Stories in a song

Redemption song: ‘Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra’ by Kamal Barot

The little-known singer was a champion of the ensemble number.

Kamal Barot was best known for her ensemble songs with female co-singers. In one of her earliest numbers, she was paired with Suman Kalyanpur for Garjat barsat saawan aayo re in the film Barsaat Ki Raat (1960).

The song was immensely popular, partly because it confused listeners into believing that it was Lata Mangeshkar singing. Suman Kalyanpur had a thin and high-pitched voice similar to Mangeshkar’s. Kalyanpur was often asked to sing in place of Mangeshkar when she was not available. Kamal Barot sounded distinctly original and was chosen for that very reason, to contrast the familiar sounding Kalyanpur. Barot had a sharp, if somewhat nasal, tone to offset the sweet timbre of her co-singer.

Barot made her debut in 1957 with the ensemble song Bhaagwan zara dhire bol (Sharada, 1957) featuring Chandbala, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle. Barot was the first choice for composers in multiple-singer tracks. Akeli mohe chhod na jana, with Mangeshkar in Madari (1959), Daadi amma, with Asha Bhosle in Gharana (1961) and Main toh ho gayi re badnaam, with Lata and Mubarak Begum in Sunehri Naagin (1963) are a few of her ensemble tracks. Barot sang duets with all leading male playback singers too, including Mukesh, Mohammad Rafi and Mahendra Kapoor, but none of those songs attained the popularity of her female duets.

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‘Hansta hua noorani chehra’.

In Hansta hua noorani chehra, (Parasmani, 1963), written by lyricist Bhopali and composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Barot got to perform with Mangeshkar again. The composers were making their debut as a team with the film. All the songs of the musical fantasy proved popular. Barot was cheered for holding her own in a duet with the doyenne of Indian film playback.

It also became her only sterling performance and is often recalled in a brief singing career that lasted for a decade. Her last recorded song was Teri aankhon ne (Nasihat, 1967), with Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor. Her brother Chandra Barot shares her fate. He directed a few films, but remains known only for the cult hit Don (1978).

Singer Kamal Barot.
Singer Kamal Barot.
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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

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According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

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During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.