16 June, 2021

Songs Of Come-Hither Love

Naina Devi’s personal journey across varied elite strata makes for a great story. So is her early talent as a thumri singer, its cessation, and its later continuation.

Songs Of Come-Hither Love

How would it be for a woman to forgo her immense singing talent for over two decades, that too in her prime? What could be her struggles to prove her artistic merit in a patriarchal soci­ety? Where all did she leave her footprints on the Hindustani music map, from her native Calcutta to Delhi?

For all the fire in the questions it seeks to answer, feminist spirit comes across as a subtlety in this biography of a famed thu­mri exponent. Nilina’s Song—The Life of Naina Devi takes a matter-of-fact view of the the protagonist’s times, without being judgmental about anything. AshaRani Mathur’s narrative is as placid as an eve­ning raga, where a mellowed sun unemotionally casts golden brightness on certain objects and long shadows on others.

Dauntingly for Naina, it wasn’t just her married confinement to the palace of a loving man that the vocalist had to und­ergo. After age 32, when she was unexpectedly...

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