Jajabor: A tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika on his third death anniversary, an event organized by the Assam Association of Mumbai
This was the first event I attended that was organized by Assam Association and was I impressed! An applause for an event well-organised!
Jajabor was a free entry event happening at Tata Theatre NCPA; there were limited seats available, so we thought we reached early (at 5:30pm; though the event was suppose to start at 7pm), and we were quite astonished at the crowd already present! Such enthusiasm! It felt like a mini-slice of Assam somehow landed at Nariman Point!
The show started a tad late, but that’s quite okay. It started off with Kalpana Lajmi’s remembrance of her companion. Let’s skip that part because to stick here would gulp down the entire spirit of this post. Her remembrance was more of how cruel the Assamese society was towards her love and not much on how she remembers her “companion”. It was her point of view towards how she saw her life, and just a few itsy-bitsy points about living with the legend thrown in for good measure. A lamenting-badly scripted monologue that didn’t touch hearts or English grammar. I understand Ms. Lajmi’s angst towards Assamese society to a certain extent but to reveal it all here was misplaced. So, there she was, expounding on the regressive nature of Assamese society in a room full of Assamese. No, it didn’t feel courageous; it felt pitiful; it was a true sorrow to watch a person unable to forgive. In addition, the badly scripted speech made it all the more unbearable. To be frank, the Assamese people were quite patient with her as Ms. Lajmi flipped and read aloud 10 pages of written speech. I squirmed in my seat as she uttered “raging hormones” in an effort to describe her tumultuous love-life with the legend. Who uses terms like “raging hormones” except, perhaps, Charlie Sheen and his clan?! Her 15 minute speech was embarrassing, to say the least.
(And I feel I’m less liberal than I thought I was. I can see a play with a sex act if it is portrayed artistically but I can’t hear words like “raging hormones” flying off from a 10 paged written speech … there are better words/phrases to portray your sex/lust, you know…)
After Ms. Lajmi decided she did enough damage to the Assamese psyche with her speech, it was time to celebrate Dr. Bhupen Hazarika’s life through the best way he would have wanted. In peace, harmony and music.
The cultural evening started off with the master of ceremonies, Mr. Arif Zakaria, and his wonderful words on Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, until he floundered and said “Jojobar” instead of “Jajabor”. The audience didn’t make much of a fuss, but we definitely whispered “Jojoba” (the nickname may stick forever, we are very childish about good nicknames) for the rest of the evening as and when he would come on stage! Notwithstanding this and a few other mispronounced names, he did a wonderful job and he really did make an effort to learn the words from the audience. Quite a sport!
The first act was a solo song by Mayukh Hazarika. He is Jayanta Hazarika’s son, am I right? His voice is a reminder of Bhupen da’s voice. On an acoustic guitar, his powerful vocals managed to capture the audience in a spell.
After that, followed a jugalbandi by Rahul Sharma on the santoor and Taufiq Qureshi on drums. “Dil hoom hoom kare” sounded ever so enchanting on the santoor. They were phenomenal. Taufiq Qureshi did a solo sequence which was “breath-taking” (he performed rhythms with breath). They performed three duets and each one was wonderful and it ended with a crescendo of claps and praise from the audience.
After this, there was another legend, Ms. Usha Mangeshkar on stage. She enthralled the audience with her song “Sinaki”. I think no one can ever sing this song so flawlessly as she does! And Bhupen da’s tune is so haunting, so melancholic, it gives you goosebumps, more so when you hear it live!
This was followed by Mr. Prabhat Sharma and his troupe of fifteen men who played snippets of Assamese folk music with Assamese musical instruments like doba, dhool, taal, nagara, pepa, khol, gogona, hutuli… I’m not sure I even know the names of all the musical instruments they had on stage! It was such a beautiful medley… from borgeet to Mishing tunes to Bihu tunes to biya naam… they gave a sneak peek of the richness of Assamese folk music through their show. A very lively show! People gave a standing ovation when it ended! Brilliant!
Then there was two dance performance, one by Dr. Mallika Kandali & troupe and another by Pratisha Suresh & troupe. The first one by Dr. Mallika Kandali’s troupe was a sort of dance drama, Bhupen Hazarika’s songs and scripted dialogue in between the songs. The second was a medley of Bhupen Hazarika’s songs again. Both of them were beautiful to watch. It was a treat to watch Sattriya in a contemporary fashion performed flawlessly by Dr. Mallika Kandali’s troupe; it was mesmerizing to watch brilliant exponents of various houses of Indian Classical dance perform on Bhupen Hazarika’s everlasting melodies by Pratisha Suresh’s troupe.
After the dance performances, there came Shaan (who looked like a nerdy grasshopper aka ‘phoring’ in his pumped-up-biceps-through-white shirt, gradually thinning legs draped in grey trousers, patented (is it? Looked like) leather pointy shoes and thick-black-rimmed glasses. Sorry, couldn’t help commenting!) He sang “Ganga mur Maa” and buttered up the audience by saying that he was supposed to perform four songs but what with the extensive lyrics that are signature of Bhupen-da’s songs and the current-generation songs of one-liners, he could only practice a single song for the event. Yea, yea, Shaan, Thanks for stopping by this pro bono event, nonetheless. That was a “Hello, everyone, bye-bye” case.
After Shaan whiffed past, Mayukh Hazarika and his wife, Laili Hazarika performed. The “Dil Hoom Hoom Kare” rendition by Laili was nice but I really did wish she would have hit the high notes in full force as Lata Mangeshkar does in the original. Anyway, why am I being so critical?! I’m no judge… and everyone is no Lata Mangeshkar but we all get to express our feelings (and blogs are such excellent way of being a prick, don’t you think?). You guys were good, really.
And then, there was Dr. Moushumi Saharia. Came, said “Namaskar” started singing, said “Thank you” and left. But it was an effective performance. She is not an entertainer, but she is a damn good singer; the few good ones left. She sang two songs, she conquered the audience with her flawless, powerful voice, and she exited. More action, less words. Perfect!
Then came the ever-popular Zubeen Garg and the crowd went berserk. But dude, what’s with your outfit? He seems to be the first guinea pig of his designer-wife’s experimental collections. With torn, acid-dyed jeans and camouflage shirt, boots and a striking orange piece of cloth wrapped like a turban, he looked like he will do a commando strike and start shooting with his microphone at the audience. But then, Zubeen’s outfits are always outrageous, so I’m saying nothing new. Also, his voice is perfect and he is the Assamese sweetheart; again, I’m saying nothing new. He performed two songs… both beautifully sang; one was “Bidexhi Bondhu” (what a lovely tune!) and another was “Niyorore Phool” (lovely lyrics!).
The last act followed where all four artists, Zubeen, Moushumi, Mayukh and Laili ended the evening by singing “We’re in the same boat brother”. And we left hurriedly because being without food from 4:30pm to 11pm was giving us a headache!
Oh… wait… that’s not how one should end a piece on an evening as culturally rich as this!
Truly, I had a wonderful evening. This is my last month in Mumbai and to see a free concert with such a line-up of artists was something worthy of reason for all the overpriced monthly rents I paid in Mumbai. Oh… no no… wrong feelings tuned in…
Seriously, the evening was perfect. It started off with a bad taste in the mouth after Ms. Lajmi’s speech attacking the Assamese people not-so-subtly, but after we spit that taste out, the evening was a perfect one! All the performances were brilliant and it made us remember Dr. Bhupen Hazarika and his indomitable spirit. His larger-than-life persona is reflected in his words, his songs. In his work lies his true inner soul. In his words lie his true feelings. We love him because he loved us as a whole, Assam with its vices and virtues. He wanted to heal us and through his songs, Assam heals even today. Every person pays tribute to Dr. Bhupen Hazarika; every household knows his name. His love for Assam was inexplicable, just as our love for him is inexplicable. And thus, we remember him; three years after his death, we remember him and we shall remember him forever.
(That, Ms. Lajmi, is a relationship you can’t fathom. Assam is not your “sautan”, though you still seem to not forgive it. If you can’t forgive Assam, you’ll never make peace with your Bhupen. You know that better than us. That’s why I said that it was a pity to see you lash at Assam in a spirit that looked like jealousy, anger and unforgiveness rolled in one. Assam doesn’t care whether you hate Assam and its people. Your “companion”, Dr. Bhupen Hazarika, would be on our minds forever, with or without you.)
Image courtesy: Enazori Mumbai’s Facebook page