Rise Of Recreated Songs

[This is an excerpt from the chapter “2011 – 2020: Review of a Decade of Hindi Film Music” from the e-book BollySwar: 2011 – 2020.]

The Hindi film industry had tried to come up with new ways of mass-producing hit songs ever since the 1990s. In the 1990s, they experimented with Jhankaar Beats and in the 2000s with remixes. The objective of both these strategies was to leverage film songs to produce dance numbers. Plagiarism became a mainstream trend during this period as the industry tried to overcome the constraints placed by the finite amount of creativity available to it. Studio recordings, that had started giving way to digitally mixed and produced songs in the 2000s, became a thing of the past in the 2010s. Songs were now produced by assembling voice and instrumental recordings with music samples and programmed beats and loops. The trend of recreated songs in the 2010s was a part of this larger phenomenon. As the decade progressed, canned remixes fell out of favour and cover versions of previously recorded songs gained popularity.

The terms remix, recreations and covers are often used interchangeably. In this section, we will use the term remix only to refer to the process of mixing an existing recording with newly produced music, usually electronic music. Let’s define some terms precisely:

The decade produced more than 250 recreated songs – over 3 percent of all the Hindi film songs recorded during the period. The trend of recreated songs saw an uptick in 2016 and rose steadily after that. It peaked in 2019 with over 50 recreated songs – almost 8 percent of the songs recorded that year. The label and producers of “Luka Chuppi” (2019) went all the way. All five songs in the film were recreations – 1 of a Hindi film song, 1 of a Hindi non-film single, and 3 of hit Punjabi songs. The Filmfare Award for Best Music Album for “Gully Boy” (2019), a film with 5 recreated songs, was another indicator of the industry’s acceptance of this phenomenon. The trend’s dip in 2020 was perhaps the result of fewer film and music releases following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Covers formed the bulk of recreated songs and came in many flavours. Conventional cover songs retained the tune and lyrics of the original song and differed only in the treatment. Mikey McCleary’s “Khoya Khoya Chand (The Bartender Mix)” (“Shaitan”, 2011) re-imagined S.D. Burman’s classic from “Kala Bazar” (1960) while retaining its essence. However, such covers were exceptions in the 2010s. The most common cover version took only the tune and lyrics of its hook line from the original song – the rest was newly created. Chirantan Bhatt’s “Har Kisi Ko Nahin Milta” (“Boss”, 2013), for example, used the mukhda of Kalyanji – Anandji and Indeevar’s original song from “Janbaaz” (1986) as its hook line but had newly written lyrics by Manoj Yadav for its antaras.

An analysis of the original versions of recreated songs revealed that R.D. Burman continued to remain one of the most influential yesteryear composers in the industry. 25 recreated songs produced in the 2010s were based on R.D. Burman songs. He was followed by Laxmikant – Pyarelal with 18 recreated songs, Kalyanji – Anandji with 15, Bappi Lahiri with 13, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Anand – Milind with 9 each.

As expected, a vast majority of recreated songs – more than 60 percent – used Hindi film songs of the past as their source material. In the second half of the decade, Punjabi non-film music also became a favourite hunting ground of music labels and producers. Around 15 percent of the recreated songs were sourced from popular Punjabi artists like Malkit Singh, Sukhbir, Dr. Zeus, Guru Randhawa, Garry Sandhu, and Badshah among others. Hindi and Pakistani non-film songs were other significant starting points of recreated songs.

Recreated songs derived inspiration from almost every decade of Hindi film history but seemed to be most partial to the songs of the 1980s and 1990s. Together, these two decades were represented in about half the recreated songs recorded between 2011 and 2020.

More than a hundred music directors produced recreated songs during the decade but there was none as prolific as Tanishk Bagchi. With more than 50 recreated songs to his credit, he contributed to about 20 percent of all the songs in this genre. He was so prolific in this niche that he had only a dozen more original compositions than recreated songs to his credit. His credential as the go-to composer for recreated songs catapulted Bagchi to becoming one of the most discussed Hindi film artists of the decade, although it was often in unflattering terms. He ended the decade as one of the top 10 most prolific Hindi film composers.

The rise in the number of recreated songs resulted in a spurt of copyright infringement lawsuits. There were legal cases filed over “Pyar Mein Dil Pe Maar De Goli” (“Tamanchey”, 2014)“Bhar Do Jholi Meri Ya Muhammad” (“Bajrangi Bhaijaan”, 2015)“Pichhe Ho Ja Soniye Saaddi Rail Gaddi Aayi” (“Tutak Tutak Tutiya”, 2016)“Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast” (“Machine”, 2017), and “Amma Dekh Dekh Dekh Tera Munda Bigda Jaye” (“Nawabzaade”, 2018) among others. Some cases were settled out of court and others resulted in the withdrawal of the songs from the films and music albums. The lawsuits pushed the music labels to use songs from their own catalogue for recreations. When a song from a different label was used, the recreated version was often released as a single by the other label. For example, while “Queen” (2014) was released by T-Series, the sampled cover in the film “Hungama Ho Gaya (Remix)” was published separately by Saregama.

The trend of recreated songs polarised the Hindi film industry in more than one way. The phenomenon was universally condemned by the artists. After Tanishk Bagchi recorded “O Saki Saki Re” (“Batla House”, 2019)based on Vishal – Shekhar’s “Saaki (Psychedelic Insomnia Mix)” (“Musafir”, 2004), Vishal Dadlani threatened to sue filmmakers and musicians if their songs were used without their permission going forward. Pritam walked out of “Raabta” (2017) when T-Series insisted on including in the film a recreated version of a song composed by another music director. Ram Sampath quit working for Hindi films altogether after “Raees” (2017) for which he was forced to record a recreated version of Kalyanji – Anandji’s “Laila O Laila” (“Qurbani”, 1980). The voices against recreated songs attained crescendo when Tanishk Bagchi recreated A.R. Rahman’s much-loved “Masakali” (“Delhi-6”, 2009) for a music video featuring the actors of the film “Marjaavaan” (2019). Without any reference to the recreation, Rahman posted a link to his song on Twitter along with a message – “Enjoy the original #Masakali”. He further elaborated in an image in the tweet – “No short cuts, properly commissioned, sleepless nights, writes and re-writes. Over 200 musicians, 365 days of creative brainstorming with the aim to produce music that can last generations. A team of a Director, a Composer and a Lyricist supported by actors, dance directors and a relentless film crew.”. Prasoon Joshi and Mohit Chauhan, Rahman’s co-creators in the song, also supported the composer’s stand. However, the music labels saw nothing wrong in trawling their back catalogues for easy hits. T-Series’ Gulshan Kumar was an outspoken backer of this trend and even held music directors responsible for it. When told that Amit Trivedi had blamed music labels for the trend of recreated songs, Kumar responded, “Tell him to make songs that work with public.”.

Listeners also seemed to be divided on the issue. On one hand, the trend was periodically run down by music lovers on social media. On the other, recreated songs consistently found a place on the music charts. The Mirchi Top 20 of 2019, for example, featured as many as 7 recreated songs – “Coca Cola” and “Duniya” from “Luka Chuppi” (2019)“The Jawaani Song” (“Student Of The Year 2”, 2019)“O Saki Saki Re” (“Batla House”, 2019)“Bala Bala Shaitan Ka Saala” (“Housefull 4”, 2019)“Meri Gully Mein” (“Gully Boy”, 2019), and “Ankhiyon Se Goli Maare” (“Pati Patni Aur Woh”, 2019).

The public reaction to recreated songs was delightfully captured in two Hindi film songs. In “Aankh Maarey” (“Simmba”, 2018), a recreated version of a song from “Tere Mere Sapne” (1996), co-producer Karan Johar made a cameo appearance to make a tongue-in-cheek remark, “Oh God! One more remix?!”. He made a similar appearance again in the song “Chandigarh Mein” (“Good Newwz”, 2019), this time with the line “Oh my God! This is original?”.

[Get the BollySwar e-book for more such analysis: Amazon India, Amazon US, Amazon UK]

BollySwar: 2011 – 2020 is now available

As you may be aware, four volumes of the BollySwar e-book have been released so far – BollySwar: 1971 – 1980 (Volume 5), BollySwar: 1981 – 1990 (Volume 6), BollySwar: 1991 – 2000 (Volume 7), and BollySwar: 2001 – 2010 (Volume 8).

I am happy to inform you that the new volume – BollySwar: 2011 – 2020 (Volume 9) – is now available on Amazon.

This volume has been, by far, the most challenging yet. While working on the previous volumes, one of the main challenges was the difficulty in getting information about the films and songs of those decades. The problem while working on this volume was that – thanks to the age of the internet and social media – there was too much information available! It took more than a year to sift through all this information and make sense of it.

If you appreciate our work on MySwar, please do consider buying this book and the previous volumes. The BollySwar book series has information available on MySwar and a lot more (trivia, trends, milestones, stats, etc) – information you can now access offline. Each purchase goes a long way in keeping MySwar up and running. I would love to hear your thoughts on the book if you purchase it.

Links for BollySwar: 2011 – 2020 (Volume 9):
Amazon India
Amazon US
Amazon UK

(The e-book is available in Amazon stores of other countries as well – just search for BollySwar. You can read the e-book on a Kindle device or on the Kindle app available on various platforms.)

Film Music’s Shift from Melody to Sound Design

Music composer Kaushal Inamdar recently posted an insightful Twitter thread about how film music had changed in recent decades. The crux of the point he made was that technological advances in music production had shifted the focus of music directors from music composition to sound design. He argued that creating interesting sounds was becoming more important than creating beautiful compositions. The singer’s voice, which traditionally delivered the main melody in film songs, had become just another element in the sound the composers were looking to create. As Inamdar described it – “More and more singers sang less and less”.

A few years ago. I had talked about these concepts a little bit while comparing the music of the films “Raanjhanaa” (2013) and “Lootera” (2013). I had found A.R. Rahman’s music for “Raanjhanaa” (2013) to be more textured and intricate but had enjoyed Amit Trivedi’s “Lootera” (2013) more since it was more melodic and hummable. To borrow Inamdar’s words, while “Raanjhanaa” (2013) had more interesting sounds, the composition was better in “Lootera” (2013). For me, “Lootera” (2013) has stood the test of time significantly better than “Raanjhanaa” (2013).

The shift from a melody-centric to a sound-centric music-making process was enabled by technological advancements in music production. Synthesizers and software programs made it easy for music directors to create new sounds (even those mimicking live musical instruments, like the sarod in “Mitwa” (“Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna”, 2006)), use newly recorded or pre-recorded samples and loops, and manipulate and assemble them into a song. Recording songs live in a studio with singers and session musicians coming together became obsolete. Composers increasingly channeled their creativity in creating catchy hooks and danceable rhythms that drew listeners in. Melody – the crucial element of film songs that creates a lasting impact – took a back seat. Music production became less organic and reminiscent of assembly-line productions. 

The use of technology to improve the sound of film music is not a new phenomenon. The celebrated “Been” theme of “Nagin” (1954) created by Kalyanji Virji Shah (of Kalyanji – Anandji) on a keyboard instrument called clavioline is among the earliest uses of electronic music in Hindi films. Kalyanji – Anandji (and their brother Babla) went on to push the boundaries of film music with their use of synthesizers. The use of the mini Korg synthesizer in “Yeh Mera Dil Yaar Ka Deewana” (“Don”, 1977) was a significant milestone and made electronic instruments more popular than ever before. R.D. Burman was another music director who embraced technological innovations in music production. His efforts to use technology to improve the sound quality of his recordings set him apart from his peers.

However, the biggest technological shift in music production happened in the 1990s with the rise of A.R. Rahman. As sessions musician Shankar Indorkar points out in Gregory Booth’s book “Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios” – “He’s the one who changed [the sound and the production process of film music] because if you see Roja [1993], there’s hardly any acoustic instrument and hardly any Indian instrument also. And that was his first picture.”. Rahman’s pioneering use of sampling in music production was poignantly described by Indorkar through a personal experience:

It is important to note that Rahman himself cannot be held responsible for the erosion of melody from film music. While his sound design gave him an edge, his biggest strength was always his ability to create exquisite melodies. Lesser composers could emulate Rahman’s use of technology to produce music but could not match his music-making genius. Technology became a crutch for them. The changing tastes of music listeners also caused sound design to be prioritized over melody. As attention spans of music listeners reduced, the demand for instant gratification increased, leading to the proliferation of songs with repetitive and catchy hooks. In the 2010s, as songs started losing their place as storytelling devices in films, melodies were replaced by dance numbers that could be used to promote the film. The rise of hip-hop also served to extricate melody from Hindi film songs.

A.R. Rahman himself lamented about the disappearance of melody from film songs in a 2014 interview. On being asked to comment about Amit Trivedi and Sneha Khanwalkar as “offshoots of the ARR movement”, the maestro said – “They have their own sound, I like what they do but it’s also important to have that classic film melody in your repertoire. That’s missing nowadays, which is sad. Like something Laxminkant-Pyarelal employed or what Nadeem-Shravan did. The bread and butter songs.

While melody has been the soul of Hindi film music since its inception, it cannot necessarily be equated with quality. Even the “classic” era of Hindi films had plenty of terrible songs. Also, musical genres like hip-hop and electronic music are not melodic but are enjoyed by millions of listeners across the globe. It follows that the loss of melody does not represent a loss of quality; it represents a change in the character of film music. There is no denying the fact that this shift is leaving many Hindi film music lovers disappointed. However, it can be argued that their disappointment stems not from the poor quality of today’s music as some of them claim but from a misalignment between their tastes and what’s on offer. While many melodic songs have been recorded in the past decade – “Phir Le Aaya Dil” (“Barfi!”, 2012), “Sawaar Loon” (“Lootera”, 2013), “Yeh Moh Moh Ke Dhaage” (“Dum Laga Ke Haisha”, 2015), “Agar Tum Saath Ho” (“Tamasha”, 2015), and “Ae Watan Watan Mere Aabad Rahe Tu” (“Raazi”, 2018) to name a few – there has also been an rising number of songs that may not be bad but are not very melodic, like “Chaar Baj Gaye Party Abhi Baaki Hai” (“F.A.L.T.U”, 2011), “Teri Keh Ke Loonga” (“Gangs Of Wasseypur”, 2012), “Abhi Toh Party Shuru Hui Hai” (“Khoobsurat”, 2014), “Kar Gayi Chull” (“Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921)”, 2016), “Aisi Dhaakad Hai Dhaakad Hai Aisi Dhaakad Hai” (“Dangal”, 2016), “Coca Cola” (“Luka Chuppi”, 2019), and the songs of “Gully Boy” (2019).

It remains to be seen if this shift is permanent or if melody stages a comeback at some point in the future. Also, will Hindi film music listeners warm up to this trend eventually or move on to greener pastures (non-Hindi film music or independent music)?

For more on this topic, check out this video:

Change in MySwar domain – Again

About two years ago, we had had to shift the domain of MySwar from .com to .in due to ISP-level blocks on our website, which was most likely the result of a court order secured by an entity citing copyright infringement. We’re dismayed that our .in domain has also been blocked now and we have now shifted to http://myswar.co.

The process of blocking websites through ISPs, using court orders backed by Section 169A of the IT Act, 2008, is arbitrary and opaque. Affected websites are not informed about the block in advance, there is no scope for appeal ahead of the block, and the blocked websites are not told the reason for the block or the entity that got the court order.

Along with this shift of domain, we have removed the feature to listen to previews of songs. This is the only feature on MySwar that allows users to listen to music (30-second preview clips) directly on our website. We provide this feature using a widget provided by Apple to its music affiliates and these clips reside on Apple’s servers. However, it is possible that these links are being construed as copyright infringement. We hope that removing the preview links will ensure that MySwar does not get wrongly identified by labels for ISP blocks.

Thanks for staying with us.

The Pick Of Composer Nashad’s Songs

Shaukat Hussain Dehelvi, known commonly as Nashad, was a music director who composed music for 29 Hindi films from 1947 to 1963. He moved to Pakistan in 1964 and continued to make music for Pakistani films till the 1970s. He passed away in 1981. For his work in India, Nashad is best remembered for his music for the film “Baradari” (1955) which included hits like “Tasveer Banata Hoon”, “Bhula Nahin Dena Ji” and “Mohabbat Ki Bas Itni Daastan Hai”. Here are five of my picks by this forgotten music director.

Jadugar Baalma (Naghma, 1953)

“Naghma” was the first film in which Shaukat Hussain Dehlvi was credited as Nashad. He wasn’t actually the first choice of the film’s producer/director, Nakshab Jarchavi. It was only when the in-demand Naushad declined to compose for the film that Shaukat landed the film and the Nashad moniker. Nakshab Jarchavi was apparently getting back at Naushad by giving Shaukat a name similar to his. The film’s music was reasonably successful and the name Nashad stuck. My pick from the film is the Shamshad Begum solo “Jadugar Baalma”.

Ek Dil Do Hain Talabgar (Darwaza, 1954)

Talat Mahmood was one of Nashad’s favorite singers. Talat’s low-key singing style went well with Nashad’s understated compositions. “Ek Dil Do Hain…” is a fine Talat Mahmood-Suman Kalyanpur duet. A slide guitar and a saxophone, atypical instruments for the time and genre, featured prominently in the song.

Tasveer Banata Hoon (Baradari, 1955)

“Baradari” was Nashad’s most accomplished work and the album that he is best remembered for. At one end of the spectrum was “Bhula Nahi Dena Ji”, a playful, foot-tapping duet by Rafi and Lata filmed on a strapping Ajit, who was still playing lead roles, and one of the leading actresses of the time, Geeta Bali. At the other end was my “Tasveer Banaata Hoon”, a melodious ghazal in Talat Mahmood’s silken vibrato. One of the things that stood out for me in the score for “Baradari” in general and “Tasveer Banaata Hoon” was the more elaborate arrangement used by Nashad, giving the music a fuller and richer sound. While Nashad’s assumed name may have helped him get more attention, it also led to people attributing his popular songs to his more famous peer. Sadly, even Saregama wrongly attributes “Baradari” to Naushad and not Nashad.

Aaj Gham Kal Khushi (Jawab, 1955)

“Jawab” was another film in which Nashad and Khumar Barabankvi got together. Khumar’s lyrics for “Aaj Gham Kal Khushi” are simple but effective. In a song that does not require him to do much, Rafi emotes with his voice like only he can.

Rafta Rafta Woh Meri (Zeenat, 1975)

Nashad continued to compose for Hindi films but couldn’t quite strike a chord with the audience. He migrated to Pakistan in 1964 and continued to make music for films across the border with limited success. Memories of Nashad in India were fading when things turned around and his song “Rafta Rafta Woh Meri Hasti Ka Saaman Ho Gaye” sung by Mehdi Hassan for the Pakistani film “Zeenat” became immensely popular. The ghazal, written by Tasleem Fazli, became a staple in Khan Sahab’s concerts and sustained its popularity over the years. The song’s success unearthed the fact that Tasleem Fazli had actually based his lyrics on a song written by Qamar Jalalabadi for the Hindi film “Hum Kahan Ja Rahe Hain” (1966). The original version sung by Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor perhaps had better lyrics (or at least more original!) but Nashad’s music won more hearts that Basant Prakash’s original. Interest in the song was resurrected in 1995 when Anu Malik adapted the music of “Rafta Rafta…” for “Dheere Dheere Aap Mere” in the Aamir Khan starrer, “Baazi” (1995). Nashad’s song continues to spawn covers and his music stays alive.

[This post originally appeared here.]

C. Ramchandra’s 10 Most Memorable Songs

Ramchandra was one of the most talented composers to make music for Hindi films, equally comfortable with raag-based songs and the Western music idiom. While O.P. Nayyar is commonly known as the Rhythm King, C. Ramchandra was instrumental in giving rhythm an important role in Hindi film music. The composer is best remembered for his songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar.

In this post, I pick 10 of C. Ramchandra’s most memorable film songs.

Shehnai (1947)

After being introduced by actor, director Bhagwan in “Sukhi Jeevan” (1942), C. Ramchandra composed music for more than 20 films before getting his first hit song for “Shehnai”. But what a hit that was! “Sunday Ke Sunday” was probably the first use of swing music in Hindi films. C. Ramchandra, credited as Chitalkar, himself sang the swing portions of the song filmed on Mehmood’s father, Mumtaz Ali. The new-fangled music and whacky lyrics worked its magic on audiences and the song became a big success. The song apparently earned him a reprimand from Anil Biswas, but this was just the first of the many genre-bending Hindi film songs he would go on to compose.

Patanga (1949)

To C. Ramchandra’s credit is what’s probably the first “telephone song” in Hindi films, “Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon”. Chitalkar and Shamshad Begum’s playful banter, penned by Rajendra Krishan, on the travails of a long distance relationship is delightfully quirky. Sample this – “Aji lungi baandh ke karen guzaara bhool gaye patloon”. While critics panned the lowbrow lyrics, filmgoers lapped up the song.

Sargam (1950)

The quality of the Lata – C. Ramchandra collaboration had grown steadily over the years and showed signs of maturing in 1950. “Sargam” was perhaps the best example of what this duo was capable of. There are some beautiful melodies in the film, although I have an issue with how classical songs and artists are lampooned in some of them. Unfortunately, this was fairly common in the films of the time. My pick from the film is the Raag Jaunpuri based “Jab Dil Ko Sataave Gham”. One of the things I love about this song is the jugalbandi between a young Lata Mangeshkar and the more accomplished Saraswati Rane, who would go on to break new ground in Hindustani classical music singing jugalbandis with her elder sister Hirabai Barodekar in the 1960s. The other delightful thing about the song is its instrumentation, specially the use of the solo violin. One wonders why the instrument didn’t gain popularity in Hindustani music as it did in Carnatic.

Albela (1951)

When we talk about classic film albums, “Albela” tends to get overlooked by all but the die-hard film music buffs. One of C. Ramchandra’s key contributions was bringing in modern Western influences into Hindi film music – jazz, swing, rock n’ roll and in “Albela” even Hawaiian and African sounds. In this post however, I pick a a fairly conventional song but one which reveals a different facet of C. Ramchandra – his ability to compose songs very quickly. The story behind “Dheere Se Aaja Ri Ankhiyan Mein Nindiya” is that C. Ramchandra received Rajendra Krishan’s lyrics just two hours before the song was to be recorded. He is said to have finalized the tune in the car on his way to the studio! There are two version of this song – a Lata solo and a Lata – Chitalkar. My pick is the duet.

Parchhain (1952)

This is one of C. Ramchandra’s lesser known albums but worth picking for a genre he wasn’t usually associated with – ghazal. “Parchhain” was C. Ramchandra’s best offering of ghazals till that point – the Talat solo “Mohabbat Hi Na Jo Samjhe” and the Lata solo “Katate Hain Dukh Mein Yeh Din”. My pick is the Talat song.

Anarkali (1953)

“Anarkali” was the C. Ramchandra’s career-defining album and widely regarded as one of the finest albums in the annals of Hindi films. Fending off producer Sashadhar Mukherjee’s insistence to use Geeta Dutt, C. Ramchandra recorded as many as nine songs in Lata Mangeskar’s voice. The only Geeta Dutt song in the film (yes there was one!) was composed by another music director, Basant Prakash. My pick from the film is the evergreen Lata solo “Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai”. This is probably the most flawless Lata Mangeshkar has ever sounded. The song has a happy and a sad version. My favorite is the happy one with sitar by Abdul Halim Jaffer Khan.

Nastik (1954)

The songs of “Nastik” were as much about Kavi Pradeep’s biting lyrics as they were about C. Ramchandra’s folksy tunes. The film’s most popular song, “Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan” sung by Pradeep himself, is a seething critique of religious hypocrisy and does a great job of encapsulating the theme of this critically acclaimed film. Such was the impact of this song, that the very next year Sahir Ludhianvi wrote a song riffing its lyrics “Kitna Badal Gaya Bhagwan” (“Railway Platform”, 1955). The film itself recovered from an initial ban and went on to become a golden jubilee.

Azad (1955)

Ramchandra wasn’t the producer’s first choice for “Azad”, a remake of the hit Tamil film “Malai Kallan” (1954). They turned to him when Naushad said he couldn’t record the songs for the film in the time specified by the producers. C. Ramchandra, of course, had no such qualms and had nine songs wrapped up in two months. My pick from the film is the Raag Bageshri based Lata solo “Na Bole Na Bole Na Bole Re”.

Navrang (1959)

Towards the late 1950s C. Ramchandra’s relationship with Lata Mangeshkar got strained and he had to shift to Asha Bhosle for female vocals in his songs. Asha made the most of the opportunity and sang her heart out for “Navrang”. Her duet with Mahendra Kapoor, “Aadha Hai Chandrama Raat Aadhi” became very popular. Mahendra Kapoor had C. Ramchandra to thank for giving him his first hit song after his debut in 1953. The song of the album for me, however, is Asha’s solo “Aa Dil Se Dil Mila Le”. For some reason, Asha sounds quite different in this film, in general and this song in particular. There is a kind of exaggerated playfulness in her voice that is a little distracting but works well overall. Also notable in the song are the interludes that make lovely use of sitar and sarangi.

Bahurani (1963)

Ramchandra’s breakup with Lata took its toll on him. It was as if he had lost his muse. Although he did record a few more songs with Lata, “Bahurani” was his last significant music release. The film was also his only collaboration with Sahir Ludhianvi. My pick from the film is the effervescent Lata, Hemant Kumar duet, “Umr Hui Tumse Mile”.

Bonus: After several behind-the-scenes twists and turns Lata Mangeshkar, performed “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon” live for the first time on January 27, 1963. The song, written by Kavi Pradeep, gained iconic status over the years and came to be known as the song brought tears to Nehru’s eyes. What many don’t know is that the song was composed by C. Ramchandra.

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Best Of The Naushad – Rafi Partnership

This post commemorates the birth anniversaries of two stalwarts – Mohammed Rafi (December 24) and Naushad (December 25) – each a great artist in his own right while being an important part of the other’s career. Mohammed Rafi dominated the music charts in the 1950s and 1960s, singing for all the leading music directors and actors of the time and making the careers of the new ones. It was Naushad who have him his first big break in “Mela” (1948) and shaped and nurtured his voice to it full potential. Naushad is counted as one of the most influential music directors in Hindi films who defined the sound of Hindi film music in the 1950s. He is credited with drawing classical music into Hindi films. It was using Rafi’s voice in “Baiju Bawra” (1952), that Naushad brought classical music into the mainstream.

Here are my top 10 picks of this legendary duo.

Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele – Mela (1948)

After debuting in a Punjabi film “Gul Baloch” (1944), Rafi got his first break in Hindi films for music director Shyam Sunder’s “Gaon Ki Gori”. However, “Gaon Ki Gori” was released only in 1945. His first Hindi film release was for Naushad’s “Pehle Aap” (1944). A few collaborations including a Rafi cameo in a Saigal song followed before Rafi got his first hit – the title song of “Mela” (1948). Rafi’s voice was unlike any other and he had the conviction to stay true to it. Unlike his peers, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar, Rafi refused to adopt K.L. Saigal’s singing style despite being a big fan.

Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki – Dulari (1949)

Despite the success of “Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele”, Naushad continued to be tentative about Rafi, using him sparingly. With each song, Rafi got better at his art and his stature as a singer grew. If there was one song that signaled Rafi’s transformation from raw talent to leading playback singer, it was “Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki” from “Dulari”. Even today, this Raag Pahadi song retains its appeal and sounds as fresh as it must have in 1949.

Taara Ri Yaara Ri  – Dastan (1950)

Naushad himself was experimenting with his music and was yet to find the sound that came to define him. It is from this period that one can find songs that sound nothing like what we have come to expect a Naushad song to sound like. One of my favorites of such songs is “Taara Ri Yaara Ri” from “Dastan” (1949). This waltzy Rafi-Suraiya duet is utterly charming and Raj Kapoor and Suraiya cavorting onscreen is a sight for sore eyes.

Man Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj – Baiju Bawra (1952)

In “Baiju Bawra”, Naushad found the perfect subject for using a base of classical music for his songs. Ustad Amir Khan became the voice of Tansen and Rafi, the voice of Bharat Bhushan’s Baiju Bawra, except for “Aaj Gawat Man Mero” where the two face-off. Another esteemed classical singer D.V. Paluskar was brought in to make the loss of Ustad Amir Khan’s Tansen palatable, even credible!. In the six songs Rafi sang, he demonstrated impressive range across scales and genres. My favorite Rafi song from the film is the lovely Raag Maulkauns based bhajan “Man Tarpat Hari Darshan Ko Aaj”. The spectacular success of the film and its music proved skeptics wrong and ushered in a wave of films seeped in classical music.

Maan Mera Ehsaan Arey Naadan – Aan (1952)

With several successes under his belt, Rafi became the most sought playback singer of the Hindi film industry. All the stars of the time wanted him to be their voice. This adulation never went to his head and he remained a genial and humble being. It did make him a more self-assured singer. Even in a relatively mellow song like “Maan Mera Ehsaan Arey Naadan”, the vitality of his voice is discernible.

Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re – Kohinoor (1960)

One might wonder why seven years separate this pick from the previous one. The answer lies in the rate at which Naushad signed films. He was considerably less profilic than his peers. In these seven years, Naushad worked in just five films – less than a film per year. He was very picky about the films he worked on and when he did work, he took his time recording songs. Which brings us to “Kohinoor” (1960) and my pick from it – “Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re”. For this brilliant Raag Hameer based song, Rafi does a fantastic job that includes a well-executed tarana. The icing in the cake is Ustad Amir Khan’s rapid-fire taan (unfortunately portrayed on Mukri’s onscreen antics) and an energetic sitar solo by Ustad Halim Jaffer Khan wrapping up the song. If we could determine the greatness per note of Hindi films songs and rank them, “Madhuban Mein Radhika” would appear very near the top.

Mere Mehboob Tujhe Meri Mohabbat Ki Kasam – Mere Mehboob (1963)

With new music directors gaining foothold and changing trends in film music, the 1960s saw a decline in Naushad’s career. His music tended to be heard in films in which one of his close associates was involved – Dilip Kumar and Mehboob Khan. Additionally, a new partnership with the rising star, Rajendra “Jubilee” Kumar, emerged. Unfortunately for Naushad, even huge hits like “Mere Mehboob” didn’t do much for his career. This was a travesty because its musical score was evidence of how much more Naushad had to offer. Keeping with the film’s “Muslim social” theme, the film was replete with ghazals and qawwalis. With three superb solos, Rafi demonstrated the towering form he was in. My pick from the film is “Mere Meboob Tujhe Meri Mohabbat Ki Kasam” with Pandit Shivkumar Sharma on the santoor.

Tere Husn Ki Kya Tareef Karoon – Leader (1964)

While Rafi’s songs for other music directors grew louder and, to put it mildly, more exuberant, he always had sweet melodies to sing for Naushad. “Leader” might have had Naushad working with Sahir Ludhianvi for the first time but an ego clash of the two veterans resulted in Sahir’s exit and the entry of Naushad’s staple lyricist, Shakeel Badayuni. My pick, “Tere Husn Ki Kya Tareef Karoon”, is a melodious song enhanced by an elegant Dilip Kumar and Vyjayanthimala onscreen.

Koi Sagar Dil Ko Bahlata Nahin – Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966)

The 1960s also saw a decline in Dilip Kumar’s career. Film after film made little impact on the box-office. “Dil Diya Dard Liya” was another such film. That the film had some very good music did nothing to salvage Naushad’s declining reputation as a saleable music director.

Kaisi Haseen Aaj Baharon Ki Raat Hai – Aadmi (1968)

By the late 1960s, the writing was on the wall for both Dilip Kumar – despite a comeback of sorts with “Ram Aur Shyam” (1967) – and Naushad. They continued to work in a limited capacity but their releases in 1968, “Sunghursh” and “Aadmi” were there last together. Even Rafi had started sounding a little laboured, as in the most popular song of “Aadmi”, “Aaj Purani Raahon Se”. His position as Bollywood’s leading male playback singer was about to be usurped by Kishore Kumar with the release of “Aradhana” the next year. He recorded a handful of songs with Naushad in the 1970s before his untimely death in 1980. My pick from “Aadmi” is the lesser heard Rafi duet with Mahendra Kapoor “Kaisi Haseen Aaj Baharon Ki Raat Hai”. The original recording of the song had Rafi singing with Talat Mahmood. Talat’s replacement with Mahendra Kapoor was an indication of the changing times.

A longer list of the Naushad and Rafi’s best collaborations can be found here.

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Best of Shailendra

Shailendra is regarded as one of the best lyricists Hindi films have produced. While many of his peers were regarded as poets who also wrote lyrics for Hindi film songs, Shailendra set himself apart with his commitment to the medium. His ability to connect with film audiences with simple but impactful words was unparalleled. Considering that he started off as a dedicated member of the leftist Progressive Writers’ Association who looked down on the commercial world of cinema, his transformation from an idealistic poet to the consummate lyricist was remarkable.

Shailendra died an untimely death almost half a century ago on December 14, 1966 but his songs are timeless. To commemorate his death anniversary, I pick 10 films that showcase his brilliance. Given the large number of films he did with Shankar – Jaikishan, I’ve normalized the list to accommodate his work with other music directors.

Barsaat (1949)

Shailendra first met Raj Kapoor at a kavi sammelan. Raj Kapoor asked him to write a song for “Aag” (1948) but not wanting to sell his poetry, Shailendra declined. Later when Shailendra’s wife developed a medical complication, he approached Raj Kapoor for financial assistance and got Rs. 500 from him. When Shailendra went to Raj Kapoor to return the loan, he refused the money and asked him to give him two songs instead. It was in these circumstances that Shailendra started working for Hindi films. The resounding success of Barsaat coupled with the fantastic chemistry of the team consisting of Raj Kapoor, Shankar – Jaikishan, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri established a winning formula that ruled Bollywood for several years. My pick from the film – “Barsaat Mein Humse Mile Tum Sajan”.

Awara (1951)

There are a few stories recounting how easily his songs’ words came to Shailendra. My favorite story is the genesis of the title song of “Awara”. In a script narration session by K.A. Abbas, Shailendra was in attendance along with Raj Kapoor. K.A. Abbas ignored the relative newcomer, Shailendra, for the two-plus hours of narration. After the narration was over, Raj Kapoor asked Shailendra, “Kuch samajh mein aaya, kaviraj?”. Pat came Shailendra’s reply “Gardish mein tha par aasmaan ka taara tha. Awara tha.”. His response left Raj Kapoor and K.A. Abbas awe-struck and formed the essence of not just film’s title song but Raj Kapoor’s onscreen persona of the good-hearted tramp. Such was the song’s appeal in Russia that it found a mention in Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward”.

Shree 420 (1955)

Raj Kapoor may have modeled his on-screen characters on Charlie Chaplin’s tramp but Shailendra’s songs were those characters’ soul. Shailendra’s unpretentious words for “Mera Joota Hai Japani” told Raj’s philosophy of life in a manner that rang true with audiences and had them humming the song long after they left the theatres. Over the years, the song took on a deeper meaning – of harmony despite differences and of staying true to our roots. With the growth of the Indian diaspora and due to its popularity in other countries, the song’s stature has grown over the years. Even the cesspool that is YouTube’s comments section, takes a refreshingly positive turn with people from all over world waxing eloquent about the song.

Madhumati (1958)

Other than Shankar – Jaikishan, the other music director with whom Shailendra had a successful relationship was Salil Chowdhury. Their partnership started with Salil Chowdhury’s debut fillm “Do Bigha Zamin” (1953). Salilda was widely respected but commercial success eluded him through films like “Naukri” (1954), “Jagte Raho” (1956) and “Musafir” (1957) but their partnership survived. Salilda persisted with Shailendra for “Madhumati” (1958) and this time he got his due. This magnum opus of an album is filled with delightful songs and considered as one of the best Hindi film albums ever. To get a sense of the level at which Shailendra was operating in 1958, consider the fact that despite his excellent work for “Madhumati” and even though “Madhumati” won Salilda and Lata Mangeshkar Filmfare awards that year, Shailendra received two nominations for a different film that year – “Yahudi”. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist for “Yeh Mera Deewanapan Hai”. My pick from “Madhumati” is the iconic “Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Hasin”. This is another Shailendra song that transcended the literal and became a metaphor for the journey of life.

Anari (1959)

“Anari” may not have been an RK Film production but with Raj Kapoor in another role of a likeable, ordinary man, it had all the sensibilities of one. With the film winning Filmfare awards for Shankar – Jaikishan, Mukesh and Shailendra, Raj Kapoor’s music team demonstrated once again why they were such a potent force in the industry. My Shailendra pick from the film, however, isn’t the award-winning “Sab Kucch Seekha Humne” – the film’s “character song”, but the “philosophy of life song” – “Kisi Ke Muskurahaton Pe Ho Nisar”. Like many Shankar – Jaikishan songs, this superb melody woven around accordions, strings, mandolin and whistles was conceived in the background score on an earlier RK Film, “Shree 420”.

Chhote Nawab (1961)

My pick of “Chhote Nawab” in this list is perhaps an anomaly and a reflection of my bias for R.D. Burman’s music. In my defence, this Pancham album is worth surfacing for its severely underrated gems and some uncharacteristic Pancham tunes. Shailendra excelled in the use of dialects that went very well in classical as well as folk-based songs. My pick from “Chhote Nawab” is one such song – “Ghar Aaja Ghir Aaye”. This was Pancham’s first song for Hindi films – he had composed it for an earlier film, “Raaz”, which got shelved. Pancham’s Raag Malgunji based melody is beautifully complemented by Shailendra’s musical lyrics. Ordinary phrases like “dhak dhak”, “tap tip” and “kas mas” have never sounded this pretty. Lata, of course, sings the song like only Lata can. It is said that it was this song that started the process of reconciliation between S.D. Burman and Lata Mangeshkar, who had stopped working with each other for some time.

Bandini (1963)

S.D. Burman and Shailendra partnered a number of times starting with “Buzdil” (1951) but somehow each album, with the possible exception of “Kala Bazar” (1960), was lesser than the sum of their greatness.  That changed in 1963 with two stellar albums – “Bandini” and “Meri Surat Teri Aankhen”. Unfortunately, while “Bandini” saw Lata Mangeshkar walking back into S.D. Burman’s recording studio after six years, it also resulted in a brief tiff between Dada Burman and Shailendra. There was a silver lining though. The selfless human being that he was, Shailendra, on his way out of the film after writing six songs for it, helped Gulzar get a chance to write a song for “Bandini” and thus began the career of another great lyricist. My pick from “Bandini” is the poignant climactic song sung by S.D. Burman, “Mere Saajan Hain Us Paar”.

Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964)

Among the wide variety of themes Shailendra wrote lyrics to, the theme that stands out for me are his songs about life and the spirit of those songs – determined, positive, hopeful. This spirit is at its brightest in Kishore Kumar’s title song of “Door Gangan Ki Chhaon Mein”. Kishore’s lullaby-like music, Hemant Kumar’s soothing voice and Shailendra’s warm lyrics are beacons of hope for lost souls.

Guide (1965)

After a break of two years, S.D. Burman and Shailendra came together again for “Guide”. It was a quirk of fate that made this happen. The Anand brothers had engaged Hasrat Jaipuri for the film but turned to Shailendra when they were disappointed by the lyrics of the opening lines he offered for “Din Dhal Jaye”. Miffed at being the second choice, Shailendra quoted a fee that was very high for the time. The Anand brothers acquiesced and had the lyrics for the mukhda of “Gaata Rahe Mera Dil” by the end of the meeting. For the first time, S.D. Burman and Shailendra created a film album that truly reflected their combined greatness. Many consider “Guide” as the most iconic Hindi film soundtrack. My pick from the film is the song that Hasrat started (the first line is his) and Shailendra completed. Rafi’s voice is a lovely as it has ever sounded in a film song.

Teesri Kasam (1966)

Shailendra turned producer with “Teesri Kasam”. Fascinated by Phanishwar Nath Renu’s short story “Maare Gaye Gulfam”, Shailendra decided to make a film based on it and brought on board as director the man who had introduced him to the story, Basu Bhattacharya. The film won him the National Film Award for Best Feature Film and went on to be considered a classic. Sadly, Shailendra did not live to enjoy his accomplishments. The challenges he faced during the film’s making and it’s poor reception broke his spirit and he passed away soon after the film’s release. For his own production, Shailendra took help from his long-time associate Hasrat Jaipuri, who wrote three of the ten songs in the film. In his songs for the film, Shailendra brought in the texture of Hindi dialects with songs like “Chalat Musafir” and “Sajanwa Bairi”. My pick is the more accessible “Sajan Re Jhooth Mat Bolo” – another superb, philosophical take on life by Shailendra.

It’s impossible to distill greatness in ten songs so I’ll end this post with a much deeper list of Shailendra’s best songs.

Bonus: “Chali Kaun Se Desh” (“Boot Polish”, 1953) has one of Shailendra’s few onscreen appearances. He plays the character singing this song.

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Charming Voice Of Sudha Malhotra

Sudha Malhotra was one of the female singers who showed a lot of promise in the 1950s and 1960s but couldn’t quite take their careers to the next level. Like some of her peers, she was unable to get the leading music directors of the time to look beyond the Mangeshkar sisters. Between 1949 and 1982, she recorded only about 250 songs. Among the highlights of her career were songs written for her by Sahir Ludhianvi. The number of songs she sang for him and the words Sahir used in those songs led to speculations of romantic links between the two. Sudha Malhotra got married in 1960 and it is probable that the speculations are just that. She recorded very few Hindi film songs after 1960 but had a moderately successful career recording bhajan and ghazal albums and performing concerts.

To mark her birthday on November 30, I pick five songs by this under-rated singer with a lovely voice.

Darshan Do Ghanshyam (Narsi Bhagat 1957)

“Darshan Do Ghanshyam” is a soulful bhajan based on Raag Kedar. With three singers at their prime – Hemant Kumar, Sudha Malhotra and Manna Dey – the song features some excellent singing. Composed by Ravi and written by Gopal Singh Nepali, this song featured in Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” (2008) and ctsed a bit of a controversy. Music director Ravi sued the film-makers for using the song without permission. Additionally, Anil Kapoor’s quiz master character adjudged Surdas as the right answer to the question on the song’s writer. Gopal Singh Nepali was not even an option.

Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao (Didi, 1959)

“Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao” is easily Sudha Malhotra’s most popular song. What made the song extra special is that she actually composed it. Called in to compose a song when the film’s music director N. Dutta was indisposed, Sudha Malhotra put together one of the most mellifluous ghazals recorded for Hindi films. This was the only song she ever composed for Hindi films. Sahir’s moving lyrics for the song seemed to reflect is own angst. While Sudha Malhotra is the star of the song for me, Mukesh also chips in effectively and makes this duet a delight to listen to.

Aaj Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai (Girl Friend, 1960)

The only Sudha Malhotra duet with Kishore Kumar is among the least heard of Bollywood’s most romantic songs. “Girl Friend” is the only film in which Sahir Ludhianvi wrote for Hemant Kumar. Both these towering artists kept things simple for this song – Sahir using words we speak everyday and Hemant Kumar choosing melody over arrangement. This short but extremely sweet song leaves us wanting for more.

Salaam-E-Hasrat Qubool Kar Lo (Babar, 1960)

“Salaam-E-Hasrat Qubool Karl Lo” was considered by many as Sahir’s open declaration of love for Sudha Malhotra. If this really was the case, it was devilishly clever – and romantic – of Sahir to get the object of his affection to voice his thoughts! Writer Akshay Manwani’s interview with Sudha Malhotra for his book “Sahir Ludhianvi – The People’s Poet” (highly recommended read) suggests that the love may have been one-sided. Here’s an excerpt of what Sudha Malhotra said in the interview:

He must have liked my voice… I don’t know what it was, but he was definitely very enamoured. He kept giving me good songs to sing, which was my achievement…..

….All I know was that attention was being showered on me and I was lapping it up. As a young girl, if somebody, such an important person, is giving you so much attention, you enjoy it.

Whatever the back-story may have been, the song is a musical gem. It’s easy to see why Sahir fell in love with Sudha Malhotra’s voice.

Na Main Dhan Chahoon (Kala Bazar, 1960)

In “Na Main Dhan Chahoon”, S.D. Burman brought together Geeta Dutt and Sudha Malhotra. The chemistry between the two singers is striking and at times it’s difficult to tell the difference between their voices. (Sudha Malhotra sang for Nanda’s character and Geeta Dutt for Leela Chitnis’.) Sudha Malhotra’s penchant for light classical songs and bhajans in particular come through in this song and became the basis of her independent career after she got married.


This half an hour interview provides interesting insights into the career of the charming singer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b3buW-o0ylo

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Best Of Geeta Dutt In 10 Songs

Geeta Dutt is among the few Bollywood artists we love to root for. She stood her own against formidable competition, lived through a turbulent marriage, drowned her sorrows in alcohol and passed away when she was only 42, leaving behind songs that continue to enthrall people to this day. To commemorate her birth anniversary on November 23, I pick 10 songs sung by her. It is not a coincidence that 6 of these songs are by two composers – S.D. Burman and O.P. Nayyar. These two composers showered Geeta Dutt with some of their best tunes and she reciprocated by singing her heart out for them.

Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya (Do Bhai, 1947)

Although Geeta Roy received no training, she was a natural singer. A chance debut in 1946 – when she was only 16 years old – got her noticed by S.D. Burman who was so smitten by her voice that he had her sing six of the nine songs in “Do Bhai”. Her matured singing in “Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya” belied her tender age and her ability to emote with her voice set her apart from her peers.

Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui (Baazi, 1951)

With few big hits and starved of attention due to the enormous success of Lata Mangeshkar, post “Mahal” (1949), the next few years were unremarkable for Geeta Roy. That changed with “Baazi”. S.D. Burman’s faith in Geeta Roy was visible again. She sang six of the eight songs in the film – all solos. The song from the film that transformed her career was “Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui”. Much to Sahir’s horror, S.D. Burman took a contemplative ghazal and transformed it into a foot-tapping cabaret. Geeta Roy sang with oomph, her voice giving expression to Geeta Bali’s come-hither looks. The song was a roaring success and Geeta Roy had arrived. “Baazi” was also a turning point in her personal life. It was during the making of this film that she fell in love with the film’s director, Guru Dutt. They got married in 1953 and Geeta Roy became Geeta Dutt.

Ja Ja Ja Ja Bewafa (Aar Paar, 1954)

While it is true that Geeta Dutt sang some of her best songs for O.P. Nayyar, many don’t realize that Geeta Dutt’s role in O.P. Nayyar’s success was even bigger. After debuting in 1952, O.P. Nayyar couldn’t really make a mark with his music and was about to leave the Hindi film industry. It was Geeta Dutt, who encouraged him and got Guru Dutt to engage him for “Aar Paar”. “Aar Paar” was a spectacular success and it kick-started O.P. Nayyar’s journey to music superstardom. Most of Geeta Dutt’s songs in the film rode on her vocal trademarks but “Ja Ja Ja Ja Bewafa” revealed her underutilized range and power of expression.

Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata (Mr. & Mrs. 55, 1955)

Geeta Dutt and O.P. Nayyar ruled the music charts for the next few years. With an increasingly self-assured Guru Dutt at the helm, the two artists made some of the period’s most popular music. In an album replete with excellent songs, “Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata” was the icing on the cake. It is a testament to Guru Dutt’s and O.P. Nayyar’s modern sensibilities that this half a century old song shows no signs of aging either visually or aurally. Aided by legendary cinematographer V.K. Murthy, Guru Dutt’s song shooting capabilities came to the fore in this film. A fetching Madhubala in pigtails, pretty women prancing with umbrellas and choreographed divers in a swimming pool make “Thandi Hawa Kaali Ghata” a visual delight.

Jaata Kahan Hai Deewane (C.I.D., 1956)

Geeta Dutt’s career was closely aligned with her personal life. With “C.I.D”, the two were inextricably tied. Guru Dutt introduced Telugu film actress Waheeda Rehman in the character of a vamp in the film and, in the process, fell hopelessly in love with her. Geeta Dutt sang the songs of “C.I.D.” with gay abandon, with no inkling of the storm that was about to sweep her marriage. The enormous appeal of “Jaata Kahan Hai Deewane” comes into sharp focus when one considers the fact that the song was censored out of the film. Various accounts of the reason behind the censor board’s decision and numerous covers over the years – including one recently, in Anurag Kashyap’s “Bombay Velvet” (2015) – have kept the song alive in public imagination.

Jaane Kya Tune Kahi (Pyaasa, 1957)

“Pyaasa” was a classic that brought out the best in every artist involved in the film. Working with artists like S.D. Burman and Sahir Ludhianvi at their prime, Geeta Dutt recorded some memorable songs for “Pyaasa”. The irony of Geeta Dutt singing “Jaane Kya Tune Kahi” while Waheeda Rehman’s character seduces Guru Dutt’s character on screen is bittersweet.

Mujh Ko Tum Jo Mile (Detective, 1958)

Geeta Dutt’s songs for S.D. Burman and O.P. Nayyar are of such high quality that they overwhelm her work with other music directors. There are many lovely gems in her body of work that do not get attention because of her exemplary work with these two composers. “Mujh Ko Tum Jo Mile”, composed by her brother Mukul Roy, is one such song. Geeta Dutt’s chemistry with another great singer, Hemant Kumar, makes this romantic duet with a hint of waltz a balm for weary souls.

Nanhi Kali Sone Chali (Sujata, 1959)

In 1957, S.D. Burman and Lata Mangeshkar stopped working for a few years due to a misunderstanding. During this period, songs he would have otherwise given to her, went either to Geeta Dutt or to Asha Bhosle. To their credit, both of them grew as singers and made those songs their own. For example, in “Nanhi Koli Sone Chali”, Geeta Dutt imparted playfulness to a simple lori (lullaby) in a style no other singer could have matched.

Na Jao Saiyan Chhuda Ke Baiyan (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, 1962)

The failure of “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959) had already taken a huge toll on the mercurial Guru Dutt and sent him in throes of depression. This had put additional strain on a marriage already in turmoil. Amidst reports of Guru Dutt placing restrictions on films she could sing for, Geeta Dutt’s discography shrunk considerably year over year and she found solace in alcohol. From about a hundred songs a year in the late 1950s, she was down to less than 20 songs in 1962. In her husband’s last film with Waheeda Rehman, Geeta Dutt sang only for Meena Kumari’s character. Her angst in “Na Jao Saiyan Chhuda Ke Baiyan”, singing for Meena Kumari’s inebriated character, blurred the line between fiction and reality.

Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho (Anubhav, 1971)

After “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam”, Waheeda Rehman decided to move on from Guru Dutt’s films. Already a broken man, his continued depression eventually ended in his death in 1964, allegedly by suicide. Geeta Dutt never really recovered from her husband’s death and died of liver cirrhosis in 1972. In her last film, “Anubhav”, she glowed brightly once again and sang three lovely melodies composed by her brother, Kanu Roy, two of which were written by Gulzar, including the ethereal “Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho”. She may have left us too soon but Geeta Dutt left us with plenty to remember her by.

[This post originally appeared here.]