Much to the disappointment of hundreds and thousands of his fans, Mainul Ahsan Nobel, or just Nobel did not get his usual Golden Guitar in the rendition of R D Burman’s song, Tumi Je Koto Dure. He sang it technically right, he sang it mellifluously and sang it powerfully but then there was something that did not quite connect him and his listeners. I can vouch for this because I have gone through the various versions of this song by many singers and must have heard Nobel sing the song at least twenty-five times. Every time I felt that there was something going against Nobel in the song.
Nobel is an aspiring singer from Bangladesh who follows closely legends like the Late Ayub Bachchu and James. He turned twenty-one during the Sa Re Ga Ma Pa show in 2018. Largely self-taught and self-cultivated, Nobel expectedly ruined his parents dreams of a career in the usual professions of the middle class and entered into the high-risk zone of music, where only a few can ever reach the top while for the many other aspirants it is the oblivion. What guides Nobel’s spirit is thus largely a maladjustment with his family, the mutual pulling apart of a need to make his parents happy and a need to pursue his dreams. No wonder then the rendition of the Bollywood song, Papa Kehte Hain sounded much better than the original sang by Udit Narain. This was acknowledged by both Udit Narain and Jatin, the composer of the song. Unfortunately, in case of R D Burman, Nobel could not connect with the spirit of the undying soul of RD.
The genre of the rock music has its defined style because it starts from a base, hits on the centre and then gathering momentum zooms past the core to scatter into an openness. The Bollywood song is just the opposite. It surrounds a chaotic material and like the spider spinning the web, weaves closer towards a centre and ends by rounding off the song material. The movement of the rock and the Bollywood song are thus contrary to each other. Rock is the music of loss, Bollywood is of gain, of accumulation. Rock can end in death and dissolution, Bollywood asserts life through regeneration and rejuvenation. Therefore, despite the lyrics of the song Tumi Je pronouncing a loss, the tune finally turns in to reconnect with the hope of life, literally of resurrection. The female voice, Asha Bhonsle in the original version and now the female chorus, performs the task of wrapping up the song from its outward journey towards its centre as a reassertion of life. Looked at carefully the song is a duet though it sounds like a solo number for it is only through the female voice the song gets complemented and completed. Typical rock music is never a whole, it revels in its incompletion and sense of loss.
For Nobel whose voice is one of despair, of annihilation, of shooting out beyond limits into a point of no return, metaphor of both the genre of the rock as well as of his life so far, can hardly be expected to sit right for a Bollywood song, especially of R D so absorbing of life, so much soaking in the regenerative force of youth. I guess something similar happened in Nobel’s duet with Snigdhajit in the song Dil Chahta Hai for here too, Nobel sounded out of sorts with the Bollywood genre. However, for Papa Kehte Hain, he could extract the tears in the song and present it in his own way into a point of a no return and thus drew the song into his own genre of rock.
Nobel’s star performance is undoubtedly his rendition of Khwaja Mere Khwaja, the devotional song from Jodha Akbar. When Rahman, the composer and the original singer of the song sings it, it feels as though an Emperor is in a meditative mood, asking the Divine for peace of mind and guidance. Here both entities of the King and God are intact despite the intimate communion with each other. When Nobel sings it, it becomes the despair of one who has lost all, surrenders completely to the Divine beseeching the Great One to absorb him in his unconditional devotion of Him. Nobel dissolves the song material and the song like the rock genre loses its centre and shoots right up to what the judges of the show say, the Divine connect.
His rendition of Pathe Ebar Namo Saathi, the immortal IPTA number by Salil Chowdhury is perhaps historically the ever best. There was self-annihilation and martyrdom in the rendition; as a Bangladeshi he takes upon himself to express the nation, that final limit that defines the politics of the modern person. Hemanta Mukherjee sang it as a song of the spirit and the IPTA as an ideology; the spirit that guided these songs were sectarian and partial and fell short of Nobel’s reach at the outermost limits of his existence.
Nobel sang Amaro Porano Jaha Chay also as never before. I have searched long enough in the YouTube to be able to say this with some certainty. This song too has a climax at its moment of giving up with the lines those imply a final parting of ways. Once again, the song offers a possibility of self-dissolution and Nobel laps up the opportunity to make perhaps the finest ever rendition.
I have observed that Nobel lays a lot of stress on the lyrics of the song. This may be an important thing to do in case of rock music in which the lyrics generate, accumulate and eventually push forth the music. Unfortunately for other kinds of songs, the music merely rides on the lyrics; understanding the web of notes become important and not the poetry. I think that this is what the judges said to Nobel when they said that the way he sung the number of R D Burman missed out on the play of the tunes.
The Bollywood genre is a difficult genre because it must return to the regenerative centre no matter how nihilistically it starts off. The rock is nihilism itself, cynical of an order whose structure seems oppressive. Bollywood is of the home, rock is of the world. Bollywood is media circulated but enjoyed individually, rock is presented individually but consumed as a member of the collective. Rock gets created in the ears of the listener as it rolls out. It cannot be a finished product that can be poured out in a new bottle, the newness of the renditioner being its newness. Therefore rock singers must choose Bollywood songs with care and vice versa.