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The man and his flavours

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IN TUNE WITH FOOD TOO Ravindra Jain enjoying his meal Photo: Anu Pushkarna
IN TUNE WITH FOOD TOO Ravindra Jain enjoying his meal Photo: Anu Pushkarna

Be it food or lyrics, simplicity is Ravindra Jain's USP

Be it Rafi saheb, Raj Kapoor, Mukesh, Lataji or others, I was lucky to work with luminaries. One minute with Ravindra Jain and you can make out why his lyrics have always been what they are. That infinite innocence, that candour, that power to bind us with our roots and that blend of rustic and urbane life in his words smelling of such Indianness, all have their roots in him, the way he presents himself to the world. We have the proof here."Purane Bollywood ki gano mein maati ki khushboo aati thi, aur aaj ke gaane mein bahut kuch aur hai," Jain saheb starts off his conversation on this note. With a meaningful smirk.Having just arrived at the Fire restaurant in New Delhi's The Park hotel for lunch, we are waiting for the menu card to arrive. "Kahan le aaye mujhe? Mein to five-star ka khana khanewalon mein se nahin hoon. "We are in Delhi, we should have gone to Gole Market for some choley-bhature," he tells his nephew and his younger brother accompanying him. They smile in tandem, with brother Mahendra Jain adding, "Bhai saheb has always been like this, he prefers ghar ka khana. So we usually pack some roti and sabzi for him."The waiter arrives, and Mahindra quickly eyes through the menu and places the order. "What have you ordered?" asks Jain saheb. "Your favourite misi roti," he replies. "I am a vegetarian and my favourite dish is khichdri and the sabzis are torai, lauki, parwal, bhindi, which you don't get in a five-star restaurant usually," a smiling Jain saheb adds.Getting your time to speak to this living legend till the food arrives, the person whose songs like Fakira chal chalachal, Geet gata chal, Gori tera gaon, Le jayenge dilwale dulhaniya, Jab deep jale aana and numerous other such evergreen scores are still so fresh in people's memory, you don't know whether to start from the past or the present. So the best way you can think up at the moment is to let him swerve the chat the way he prefers.

Auspicious day

"In fact, today is an auspicious day for me. On this day in 1969, I arrived in Mumbai from Aligarh to record my first song." But it took him three more years to see the first film with his songs. "Be it Rafi saheb, Raj Kapoor, Mukesh, Lataji or others, I was lucky to work with luminaries. They became big but never forgot their values," he comments. Mohammad Rafi, he recalls, had agreed to sing Chal fakira, and "he even memorised it." But Mahendra Kapoor had to be brought in finally to sing it "as Rafi saheb came to Delhi to attend a wedding and couldn't be traced for a month." And this turned out to be one of Kapoor's best songs.The waiter arrives, with cocktail naan and a tangy chutney. The brother quickly serves him one. Jain saheb is born blind but like any other person with visual impairment, he goes by the power of touch and sounds and vibrations around him. Immediately, he comments, "Yeh naan hai ya biscuit?" to which even the waiter smiles. Soon the rest of the food arrives. His plate is filled with a ladleful of steamed rice, a misi roti on the side plate, paneer and tomato sabzi, bhindi fry, a plain dal, curds, pickles, and a glass of fruit juice. Over food, he chooses to talk about Raj Kapoor first. "He was a musical soul. Once, at a wedding in Delhi, he heard my song, Ek meera ek radha and at once chose it for Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Later, on his birthday in Pune, I wrote the title song." He has just wrapped up the music for Vivah, the forthcoming film from Rajashri Productions. "It will have some nice, soft numbers. I always liked working for the Barjatiyas and Sooraj has not disappointed me," he says. Though the credit of launching Yesudas in Bollywood music goes to Ravindra Jain, he feels, "Yesudas's voice won't fit the film's hero Shahid Kapur and so I didn't use him," almost giving you a jolt as anybody sings for any hero in Bollywood these days unlike the times when Jain saheb ruled. Finishing his lunch, he comments, "Nothing can compare with ghar ka khana. Usme pyaaz ki khushboo hoti hain. Though this experience was good."SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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