Parliamentary Affairs

It was in the early ’70s when electronic rock reared its head,with RD Burman at the helm of affairs. Thanks to the youthful exuberance in the tunes,the nation was in the grip of the disco and rock movement.

Written by Suanshu Khurana | Published: March 22, 2012 12:26:56 am

Pakistan-based sitarist Rais Khan will perform in Parliament today at an event to honour him with the Pandit Amarnath Vaggeyakar award

It was in the early ’70s when electronic rock reared its head,with RD Burman at the helm of affairs. Thanks to the youthful exuberance in the tunes,the nation was in the grip of the disco and rock movement. Amid all this excitement,came a film named Dastak. The film may have vanished without a blip on the box office but for Hum hain mataye kucha bazaar ki tarah — a poignant ghazal penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri and composed by Madan Mohan. The resplendent strains of sitar in the song are still considered as some of the finest pieces of instrumental music in Bollywood.

Ditto for a slew of thumris in Pakeezah,where Meena Kumari,as a sombre Sahib Jaan,tugged at our heartstrings with those ambient tunes. Played by Ustad Rais Khan,the music’s appreciation was immense. But the face was forgotten.

Embroiled in controversies owing to visa problems and feud with the family of his uncle,the legendary Ustad Vilayat Khan,Rais Khan has now become one of the first Pakistani musicians to play in the Indian Parliament. “It’s an honour and I am extremely happy. But why should I face so many problems to entertain audiences,” asks the 74-year-old. He will be honoured with Pandit Amarnath Vaggeyakar Samman by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar in Parliament today.

Khan remembers his growing-up years in Mumbai — his education at St. Xavier’s college,long drives along Marine Drive and riyaaz sessions with his taskmaster father,Ustad Mohammad Khan. After learning on a tiny sitar made from a coconut,Khan gave his first performance at the age of five.

He left India in 1986 for Pakistan. “Everybody falls in love. Even I did,and went to Karachi,” says a candid Khan,who now lives with his wife Bilquees Khanum and two sons in Karachi. “However,all this was interpreted the wrong way. I am as Indian as I was when I left. I’m happy in Pakistan but need better access when it comes to performing in India,” adds Khan. He was called a traitor by his own cousin and Ustad Vilayat’s daughter,Begum Yaman Khan,after she alleged that he stole Vilayat Khan’s gayaki ang technique and called it his own.

“Vilayat saab was a wonderful person but we belong to two different gharanas. I come from an illustrious lineage and am extremely proud of its styles and the training I received from my father. It takes more than 100 years for a gharana to be formed. Why is there no Patna or Hyderabad gharana? I would not like to comment further. My music speaks for itself,” says Khan,who does not appreciate the state of Hindustani classical music in Pakistan and feels that his craving for India and Indian audience is genuine.

Talking about his Bollywood days,when he worked with composers such as Madan Mohan and Naushad,Khan says he will cherish these associations forever. “When I played the sitar pieces in Naino mein badra in the Sunil Dutt-starrer Mera Saaya,Madan said,‘this is the outline of the song Khan saab. You play what you like’. Humne to tabhi dil rakh diya tha,” says Khan,a regular at Delhi’s Rikhi Ram musical store in Gol Market and still gets all his instruments made from there.

“I’m a musician and should be treated like one. That is all I need,” says Khan.

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