Home Today's Paper Most Popular Video Gallery Photo Gallery
Subscription Blog Signin Register
Logo
Friday, March 22, 2019 08:55:44 AM
Follow Us On: Facebook Twitter Twitter Twitter Twitter

On the record: A book on the life and compelling music of Janki Bai Ilahabadi

Janki Bai was called Chhappan Chhuri - she of the 56 knife gashes

 Janki Bai was called Chhappan Chhuri - she of the 56 knife gashes
photo by

By
29th-Jun-2018       
Comments
Share your thought
Post a comment »
Read all () »

Weekend Plus Desk :
Sayyiyan nikal gaye, main na ladi thi/ Na jaane kaunsi khidki khuli thi (My beloved left and I didn't put up a fight, I didn't know which window was open)
 This lament by Janki Bai Ilahabadi was penned by poet Kabir as a bhajan, which was a reference to death and one’s soul leaving the body. Janki Bai turned it into a thumri in the early 20th century and sang it in mehfils and soirees at the royal durbars that courted her and had those present throwing silver coins at her feet. Later, the piece found a place in popular consciousness. It was featured in Lata Mangeshkar’s voice in Raj Kapoor’s Satyam Shivam Sundaram, was sung often by thumri legend Shobha Gurtu and is still featured in concerts by Kaushiki Chakraborty, among others.
In this HMV recording, the recording company’s first one and now available on YouTube, Janki Bai sings the lyrics in her robust, slightly high-pitched voice, as if the words are a reference to her beloved, the one who left her at night and took away her soul with her. She also changes the word nikas into nikal, probably because the latter is easier to play around phonetically. A little less than three-minute-long, the piece reaches its sublime note and ends with the sentence: Mera naam Janki Bai Illahabad. “I took an instant liking to her,” says Neelum Saran Gour, a literature professor at University of Allahabad, who’s now written Requiem in Raga Janki (Penguin, Rs 599).
It was Gour’s visit to Kolkata’s ITC Sangeet Research Academy 30 years ago, which threw up the name Janki Bai Illahabadi. Gour didn’t know much of this Hindustani vocalist who lived a century ago in her city, and died in 1936.
The name came up again in 2008 while researching the heritage of Allahabad for a book. She came across a brief biography of Janki Bai and was struck by the person behind the icon. “I also wondered why not much had been written about her and why she wasn't well-known even in Allahabad,” says Gour, who then came across some of her records with passionate record collectors and realised that most of her music was lost. “She, in her time, was as big a star as Amitabh Bachchan from Allahabad,” says Gour, who isn’t trained in music but grew up listening to a lot of it from her musician father and has always written stories based in and on Allahabad. Her other books include Grey Pigeon and Other Stories, Sikandar Chowk Park, Song Without and Other Stories.
Born in Varanasi in 1880, Janki Bai and her mother, Manki, were abandoned by her father, Shivbalakram, a wrestler, after he took on a mistress. Manki and Janki came to Allahabad, where the two were sold to the owner of a kotha. Manki began to run the place after the owner died and decided to train her daughter in Hindustani classical music and got Hassu Khan of Lucknow to train her.
Janki grew up to be a popular courtesan and became close friends with Gauhar Jaan of Calcutta and the two sang together in 1911 at Attarsuiya thana, when King George V visited Allahabad. As the story goes, he was mesmerised with their performance and gave 100 guineas to the two. She recorded 22 shellac discs in her career. But the name didn't trickle down into popular consciousness.
A search for Janki Bai also led Gour to a crumbling monument in Kaladanda Kabristaan in Allahabad’s Adarsh Nagar that is called Chhappan Chhuri ki Mazaar. Janki Bai was called Chhappan Chhuri - she of the 56 knife gashes.
Janki Bai acquired the name when, according to the legend, she was attacked by Raghunandan, a police constable when he was denied sexual favours from a 12-year-old. He came one day and scarred her face with 56 gashes. The book takes us through the life and times of a woman who has been scarred and is rebuked by men, but has to turn to them later for patronage.
“There wasn’t a choice here but she also wanted to be loved,” says Gour.
Janki Bai would often sing from behind a curtain, revealing her face, only when her patron was in love with her voice.
“In her life, like that of other artistes, I found a permanent situation- life in real time, life in art; the troubled vexed life and that fabulous artistic life. Art stepped in where life failed her,” says Gour.
The stories are mostly from her own writings or passed down to music lovers from an older generation. To fill in the gaps, Gour has used fiction. Real stories are there but, more often than not, the fiction tends to exceed the reality in the stories.
Gour says, “You assume that there is an authentic narrative, which is reduced to suit the demands of fiction. I feel that one fictionalises when there are gaps in the historical narrative. That's where you intuit and infer. You don't lose but add to the known fact. You step into the areas of silence and doubts and write,” says Gour, who has used two storytellers describing the story, writing a lot of conversations in extremely flowery archaic English, which can sometimes seem jarring. But Gour feels “it was the only way to project the right combination of Urdu and Hindi.”
The book, which tells two simultaneous stories, one from an aging baiji and other the documented history of a colonial India, has significant blind spots. Gour does not delve into German recording technology that changed the face of Indian music industry or the times in which Janki Bai lived and how the concert culture was coming up and the baithak style and aristocracy were on a decline. “There are always dimensions that could have been. I am only accountable for what I have done. I was dealing with one character and her inward relation with her art,” says Gour. n

Tariff
Add Rate

News Archive

Inside The New Nation

Sports »

Russia's Natalia Zabiiko and Alexander Enbert perform their pairs free skate during the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, north of Tokyo on Thursday.


Football »

Trinidad and Tobago's Aubrey David (left) and Wales' Ryan Hedges battle for the ball during the International Friendly soccer match between Wales and Trinidad and Tobago, at the Racecourse Ground, in Wrexham, Wales on Wednesday.


Entertainment »

Deepika Padukone checks all ticks in list over a week


Bollywood’s leading lady Deepika Padukone has had an eventful last week as the actress unveiled her prestigious Statue of Purpose at Madame Tussauds and graced the Vogue International cover as the Global Talent. Both the events are key and one of the major highlights in the life of the actress. ...

City »

Holi festival celebrated with enthusiasm, fanfare


Thousands of devotees on Thursday celebrated the Holi, a Hindu religious festival of colours, across the country with due religious fervour and much enthusiasm."Marking the festival, a large number of devotees thronged the Dhakeswari National Temple in the morning to offer abir, a pink colored powder, at the foot of ...

Editorial »

Europe`s worst genocide and Karadzic`s life imprisonment


IT'S another symbol of justice against a 'genocide' that had committed about 25 years ago by a powerful European ruler; Radovan Karadzic. The 73-year former Bosnian Serb leader has been awarded life imprisonment for his crimes in the war that broke-up his country in 1990. UN judges in The Hague ...

Business & Economy »

Vivo launches V15 with 32 MP Pop-Up Selfie camera


Business Desk :Vivo, the innovative global smart phone brand, launched the long-awaited smart phone V15 after it's pro version V15 Pro was unveiled in Bangladesh last month. The Vivo V15 packs a 32 megapixel pop up selfie camera, a powerful triple rear camera set-up, stunning Ultra Full-View display 6.53 inch ...

International »

NZ bans sale of assault gun, semi-auto rifles


 AFP, Wellington :New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced an immediate ban on the sale of assault rifles and semi-automatics Thursday in a muscular response to the Christchurch terror attack that killed 50 people."Today I am announcing that New Zealand will ban all military-style semi-automatic weapons. We will also ban ...

International »

EU chief says Brexit delay possible if MPs approve deal


The EU could approve Britain's request for a short delay to Brexit but only if UK MPs next week vote through the withdrawal deal they have twice rejected, European Council president Donald Tusk said Wednesday.With nine days to go before Britain is due to leave the bloc, the country is ...

Business & Economy »

Bolsonaro to visit Trump to firm up conservative alliance


AFP, Brasilia :Brazil's far right President Jair Bolsonaro will meet US counterpart Donald Trump next week to strengthen ties in the nascent regional conservative alliance aiming to ramp up the pressure on Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro.After decades of fractious relations between Brasilia and Washington, things have improved with the assumption to ...

Entertainment »

Romeo Akbar Walter celebrates unnoticed people: Mouni Roy


Actress Mouni Roy, who will be seen in the forthcoming film Romeo Akbar Walter, says the espionage thriller celebrates the unnoticed people who have sacrificed their lives for the love of their country. Romeo Akbar Walter is set against the backdrop of the India-Pakistan War of 1971. In the film, ...

Entertainment »

Biased towards TV but enjoy digital: Sakshi Tanwar


Actress Sakshi Tanwar, who has featured in a web series titled The Final Call, says she is biased towards television but has started enjoying working in the digital platform as it gives an opportunity to actors to experiment in a lesser period of time.  “I feel every medium is different. ...

National »

Mosquito menace paralyses Khulna city life


Khulna (South) Correspondent :Mosquito menace has paralysed Khulna city dwellers' lives. KCC is allegedly refrain from spraying medicine to eradicate the mosquitoes . All section of the city dwellers are victimized with mosquito bite. Particularly HSC  examinees are suffering a lot. They can not study well for mosquito menace.Some Khulna ...

Editorial »

BD-Australia to fight together global scourge of terrorism and extremism


Visiting Australian Ambassador for Counter-Terrorism Paul Foley has said his country will continue to support Bangladesh and its people to address the threats of terrorism and violent extremism. He has also emphasised that terrorism and violent extremism are challenges shared by all countries. Mr. Foley who leads Australia's international engagement ...

International »

Trump reaffirms US considering 'all options' to bring down Venezuela's President Maduro


US President Donald Trump on Tuesday reaffirmed that "all options" are being considered in his drive to bring down Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro."All options are on the table," he told reporters in the White House. "It's a shame what's happening in Venezuela - the debt and the destruction and ...

International »

"Democracy in UK all but dead": Trump Jr slams PM May over Brexit


US President Donald Trump's eldest son rebuked UK Prime Minister Theresa May over her faltering Brexit tactics Tuesday, claiming she had unnecessarily prolonged Britain's EU withdrawal by ignoring his father's advice.In a biting op-ed in the eurosceptic Daily Telegraph newspaper, Donald Trump Jr. criticised the British premier's latest plan to ...

 
Items that you save may be read at any time on your computer, iPad, iPhone or Android devices.
 
Are you new to our website? Do you have already an account at our website?
Create An Account Log in here
Email this news to a friend or like someone
Email:
Write a comment to this news