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Sangeet Baiju Bawra - 3: Bhairavi

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

The second installment of Baiju Bawra ended with Baiju and Gauri trying to stay away from each other in order to stop the villagers from taunting them. Both pine away for each other, and unable to bear the pangs of separation, Baiju goes looking for Gauri and finds her at the river and tries to make conversation with her, tugging at her heart strings. While Gauri is trying hard to resist his overtures, the soft notes of Bhairavi play in the background first on the flute, then a sitar, and then a violin. I could hear the sitar first playing the notes of Darbari Kanada – Sa, dḥa ṇi Sa for a few seconds starting from 25:55. These notes are common to Bhairavi as well, and I don’t know if the few seconds of Darbari is intentional, but I would love for readers to listen carefully and share what they think. You need to have your earphones on, as you have to strain to hear the instruments playing in the background while Baiju tries to appeal to Gauri to talk to him, and Gauri keeps telling him to go away.

Gauri gets into her boat and rows away, as Baiju sings Tu Ganga ki Mauj probably one of the best known songs of all time in Bhairavi, starting with the alaap “Akeli mat jaiyo, Jamuna ke teer”, followed by the mukhda (tu Ganga ki mauj) and the stanza in Khemta tala on the dholak and tabla. Khemta, a tala used mostly in light music, is a 6 beat tala similar to Dadra but always at a very fast tempo. Notice the sarangi closely following the song in the background. Listen to the initial background music and the song here. Just click on the Play button on the video and the piece starting with 25:00 mns will play for about six and a half minutes, ending with the villagers gathered on the banks of the river swaying to the melody, and Gauri’s friends singing the lines of the song to tease Gauri.

One wonders if it is a coincidence that Shakeel Badayuni chose the words “Jamuna ke Teer”, the words of one of the best known Bhairavi thumris sung by almost every great singer, including Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan, Pt. Bhimsen Joshi, Pt. Kumar Gandharva and Roshan Ara Begum. Incidentally, this Bhairavi is always played at the end of the famous Sawai Gandharva Festival in Pune. Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan was the guru of Pt. Sawai Gandharva, in whose memory Pt. Bhimsen Joshi started the festival way back in the early 1960s. Here is Ustad Abdul Kareem Khan’s Bhairavi.

Tu Ganga ki Mauj is followed by a comical interlude where Narpat, Gauri’s fiancee decides to learn music from Ustad Ghaseet Khan upon the advice of his sidekick, Ganjoo. Another song, Door koi Gaye quickly follows. This is one of those songs, so typical of Bollywood films, that adds nothing to the storyline but is inserted purely with the intention of serving one more song to the music loving audiences. It shows Baiju calling out a simple alaap O Ji O… to Gauri, and her friends on their way to the Jamuna carrying matkas to fetch water, playfully teasing her about Baiju with this song. I think Naushad has used the ghatam (घटम) in addition to the common dholak in this song to provide the rhythm. The ghatam is a clay pot commonly used as a high pitched percussion instrument mostly in Carnatic music. The song in raga Des is sung by Gauri’s friend Basanti in Shamshad Begum’s rustic voice, with Lata Mangeshkar’s voice for Gauri. Listen to the variations and laggis of keherwa, especially in Lata Mangeshkar’s parts in the song (2:10 – 2:55 in the Youtube video below)

As I have said in an earlier post, all the songs in Baiju Bawra became extremely popular, but most fans of the film must have missed Naushad’s beautiful use of melodies in the background during some scenes in the movie. As an example listen to this section of dialog between Gauri’s father Mohan and Baiju’s guru Anad Shankar. Troubled by the threats from his fellow villagers to haul him to the village panchayat to punish Gauri for her indiscretions, Mohan is asking for Anand Shankar’s help to knock sense into Baiju. Listen carefully to the violin and sarangi playing a plaintive Yaman in the background. I was wondering how Naushad had omitted raga Yaman for any of the songs in the film, when I came across this exquisite not-to-be-missed piece of Yaman alaaps on the sarangi in the background during this conversation between Mohan and Anand Shankar (46:38 - 49:20). The music vaguely reminds you of Aansoo bhari hai ye jeevan ki rahe which Mukesh sang for composer Dattaram Wadkar in Parvarish. Listen to it here:

Anand Shankar convinces Gauri’s father to break Gauri’s engagement to Narpat and pay the penalty that the village panchayat will surely impose, but let Gauri marry Baiju, because she will die if forced to marry Narpat. In the meanwhile Ustad Ghaseet Khan, who has been summoned to the village to teach Narpat music arrives in the village riding a horse with another horse carrying his sarangi. The scene shifts to Baiju doing his riyaaz on the veena, playing raga Todi while Gauri comes looking for him to break the good news to him that her father has agreed to get her married to Baiju.

His riyaaz is interrupted by the loud noise of galloping horses and gunshots. Bandit queen Daku Roopmati rides into the village along with her band of robbers to loot the village. While the villagers are begging her to spare them, Baiju sets down his veena and arrives on the scene singing Insaan Bano, imploring Roopmati and her gang to eschew violence and greed, and turn into good human beings and love their brethern. Shakeel Badayuni has excelled himself in this song, telling her to wake up from her violent dream and understand that life is short, and to spread love instead of violence and misery. Naushad has made skilful use of raga Todi in the whole episode lasting about six minutes, starting with Baiju playing slow alaaps in Todi on his veena, then staccato pieces on the strings also in Todi as background music for the chaos while the robbers plunder the village, and then Baiju’s song, also in raga Todi. Again, notice the sarangi following Rafi’s voice and the simple Khemta tala on the tabla in the background.

Baiju does succeed in changing the bandit queen’s mind with his message of love, but his music creates an even more problematic situation. Daku Roopmati falls in love with him, turning from a murderous dacoit into a coy damsel smitten with his love, and demands that he accompany her to her camp if he wishes to save the village from being destroyed by her gang. Gauri desperately begs Baiju not to concede to Roopmati’s demands but Baiju is determined to make the supreme sacrifice to save the village. The violin plays a soulful raga Des in the background throughout this scene which lasts for about a minute and a half.

We will end this episode here and continue with the story from the next blog post. So watch this space.

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