Playback singers in race to tune Harivanshrai Bachchan's poetry

One could call it healthy competition. The timeless lines penned by Amitabh Bachchan’s father Harivanshrai Bachchan are now being set to music for the Big B’s singing pleasure by two of the Bachchans’ favourite music composers — Aadesh Shrivastav and Vishal-Shekhar.

Shrivastav, who has composed a majority of the Big B’s self-rendered songs, is at the moment working on a musical version of Harivanshrai Bachchan’s famous poem Madhushala.

Comprising 135 verses celebrating life and its quirky and tragic circumstances, Madhushala is regarded by many aficionados to be his piece de resistance. It had earlier been sung by Manna Dey in an album composed by Jaidev. It seems the Big B has recorded selected stanzas from Madhushala to be composed by Shrivastav.

Even as this ambitious project nears completion, we have learnt that the Big B will also lend his voice to his father’s other poems, set to music by Vishal-Shekhar.

When told about the Big B’s other project with Vishal-Shekhar, Shrivastav feigns ignorance. “I’ve no idea of what they (Vishal-Shekhar) are doing with Amitji. My Madhushala is complete. Amitji hasn’t sung the entire body of stanzas, just the selected ones.” He claims he has never heard Manna Dey’s Madhushala either.

Vishal Dadlani of Vishal-Shekhar, on the other hand, says the project of turning Harivanshai Bachchan’s poems handpicked by his son into a musical odyssey is still in its infancy. “Harivanshraiji was a genius. A free thinker, radical and a humourist at a time of great social, religious and financial oppression. To create music around the words of such a man is a task that will need a lot of careful thought. We’re still a little while away from actually getting into it. But if Mr Bachchan sees fit, it will be an honour for Shekhar and I to compose and record his father’s words with him.”

The Big B has already started selecting his father’s poetry to be tuned by Vishal-Shekhar. Says Dadlani, “Mr Bachchan was kind enough to read some of Harivanshraiji’s poetry to us.”

The plan, according to sources, is to release Harivanshrai Bachchan’s Madhushala first and then the album of the rest of his poems later.  

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