'Dedh Ishqiya' courts controversy by forgetting Begum Akhtar

Sunday, 12 January 2014 - 7:15am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Album cover crediting Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj for the thumri 'Hamari attariya' angers the legendary singer's descendants, music lovers.

At a time when the Akhilesh Yadav government’s largesse of a Rs1 crore aid for Madhuri Dixit’s Dedh Ishqiya and the waiving of entertainment tax has come in for sharp criticism, as a quid pro quo for her performance at the Saifai fest, there comes another controversy.

The album for the dhak-dhak girl’s comeback vehicle, credits Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj for the thumri ‘Hamari attariya’. Both Begum Akhtar’s descendants and music lovers have expressed shock and dismay that it has traditional lyrics and is remembered for her version, yet she doesn’t find mention anywhere on the film’s album cover.

“How could they do this at a time when the country is observing Begum Akhtar’s centenary?”  said an angry Nazreen Akhtar, her Lucknow-based granddaughter. “Even if they have changed words in between, isn’t it necessary to give credit to one of the brightest stars of this country’s musical legacy?”

Cultural historian Salim Kidwai, who has been working to preserve Akhtar’s musical legacy, too expressed anguish over what he called “a moral transgression.”

“Maybe this cannot be challenged legally and Akhtar’s family may not have the wherewithal to fight out a protracted battle, but Bollywood, which is a multi-crore industry, should have more grace than this,” he said.

The legend’s disciple from Delhi, Shanti Hiranand, who has penned a biography Begum Akhtar: The Story of My Ammi, too said she was aghast. “This brings back memories of ‘Door hai manzil, rahein mushkil’ — the Shakil Badayuni ghazal which someone had recorded in London and was calling their own.” Having been witness to meetings between composer Madan Mohan and Akhtar, who shared a close rapport since his stint with All India Radio, Lucknow, she reminisced, “He would meet Aapa (elder sister) and take her consent for even using bits from her work or improvising from it.”

Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee president Rita Bahuguna too tore into Akhilesh Yadav’s defence of his largesse for the film. “Since the chief minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh have publicly demonstrated their closeness to the film’s team, why can’t they use these good offices to question them on the slight by the filmmakers to one of not only Uttar Pradesh’s but also the country’s tallest cultural icons?” she asked.

Repeated attempts to reach both Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj drew a blank, but the latter’s wife Rekha, who has sung the adapted version for the film, admitted to the lapse. “This has happened in the first lot of 2,000 CDs. The moment Vishal got to know we sent out a mail asking for amends to be made in the second lot,” she told dna and added, “You will see that we have given a special mention to Begum Akhtar in the film credits.”

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