About the Author: It was filmmaker Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who selected Sanjeevani Bhelande to sing for his movie Kareeb, when she had won a popular music contest in 1995. Since then there was no looking back for this well-qualified and talented singer. She has won many awards and accolades, giving hit songs like Chori chori jab nazren mili… from her debut movie. She has sung in several regional languages like Marathi (her mother tongue), Nepali, Bengali, Oriya, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Telugu, Gujarati, Assamese, etc. She has performed in more than 1000 live concerts with her band Saanjh Sanjeevani around the world, particularly in the USA, raising millions of dollars for their charity drive. Sanjeevani learnt music under the tutelage of Pandit Dinkar Kaikini, Pandit Firoze Dastur and Rajashree Pathak. Currently, she has taken to learning Odissi from Shubhda Varadkar.
About the book: I am sure most Indians and quite a few non-Indians are aware of the Legendary Saint Meera, who dedicated her life to the worship of Lord Krishna, singing reams and reams of poetry in Bhakti Bhav or Divine Love for Him. With this book and CD, Sanjeevani ‘salutes every woman, who pursues her dream.’
According to Sanjeevani, the lines from Gulzar’s film Meera (1978) that meant I am soul, not body; I’m a natural emotion, not a social norm, was instrumental in flagging off her journey to discover the mystical Meerabai.
When I had interviewed Sanjeevani about 6 years ago, she told me that she wanted to do something connected to the Indian culture, which the English speaking audience would connect with. At that time she was toying with the idea of a unique new album called Meera and Me. She had translated some of Meerabai’s songs. During that interview she had told me, “All along India has sung Hindi songs on English tunes. I want to take our music and Meera’s poetry to the world, by overcoming the language barrier. The original rhyme structure, economy of words is maintained in the translations. In the music, the drums blend with the duff, the sarangi with the strings and the Rajasthani lyrics with the English, effortlessly. Mine is the brazen cowboy blue and no one else will do…(Mere to Giridhar Gopal, dooso na koi…), I’m off to that land to merge with my man (Chala vahi des preetam paava…), Jingles jangled on her feet As Meera danced to the beat… (Pag ghunghru bandh Meera nachi re…), Clouds shower monsoon bliss… (Barse badariya sawanki…) are examples of some of the songs. Aimed at reaching the western English speaking listeners as well as young NRIs and urban Indians, I dream of performing a musical on Meera on Broadway some day.”
Somewhere along the way, I suppose, she decided to get a book also published with the CD. The book contains-A Fond Note by the lyricist and filmmaker Gulzar, Foreword by Mahesh Bhatt and Sanjeevani’s own reflections on not just Meera the princess and her Bhajans, but also the Songslation, her term for the translation she has done of the Bhajans. Dr. Meenakshi shivram has edited the book.
There are 32 Meera Bhajans in it starting from pg. no. 27 to pg. no. 89. They have been indexed according to the English translations. Each song and its translation separated by a prominent line are presented on the pages on the right, with paintings of Meera in different poses and situations on the left-side pages relevant to the particular song on the right.
My take: I am not a typical bhajans person. However, some bhajans have stuck to me from my Vividh Bharati childhood days. Those were the days, when I was addicted to that Radio Station! Being a child, my mind was impressionable and repetitions of songs in those days on radio have remained with me till date. (I would like to go back to listening to the songs from Vividh Bharati again, but ‘Where there is time to stand stare’. Work pressures initially compelled me to stop listening and now I don’t remember to switch on the radio, when I am free!) Some of the bhajans that are still with me are Jo tum todo piya…, Karna fakiri phir kahe dilgiri…, Hey Nandlala tera man hai kala, main to bholire biraj ki naar…. Out of these the first 2 have been included by Sanjeevani in her book and CD. I did check the net and other sources that I have, but I did not get any information about the last Bhajan, particularly whether it is a Meera Bhajan or not. If it is a Meera Bhajan, then I would definitely be disappointed since Sanjeevani has not included it in her book and CD.
The book has a lot of photographs of the author, in Meera’s birthplace, etc. In fact I feel they are too many for a humbling presentation like this.
Very contemporary, Meera and Me is a good read and a collector’s item meant for not only Indians and people from abroad, who are curious about Indian culture but also those, who have interest in Indian spirituality and particular those, who are not familiar with Devanagari and other Indian scripts, where the literature about Meera, in this case, is hidden.
Book Title: Meera and Me.
Author: Sanjeevani Bhelande.
Publisher (Year): Om Books International (2012)
Number of Pages: 96
Price: Rs. 495/-