On the composer’s 99th birth anniversary, Masani speaks about the principled man he was and how an upcoming concert is set to honour his work and music.
Singer Penaz Masani remembers music composer Jaidev – Birth anniversary special
Mumbai - 03 Aug 2018 10:00 IST
Today marks the beginning of the birth centenary celebrations of music composer Jaidev, born Jaidev Varma. The actor-turned-music composer was born in Nairobi, Kenya, on 3 August 1919.
This Sunday, 5 August, at the 9th edition of the National Centre for the Performing Arts' (NCPA) music festival called Bandish 2018 – A Tribute to Legendary Composers, singers Hariharan, Suresh Wadkar, Mahalakshmi Iyer, Vibhavari Apte Joshi and Penaz Masani will pay tribute to the late maestro by performing on the last day of the three-day festival.
Ghazal singer and Jaidev discovery Penaz Masani revealed that she would be reciting a poem the composer introduced to her when she was young.
“They are singing his film songs, all his favourite songs," she said. "We don’t have much time, just two hours. [Hariharan] and I are just doing it out of love and I am just presenting a few paragraphs [of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar's] Urvashi, translated into English.”
Masani first met Jaidev when she was young and had entered a music competition.
"As music was in the family through my father [Doli R Masani], I started when I was a little child and learnt classical music and then went on to win a competition in Bombay in which the judges were Jaidevji, Naushad saheb and Raj Kapoor. So that’s how I met Jaidevji and he was very taken up by the fact that a Parsi girl was interested in Indian music," she recalled.
Masani’s father was also a classical singer and music had always been a part of her life. After the competition, the composer remembered the young singer for a project on television.
“When he got an opportunity to take a new, upcoming singer for a television show, he contacted me through Doordarshan and that is how my visits to his house at Lily Court, Churchgate, started. That was during my first year of college, which was 11th standard."
Later, Masani also sang songs on the soundtracks he composed for Aayi Teri Yaad (1980) and Jumbish (1986). In Aayi Teri Yaad (1980), she sang a solo song, ‘Tumhara Pyaar Shamil Hai’, and a duet with Bhupinder Singh.
Masani’s first album, Aap Ki Bazm Mein, came out in 1981. With Jaidev, she recorded two albums, one of them being Bansi Bajaiya, a devotional album. There aren’t many female ghazal singers who have managed to break through in the industry.
“I wouldn’t say it was a cakewalk,” Masani said. “Begum Akhtarji was a doyenne and it was because of her that we all are singing ghazals in the first place, all the artistes. But that was another era altogether. [In] the 1980s, I think, I was the only female ghazal singer to break ground, if you can say that, with due humility, amongst the male bastions. But I never considered myself male or female. I’m an artiste who is trying to do her job and sing.”
After he met her at the music competition, Jaidev guided Masani in many ways. She recalled that he used to teach a lot of out-of-the-box things from literature to poetry, not just film songs. That is one of the reasons she will be reading from Urvashi at the NCPA concert.
“One of the things he taught me was not to sing out of a book," she recalled. "He told me, ‘You must memorize your words.’ He used to encourage me. At those times, there used to be a lot of mehfils. He used to take me along, even when he used to go to Delhi, and introduce me. He used to make me [sing] a lot of songs. I still have his old book; I just went through that and I had a lump in my throat, the amount of things he had inculcated in me! Most importantly, he introduced me to Madhuraniji.”
Afterwards, Masani learnt from ghazal exponent Madhurani and calls her a mentor and guide. But she still remembers fondly her early years as a young student when she learnt with Jaidev.
"Oh, he was a Sufi!" she said. "He would sit in his little room, he never had a house of his own, he stayed as a paying guest at Lily Court. Just the other day, I was passing by Lily Court and went and touched his door. I used to be a student of Sydenham College at Churchgate. I used to go with my books and he would be so sweetly sitting there on the floor with his harmonium and he would teach me something or the other. I would be with him for one hour and then I would go home by train, fast train to Dadar. Those were beautiful learning days. [Then] I used to go straight to Bandra to Madhuji’s house.”
With days filled with music, Masani remembers Jaidev as a kind, soft-spoken, wonderful human being.
"He would make sure we had eaten and he would take me or whoever to the Ritz Hotel and insist on paying the bill," she said. "Even if he had to order a paan from the paanwala’s shop, he would make sure he would send somebody with the money. [He was] very principled. Even when Umrao Jaan (1981) was being made and the entire episode of [Jaidev] walking out of the film, it only shows his principles. Everybody needs money, but to put principles above monetary gain, that’s really something."