Of Amnesia & Music

Amnesia isn’t such a bad thing. At least it gives you a chance to revisit and enjoy your favorite artists, musicians and writers over and over again ! Especially if you have already exhausted your favorites and crave for even more.

Come Diwali, I found myself cursing my neighbourhood. They had been tormenting me for a month now with their blaring loudspeakers. Not one or two but three-four speakers working in tandem from different directions. The cacophony was more than I could bear and there was just too much commotion out on the streets to merit any thoughts of going out. The dilemma was killing me. I couldn’t go out and I couldn’t stay in. After much deliberation, I decided to stay put and insulate my self from the loudspeakers by sealing my apartment.

Just I was about to draw the last curtain, a faint fleeting piece of music entered my ears. I could hardly make out the words – Ae raat tomar aamar….oi chaand tomar aamaar, shudu dujoner…. followed by one of those trademark whistles that needed no identification for me. Something as uneasily haunting as this could only be made by Hemant Kumar !
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Now, I am a sucker for anything by HemantDa. And this was more than anything. A bit of googling was all it took to identify the tune – “Ae raat tomar aamar” from the Bengali movie “Deep Jwele Jai“, the film that was later remade into the monster called Khamoshi. The tune itself was used in a Hindi Song “Yeh Nayan Dare Dare” in the movie Kohraa, which in turn was a remake of Rebecca. I had watched the movie a couple of decades ago but remembered very little, if at all anything. And so it was that my amnesia became a blessing in disguise as I set out to rewatch the movie and revisit the tune.

Kohraa explores more of the genre that was so successfully created in Bees Saal Baad, except that it just doesnt come out so good. The movie is typical of HemantDa’s style. Gothic backgrounds, wide scapes, mountains-trees-and-seas all rolled into one and tastefully shot footage showing nature in all its glory. Scenes of dark, gloom and foreboding cleverly alternated with sunshine and light to maximise the element of suspense and horror. They had even altered the climax to make it more palatable to Indian audiences. However, HemantDa’s contribution is a lot slashed here in terms of the musical input. He has two solos – the introductory Rah Bani Khud Manzil and Yeh Nayan Dare Dare – the object of my pursuit. The other song “Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat ” is the supposed equivalent to “Kahin deep jale kahin dil” in “Bees Saal Baad“. Its a song with a lot of wasted potential. Wasted since it falls short of being the theme music for the movie the way “Kahin deep jale kahin dil” was for “Bees Saal Baad“.

The movie was but of little interest to me. I was more keen on the Hindi rendition of “Ae raat tomar aamar“. Shot in tete-a-tete style, the song shows Waheeda Rehman play that elusive combination of stunning beauty, coyness and mischievous playfulness – a trait I haven’t seen any actress emulate ever after. But the mood is that of an unsettled wife being assuaged by a loving husband. To me it somehow didn’t go down well with the tune. Neither did the lyrics – “Main maan bhi loon kabhi haar, tu maane na….”. But who cares ! I got another piece of HemantDa’s haunting melodies to relive and I’m not complaining. One of these days I’m gonna die of overdose.
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I love my Mukesh and I love my Kishore. They make music worth dying for. And yet if you must breathe life into a soul-less corpse, nothing but HemantDa’s tunes can do it for you !!

Blenheim Bouquet

The complexity of Penhaligon’s fragrances is matched perhaps only by their variety. Post the no-tallow debacle, Penhaligon is one of the very few houses which continue to belt out their soaps/creams inspite of their reportedly low offtake.  Being impressed earlier by Penhaligon’s English Fern and Sartorial, the Blenheim Bouquet (BB) was the third of their soaps I tried. Got myself a refill and set it in one of those aftermarket aluminum boxes shown in the picture. The soap fit in perfectly and the thing looked elegant too.
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The scent is is the same bracket as DRH Windsor except that in BB the citrusy/lavender top-note is somewhat predominated by the black pepper. But as in all Penhaligon fragrances, the constituent scents are kinda refined; so that on their own, none of them threaten to assault the senses.

The soap is extremely easy to load thanks to the large size of the puck. During the initial days of my wet shaving stint I wasn’t too bothered about the size of the puck but nowadays I prefer my pucks large (~4 inches). It allows for sufficient splay and makes loading a joy, indirectly also lowering shedding.

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So far so good. Now for the part I was most apprehensive about. The lather. I’d been told the post-tallow formulations were absolutely horrible in terms of lather slickness and hydration. I was mentally prepared for a letdown. To start with, I found the soap rather easy to lather with the Simpson Commodore X3. A few swirls on the puck and I was ready to put brush to face. The lather didn’t take time to build up, although as I had suspected earlier, it did seem more on the airy side. As luck would have it, I was briefly interrupted and when I resumed I was disappointed to see the lather on my face starting to dry up. I short loaded again and proceeded with the first pass with a Supermax Platinum blade that had already been used 4 times. As a matter of practice I don’t usually use a blade more than 3-4 times since it starts tugging significantly. While I was enjoying the exquisite scent, at the back of my mind I was also bothered about the soap disappointing me what with the added hindrance of an overused blade. I went through the motions and soon got over with the 2nd pass too. I brushed my hand against my cheeks and chin and boy was I surprised !?

And pleasantly too ! A near perfect BBS with almost no hint of irritation ! At first I thought it must be the blade. One in 10 turns out to be really good even after 4-5 shaves. So I tried the soap with my Henckels 17 next time, all other things remaining constant. It couldn’t be same with a straight but sure enough the result was similar and I had an “above average” shave with the Henckels. I have since tried it 10-12 times since my initial shave and the BB continues to surprise me with its near perfect shave in spite of the airy quick-drying lather. I have absolutely no idea how that happens. And that heavenly fragrance. Absolutely fantastic…

I have found the lather to be sufficient for a 2nd pass shave (and touchup if required). To me the only strike against the soap therefore, is its prohibitive price. The fragrance however, is top-notch and every bit worth it. With Penhaligon’s BB, shaving isn’t as much about the closeness, smoothness and post shave hydration as it is about the fragrances and the memories of people and places they trigger.

To be able to wake to a BB intrigue is indeed a privilege in itself, one that I always eagerly look forward to !