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Geet Ramayan gathers dust at AIR

PUNE, DECEMBER 16: Literature lovers cutting across the language barriers call it an invaluable contribution to the realm of poetry. Yet for the orthodox bureaucrats in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the Geet Ramayana --a lyrical version of the Valmiki Ramayana in Marathi by legendary poet Ga Di Madgulkar-- is not less than a manuscript having lost its relevance with the tide of time.

Considered to be the epitome of devotional poetry in modern Marathi, the Geet Ramayana today is gathering dust on the shelves of publication department of the All India Radio (AIR).

Persistent requests from the Madgulkar family either to reprint the book or to allow any of the private publishing firms to print and market to compilation of one of the most celebrated series of lyrics were given the cold shoulder. This was disclosed by Anand Madgulkar, singer-tele film maker son of the late poet and also chairman of the Ga Di Madgulkar Foundation.

Tuesday was the 22nd death anniversary of the illustrious litterateur.

Poet Madgulkar and his innumerable lyrics handling almost all forms of poetry -- right from the most rustic-and-virile lavanis to devotional songs -- are an inseparable part of the Marathi cultural milieu. The Geet Ramayana came as the crescendo of Madgulkar's literary vigour which carved a special niche for the poet in the literary world.

A series of lyrics based on Valmiki Ramayana, perhaps the most illustrious epic in any language, to be broadcast live by AIR Pune took shape during one of the informal chat sessions the poet was having with Seetakant Lad who then was the station director at AIR Pune. This was in mid-50s. For millions of radio listeners in Maharashtra then, the Sunday mornings were synonymous to the mind-seizing melodies of Geet Ramayana.

Keeping in with the unparalleled listeners' patronage the Geet Ramayana enjoyed, the publication department of the AIR compiled the songs along with excerpts of the introductory comments in a form of a book. The first edition was released on October 3, 1957. This happened to be the Vijayadashami day which has its own significance in the story of Rama.

The 179-pages book then was priced at Rs 2. The book was received well and within four years second edition of the book was released by the AIR.

Not less than three lakh copies of the book were then sold, Madgulkar estimates, as Madgulkar senior used to get about Rs 40,000 in the form of the royalty of the book every year.

However, the publications department later discovered that popularity of the book was ``waning'' and abandoned its printing. The royalty too thinned since then, Madgulkar said. Interestingly, the Madgulkars continued to get the cheques worth anything between Rs 27 and Rs 35 on account of the royalty for the book which once had created a storm in the Marathi cultural world. Madgulkar junior also has in his records, a few AIR letters stating that he would be paid the lumpsum royalty amounts for two or three years, since the prevailing rules allows no government cheques worth below Rs 100.

Since then the Geet Ramayana in print faded into oblivion, till a Pune-based published unearthing half-bound forms of 3,000 copies the book from the scrap dumped in a gowdown in New Delhi, a few years back. The fact that even these were sold within no time, disproves the notions on ``waning'' popularity of Geet Ramayana, he made a point.

The Madgulkars have been endeavouring in vain to free the manuscript of the Geet Ramayana for decades together. Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had intervened when she was handling the I&B portfolio as a debutante politician. The government then had agreed to increase the royalty amount, Madgulkar recalled.

Following up the Madgulkars' efforts, lyricist Gangadhar Mahambare had written to then Information and Broadcasting Minister Pramod Mahajan last year. The letter was duly acknowledged with no action whatsoever till the date, he added.

Madgulkar still has not lost the hopes. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who also is known for his stint with poetry, knows the significance of Geet Ramayana. He (Vajpayee) had offered a studied comment on Geet Ramayana speaking as the chief guest for a function celebrating the silver jubilee of Geet Ramayana in Pune in 1979, Madgulkar recalled.

The renewed resolve for Anand Madgulkar for the new millennium is to end the vanvas-- the state of exile-- for the Geet Ramayana.

Copyright © 1999 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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