URDU IS DEAD! Either that or Hyderabad has lost its passion for the classic and timeless ghazals. There was a time when it used to be privilege for the maestros to perform in our city. Our city always brought out the best in them, and the performances rendered where so poetic and emotional that the audience was nothing less than spell bound. The necessity for every artist is due acknowledgement and a reasonable understanding of his art, but when this is lacking you are bound to witness a disinterested performer going through the motions, and getting the show over with the least bit of effort.
This is exactly what happened on the last Sunday at the Keyes High School, the venue for the much-touted 'Jagjit Singh - Live In Concert' show. For hardcore lovers of ghazals, this was not just a let down but an outright horrifying experience. An art form that is almost revered by its dwindling followers was shown in so poor a light that it left one with a feeling of despair and resignation that the art is truly dying. It is not Jagjit Singh who is to be solely blamed, but also the audience for its sullen response, thanks to its lack of knowledge of Urdu and of understanding of the finer points of ghazals.
It was bad enough that the show started an hour and a half late, with time lost to never ending rituals of sound tests. But when it did start, and Jagjit Singh, the prince of ghazals, began with a composition of our very own Talat Aziz (a talented singer from Hyderabad), all the irritations and delays seemed worth it. But the joy was short lived, as the right notes struck with that number were misleading. Ghazals were nowhere to be heard, and the nite was one of Hindi and Punjabi songs. Why did Jagjit do this? Was it the crowd? Or was it just bad timing?
There were sporadic moments when you got a brief glimpse into the talent of this maestro and his accompanying instrumentalists. Deepak Pandit on the violin and Abhinav Uphadaya on the tabla were an absolute delight. An okay night for Hindi music lovers, but it definitely was not a ghazal nite. There were a lot of disappointed fans, and one sincerely hopes that another great artist has not been sacrificed on the altar of crass commercialism.
The next time around, with our fingers crossed, we hope things will be exactly like they used to be in the old days, where a ghazal nite was not adulterated with unnecessary fusion, and performers did not succumb to the 'popular' demand.