Yesterday was Jagjit Singh’s 77th birth anniversary, commemorated by filmmaker Brahmanand Singh with the release of a gift pack of his film 'Kaagaz Ki Kashti' on the great 'ghazal' maestro, along with screening of rare footage and unveiling of a book, 'Lightness Of Being'.
The director earlier made the award-winning and hugely popular film 'Pancham Remixed' on RD Burman. Being a music lover, poet and singer himself, Singh knows just what to focus on to bring out all facets of his subject's talent. He has a knack for getting his interviewees to open up too and bare their hearts.
'Kaagaz Ki Kashti' would not have been possible – or at least not as effective – without the support and participation of Chitra Singh, his wife and singing partner, till the death of their son Vivek (in 1990), turned her into a recluse. She has also lost Monica, a daughter from an earlier marriage (in 2009), and after the death of her husband (in 2011) she was left without any immediate family. It must have taken great strength to put tragedy behind her and come out of seclusion to bring Jagjit Singh’s story to his adoring fans.
The film captures not just his immense talent and contribution to music, but what it was that made him such a darling of music lovers, and it may have been, as Chitra points out, the way he connected with listeners that made them believe he was singing for each of them.
With his sonorous voice and winning personality, Jagjit Singh, who was trained in classical music, took the 'ghazal' out of small 'mehzfils' into large halls and made it popular. Singers like Ghulam Ali, Anup Jalota, Pankaj Udhas and Talat Aziz give him credit for that. He broke established norms, added non-traditional musical instruments and enhanced the romance of the poetry of love, heart-break and intoxication.
Singh got footage of his shows, TV interviews and personal moments, too, which show he was a charming, jovial, down-to-earth man, who buried sorrow in his soul and did not let tragedy affect his art. There are interviews with family, friends, fellow musicians and close colleagues like Gulzar (for whose serial 'Mirza Ghalib' he composed and sang), Mahesh Bhatt (whose 'Arth' was one of the handful of films he worked on), Subhash Ghai and Ustad Zakir Hussain among others.
He liked to party, loved horses and crack jokes. Among the many amusing clips Singh managed to dig out, there is one of Jagjit Singh being interviewed by the abrasive Rajat Sharma on TV. When asked why he sang a song ('Kya khoya kya paya') written by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he cheekily replied that it fetched him a Padma Bhushan the next year.
Any music lover who has heard Jagjit Singh croon, 'Woh kaagaz ki kashti', 'Ahista ahista', 'Baat niklegi to', 'Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho', 'Tumko dekha to the khayal aaya' or any of his many popular songs, would know that his real award was to make his way into the hearts of his millions of fans worldwide.