Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The regrettable face of ignorance.

Ignorance is excusable, but arrogance that stems from ignorance is definitely not. At least - not in my books.. I was sitting in a coffee shop working on my book, when I couldn't help eavesdropping on an animated conversation happening on the adjacent table among a group of Indians - who , I presume have recently watched "Shamitabh" - the Dhanush-Amitabh starrer. It was clear from the language and tone that all of them hailed from Northern India, and they were vociferously discussing the magnificence of Amitabh and his unswerving consistency over the last fifteen years in delivering immaculate performances , no matter what the role is. For those of us who have seen the movie, it is true that Amitabh once again does a marvelous job. But that is not the point of my righteous indignation or this piece. After having discussed the story line, the cast and theme for about fifteen minutes, one of them in the group casually bought up the topic of Music and background score in the movie. This was the general consensus of the group:
"The music was average; but I would have hoped that they had given the task to someone else( they took some names, but I refrain from quoting them here).. Some composer from South India has orchestrated it . I cant even pronounce his name with accuracy. Ilayaraaja or something to that effect. I have heard his name before, but I am sure they could have given the job to somebody more competent "
This in effect was the gist of the group's judgment on arguably the finest, most talented and prolific composer of over last four decades in Indian cinema and world music. The name Ilayaraaja echoes with the greatest of respect in the most famed corridors of musicology, and yet, here I was, listening to a group of young educated Indians who weren't even cursorily familiar with his work, and yet had the audacity to comment. I have no problems with that. It is not necessary that one should know every artist, or their work, or that one cannot not have an opinion of an artist - but what definitely bothered me was the nonchalant judgment that was passed based on ignorance and lack of musical legacy. it was obvious and clear that none in the group knew anything thing about Ilayaraaja, or the quality of work he has produced with unfailing regularity in Indian cinema and otherwise as well. My point is : One doesn't judge out of ignorance, that is so unbecoming of an educated Human being..
Here is a short condensed bio of the Man: Born in 1943 in a remote village in south India with no musical background at all; learnt the rudiments of music from rural folk songs with a little assistance from a Music teacher who taught him the structure of Western classical music, especially "Counterpoint", which was Bach's contribution to western Classical repertoire; worked as an assistant for several renowned music directors as accompanying artist and assisting them in background orchestration, Formally studied Guitar under the auspices of Trinity college of London and passed out with distinction; composed his first individual musical score for a movie in 1976 which opened a a new vision of Musical arrangement for Indian cinema to follow, continued composing in different genres, languages and styles fusing Western compositions with Folk and Indian Classical tradition; one of the few Indian composers to be honored with a Full symphonic score by prestigious Budapest and Royal Symphony orchestra; composed masterpieces outside the world of cinema, which includes "How to name it", "Nothing but wind" ; Scored impeccable back ground scores for 1000 films (Shamitabh marks his 1000th); probably the only music composer who would write entire musical piece on paper with notes for all parts of a composition within a matter of time and without battling an eyelid ; regarded within the Indian Film music fraternity as a blessed Musician and a beacon light for many aspiring composers - These are some of the salient accomplishments of Ilayaraaja; and it was this Man, who was being belittled in this inane conversation that I happened to overhear.
I am sure some of my readers may be apologetic or sympathize over these comments and say in their defense that they weren't exposed to Music directors from the South. But I would find that route untenable. Frankly, to brush this ignorance as simply a product of North/south Indian divide is not right. I was born and bought in South India, but my love for Film music has spurred me to dip deep into all forms of Music. Starting from Jaidev to Roshan to Shankar Jaikishen to Salil da to SD and Rd Burman to Anu mullick and all the rest of them - I have listened with great joy and interest to their impeccable compositions. Even today, if I don't recognize a composer, I perform a Google search to learn and listen more, before I can talk or form an opinion of their work. This is basic etiquette of a knowledge based society.
To even casually comment that Ilayaraaja is "not" competent enough to score for a movie is nothing short of a blasphemy. I do agree that "Shamitabh" may not be the best work that Ilayaraaja has done in his career, but that is fine when you consider the prodigious output of his genius. I am willing to hear a balanced conversation based on educated understanding and common sense, but to pass a comment without an iota of knowledge and appreciation is not something one should undertake to do. In a recently organized event in Mumbai honoring Ilayaraaja' s achievement of 1000 movies, Here is what Amitabh had to say :
.".We’ve always been great admirers of his work the world over. I cannot express in words what he means to the music industry and his contribution to our cinema. I consider him a genius....I consider myself fortunate have worked in movies that had his music..."
And this not merely Amitabh's perception, but Is acknowledged across the world as one of the greatest composers of syncretic music the art has ever known.
I would like to tag along my close friend Bhanu with whom I have spent many a beautiful day during college listening to music of all genres and composers. He has in many ways shaped and chiseled my deep and abiding interest in Ilayaraaja' s work and his therapeutic musical arrangements - which has been my solace in all periods of life..
God bless...

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