You’ll never ever realize the advantages of living close to a temple if you haven’t had first-hand experience. For years, I have lived (between commuting from city to city for concerts) in a small flat close to the Jhandewalan temple in Paharganj, New Delhi. For years, therefore, I have been one of the favoured few to get the first whiff of all the latest mata ki bhainten or musical gifts to the mother/goddess. The traffic roundabout nearby is always cluttered with garish hoardings announcing forthcoming vishaal jagarans or great night-long musical extravaganzas during which devotees offer 21st century-style prayers to their beloved sheraa-wali mata (or the lion/tiger-riding Mother), complete with song, dance and entertainment.
Pop prayers: There’s a high quotient of entertainment in Bolly-bhakti tracks
I call them 21st century-style prayers because with each successive year, the jagaran (originally meant to be a night where devotees gathered to stay awake and chant the name of the goddess in song, prayer and thanksgiving) is fast turning into an event, often even a mega-event, with celebrity guests including politicians, criminals-turned-politicians, television and film stars and the like being brought in to attract larger crowds and bigger sponsors.
This Navaratri, the show got bigger and better than ever before. From one of the many stalls filled with all manner of religious/devotional merchandise that line the streets outside the temple, I made one of my prized Navaratri purchases—a brand new VCD titled Jhalak Dikhla Ja, Maiyaa Tu Aaja.
Replete with an auspicious number of 11 Bolly-bhakti and telly-bhakti tracks, the VCD starts with a bhaint (rhymes with ate, but with a nasal twang) set to the tune of a faultlessly copied version of Himesh Reshammiya’s Jhalak dikhla ja, jhalak dikhla ja, ek baar aaja aaja aaja aaja aaaaa jaaaa. The strident notes of the shehnai at the start of the original Reshammiya hit, the programmed groove, the “oooooh ooh ooh” that marks the start of the vocals in the original—all remain the same in this bhakti-fied version, which incidentally is not sung by Reshammiya. The Bolly-telly-bhakti twist, however, is achieved by changing the lyrics to:
“Daras dikhlaana (as opposed to Daras dikhla ja in the track listing on the back cover)
Daras dikhlaana (Grant me your darshan)
Main tumhein jab jab yaad karoon, Ma chali aanaa (Mother, come to me whenever I remember you)
Betaa hoon main tu meri Mata (I am your son and you my Mother)
Na toote kabhi Ma ye naataa… (May this bond remain ever unbroken…)”
The singers acknowledged on the cover are well-known artistes of the ilk of Udit Narayan and Anuradha Paudwal as well as some lesser known singers such as Soham, Rekha Rao, Tulsi Kumar and, heaven help me, even a Shubha with Pandit Ram Avatar Sharma. I recognize Udit Narayan’s voice on a track meant for NRI devotees of the goddess. This one says:
“Ho, main pardesi hoon, pehli baar aaya hoon (I am a foreigner on my first visit here)
Darshan karne maiyaa ke darbar aaya hoon… (I have come to the mother’s darbar to catch a glimpse of her…)”
And the video accompanying the song (remember it’s a VCD with “Play Back Control (PCB) interactivity only with Video CD Version 2.0 players”) shows an aircraft touching down on the tarmac, with the pardesi guy in trousers, jacket and a Stetson of sorts, who gets into a vehicle that takes him up curving mountain roads to the shrine of the goddess. As he drives up devoutly, he sings “Main pardesi hoon…”
Not that any of this surprises me in the least. Remember, I told you I’m an old hand at getting the first peek previews of these offerings. Which is why I got to hear “Kukk kukk kukkk kukk gufaa ke andar kya hai…” years ago set to the infamous “Choli ke peechhe kya hai”!
Write to Shubha at firstname.lastname@example.org