The magic of the Peony Pavilion

There was a buzz at the Jamshed Bhabha Theatre of the NCPA in South Mumbai when I arrived there shortly before 7 pm on Tuesday, earlier this week.

There was the swish of silks, satins and chiffons, the aroma of different perfumes, the glint of pearls and diamonds… There were celebrities, socialites, office-goers, aficionados, students, first-timers, regulars, critics, cynics, the-eager-for-a-new-experience… There were air kisses, handshakes, shoulder hugs, backslaps and some tinkling laughter too.

And then there was anticipation in the air. An anticipation of attending my very first Chinese Opera, which also happened to be the Indian première of the legendary Kunqu Opera, The Peony Pavilion, staged by the Beijing-based Northern Kunqu Opera Theatre. This was an anticipation that had built up and grown from the moment I received an invitation, along with some background information and some photographs, to attend the Opera from Sadir Theater Festival, two weeks ago.

The Peony Pavilion, Chinese Kunqu Opera, Shao Zheng as Liu Mengmei, Zhang Yuanyuan as Du Liniang

(L) Zhang Yuanyuan as Du Liniang and (R) Shao Zheng as Liu Mengmei, the principal characters in “The Peony Pavilion”

It was a good that I received the background information as my knowledge about Chinese Opera could be summed up in one word: Zilch! Accepting the invitation and beginning the countdown to the actual event was the first step towards remedying that ! :)
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My “now” song: Kabhi neem neem, kabhi shahad shahad

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

I think that my regular readers would know by now that I love music, but few people know that I sing too. One of the reasons for not knowing this is I’m quite shy about singing in public and therefore only some very close friends and immediate family members have heard me sing.

But last week, I surprised myself. I had gone to Agra to attend a conference with two colleagues, who are also friends. Somewhere during the car journey from Delhi to Agra, one of my friends started singing and before I knew it I had joined in. We sang old Hindi film songs, some not so old ones too and had a great deal of fun. We sang in between the conference sessions, after the day’s sessions got over… get the picture?

Long after my return, one of the songs that we sang has remained with me and I have been singing it and humming it all the time. Not surprisingly, it has become my “now” song

Kabhi neem, neem, kabhi shahad shahad“, from the film Yuva, sung by Madhushree (& A.R. Rahman) to lyrics by Mehboob and music composed A.R. Rahman is one of the most melodious, romantic and mushy songs I have heard. And unlike many beautiful Hindi songs that I can’t bear to watch on-screen due to bad picturisation, this is one song that I like to listen to, sing and watch as well.

I particularly love the portion where Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherji do a little jig (2:02 to 2:51 minutes) as the former yodels away. Kabhi neem neem… is so much on my mind that I’m singing the song even as I type out this post. :)

So tell me, what are you listening to these days and what is your “now” song?

My “now” song: Ab ke baras bhej

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My “now” song is Ab ke baras bhejo bhaiya ko baabul from the film Bandini and sung by Asha Bhosle to music by S.D. Burman and lyrics by Shailendra.

In Ab ke baras… the singer yearns for the return of her childhood days and the song remains one of the most haunting Hindi film melodies to be composed. I have always loved this song, but right now I love it for a different reason — the emotions in the song capture my yearning for the monsoons to arrive in Mumbai.

It’s end June and the monsoons have been delayed for almost a month now. Yes, Mumbai’s had a few showers, but not of the monsoon variety. These showers have only increased the humidity and the heat, while cooling, drenching, traffic clogging, train stopping monsoons are nowhere in sight. I monitor the skies all the time, alert to change in wind pattern. But to no avail. The wisps of clouds floating in the sky mock me as does the bright sunshine.

Though the song makes a passing reference to the rains, and the context is very different, no other music captures my mood right now. And I have been humming it for a while now and also have it playing on a loop when I’m working.

Rain gods, weather gods, gods of climate change: are you listening?

PS: This post is a first of sorts. I typed, edited, corrected, linked, added media, published this post and then shared it on various social media platforms using a Dell Venue Tablet that has been sent to me as part of the “Dell Blogger Review Programme”. I’m not sure, if I can do my usual long posts from a tablet, but this short one has been surprisingly easy.

My “now” song: Kuchh toh log kahenge

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

Last week, I received a call from an old friend. She was quite upset with a common acquaintance of ours for having made some disparaging comments about her on a social media platform. I had seen those comments and also the insecurity that had brought forth such petty comments.

I mentioned as much to my friend and told her to just ignore the comments. She said that she was trying to, but was finding it difficult as she was worried about what others who had read those comments would think. Her exact words were in Hindi: “Log kya kahenge?”

And my reply to her was this song:

“Kuchh toh log kahenge, logon ka kaam hai kahna
chhodo bekar ki baaton mein, Kahin beet na jaaye raine…”

I haven’t stopped singing this song since then. Not surprisingly, this beautiful song from the film Amar Prem, sung by Kishore Kumar to music composed by R.D. Burman with lyrics by Anand Bakshi has become my “now” song. I find this song very self-affirmative, especially in a world that is so impatient and with people who are so quick to jump to conclusions and judge you.

My friend has put the incident behind her and is feeling better, much better. To be honest, I’m feeling better too. I didn’t know I needed this song as well. :)

PS: What is your current “now” song?

Of music and memories in Pune: 22 years on

It doesn’t take much to trigger off old memories. Take for instance the invitation I received to attend a classical music concert by renowned flautist Milind Date at the Gandharva Mahavidyala, Pune.

The invitation took me back to the time I was studying in Fergusson College (Pune) where Milind and I were batchmates with some common classes and practicals.  We were not close friends or belonged to the same ‘group’, but were more of acquaintances with some common friends. All through college, I had no idea of Milind’s music and got to know of it only in my third year of college. How I got to know is a story worth sharing, but I request for a little patience from you.

Milind and I re-connected many years after college when I joined Facebook in 2007 and over the next few years, remained in touch via Facebook. I followed his concert announcements and tours and listened to the snippets that he would share, but never managed to meet him or make it to one of Milind’s live performances. The invitation was a chance to remedy that. :-)

The invitation was doubly attractive as it was taking place at Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, where I learnt Hindustani Classical music. Every Wednesday morning, for 2 years, I attended vocal music classes before college. I loved everything about my music school — my guruji, the traditional architecture of the school building, the cool whitewashed halls and dhurrie-covered floors, the music rooms lined with tanpuras, sitars, harmoniums and tablas… Those musical mornings were magical and after a world filled with Bihag or Kaafi or Yaman or Patadeep or whatever raga I would be learning at the moment, it would be difficult to concentrate in my college lectures.

In other words, it was musical heaven and one that I had not visited in 22 years. And after I receive the invitation, I could not wait to visit it again after all this time. So that Wednesday in January, I took the afternoon bus to Pune to arrive well in time for the evening concert.

You know that feeling when you are about to meet someone or return to a place after a long time? That feeling of mounting excitement? That’s what I was feeling when I got off the rickshaw and walked towards the entrance to Gandharva Mahavidyalaya.

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My “now” song: Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a storyline, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, etc. This becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness”  (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

My “now” song is Oho re taal mile nadi ke jal mein from the film Anokhi Raat and sung by Mukesh to music composed by Roshan with lyrics by Indeevar.

This song was a hot favourite during my college and University days in Pune and I have some fond memories associated with it…

  • of listening to this song on Vividh Bharati
  • of singing along while completing whatever assignment or journal I was working on at that time
  • of hostel gatherings and antaksharis where this song was a ‘must sing’.
  • of hearing this song rendered at every field trip and class picnics by a classmate who only knew this one song.

I was in Pune last week and met some friends from my University days. As it usually happens with old friends, there was some talk of the present, a little of the future and a lot of reminiscing about the past. And one of the things that came up was this song.

I sang the song then and I’m still singing it after a week. :)