Life In The Times Of A Corona Day-Dr. S.S. Mantha

These are Corona times. Having led a hectic life, most of the times trying to complete projects and meeting schedules, for more than a month now, we have been strapped to our homes, not knowing what to do and how to spend time. We never could spend a moment for the family or our friends. In a way, there was no social life. Corona has changed all that, bringing the quality time for some, boring time for many and anxiety for the others. 

Amidst the growing anxiety, some of us are working from home, exercising at home, doing household chores and watching movies, TV shows, or reading books. Some of us are hooked on to our mobiles and the Net, for all time except that spent on sleep. A few are innovative and learning new skills like manicure, pedicure, new hairstyles or facemasks. Some are giving their house a makeover, some learning and improving their culinary skills and still some connecting with memories. The social butterflies are active via their phones. Those with creativity flowing in them, are writing poetry, making mobile movies on TikTok and indulging in indoor photography. Some are still hooked on to WFH via Zoom. However, many of us, are worrying ourselves to new illnesses, but do not want to quit a bad habit or even get organised better.

Like many of you, the Corona times have made me re-live my childhood. Reminiscing the youthful times, exercising and listening to music that was made more than six-seven decades ago, which brought back the pent-up yearnings and memories of a brief tryst in the early eighties, with the English theatre, hosted in the iconic Prithvi theatre and how it has changed over the years and the many friends made during those times which, however, was rudely interrupted by the academic pursuits later. It is not only the theatre that has changed but also the transformation in the way movies are made, in the storytelling, in the way music is made, the audience and even the critics, has been phenomenal.

How an intrinsically pure art form was reduced to just commerce and entertainment, did cause irritation and anger. “Anything in the name of entertainment” is the norm. Great strides in Electronics and Computers have been driving the entertainment industry. The vice versa may or may not be true. Whereas electronics wizardry is at its best, what is dished out on the screen has often been cacophony. The electronic music has completely taken over Organic music. The electronic music is fast and easy to create and has multiple possibilities but has taken away the soul from the music. Every instrument is sorted out in a PC today.  One, on the computer, is even composing music, using a digital audio workstation. In-fact the music is so overwhelming that at times, people hardly care for what the lyrics are, or how fine the singing is. On the other hand, Acoustic music is more beautiful and touching the soul and spirit of humans. It even uses the sounds of nature. In this melee, the ‘Raga’ seems to have quietly exited the repertoire. 

While lyrics are retrofit today, to electronically pre-composed music, they have taken away the lyricist from the melody, dishing out inane blabber to assembled music. Lyrics are the soul of a song. Most of the retro-hits have been senseless in recent times. The sheer brilliance of the song ‘man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj’ from the film ‘Baiju Bawra’, is a sheer art form. The literary genius of ‘Shakeel Badayuni’, composed in Rag ‘Malkauns’ by the gifted Naushad and rendered brilliantly by ‘Mohammad Rafi’ is a balm to an injured soul that lets one transcend beyond the spiritual. There are many beautiful ragas like ‘Bhopali’, ‘Durga’, ‘Hamsadhwani’, or ‘Hindol’ in which songs were composed. Another that comes to mind is ‘Murli bairan bhayi, Kanhaiya tori’, from the film ‘New Delhi’, penned by an accomplished lyricist ‘Hasrat Jaipuri’ composed in Raag ‘Bhairavi’ by those music mavericks ‘Shankar Jaikishan’ and sung so melodiously by ‘Lata Mangeshkar’. Use of harmonium/accordion by Kankan Dasgupta in the song was pure magic. Who can forget the iconic song ‘aapki nazron ne samjha’ from the film ‘Anpadh’, sung again by the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar, composed in Raag ‘Adana’ by one in a lifetime ‘Madan Mohan’ to the lyrics of a par excellent ‘Raja Mehdi Ali Khan’? In music, it needs three to tango. Every classic had three brilliant artists behind its creation. Their talent hit a target no one else could hit. Their genius hit a target no one else could see.

It is a connoisseur’s misfortune that purity of form is replaced now by a queer mix of Punjabi and Hinglish as the language, metal to compose music and a wrapper for a lyricist. Are not ‘Mashups’, technologically creative works, created by blending two or more pre-recorded songs, by superimposing the vocal track of one song seamlessly over the instrumental track of another, increasing the tempo and pitch while adding or reducing gaps to make it flow, further eroding the purity of the original compositions? Are they not violating the copyright laws? It is very heartening to hear a young and accomplished music composer and singer, Armaan Malik when he said no more to ‘remixing’ in an interview to entertainment times. Hope we find more of his ilk.

There are no more storylines that carry a movie. Instead, we see formula and masala films. Too many films are blighted by lacklustre music, with directors failing to grasp the potential of a great score to enhance the viewing experience. Today’s Masala films have all the key ingredients that go into the making of a film. The archetypal characters and star actors of 1940s, through to 1980s have given way to method actors. There are Software’s available that take inputs like ‘Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl again’ along with multiple short statements as keywords that are randomly moved around to create several hypothetical situations resulting in new storylines. Several props and superlative visual effects have made redundant a need to emote. Add to this potpourri, a set of even average performers, a few songs with rappers scoring metallic music, you have a new movie for the theatres. No wonder, some of them turn out to be critical, pan low score or “rotten tomato”, akin to fast food. Films like ‘Mr. and Mrs 55’, ‘Pyaasa’, ‘Mughal-e Azam’, ‘Mother India’ or ‘Guide’ were all classics that had heart and soul put into them with creative art masters at the helm. They were not assembly-line products. Have they not stood the test of time? Several names may just turn to dust over time but not these, for they were made of life, that me and you breathe.  

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change. The realisation that this was not sudden, but took a good three decades, did bring a tad happiness but more sadness. Thus, lost in the memories on a corona lockdown day, the ecstatic insanity of romantic pursuit was shattered by the corona induced reality, so much so, that it has become unbearable to listen to them again, for they were bringing back the memories so vividly. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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