The Indian cinema would complete 100 years of its glorious existence this year. It’s a fitting occasion to discuss the impact of movies on average cinema-goers. The Indian movies have always created deep impact in shaping the psyche of a large section of people. Sometimes back I had an interesting discussion with Sunanda K.Datta-Ray-the Editor of The Statesman (Calcutta and New Delhi) and contributor for the International Herald Tribune and Time Magazine- about the impact of movies. In fact, he was so impressed with my views that he asked me as to why I did not send it to The Telegraph ( Kolkata Edition) for publication for whom I was a regular letter contributor in those days. The discussion is of paramount importance in wake of centenary milestone achieved by the Indian cinema this year.
The discussion, which took place in year 2006, was centered around movie Lage Raho Munna Bhai, directed by Rajkumar Hirani and produced by Vidhu Vinod Chopra. The character played by Sanjay Dutt in this movie had the capability to interact with spirit of Gandhiji. The movie turned out to be a blockbuster besides restoring the faith of common people in simple gestures conveying heartfelt emotions. What an irony that the actor who taught us Gandhigiri is now about to face imprisonment after being convicted in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case!
This has reference to the article” Following Fashion“ published in The Telegraph (Oct.07,2006). Though Lage Raho Munnabhai, due to pompous and pretentious treatment of its theme does no justice to Gandhian ideology, it can be safely stated that such movies come to stir the hearts and minds of an average person. After all, parallel cinema with complex presentation fails to strike a chord with man on street. What’s important is that inherent message must reach to the masses.
No doubt, well made commercial movies do not respect sense of proportion yet they leave an indelible impression on inert souls. Vidhu Vinod Chopra should be complimented for defying stereotypes with interesting version of serious issue, which provoke us to do some soul-searching. Regarding Gandhism it can be safely stated that the country which has not been able to showcase Gandhi’s ideals in real perspective does not deserve the right to probe their utility in such a casual manner. It’s better that we learn to anticipate Gandhism with the right bent of mindset instead of mirroring it in our prejudices.
Viewpoint of Sunanda K. Datta-Ray:
Thank you for your message. I greatly appreciate your comment but wish you had sent it instead to The Telegraph for publication so that there could have been a wider discussion. Such examination and analysis are necessary. No one could be happier than I if the film do have the effect you mention. My fear is that while no one will actually act on the principle of the dharna outside the Lucky’s house, lots of people will repeat catch phrases and that Gandhigiri will be exploited in many commercial ways. My internet already has a pop up about Shabana Azmi practicing Gandhigiri years ago!
About Sunanda K. Datta-Ray:
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray has been a leading Indian newspaperman and journalist for half a century. He has been Editor of The Statesman (Calcutta and New Delhi) and has also written for the International Herald Tribune and Time Magazine. He was Editor-in-Residence at the East-West Center in Honolulu. He was Editorial Consultant to Singapore’s The Straits Times newspaper. Datta-Ray also worked in Singapore in the mid-1970s with S.R. Nathan. After The Straits Times, Datta-Ray was a supernumerary fellow ofCorpus Christi College, Oxford.
Datta-Ray returned to Singapore in 2007 to work on book with Lee Kuan Yew at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies based on a series of one-on-one conversations and a host of classified documents. The book was published in 2009 as Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India and won that year’s Vodafone Crossword Book Award.
Sunanda K. Datta-Ray: Following Fashion- An Article Published In The Telegraph, October 07, 2006.
Some souls are reflection of divinity. The great singer Kundal Lal Saigal was one such soul, who manifested divinity in a great way. In fact, true artists are never devoid of divine touch. Creativity cannot emerge from mental landscape not submerged in ocean of divinity. I belong to a generation, which believes in worshiping new icons of modernity. For them these legendary creative artists of yesteryear might not seem that appealing but anyone who have had glimpse of their creativity would certainly stand amazed.
The noticeable thing about K. L. Saigal was that he managed to sing straight from the heart. This phrase seems so commonplace but not many realize that how difficult it is to demonstrate it in practical terms. That’s because shades of ego block our ability to exhibit true colour of simplicity. The complex persona creates blockade. One reason why K. L. Saigal could stir the emotions was that deeper emotions were so naturally rendered by him without compromising with the raga and raginis.
It’s really surprising that at a time when Indian film music was still in its nascent stage of growth, it traced such a sensational singer, which set high standards in world of popular music, hard to emulate by future singers. The influence of his voice can be understood by the fact that even likes of Amitabh Bachchan came to praise him. The singers like Lata, Rafi and Kishore, all treated him like demigod. Mukesh, was, in fact, very sincere follower of his style of singing, who found it difficult to develop his own style. After mesmerizing everybody with his “Dil jalta hai to jalne de”, sung in Saigal style, Mukesh went on to develop his own style of singing.
His impact can also be felt in crude way in modern times when someone made caricature of his voice to sell a particular brand of toothpaste! Of late, I found one singer paying tribute to him in infamous movie Delhi Belly! Not many remember that Kishore Kumar treated K L Saigal as his Guru (The Master). He always practiced singing his songs and when he first met Saigal, he was asked by the legendary Saigal to sing a song. He sang one of his songs ” Man moorakh kyo deewana hai, aaj rahe kal jaana hai”. Saigal was very impressed by his singing but he suggested him that he should remove “Anga Dosha” (defects associated with body). Kishore used to sing with vigorous body movements also in action! Though Kishore Kumar did not strictly followed his advise but he managed to keep his body still while singing songs of Saigal in later days!
Coming to myself, I have nearly heard all his popular numbers. His songs instill deep peace within me. His amazing range and soulful rendering enabled me to get above the harsh episodes of life in effortless manner. His song sung during the fag end of his career, “Gham Diye Mustaqil” (Shahjahaan, 1946), always brings tears in the eyes. The superb rendering, which also reflected his own personal sufferings, makes one attain trance like state. Another song, which left an everlasting influence on me is from movie Tansen (1943): Kahe Guman Kare. Every time I hear it, the simplistic approach adopted by Saigal in this song makes me smile. After all, the singer is trying hard to convince a beautiful woman not to take pride in her beauty!
I still remember the day when I found a very rare album of Saigal in one lesser heard music shop of my city. That shop was not frequently visited by the buyers since the shopkeeper was not customer-friendly, who always had heated argument over the price of cassettes. The fight also started with me when he priced this cassette three times the original price on a pretext that it was a rare album. Though I had not sufficient money, I still managed to buy this album! After all, it had a soothing devotional song associated with Lord Krishna: Suno Suno Hey Krishan Kala ( Chandidas, 1934). One can notice in this song that Saigal has sung high notes in effortless manner, without compromising with the depth of the emotions.
It’s a peculiar phenomenon that souls, governed by divine instincts, often leave the earthly plane of existence in an young age. K L Saigal also proved to be no exception when he died at the age of 42. The lesser souls speak about his habit of heavy drinking but that’s the way how worldly people treat exceptional souls. For me and others, he shall always be remembered for making songs a mean to invoke divinity.