Chitra singh family photos

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Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh. Two names. One identity. In the annals of Indian music the husband-wife duo will be eulogised for retrieving the ghazal from the durbars of the nawabs and bringing it in our homes. What truly has made them ‘unforgettable’ (also the name of their largest selling album) was the fact that their renditions were not merely about sharab, shabab and shama. They spoke of the rites of passage – of love and longing, dreams and dejection, hope and spirituality. Jagjit handpicked verses of Urdu stalwarts like Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir, Daagh Dehlvi right upto Nida Fazli, gave them a raga-based richness along with modern instrumentalisation and set human angst to tune. He not only simplified the ghazal but also made it hummable. The yin to his yang was provided by wife and singer Chitra Singh with whom his synergy was nothing short of lyrical ecstasy. Her pitch balanced his depth. The pair grew iconic through the ’70s and ’80s, triggering a trend of ‘couple singers’ but remained peerless till Chitra turned silent one day... After losing their only son Vivek Singh (18) in a road accident, Chitra ‘lost her voice’ in 1990 and receded in the shadows. But she remained intrinsic in his life and art in his lifetime and even after. A ghazal from his upcoming album The Master And His Magic, which she has compiled for release on October 10, Jagjit Singh’s first death anniversary, says Chitra sums up her journey with him: Dil mein aaj dard-e-mohabbat ke siwa kuch bhi nahin, Zindagi teri ibadat ke siwa kuch bhi nahin” Chitra Singh remembers her husband - The unforgettable Jagjit Singh
Chitra Singh’s life has been more tragedy tinged than all the pain condensed in her ghazals. Having lost her two children, Vivek and her daughter from her first marriage Monica Datta (50) in a span of two decades, the vacuum only grew after she lost husband Jagit last year. But Chitra seems more in control of herself than ever before. “I know he’s around and gives me strength,” she says looking at the huge frame of Jagjit reflecting the diya she has just lit. “I’ve too many responsibilities, too many loose ends to tie. I’m a fighter; having survived is a mere coincidence. Though I don’t know whether I’ll be able to fulfill my responsibilities before my time is up,” says a stoic Chitra who now has her grandsons, Monica’s sons Umair (16) and Armaan (22) as family. “My inner circle has become small. People have just faded away.”

Right now, the promotion of The Master And His Magic — an album featuring eight unreleased compositions of the legend is absorbing her energies. “A good friend and fan of Jagjitji, Sanjay Tayal from Ahmedabad, had preserved some recordings of his live performances between the ‘80s and ‘90s. They were wonderful but had to restored and re-mastered as the tonal quality had changed through the years. In some ghazals his voice sounded young, in some mature.” The album including ghazals written by legends including  Mirza Ghalib, Wasim Bareilvi, Farag Roohvi, resonate the different phases of the singer’s life. Chitra has lent a voiceover before each giving insight into her husband’s music and personality. “Papa’s earlier ghazals were largely romantic but spiritual in the later years,” she says her referring to Jagit as Papa coming as a surprise. “He called me Mummy, I called him Papa. When Baboo (their late son Vivek) was alive, I’d say, ‘Jaao, Papa ko bulao’. That’s how I began calling him Papa.”

Jagjit Singh
SONG OF THE SOUL

“Papa was a one man institution; he did everything himself, right from selecting the lyrics to composing,” she says about Jagjit who recited the works of Ghalib, Ameer Meenai, Daagh and Mir to Ali Sardar Jafri right up to Kaifi Azmi, Sudarshan Fakir, Nida Fazli and Gulzar. She asserts he was particular about poetry being intelligible to the listeners. “Gulzar’s poetry is sometimes abstract. Papa wouldn’t hesitate to say, ‘Mujhe samajh mein nahin aaya, toh public ko kya aayega (when I can’t understand it, how will the listeners?’!’ she says adding, “Haath choote bhi toh rishte nahin choota karte (Pinjar) was their favourite work together.”

Chitra says calling him a ‘ghazal singer’ would be restricting Jagjit’s genius. “He was a unique musician. He came to Mumbai (1965) with the same aspirations as anyone else. But his voice was so different it never could match any hero. It only grew richer with time. When Mahesh Bhatt used his voice for Raj Kiran in Arth (1983), he was a lot younger and his voice was not so heavy. We also sang for Saath Saath (1982) where his voice suited the mood of the film. But generally, his remained background songs.” She underlines Jagjit’s role in popularising the ghazal. “Earlier the ghazal was referred to something sung for the elderly and those sung by Begum Akhtar, Angoori Bai and others. Jagjitji made it easy on the ears. When I sat in the audience, I’d find men and women weeping. He made every listener feel that he was only singing for him.”

Chitra asserts that Jagjit’s reach was not confined to those who understood the language. “He was once to perform at a live concert in Wembley. Before the show a group of foreigners approached him with his album in their hands and asked for his autograph. Jagjitji asked them, ‘Do you listen to it?’ They said, ‘Yes, we love it’. The way Jagjitji conveyed emotion touched hearts irrespective of the language.” She goes on to narrate another instance, “There was a fan-cum-friend in England who insisted that the doctors play our album Beyond Time (1987) when his wife went in for delivery for all their three children.”

She condemns the ‘acrobatics’ that has crept in singing today.  “Today music has become a callisthenic show. A song is not about vocal acrobatics, it’s the sound of your soul. You have to express the sentiment of the poet. The difference is exactly that between a gymnast and a ballet dancer. The gymnast has expertise but a ballet dancer is so fluid.” It angers her when singers call themselves Jagjit’s disciple. “Recently, I attended an event where some of his ghazals were sung. Apart from the basic tune, you couldn’t recognise them as his renditions. Also, a singer introduced himself as Jagjitji’s disciple. I asked the organisers whether they could spot a trace of Jagjitji’s singing in his voice. How dare they call themselves his disciples! He doesn’t have a single disciple, I am his only disciple.”

Jagjit Singh
MY GURU, MY GUIDE

That makes her recall their first meeting in 1967. “I met him at a recording for a music director who wanted to compile a collection with various singers. My first memory of Jagjitji was resting his hand on the door as I opened it, almost asleep. He then came in, walked to the corner of the room and fell asleep.” But when she heard him sing, she found his voice unlike all that she had heard. “I told the music director that his voice was too heavy and that I wouldn’t be able to sing the duet with him,” recounts Chitra whose mother was an accomplished classical singer. But eventually she did sing. And as his voice grew on to her, so did his ‘caring’ personality. Chitra eventually married Jagjit in 1969 (she was earlier married to Debu Datta). From singing jingles they went on to cut the most iconic of their albums The Unforgettables (1978). With gems like Raat bhi neend bhi and Baat nikalegi in it, he simplified the ghazal and even made it shorter. While they sounded like film songs, they retained the richness of poetry. Soon a string of albums including Main Aur Meri Tanhai, The Latest, Ecstasies, Echoes and Beyond Time (became the first digitally recorded album by an Indian artiste) and shows abroad won the pair worldwide appreciation. During the same decade also came films Saath Saath and Arth (remains the highest selling cassette combination. But soon life hit a discordant note...

Jagjit Singh
TRAGEDY AND MORE TRAGEDY

Jagjit and Chitra’s world came crashing down on July 27, 1990 when their only son Vivek passed away in a raod accident. The shattered mother lost her voice and withdrew into a shell. While Jagjit immersed himself in music and more music, Chitra sought solace in spirituality and practised Bowen healing. The difficult phase also fuelled rumours of trouble in their marriage. “People tried to break us up. Perhaps it was jealousy. They spread rumours that we had split and were even living separately,” says Chitra who continued to remain an integral part of his life. Barely had she come to terms with the ache when tragedy struck again. Chitra’s daughter and ex-model Monica Dutta committed suicide on May 29, 2009. “My daughter was so beautiful and strong, the stuff she’d handle singlehandedly! But ultimately, she lost, she couldn’t cope any more. She had a rough life (referring to her failed marriages),” says Chitra who was living with Monica then. “I was talking to her till 3 am. I must have been insensitive not to have sensed that she would do such thing. What kind of a mother am I? I should have given her more support, more of everything…. I blame myself for that.” But the devastated mother is keeping a brave front for the sake of her grandsons Umair and Armaan (Monica’s sons from her first marriage with cinematographer Jehangir Choudhary). “They have lost the roof over their head and the ground below their feet. I cook for Armaan, he needs a different diet as he gyms, it gives me joy.” she says. “How attached they are to me I don’t know. There’s no physical demonstration as such. Today’s children have so many activities of their own but I’m sure it’s there.”

Jagjit Singh
LOSING JAGJIT

Within two years of losing Monica, Chitra lost her anchor Jagjit. “Papa was shaken after Monica’s death. He had seen her as a five-year-old. She was like his daughter. He was touring America during that time. He cancelled all his performances, kept flying for two days catching connecting flights to reach here. He was devastated though he never expressed much. But his quiet presence, quiet support was enough.”

A few days before his demise in 2011, Jagjt wasn’t keeping too well but continued doing shows. “If he had a premonition about his demise he wasn’t someone to share it. But just a few days before his death, his good friend and musician Amar Haldipur had taken him to show some places in Madh Island. When they were returning back in a ferry, Papa was exceptionally quiet. Amar asked him, ‘What happened?’ Papa replied, ‘Kya yaar jaate yeh sab kya dikha rahe ho … (now that it’s time to go, you’re showing me all this).

Jagjit Singh
HOME ALONE

So many heartbreaks but Chitra is not someone to wallow in self-pity. “When I lost Baboo the question ‘why me’ would bother me. Not anymore. Spirituality changes your thinking. I know there has to be a reason whether I understand it or not. Any other woman in my place would have crumbled or become bed-ridden. But I didn’t allow that to happen. Because I don’t have the luxury of indulging in myself.  I am not scared of death. I welcome it this moment. But there are many things that need to be done, and only my presence can do it. Since Baboo (Vivek) went, there was this thing between my daughter, Papa and me that who would be meeting him first. Both of them beat me to it!” she breaks down. “Everything in life is momentary yaa jee lo, yaa jhel lo (enjoy the moment or endure it),” she sums up life quoting her ghazal, “Manzil na de, chirag na de, hausla to de...”

Jagjit Singh
JAGJIT-CHITRA’S MEMORABLE FILM HITS

Tum itna jo muskura rahey ho (Jagjit Singh) - Arth

Too nahin to zindagi mein aur kay reh jayega (Chitra Singh) – Arth
 
Koi yeh kaise bataye ke vo tanha kyon hai (Jagjit Singh) - Arth

Yun Zindagi ki raah mein majboor ho gaye (Chitra Singh) - Saath Saath

Tum ko dekha to ye khayaal aaya (Jagjit Singh)  - Saath Saath

 Yeh tera ghar, yeh mera ghar (Jagjit-Chitra) -  Saath Saath

 Hoshwalon ko khabar kya (Jagjit Singh) – Sarfarosh

Jagjit Singh





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