Saturday, March 12, 2016

Love transcends barriers

The hallmark of an artist’s creation cannot be judged by popularity alone but by its ability to transcend man-made boundaries and division to reflect human condition and espouse harmony and love among people. “Shillongorey Monalisa Lyngdoh”, a song penned by Bhupen Hazarika, composed by his brother Jayanta Hazarika and rendered by both makes this cut. Helen Giri, musicologist and historian sums up the song as “one line of poetry, one line of song, one volume of history to write.” Bringing these aspects of the song and its creators to the fore is the radio show titled “Monalisa – A Girl, A Song And A Dream”, produced by Basudha Banerji, Programme Executive, Central English Features Unit, All India Radio, which received the Public Service Broadcasting Award 2015.

On the face of it “Shillongorey…” is a peppy symbolic love song about romance between an Assamese, non-tribal and a Hindu boy and a Khasi, tribal and Christian girl. Written in 1972 against the backdrop of the trauma and upheaval of division of States, the story of sundering of romance between the pair is an allegory for the separation of a political kind –– the carving out of Meghalaya from “Undivided Assam”. Though the two communities were wary of each other politically and socially, inter-community romances were not uncommon in Shillong, culminating sometimes in marriage. The creation of Meghalaya brought an abrupt end to many a relationship. Explaining the lyrics of the song, the show underlines the natural beauty of the land and the customs of its people. At the same time it takes the listener through this divide between the communities and its repercussions on the lovers.

Interestingly the song, created more than 40 years ago, is relevant in present times, when news of honour killings often makes headlines. Highlighting this, Basudha observes: “Two people falling in love is a beautiful thing. This song celebrates such an act of defiance and romance, cutting across artificial barriers. It is through such artistic renderings that raising one’s voice again dominant paradigms of discrimination descend from the realm of arts to that of reality.”

Based on a script by Mitra Phukan, a prominent literary voice in English from the North East, the show provides an in-depth historical and social perspective of the song while highlighting its underlying layers and their meanings and importance. Narration by Rahul Chatterjee, Sanjay Mattoo and Jyoti Raghavan aptly conveys the varied elements and nuances of the script providing the listener a visual imagery. Interspersed in the narrative are observations by people closely associated with the region and the personalities.