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Can you repeat the Question? Slumdog gets an answer WRONG!

February 20, 2009

In our continuing converage of all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small – I stumbled across this excellent little piece by Rajeev Shrivastava in the 13th February issue of Friday Review of The Hindu. (It was also posted on the Sarai Readerlist). While Kafila has been debating the merits/de-merits, context and meaning of Slumdog Millionaire (in much the way that only we can); Shrivastava’s piece brings back memories of one of our earliest debates on Kafila on Sahir Ludhianvi and film lyricists-which featured pieces by Sohail Hashmi (Thinking about Sahir Ludhianvi) and Mahmood Farooqui (Pal do pal ka shayar).

To quote Shrivastav:

The answer of one of the questions which was asked in the TV quiz contest in the film is wrong. Even the options given with the question are incorrect. The question asked was “Name the Indian poet who wrote the poem, “Darshan do ghanshyam nath mori akhiyan pyasi re”. The answer to this particular question is given in the film as Surdas, which has been declared as the right answer in the film. “Darshan do ghanshyam” is written by the Hindi film lyric writer Gopal Singh Nepali. It is a long devotional song which was used in the Hindi film “Narsi Bhagat” (1957) directed by Devendra Goel. This song was composed by the veteran music director Ravi. HMV has released this song in three parts, which are sung by singers Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey and Sudha Malhotra. In the film all songs have been penned by the late Gopal Singh Nepali. So the only right answer to this particular millionaire question is Gopal Singh Nepali, a song writer of Hindi films from late 30s to the 60s.

Shrivastav’s point is particularly interesting in the context of the movie itself: i.e. the notion of “Common Knowlege.”  Common knowlege is a phrase i have been hearing with increasing frequency of late – in various contexts – particularly when some one uses information that they feel should be right, or at the very least should be common knowledge.  For example, a simple google search offers us the following examples of “Common knowledge”

That he’s always itching to take off his shirt, t-shirt, vest.. is common knowledge. But now it looks like Salman Khan is heading below the belt. That’s what a mynah from Mahalaxmi discovered when she dropped in at Famous Studio, where Sallu was shooting his special appearance for the television show Dance India Dance.” from the Feb 19th issue of the Hindustan Times

According to the partners in Jaipur market, it is common knowledge that Sant owe Rs 60 lakh to Sharma. “When the latter started asking for the money, he refused to pay and before Sharma could take any action, he filed an FIR in the station. This way, Sharma is gripped in a false case and his actions to collect the money has become weaker,” said one of the partners on the condition of anonymity.” Amrita Tejasvi on a particularly murky deal between two business partners.

Despite common knowledge that the attack originated from Pakistan, nothing has been done and there is only empty talk,” he said. Uddhav Thackeray on terrorism and the hindu rashtra

On the surface, Surdas writing “Darshan do ghanshyam” – appears completely “common knowledge-sque”.  I for one, was rather pleased when I (thought) I guessed it correctly. However, if one goes along with the script – how would this particular song have found its way to the lord of the beggars? Where would he have heard it? Would he have thought it to be a fillum song? or a devotional song? Or perhaps a devotional song that found its way into a fillum?

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