Friday, April 17, 2009

Unforgettable song - Lakh lakh chanderi

There are songs and then there are songs. And then there is 'lakh lakh chanderi tejachi nyari duniya.' This song has captivated me for years. I don't remember when was the first time I heard it. But it was certainly many years ago, where TV had not become a round the clock phenomenon. News channel anchors did not shout at you non-stop. (They swatted flies instead.) I stand corrected - there WERE no news channels, sports channels, fashion channels, sports channels. It was all bundled into one large nebulous entity called Doordarshan. Everything was so simplified that 'Saptahiki', which was a sneak preview of the programs of the week ahead, was also a huge hit. Children never had to be told to be away from the TV because after 'Bacchon ke liye' (Kilbil for those in Mumbai) that ended by 7 pm, there was nothing that could interest them anyway. The opening jingle of Aamchi maati aamchi maanse (program for farmers) was a potent enough signal for the children to get up and do their homework.Having grown up in Delhi, Marathi programs were rarer than even blue moons.

But one day there was a Prabhat talkies movie belonging to another era. Shejari, produced in 1941 by V Shantaram. My father was never a great movie buff, but was Puneri enough to be proud of Prabhat Talkies. I remember him telling me the whole story in advance. He clearly did not believe in spoiler warnings. So he had already spoken of the vivid details of how the dam bursts and how the Hindu-Muslim neighbours die hand in hand. I actually don't remember seeing any part of the movie except this song. The song simply became a part of me that evening, many years ago.
There is something about this song that never fails to give me the goosebumps. The lyrics (Shantaram Athavale), music (Master Krishnarao), chorus, choreography, cinematography (V Avdhoot), the three parallel themes unfolding in the song - all make up a potent mixture. But its not just that. This song proves that oft-repeated phrase - the whole is larger than the sum of its parts. I need to take a pause here. Watch a video of this song.
As you watch the video, don't miss the action at 5.42 - the I-throw-you-catch-the-torch manoeuver. It happens in a flash, fast enough for someone to miss it. It is phenomenal, truly.

I remember my father telling me that the song was shot on what is today the Law College Ground in Pune, with the camera on the adjacent hill! I am sure that this is more of a legend than truth. It adds to the romance of the song nevertheless.
Last week I went to see 'Marathi Bana' - described as a 70 mm Marathi cultural program. They perform a dance on this song and it is spectacular. If you haven't seen it still, don't miss it the next time.
The song stands for joy, celebration, hope, a sense of wonderment at the divine beauty that life is. And yes, romance. It is about romancing life itself.
It continues to fascinate people nearly seven decades after it was conceived. Don't forget that this was done in 1941. No digital recording. No sound mixing. No dubbing - music was played LIVE when the shooting was done. Director did not have the luxury of watching a sequence of monitor and shouting "CUT! Retake!". Get the camera settings, sounds levels, lights and the people right, and shoot. Then wait for agonizing days till the processed film arrived and then edit. Mind-boggling in today's times.
Watch the combination of camera movement and choreography at 1.10. Then sit back and be transfixed by the hypnotising moves of flaming torches. Wait till it is 1.28 when there is a breathtaking camera angle. But wait, the best is yet to come. First watch the use of lights and dance movements at 1.41.
And then the piece de resistance at 3.40. The camera cuts to a young couple, all by themselves, away from the prowling eyes of the crowd. The sound levels drop drastically! For some time after this transformation - there is magic, romance and the dance of life. Not to forget the captivating sequence at 5.42.
On the movie at large, it is significant that as far back as 1941, the Director expressed his views about communal tension in no uncertain terms. The frank statement he makes in the movie is - people of different religions have no inherent reason to fight each other. It is petty-minded lawmakers and authority who create these rifts to attain power and personal gains.
Sixty eight years later, things haven't changed much.


Vinay said...

Nice analysis of the song and you have minutely observed the entire video. But for the details mentioned by you, I would have missed many things in the video.

I never saw this movie, but know the song, more for the nasal singing prevalent in those years.

Julia Scissor said...

You have observed the song in such detail! I have watched neither the song nor the movie.

Cinema has come such a long way from b&w and soundless movies to today's special effects and sleek editing. It's sad that the 'moral of the story' hasn't changed with outdated technology.

Pushkaraj said...

Thanks Vinay and JuliaScissor,
Yes, if I do like a song I do tend to look at it very minutely. Thankfully, I think I have been able to stay away from being a 'music critic' who analyzes it so much that the essence gets lost.

deepbaazigar said...

V.Shantaram, truly a legend of Indian Cinema. This song is really a great composition and a very well directed one. Truly in 1941, with not much technology available, how creatively this song has been shot. Hats off to Indian Cinema.

Shreyas said...

One of the best review on the song. This song mersmerizes me and makes me feel proud of being a Marathi!!