History Of Songwriting In India

Can you imagine a movie which has verses instead of dialogues? Yes Chetan Anand’s ‘Heer Ranjha’ which was released in 1970 had dialogues in the form verse. That was a unique concept, and all the verses were penned by Kaifi Azmi. To achieve something so unique and to write verses for two and a half hours long movie, you need a genius, certainly and in this case it was Kaifi Azmi.

Gulzar Image: Wikipedia

Gulzar Image: Wikipedia

Indian cinema has produced some of the best lyricists in the world. India is known for it’s diversity, every state in India has its own different dialect and culture. So to connect with the whole country you have to form your own universal language which could sync with everyone. So to crack the code of universality, the first thing you have to have is understanding of every culture and it’s dialect. Being a songwriter in India is the most toughest job ever but even then also we have a rich legacy of songwriters in India. We will look into some of the most astonishing achievements of Indian songwriters.

Saint Meera Bai

Saint Meera Bai

Before dialogues, there were songs in India. The format of our mythologies are in the form of verses. Meerabai’s divine bhajans spoke about her eternal love for Shri Krishna. Her devotional poems which were written by her in the 16th century or by her admirers in the 18th century are still relevant in this 21st century. Many lyricists and poets gather inspiration from her poems or from her seraphic devotion towards lord Krishna. The most recent interpretation of her bhajan was seen in the movie ‘Rockstar’ where Irshad Kamil very beautifully included a part of ‘kaga re kaga more’ into the song ‘Nadaan Parindey’ which synced very well the song.

Another legendary poet who has never faded and is still considered timeless is Kabir. Kabir was born in 15th century and was a weaver by occupation. Whole life he had been critical of Islam and Hinduism but after his death everyone wanted him to include in their respective territory such is an impact of Kabir. His ‘dohas’ are still seen in textbooks popularly as ‘kabir ke dohe’. His poems are widely known for giving an insight look into life, and how devoted one should be towards god. His poems reflected truth in his own words. His literary work travelled for many centuries orally and found Rabindranath Tagore who translated Kabir’s literary work into English. There are many communities in modern culture for example ‘Kabir Panth’ who are carry forwarding the legacy of Kabir and consider Kabir as their founder. There 9.6 million people across the globe who are affiliated with this community. Some legends say that Kabir was a big influence on Guru Nanakji who later found Sikhism. Many artists in India and around the globe confess that Kabir has been a big inspiration in their life. Noted classical singer, late¬†Kumar Gandharva, is known for his wonderful interpretation of Kabir’s poetry and there are many such artists in India.

While the Mughal empire was marching towards the dusk, at the same time the dawn was set upon someone incredible in that era, it was none other than Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan popularly known as Mirza Ghalib. He used to write in Urdu and Persian language. His ‘ghazals’ are still fresh and live and are still sung by many ghazals singers. He was the last poet during the Mughal era, due to tremendous rise of Britishers in India, Mughals lost their control over the country. His Urdu ghazals covered the aspects of anguish love, philosophy, in depth meaning of life and many more such expressions. Besides writing ghazals, he was also a gifted letter writer. His letters were mainly in Urdu and due to his dialect Urdu letter writing got a new turn. His letters were chiefly about his thoughts with some anonymous on the other side, he would start writing letters just by naming someone imaginary person on the letter and then would pour his thoughts in the letter. His letters are often considered humorous and sarcastic. His one of the most famous ghazals in this century is ‘Hazaroon Khwaishein Aisi’ which is considered quite mystical. The meaning of the ghazal is very deep and thought provoking. It is said that nobody knows what was the inspiration behind writing this ghazal in Ghalib’s mind. Mirza Ghalib was beautifully captured in the digital medium by Gulzar in his directorial TV series named ‘Mirza Ghalib’. The introductory part of Mirza Ghalib in the show was penned and rendered by Gulzar himself. All the ghazals of Mirza Ghalib which were included in the show were sung by the famous ghazal singer Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh. Naseeruddin shah played the role Mirza Ghalib in the show.

Rabindranath Tagore, Author of Gitanjali, Nobel Laureate

Rabindranath Tagore, Author of Gitanjali, Nobel Laureate

Then arrived the epitome of unity during the rise of Indian revolutionaries in India. The man who was fighting for the freedom from the British raj through literature, and was a backbone of many freedom fighters in India is none other than Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7th May 1961 in Calcutta during the British raj. Tagore was the first non European person to win¬† Nobel Prize in literature in 1913 for his literary work ‘Gitanjali’. ‘Gitanjali’ is the collection of 157 poems in Bengali penned by Tagore. He is also known for penning the national anthems of two different countries India and Bangladesh. Scholars say that Tagore’s Bengali poems or songs cannot be translated in any other language because it would lose it’s authenticity. Tagore played a very vital in India’s freedom. His songs were a source of inspiration for many young freedom fighters. Mahatma Gandhi was very fond of Rabindranath Tagore. Once when Mahatma Gandhi had visited Tagore’s place, Tagore had instructed all the kids over there to sing the song ‘Ekla Cholo Re’ which means “If They Answer Not to Thy Call, Walk Alone”.
which motivated Mahatma Gandhi. Tagore also used to write songs in authentic Bengali which could appeal to the Bengalis to join the freedom movement which the Britishers could not understand. Such was the brilliance of Rabindranath Tagore.

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