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The Dynamic Duo of Ghazals

January 2005
The Dynamic Duo of Ghazals

Bhupinder Singh has been credited for bring contemporary elements into ghazals while retaining its traditional appeal. Together with his melodious partner in life and on stage, Mitali, they are the reigning first couple of their art.


"Dil Dhoondta Hai, Phir Wohi Fursat Ke Raat Din" is a haunting song which makes listeners sit back and reflect on their lives. The voice behind this evergreen melody from Mausam is that of Bhupinder Singh, playback singer and a top ghazal nawaz who is famed for reorienting the way the ghazal is sung.

The elusive singer who, now rarely sings for Hindi films, was in Atlanta accompanied by his talented and charming partner in life and on stage, Mitali, for an Evening of Ghazal organized by Raaz Entertainment. Khabar brings an exclusive interview with the couple.

Is there a reason you'll have slowed down as playback singers in films?

Mitali: I would say it is fate, and also that we have not been persuasive enough about singing in Hindi films. The fault lies with us. Music directors have their own set of singers when they visualize the voice of a song, and most of the time they are under the impression that we are busy with stage shows and ghazal albums; which we are, but at the same time we are open to singing for Hindi films too. I know we have to make that extra effort as our fans complain that they don't get to hear us in movies. Initially when I began my career as a professional singer, I was busy singing ghazals. Somehow, the chance to sing for a Hindi film never came along though I have sung for Illyaraja in ?Dalpati', a Tamil hit movie. Bhupiji has won a lot of fame for his songs like, ?Ek Akela is Shahar Mein' and ?Dil Dhoondta hai Phir Wohi Fursat ke Raat Din', and his talent was recognized by the likes of R.D. Burman and Madan Mohan. Recently he sang for Vishal Bharadwaj in Satya. True, he is not doing too many film songs but when the right project comes up, we are keen on singing for the films.

Bhupinderji, you are known for improvising the way ghazal is presented. Can you tell us something about it?

Bhupinder: The most important thing about good singing is knowledge of music. If one knows the basics and is sure of the contents, improvisation comes naturally. I introduced Spanish guitar, drums, flute, rabab etc. which were not traditionally wedded partners of ghazal singing. I am fortunate to have the knowledge of music and various musical instruments and it has spontaneously become a part of my ghazals. Modifications in the orchestra adds different colors to the ghazal without marring it.

Mitali: We are working on a new album which will have Latin American and Western musical instruments giving melody to the lyrics.

How do you compliment each other in music as well as in life?

Mitali: Music brought us together and keeps us together. Besides that, we are a very normal couple who have their share of fights and laughter and have a daily routine. We spend a lot of time together; yet we give space to each other to grow. Our son who is now 11 years old is the apple of our eyes and taking care of him is our common interest. As far as music goes Bhupendraji's contribution in my life is tremendous. He is always encouraging me, though at times, I don't understand his gestures. Like once I was to sing for a Bengali album for HMV and I asked Bhupiji for help. He told me that I can do it myself. I was very angry that he is not taking interest in my work. But later when the album got rave reviews, I understood that Bhupiji knew the composer in me and wanted it to emerge.

Bhupinder: We are a very normal couple, though I can clearly say that she gives a new meaning to my compositions when she sings them in her beautiful voice. Otherwise, I would say that we inspire each other constantly. Each performance brings out something new in each of us as we keep taking clues from each other's performance and improvising. ?Har lamhha kuch naya hai' (Each stanza is something new)

How do you see the future of Hindi film music?

Bhupinder: It's very bright. The audience is getting a wide variety which wasn't available earlier. For me, music is music. It could be jarring or melodious and it is up to listener to pick his choice. Recently we liked the music of Veer Zaara, Dil Chahata Hai, Lagaan, and Chameli. As far as remixes which are ruling the roost, I feel that they kill the original song as every song has a mood, a place in the movie. The remixes change the whole scenario. I think that they should be banned.

Mitali: I feel that Hindi film music is offering a very wide choice and audience should encourage good music. People tell me that Bhupiji's songs make them think and relate to life. I am sure, in the end, good music will be appreciated. Our concerts have youth in full attendance, and they ask for those old songs. Remixes, besides killing the soul of the song also have very high sexual overtones and that is certainly not something we both want to relate to. One can't blame the lyricist for the kind of music that is in the market as they supply what is in demand. These same people, if asked have the potential of producing quality music.

Which are the film directors and music directors would you like to work with, at present?

Mitali: We like the works of Priyadarshan, Farhan Akhtar, Rituparno Ghosh, and Vidhu Vinod Chopra among the new generation of film directors. As far as music directors go, we would like to work with Anu Malik, Vishal Bharadwaj, AR Rahman, and Sajid-Wajid.

You were closely associated with the legendary R.D. Burman. Tell us some memorable event with him.

Bhupendra: Every moment was a memory as he was a ?mad crack' - quality of a true genius that he was. We shared an inexplicable relationship which showed in our music as we together created hits like ?Chura Liya Hai' and ?Yaadon Ki Baraat Aai Hai Dil ke Dware' and others for which I played the guitar. With RD around there was never monotony as he was always doing something. His kind of talent cannot be found, now. He was multi faceted as far as talent goes. His compositions have a wide variety from classical to cabaret to comedy.

Mitali: They were buddies. He shared a very special relationship with Burman Saab. His memories of those days are his companions of life. They understood each other perfectly and RD saab didn't have to explain a particular musical expression to Bhupiji while he was composing.

Mitali, how was it growing up in Bangladesh ? keeping in mind the current backlash against Hindus that is in the news?

I can say that I had a wonderful childhood in Bangladesh. Hindus and Muslims lived like brothers. I call myself the daughter of Bangladesh and get tremendous amount of recognition and love from my Bangladeshi audience. In Bangladesh I am known as Mitali Mukherjee and had won the National Award for the film ?Poyshar Aalta'. The song was, "Ei Duniya Akhaon To Aar shei Duniya Nai". My brother is married to a Muslim. All these issues are created by the politicians. A common man shares similar problems, joys and challenges irrespective of their religion.

Which are your favorite songs?

Mitali: We have various favorite songs and if you want to note, you have to mention all of them (laughing). Lataji's "Agar Mujhse Mohabbat Hai to Mujhe Apna Har Gham De De, In Aankhon Ka Har Aanso Mujhe Mere Sanam De De". Ashaji's "Mera Kucch Saaman Tumhare paas Hai" Bhupinder's "Ek Hi Khwaab Kai Baar". Rafiji's"Kabhi Khud Pe Kabhi Haalat Pe". Kishoreji's"Hame Tumse Pyaar Kitna". Talat Mehmood's"Phir Wohi Shaam". Manna Dey's"Kasme Vaade Pyaar Mohabbat, Baatein Hain". And finally, my own, "Ek Berang Sa Manzar Hai, Jahan Tak Sochun, Zindagi Tere Baare Mein Kahaan Tak Soochun"

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