Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jana Gana Mana

A beautiful rendition of the National Anthem by the country's best performers. 

It brought tears to my eyes alright. Agreed, I cry a lot. Any thing which claims to be emotional, (for eg, seemingly innocuous "Lifebouy's maa ka ladoo" ad), brings floods of NaCl to my eyes. But this album is very very special. The last time I remember seeing all the legends singing together was the unmatchable, unforgettable "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara". I consider it a blessing to be able to hear the voices of Pt Bhimsen Joshi and D K Pattammal. For those who are far far away from Carnatic Classical (and also happen to read this blog), D K Pattammal is the contemporary of M S Subbulakshmi. These two and M. L. Vasanthakumari are popularly referred to as the "female trinity of Carnatic Music". Now if you don't know who M S Subbulakshmi is, please take a glass of water and drown yourself there! Before you do that, get a copy of Bhaja Govindam (by M S Subbulakshmi) from the nearest music store and hear it. Maybe you will get a life. 

Now I know that the National Anthem was not originally written for our nation. The controversy says that Shri Ravindra Nath Tagore wrote it in honor of visiting monarch George V. Another motivation for writing this was reported in the Indian Express in 1968 where a disciple was quoted as:

"He (Tagore) got up very early in the morning and wrote a very beautiful poem.... When he came down, he said to one of us, 'Here is a poem which I have written. It is addressed to God, but give it to Congress people. It will please them."

In a letter to Pulin Behari Sen, Tagore himself wrote:

"A certain high official in His Majesty's service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. God of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India's chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense."

Read Wikipedia for more. 

Controversies apart, we have symbolized it to be our nation's anthem. I have been singing it right from my first day in school. It was the first song I ever played on my synthesizer/harmonium/guitar. Maybe a mistake (I personally think Vande Mataram was always a better option). But Pt Nehru's logic that Vande Mataram would be difficult for the band to play has been definitely proved wrong if this new album is anything to go by! Well difficulty is not in playing the tune because people find it so difficult to sing Jana Gana Mana also and the reason is not always the lack of ability to sing. Forget singing, I have seen people running around and looking for their seats when it is played in the multiplexes. They find it very difficult to stand for 52 seconds, expecting them to sing is probably asking for the moon. But this album shows what musical accomplishment these women and men of India have achieved. And these legends arouse that rare feeling of genuine patriotism in you. And all of it when most of these singers and musicians are well past their prime (they are still better than the younger lot!). Thank you Rahman saab. It is a gem.

An inspiring album. You can hear it here.

Would love to know your thoughts on this. :-)