His kingdom, long protected by the British under treaty, was eventually annexed bloodlessly on 11 February 1856, two days before the ninth anniversary of his coronation. The Nawab was exiled to Garden Reach in Metiabruz , then a suburb of Kolkata , where he lived out the rest of his life on a generous pension. He was a poet, playwright, dancer and great patron of the arts. He is widely credited with the revival of Kathak as a major form of classical Indian dance.

Desh is classified as audav-sampoorna. It means that it uses only five notes – sa, re, ma, pa and ni – in the ascent, while all the seven are used in the descent. All notes except ni are shuddha. Ni is shuddha in ascent, but komal in descent. Let me illustrate the characteristic ascent and descent of Desh with the help of one of the most well known compositions – the original version of Vande Mataram. I believe it was composed by Pandit Omkarnath Thakur.

Some years after her father’s death, Lata moved to Mumbai. Initially, she was mentored and nurtured by Master Vinayak, a filmmaker of the 1930s and a family friend of the Mangeshkars and also by Ghulam Haider, who is known for giving Lata her first break. Lata’s initial competition came in the shape of Suraiya, Shamshad Begum and especially, Noor Jehan who was considered the critics’ darling at a time, a better singer than Lata. In a 2004 essay for Outlook magazine, veteran music writer Raju Bharatan wondered if Lata would “have attained the ‘super’ status she did if Noor Jehan (as the ‘brighter’ voice) had chosen to stay on in India after Partition?” Bharatan asked the same question to Naushad (who gave Lata the unforgettable gems such as Tu ganga ki mauj in Baiju Bawra and Pyaar kiya toh darna kya in Mughal-E-Azam). Naushad felt that Noor Jehan’s move to Pakistan destroyed any chances of her pan-India appeal. “Once Noor Jehan opted to base herself in Lahore rather than Bombay,” Naushad explained to Bharatan, “the range and variety of composers who came to work on her vocals became automatically restricted. Since Noor Jehan no longer enjoyed the supreme advantage Lata did—of music directors hailing from 13 states of India bringing to her vocals a treasure trove of tunes. Thus Noor Jehan fatally typed herself as a Punjabi-Urdu singer. While Lata Mangeshkar became the cosmopolitan voice of all Hindustan, representative of each praanth from Maharashtra to Orissa.” And yet, it was Naushad who asked her to sing like Noor Jehan for Mehboob Khan’s Andaz (1949)!


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