This coming Saturday, 14th April, is Baisakhi Day. It’s a great occasion for the Sikhs, especially farmers who offer gratitude for the harvest and pray for a bright tomorrow. Baisakhi also sings Happy Birthday to the Khalsa faith, which was born way back in 1699. This is a family of soldier-saints from the Sikh faith, which itself was started much earlier, in the 16th century.
On this day, many places witness a prabhat-pheri, which is a morning procession of believers walking through the streets and singing hymns from the holy book, Granth Sahib. These singers typically go with thoughts like, “Tujh bin koi naahi, waheguru, waheguru, waheguru” (there is no one but you, wonderful Lord) and ”Tera keeta jaato naahin” (I have not appreciated your blessings). The lead singer reads from the holy book he carries along, and the others repeat in keertan style, ie shared recitation of a religious thought. For all this, they carry a couple of basic microphones and several percussion instruments: cymbals, chimtas, kartals, a dholak strung around the neck, with some beaters and rattles. Everyone joins in.
My friend from Mumbai, Sardar Manjit Singh Kalsi has for decades been part of such early morning devotional processions, and will be doing the same this year too. He also loves cinema, which is what binds me to him, and he informs me that later in the evening he will be thinking of wrestler and actor Dara Singh, though not for his work in cinema or in the wrestling arena. For the evening event, he has invited me too. We will look at the Dara Singh part later, including why I have politely declined the invite, but for now let’s get a bit reacquainted with some of the Sikhs who did a good deal of work in Hindi films. Since there have been so many of them, and we don’t have space here, we’ll just look at the main names in a hurry. And we will make this a flying visit over a couple of their songs only, so that they appear on a common musical platform here, regardless of whether they faced the camera, wrote the song, composed it, sang it, or filmed it.
- Dara Singh, actor: Dil hai hamaara phool se naazuk (with Kamran in Faulaad, 1963), and Sooni-sooni lag rahi hai zindagi tere baghair (with Meenakshi in Chaalbaaz, 1969)
- Dharmendra, actor: Aapke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai (Bahaaren Phir Bhi Ayengi, 1966), and Bahaaron ne mera chaman loot kar (Devar, 1966)
- Geeta Bali (Harkeertan Kaur), actress: Dil dhadke nazar sharmaaye to samjho pyaar ho gaya (Albela, 1951), and Hum pyaar mein jalne waalon ko chain kahaan (Jailor, 1958)
- GS Kohli, composer: Pyaar ki raah dikha duniya ko (Lambe Haath, 1960), and Agar main poochhoon jawaab doge (Shikaari, 1963)
- Gulzar, lyricist, filmmaker: Mora gora ang lai le (Bandini, 1963), and Tum aa gaye ho noor aa gaya hai (Aandhi, 1975)
- HS Rawail (Harnam Singh Rawail), filmmaker: Ye nayi nayi preet hai (Pocket Maar, 1956), and Aye husn zara jaag tujhe ishq jagaaye (Mere Mehboob, 1963)
- Jagjit Kaur, singer: Tum apna ranj-o-gham (Shagun, 1964), and Kaahe ko byaahe bides (Umrao Jaan, 1981)
- Jagjit Singh, singer, composer: Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho (Arth, 1983), and Hosh waalon ko khabar kya (Sarfarosh, 1999)
- Kabir Bedi, actor: Jab bhi ye dil udaas hota hai (with Simi in Seema, 1971), and Waqt thoda sa abhi kuchh aur guzar jaane de (with Simi in Seema)
- Kuldip Kaur, actress: Gore-gore o baanke chhore (with Nalini Jaywant in Samadhi, 1950), and Abhi to main jawaan hoon (Afsana, 1951)
- Neetu Singh, actress: Ek main aur ek tu (with Rishi Kapoor in Khel Khel Mein, 1975), and Hum banjaaron ki baat mat poochho ji (with Jeetendra in Dharam Veer, 1977)
- Poonam Dhillon, actress: Aye saagar ki lehro (with Sunny Deol in Samundar, 1986), and Door naheen ja sakti tujhse (Hisaab Khoon Ka, 1989)
- Rajinder Singh Bedi, writer, filmmaker: Ye bahaaron ka sama chaand taaron ka sama (Milap, 1955), and Toote hue khwaabon ne humko ye sikhaaya hai (Madhumati, 1958)
- S Mohinder (Mohinder Singh Sarna), composer: Tera kaam hai jalna parwaane (Paapi, 1953), and Guzra hua zamaana aata naheen dubaara (Shirin Farhad, 1956)
- Sardul Kawatra, composer: Pyaar bhi aata hai kabhi gussa bhi aata hai (Goonj, 1952), and Tabiyat theek thi aur dil bhi beqaraar na tha (Mirza Saheban, 1957)
- Simi Garewal, actress: Ye kaun aaya roshan ho gayi mehfil kiske naam se (Saathi, 1968), and Teetar ke do aage teetar (Mera Naam Joker, 1970)
- Uttam Singh, instrumentalist, arranger and composer: Are re are ye kya hua (Dil To Paagal Hai, 1997), and Main nikla gaddi leke (Gadar, 2001)
You may perhaps know that Baisakhi goes hand in hand with the folk dance bhangra, but there is no bhangra song in the list above. This is because the idea was to go away from the predictable, to see other cultural dimensions of the Sikhs here, even if we did so on Baisakhi day. This thought was sparked by the Dara Singh invite I declined, an event that has nothing to do with Dara Singh’s turf, ie, acting and wrestling. As many of us know, the man was also known for his voracious appetite, like a dozen eggs and two chickens and several glasses of milk in a single morning session, all of which he needed to keep his metabolism going, what with his workouts and all. Consistent with the late hero’s polyphagous reputation, an inventive Sardarji from Mumbai has started offering a huge vegetarian and non-vegetarian platter for lunch and dinner. Called the Dara Singh Thali, the platter is there to be eaten in his restaurants called Mini Punjab in Powai and Thane. The thali contains 40 different items: half a dozen non-veg dishes, 15 large bowls of dals and vegetables, soup, curds, kachumbar, papads, pickles, biryani, with a spread of 7 large rotis and parathas. It also contains 6 desserts. Still have room? They give you a few glasses of coolers to drink. If after all this, you still have room, you can wash things down with the 9” glass of lassi. You pay Rs 1154 including taxes for this meal, and they let up to four people eat out of it. If however, you can finish eating it alone, you pay nothing. Apparently, no one has been able to do that yet.
As for why I’m not going, it’s because it is said people in that restaurant look at newbies in an amused fashion. Everyone does go for the challenge too, in an “us-versus-the-platter” kind of way, and they end up seeing others get delighted to see them lose this battle. Worse, when people eat like gluttons, they lower their sense of self-esteem. This is not the kind of thali people eat. It’s the kind of platter that eats people.
Featured image on top: Gulzar wearing a turban
Originally published on page 13 in DNA Jaipur 8 April 2018 http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2018-04-08