By the time I walked into the dark, slightly humid auditorium dotted with snowy mops that moved to the music, the show was on in full swing. All eyes were on the dapper G.B. Mathur, company secretary at Escorts by day. Mathur, with perfectly coiffed white hair and wearing an off-white embroidered jacket, was singing Rimjhim ke Tarane to an eager-to-remember audience. The man who first sang this song looked on benevolently from the walls behind. I sat between two senior citizens who regarded me strangely before realizing I was one of their tribe—people who live in the musical past.
Deep throats: (from left) Master Minnatullah, Diwakar Sharma, Ram Tirath, Zorawar Chhugani and G.B. Mathur.
Last weekend was hectic, what with Rakhi’s moment of truth, the release of Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal and singer Mohammed Rafi’s 29th death anniversary. But attending the Rafi Foundation Memorial Society’s homage to the singer reminded me how much of our current pop culture is just noise that will never stand the test of time. We live in an era that’s even worse than the 1980s—at least that decade stood for something.
Last week Rafi clubs across the country remembered the man who has sung thousands of songs many of us can never forget. In Thiruvananthapuram, the annual celebrations took place, as usual, in the banquet hall of the Kerala legislative assembly. In Mangalore too, they remembered him in the Town Hall.
At the celebration I attended, the compere, a lovely lady in a shiny sari who spoke impeccable Urdu, kept the poetry flowing. She used passionate phrases such as “jaan ki baazi” to describe the lethargic Do Re Mi orchestra. A rotating light flashed pink, blue, white and green at the audience and the singers seemed to gather speed when general secretary Zorawar Chhugani, a media planner by day, picked up tempo with Aa aa aa ja, aa aa aa aa ja in the famous Shammi Kapoor song from the 1966 film Teesri Manzil. Master Minnatullah, a reed of a boy with a big, adult voice, sang Lal Chadi. One older gent looked down fixedly as he sang. Visually-impaired teenager Diwakar Sharma, who was first noticed a few years ago when he participated in television talent hunt Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Li’l Champs, wowed the audience. “One more, one more,” they shouted as they cheered. Sharma loved the sounds of the claps and happily obliged. He was followed by Ram Tirath, a serious looking mustachioed man with shiny, slick hair who was wearing a safari suit. Tirath, a small-time singer from Punjab and winner of regional Rafi contests, came on the stage barefoot and when he sang Aaj Dil ki Keemat Jaam se Bhi Kam Hai, you believed him.
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A stand-up comedian, a regular on television programme Laughter Challenge, made fun of modern-day singers such as Adnan Sami, Himesh Reshammiya and today’s lyrics. Some officials of the society strutted their knowledge of Rafi. A young MLA in all white made his mandatory speech. And all the bathroom singers in the audience left humming their favourite Rafi songs.
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