The phone rang and he answered, the same voice with pathos that has captured the melancholic mood of so many Indians was at the other end of the phone – Jagjit Singh. My heart swelled up and my tongue was tied. The conversation after that is irrelevant.

I had to interview him for a documentary I was filming in 2009. We fixed a time and a place the previous evening and I made sure I reached with my crew an hour before the stipulated meeting. On hindsight, fortunately the recording studio where we had decided to conduct the interview had some leakage issues and the manager informed me that Jagjit Singh was not going record on that day.

Nervously I called again, the same voice with pathos that has captured the melancholic mood of so many Indians was at the other end of the phone. He politely apologised and told me that I could meet him at his Bandra residence that same evening so that I could still keep to my shooting schedule and deadline.

We reached Jagjit Singh’s residence half and hour before sunset, and since we were shooting in natural light, it had to be a snappy interview. His terrace, which had an obtuse view of the ocean, was chosen as the location for the shoot.

The conversation started with a series of questions, which were related to the documentary. I showed him an old photo of him and his wife Chitra, which had made it on the cover of an album many years ago –the audiocassette era. He looked at the photo with nostalgia and walked towards his wife, who was preparing tea in the kitchen, to show it to her.

Once he came back and settled in his chair, he seemed more at ease and our conversation continued casually. What we conversed about now hangs like suspended icicles in my memory. I secretly hoped he would break into one ghazal, while we chatted and as if he heard my inner voice he began singing “Baat niklegi to phir door talak jayegi.” Imagine my child like excitement, Jagjit Singh reciting a verse and his small yet enamoured audience – a five member documentary crew.

His silhouette mood shots, that I took against the backdrop on the Arabian Sea, never made it in the edit of the film, but that image of him where he sipped his coffee and looked pensively at the setting sun, is engraved in my mind and will stay there forever. His voice will reverberate and echo for many generations to come and I will always visualize that very image every time I hear his song “Baat niklegi to door talak jayegi” which was later used as a music piece at the end of the documentary. His voice adds flavour to a hand held shot of the camera moving through a long passageway from being dimly lit towards a flare of white light which is a burn out followed by the end credits.

Arwa Mamaji