KEEP ALIVE :
Method to the Madness
“Nothing Great in the World has Ever Been Accomplished Without Passion” ~ Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.
It is easy to be a face in the crowd; to get lost among millions; to go with the flow and follow the trends set by others. Yours Melodiously will have none of it. I set out with my own set of rules and succeeded in creating my own magical world to live in. Apparently, sounds quite audacious and immodest, but not so really! Really speaking, am otherwise quite self effacing to a fault. Doesn’t it seem self contradictory? But as Hegel puts it, contradiction is the very salt of the earth!
Born in a traditional Tam-Bram Iyer household in Mumbai, the Mecca of Indian Cinema, I grew up highly entranced by the Hindi film songs of yore – the 40s, 50s, 60s… My passion grew to the level where I would listen to a song and compose fresh lyrics to them (indulgence in this blasphemy continues even now). All along my growing years, there was a secret desire to break free and enter the world of music and poetry in a truly fulfilling manner. My diary then and PC now, overflowing with my ‘shaIYERana serenades’ over the years, stand as a mute testimony to that longing.
But, like all young men from the middle class milieu are expected to choose a career that is professional and practical, safe and secure, I joined the I D B I in 1978 after completing my Masters in Commerce. I worked there for 16 years and spent my life’s most precious, creative and energetic years crunching number and compiling data, pushing paper and presenting reports. I quit the job in 1994 when transferred to distant Guwahati where chances of my musical dreams transcending into reality seemed as remote as the place.
As my ardour for music grew and matured, I noticed that the prevailing trends (in the 80s and 90s) were hardly encouraging. We were distancing ourselves from the melodious past, forgetting the nostalgic tunes and failing to appreciate the aesthetics of those pristine and priceless song gems. In our apathy, we were missing the smaller but infinitely better pleasures of life. And life, devoid of soulful music, is meaningless. I doff the hat to the one who coined the adage: No Music, No Life; Know Music, Know Life!
Some solemn thought and a string of serious discussions and deliberations with like-minded musically inclined friends eventually led to the birth of my brain-child Keep Alive, an organisation dedicated exclusively to vintage Hindi films and film songs. Since its birth on 14 August, 1997, it has been the sole and sincere endeavour of Keep Alive to resurrect the golden mellifluous past, perpetuate the great musical works of the legendary maestros and keep their melodious memories alive in the hearts and minds of music lovers. Twenty years have passed since then.
In these soulful years, the organisation has not only grown in strength and stature but also in its vision and passion. What started out as a trickle, a modest club of a few hundred metamorphosed over the years into a large, warm, enthusiastic and eager group of similar minded members with a ravenous appetite for the taste of good old music. There was a time when the membership touched an incredible number of 3,500!
Legendary Maestros like R C Boral, Anil Biswas, Khemchand Prakash, Naushad, Ghulam Haider, C Ramchandra, Ghulam Mohammed, Vasant Desai, Husanlal-Bhagatram, Shyam Sundar, Chitragupta, S D Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Roshan, Madan Mohan, Hemant Kumar, O P Nayyar, Khayyam, Salil Chowdhury, Ravi, Jaidev…
Lyricists and Poets like Pradeep, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Shailendra, Rajinder Krishan, Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, Sahir Ludhianvi, S H Bihari, Kaifi Azmi, Asad Bhopali, Jan Nisar Akhtar…
Singers like K L Saigal, Surendranath, Ashok Kumar and a motley of other prominent vintage voices of yester years; their successors: Mukesh, Manna Dey, Mohammed Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Geeta Dutt, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar…
Actors like Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Nalini Jawyant, Nargis, Kamini Kaushal, Madhubala, Geeta Bali, Meena Kumari, Nimmi, Vyjayantimala, Nutan, Waheeda Rehman, Mala Sinha to name a few… …. have all been brought to life through various reverential musical tributes organised in their honour.
Many of these events were graced by the legends themselves or, where the legends are no more, by the members of their family. Keeping in mind the discerning and thinking music loving members, Keep Alive also kept organising a number of unconventional, innovative and unique programmes:
BaaQalam….From a Word to World of Wisdom
A four part lyrical tribute dedicated to the revered Saints-n-Savants, Peers-n-Paighambars, Poets-n-Philosophers of the country; Persian and Urdu Poets of the Mughal era and the post Mughal era whose psalms and hymns, philosophy and poetry or their transliteration found a niche occasionally in Hindi films…
Bauls of Bengal
A tuneful tribute to some of the leading Hindi film music composers from the East and West Bengal, echoing the ethos of the Bangla bounty via Hindi film songs based on Rabindra Sangeet, Nazrul Geeti, Baul, Bhatiali, Kirtan and Choir…
Bhairav to Bhairavi
A journey through the Realm of Ragas: a classic collage of classical songs from Hindi films (sans the filmy touch) based on ragas and traditional bandishes encircling the dawn to dusk on to a newer dawn…
Carnival of Chords
A musical jashn and jamboree exulting and exhilarating with vibrant Chorus-Choir-Claps based songs…
A Song in the History… A History in a Song recreating the aura and ambience from the annals of history and laced with a fusion of factual and fictional aspects of history
LAya TAal of My Life
A four part musical tribute to Lata Mangeshkar through some of the Nightingale’s nostalgic and rare classic gems from films of the first two decades (1947 – 1969) of her illustrious career…
Lok Dhun Lok Dhadkan
A feast of folk-based Hindi film songs to integrate the diverse cultures. emotions and humanity though various form of folklore: Baul and Bhatiali, Lavani and Nautanki, Bihu and Baisakhi, Kajri and Saawani, Garba and Bhavai, Giddha and Bhangda, Heer and Maand, Hori-Dhamar and Malhar…
An exploration through the Mughal Era to recapture and recreate the musical elan and elegance of the majestic era through melodic marvels in the form of Ghazals-Mujras-Qawalis-Khayal-Dadra-Thumri which flourished in and around the era of adaa-o-adab…
A drizzle-n-downpour of Sawan Serenades, Malhar Melodies and Rimjhim Ragas with reference to the feast, fast and festivities of human emotions against the backdrop of their socio-economic existence….
Naad n Nritya
A classic collage of mystical music and divine dances connecting humanity to divinity…
Sau Saal of Cinema
A four part celebration to commemorate the Centenary of Indian Cinema and dedicated to the premier, path breaking and trend setting film studios, companies, filmmakers and directors with a ‘direction’ and distinction…
A peep into the psyche and wondrous world of women through an array of seasonal and ceremonial, romantic and ritualistic Female Duets letting loose the girlish imp and innocence and duly liberating the flirtatious feminine form and feeling…
A bizarre blend of soulful serenades and sinful sizzlers portraying love in its spiritual and physical form and the final sublimation of love transcending the gross unto the subtle; the material onto the metaphysical …
Through these programmes, Keep Alive is proud to have turned ‘Many a Tune and Tone into a Milestone’! These are some of the special events that are close to MI heart and cherished by me with a great pride of fulfillment. In each and every run up to the finale, the process invariably turned out to be more exhilarating than the final performance. The audience too fondly recollects many of these programmes and this is the greatest goodwill gained by this soulful organisation over the years. The connoisseurs are the true litmus test for any endeavour and Keep Alive stands as a memorable testimony to this.
What makes Keep Alive so special?
Punctuality involved in the execution of every Keep Alive event is truly its hallmark. This has unwittingly resulted in inculcating in the members the ‘bad habit’ of coming in time. The curtains open on time but invariably close beyond the time limit set with a stingy intermission of seven minutes;
Disciplined and discerning music loving audience lapping up with rapt excitement what is presented to them but at times, with a mixed feeling (sans any embitterment or grouse) about the song mix generally dominated by the off-beat and the less heard;
Live and lively presentation of songs by trained and talented musicians and singers with a sense of commitment and responsibility clubbed with enthusiasm and energy;
Efforts and research behind every event that is evidently presented through the interesting anecdotes and other little known facts interspersed with the songs or the life and career of the legends. The well researched Keep Alive programmes are a unique fusion of Entertainment n Enlightenment. As the sole compere of the event, I have been the privileged recipient of a frenzied ovation and fanatic enthusiasm on the part of the rapt audience. My personal love, devotion and passion towards the art and the legendary artistes clearly rub off on the hundreds sitting before me. It has often been an emotional journey for the listeners as the life and events of the particular personality springs to life in front of them in a never-seen-before manner. As each nugget is unearthed carefully and as each gem is gleaned out tenderly, breathing new life to ‘keep it alive’, the curious crowd is drawn into my mystical realm of never ending harmony….
Not only music lovers but also legends like Anil Biswas, Naushad, O P Nayyar, Khayyam, Ravi, Pradeep, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Hasrat Jaipuri, Prem Dhawan, Dilip Kumar, Manna Dey and / or family members of legends like Khemchand Prakash, Ghulam Mohammed, Husanlal-Bhagatram, Chitragupta, Roshan, Madan Mohan, Salil Chowdhury, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Geeta Dutt, Shakeel Badayuni, Rajinder Krishan, Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Raja Mehndi Ali Khan, S H Bihari, have all added glory to Keep Alive through their gracious presence and letters of appreciation for my humble contribution to ‘keep alive’ the Golden Era of Hindi Film Music.
It is indeed a rare privilege to be felicitated at the hands of none other than the legendary maestro Naushad for my ‘sincere and selfless contribution to Keep Vintage Music Alive’; the felicitation was at a function organised by Smt. Sushila Rani Patel, wife of eminent veteran journalist Baburaorao Patel, Editor, Film India (later named as Mother India).
I reiterate that I have ceaselessly and selflessly invested 20 cherished and precious years in passionately parenting, protecting and preserving ‘MI Brainchild: Keep Alive’. In fact, Keep Alive is a melodic garden tended to carefully and nurtured lovingly by one and all: the legends and their family members, well wishers, music loving members, other music aficionados, musicians, lead singers and back up vocalists, sound engineers, creative artists, management of the various auditoriums and their support staff from time to time; and, to state the least, the loyal and supportive group of founder friends like Krishnan, his wife Rukmini (Bharati), Sandeep and his wife Meghana who pitch in with a sincerity and priceless selflessness, a rarity these days.
In the last few years, Keep Alive started facing the heat of continuous cost escalation in almost everything with its resultant impact on organizing events on a viable basis. A ‘Special Souvenir’ was unveiled in August 2015 as a lyrical memento to tide over the financial crunches, albeit temporarily. Despite several efforts, the gap between the revenues collected by way of annual membership subscription and the cost of putting up each event continued to widen increasingly. Adding fire to fuel, there has also been a noticeable reduction in the niche segment of the members and a major shift and swing in the membership profile both in terms of number and their taste for the real vintage music. All these proclaimed loudly that it was time to take a call and tug the ‘Curtains for Certain’!!
And finally, after an interminable and illustrious journey of Twenty Years, the much patronized and popular quarterly Membership Programmes of Keep Alive reached the Grand Finale in August 2017 to the dismay and disappointment of several music lovers!
The hundreds of musical tributes and other events were not mere ‘shows’ or soirees with a random sprinkle of about 30 to 35 songs; each one was an emotionally rewarding and intellectually stimulating, a spiritually enriching and soul elevating experience which appealed instantly to both the head and heart; senses and sensibilities of a discerning and thinking audience.
Yet, a long way to go; a lot more to do; many more hidden harmonies to be explored, many more tuneful treasure to be unearthed and new life breathed into them. Much as I would love to carry forward the Karavan of Keep Alive with the same zeal, zest and zindagani, ‘The End’ to the Membership Mode was discerned and destined at this mode (मोड़) of the journey; probably, it was ordained by HIM! But, some seeming ENDings ensue Newer BEGINnings !!
To quote Dr. Allama Iqbal:
जहां में अहल~ए~ईमान सूरत~ए~ख़ुर्शीद जीते हैं,
यहां डूबे वहां उभरे, वहां डूबे यहां उभरे।
In other words, in this world, the pure and pious, the sincere and straight, the upright and above board live their life like the Sun. No one can suppress and stamp them out; if someone tries to suppress them here, they emerge or rise triumphantly elsewhere. In short, it is not easy to eliminate a man with a mission! In keeping with the crux of the couplet, Keep Alive springs with newer vim and vigour through its ‘Offspring’ in a different ‘avtaar’ and with a disparate ‘Method to a Madness:
A series of Dhwani n Drishya (Audio~Visual) presentation through which the life and career, songs and scenes of a particular legend spring up on the wide celluloid screen and which are interspersed with MI pedagogic as well as penetrating ‘Monologues’.
So far, we have presented the Manohar Monologues on :
Dadasaheb Phalke and his silent era films and films of other eminent film companies;
Premier film studios of the nascent 30s viz. Bombay Talkies, New Theatres, Prabhat and Sagar Movietone;
Legendary actor Ashok Kumar;
Legendary actor-filmmaker Guru Dutt;
(being presented for the FIFTH TIME in a span of ten months on 5 May, 2018 at the Entertainment Society of Goa, Panaji)
Legendary filmmaker Sashadhar Mukerji and his iconic film studios Filmistan and Filmalaya which gave us timeless musicals like Safar, Saajan, Shehnai, Sindoor, Shaheed, Nadiya Ke Paar, Shabnam, Sargam, Samadhi, Anandmath, Anarkali, Nagin, Nastik, Jagriti, Shart, Munimji, Paying Guest, Tumsana Nahin Dekha (all of Filmistan) and Dil Deke Dekho, Love in Simla, Hum Hindustani, Ek Musafir Ek Hasina, Aao Pyar Karen, Tu Hi Meri Zindagi (of Filmalaya) and Leader and Sambandh (Mukerji Film Syndicate).
With several interesting, innovative and informative musical rounds and a unique scoring pattern which makes the event highly competitive. A number of such events have been organised successfully in the past.
A series of live music programmes featuring the rare and classic song gems of the unsurpassed Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar.
Besides the four part curtain raiser programmes as mentioned before, three programmes have been presented so far featuring songs of the Nightingale under the baton of her mentor maestros Anil Biswas, Ghulam Haider and Khemchand Prakash; Naushad; C Ramchandra.
A series of live music programmes featuring the rare and classic songs of legendary singer Mohammed Rafi: Maseeha ~ e ~ Mohabbat.
The inaugural programme was presented recently featuring the songs of the Mentor and the Muse i.e . the Naushad ~ Rafi combination.
Talk Shows highlighting the poetry with panache i.e. the pensive and poignant lyrical works of prolific lyricists ~ poets of the Hindi films interspersed with their poetic melodies. It is a journey of a poet BaaQalam i.e. ‘With the Pen’ which will take the listener from a ‘Word to a World of Wisdom’.
Raag Pravaah is a journey to the realm of ragas and the ‘flow of ragas’ will be seamlessly channelised from the ‘Mind to Matter’! Raga is not a mere intellectualisation of music understood by the mind but music in its purest form producing various permutations and combinations of Swaras that one realises through sensations of bliss, devotion, love, joy, peace, sadness, serenity to name a few.
Various interpretations of these unique Swara combinations will be presented through all forms of classical and semi classical music and glimpses of their f~ilm~y implementations, transmitting Raag Pravaah from understanding to sensual experience and hence from Mind to Matter!
“The old order changeth, yielding place to new, and God fulfills himself in many ways, Lest one good custom should corrupt the world”. In the changed ‘avtaar‘, the Keep Alive legacy will be carried forward with the same josh n junoon, zeal and zest and MI dream to live in my own world of magic will be yet another reality; while others dream of living their passion, I have been living my dream with passion!!
Manohar ‘Mohabbat’ Iyer