Songs for Midnight’s Children

Samidha Joglekar

Joglekar was aware of the legend behind the score she was about to perform. According to film lore, Khan, a staunch purist, was vehemently opposed to the idea of singing in the movies. Music composer Naushad and Asif, on the other hand, were determined to enlist him as a playback for their epic project — no other performer, they were sure, could do justice to the voice of Tansen.

It is said that Khan agreed to sing for a princely sum of Rs 20,000. Without batting an eyelid, Asif dug out half the amount from his pocket and placed the notes on Khan's harmonium. The rest would be paid soon, he assured him. As the whirring fan swept the notes, Khan acquiesced and the result is one of the most important songs of Indian cinema.

"When I got to the studio, Deepa showed me the scene from Mughal-e-Azam and explained that this was the 'feeling' she wanted," says Joglekar. She sang a few straight aalaps and, on the composer's suggestion, improvised with the words.

"This ended up sounding much better. The words brought out the emotional quality of the musical phrases better," says Joglekar. The track was then recreated by Sawhney in Puriya Dhanashree, an intense raga to be sung at dusk.

Joglekar's soft yet powerful voice, which begins with a short alaap after a whispered "Aabra Ka Dabra", has a rustic texture that seeps into the consciousness of listeners. Her other song accompanies Shahana Goswami's character, Amina, as she meets a man in a cafe.

Talking about background scores in films, a recent trend in India, Joglekar says, "Good scores have an ability to bring out an emotional response in the audience. They convey the thematic and character-driven element of a film without the viewer being aware of it."

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