PRAN Nevile seems passionately obsessed with the bygone era. For some reason or other, this retired civil servant is rather fascinated by the past and with the characters who had then held sway. This is amply evident from the volumes that he has authored. The titles of these are telling enough — Love Stories from the Raj; Nautch Girls of India; Beyond the Veil; Rare Glimpses of the Raj; Stories from the Raj: Sahibs Memsahibs and Others; K.L. Saigal: Immortal Singer; Lahore — A Sentimental Journey.
If one were to move further, from the books he has authored, to the musical programmes he holds, then once again, what hits you is the focus on stars, singers and performers of yesteryears — right from K.L. Saigal, Suraiyya and so many others who have left a mark. Credit goes to Nevile for putting together gems from old music albums, recordings and more along the strain.
Last fortnight, he went a step ahead and played tapes of a mushaira held in Delhi exactly 50 years ago.
He aptly called it — Memories of Indo-Pak Mushaira-1958. He said, "Mushairas have been traditional cultural events, both in India and Pakistan. The DCM group used to organise an annual mushaira in Lyallpur (now Faislabad) where it had its cotton mills. Sir Shankar Lal ‘Shad’ of the DCM, himself a poet, was a great patron of mushairas. There was a gap during the Partition years. It was only in 1952 that an Indo-Pak mushaira was organised at the mansion of Sir Shankar Lal on Curzon Road in Delhi. Thereafter, it became an annual event when eminent poets from Pakistan were invited to participate. I have tried to cover the 1958 event where I was able to record their recitations."
The audience sat tight and glued at the India Habitat Centre auditorium, hearing poets of that era recite their own verses, which Nevile had managed to record.
I am not too sure whether he has played those tapes earlier, but then, it doesn’t really matter, for it will always be a refreshing dose to hear those voices, of those shayars of the subcontinent. Though that particular evening he could not play the complete recording, but whatever one heard that evening transported one to an era where life moved at an easy pace.
As he moved from one taped recording to the next, he also narrated anecdotes and lesser-known facts about the poets.
I quote him. "Hafiz Jalandhari called politicians batair baaz. It is these politicians who make people fight among themselves. At the mushaira, there were three Sahirs present — Sahir Dehlavi, Sahir Kapurthali and Sahir Hoshiarpuri. Habib Jalib had been popular as he was one of those rebel poets who were either in jail or out protesting on the streets of Lahore. Particularly taken up by his strong conviction and commitment was Noor Jehan. The oldest shayar around at that time was Jigar Moradabadi, and that was perhaps the last mushaira he’d participated in as he died in 1960. "
Along with the taped verses and the accompanying anecdotes, there was a live rendition of the nazms and ghazals of those shayars by Radhika Chopra, a classical singer.
Some of the shayars whose voices and verses lie captured in Pran Nevile’s tapes are:
ka samaa yaad aya
maghrab se ghataa peene ka mausam aa gayaa
dile veerane yaad jamna ko kayee baar kiya,
Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Hum jo tareeq
dida-e-namnaq mein lehrate rahe
aakhir naa ghar ki aag ashqon se naseem
sitam yaad na apni hi wafa yaad
Bin piye sharaab se nafrat ye jahalat nahi to phir kya hai...sau ghamon ko nichorne ke baad ek katra sharaab banti hai
Ye duniya hai musarrat ko yahaan par gham bhi kehte hain
Ali Sardar Jaffery
Phir ek din aisa ayega aakhon ke diye bujh jayenege...sadiyon ka purana khel hai ye mein mar ke amar ho jaata hoon.