Chitra Singh says in his life and in his passing away, husband and legendary singer Jagjit Singh has given her a reason to live. Filmfare shares moments with the braveheart
Song Of The Soul
Jagjit and Chitra Singh became largely spiritual in his later years,” she says her referring to Jagjit as Papa coming as a surprise. “He called me Mummy, I called him Papa. When Baboo (their late son Vivek) was alive, I’d say, ‘Jaao, Papa ko bulao’. That’s how I too began calling him Papa.”
“Papa was a one man institution; he did everything himself, right from selecting the lyrics to composing,” she says. She asserts he was particular about poetry being intelligible. “Gulzar’s poetry is at times abstract. Papa wouldn’t hesitate to say, ‘Mujhe samajh mein nahin aaya, toh logon ko kya aayega (when I can’t understand it, how will the listeners?’),” she says adding, “Haath choote bhi toh rishte nahin choota karte (Pinjar) was their favourite.”
Chitra says calling him a ‘ghazal singer’ would be restricting Jagjit’s genius. “He was a unique musician. His voice was so different it never could match any hero. It only grew richer with time. When Mahesh Bhatt used his voice for Raj Kiran in Arth (1983), he was younger and his voice was not so heavy. We also sang for Saath Saath (1982) where his voice suited the mood of the film. But generally, his remained background songs.” She underlines Jagjit’s role in popularising the ghazal. “Earlier, the ghazal was referred to something sung for the elderly and those sung by Begum Akhtar, Angoori Bai and others. Jagjitji made it easy on the ears. Men and women in the audience would weep. He made every listener feel that he was only singing for him.”
Chitra asserts that Jagjit’s reach was not confined to those who understood the language. “He was once to perform at a live concert in Wembley. Before the show some foreigners came to him with his album in their hands and asked for his autograph saying, ‘We love your music’. It was the emotions that appealed to them.” She continues, “There was a friend in England who insisted that the doctors play our album Beyond Time each time his wife went in for the delivery of their three children.”
She condemns music becoming ‘a callisthenic show’ today. “A song is not about vocal acrobatics, it’s the sound of your soul. You’ve to express the sentiment of the poet. The difference is exactly that between a gymnast and a ballet dancer. The gymnast has expertise but a ballet dancer is fluid.” It angers her when singers call themselves Jagjit’s disciple. “Recently, I attended an event where some of his ghazals were sung. Apart from the basic tune, you couldn’t recognise them as his. A singer introduced himself as Jagjitji’s disciples. There was not a trace of Jagjitji’s singing in his voice. How dare they call themselves his disciples! I am his only disciple.”
My Guru, My Guide
That makes her recall their first meeting in 1967. “I met him at a recording for a music director who wanted to compile a collection with various singers. My first memory of Jagjitji was him resting his hand on the door as I opened it, half asleep. He came in, walked to the corner of the room and fell asleep.” But when she heard him sing, Chitra found his voice unlike all that she had heard.
“I told the music director that his voice was heavy and that I wouldn’t be able to sing with him,” recounts Chitra. But eventually she did sing. And as his voice grew on her, so did his ‘caring’ personality. Chitra eventually married Jagjit in 1969 (she was earlier married to Debu Dutta).
From singing jingles they went on to cut the most iconic of their albums The Unforgettables (1978). With gems like Raat bhi neend bhi and Baat nikalegi in it, he simplified the ghazal without robbing its richness. A string of albums including Main Aur Meri Tanhai, The Latest, Ecstasies, Echoes and Beyond Time (the first digitally recorded album by an Indian artiste) and concerts won the pair worldwide appreciation. During the same decade also came films Saath Saath and Arth (remains the highest selling cassette combination). But soon life hit a catastrophic note…
Tragedy And Tears
Jagjit and Chitra’s world came crashing down on July 27, 1990 when their only son Vivek passed away in a road accident. The shattered mother lost her voice and withdrew into a shell. While Jagjit immersed himself in music and more music, Chitra sought solace in spirituality and even practised Bowen healing. The difficult phase also fuelled rumours of trouble in their marriage. “It was just jealousy. People spread rumours that we had split and were even living separately,” says Chitra.
And even as the mother somehow came to terms with the loss when tragedy struck again. Chitra’s daughter and ex-model Monica Dutta, 50, committed suicide on May 29, 2009. “Papa was shaken after Monica’s death. He had seen her as a five-year-old. She was like his daughter. He was touring America then. He cancelled his shows, kept flying for two days catching connecting flights to reach home. He was distraught though he never expressed much. But his quiet presence and support was enough.”
“My daughter was so beautiful and strong. She handled things singlehandedly! But ultimately, she lost, she couldn’t cope any more. She had a rough life (referring to Monica’s failed marriages),” says Chitra, who was living with Monica then. “I was talking to her till 3 am. I must have been insensitive not to have sensed that she would do such a thing. What kind of a mother am I? I should have given her more support. I blame myself for that,” says the devastated mother who’s keeping up a brave front for the sake of her grandsons Umair and Armaan (Monica’s sons from her first marriage with cinematographer Jehangir Choudhary). “They have lost the roof over their head and the ground below their feet. I cook for Armaan, he needs a different diet as he gyms. It gives me joy.”
Within two years of losing Monica, Chitra lost her anchor Jagjit in 2011. Just before his demise, Jagjit wasn’t keeping well but continued doing shows. “A few days before his death, his good friend and musician Amar Haldipur had taken him to show some places in Madh Island. When they were returning back in a ferry, Papa was quiet. Amar asked him, ‘What happened?’ Papa replied, ‘Kya yaar jaane ke waqt yeh sab kya dikha rahe ho (now that it’s time to go why are you’re showing me all this)?’!”
So many heartbreaks but Chitra is not someone to wallow in self-pity. “When I lost Baboo the question ‘why me’ would bother me. Not anymore. Spirituality changes your thinking. There has to be a reason whether I understand it or not. Any other woman in my place would have crumbled or become bedridden. But I didn’t allow that to happen. Because I don’t have the luxury of indulging myself. Also, I’m not scared of death. I welcome it this moment. But there are many things that need to be done. Since Vivek passed away, there was this thing between my daughter, Papa and me as to who would meet him first. Both of them have beaten me to it!” she breaks down. “Everything in life is momentary yaa jee lo, yaa jhel lo (enjoy the moment or endure it),” she sums up life quoting their ghazal, “Manzil na de, charag na de, hausla toh de…”
Written By Farhana Farook