Song Sketch

Kanha Main Tose Haari – Shatranj Ke Khiladi – Revered Recital

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Dance is a way to express instead of impress. For some it is the hidden language of their soul. One of the dance classes in my city had a banner outside – Dancers are the athletes of God. Beautiful thought, isn’t it? That line itself made me feel “I wish I could dance”. Our country offers so many lovely divine dance forms. Telling stories, narrating tales, epics. Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam!! Out of these Kathak is evolved from storytelling. ‘Katha kahe so kathak’. Kathak with all its gharanas – Jaipur, Lucknow and Banaras stands tall when it comes to elegance and oneness with nature and the almighty. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah being one of the most famous patrons of this art form. His ‘Parikhana’ in Qaiserbagh was the reflection of his love for art, music and dance. He himself being a disciple of Pandit Durga Prasad of Lucknow gharana. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah – his love for art, dance and theatre became one of the reasons behind annexation of Awadh. So immersed was he in art and dance, that he overlooked his responsibilities as the head of the state. He forgot his duties towards his motherland. The nobleman under him followed the suit. This sad tale is brought out well in Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1971).
Shatranj Ke Khiladi, a splendid tale of 2 aristocrats, Mirza Sajid Ali (Sanjeev Kumar) and Mir Roshan Ali (Saeed Jaffrey), from the era of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah (Amjad Khan) who are obsessed with playing chess. Based on the story by Munshi Premchand by same name, narrated by Amitabh Bachchan and directed by Satyajit Ray, the story is sad take on how the rulers neglected their duty towards the motherland because of their obsession. The Nawab is unaware and least bothered when the British troops enter Lucknow or take a decision to annexe Awadh. According to the new treaty he has to abdicate the throne. But he is seen deeply immersed in the dance being performed by one of the court dancers while his Prime Minister Victor Banerjee feels sorry for the entire scenario.

Kanha main tose haari
Chhodo saari
Suno bihari
Nahin main doongi tohe gaari
Kanha main tose haari…..

A thumri rendered by none other than Pandit Birju Maharaj and composed by Satyjit Ray. The richness of this thumri doesn’t stop here. The onscreen performer is Saswati Sen, well known disciple of Birju Maharaj and lyrics have been written by Bindadin Maharaj who belonged to the court of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah and also happens to be the grandfather of Pandit Birju Maharaj. Phew!! The confluence of all these points makes this song a revered recital.
The brilliance of direction (music direction too) by Satyajit Ray is easily visible. Whether it is reflection in the mirror while the dance is being presented or syncing the onscreen instruments with that of the song recording. The song begins with a small aalap by Birju Maharaj with a contemplative tanpura in the background while you can actually see a lady playing tanpura in the video too. The prelude and the interludes are small. The first interlude has the sitar making its way into the song while the Nawab is immersed in the song.

Suno bihaari
Nahin main doongi tohe gaari
Kanha main tose haari
Chhodo saari
Kaare kaa re
Kanha main tose
Haaari re
Kanha main tose haari

We have the pondering sitar again strumming delightfully. Saswati Sen gracefully conveys the lyrics through her dance. It is said it was this particular song which made her change the choice of profession. She was earlier a medical student but left it to follow her passion for dance (Kathak) and became an all time Kathak exponent.

Nis din chhed karat nahin jaane de re
Panghatwa ki darash ki re
Chhodo ji chhodo ji pat
Ghoonghata na ulto
‘Binda’ suno ye nahin maane
Dekhe sab naari
Kanha main tose haari
Chhodo saari

In this concluding antara we can see Bindadin Maharaj signing off with the line – Binda suno ye nahin maane. Beautiful recital in Raag Bhairavi, with an enduring Kathak piece. The song with all its richness not only paints picture of power and grace but also gives a hint of mysticism and spiritualism. A grandeur which communicates beyond words.

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan

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