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25 Feb

Ali Sethi’s Chandni Raat talks of love in times of aggression between Pakistan & India

Chandni Raat

The moon has been muse to poets through centuries and through cultures. My first memory of ‘Chandni Raat Bari Der Ke Baad Aayi Hai’ is Lata Mangeshkar’s haunting prologue to ‘Thare Rahiyo’, that timeless classic from Pakeezah. The sense of being united with a loved one, of coming together, is a feeling that prevails even today, at a time when geo-politics separates everyone.

Lending his own unique sense of soul to Saifuddin Saif’s ghazal, Ali Sethi reprises it in this equally poignant version, released this weekend and unsurprisingly, touching the hearts of people both sides of the Indo-Pak border. At a time when governments are speaking of war, this song reminds us of the power of brotherhood, peace and love. Brilliantly, without saying so. The fact that the world does unite under the one moon is what lends it it’s soul.

 

Chandni Raat

 

Read: Ali Sethi to collaborate with Grammy-winning record producer Noah Georgeson 

What I see is a shed, somewhere amidst a war zone, where a medley of people has been displaced and step in for refuge. The beauty is that every character, from the young man with a ripped sleeve, the woman who stitches it, the father and child sharing an orange, the boy with headphones gazing at the girl in a burqa, the Sikh keeping a fire alive…all these characters could be Pakistani or Indian, they are all unique and yet so similar. Ghazals typically talk about illicit love affairs, hidden from the world, and I see this as a sense of union and separation between the people of Pakistan and India.

“That is pretty much what it is,” Sarmad Khoosat, the brains behind the video said, when I called him up to congratulate him on this masterpiece. He added that even the venue was deliberately kept vague so it couldn’t be associated with any one specific place.

 

Chandni Raat

 

I do understand the need for artistes to toe the patriotic line, but then there is no need to get vitriolic and aggressive; such is not the role an artiste ideally plays in developing global, cultural ties. No matter what politicians may say, art and culture does unite people. I’m just happy that people like Ali Sethi still have that in mind.

Watch the video:

 

Aamna Haider Isani

The author is Editor-in-Chief at Something Haute as well as Editor at Instep, The News. Full time writer, critic with a love for words and an intolerance for typos.