year-old Rafi sang a Punjabi folk song mikeless during a function in Lahore, a noisy crowd quietened at once, mesmerised. It was a glimpse of what was in store for this powerhouse of talent.

For 35 years, Rafi wowed music lovers in a variety of genre, be they classical, ghazal, nazm, qawaali or bhajan. His caressing voice oozed romance when he sang 'Teri pyari pyari surat ko' or 'Suhaani raat dhal chuki'; suffered rejection when he cried 'Ye mehlon, ye takhton, ye tajoon...'; was playful in 'Aankhon hi aankhon mein'; and evoked the spiritual in 'Hari Om, Hari Om man tarapat Hari darshan.' He became the voice of Dilip Kumar, Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Rajender Kumar, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan, and many more.

Yasmin paints the picture of a man who was genuine, humble and lived by his rules. Generous to a fault, and friendly, he indeed lit up the hearts of millions of music lovers long after he passed away in 1980. In scriptwriter Salim Khan's words, "Rafi was a Sufi.., there will never be another Rafi, because God doesn't replicate."

* * *

Patriots and Partisans – Ramachandra Guha (Allen Lane, Rs. 699)

Whether politics and policies, culture or social trends, Guha is just the person to turn to. Historian, sociologist and cricket buff... he wears every hat with ease.

In this book, a collection of 15 essays, Guha touches upon various issues such as Hindutva, the Communist Left, and the dynasty-obsessed Congress party. Then, of course, there are chapters that deal with Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.

There are other intriguing topics as well – the need for English and the issue of bilingualism; pluralism in the Indian university and Guha's association with those hallowed institutions: The Oxford University Press, and the Premier Bookshop in Bangalore whose patriarch Shanbhag is perhaps one of the most learned booksellers ever. In fact, Premier Bookshop was a landmark for most bookworms, including yours truly, for it was here that you could pick up a book which would never find a place in any other shelf.

Reading Guha is, indeed, an intellectual exercise, but there are times when you actually stop and get a chance to reminisce. For every now and then, there are moments when you become part of that narrative.

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Conversations with Mani Ratnam – Baradwaj Rangan (Penguin, Rs. 799)

I remember my first interview with Mani Ratnam. The film was Dil Se. And as I sat opposite the man who had made Iruvar, my mind went blank for a few seconds. Mani sat patiently waiting for me to pull myself together and begin the interview.

Well, that's Mani for you. And, yes, getting him to talk about himself and his films can be quite daunting, at first. But once you get him to talk, you realise how passionate he is about his work.

That passion and fire seem to have only increased manifold, you realise, as you leaf through Rangan's book.

Rangan tries to understand the working of Mani's mind when he puts his thought on paper and, then, translates them on to film. From Roja to Raavan, the book delves into the genius of the man behind these films.

In these freewheeling conversations, Mani elaborates the premise and canvas of each theme, song and situation.

There is a moving foreword by A.R. Rahman on his mentor and friend.

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In this Issue

Projects in suspended animation
Pedestrian power to take on lack of attention to them
Overpowering stench of apathy
The 'Father of Indian Cricket' in Madras...
...And founder of the MUC 125 years ago
An ideas man in the publishing world
The 'Radio Vadhyar' as a Tamil scholar
Songs, films and essays

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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