Jagjit Singh, the ghazal maestro who created a rage among music lovers back in the 70s and 80s continues to be synonymous with ghazals even for the younger generation. The meaningful lyrics and the soulful voice of the ghazal aficionado live on even today. He along with wife Chitra Singh almost rediscovered the ghazal genre in the 70s and 80s. Freeing ghazal from the shackles of complexity, Singh brought a simplicity and lyrical quality to the genre, which was uniquely his own.
Jagjit Singh was of the view that music was for inspiration and not for competition. “The moment one brings competition into music, the soul is lost.” Today, on his 77th birth anniversary, we revisit a list of his popular ghazals which gave vent to the feelings of many lonely hearts. Among his most memorable numbers were “Tum itna jo muskara rahe ho”, “Apni Marzi Se Kahan Apne Safar Ke Hum Hain” and “Pehle Har Cheez Thi Apni Magar Ab Lagta Hai Apne Hi Ghar Mein Kisi Doosre Ghar Ke Hum Hain.”
Mahesh Bhatt’s 1982 movie Arth revolving around an extra-marital affair would have remained incomplete without its soulful ghazals. The beauty of these ghazals including — “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar” and “Tum Jo Itna Muskra Rahe Ho” hasn’t aged. The roles of these songs in giving Arth a cult status can’t be denied. These ghazals captured the subtlety and nuances of infidelity and loneliness. Few Hindi songs since then have been able to achieve that.
Both ghazals were sung by Jagjit. His soft, velvety voice lent a certain dimension to the pain, longing and desire scattered in all songs of Arth. “Koi Yeh Kaise Bataye Ki Wo Tanha Kyun Hai” makes you feel nostalgic for it is difficult to imagine a song like this in today’s time. Loneliness is portrayed as one’s luxury and accomplishment in movies today.
However, those days of the 80’s and 90’s were innocent. Loneliness was still an awkward subject. The days were long when people used to take afternoon naps. Children used to go on long summer vacations. And then there were ghazals by Jagjit Singh.
Listening to “Jhuki Jhuki Si Nazar” during the night has an ability to bring alive one’s surroundings. The next stanza from the same ghazal – “daba daba sa hi sahi, dil mein pyar hai ki nahi” – embodies ‘desire’ like no other song in Hindi cinema. Another gem “Hothon Se Chhu Lo Tum” by Jagjit Singh is a timeless ode to reverence between two lovers.
“Tum Ko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayal Aya”, picturised on Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval, says something about trust and belief between two people. Fidelity was still considered a strength rather than a weakness. And Jagit’s songs celebrate those now-rare emotions.
All these songs were different in terms of treatment. They could easily suit different moods and parts of the day. His voice lent different tones and emphasis to each one of them. The result is an amazing repertoire that took a lot of years in the making.
And who can forget “Hosh walon ko kya khabar kya bekhudi kya cheez hai.” The song reminisces about times when it still took months for two strangers (or people) to meet before they can go dating. The entire song was played on the furtive exchange of glances between Aamir Khan and Sonali Bendre. It’s not doable today as, people can meet instantly, thanks to dating apps.
It’s difficult to say that were these ghazals sung by another singer, they would have achieved the same status. Or is it because of Jagjit Singh’s silken voice that made these songs memorable and unique. You could still hum these songs without putting an effort to memorise the lyrics (not certainly the case with today’ songs).
One could sip an afternoon tea while listening to these soulful ghazals. Films in those days still carried a languid energy about them. There were enough spaces in films where you could squeeze these dream-inducing love songs.
New voices replace the old ones. The film industry is witnessing a lot of new talents. But in the case of Jagjit Singh, the difficulty lies in recreating that whole old world that made Jagjit’s voice memorable and precious. For this generation, his songs will remain a window to a different time when life was slow and simple.