In the past year, COVID-19 has claimed the lives of many talented, and famous poets, writers, artists, musicians and performers. One such creative soul who lost the battle to the deadly virus in August 2020 is the popular Urdu poet and lyricist, Rahat Indori. Indori’s simple, direct yet sharp and honest words could pump life and mirth into drab mushairas and had the capacity to become the cry of dissent during protest rallies. Although Indori’s writings were often political, his poems on love, relationships, and human nature struck a chord with the audiences and made his writing memorable. It also helped that he always delivered his Shayari punchlines with flare and theatrics.
To commemorate Indori’s talent and beautiful poems, a music streaming platform, SongDew, has brought together several musicians to compose songs with his poetry and artists to design those songs’ cover art. The entire initiative, titled ‘Ek Alag Pehchan’, has birthed an album with diverse voices and many interesting representations by artists. The musicians and Indie bands who have composed one song each out of Indori’s poems are Fiddlecraft, Osho Jain, Mansimran-Harshit, The Tapi Project, Harpreet Singh, Bawari Basanti, Rupam Bhuyan, and Prateek Gandhi & Aashran Mahajan. The songs’ cover arts were designed by Asit Patnaik, Jagannath Paul, Laxman Aelay, Partha Bhattacharjee, Soni Khanna, Sidharth & Mukesh Sah, Gogi Saroj Pal, and Sanjay Bhattacharya.
Talking about adapting Indori’s words to music, Mahima Mathur, who is professionally known as Bawari Basanti told News18.com, “I wanted to compose it keeping in mind what Dr Indori would have done if he was also a musician. The words are moody, and I tried to balance that with the instrumentation, giving it a retro qawwali feel.”
Mahima said that it is Indori’s wit and honesty that resonated most with her. Bawari Basanti composed a song titled Khabar Mein Kaho for the album. Mathur said, “The lines of the song questioned my nomadic self, and I connected with them instantly. To me, the piece talks about looking out for yourself and being your best version.”
Gaurav Kadu, from the Indie pop band, Fiddlecraft (who sang the song Haath Khali Hain) said that not all poems fit into melodies, and have extended lives as songs. Many poems exist on their own and do nothing more. But, with Indori’s poetry, it only took a few trials for them to find the right tunes.
“What I like most about Indori’s writing is that his poetry was pretty straight forward. Even a kid can understand what he meant, yet all his work was sharp as a knife. Alongside his writing, I’ll always be the fan of his delivery which was truly unmatchable,” said Kadu.
“Most of his writings are relatable to age or generation. It doesn’t have any expiration date, and I am sure that although these were written a long time back, they will always be young,” he added.
Artist Soni Khanna, who painted the cover art for the song, Haath Khaali Hain, which Fiddlecraft sang, said that it isn’t every day that one is commissioned to make a painting based on a song, so when she was asked to do it, she relied on the lyrics to make her art.
“Though all three – mood, music and lyrics — go hand in hand but I think all of us took inspiration from the lyrics at the core and it ended up going well together,” said Khanna.
Rupam Bhuyan, who composed the song, Mere Apne for the album, told News18.com that Indori’s fearlessness and rebellious nature drew him towards his writings. “I read the ghazal several times and tried to feel the depth of Indori’s poem. I took a cue from there and tried to express it simply like Indori always did. I just kept myself from overdoing anything, and that’s all,” said Bhuyan.
“If you know the essence of the whole song, you can visualize the same through your art. What makes it fun is creating symbolism that reflects the small things present in the music or the lyrics,” said artist Partha Bhattacharjee, who has painted the cover art for Bhuyan’s song, Mere Apne.
“When I heard this track, it made me think about betrayal and that feeling of loss. The song tells a story, and I have tried to put that down on the canvas. It talks about a man betrayed in love by his beloved,” he added. Bhattacharya has used subtle elements like a serpentine necklace to depict the woman’s betraying nature about whom the song is. He has painted the memories of the two together over the man’s shirt.