There’s no denying the fact that admirers and fans can give an artiste a morale boost that is very difficult to match, which is why I would like to dedicate this piece to two very young fans whom I met, unfortunately for all too short a time, about 10 years ago.
In 1996, I recorded an album titled Ali More Angana. I believe the title track, a foot-tapping song written by Shahab Allahabadi and composed by Jawahar Wattal, still finds airplay on FM radio channels. It is, of course, extremely gratifying for me to know that this track still finds listeners in a world where we tend to forget all too easily. But, for all the pleasure the album gives me, I cannot forget a painful memory from my Ali More Angana days.
I met Ujjwal and Unnati Krishnamoorthy for the first and last time at Wattal’s studio in Hauz Khas, New Delhi, shortly after Ali More Angana was released. I guess Ujjwal was about 13, a shy, solemn little bespectacled gentleman, who very hesitatingly asked for my autograph. Behind him stood his smiling mother, Neelam, who egged him on to tell me about his favourite track from the album. Ujjwal’s sister Unnati was about 17, poised and confident after getting a great Class XII result, but equally polite and respectful. Surprisingly, Ujjwal’s favourite on the album wasn’t the foot-stomping, dance-friendly title track. It was a track called Humse Raha Nahi Jaye Muraliya Kedhun Sun Ke, a Kabirdas verse which I had composed in raga Sohni. I signed their autograph books, asked them a few questions and found out that they were learning music. That wasn’t surprising at all—their father Shekhar Krishnamoorthy was an accomplished singer, who had recorded for several Hindi and Tamil pop albums with established record labels such as T-Series and Magnasound.
Sadly, Shekhar doesn’t want to sing any more. In fact, he has hardly sung since the evening of 13 June 1997, when he lost both Ujjwal and Unnati in a fire that broke out at New Delhi’s Uphaar Cinema, killing 59 movie-goers as they watched J.P. Dutta’s Border. With a good exam result under her belt, Unnati had decided to start the summer vacation by taking Ujjwal to the movies. In the fire that broke out in the theatre shortly after intermission, many of those watching the movie from balcony seats were killed due to asphyxiation. Ujjwal and Unnati, my two young fans, were among them. Their shattered parents, Shekhar and Neelam Krishnamoorthy, have no time for music now. Instead, they are trying to come to terms with their unimaginably tragic loss by rallying together with other families who lost their loved ones in the fire. As founder members of AVUT or Association of the Victims of Uphaar Tragedy, they have struggled to get justice for their children and other victims through civil and criminal lawsuits. On 13 June 2007, they marked the 10th anniversary of the tragedy and their struggle for justice and public safety. In these 10 years, the only time I heard Shekhar sing was when he lent his voice to the following lines penned for him by Praveen Saxena after the tragedy: Tanhaa tanhaa se hum/Ek pal de gaya zindagi bhar ke gham/Reh gayeen yaaden aur tanha se hum...
To know more about AVUT and its struggle, please visit www.rememberuphaar.com.
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