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R.C. Boral – The Father of Indian Film Music

[This post originally appeared here.]

Rai Chand Boral, along with Pankaj Mullick, was one of the pioneers of Hindi film music. The duo started their careers together, directing live music for the Bengali silent film “Chorekanta” (1931). Their first talkie together was “Dena Paona” (1931). They were the first music director duo of the film industry, preceding the likes of Husnlal – Bhagatram and Shankar – Jaikishan. While they started their career together, they soon struck out on their own and established themselves individually as the preeminent music directors of the first decade of recorded film music.

In his rich and exemplary career, R.C. Boral is credited with introducing playback singing in Hindi films and for introducing the golden voice of Kundan Lal Saigal. Kanan Devi was another singer who shone under Boral’s baton.

After an outstanding run in the 1930s, R.C. Boral’s career lost steam in the 1940s. The shift of the Hindi film industry from Calcutta to Bombay, punctuated by K.L. Saigal’s move from New Theaters to Ranjit Movietone in 1941, slowed down his Hindi film career considerably. He retired in the mid-1950s.

Reverentially called the father of Indian film music, R.C. Boral was bestowed the Dadasaheb Phalke award in 1978. He passed away in 1981.

To commemorate his birth anniversary on October 19, I list 10 of R.C. Boral’s most memorable songs in this post.

Bhajoon Main To Bhaav Se Sri Giridhari (Pooran Bhagat, 1933)

While R.C. Boral made is career debut in Bengali films, Saigal recorded a hugely successful non-film song “Jhulana Jhulao Ri”. In 1932, both of them began their Hindi film career with three films together – “Mohabbat Ke Aansoo”, “Subah Ka Sitara” and “Zinda Lash”. The three films failed to make an impact but they struck gold the next year with “Pooran Bhagat”. Saigal did not have an acting role in the film but his songs became very popular. My pick from the film is the mellifluous bhajan “Bhajoon Main To Bhaav Se Sri Giridhari” by Saigal.

Prem Nagar Mein Banaoongi Ghar Main (Chandidas, 1934)

With “Chandidas”, R.C. Boral is credited with introducing full-fledged orchestra in films. In an era in which sound and film recording was not yet separated, the orchestra had to be played on the set and director Nitin Bose had to ensure that the instrumentalists stayed hidden or out of the frame. The impact was discernible – the film was a success and its music was appreciated. In fact, “Chandidas” was the first Saigal starrer that became successful. The Saigal – Uma Shashi duet, “Prem Nagar Mein…”, in particular, became a big hit.

Teri Gathri Mein Laaga Chor (Dhoop Chhaon, 1935)

R.C. Boral continued his association with cinematic firsts in “Dhoop Chhaon”. A medley of songs in the film, “Main Khush Hona Chahoon” and “Aaj Mero Ghar Mohan Aayo”, deployed the technique of playback singing for the first time in Indian film history. The unsighted K.C. Dey (Manna Dey’s uncle) sang for his own character as well as for the character of actor Ahi Sanyal, who lip-synced. I was not able to find this song on YouTube so I ended up choosing another interesting K.C. Dey song, “Teri Gathri Mein Laaga Chor”. Music lovers may remember this song from Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle’s “Paanch Rupaiya Barah Aana”. Kishore parodies three songs in “Paanch Rupaiya…”, the third being “Teri Gathri Mein Laaga Chor”.

Ek Bangla Bane Nyara (President, 1937)

Nitin Bose’s “President” exemplified the new generation film that had moved on from period/mythological dramas to depicting real life. With a strong female lead – Kamlesh Kumari playing a mill owner – the film was perhaps ahead of its time. However, what really captured filmgoers’ imagination was the song “Ek Bangla Bane Nyara”. Boral’s rich arrangement, Kidar Sharma’s grounded lyrics and Saigal’s earnest singing expressed the dreams and aspirations of the common man like no song before it had.

Ambua Ki Daali Daali (Vidyapati, 1937)

Primarily known as an actor in Bengali films till 1937, Kana Devi’s move to New Theatres, starting with her role in “Vidyapati”, established her as a singing star in Hindi films. It was R.C. Boral’s mentorship that helped Kanan Devi’s singing career reach its full potential. Bolstered by Kanan Devi’s performance and R.C. Boral’s music, the biopic of Maithili poet Vidyapati became a big success. My pick from the film is the catchy duet, “Ambua Ki Daali Daali”, sung by Kanan Devi and Dhumi Khan. The place of “Vidyapati” in Indian film history is such that Guru Dutt referenced it in “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (1959). Early on in the film, Guru Dutt’s character is seen leaning over the balcony in a theater playing “Vidyapati”.

Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Hi Jaye (Street Singer, 1938)

“Street Singer” was the pinnacle of R.C. Boral’s career, perhaps even K.L. Saigal’s and Kanan Devi’s. The finest point of the film was Saigal’s brilliant rendition of the Raag Bhairavi based thumri, “Babul Mora Naihar Chhooto Hi Jaye”.  To fully appreciate K.L. Saigal’s singing prowess consider this – he was an untrained singer, singing the song live, walking while being filmed. It’s musical excellence aside, “Babul Mora” plays a pivotal role in the film’s plot. It was the song Saigal’s character teaches Kanan Devi’s character, who then goes on to become a more successful singer than him. Later, when Kanan Devi sings the song in a tune different from Saigal’s original, he is infuriated and breaks up with her.

Mast Pawan Shaakhen Lahrayen (Haar Jeet, 1939)

Not much is known about this film but I find the song duet “Mast Pawan…” by Kanan Devi and Pahari Sanyal very intriguing. The song highlights what seems to be an R.C. Boral signature – long instrumental openings. In this song, this signature stands out more than usual because the instrumental opening extends to half the length of the 3 minute song. The other interesting thing about the song is a very melodic violin solo, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the one in O.P. Nayyar’s “Ankhon Hi Ankhon Mein Ishara Ho Gaya” (“C.I.D.”, 1956).

Kaahe Ko Raad Machai (Lagan, 1941)

“Lagan” was K.L. Saigal’s last film for New Theaters. The film was fairly successful, in large part because of its music. An interesting feature of my pick, “Kaahe Ko Raad Machai”, was how Boral alternated between Western and Indian idioms through the song. The song’s opening and interludes used a primarily Western arrangement, a piano and clarinet prominent among the instruments, and the vocal sections had a primarily Indian arrangement.

Raja Beti Kekrala (Saugandh, 1942)

I must confess that I haven’t explored much the songs from post-Saigal New Theatres films. Of the ones I’ve heard, “Raja Beti..”, a light and cheerful duet by Asit Baran and an unknown female singer (internet forums seem to be inclined to believe it’s Bharati Devi), stands out.

Na To Din Hi Din Woh Rahe Mere (Dard-E-Dil, 1953)

A glaring limitation of R.C. Boral’s discography was that he had only a handful of songs by Lata Mangeshkar. Although Lata had proved herself with “Aayega Aanewala” (“Mahal”) in 1949, it wasn’t till 1953, in the twilight of his career, that R.C. Boral turned to her. Her stunning solo, “Na To Din Hi Din…” from “Dard-E-Dil” (1953) gives us an inkling of what might have been.

Here’s a longer list of R.C. Boral’s most popular songs.


The Best Kishore Kumar Songs for Amitabh Bachchan

[This post originally appeared here.]

In the early 1970s, two Hindi film artists came to the fore – Kishore Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan – and ruled Bollywood for the next two decades. They were a mismatched pair. While Amitabh Bachchan was rookie, Kishore had been around for more than two decades. Both were struggling with their careers. As luck would have it, they came to work together a lot and in the years to come and became as identifiable as pair as Mohammed Rafi and Shammi Kapoor were in the 1960s. By the end of the 1970s, they had completely transformed their careers. In the span of a decade, Kishore Kumar recorded more than double the number of songs he had recorded in the previous two decades and Amitabh Bachchan became a superstar.

To mark Amitabh Bachchan’s 73rd birthday on October 11 and Kishore Kumar’s 28th death anniversary on October 13, I pick their ten most memorable collaborations.

Bombay To Goa (1972)

This was amongst Amitabh’s earliest films in a lead role. While the film was moderately successful, it is said to have helped Amitabh bag his career-making role in “Zanjeer” the next year. My favourite song from the film is the melodious Kishore-Lata duet “Tum Meri Zindagi Mein”. Unfortunately, the song was not filmed and given the theme of this post, a better pick would be the boisterous “Dekha Na Haye Re”. Amitabh Bachchan was known to be a reluctant dancer and it was Mehmood’s counsel that extracted an energetic performance from him. Kishore Kumar, who also had a cameo in the film, belted out the song in a manner that made this song a staple for travelling groups. Incidentally, the phrase “dole dole dole dole” was a last minute inclusion and was inspired by Amit Kumar’s presence in the studio. “Dole” was Mehmood’s nickname for Amit Kumar.

Abhimaan (1973)

Long before celebrity couple names were in vogue, Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri formed a production company named Amiya Pictures. Abhimaan was the only movie produced under this banner. Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s thoughtful direction, S.D. Burman’s award-winning score and Amitabh Bachchan and Jaya Bhaduri’s excellent portrayal of a couple weathering a troubled marriage makes “Abhimaan” an evergreen classic. S.D. Burman’s genius can be seen not just in the music he made for the film but also the singers he picked for Amitabh Bachchan’s character. He used Kishore Kumar for just two songs. The first, “Meet Na Mila Re Man Ka” was at the beginning of the film, when Amitabh Bachchan’s character is at the peak of his singing career. The second, a duet with Lata Mangeshkar, “Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina”, appears in the film’s stunning climax in which the singer gets over his insecurity and reconciles with his wife. The songs in between use other singers to portray a conflicted, insecure husband. My pick from “Abhimaan” is “Meet Na Mila Re Man Ka”.

Mili (1975)

“Mili” was S.D. Burman’s last film. He passed away during the film’s making and it was R.D. Burman who recorded the songs for “Mili”. Perhaps because of Dada Burman’s demise, the film’s soundtrack had just three songs. What the album did not have in numbers, it more than made up for in quality. The two Kishore solos are beautiful and achingly poignant. My pick is “Badi Sooni Sooni Hai”.

Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978)

“Muqaddar Ka Sikandar” may not be a classic film album but in my estimate, as a child of the 1970s/1980s, it has an important place in the Indian pop culture. Amitabh Bachchan had established himself as the industry’s alpha male and his entry in films had become a thing. In “Muqaddar Ka Sikandar”, his entry was with the song “Rote Hue Aate Hain Sab”. The song, with the stylishly dressed Amitabh Bachchan riding a Bullet on the streets of Bombay, carefree and with wind in his hair, had the theatre crowds in raptures. “Muqaddar Ka Sikandar” was a roaring success at the box office.

Don (1978)

“Don” was another hugely successful film and album for Amitabh Bachchan, Kalyanji – Anandji, Kishore Kumar and Anjaan. While the film has several popular songs, it’s biggest hit, “Khaike Paan Banara Wala”, was ironically added as an afterthought. After the filming was complete, Manoj Kumar, who was director Chandra Barot’s mentor, suggested that the film was too tightly paced and needed a song in the second half to ease the proceedings. It was only then that “Khaike Paan Banaras Wala” was recorded and filmed. Who else could play the gamcha-wearing, paan chomping, bhaang guzzling village bumpkin better than Amitabh Bachchan? Kishore Kumar was as spetacular behind the mic as Amitabh was on screen, going to the extent of actually eating paan while recording the song.

Manzil (1979)

“Manzil” is another example of a small sized package delivering a mean punch. Just three songs from the film – “Tum Ho Mere Dil Ki Dhadkan”, inspired by Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”, sung by Kishore and two solos of “Rimjhim Gire Saawan” by Lata and Kishore – elevate the album as an all-time favorite. “Rimjhim Gire Sawan” has to be one of the top three rain songs in any Indian music lover’s list. Lata Mangeshkar’s version, wondefully shot in a rain swept Bombay, has been a hot favorite on TV for decades. However, when it comes to the song itself, I prefer Kishore’s version.

Silsila (1981)

“Silsila” is one of the several Yash Raj films that deal with love triangles and marital conflicts. What makes this film stand out is the parallels between the real lives of the film’s stars, Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha, and the characters they played in the film. The film’s album was a musical treat despite, or perhaps because of, debutant music directors and lyricists. Music directors, Shiv – Hari, comprising of ace santoor player Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and the legendary flautist, Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, and lyricist Javed Akhtar introduced a fresh perspective and new sounds that were sorely needed in Hindi film music at the time. My Kishore Kumar favorite from the movie, is his romantic duet with Lata, “Dekha Ek Khwab”, filmed in the spectacular tulip fields of Keukenhof.

Yaarana (1981)

After “Abhimaan” and “Manzil”, “Yaarana” was another film that featured Amitabh Bachchan as a singer. Amitabh Bachchan’s dance, dressed in a light bulb studded suit, for “Saara Zamana Haseenon Ka Deewana” may have stolen the show in the film but my favorite is Rajesh Roshan’s tasteful adaptation from Rabindra Sangeet, “Chhoo Kar Mere Man Ko”. Interestingly, the original “Tomar Holo Shuru” was the first ever Rabindra Sangeet song recorded by Lata Mangeshkar.

Bemisal (1982)

Director Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachchan shared a special bond. Over the years they formed a very successful partnership with films like “Anand” (1970), “Abhimaan” (1973), “Namak Haram” (1973), “Chupke Chupke” (1975), “Mili” (1975), “Alaap” (1977) and “Jurmaana” (1979). “Bemisal” was their last offering together. At a time when Amitabh’s on screen persona was one of the angry young man pitted against evil villains, his restrained intensity and a female antagonist made “Bemisal” very interesting. “Bemisal” is perhaps an offbeat pick in this list but for me, it deserves a place for two lovely Kishore solos with memorable lyrics Anand Bakshi. My pick – “Ek Roz Main Tadap Kar”.

Sharaabi (1984)

There are two Bachchan films in which Bappi Lahiri knocked the ball out of the park – “Namak Halaal” (1982) and “Sharaabi”. Amitabh’s versatility was in full display as he played a brooding alcoholic in one and a hilarious village boor in another. Kishore Kumar won Filmfare Awards for both films and if I could, I would include both films in the list. For me, what breaks the tie between the two films is a Kishore solo in what is essentially an Asha Bhosle song – “Mujhe Naulakha Pehna De Re”. Kishore makes a grand entry 5 minutes into a rather ordinary song and completely transforms it. My pick from “Sharaabi” – the superb “Manzilen Apne Jagah Hain”, which won Kishore Kumar the Filmfare award.

As with the rest of this series, this list is meant to serve as the beginning of a musical exploration. These lists are not definitive in any sense. If you’re disappointed that your favorite Kishore – Amitabh film or song is not listed in this post, please head here.


Jidhar Dekhoon Teri Tasveer” (“Mahaan”, 1983) is perhaps the only film song that came in versions sung by Kishore Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan. This may be musical blasphemy, but I think Amitabh Bachchan’s version is better than Kishore Kumar’s!


The Best Duets of Lata Mangeshkar

[This post originally appeared here.]

From 1945 to now, Lata Mangeshkar‘s career has clocked more than 70 years and more than 5000 songs. Such is her impact in the Hindi film industry and so deep is her discography that it’s very likely that almost every post in this series has one or more songs by her. Given that there are so many facets to Lata Mangeshkar’s songs, this post will cover just one – her duets with male singers. Here are my favorite duets of Lata Mangeshkar with 10 different male playback singers:

Chitalkar – Shola Jo Bhadke Dil Mera Dhadke (Albela, 1951)

Before R.D. Burman, it was C. Ramchandra who experimented with various non-Indian genres of music, drawing influences from jazz and rock n’ roll. In “Shola Jo Bhadke”, he really strayed from the mainstream and went Hawaiian! The thing that really stands out in the song isn’t the melody or even Chitalkar and Lata Mangeshka’s singing, although they’re perfectly respectable. It is the foot-tapping beats. Geeta Bali looks comely performing Hula-like moves and Bhagwan does his own thing with moves that became Amitabh Bachchan’s trademark three decades later.

Talat Mahmood – Seene Mein Sulagte Hain Armaan (Tarana, 1951)

There’s probably more ethereal beauty packed in this song than any other on this list. Anil Biswas’ haunting melody, Talat Mahmood’s whispery voice and Lata’s restrained singing enunciate some lovely lyrics by Prem Dhawan.

Manna Dey – Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua (Shree 420, 1955)

The depiction of a couple sharing an umbrella in a heavy downpour in “Pyar Hua…” is one of the most everlasting images of Hindi films. The chemistry in Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar’s singing is as potent as Raj Kapoor and Nargis’ onscreen chemistry. This was not accidental. Raj Kapoor and Nargis actually enacted the song in the recording room for the singers to get a sense of the song’s mood. In a time when Mukesh had established himself as Raj Kapoor’s voice, Manna Dey bagging a chance to sing for the actor was a stroke of luck for the struggling singer. Mukesh had to walk out of “Shree 420” after recording just two songs because of a contract he had signed for another film, which barred him from other singing assignments till it was released.

Mukesh – Dil Tadap Tadap Ke Kah Raha Hai (Madhumati, 1958)

Bimal Roy signed Salil Chowdhury for “Madhumati” against the recommendation of the film’s star, Dilip Kumar, and the film’s distributors – they did not consider the genius composer to be commercially viable. The high quality of music Salil Chowdhury delivered for the film despite the tremendous pressure on him is awe-inspiring. “Dil Tadap Tadap..”, one of the many gems from the superlative album, was a very clever adaptation of a popular Polish folk song “Szla Dzieweczka” but still a Salil da original and an evergreen classic.

Rafi – Tasveer Teri Dil Mein (Maya, 1961)

The success of Madhumati brought Salil Chowdhury the attention he deserved and offers rained down on him. He composed some of his finest music in the wake of Madhumati. “Maya” was among his best scores from this period. “Tasveer Teri Dil Mein” is an example of how challenging Salil Chowdhury’s compositions could be for singers. In this song at least, Rafi seems measure up to the challenge a little better than Lata. It was around this period that Rafi and Lata had a big disagreement and did not work with each other for a few years. Thankfully for music lover, they resolved their differences and started working together again in 1967.

Hemant – Chhupa Lo Yun Dil Mein Pyar Mera (Mamta, 1966)

Based on Raag Yaman, simply arranged using a cymbal (manjeera), a sarangi (or violin?) and a flute and with lyrics evoking themes like devotion, submission, the temple lamp, sin, offering of flowers, ash (raakh as a substitute for vibhuti?), “Chhupa Lo..” is a deeply spiritual song posing as a romantic ditty. Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics are so powerful that one almost forgets to pay attention to how soulful Roshan’s tune is and how well Hemant da and Lata Mangeshkar have sung it. This 3 minute song is packed with so much goodness that one has to listen to it several times to take in everything it has to offer.

Bhupinder – Beeti Na Bitaye Raina (Parichay, 1972)

“Parichay” was a significant film. It was the first time R.D. Burman and Gulzar worked together. They hit it off both as professionals and friends and a parade of successful collaborations followed. R.D. Burman had earned the reputation as a composer who worked with modern sounds but periodically, with songs like “Beeti Na Bitai Raina”, he proved that he was equally adept at compositions based on classical music. This lovely duet showed how good a singer Bhupinder was. To be able to sing with the country’s premier singer and hold his own was no mean feat. Lata Mangeshkar may have deservedly won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for the song, but it is Bhupinder and his smooth as silk transition into the song in the middle of the first antara that takes my breath away every time I hear it.

Kishore –  Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi (Aandhi, 1975)

While Lata Mangeshkar treated Mukesh Bhaiya with respect, Kishore Kumar was like the naughty younger brother. Kishore Kumar, on his part, was in awe of Lata Mangeshkar. The story of how he asked R.D. Burman to first record Lata’s version of “Mere Naina Sawan Bhadon” so he could learn from it and then sing his version, is the stuff of legends. This is the most challenging pick for me because Kishore Kumar happens to be my most favourite singer and boy has he sung some beauties with Lata Mangeshkar! Just one film, “Aandhi” (1975), has as many as three lovely Kishore-Lata duets. Thankfully, the personal meaning “Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi” has for me, eases the choice a little.

Yesudas – Aapki Mehki Hui (Trishul, 1978)

With languages and several years separating their singing careers, Lata Mangeshkar sang only a handful of duets with Yesudas. There’s not much to choose from but Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianvi’s “Aapki Mehki Hui” is nice and leaves us wanting for more.

A.R. Rahman – Lukka Chhuppi (Rang De Basanti, 2006)

In my opinion, Lata Mangeshkar’s voice sounded the best in the 1950s. That said, she was the Hindi film industry’s best female singer through the 1980s. She continued to record memorable songs beyond the 1980s but they were few and far between. One of my most favourite Lata Mangeshkar duets from this period is “Lukka Chhupi” with A.R. Rahman. What makes this song really work is that the Lata Mangeshkar gave voice to the grieving, elderly mother played by Waheeda Rehman. We are fortunate to have witnessed two fantastic musicians representing the old and new come together like this.

Here’s a longer list of Lata Mangeshkar’s all-time great songs.

The Best of Hasrat Jaipuri

[This post originally appeared here.]

Starting with “Barsaat” (1949), Raj Kapoor’s team consisting of music directors Shankar – Jaikishan and lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri churned out popular scores film after film for over two decades. Unlike Laxmikant – Pyarelal, who had a clear demarcation of responsibilities, both Shankar and Jaikishan composed tunes. A widely accepted thumb rule to identify the composer of a Shankar – Jaikishan song is based on the song’s lyricist – Shailendra wrote lyrics for Shankar’s tunes and Hasrat Jaipuri penned Jaikishan’s compositions. The outlier in this tremendously successful team, Hasrat Jaipuri isn’t celebrated to the extent that Shankar – Jaikishan and Shailendra are.

After Jaikishan passed away in 1971, Raj Kumar’s partnership with this talented quartet disintegrated. This was a huge setback for Hasrat Jaipuri and he was never able to regain his foothold in the film industry. I would argue, however, that the decline in his career post 1971 did not really impact his legacy. Between 1949 and 1971, he had already built a body of work that is worth celebrating. In this post, I pick a few gems from this period of Hasrat Jaipuri’s career.

“Jiya Beqarar Hai Chhayi Bahaar Hai” (“Barsaat”, 1949)

“Barsaat” was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. After the success of the film and its music, the team of Raj Kapoor, Shankar – Jaikishan, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri would go on to recreate magic for films like “Awara” (1951), “Aah” (1953), “Boot Polish” (1953), “Shree 420” (1955), “Chori Chori” (1956), “Anari” (1959), “Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai” (1960) and many more. In fact, Shankar – Jaikishan, Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri became a team even without Raj Kapoor, with movies like “Daag” (1952),”Patita” (1953), “Seema” (1955), “Basant Bahar” (1956), “Ujala” (1959) and “Junglee” (1961). Of the seven Hasrat Jaipuri songs in “Barsaat”, “Jiya Beqarar Hai” was the most popular. Hasrat’s unpretentious lyrics for the song would become his hallmark. In the long term though, it was this simplicity that took the sheen off his status as a premier lyricist.

“Mohabbat Aisi Dhadkan Hai” (“Anarkali”, 1953)

“Anarkali” was arguably C. Ramchandra’s best film score. The film’s music was so awe-inspiring that even a music director of Naushad’s stature was worried about how his music for the similarly themed “Mughal-E-Azam” (1960) would fare in comparison with “Anarkali”. Rajendra Krishan’s “Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai” was undoubtedly the winner from “Anarkali” but Hasrat Jaipuri’s “Mohabbat Aisi Dhadkan Hai” has also stood the test of time and proven to be an evergreen classic.

“Yaad Kiya Dil Ne Kahan Ho Tum” (“Patita”, 1953)

Shankar – Jaikishan’s mellow tune, Hemant Kumar’s singing and the screen presence of a cigarette-smoking Dev Anand lend a very laidback vibe to “Yaad Kiya Dil Ne Kahan Ho Tum”. The song doesn’t necessarily represent Hasrat Jaipuri’s best in my opinion, but the lyrics go well with the song.

“Nain So Nain Naahi Milao” (“Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje”, 1955)

Vasant Desai’s “Nain So Nain” is another excellent Hemant-Lata duet. This mellow, semi-classical beauty has some lovely aalaaps by Lata and Hemant da that along with a chorus are presented beautifully as vocal harmonies, a concept alien to traditional Indian music. Hasrat Jaipuri excels with some lovely, dialect-infused lyrics. How often do we hear a word like “guiyan” in film songs?

“Rasik Balma” (“Chori Chori”, 1956)

Songs of heartbreak seem to bring out the best from lyricists and so it is with Hasrat Jaipuri’s lyrics for “Rasik Balma”. Despite some uncomfortably high-pitched notes, Lata pulls a stunner in this song. When Shankar – Jaikishan won the Filmfare Award for Best Music Director for “Chori Chori”, they requested Lata to perform “Rasik Balam” at the award function. Piqued that Filmfare had no award category for singers, Lata refused to perform the song and boycotted the award function. In what became a recurring occurence in the industry, Lata Mageshkar had her way when Filmfare introduced the Best Playback Singer category for the first time in 1958. Unsurprisingly, Lata was the first winner in this category for “Aaja Re Pardesi” (“Madhumati”).

“Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujh Par” (“Junglee”, 1961)

An important part of Shammi Kapoor’s rise as a superstar was Mohammed Rafi’s voice. The two artists were inseparable onscreen as Rafi skillfully imbued Shammi Kapoor’s onscreen persona into his singing. Some of Rafi’s best songs for Shammi Kapoor were composed by Shankar – Jaikishan and penned by Hasrat Jaipuri in films like “Junglee” (1961), “Professor” (1962), “An Evening In Paris” (1967), “Brahmachari” (1968), “Prince” (1969), “Tumse Achha Kaun Hai” (1969) and “Andaz” (1971), to name a few. Of all the songs that were produced by this team, the one that stands out for me is “Ehsaan Tera Hoga Muhj Par”, a song seething with romantic tension and one in which we get to see Shammi Kapoor’s mellow side for a change.

“Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne” (“Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne”, 1964)

Shehnai maestro turned Hindi film composer Ramlal pulled off a coup of sorts by getting classical singer Kishori Amonkar to sing the title song of “Geet Gaaya Pathharon Ne”. Other than singing for her own compositions for Govind Nihalani’s “Drishti” (1991), “Geeta Gaaya..” was the only Hindi film song sung by Kishori Amonkar. Although there was another duet version of the song with Asha Bhosle and Mahendra Kapoor, Kishori Amonkar’s version captured filmgoers’ imagination and was a big hit.

“O Mere Pyar Aaja” (“Bhoot Bungla”, 1965)

“Bhoot Bungla” was R.D. Burman’s second film and despite a superb overall score filmgoers only had ears for Pancham’s adaptation of Chubby Checker’s “Come On Let’s Twist Again” – “Aao Twist Karen”. He would have to have to wait for another year for his first hit, “Teesri Manzil”. Strangely, this was the only time Hasrat Jaipuri wrote for R.D. Burman. Listening to “O Mere Pyar Aaja”, as melodious a Lata-Pancham song as any, one wonders why.

“Bhanwre Ki Gunjan Hai Mera Dil” (“Kal Aaj Aur Kal”, 1971)

Shankar – Jaikishan took a while to warm up to Kishore Kumar as a singer. In the 1950s, the only time they used Kishore Kumar’s voice was when they were composing for a film where he played the lead role. That changed in the late 1960s as Kishore’s popularity as a singer increased. Shankar – Jaikishan’s songs with Mukesh, Rafi and Manna Dey overshadow their work with Kishore, but they did have some lovely songs with him as well. One of my favorites is the waltzy “Bhanwre Ki Gunjan” (“Kal Aaj Aur Kal”, 1971). Hasrat’s simple lyrics and the happy melody make this a very hummable song.

“Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana” (“Andaz”, 1971)

“Andaz” was Jaikishan’s last film. He succumbed to liver cirrhosis after the film’s release leaving Shankar to carry on the Shankar – Jaikishan flag. “Andaz” and it’s music were extremely successful and a big part of their success was Rajesh Khanna’s electrifying, if brief, role in the film, boosted by the exhilarating “Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana”. Hasrat’s happy-go-lucky lyrics, embellished by Kishore’s yodeling and Hema Malini’s giggles, were very popular with the youth of the day and won him his second Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist. Jaikishan’s demise took its toll on both Shankar’s and Hasrat Jaipuri’s careers. Hindi film music would never be the same again.

Bonus: C. Ramchandra performing “Mohabbat Aisi Dhadkan Hai” on BBC.

This superb rendition by C. Ramchandra gives Lata’s original a run for its money.


Here’s a longer list of Hasrat Jaipuri’s most popular songs.

Asha Bhosle: The Ageless Bollywood Diva

[This post originally appeared here.]

Asha Bhosle started her Hindi film career in 1948 and unlike many of her peers who’ve hung up their boots, she continues to work and travels the world giving concerts.

Asha Bhosle’s best songs came under the baton of two men – O.P. Nayyar and R.D. Burman. Long posts could be written for the songs she sang for each of these two legends but given her long and textured career, I thought I’d pick songs she sang for 10 different music directors in this post.

C. Ramchandra – Eena Meena Dika (Aasha, 1957)

Asha Bhosle was relegated to Bollywood’s wastelands for almost a decade after she started her career. The music directors of the time were so enamoured of the voice of her elder sister, Lata Mangeshkar, that opportunities with big name composers in big name films were few and far between. The point of inflection in her career came in 1957 with O.P. Nayyar’s “Naya Daur” and “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” and S.D. Burman’s “Nau Do Gyarah” and “Paying Guest”. One of the hits of that year was C. Ramchandra’s madcap, rock n’ roll song “Eena Mina Dika”. The songs nonsensical hook lyrics were strung together by C. Ramchandra based on the nursery rhyme “Eeny meeny miny mo” and the Konkani words “maka naka” contributed by his Goan assistant John Gomes. While it pales in comparison to Kishore Kumar’s version, I do enjoy the Asha version.

Hemant Kumar – Meri Baat Rahi Mere Man Mein (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, 1962)

It is fascinating to imagine the real-life tension that must have been a part of the music making for “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam” (1962). Geeta Dutt refused to sing for Waheeda Rehman’s character in the film and was pitted against the singer O.P. Nayyar ditched her for, Asha Bhosle. Given this backdrop, both singers did exceedingly well and proved to be an even match. I picked “Meri Baat Rahi Mere Man Mein” over three excellent songs – “Saqiya Aaj Mujhe Neend Nahin”, “Meri Jaan O Meri Jaan” and “Bhanwara Bada Naadan” – because it was the one song in the film that shows us the somber, more reflective facet of her singing.

Madan Mohan – Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyan (Woh Kaun Thi, 1964)

Madan Mohan’s affection for Lata Mangeshkar and her voice is well known. Lata Mangeshkar called Madan Mohan Ghazalon Ka Shahzada and Madan Mohan gave her his best compositions. “Woh Kaun Thi” was one film in which this equation was visible. While Lata got four melodic compositions with romantic angles, Asha Bhosle got light, fun, pop songs. Be that as it may, Asha’s “Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyan” holds its own against Lata’s timeless classics from “Woh Kaun Thi”. This songs demonstrates that while ghazals were Madan Mohan’s sweet spot, he was also quite capable of the kind of rhythmic melodies that O.P. Nayyar was famed for. Asha Bhosle’s vocalizations in the song are charming and the saxophone interludes are wonderful counterpoints.

Shankar – Jaikishan – Paan Khaye Saiyan Hamaro (Teesri Kasam, 1964)

This was the toughest pick and bit of a toss-up. Eventually, the song’s rustic beauty and Waheeda Rehman’s winsome screen presence won me over.

Ravi – Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu (Waqt, 1965)

Although not as celebrated as her partnerships with R.D. Burman and O.P. Nayyar, Asha Bhosle’s work for Ravi is substantial and replete with gems. “Waqt”, a superlative album with three solos and three duets by Asha and no songs by Lata Mangeshkar, is a case in point. We must be thankful to Shankar – Jaikishan for declining “Waqt” because B.R. Chopra insisted on Sahir Ludhianvi as the lyricist. Sahir’s words, the simplicity of Ravi’s melody and Asha’s rendition in this song are balm for weary souls.

S.D. Burman – Raat Akeli Hai (Jewel Thief, 1967)

S.D. Burman was another composer who would not look beyond his favorite “Lota” if he had his way (except for the few years in the late 1950s when they temporarily fell out with each other). In “Jewel Thief”, he saved Lata’s voice for leading lady Vyjayanthimala and Asha sang a song each for Tanuja and Helen. My favorite Asha song in the film is the one picturised on Tanuja, “Raat Akeli Hai”. Tanuja’s come-hither moves on screen find superb expression through Asha’s voice as she alternates between the coquette and the sexual being.

O.P. Nayyar – Chain Se Humko Kabhi (Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, 1973)

“Chain Se Humko Kabhi” was the only O.P. Nayyar song for which Asha Bhosle won a Filmfare Award. It was also the last song she would sing for him as she ended her already strained relationship with him. O.P. Nayyar lost his lead singer and his muse and never quite recovered from this setback. The acrimony in their relationship was such that Asha Bhosle did not attend the ceremony to collect the award. What went on behind the scenes is anybody’s guess, but it does feel like the two artists poured the angst of their relationship into this song.

Jaidev – Zahar Deta Hai Mujhe Koi (Wohi Baat, 1977)

There were some delectable Asha Bhosle songs in Jaidev’s limited discography. I included one from “Hum Dono” (1961) in my post on Jaidev. In this post, I include another classic form a lesser-known film, “Wohi Baat”. This may be unfair, but one can’t help but compare the two solo versions of “Zahar Deta Hai”, one by Asha Bhosle and the other by Bhupinder. Considering the fact that Bhupinder was a ghazal specialist and Asha a generalist, I think Asha Bhosle does an admirable rendition of this song. Another thing becomes evident in this song – while most singers peak before they hit their forties, Asha Bhosle continued to get better. With age, her voice gained character and depth.

Khayyam – Dil Cheez Kya Hai (Umrao Jaan, 1981)

Asha Bhosle reinventing herself at the age of 48 was a bit of an accident. Muzaffar Ali had initially engaged Jaidev for “Umrao Jaan” but Jaidev left the project after composing a few songs and Khayyam was brought on board. There are different stories of Jaidev’s exit but one thing is certain – Asha Bhosle would not have been Umrao Jaan’s voice if Jaidev had composed the film’s music. Khayyam extracted some magnificent renditions by Asha Bhosle by asking her to sing at a scale lower than her usual. Khayyam won both the Filmfare Award and the National Film Award for the music and Asha Bhosle won the National Film Award for “Dil Cheez Kya Hai”.

R.D. Burman – Mera Kuchh Saaman (Ijaazat, 1988)

Starting with “Teesri Manzil” (1966), specifically the song “Aaja Aaaja”, R.D. Burman created a new Asha Bhosle avatar – full-throated and completely uninhibited. Through the 1970s, the two moved on from being colleagues to a couple and created some of the most memorable music to come out of Hindi films. Somewhere along the line though, Asha became a victim of her own success with Pancham and got pigeonholed in a slot that became a little predictable. Pancham’s struggle with his career in the 1980s didn’t help. That changed when Pancham came up with an inspired, fresh-sounding score for “Ijaazat” (1988). With four brilliant Asha solos, “Ijaazat” was probably Asha’s best work with Pancham in that decade. It took a Gulzar to challenge and inspire R.D. Burman to give the director his best. My pick is the award-winning “Mera Kuchh Saamaan”.

A much longer list of Asha Bhosle’s best Hindi film songs can be found here.

Laxmikant – Pyarelal: Hindi Film Industry’s Most Prolific Music Directors

[This post originally appeared here.]

Laxmikant – Pyarelal are easily the most prolific of Hindi film music directors. Their career spanned almost four decades, during which they worked for around 500 films and composed 2500+ songs. Other than the quality of their music, they owed their long careers to their relationships in the industry, their reputation of producing music that sold and the clear division of labour amongst the two – Laxmikant composed the tunes and Pyarelal arranged and orchestrated them. While Laxmikant was an accomplished mandolin player, Pyarelal was a violin virtuoso. Madan Mohan’s classic “Main Yeh Soch Kar Uske Dar Se Utha Tha” (“Haqeeqat”, 1964) is a fine example of what Pyarelal was capable of with the violin. Pyarelal, whose birthday comes up on September 3, is one of the last living composers from his generation of music directors.

Given their large body of work, I put one limiting condition to pick songs from their 10 best film albums – a cutoff year of 1985.

Dosti (1964)

Laxmikant – Pyarelal started their career assisting Kalyanji – Anandji. Their debut as music director was “Parasmani” (1963), a competent album with the standout ghazal duet “Woh Jab Yaad Aaye” and the hit song “Hansta Hua Noorani Chehra”. If “Parasmani” got them noticed, “Dosti” (1964) signaled that they had arrived. “Dosti” became a sleeper hit despite an obscure cast, thanks in part to its stellar music for which Laxmikant – Pyarelal won their first Filmfare Award for Best Music Director. The music of “Dosti” and Rafi saab’s phenomenal singing in it grows on me every time I listen to it. My pick from the film is the song that won Mohammed Rafi the Filmfare Award for Best Playback Singer – “Chahoonga Main Tujhe Sanjh Savere”.

Milan (1967)

In “Milan”, Laxmikant decided to use Mukesh’s voice for Sunil Dutt. Despite the director’s trepidations about Mukesh’s ability to hit high notes, the duo persisted with him and produced their most substantial score with the singer. The film won Laxmikant – Pyarelal their second Filmfare Award and helped boost Anand Bakshi’s career. My pick from the film is the folksy, Mukesh – Lata duet “Sawan Ka Mahina Pawan Kare Sor”, a hummable tune and a fine example of Anand Bakshi’s conversational lyrics.

Mere Hamdam Mere Dost (1968) 

“Mere Hamdam Mere Dost” had a soundtrack that had something for everybody and starred three actors at their eye candy best – Dharmendra, Sharmila Tagore and Mumtaz. I particularly like “Na Ja Kahin Ab Na Ja” a mellow, feel-good Rafi solo, “Chalo Sajna Jahan Tak Ghata Chale” a pretty Lata solo, “Allah Ye Ada” a qawwali-based, multi-tempoed song with some very cool harkats by Lata Mangeshkar, Rafi’s “druken” solo “Chhalka Yeh Jaam” and my pick, the S.D. Burman flavoured Rafi ghazal “Hui Shaam Unka Khayal Aa Gaya”. One of my favorite things about this album was the by and large subtle arrangement used in the songs. Unfortunately, with each passing year, I found arrangements in L-P’s songs a tad overdone for my taste.

Do Raaste (1969)

With the spectacular success of “Aradhana” released just a month ago, Rajesh Khanna’s new-found superstardom gave “Do Raaste” a powerful jump start and ensured that the film and its music became a blockbuster hit. This despite the fact that Rajesh Khanna’s role was part of romantic sub-plot in what was essentially a family drama with an ensemble cast. Laxmikant – Pyarelal and Anand Bakshi created simple songs that the masses identified with and helped bring big turnouts at the box office. Interestingly, Kishore Kumar was yet to emerge as Rajesh Khanna’s voice and two of the three songs filmed on Rajesh Khanna were sung by Mohammed Rafi. My pick, however, is the Kishore Kumar song, “Mere Naseeb Mein Ae Dost Tera Pyar Nahin”.

Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)

In the 1960s, 1970s, no music director’s career was complete without a film belonging to that quaint genre called the Muslim social. For Laxmikant – Pyarelal, that film was “Mehboob Ki Mehndi”. Although weighed down by a sketchy plot and Leena Chandavarkar’s limited acting talent, the film did well thanks to Rajesh Khanna’s star power, some crackling dialogues by Gulzar and of course, Laxmikant – Pyarelal’s ghazal and qawwali infused music. My pick from the film is “Jaane Kyun Log Mohabbat Kiya Karte Hain” a song about heartbreak with an uncharacteristically upbeat arrangement. The contrast between the perky rhythm and the pathos in Lata’s singing and the lyrics is quite interesting.

Daag (1973) 

“Daag” was one of the six films in which Laxmikant – Pyarelal worked with Sahir Ludhianvi and easily the most successful. A couple of things strike me about “Daag”. One, it appeared to me that Laxmikant – Pyarelal tried to emulate R.D. Burman in a couple of songs, “Hum Aur Tum Tum Aur Hum” and “Hawa Chale Aise”. Two, the film seemed to mark a period in L-P’s career when they started favouring fairly heavy, dholak-laden arrangements. My opinion does not matter of course, as this seemed to work very well with filmgoers and music listeners of the time. My favorite song from the film is the Lata solo “Hawa Chale Kaise” and it’s underlying melody. I also like how the song’s mood changes from one of hope to one of unbridled joy as the tempo picks up and a chorus comes in.

Anurodh (1977) 

“Anurodh” again saw Laxmikant – Pyarelal giving music in the mould of R.D. Burman’s. This time it was based on the brief given by director Shakti Samanta, who apparently did not want to deviate from the Rajesh Khanna – R.D. Burman formula he had perfected with “Kati Patang” (1970), “Amar Prem” (1971), “Ajanabee” (1974) and “Mehbooba” (1976) but couldn’t get R.D. Burman for the film for some reason. My favourite from the film is the Raag Yaman based, “Aap Ke Anurodh Pe” with a nice sitar, santoor, sarod, tabla arrangement. The song is one of the few occasions in which L-P and Kishore Kumar forayed in the semi-classical space.

Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978) 

Laxmikant – Pyarelal pulled a coup of sorts with “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”. Raj Kapoor had initially planned to use Hridayanath Mangeshkar for the film’s music but later decided to employ L-P. A miffed Lata Mangeshkar decided to walk out of the film and agreed to come back on board on her brother’s advice. One suspects that her decision was made easier because it was L-P and not some other music director who was replacing her brother. My pick is the spectacular title song, a bhajan based on Raag Darbari Kanada. Lata Mangeshkar’s brilliant rendition, Pandit Narendra Sharma’s lyrics and Zeenat Aman’s smouldering sexuality onscreen are a potent combination.

Karz (1980)

“Karz” was another instance of a director, Subhash Ghai this time, asking Laxmikant – Pyarelal specifically to produce the Pancham brand of music. Although one wonders what may have been if Pancham himself had composed the music for “Karz”, it must be said that L-P more than delivered and produced a cracker of a soundtrack. My favorite song from the film is “Om Shanti Om” and I would have picked it for this post, had it not been for the fact that the song is a pretty faithful reproduction of a song with the same hook line by the calypso artist Lord Shorty. My next favorite song from the film is the only Rafi song in the film “Dard-E-Dil Dard-E-Jigar”. This is a specially complex Laxmikant composition and Pyarelal’s elaborate, meandering arrangement is a work of art.

Utsav (1984)

The 1980s wasn’t a great time for music in Hindi films and it could be argued that Laxmikant – Pyarelal were past their prime. At a time like this, the music of “Utsav” came like a breath of fresh air and we saw a side of L-P that we unfortunately did not see very often. The duo delivered an extremely melodic score steeped in classical music with simple, tasteful arrangements. My pick from the film is the lovely “Saanjh Dhale Gagan Tale” with some very pretty lyrics by Vasant Dev and rendered brilliantly by Suresh Wadkar. I wish we had seen more of this L-P in the years to come.

A 10 film/10 song pick from a discography as large as Laxmikant – Pyarelal’s is bound to be contentious so I’ll leave you with a much bigger L-P selection to dig through and explore.

PS: When the original post was published, a reader pointed out the glaring omission of “Bobby” (1973) in this list. My rationale for omitting “Bobby”? It was said that the songs for the film were from a song bank of tunes composed by Shankar – Jaikishan for Raj Kapoor and that Laxmikant – Pyarelal only arranged the songs. Given this, I decided to play safe and leave “Bobby” out.

Tonga Songs In Hindi Films

[This post originally appeared here.]

The key feature of the Hindi film tonga song was a rhythm that evoked the clip-clop of a horse pulling a carriage. Although he didn’t invent the tonga rhythm, O.P. Nayyar was probably the most skilled at it. He dominated a crowd-sourced tonga song playlist I put together some time ago (the most comprehensive list I’ve seen), with 14 out of the total of 83 songs. Surprisingly, Naushad and Roshan also appear a lot in this list, with 10 and 6 songs respectively.

Most of these songs showed the hero and heroine romancing but there were some exceptions – one had sons singing to their mother – Usko Nahin Dekha Humne Kabhi (Daadi Maa, 1966) – and another dedicated to Kolkatta – Sunoji Yeh Kalkatta Hai (Howrah Bridge, 1958). Many of these song actually involved a tonga on-screen but some had a horse but no carriage – Mere Sang Sang Aaya (Rajput, 1982) and there were others that had no horse at all – Bach Gaye Hum Dono Phanste Phanste (Chacha Zindabad, 1959). It appears that the 1950s were the golden era of tonga songs. After a sputtering start in the 1940s (3 songs), we saw 38 tonga songs in the 1950s. Each subsequent decade saw progressively fewer tonga songs – 1960s – 24, 1970s – 12, 1980s – 6, 1990s – 2 and none since then. Art does imitate life.

In this post I pick 10 tonga songs, some because they are my favourites and others because they tell a story.

Chale Pawan Ki Chaal Jag Mein (Doctor, 1941)

It can safely be said that the inventor of the tonga rhythm in Hindi films was Pankaj Mullick. The tonga beats were apparently created using coconut shells. Pankaj Mullick not only composed and sang this tonga song, he also played appeared onscreen riding the tonga – Doctor (1941) was one of the few films in which he acted. Incidentally, Doctor (1941) had another path-breaking use of rhythm – Aayi Bahaar Aaj – only this time it was Pankaj Mullick simulating the rhythm of a train.

Bachpan Ke Din Bhula Na Dena (Deedar, 1951)

This is my favorite tonga song by Naushad. There are two versions of the songs. The first one is sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum and represents the love and hope of Dilip Kumar and Nargis’s characters in their childhood. The second is a Mohd. Rafi solo which represents the angst of unfulfilled love. I pick the Rafi solo because, leaving aside the excessive melodrama of the song’s climax, the Dilip Kumar and Nargis are a sight to behold.

Piya Piya Piya Mera Jiya Pukare (Baap Re Baap, 1955)

This is O.P. Nayyar duet is one of my most favorite tonga songs and has some excellent yodeling by Kishore Kumar. I also love it for the story behind it and what it tells us about Kishore Kumar. In the second antara after Kishore Kumar’s line, Asha Bhosle started to sing out of turn and then stopped after she realized her mistake and Kishore Kumar carried on. Distressed by the mistake, Asha Bhosle wanted to redo the song but Kishore Kumar asked her not to worry. He said that he was the hero in the movie, and that he would cover on the heroine’s mouth when she sang out of turn to hide the blooper (at 1:49 in the video).

Tumsa Nahin Dekha (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 1957)

Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) was a big hit and its success – a big part of it attributable directly to O.P. Nayyar’s vibrant, youthful music – transformed two careers. Nasir Hussain struck gold in his debut as director and went on to enjoy a long, fruitful career as a producer, director. Shammi Kapoor, who got the role after Dev Anand rejected it, got his first hit film and became a star almost overnight. The film’s title song was the only song in film written by Sahir Ludhianvi, who walked out of the film after he developed differences with Nasir Hussain. It’s a wonder how the effervescence of O.P. Nayyar’s music in this tonga song contains and strengthens so many possible points of failure – a debutant director, a struggling actor and a mercurial lyricist who would walk out from the film.

Maang Ke Saath Tumhara (Naya Daur, 1957)

While O.P. Nayyar did the heavy lifting in “Tumsa Nahin Dekha”, “Naya Daur” was a solid project with the competent B.R. Chopra at the helm, Dilip Kumar at his peak and some great writing. O.P. Nayyar’s music and Sahir’s lyrics were the delicious icing on the cake. “Maang Ke Saath Tumhara” is the quintessential tonga song, a light, frothy duet by Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle that works specially well in the film because Dilip Kumar’s character is a tongawala.

Banda Parvar Thaam Lo Jigar (Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon, 1963)

There were two crucial enablers in Joy Mukherjee’s career. The first enabler was his father, producer S. Mukherjee, who launched him in “Love In Simla” (1960), under his banner, Filmalaya and produced many of his films. The second enabler was the fantastic music his films seemed to be blessed with. His debut film “Love In Simla” had some decent songs by Iqbal Qureshi but his career was elevated to a completely different level over his next two films – “Ek Musafir Ek Hasina” (1962) and “Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon” (1963) – thanks to O.P. Nayyar’s blockbuster music. “Banda Parwar…” might have been a standard O.P. Nayyar tonga song – upbeat and eminently hummable – but it has a an additional ingredient that puts it in a class of its own – the subtle strains of a sarangi.

Zara Haule Haule Chalo More Saajna (Sawan Ki Ghata, 1966)

This tonga song, featuring the unlikely pair of Manoj Kumar and Sharmila Tagore, appears on this list simply because I absolutely adore how Asha Bhosle sounds in it. O.P. Nayyar does that trick again where he contrasts an upbeat rhythm with a haunting violin solo to devastating effect.

Usko Nahin Dekha Humne Kabhi (Daadi Maa, 1966)

This is an uncharacteristic tonga song – a male duet sung by Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey, a theme other than romance and one in which the element of melody is just as prominent as the rhythm. This is the only Roshan song in this list, but as I mentioned earlier, not the only tonga song he composed.

Koi Haseena Jab Rooth Jaati Hai Toh (Sholay, 1975)

This crackling Kishore Kumar solo is R.D. Burman’s only entry in this list. Given how good he was with rhythm I wonder why he didn’t compose more tonga songs. What may be considered as a creepy, stalker song today was playfully charming when it came out. Mercifully, Veeru wins over Basanti’s affections by the end of the song. This is a rare tonga song in which we know the name of the horse mare – Dhanno. For a film that recently completed 40 years, it’s amazing how fresh Sholay is in the public mind.

Ello Ji Sanam Hum Aa Gaye (Andaz Apna Apna, 1994)

“Andaz Apna Apna” had some decent retro music before it became cool to feature retro music in films. We don’t know if the film’s music was a result of director Raj Kumar Santoshi’s vision but we do know that the film’s music director, Tushar Bhatia, as an inveterate O.P. Nayyar fan. “Ello Ji Sanam….” was his tribute to O.P. Nayyar’s famed tonga music. Andaz Apna Apna went on to become a cult classic but it remained Tushar Bhatia’s only film as composer as he went on to pursue a career in media.

The era of tonga songs may have passed but they still serve as a reminder of a slower, gentler time.

(Contributors to the tonga playlist – @kaurvaki, @Ajaythetwit, @Kablewala, @p1j.)

Patriotic Songs In Hindi Films Before Independence

[This post originally appeared here.]

Patriotism has always been an important theme in Hindi films. Films like Anand Math (1952), Haqeeqat (1964), Shaheed (1965), Upkar (1967), Kranti (1981), Prahaar (1991), Border (1997), The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2002), Swades (2004) and Rang De Basanti (2006) had strong patriotic themes. There are many film songs capable of inducing nationalistic fervour in the most apathetic of individuals. However, these films and songs were made in an independent India with no oversight from British rule. Imagine the spirit of the film-makers and artists who were involved in patriotic films and songs when India was still under the British rule! In this post, I talk about 5 songs that made exhortations for a free India before 1947.

Ek Naya Sansar Basa Len (Naya Sansar, 1941)

The first song in this list, sung by Ashok Kumar and Renuka Devi, is by a poet who would go on to be called Rashtrakavi – Kavi Pradeep. Pradeep was perhaps best known for writing the Lata Mangeshkar song that moved Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to tears – “Aye Mere Watan Ke Logon”. “Ek Naya Sansar” quite explicitly makes a call for a free India, with lines like “..azadi ke preet ke gaane…” and “Aisa ek sansar ke jisme dharti ho azad, ke jisme jeevan ho azad, ke jisme bharat ho azad”. It’s a wonder how the song got past the draconian British censor board. It was this censor board that had forced V. Shantaram to change the name of his 1935 film from “Mahatma” to “Dharmatma”. The British apparently didn’t want films to contribute to the popularity of a certain Mahatma.

Door Hato Ae Duniya Walon Hindustan Humara Hai (Kismet, 1943)

Kavi Pradeep wrote this song during the Quit India movement. “Door Hato” was quite literally a demand for the British to quit India. To avoid objections by the censor board, Pradeep used the line “Tum Na Kise Ke Aage Jhukna German Ho Ya Japani” to make it appear that the song was against the Axis powers of World War II. Anil Biswas’ use of a marching band arrangement, Amirbai Karnataki’s powerful voice and a superb chorus complemented Pradeep’s lyrics and resulted in a hugely popular song.

Hindustan Ke Hum Hain Hindustan Humara (Pahele Aap, 1944)

This was Mohd. Rafi’s first song. Although he had recorded for “Gaon Ki Gori” earlier, the film’s music was released only in 1945. We can sense the young Rafi’s tentativeness, but thanks to some good music by Naushad, inspiring lyrics by D.N. Madhok and the support of a chorus, the end result is quite good. The interesting thing about this song is that while it calls of “India for Indians”, it talks about a common goal across religious divides – something we seem to be struggling with to this day.

Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka Jay Hey (Humrahi, 1945)

When “Jana Gana Mana Adhinayaka…” appeared on screen for the first time, India wasn’t an independent country and the song was yet to be chosen as our national anthem. “Humrahi” was Bimal Roy’s Hindi film debut as director and was a remake of the Bengali film “Udayer Pathe” he had directed the previous year. The song was recorded by the film’s music director R.C. Boral and rendered by a choir. While the original Rabindranath Tagore hymn had five stanzas, the first of which became the national anthem, the film recorded only four stanzas.

Yeh Desh Hamara Pyara Hindustan Jahan Se Nyara (Humjoli, 1946)

I chose this song because it works very well as a symbol of the cost of India’s independence in 1947 – Partition. Composed by Hafeez Khan and written by Anjum Pilibhiti, the song is sung by Noor Jehan, who was one of the Hindi film artists we lost to Pakistan in 1947. By 1946, the writing was on the wall for the British and preparations had begun to grant India independence. Thanks to the political climate at the time, the call for a free India is quite belligerent in this song:

Le ke rahenge hum azadi, Woh din aane wala hai

Jhanda apna saari duniya par lahrane wala hai

As we celebrate independence this year, let’s spare some thought for the artists of the film industry who chipped in with their bit in India’s freedom struggle.

Khemchand Prakash – The Royal Musician of Hindi Films

[This post originally appeared here.]

Khemchand Prakash was one of the giants of Hindi film industry. He shaped and defined Hindi film music when it was still in its nascent stages. In a short career spanning just about a decade, he left behind a legacy that exceeded his output as a music director.

Khemchand had an early start in music. His father, Pandit Govardhan Prasad, was a musician in the royal court of Jaipur and also taught him music. He worked as a court singer and then tried his hand at acting in films before found his true calling in film music. After assisting composer Timir Baran in a few films, Khemchand Prakash debuted as a music director for the film “Meri Aankhen” (1939).

Khemchand Prakash died in 1950 when he was only 43 years old. In this post I discuss in five songs what he accomplished in ten years and how his influence on film music could be felt long after he passed away.

Lo Kha Lo Madam Khana (Street Singer, 1938) 

This song was composed by R.C. Boral, not Khemchand Prakash. Khemchand sang this comic song and appeared on screen for it. The reason I included this song – Khemchand Prakash dances in it. In fact, he was a trained kathak dancer (he does a kathak move in the song) and it is said that it was this skill that helped him imbibe a strong sense of rhythm in his music.

Pehle Jo  Mohabbat Se Inkaar Kiya Hota (Pardesi, 1941)

Early on in his career Khemchand Prakash showed glimpses of his ability to set trends and his penchant to handle the female voice. “Pehle Jo Mohabbat…” catapulted singer-actress Khursheed from relative obscurity to becoming one of the leading female artists of the time. She had been around in the industry for almost a decade when this Khemchand Prakash song launched her into stardom and helped her bag coveted lead roles opposite K.L. Saigal in films that defined her career – “Bhakta Surdas” (1942) and “Tansen” (1943). In a few more years, he would transform the career of another singer and Hindi film music would never be the same again. 

Sapt Suran Teen Graam (Tansen, 1943)

Tansen was possibly the first film to embrace classical music with gusto. Backed by excellent subject matter and K.L. Saigal’s glorious voice, Khemchand Prakash composed songs that became big hits while retaining their authentic Hindustani classical base. As Naushad pointed out in an interview, a remarkable aspect of Khemchand’s music for “Tansen” was the use of Dhrupad, which was the style in which Mian Tansen used to sing, and not Khayal which was more common in Hindi films. The music of “Tansen” set the stage for a phase in Hindi films that borrowed heavily from classical music. At the forefront of this phase was Khemchand’s one-time assistant and admirer, Naushad. In “Baiju Bawra” (1952), Naushad emulated his guru by creating music that was a balance of mainstream and classicism and the film’s success triggered a spurt in films steeped in classical music.

Marne Ki Duaaen Kyon Maangoon (Ziddi, 1948)

Khemchand Prakash is credited with launching the voice that captured the nations imagination for decades to come – Kishore Kumar. He spotted the young Kishore’s singing talent early on gave him his first solo, “Marne Ki Duaaen…” for Ziddi (1948). Although Kishore sang the song in Saigal’s style, his potential was unmistakable. It was a travesty that despite a solid start – a song picturised on a superstar in the making, Dev Anand – Kishore Kumar’s singing career did not really take off after Ziddi. One can’t help but wonder if Kishore may have seen success sooner if Khemchand Prakash had lived longer.

Aayega Aanewala (Mahal, 1949)

If we had to pick one song that had the biggest impact on Hindi film music, many of us would pick “Aayega Aanewala” (music by Khemchand Prakash, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and written by Nakshab Jarchvi). This was the song that made Lata Mangeshkar a household name, a name that would be at the forefront of Hindi film music for the next 60 years or so.

The song was not an accidental success. Khemchand Prakash was among the few composers who heard the tremendous potential in Lata’s voice, when most of Bollywood was unsure if the thin voice of young Lata would appeal to the masses. The song was not just a result of Khemchand’s vision – there was painstaking work involved. In the song’s opening, Lata’s voice was supposed to sound like it was coming from a distance. She was asked to stand away from the microphone and walk towards it as she sang the opening line so that she was at the mike when the second verse started. It took many rehearsals to perfect just the song’s opening.

Such was the song’s success that radio stations were flooded with calls of people trying to find out who the singer was and for the first time, radio stations started announcing the name of artists before playing songs. The song was a precursor to a new genre of spooky songs which included Lata hits like “Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil” (“Bees Saal Baad”, 1962), “Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim” (“Who Kaun Thi”, 1964), “Mere Mehboob Na Ja” (“Noor Mahal”, 1965) and “Mera Saaya Saath Hoga” (“Mera Saaya” 1966).

Sadly, Khemchand Prakash died the very next year after Mahal’s release, when he was still at his peak. Five songs and a few hundred words are just not enough to express his contribution to Hindi film music. I highly recommend that you further explore his compositions.

Jaidev – Quality Over Quantity

[This post originally appeared here.]

Jaidev was one of the most talented composers of the Hindi film industry. Despite his talent and the critical as well as popular acclaim many of his albums received, he wasn’t rewarded with the commercial success or the name recognition some of his peers enjoyed. After more than three decades in the film industry, he had only about 40 films to his credit.

Jaidev Verma was a child prodigy who could play the harmonica when he was only 5 years old. His career in Hindi films started in the 1930s as a singer-actor in a few films. In the mid-1930s he took a break from films and dedicated himself to learning music. Jaidev received formal training from several gurus including the legendary sarod player Ustad Ali Akbar Khan. The Ustad was responsible for Jaidev’s return to Hindi films. When the Ustad went to Bombay to work for films, Jaidev accompanied him. He assisted Ustad Ali Akbar Khan in the two films he composed music for – “Andhiyan” (1952) and “Humsafar” (1953). Later Jaidev worked as assistant to S.D. Burman before breaking out on his on with “Joru Ka Bhai” (1955).

In this post, I pick 10 songs from Jaidev’s 10 best film scores.

Hum Dono (1961)

In the 1950s, every Navketan film had S.D. Burman’s music and Jaidev assisted S.D. Burman in most of them. These films were “Taxi Driver” (1954), “House No. 44” (1955), “Funtoosh” (1956), “Nau Do Gyarah” (1957), “Kala Pani” (1958) and “Kala Bazar” (1960).  Jaidev’s persistence and loyalty was finally rewarded in 1961 at the age of 42! When Navkentan was looking to make the music for “Hum Dono”, S.D. Burman was unavailable due to some illness and Jaidev was chosen. Jaidev, powered by Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics, rose to the occasion and how! The fantastic score of “Hum Dono” sounds as fresh today as it did in 1961. Unfortunately, Jaidev had a falling out with Navketan and never worked for them again. My pick from “Hum Dono” is the short, sweet, santoor-kissed “Jahan Mein Aisa Kaun Hai” sung by Asha Bhosle.

Kinare Kinare (1963)

“Kinare Kinare”, starring Dev Anand and Meena Kumari, was one of the bigger films Jaidev got a chance to work in. The film didn’t do well and so it’s music, which had some endearing melodies, went unnoticed. Mukesh’s “Jab Gham-E-Ishq Sataata Hai” is one song I particularly love but my pick is the title song which Manna Dey renders so elegantly.

Reshma Aur Shera (1971)

After “Hum Dono”, Jaidev was relegated largely to B-grade films during the 1960s, with the exception of “Kinare Kinare” (1963) and “Mujhe Jeene Do” (1963). Although, his music rose above the films they featured in, film offers were few and far between. Just when thing were looking very bleak, “Reshma Aur Shera” came along and with it, Jaidev’s first of three National Film Awards for Best Music Direction. Synonymous with the film is the beautifully shot desert song “Tu Chanda Main Chandni”, a richly textured, complex composition with a dash of classical and a smatter of Rajasthani Maand. “Tu Chanda..” is the one of the earliest film songs I can think of that broke away from the standard mukhda – antara song structure. Interestingly, this feature came to become the signature of another genius composer who was also the winner of multiple National Film Awards like Jaidev, A.R. Rahman.

Faslah (1974)

While Jagjit Singh is credited with re-energizing the ghazal genre in the 1970s, I believe Jaidev played an important role as well. Some of the earliest instances of the modern ghazal with light, contemporary arrangements, simple melodies and fresh, young voices can be found in Jaidev’s compositions in the 1970s. Bhupinder, Hariharan, Chhaya Ganguly, Runa Laila and Penaz Masani were among some of the ghazal singers Jaidev mentored and worked with. “Dil Ne Tadap Tadap Ke” from “Faslah” was one such ghazal. My pick from “Faslah” though is another Bhupinder song, “Zindagi Cigarette Ka Dhuan” with some inspiring, if quirky, lyrics by Kaifi Azmi.

Ek Huns Ka Jora (1975)

For a film that sank without a trace, “Ek Huns Ka Jora” had some excellent music. This is the only film in this list that had songs sung by Kishore Kumar and one of only three films in which Jaidev employed his voice. I wonder why given the high quality of their output, which includes the popular, “Yeh Wohi Geet Hai Jisko Maine” (“Maan Jaiye”, 1972). My pick from “Ek Huns Ka Jora” is the Kishore – Asha duet “Pyar Se Tum Mile Mil Gayi Har Khushi”.

Alaap (1977)

“Alaap” is a seriously under-rated album. Jaidev’s robust score for this Hrishikesh Mukherjee film is built on a solid base of bhajans, classical music, Yesudas’ soothing baritone and some fine poetry. Although the film had some compelling acting and story-telling, and is considered one of the finer performances of Amitabh Bachchan, it didn’t do very well at the box-office. Perhaps, the audience was not willing to see the Angry Young Man portray a serious role that did not require him to beat up bad guys. My pick from “Alaap” is Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s “Koi Gaata Main So Jaata”. It is worthwhile noting that Jaidev also set to tune the senior Bachchan’s masterpiece, “Madhushala” (1976), in Manna Dey’s voice.

Gaman (1977)

1977 was a great year for Jaidev (he was 58 at the time!). He produced some great music that year – three of my picks in this list are from 1977 – and to top it off he won his second National Film Award for his score for Gaman. Gaman was short and extremely sweet score. It is said that Jaidev composed all songs of Gaman in one day flat – such was his genius! It is really hard to pick only one song from Gaman but Chhaya Ganguly’s National Award winning rendition of Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s words, “Aapki Raat Aati Rahi Raat Bhar”, is as good a pick as any.

Gharaonda (1977)

“Gharaonda” is another short and sweet score by Jaidev. While it is better known for Gulzar’s award winning “Do Deewane Shahar Mein” and it’s reprise “Ek Akela Is Shahar Mein”, my pick is the “Tumhen Ho Na Ho” which sounds like another Gulzar song but is in fact, written by Naqsh Lyallpuri. The song has some ground-breaking lyrics and the incredibly fresh voice of the Bangladeshi singer, Runa Laila.

Dooriyan (1979)

After “Gharaonda”, director Bhimsain, further explored human relationships in an urban setting in “Dooriyan”. Given the success of “Gharaonda”, he called in Jaidev again but the lyrics for the film were written by Sudarshan Faakir, an inspired choice as it turned out. One of the highlights of the film’s music was Anuradha Paudwal’s singing. In my opinion, this is the best she has ever sounded. The two Bhupinder – Anuradha duets in the film are absolute gems. My pick – “Zindagi Mere Ghar Aaana”.

Ankahee (1985)

“Ankahee” was Jaidev’s third National Film Award winning score. He passed away two years later, a sad, disillusioned man who did not get his due. “Ankahee” was a rare film whose score was dominated by bhajans. Thanks to some great renditions by Asha Bhosle and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Kabir and Tulsidas have never sounded so good on the big screen. My pick – Bhimsen Joshi’s “Thumak Thumak Pag Damak Kunj” which won him the National Film Award for Best Male Singer.

Honourable mentions:  “Joru Ka Bhai” (1955), “Mujhe Jeene Do” (1963), “Wohi Baat” (1977), “Aayi Teri Yaad” (1980) and “Jumbish” (1986).

You can explore more Jaidev hits here.