Himanshu Verma

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over one year

In 2009, the song Sasural Genda Phool from the film Delhi 6, directed by Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, hit the market and became a national chart-buster. The film’s music composer A R Rahman had added a hip-hop/electronic twist to the Chhattisgarhi folk song but the film’s promotions did not credit any Chhattisgarhi musicians. After some controversy over the credits, they added a blurb ‘Courtesy to Raghuvir Yadav’, a Chhattisgarhi himself, who was said to have introduced the song to the Delhi 6 team. This, and other such songs that in the past have travelled from their folk origins through various musical, cultural and social contexts to reach Bollywood, intrigued Himanshu Verma, an arts curator and freelance researcher from Delhi. His project seeks to research and document the journey and transformations of the song Sasural Genda Phool and other songs about the marigold flower which are part of the repertoire of Chhattisgarhi folk music.

The journey of the song Sasural Genda Phool is quite interesting. In the 1970s, the song Saas Gari Deve, Nanad Muhaan Leve, Devar Babu Mor with the refrain Karaar Genda Phool, was said to be written by the late Chhattisgarhi poet Gangaram Shivarey and set to music by the late Bhulwaram Yadav. The song speaks of the happenings in a bride’s new home and about the marigold flower, which is frequently used in weddings, becoming a motif for marriage, family and community life. Bhulwaram Yadav taught it to the Joshi sisters who sang it in public concerts and captured the imagination of the Chhattisgarhi audience. HMV released it commercially and it became a popular song, frequently requested on the radio and performed at weddings. It also found its way to the Naya Theatre of late Habib Tanvir in Bhopal, who often incorporated elements of Chhattisgarhi folk music and culture into his theatrical productions. Then in 2009, adapted and appropriated, it found its ways into the soundtrack of Delhi 6, which did not acknowledge the Chhattisgarhi artists who created the song.

According to Himanshu, the transformation and multiple appropriations of this song raised many issues and concerns that. To begin with, Karaar Genda Phool is regarded a contemporary folk song. While its lyrics, structure and musical form bear the unmistakable stamp of folk music sensibility, it is ascribed to a poet/composer who created it only 40 years ago, unlike other traditional folk songs. Himanshu’s questions seek to understand the ‘traditional’ and the ‘modern’ in Chhattisgarhi folk. He will enquire into the different ways in which the Chhattisgarhi performers presented the song at weddings, live performances and radio programmes, the new meanings and contexts that were created for the song in Habib Tanvir’s theatre, and the meanings the song acquired in Bollywood. The research will rely heavily on interviews with folk musicians, folk music experts, and others involved with the music industry in Chattisgarh, Bhopal and Mumbai.

The project will include a research paper and documentary film made in collaboration with filmmaker Anand Bhaskar Rao.