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The raga of friendship

PHOTO: S. MAHINSHA

WHEN OLD FRIENDS MEET Yesudas and Ravindra Jain hope to get together and make some wonderful music again

It was a meeting of minds as K.J. Yesudas and Ravindra Jain got together for a Take Two. A reunion of two maestros. Notes were exchanged and snatches of songs filled the air as the maestros spoke about the music that brought them together.

Yesu (as Ravindran Jain calls him) and Dada (as Yesudas calls Ravindra Jain) took a walk down melody lane as they recalled the making of the songs of "Chitchor", written and composed by Ravindra Jain and sung by Yesudas. Yesudas won the National Award for the songs in 1976. SARASWATHY NAGARAJAN listened as they travelled through the melodic realms of lyrics and swaras.

Yesudas: Dada, I had invited you for my son's wedding. But then you were busy with the film "Vivah".

Jain: Yes, the reel one.

(And the two burst out laughing)

Yesudas: Dada, do you remember our "Chitchor" days?

Jain: Of course. I was on the lookout for a fresh voice for Amol Palekar. And when I heard your voice, I heard the voice of India, of Hindustan. I played it to Basu da (Basu Bhattacharya, director of "Chitchor") and he also said he had never heard such a divine voice before. All the greats, including singers, agreed that this was a unique voice. That was how the songs of "Chitchor" were made. We also worked in "Sunayana" and "Nayya"...

Yesudas: I feel that is destiny. I have never ever tried to grab songs. It is destined that a particular person sing each song and it is futile for someone else to try and grab that song. This is not a rat race. Right from "Aliyambal", I have not tried to get ahead at the cost of anyone else.

K.P. Udayabhanu was supposed to sing that song. He fell ill and when the director asked me to sing, I was very reluctant. Only after Udayabhanu gave me the green signal did I agree to render the song. Similarly, when Dada called me, I went to Mumbai to sing for "Chitchor".

Jain: The songs were a big hit and I got a lot of compliments from singers, directors and actors for "Jab Deep Jale... ". It is an immortal song.

Yesudas: Those were the golden days of music. We used to have extensive rehearsals with the full orchestra. Even the film director would be there. But music, like art, evolves. It is not difficult to keep singing the same song year after year. But the song has to evolve and to do that the singer has to have that inner ability. That is manodharma. Usually, I am very serious about my work. So, when I indulged in these variations at a programme recently, the audience was pleasantly surprised. But I got an adept partner who gave me the space to sing. That is the chord that binds us, right Dada.

(He demonstrates by singing "Jab Deep Jale" with slight variations and soon Jain also joins in)

Jain: When I composed the music for "Tansen", there was one particular song that played on the ragas and the position of the sa. Mohammed Rafi was at his peak then. When I played this song for him, he told me, "Raviji, Mohammed Rafi would not be able to sing this song in this lifetime." That was the greatness of Rafi. Hemant Da (Hemant Kumar) told me that the very thought of singing the song made him tense. It was finally sung by Yesu. Both of us worked on that song for two days during the recording. No food, no break or even a sip of water. We finished it only after 59 takes.

Yesudas: If we had the technology that is available now, we would have finished it in three hours. At the end of the recording, both of us fell ill. It is a unique song and one of the most difficult ones I have sung. I took no food till the recording was over.

Jain: No water either.

Yesudas: I wanted to do justice to the composition. Never ever have I taken more than 15 to 30 minutes to record a song. But we took five to six days for one song. At the end of it, when certain people told us `Dada, this song is too heavy,' I had to intervene. I asked them why were they making a film on one of the greatest musical legends of India if they did not want pure classical music. It is true that we owe a great deal to our listeners.

But the tastes of our viewers and listeners have to grow to appreciate great films and pure Carnatic music.

Jain: One has to understand the mood of a situation for which a song has been composed. The music has to be in tune with the lyrics.

Yesudas: Now, there is lots of noise. If the music does not go with the lyrics and the mood of the scene that it is going to be picturised, the essence of the song is lost. It is not enough to sing the notes on a paper. One has to feel the music and lyrics.

Jain: And it is possible to do that. For instance, I have not changed my style of music for "Vivah". But I changed the structure of the compositions to suit youngsters. Most of them are so busy as they have so many diversions. So one has to catch their attention.

I have worked in films and serials to my heart's content. By the end of this year, I plan to work with you again. Now, I want to introduce the younger generation to the rich culture of India. So I am composing music for the Vedas and the Upanishads. Yesu, both of us will work on that.

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