A Black and White Tribute to Geeta Dutt
By Tahir Ali
Shrewsbury , MA : Ten-year old Selina Banerjee got a standing ovation after singing the opening item - “Ghunghat ke pat khol re” - from the film ‘Jogan’. When Siraj Khan asked her how she was able to get under the radar of ‘no kids 10 and under will be allowed’ event rules, she replied without hesitation, “My mother told me to wear a sari to look older.”
A few months back Siraj Khan and his team had paid a tribute to the legendary music composer O.P. Nayyar. They presented another bonanza, “Hawaaon ke Taraanay – A tribute to the singer Geeta Dutt,” on May 14 before an audience of almost 200.
The format remained the same, with Karaoke music tracks accompanying the vocals, live on stage. Creative director Siraj put together the song list, sequence and wrote the script for the entire program while Jawed Wahid provided sound engineering for the event.
In the event announcement, Siraj had suggested a black and white dress code and theme to reflect and create a backdrop of the black and white era of films. To his pleasant surprise not only did the performers comply with the black and white dress code, but many in the audience also turned up in a black and white attire – an appropriate homage to Geeta Dutt whose songs of the black and white movie era are still considered precious gems in the colorful present.
The first few songs were sung by familiar and popular local artistes: Sudha Lakshmi Rao, Salman Dar (duet with Sudha) and starlet Anusha Kulkarni. They all performed very well as was expected. Anusha’s Mera naam chin chin chu from the movie “ Howrah Bridge” was still as popular as it was on the O.P. Nayyar Nite a few months back. Salman Dar immersing himself totally into every song he sang was a sight for the sore eyes, and the magic in Sudha’s voice was mesmerizing as always. The song Bachpan ke din bhi kya din thei from “Sujata” sung by the starlets Anusha and Selina took the audience by surprise as their own childhood memories flashed in front of their eyes. Then some new faces started to emerge on the stage, namely Vasanth who sang Khayalon main kisi ke is kadar aaya nahin karte from the film “Baawre Nain” accompanied by Sudha Rao. Vasanth’s strong voice echoed all across the hall.
Another newcomer to the stage, Shua K Arshad, sang several hits including Ja ja ja ja bewafa, Mujhe Hazoor Tumse pyar hai and Na jao sayyan from the films “Aar Paar,” “Son of India”, and “Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam” respectively. Then entered the spell-binding, charismatic Suzana Naik who sang four songs, including Ye lo mein hari pya hui teri Jeet re. If there was an applause meter on the stage it would have clearly registered the highest decibels for Suzana. Partners in real life, Nooruddin and Dilshad were partners on stage with Ankhon hi ankhon mein ishara ho gaya while Nayanika gave a solo performance singing Na yeh Chand hoga Na tare Rahein ge. Siraj also showed his singing talents as he sang a duet with Suzana. The song that the audience appeared to enjoy very much as they swayed back and forth with captivating music enhanced by a lively delivery from Nidhi Tare was Ae dil mujhe batta de Tu kispe Aa gya hai from the film “Bhai Bhai.”
Siraj with related Urdu poetry, anecdotes and witty remarks kept the audience engaged. He also managed to get a few chuckles at the expense of movie subtitles as he pointed how Urdu/Hindi songs get translated word-to-word in English sub-titles. [I shall let the readers guess the following four songs:]
“Do not increase your love for me excessively as I am but a stray cloud. How can I support anyone when I am a homeless idiot myself.” “The signal has been given through the eyes. I have received the life support system by just sitting around.” “You stone-hearted lover ...I considered you the god of love. What a blunder I made, what a fool I was.”“ Let anybody call me wild. They can keep saying it repeatedly. I’m surrounded in the storms of love, what can I do. Yahoo!”
Siraj had warned the audience to hold on to their hearts before little Selina began singing Mujhe jaan na kaho meri jaan from “Anubhav”. That was a timely advice because for the next few minutes Selina held everyone spellbound with her rendition of that song. Salman Dar went up to Selina to give her a big hug, then he sat down in a corner crying. I was totally stunned and speechless when Salman revealed to me that Selina’s father had died just three days ago. I remember meeting Dr. Pallab Banerjee at the O.P. Nayyar Nite last December and was even able to capture him on video. My wife Labiba recalled how she was impressed by the affection he had for his daughter as Selina slept on his lap in the later hours of the show, way past her bedtime. Dr. Banerjee who worked at Dana Farber Cancer Research Institute, died of a pulmonary infection, his wife Sucharita Sen told me, holding back her tears. “He prepared the tracks for Selina and personally monitored her rehearsals and for Selina to sing those songs tonight is really fulfilling her father’s own dream.”
Comments Gallery: One can measure the success of an event by listening to what the members
“I know it takes a lot of effort to put these kind of programs together, I do this a lot.” - Homaira Naseem, President of Aligarh Association (AAANE).
“I drank every song,” commented Subramanian Ananth talking in riddles. “I was thirsty for all these songs and it was as if I found a well, so I kept on drinking from it,” Mr. Ananth elaborated.
“Music travels from soul to soul, regardless of color, race, religion and ethnicity. In other words music has no borders.” - Mrs. Meenakshi Subramanian remarked.
Ghafoor Sheikh, originally from Pakistan, seemed to agree, “I attended the O.P. Nayyar event last December and now I bought along a few more Pakistani friends with me.”
Ali Rizvi, former president of AAANE, observed: “It is a well-organized program with diversity among the many performers. It is nice of Siraj to introduce unknown faces - first-time performers and new talents - on stage with such confidence.”
“Program is great, you [Siraj ] are great. You make the program even more entertaining. Song selection is also very good.” - Sangha Mitra
“We love you, you do so much for the black and white era,” said one of the announcers.
Ranbir Johar of Punjabi Grill catering for the event enjoyed the show and was particularly content with the large turnout that translated into dollars for his business as well. Punjabi Grill, Chinese Mirch and Dunkin Donuts also donated prizes, which were duly acknowledged.
Acknowledgments are also due to Rasik Mehta for providing the event photos, Homaira Naseem for helping in providing the venue, and of course, the audience who I believe were very dedicated music lovers. Hats off to Siraj. Modesty may forbid Siraj to admit that the audience and the singers were really paying tribute to him. Siraj Khan is the only Pakistani on the O.P. Nayyar Trust.