Review of Jhuramana Jharageeti by Surya Deo The first Odia movie, Sita Bibaha, was made just five years after the first Indian talkie, Alam Ara was released, though the real journey of Odia cinema began a decade and a half later when the second Odia film Lalita was released in 1949, followed by more movies in 1950, 1951 and so on. In all these years, songs have been an integral part of Odia cinema, as they have been in Hindi and other regional cinemas. From the ras leela songs of Sita Bibaha to the traditional bhajans in Sri Jagannatha: from the khorata-type song in Nuabou to the experimentations of Akshaya Mohanty in Malajanha; from the Rafi-Lata songs in Arundhati to the experimentations of Prafulla Kar in turning traditional Odissi tunes to modern beats, the journey of Odia film song has been an interesting and eventful one.
But there has been almost no account of that interesting journey.
Jhuramana Jharageeti, written by noted film journalist and writer Surya Deo, is that monumental work which attempts to chronicle this great journey.
It is monumental, not in the sense that it is voluminous or gigantic—in fact, it is less than 100 pages, just about 6 x 6” in size. It is not monumental only because it is the first attempt in the area. It is monumental because it is complete. In less than 100 pages, which also include so many rare pictures, it tells us the complete story of Odia film song till 1990, in just the right detail.
You get to know when each of important personalities associated with Odia film songs—singers, composers and lyricists—made their debut. You get to know what kind of experimentation was attempted by which the composer in what movie. You get to know—if you are not already aware—which songs achieved what kind of popularity. And you get all this, even as there is no break in the linearity of description—the book’s narration is completely chronological. You do not miss a movie, especially of the early days.
The author resorts to a clever presentation format to ensure that while enough interesting anecdotes are served to the reader, the main narrative does not become too large and too distracting. He achieves this by keeping all the anecdotal information to separate sidebars, mostly presented in the voice of the individuals associated with particular songs and movies. So, you get to know how Pranab Patnaik resorted to Saigal Saab’s style in bedana sagara tire or how the song baridare tu jana was rerecorded in the voice of Sikander Alam, as some thought the accent of Tarun Banerjee didn’t sound Odia enough or how Rafi Saab generously sang two songs for the fees of one, “cheating” his own secretary.
The only jarring note in the entire book is its subtitle: Ardha Shatabdira Odia Cine Geetira Tarjama or Analysis of the Odia cine songs of the (last) half century.
Tarjama? Analysis? Does the book even get into what, in musicological terms, would be called an analysis of a genre or even specific songs?
An analysis of a musical genre (Odia cine song in this case) would typically do one or more of the following: find and/or examine trends; raise questions and possibly answer them. For example: Where and why did Odissi and other traditional music disconnect from Odia cinema? Why is it that some songs (like this one from Arundhati) are never listed anywhere? Or what explains the dominance of non-Odia female singers in the 60s even though most of the male voices belonged to Odias—and this despite hits such as jaa re manadoli udi jaa? What was the relationship between Odia light music and film music and how they evolved together? Or who were the musicians/men behind orchestration and what was their background (In Bollywood, this is probably the most researched aspect, especially by foreign researchers)? What was the impact of regional music of different parts of Odisha on Odia cine song?
The book does not get into all these questions, I believe, because it never intended to do that. It does beautifully what it aims to do—to inform, educate and entertain the general reader about Odia film music.
When I read it, without noticing the subtitle, I did not find that the book fails anywhere in what it attempts to do. The size, the style of narration, the language, the amount of detailing, and the anecdotes in the language of the individuals associated with Odia film music—all contribute to making of a great narrative. Though the author’s deep insights into the subject (and the research behind it) pop out sometimes, he ensures that it does not affect the readability; in fact, he plays those beautifully at places to make the narrative only richer and more engaging. The added incentive: the lyrical flow of language which, at no stage, allows you to get overwhelmed by the abundance of information—and proper nouns!
Except for this small gap I mentioned above—in the subtitle which is somewhat misleading—the entire content is flawless. The book is a great addition to Odia non-fiction in general and film literature in particular and is a must read for anyone even remotely interested in Odia films or Odia music.
Before this, I have read four books on Odia cinema; three on the history of Odia cinema, and one a collection of essays on topics in Odia cinema—including its music—by Surya Deo himself. While one of the books—Odia Chalachitrara Agyanata Adhyaya—is full with lots of valuable information and is a great resource book for those studying the subject, only Deo’s book—Odia Cinema: Rupa Rupantara—would classify as a narrative non-fiction, a book that is engaging and would interest anyone who just loves to read.
The scope of Jhuramana… does not allow him to get deeper into any one single aspect, like in Rupa Rupantara, but what he manages to do is extraordinary. The book is unputdownable; I completed it in one and half hours of opening the parcel. I had ordered it online through Odikart, an Odisha-based e-tailer, in July and have followed at least half a dozen of times before it arrived a couple of days back.
It was worth the wait.