Of Daaru, Dhrupad and Dadra

As a metaphor for intellectual stimulation or the bone of contention for the nagging housewife, alcohol has found favour and ire in various genres of Indian music. For the longest time I wanted to spend hours researching on the marriage of my two beloved vices – Indian music and alcohol. While this might not be comprehensive, I guess I have been able to scratch the surface a little and capture the chemistry (or should I say alchemy) they share. And if you were me, there is never too much of either of them.   


Dhrupad and Khayal (Classical and Semi-classical Music)

Radha Krishna, small

Dhrupad is the oldest and parent form of Indian music which provides the structure of sur (melodies and compositions) and taal (rhythm). Known as Khayal in its modern freestyle forms, it led to the creation of semi-classical genres like Kajri, Thumri and Qawwali. Dhrupad verses typically talk about romance and marriage, mostly referring to Krishna from the perspective of Radha or other cow girls. Alcohol is often used as a metaphor to insinuate intoxication, like in the popular thumri, ras ke bhare tore nain saawariya/tadpat ho more din rain saawariya (the wine of your eyes, my love/tortures my day and night, my love) and the bandish in Raag Malkaus, raseeli rang daare/pee ke khoye chain (your intoxicating colours/give me a high – a reference to the festival of Holi). Later, the verses began mirroring social habits and behaviour and the focus shifted from Radha-Krishna to everyday relationships. Jao jao sayyian, sauten ke saath raho (Go away, lover/live with your mistress) is the bold rejection of a housewife who tells the husband, in the second couplet, to stay away from her as he is dead drunk – pee ke ho choor choor/rahiyo humse door door. Ankhiyon se na piyo/jaam hori khaali (Don’t drink with your eyes/the bottle is finishing) is the seductive invitation to the lover to stop drinking with only his eyes and come closer.




One of the primary subjects of Ghazals (the other being romance), alcohol has found various forms in the ashaar or couplets of innumerous poets over centuries. Mirza Ghalib obviously is the most respected and renowned of Urdu-Persian poets, his love for the bottle and mockery of hypocritical clerics being recurrent features in his poetry. Zaahid sharaab peene de masjid mein baith kar/ya woh jagah bataa jahaan par Khuda na ho (Let me drink in the mosque/or send me there where God does not exist) remains one of his most philosophical lines accusing the faithful of restricting God’s presence to religious boundaries. On a more romantic note, he flirts with the wine girl – pila de ok se saaqi jo hum se nafrat hai/pyaala gar nahin deta na de, sharaab toh de (Serve me wine in cupped hands if you hate me/don’t give me a glass if you want, pour the wine, please). Syed Allahabadi writes, gar aag maikashon ki sazaa hai to yaa Khuda/dozakh mein ek nahar bahaa de sharaab ki (If the drunk will be punished with Eternal Fire/God, make a canal of wine in Hell), portraying the popularity of alcohol, as does the famous Pankaj Udhas Ghazal, kabhi nahi pad sakta yaaro maikhane mein taala/ek do chaar nahi hai, saara sheher hai peene waala (the wine house cannot be shut down/not just one or two, the whole town drinks). On a different note, Akbar Allahabadi’s famous lines, hungama hai kyun barpa, thodi si jo pee hai (Why the fuss? I have just drunk a little) symbolized his love and belief in Hindu-Muslim unity, something he had been heavily criticized for by the Muslim League.




A semi-classical style, Qawwali can be both spiritual (Sufi) and romantic in nature. Hamd or Naat, which are the spiritual kinds devoted to Allah, the Prophet (pbuh) and other saints, do not have any direct references to alcohol of course. Khumaar or intoxication is often spoken of as a concept, a higher state of spiritual ecstasy achieved through meditation and prayer – Tali har balaa humari/chhaya hai khumaar tera (My obstacles have been removed/you have left everyone intoxicated). This likening of spiritual high with drunkenness is unique to Sufi poetry and music and takes up different forms – the whirling dervishes would be one of them. Regional flavours are found in Punjabi Qawwalis like gal kar koi peen pilawan dee/rut langna jaawe saawan dee (let’s talk about drinking before the monsoons end), as people of the region have always enjoyed drinking during the rains. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan Sahab’s treasure trove of romantic Qawwalis often uses alcohol to signify feminine beauty and romance. Nothing can be more romantic than the lines, Yeh jo halka halka suroor hai/yeh teri nazar ka qasoor hai/teri behki behki nigah ne/mujhe ek sharabi bana diya (This tipsiness, I blame your eyes for it/that look in your eyes, made a drunkard of me).




Devotional music or hymns are as old as Dhrupad sangeet itself and over centuries, guided by regional and sectarian preferences, Indian music has sung praises of various deities. Bhajans can be both respectful and irreverent in nature – Gods are praised for their kindness and mocked for their human weaknesses. Shiva has been a favourite of Shaivite Bhajan writers who fondly talk of his love for bhang, ganja and som ras (a Vedic drink with intoxicating qualities). Som peeke naache Bhole baba/sab karo parnaam (Shiva dances happily after drinking som/worship Him, everyone) and Peeke ek bhang ka pyala/mast mast hua Bhola (After a drink, Shiv is enjoying a high) are crowd favourites that one can often hear in Haridwar and Benaras. Vaishnavite Bhajans sing of Krishna and poets like Sur Das, Tulsi Das and Meera Bai (doyens of the Bhakti movement) are the primary contributors to this school of hymns. Intoxication becomes the metaphor for spiritual knowledge and awakening in their Bhajans, an interesting similarity shared with Sufi poets. Meera Bai’s Raam naam ras peeje manawa/taja ku-sanga, sat-sanga baith nita/hari charcha suni leeje/Meera ki prabhu Giridhar nagara/tahike rang mein bheeje (Drink the name of Ram/abandon bad company, sit with the pious/listen to the holy hymns/Meera’s lord is Krishna/she is drenched in his colour) is a shining example of the Bhakti period’s social relevance – drinking was a common social vice everyone was battling with.




Different regions in the country have indigenous folk music or lokgeet forms which mirror society and talk of prevalent ideologies and philosophies. While the Maharashtrian Lavani is erotic and boisterous in its treatment, egging men on to the pleasures of life, the Baul and Bhatiyali of the East is more introspective in nature. Lavani and Tamasha performances objectify nautch dancers, often comparing them to other immoralities like drinking. The Rajasthani Podina songs are irritated complaints of housewives who are frustrated with their inebriated husbands – ojhuk jaaye re hariya podina. The Bauls and Fakirs of Bengal and Bihar sing of finding God in one another, brotherhood and a universal religion. A famous Lalon Fakir number, Khejur gaache haari baandho mon/shujon gaache bandhle haari milbe ashol chini/je roshik hobe bujhe libe/ beroshik bujhbe na go ashhadon (Tie your mind like a pot on good Palm trees for sweeter knowledge), talks beautifully of seeking enlightened company just like the toddy-seller searches for healthy Palm trees to make good quality liquor. Bhatiyali are songs sung by boatmen to avoid boredom while rowing. Rupali nodi re, roop dekhe tor hoiyasi pagol/cholish tui dolok dolok, maatla cholok cholok (O silver river, your beauty drives me mad/your soft waves are like drunken swagger) is one of the innumerous odes to nature in Indian folk music.




Photo courtesy: Google Images


The ‘Lesser Evil’ Theory and Some Myths About Muslims



I am reminded of the opening paragraph of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. Our life and times are equally paradoxical. An election is empowering. At the same time, it might bring the wrong people to power. Who are the wrong people, you ask? Who, according to you, are the ‘right’ people, you ask further? Hence, the paradox. We are not voting this year to elect the good and defeat the bad. We are voting for the party who will cause the least damage to this country.

We have three options – The UPA, The NDA and AAP (and whoever they will land up joining hands with). We do not have the luxury of dreaming about the benefits of voting for any of them. I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are a disillusioned group of people. We do not believe that our government is capable of improvement. BUT, what we want to maintain is peaceful status quo. And who can ensure that?

The promises of all the three political groups (I love the word ‘umeedvaar‘. It makes the voters seem more powerful) are the same – jobs, security, education, health, sanitation, drinking water, girl child, rural development – issues that have been ISSUES in this country since independence. Issues that previous governments had failed to solve (which is why they were removed) and issues the present government failed at (which is why they might be removed) and we are not hopeful that these issues will be resolved by the next one either. In the theatre, lead actors have understudies – junior actors who are kept abreast with the part in case they have to step in during an emergency. In governance, the role of the understudy is that of the Opposition. They are expected to play the part of a responsible ‘shadow government’ who will make policy changes (which the public are aware of as these policies are their definitive tenets and NOT empty promises propped up on banners right before the elections). Therefore, the voters have an actual logical reasoning behind voting the Opposition to power.

Today, if we are unhappy with the UPA government, what are our reasons for voting for the Opposition?

In India, the election is nothing but an audition. It is a chance, a try-off, given to the other party – a scary sort of blind faith – because we are absolutely fed up with the present one. Is that not why you will be voting for the Opposition if you do plan to?

I am not hoping for a drastic administrative improvement in the governance. That is sheer folly. What will change is the socio-political agenda, if a different party is voted to power. And that is where the ‘Lesser Evil’ theory comes in. We are not voting for benefits or improvement because we KNOW that nothing shall change. We should therefore be voting for the party that shall cause the least collateral damage in the process of achieving its vested political interests.

So, you don’t have to choose between the BJP, the Congress, and the AAP. You have to choose between Communalism+Gender insensitivity, Corruption, and Inexperience. Which of these evils will cause the maximum harm to this country? Which of these evils can you live with?

That is the unfortunate compromise we will have to make this General Elections.

Just yesterday, I came across this fantastic article on kafila.org. It is clean, clear, and to the point. Read the complete article here.

Do not vote with hope for a better tomorrow. Vote with the hope for a safer one.



Photo courtesy: Google images


Bollywood Report: First Quarter (January to March)

So we have come to the end of the first quarter and here is a crisp report on how the films fared. Some films have been excluded from this list because of (a) No one gave a fuck (b) I really wasn’t in the mood to watch a crappy movie (c) I didn’t give a fuck.



Mr Joe B. Carvalho Comedy Samir Tewari Arshad Warsi,

Soha Ali Khan,

Javed Jaffrey,

Vijay Raaz

A yawn fest. Don’t bother. Why did I bother? I must have been drunk.


Sholay 3D Action/Adventure Ramesh Sippy Dharmendra,

Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini,

Jaya Bhaduri, Sanjeev Kumar, Amjad Khan,

A.K. Hangal

A unique cinematic experience. Even if you don’t give a damn about 3D or are too prissy about watching your favourite Hindi movie in 3D, watching Sholay on the big screen is an adventure in itself. I have been forever jealous of my folks for having seen the film at the theatre. Mission finally accomplished.


Dedh Ishqiya Black Comedy/Thriller Abhishek Chaubey Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Madhuri Dixit,

Huma Qureshi

For someone who always stresses on the screenplay and plotline for cinema and theatre, Dedh Ishqiya remains a dilemma. The plot is mediocre, the storyline is easily predictable. But, in a very surprising manner, the film seems unaffected by this major gaffe. Read complete review here.


Yaariyan Romance Divya Khosla Kumar Himansh Kohli, Shreyas Porus Pardiwalla,

Dev Sharma,

Nicole Faria,

Rakul Preet


A wannabe American Pie. But half-baked and with a wobbly crust, if you get my drift.


Karle Pyaar Karle Romance Rajesh Pandey Shiv Darshan, Hasleen Kaur Ho-hum.


Miss Lovely Drama Ashim Ahluwalia Nawazuddin


Niharika Singh

At the heart of the film lies a love story that fails to stand the test of ambition, greed and practicality. Based in the C-grade film industry of Mumbai, two lovers share a doomed relationship that suffers disastrous consequences. Therefore, the basic storyline has nothing new to offer. Read the full review here.


Paranthe Wali Gali Romantic comedy Sachin Gupta Anuj Saxena,

Neha Pawar,

Mohinder Gujral, Vijayant Kohli, Himanshu Thakkar, Yuvraj Haral

Forgettable. Did I even watch this film? (My point exactly)


Strings Of Passion Drama Sanghamitra Chaudhari Zeenat Aman,

Indrani Haldar,

Shubh Mukherjee,

Rajesh Sharma

 Don’t bother. 
Jai Ho Action Sohail Khan Salman Khan,

Daisy Shah,

Tabu, Sana Khan, Danny Denzongpa, Mohnish Behl,

Vatsal Seth,

Suniel Shetty,

Genelia D’Souza

Ugh again. Let me crack a joke: Question – Who is the director of Jai Ho?  Answer – Sohail Khan.


One by Two Romance/Comedy Devika Bhagat Abhay Deol,

Preeti Desai,

Rati Agnihotri,

Jayant Kripalani, Darshan Jariwala, Lilette Dubey,

Anish Trivedi

Would I recommend a watch? Yes. Would I watch it again? No. Read full review here.





Babloo Happy Hai Comedy Nila Madhab Panda Sahil Anand,

Erica Fernandes, Preet Kamal,

Sumit Suri,

Amol Parashar, Reyhna Malhotra, Parvin Dabas,

Anu Choudhury, Pooja Tawde, Khusbhoo Purohit, Mika Singh

Left me very unhappy. Wanted to kill myself. And the director. And the actors. And a lot of people. Mass murder inducing.


Hasee Toh Phasee Romance/Comedy Vinil Mathew Sidharth Malhotra, Parineeti Chopra, Adah Sharma A very interesting rom-com which is fresh, quirky and strays from the usual formulaic treatments of love-ishq-mohabbat. A lot like My Best Friend’s Wedding where love catches you unaware.


Heartless Thriller Shekhar Suman Adhyayan Suman, Ariana Ayam,

Om Puri,

Deepti Naval,

Madan Jain,

Shekhar Suman

Shekhar Suman, thou art heartless. Who puteth his audience through such hellfire? Speaketh thee!


Ya Rab Drama/Social Hasnain Hyderabadwala Manzar Sehbai,

Ajaz Khan,

Akhilendra Mishra, Raju Kher,

Kishori Shahane, Vikram Singh

An interesting premise and a debate-worthy dilemma. My partner in crime and got into a heated one mid-film. While the performances suck (SUCK!), the film makes you ask questions. And for that, it deserves a pat.


Gunday                                                Romance/Action Ali Abbas Zafar Ranveer Singh,

Arjun Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Irrfan Khan

But now we are bored. Within seconds, we have achieved everything. Calcutta is known only for two things now – Howrah Bridge and Bikram-Bala. Not the roshogolla. Not Durga pujo. Not Tagore-Ray-Communism-Lazy Bengalis-Football. No. Calcutta is known for two illegal businessman with their fans waving Communist flags while they sing-and-dance in designer wear. Read full review here.


Kaho Na Kaho Social Sanjay Niranjan Sikandar,



Fell asleep 10 minutes into the film.


Darr @ the Mall                                                Horror Pawan Kripalani Jimmy Shergill, Nushrat Bharucha, Arif Zakaria,

Asif Basra, Nivedita Bhattacharya

A commendable effort, the film is creepy and gives you the right kind of chills. Thankfully, it takes horror out of the ‘bhoot bangla’ and ‘bhatakti atma’ and gives us a dose of urban legend. The editor and the VFX team deserves a pat.


Highway                                              Drama/Romance Imtiaz Ali Randeep Hooda,

Alia Bhatt

A brave director who has nothing to lose. An actor who has sharpened his craft. A starlet who proved her mettle. And how. Highway is a masterpiece, a sliver of honest and fearless film making from a team who does not give a hoot about commercial rules or box office calculations. While the screenplay falters at parts and the music is forgettable, what remains with you is a bundle of complex emotions portrayed to the hilt by exceptional actors.


Shaadi Ke Side Effects                                  Romance/Comedy Saket Chaudhary Farhan Akhtar,

Vidya Balan,

Vir Das,

Ram Kapoor,

Gautami Kapoor,

Ila Arun,


Purab Kohli,

Rati Agnihotri

I never use the word ‘pakao’ but nothing describes this film better. And yes, thank you for ripping off Modern Family gags. Mothers of this country, please give birth to original scriptwriters.





Gulaab Gang                                      Social/Action Soumik Sen Madhuri Dixit,

Juhi Chawla

A cinematic treat to watch the likes of Madhuri, Juhi, and Priyanka Bose in this performance driven social drama. Juhi Chawla, why didn’t you find this ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude before?


Queen                                  Romance/Drama Vikas Bahl Kangana Ranaut, Rajkummar Rao, Lisa Haydon Kangana, you wonderful wonderful thing.


Total Siyappa                                     Drama/Comedy E Niwas Ali Zafar,

Yami Gautam,

Sara Khan,

Anupam Kher,

Kiron Kher

Just not enough siyappa. But Ali Zafar is drool worthy. Yami Gautam sells fairness creams better.


Bewakoofiyaan                                                Romance Nupur Asthana Ayushmann Khurrana,

Sonam Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor

Idiocy. Ayushmann, stop trying to create versions of Vicky. Your acting days are numbered. Sonam, stop trying to act. Make clothes, little girl, go play ‘dress up’ with your sister.


Ankhon Dekhi                                                                   Comedy Rajat Kapoor Sanjay Mishra, Rajat Kapoor,

Samit Das, Brijendra Kala

I confess I haven’t seen it yet. But have only been hearing good reviews. Looking forward to catch it soon.


Gang of Ghosts                                 Horror Comedy Satish Kaushik Sharman Joshi, Mahie Gill,

Anupam Kher, Meera Chopra, Saurabh Shukla, Chunky Pandey

Do not remake a Bengali cult classic if you do not have a talent pool to match the original. And of all films, you wanted to mess around with Bhooter Bhobishyot? Really?


Lakshmi                                               Social drama Nagesh Kukunoor Monali Thakur, Satish Kaushik, Shefali Shetty,

Ram Kapoor

Brutal. Period.
Ragini MMS 2    Horror Bhushan Patel Sunny Leone, Parvin Dabas,

Divya Dutta

Boobs, banshees and bitches…oh, did I mention bullshit?


Photo courtesy: Google images