Song Sketch

At The Horizon – Neel Gagan Ki Chaaon Mein – Amrapali

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Longing and separation in love. Missing someone when you are distance apart but you feel the warmth at the very mention of that person. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. But only for those who believe in their love. It is difficult to bridge the gap of emotional connection and physical separation. Though separation and longing can be unbearable, overpowering or perilous sometimes, it also makes love stronger. But the pangs of separation stay there for a long time. These pangs almost become unbearable as the day begins to set in the evening. The dullness of the dusk, the lull of the world heighten the feeling of separation. That time when the day begins to merge with the dusk at the horizon. The blue marquee starts turning into a darker shade. Getting absorbed in that quiescence, the heart sings –

Neel gagan ki chhaon mein
Din rain galey se milte hain
Dil panchhi ban udd jaata hai
Hum khoye khoye rehte hain

Under the cover of blue skies, the day and night merge into one, my mind flies away to the place where my beloved is and thus preoccupied in his thoughts, I wander like a lost person.

How beautifully Hasrat Jaipuri has assembled the thoughts of a person who is immersed in love, wanting to see her/his beloved is unaware of the events happening around. Amrapali (Vyjayantimala) is lost in the thoughts of her beloved Ajatshatru (Sunil Dutt). She is the nagar vadhu (courtesan) of Vaishali. In love with Ajatshatru, who for her is a soldier serving the army of Vaishali. But in reality he is the King of Magadh, the enemy of the kingdom of Vaishali. He has donned the guise of a soldier to enter the enemy kingdom of Vasihali. But he falls in love with Amrapali, the nagar vadhu or the royal courtesan. Through her, he wants to impress, as a soldier, upon the king of Vaishali (Bipin Gupta). Amrapali is waiting for him. She’s so immersed in his thoughts that she forgets everything around her. She forgets her duty as the Raj Nartaki. She stands absent minded in front of the darbar. Her preoccupied thoughts flow towards Ajatshatru. While she is reminded by one of her aides that she is supposed to be performing. Wool gathering, she sings, standing still instead of dancing –

Neel gagan ki chhaon mein
Din rain galey se milte hain
Dil panchhi ban ud jaata hai
Hum khoye khoye rehte hain
Aa aa aa aa

Her abstract singing puzzles everyone around including the King, the queen (Ruby Mayer) and Kulpati (Gajanan Jagirdar). But the pakhwaj in the background reminds her of her duties. And along she starts dancing albeit still abstract, with the strings of the veena. Vyjayantimala as Amrapali is an epitome of beauty and sensuousness. Her dance movements, her expressions, her magnificence everything sums her up as Amrapali.
Amrapali (1966), story of a parentless girl who was found in the mango grove by a couple and raised as their own. The girl who turns out be a beautiful maiden. The story is her journey from being a beautiful girl to a nagar vadhu who is praised and sought after for her beauty to transforming into a saint (Bhikkhuni, under the guidance of Gautam Buddha). The nagarvadhu (royal courtesan) of Vaishali in present-day Bihar, the capital of the Licchavi republic in ancient India around 500 BC and Ajatashatru, the Haryanka dynasty king of the Magadha empire, who falls in love with her. Though he destroys Vaishali to get her, she in the meantime has been transformed by her encounter with Gautama Buddha, of whom she becomes a disciple and an Arahant herself.
While Vyjayantimala made Amrapali immortal on screen, it was Shankar Jaikishan’s music which stood apart and mesmerized everyone. The film boasts of having all Lata Mangeshkar solos, except one which is rendered by the chorus only. This particular song is set in Raag Bhupali, which is known for soft melody. True to the nature of the Raag, the song tranquilizes the listeners with Lata Mangeshkar’s voice acting up as a sedative. Shankar Jaikishan have used minimum instruments to give it a mellow, soft effect. Veena, Pakhwaj and a few trebles of violins.

Jab phool koi muskaata hai
Preetam ki sugandh aa jaati hai
Nas nas mein bhanwar sa chalta hai
Madhumas jalan kalpaati hai
Yaadon ki nadi phir aati hai
Har mauj hum toh behte hain
Dil panchhi ban ud jaata hai
Hum khoye khoye rehte hain

Every thing around, reminds her of her beloved. The blooming of the flowers reminds her of the fragrance of their love together. Sending ripples through her entire body. At that instant her thoughts perch upon their intimacy. She is deluged with those memories and submerged in the tidal wave of love. The heart has as if acquired wings, flying away to where her beloved is, as she’s lost day dreaming about him.

At the interlude here, which begins with aa aa aa aa aa is haunting. The enigma is increased by thumps of pakhwaj along with Lata’s voice. And the veena chords adding up to the charisma of romance. While the violins giving a touch of glamour to her eloquent dance.

Kehta hai samay ka ujiyara
Ek chandra bhi aanewaala hai
Inn jyot ki pyaasi akhiyan ko
Akhiyon se pilaane waala hai
Jab paat hawa se bajte hain
Hum chaunk ke raahein takte hain
Dil panchhi ban ud jaata hai
Hum khoye khoye rehte hain

Even in the darkest of the night, just before the moon rise, the sky shimmers with its silver tone. Hinting the moonrise. She waits for such a hint from her beloved. Her eyes are thirsty for his sight. She awaits his arrival which will quench the thirst of her eyes. Bringing back the glimmer in them. She is so flurried at the moment that even the slightest noise of the leaves makes her restless. Her eyes are still waiting for the arrival of her beloved.

Amrapali is so much in love with the soldier, she refuses to see the other side of him. His sole purpose is to conquer Vaishali. Even if he’s in love with Amrapali, he makes her as the shield to enter the palace. He followed conquest and expansion. And the kingdom of Vaishali was his only worry. He wanted to conquer the kingdom of Vaishali. While in love with Amrapali, he stayed with her, as a soldier. He was smitten by her beauty. When his identity was revealed, it was Amrapali who was arrested for being a traitor. Her beauty became the cause of her agony. Ajatshatru burnt the entire kingdom of Vaishali and fought a war which killed almost all the people. Almost everyone died in the massacre, except his beloved Amrapali, but when she saw the condition of her motherland, she renounced her love for him and renounced the world as well.

Amrapali, an enchanting tale of magnanimous beauty, clasped into a bondage, the queen of dreams who remained an enigma. Her love for Ajatshatru remained a mirage, an illusion and yet so real. Just as that line of horizon, where the day and the dusk merge into one!!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan

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