'Sometimes truth can damage others'

"Life is beautiful. And it must be lived to the full''  

From Ghalib to Gulzar and Vajpayee, he has given expression to the words of many poets. Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh tells LAKSHMI BALAKRISHNAN that he loves performing live.

"DO I have different facets to me? Main to ek hi hoon !'' Ghazal maestro Jagjit Singh quipped rather matter-of-factly during a tete-a-tete with the Press last week. A statement that raises more questions than it answers about one of the most loved ghazal singers of the country.

Jagjit loves his job. And well, seems to adore the attention that comes with it. Watching him pose tirelessly for photographers so they don't crib about not getting a "different'' one is enough to make one wonder about the "camera-shy'' image that he has carried for long.

His music has offered wings to dreamers and acted as a therapy for the broken hearted. But for all the emotions that the singer and his music symbolise, Jagjit is eventually a man who speaks a lot but says very little.

He may chat around with journalist, make witty one-liners and brush aside serious and controversial questions with funny quotes, but there is undoubtedly much that his fans don't know.

In the Capital for the launch of his first biography "Beyond Time: The Ageless Music of Jagjit Singh'', he accepted that the book does not bare it all.

"I would say that the book covers a good 80 per cent of my life. What about the rest? I did not reveal it because sometimes truth can damage other people,'' the singer remarked.

Having started his career in the mid 1960s it was not all easy for Jagjit. As a youngster, he perhaps did not expect people to react the way they did to a Sardar singing ghazals. But ask him why he decided to do away with his turban and beard and Jagjit is quick with a sharp retort, "My hair, my choice.''

Not one to follow rules, Jagjit more than just changed the way ghazal singing was taken in India. His ghazals moved away by using Hindi more than Urdu and popularising ghazals. But performing live, points out Jagjit, is what he loves the most.

``Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali are seniors. I did not really try to make any changes, they just happened. Singing in films has been nice. But nothing can match the magic of stage, since it gives you a spontaneous reaction,'' he says.

From Ghalib to Gulzar and Atal Behari Vajpayee, Jagjit has given expression to the words of many poets. "The lyrics are important. People say I sing mostly in Hindi, but then I can only sing what they write,'' he points out.

Ask him what makes his biography interesting, and he is quick to retort back with, "The whole book is interesting. I guess quite a few things about me will surprise people. But whether it presents different facets of me is for people to say after reading it,'' believes Jagjit.

Freelance writer Asharani Mathur who transcribed and edited the book may believe that getting the singer to speak was not easy since he does not open up fast to new people, but Jagjit says, "It was not difficult''. For someone who prefers to call present generation music as the "machine one'', Jagjit is extremely critical when saying "what we have today is completely programmed. They can't create anything on their own. There are some good singers like Shankar Mahadevan though.''

The death of his young son more than just changed life for Jagjit, what with singer wife Chitra Singh deciding to stop singing, but for Jagjit, "life is beautiful. And it must be lived to the full.''

Photo: S. Subramanium

Recommended for you