Ghazal Massacred By Accent

Well, no offence is meant to South Indian singers trying to sing ghazals, but the truth must be stated without beating about the bush. In plain words, South Indian Hindi singers must not sing ghazals because they massacre it. Recently I heard Hariharan sing ghazals and almost puked with disgust. Moreover, the man had the audacity to sing Ahmad Faraz’s immortal ‘Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhane’ by the inimitable Mehdi Hasan. A ghazal can be best rendered in a language that has soft vowels and consonants, unlike the five Dravidian languages, viz, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malyalam and also Sinhalese (of Sri Lanka), which are phonetically not suitable for ghazals.

It’s interesting to know that though ghazal originated in Arabia (ghazal is an Arabic word that connotes ‘conversation between lovers’), the finest ghazals can be found in Persian, Turkish and of course Urdu. Arabic being a bit guttural, one doesn’t come across very many romantic ghazals in it. Just imagine, if Arabic is not considered that perfect for ghazals, how can South Indian languages and their speakers do justice to it?

It is a fact of linguistics that a person lives with the influence of his/her mother tongue, however subtle it may be. Mother tongue is genetically as well as neurologically embedded. A South Indian, even if he lived his life all along in the Hindi belt, speaks Hindi or English with the heavy intonations and inflexions of his mother tongue that tend to surface and bespeak his linguistic roots. Same is the case with Bengali and Marathi speakers. Moreover, all these South Indian singers can’t speak Hindi, let alone Urdu, properly.

If ever you hear Hariharan speak Hindi, you’re sure to file PIL that this gentleman is deliberately buggering Hindi. It’s execrable, to say the least. Now tell me, how can he sing ghazals in flawless Urdu? He can’t. Yet, people with no knowledge of Hindi-Urdu think that he’s a singer who can sing ghazals very well.

People from the southern belt just can’t speak Hindi, much like the way Bengalis can never master Hindi. Hema Malini and Vaijyantimala spoke Hindi that sounded more of Tamil. Vani Jayram and Kavita Krishanmurty sang with a palpable southern accent. Even Waheeda Rahman, whose Urdu is considered to be relatively good, gives the impression of hailing from South. She’s from Andhra. So is Zarina Wahab, who hails from Rajamundri in coastal Andhra. Tabu and her sister Farah still speak excruciatingly painful Hindi as they belong to Hyderabad. They don’t know Urdu. Barring Jayraj, an actor who was hero in ‘Razia Sultan’ (1957), no south Indian could ever speak proper Hindi. Jayraj was also from Hyderabad and spoke Urdu like an Urdu speaker from Lucknow or Bhopal.

I heard Professor B. Sheik Ali’s Urdu. The man’s universally regarded as the greatest authority on Tipu Sultan and was the VC of two universities with two Phd degrees. But his Urdu can scare an ‘ahle-zubaan’ (natural Urdu speaker). He’s from Mysore.

I may sound a bit pontificating but I’m of the opinion that only an Urdu knowing person of Urdu speaking region should try to sing ghazals. Others shouldn’t even think of committing the sacrilege. A south Indian must confine himself/herself to singing today’s meaningless Hindi songs which require no expertise and can be sung by just anyone.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 November 2012 on page no. 2

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