A while ago, I watched the first two episodes of NDTV Imagine’s new show, Junoon Kuchh Kar Dikhaane Ka. I must confess to have really liked them. Perhaps it’s because I’m partial to both Ustad Rahat Fateh Khan and Ila Arun. I had, quite uncharitably, slotted Annu Kapoor as an over-excitable anchor prone to histrionics. Watching him on this show did little to revise my opinions. But what a knowledgeable, insightful, passionate and gifted man he is! His grasp of the arts – music, literature, poetry and even history – is impressive indeed. And the man has my deepest respect for another thing too. He actually speaks mostly in Hindi while hosting a Hindi language show! It’s refreshing to have someone speak the language of Premchand and Harivanshrai, and not the hodge-podge that passes for it in Mumbai or, worse still, like the now innumerable Bollywood awards shows that are almost exclusively MCed in English.
Anand Raj Anand came as something of a pleasant surprise too. His disarming admission that Bollywood music has compromised spirituality and depth for saleability was quite endearing. He came across as a genuinely warm, music-loving man of poetic disposition. The quality of singing, too, was quite good, as far as I could tell. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the show and intend to keep abreast of it.
One disturbing thought, however, kept gnawing as I watched the show. It says a great deal of the state of our affairs that Sufi and folk music share a platform with Bollywood on an equal footing. Folk music (if one forgives the travesty of clubbing it under a single rubric) is an organic tradition several millennia in vintage. Sufi music is the centuries-old distillation into music of humankind’s atavistic engagement with and quest for the divine. Much as I love its every yodel and beat and pelvic thrust and bosom heave, Bollywood music (is it a genre?) lacks the stature to share a platform that the other two grace. Do the two great traditions of music need to compete with Bollywood for our attention?