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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Eating and Listening to Ghazals

A few days back, I was having dinner at a swanky restaurant at Kalyani Nagar, Poona. The swish restaurant had equally elite diners. The al-fresco arrangement had a live ghazal show and the ghazal singer was singing popular ghazals sung by Mehndi Hasan, Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh, among others. All people were enjoying their dinner and hardly anyone was attentive to the poor ghazal singer, who earned his bread and butter by belting out popular ghazals. Some, with a sense of patronising generosity, would perfunctorily say, 'wah', 'wah' or ' kya khoob' and that's it. This reminded me of an incident that happened in Lahore many decades back.

The legendary ghazal singer Mehndi Hasan and Ahmad Faraz had gone to a very fine restaurant. They sat in a secluded corner table, far from the stage where an upcoming ghazal singer was singing a ghazal, penned by Faraz and sung by Ghulam Abbas. No one listened to him. It was an insult to that unknown ghazal singer, Ahmad Faraz and Mehndi Hasan. They left the restaurant and never patronised it.

 ' Eating and listening to western classics don't go hand in hand. You either eat or listen to  Beethoven's celestial symphonies. One can't eat the cake and have it too, ' wrote western classical critic Reymond Stewart. Same can be said about all genres of audio-visual expressions. You can't carry eatables to operas in Europe and the theatres in Vienna strictly prohibit eating during a show.

True appreciation of art and artistes depends upon connoisseurs' complete, uninterrupted attention. You can't admire Mozart by having popcorns nonchalantly. That's why, I was surprised to read in a daily a few years back that a cinema hall at Noida (always in news for all wrong reasons) served lunch-dinner during the screening of a movie for 500 bucks!! You can eat and watch in a lying state. I wonder, do you go there to watch a movie or gorge on a sumptuous spread? Nevertheless, today's worthless flicks indeed deserve such indifferent treatment! You can sleep through the movies.

But if you eat salted groundnuts while watching Ritwik Ghatak's poignant 'Meghe dhaka Tara' or 'The Ten Commandments', you're not being respectful to the directors and the actors, who immortalised the movies. Live ghazal shows in hotels, restaurants and receptions are outright demeaning to ghazals and the poor singers. It's like caviar to the general. I've always called it blasphemous. The eccentric genius Firaq Gorakhpuri rightly ordered the audience, ' Sit through my poetry-reading session without eating or going out to relieve yourself.'         

                                                             -----Sumit Paul

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