October 19, 2002 
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Water in melancholy, a new sound
Gulzar and Abhishek Ray come together in the unique album Udaas Paani

Subhash K Jha

From the time he wrote Mora gora ang lai le for Bimal Roy's Bandini, poet-lyricist-author-filmmaker Gulzar has always stretched the borders of popular entertainment.

The aestheticism that we associate with his art now erupts into a new experience called Udaas Paani, an album that invents a new genre of music by fusing Western and Indian classical popular compositions, arranged by Abhishek Ray, with the nazm of Gulzar.

Gulzar reveals how this unique project came about:

I ran into Abhishek Ray in Delhi. He wanted me to hear some of his compositions; I gladly agreed. That is how we decided to collaborate on Udaas Pani. This album can neither be called a music album nor a poetry album. The music and poetry merge with seamless splendour. It is not an album where listeners stop short in the tracks to wonder, 'Ab beech mein poetry kahan se aa gayee [How did the poetry fit into this]?'

"It has to be experienced as one complete work of art. I think it goes into a new genre. Like the Western symphonies of the great masters, Abhishek has composed emotions, pieces with musical and vocal phrases and components. My poetry is a component of Abhishek's symphonic compositions. He had these ragas playing in his subconscious and wanted my poems to qualify and describe the feelings in these ragas.

"He invited me to listen to his compositions at his cosy studio in the Asiad Village in Delhi. I told him to let me hear what he has done. I then advised him to blend some poems into the compositions. I wrote two poems according to one of his pieces. Uske aankhon mein thodi si chamak aayee [His eyes twinkled]. Then he selected more of my poems from my book.

"I brought back his compositions to Mumbai, listened to them carefully and selected some of my lines to suit the tunes. If Abhishek's composition was about rain, I advised him to select my lines about rain and then add suitable sound effects. He tried it and then we took it forward from there.

"Why have we called the album Udaas Paani? Because no one else thought of it (laughs). The title is from my lines in the album: Bas ek hi sur mein, ek hi lay mein subah se dekh, kaise baras raha hai udaas pani. I recently met Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and he said, 'Title to bahut khoobsoorat hai. Lekin humlog soch rahe hain ke pani kaise udaas ho sakta hai [The title is beautiful, but we are wondering how water can be sad].'

"Abhishek too had reservations about the title. But the music company, Times Music immediately liked the title. It refers to falling rain."

"I see Abhishek as a composer of emotions. He reminds me of Salil Chowdhury. Abhishek's compositions are intricate. He is crazy about Nature and wildlife. He goes on tiger-counting expeditions. Last year, he was injured when he was chased by a wild elephant. Both his parents are classical musicians. So he has inherited a flair for ragas.

"Abhishek's father has played the sitar in Udaas Paani. Abhishek has also studied in Western classical music. So he has imbibed the best of both the worlds. Ultimately he will be absorbed into film music. He deserves it."
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Meanwhile, Abhishek Ray has this to say about Udaas Paani:

Udaas Paani has a unique sound.

This album was conceived over two years ago. I had created eight to ten compositions based on pure ragas. I had saved them from my work in television and films. I wanted these to remain untainted from commercial constraints. These tunes are close to my heart. I wanted them to be projected in a way that would satisfy me. Then I discussed them with Gulzarsaab.

"I told him these compositions are very strong in mood, expressing every emotion from separation to union with the beloved. You know some of thes compositions expressed moods identical to Gulzar's poetry. He narrated a poem, I composed and arranged one raga. He felt the compositions suited the poetry. That is how Udaas Paani started.

"I have worshipped him from my childhood. Gulzarsaab is an icon for me. I have read, heard and seen his work. You cannot separate the music from the poetry in Udaas Paani. It is neither poetry nor a music album. It is a collection of moods painted on a canvas of sounds. The poetry almost sounds like a component of the orchestration. It emerges from the music and goes right back into it. A lot of the poetry that you hear has been written specially for this album. Some of it I picked up from his published work.

"Like a lot of Bengali families, music is a favourite pastime in our home. I am the first member of my family to take up music professionally. I graduated in physics from Delhi University, and then completed my master's in computer application. But music remained an ongoing passion. Even when I was studying, I composed music for a lot of television serials on Zee, Sony, etc. I set up my own studio four years ago with some expensive equipment from Los Angeles.

"Naturally I had to earn money to keep the studio going. Music is my only source of income. So I had to do music for serials. Some of that work, for example, the soap Rajdhani on Star TV, has been meaningful. I also composed the score for India Magic, a travel show on Sony Television.

"Unlike films everything on television is timebound. When composing for a serial you have to submit the music in two days. Otherwise creative people tend to get very lazy. I have been spared from laziness because of my strong academic background. Exams teach you the value of time.

"I have also done the background score for Tigmanshu Dhulia's Haasil, and composed the song Kajri, by Preeta Mazumdar, in the film. I am also doing the score for a film called Pal Pal Dil Ke Saath, directed by Krishna Kumar. Ajay Jadeja plays the lead and the film is being shot in New Zealand.

Back to Udaas Paani, it is Indian classical fused with world music. Each of the eight compositions goes into a different style of music. One track is symphony, there is jazz, Arabic, Latin and trans-underground...


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