Review: Baat Niklegi toh Phir by Sathya Saran

Notes of life, high and low

Baat Niklegi toh Phir by Sathya Saran

Many of us have lived through the times of the ascendancy of Jagjit Singh, the legend.  We have witnessed his rise  that began from the release of his LP ‘The Unforgettables’  and  have followed his fortunes, as he adopted the ghazal and imbuing  it with his own special sweetness, took it to a musical form that transcended itself in popularity.

He’s made us sing along with him, moving us to tears, and at the same time when he would launch into one of his boisterous Punjabi songs, we would clap and whistle in appreciation. Such was the magic of jagjit Singh, musician and singer par excellence.

Sathya Saran, former editor of Femina, columnist, freelance writer, author of biographies of Guru Dutt and Sachin Dev Burman took an year to complete Baat Niklegi Toh Phir . Saran  has created a well-researched work, putting in small details that personalize the life and music of the Maestro for the reader.  Like many of his listeners, Saran too was fascinated by Jagjit Singh’s music and thus this book is her labour of love.

We follow the path of a young Jagjit Singh born to a modest and conservative Sikh family, who with the support of a loving father and admiring brothers (they knew music was his destiny) evolved from a young singer who would perform shabads   at Gurudwaras to a musician venerated by the nation.

Saran includes absorbing little anecdotes about Jagjit’s life. The fact that the singer’s father changed his name from Jagmohan Singh to Jagjit Singh at the advice of a Namdhari Guru, who had foretold that he would ‘win the world over’ is as fascinating as the fact that Jagjit took a sudden decision to cut his hair when he was to get photographed for the first EP he did along with another singer, Suresh Rajvanshi, titled ‘Rare Gems’.  Chitra Singh’s husband, Deboo Datta, was the first man to give Jagjit a break and to begin with, Chitra did not care for Jagjit’s music at all.

The friendship between the couple blossomed into a romance after Deboo was divorced from Chita. Surprisingly and sweetly, Jagjit sought the blessings of Deboo (who was married for the second time by then) when he was about to marry Chitra saying, “kissi bade ko poochna chahiye”.

It’s not as if we are unfamiliar with the great musician’s life- we’ve read enough interviews and write ups on him, but a compilation of it, complete with photographs , makes for nostalgic reading of the life of the man who made the ghazal ‘cool’ without ever compromising the metre, which is the soul of the form.  “He could develop a song, embroider on it for long if he so desired.’ Recollects Chita and we know that was a technique that transported the listeners into a state of frenzy.  It was a considered decision that Jagjit preferred to release only one album every two years – wanting the audience to ‘thirst’ for his music. Ironically, in the end Jagjit Singh had a staggering 80 albums to his name.

The book traces the professional, financial and family fortunes of the couple- how Monica, Chitra’s teenage daughter had to go back to her father’s house because of lack of space in Jagjit’s home; the joy when their son, Vivek was born – “We was not well off then but I felt the richest man in the world” Jagjit had remembered in an interview.

And we are made to recall that one crashing moment when Jagjit lost his beloved son in a road accident which was the tragedy that changed life for the family forever.  The grieving Jagjit, sank into a depression when he finally came out of it, it was to delve into music that was more introspective and spiritual.

Baat Niklegi Toh Phir is a nicely designed book with plenty of photographs that visually trace the life of the Maestro. Simply written, with no extra frills to detract from the narration, it allows the reader to calmly browse through the life and work of the singer-composer – a true worshipper at the altar of music.

This review appeared in The Spectrum, the Tribune on Sunday, the 27th of Sep




Categorized as Book Reviews