Guest article by Subodh Agrawal
(Subodh makes an appearance as a guest author after about two years, of which I am responsible for a few months in scheduling his article. He makes up for it by presenting a selection of film songs and classical pieces which best represent Bihag and its variants. As he explains, Bihag is the raga of love in its myriad forms: Happy, sad, expectant, despondent etc. His writing is as usual sure, fluent and crisp, and demystifies the raga for the lay listeners. Thank you, Subodh for another excellent article in your series, hoping, as you are assuring us, that we would now be getting offerings from you regularly. – AK)
Let me begin with a few words of apology and explanation. The last article in this series appeared about two years back. Readers of SoY and AK have often egged me to get back into action, but I have not been able to respond. Most of last year was lost to my habitual laziness. I thought of starting again with the New Year but then a series of problems with my internet connection alternating with problems with my own health took care of most of this year. Fortunately, I have recovered fully now and the internet also seems to be in a good mood for the past couple of weeks, so here is my much belated post in this series.
Love has many moods. There is the uncertainty in the beginning, when one is wondering ‘Itna to bataa de koi mujhe, kya pyar isi ko kehte hain’. Then comes the stage of ‘Mera hamdam mil gaya.’ Heartbreaks happen more often than one would wish – ‘Toote hue khwabon ne, hamko ye sikhaya hai’. There is joy – ‘Phaili hui hain sapnon ki bahen’, often giving way to dhamaal – ‘Chahe koi mujhe jangli kahe,’ and separation with hope of reunion – ‘Naa, jiya laage naa.’ For the lucky ones, a stage comes when the couple has passed through all the ups and downs and found tranquility with each other, when all is well with the world. Bihag is the one raga that captures this mood the best.
I present a few songs in Bihag, along with related ragas Maru Bihag, Nat Bihag and Nand.
1. Tere sur aur mere geet by Lata Mangeshkar from Goonj Uthi Shehnaai (1959), lyrics Bharat Vyas, music Vasant Desai
This is the iconic song of Bihag, therefore, I have departed from the chronological sequence for it. The shehnai is played by none other than the great Ustad Bismillah Khan. The mood is established the moment Lata begins her initial alaap.
2. Lat uljhi suljha ja balam by Jyoti from Pooja (1940), lyrics Khan Shatir Ghazanavi, music Anil Biswas
Persistence pays. I had heard this song from a colleague, Mr A C Mehra who was Chief Engineer in the Punjab State Electricity Board, in the early eighties when I worked as the Secretary of the Board. Mr Mehra sang this song with relish on several occasions during get-togethers of the Board’s officers. The lyrics and tune stayed with me. Once the Internet started I searched for this song – without success. The first draft of this article sent to AK had a tailpiece with my own rendering of the song with an appeal to SoY readers for help in identifying the original. I visited my YouTube page to see if anyone had commented on the video, when the related videos led me to this one!
(As the SoY readers would be aware from the series on Anil Biswas, Jyoti was the sister of Waheedan Bai (who was the mother of Nimmi), another favourite vintage singer of Anil Biswas. Jyoti was married to GM Durrani. – AK)
3. Ae dil-e-beqaraar by K L Saigal from Shahjahan (1946), lyrics Khumar Barabanqvi, music Naushad
The inimitable Saigal gives us an excellent example of Bihag from this film. We have seen a lot of Nuashad on SoY recently; this is another gem from him. The mood is a little somber, yet the raga fits in beautifully.
4. Ban ke chakori gori jhoom jhoom naacho ri by Mukesh from Ham Matwale Naujawan (1961), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Chitragupta
Chitragupta uses Bihag to present a joyous and playful song in Mukesh’s voice. I think by now the structure of the raga would be apparent – you need to hear what is common between ‘…aur mere geet’, ‘…beqaraar kyun’ and ‘…naacho ri’. This is the pakad or signature phrase of Bihag.
5. Koi gaata main so jata by Jesudas from Alaap (1973), lyrics Harivansh Rai Bachchan, music by Jaidev
One more great song from Jaidev, after AK’s excellent post on him. This was one of the favourite loris of my children, ‘Surmayee ankhiyon mein’ from Sadma being the other.
6. Kaise sukh soyein by Ronkini Gupta from Aankhon Dekhi (2013), music Sagar Desai
I am including a recent song because it is a regular classical number from a film that excelled in classical based songs. The film itself was something special, though it may not work for everybody. According to his website the composer Sagar Desai was born in Chicago but moved to India, working with people like Pritam, Sandesh Shandilya, Vishal-Shekhar, Sivamani and others.
7. Tum to pyar ho by Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar from Sehra (1963), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Ramlal
We now shift to Maru Bihag – a more popular variant of Bihag. This song from Sehra is as iconic for Maru Bihag as ‘Tere sur…’ is for Bihag. Maru Bihag was, at one stage in the seventies, a very popular concert raga – particularly among lady singers.
8. Matwali naar thumak thumak chali jaaye by Mukesh from Ek Phool Chaar Kaante (1960), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar-Jaikishen
Unlike Manna Dey, Rafi and Lata, Mukesh was not known for his classical singing. He, however, does a creditable job in this song set in Maru Bihag. I remember seeing the film as a student. Waheeda Rehman has been brought up by four uncles, each one of whom has a passion: Religion, theatre, physical fitness, and Rock Music. Sunil Dutt as the suitor has to satisfy each one of them. This is what he does for the theatre chacha.
9. Payal wali dekhna by Kishore Kumar from Ek Raaz (1963), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Chitragupta
I have not seen the film but a post by MemsaabStory tells us that the Kishore Kumar we see in the video is Kishore Kumar Varma, someone untrained in music, who has been mistaken for a professional singer Kishore Kumar Sharma – a fitting setting for a singer with no pretensions of classical singing; but with enormous natural talent to convincingly ‘win’ a singing contest against Manna Dey in Padosan! Kishore handles the movement of Maru Bihag very well.
10. Jhan jhan jhan jhan payal baaje by Lata Mangeshkar from Buzdil (1951), lyrics Shailendra, music by S D Burman
This song is in Nat Bihag, another variant of Bihag that was made popular by a bandish with the same mukhda as the film song. S D Burman’s non-film version of this song has earlier figured on SoY. The later parts of the song bring in other ragas.
11. Tu jahan jahan chalega, mera saya saath hoga by Lata Mangeshkar from Mera Saaya (1966), lyrics Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, music Madan Mohan
Raj Khosla made three spooky/mystery movies with Sadhna in double role. If we remember Woh Kaun Thi and Mera Saya a lot better than Anita, the primary reason would be Madan Mohan’s music. This song is set to raga Nand, also known as Anandi and Nand Kalyan. To my knowledge, this is the only song in this raga. Madan Mohan has so thoroughly exhausted the range of this raga that he left no room for anyone else to try anything.
Purists may scoff at the inclusion of Nand in this list, saying that it is not related to Bihag but to Kalyan. However, to my ears it sounds closer to Bihag. Readers may decide for themselves.
We now enter the classical territory. YouTube presents a very large choice in Bihag. I have tried to pick pieces that are not very long and give the listener a feel for the raga in a short time. This one by Amjad Ali Khan serves the purpose admirably. The middle tempo composition easily recalls ‘Ban ke chakori gori jhoom jhoom nacho ri’:
This one by Ustad Rashid Khan is equally effective in presenting the raga in a short time:
Pandit Jasraj delights in a slightly longer piece full of energy:
Now to Maru-Bihag. As I mentioned, it was a very popular raga with lady singers in the seventies. I have a distinct recollection of this piece by Dr. Prabha Atre from my student days:
Ustad Rashid Khan again. Those who want to get a feel for the similarities and differences between Bihag and Maru-Bihag would do well to listen to the two pieces by him in this list:
For Nat Bihag one can’t beat this short piece by Ustad Faiyyaz Khan Saheb:
Rajan and Sajan Mishra present raga Nand in their signature style:
That’s all friends. My apologies again for the inexcusable delay. I hope to be more regular henceforth – internet and health permitting.