TEN days after leaving Mother Earth, Rajesh Khanna is wondering how he will settle in Paradise, when he is escorted to a door marked ‘Hindi Film Superstars’. It is one of many rooms given to newcomers based on their achievements in life. There, residents are allowed to spend exactly a year, before they move to a larger place called ‘Super Heaven’.
Before knocking on the door, Khanna is very keen to visit the neighbouring room called ‘Musicians’, where Mehdi Hassan, Bhupen Hazarika and Jagjit Singh are rehearsing a song, composed by Ravi and featuring Sultan Khan on sarangi. But the director-general of Paradise insists that he can only enter the ‘Hindi Film Superstars’ room.
Hesitantly, Khanna walks in. The main hall is empty, and statues of KL Saigal and Raj Kapoor are placed in different corners. The walls are lined with pictures of some of the other greats who have entered Paradise — Rajendra Kumar, Guru Dutt, Sunil Dutt, Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Nargis, Nutan and others. Just as ‘India’s first superstar’ is looking around, a door opens.
It’s the evergreen Dev Anand. “Welcome to Paradise, Rajesh,” he says in his trademark style. “Honestly, I didn’t expect you here so early, but such is life.” The two superstars embrace and exchange pleasantries, when they hear the creak of another door opening.
Khanna can’t believe his eyes, as he meets another of his idols — Shammi Kapoor. “Rajesh-bhai, I’m sure Dev-saab must have welcomed you warmly. I can only add to his emotions. I am here for only 18 days more. After my first death anniversary on August 14, I shall be sent to Super Heaven,” he says.
“Don’t worry, Shammi-ji,” replies Khanna. “As long as the three of us are here together, we shall have a grand time.”
Dev continues: “I couldn’t have asked for better company. You know, at least 50 per cent of all male hit songs ever released in Hindi cinema have been picturised between the three of us — Shammi Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna and Dev Anand. All this is of course thanks to the numerous music directors, singers and lyricists who worked on these songs.”
Shammi adds: “You’re right, Dev-saab. We must be grateful to all the genius musicians who created these songs for us. For the three of us, they have literally composed the A to Z of male Hindi film music. Only Raj-saab, Dilip-saab and Bachchan had an equal number of hits, perhaps.”
Khanna chips in: “Absolutely! What would my songs be without RD Burman, Kishore Kumar and Anand Bakshi? And all those classic duets sung by Lata-ji and Asha-ji, picturised on my favourite co-star heroines! In fact, my friends on Mother Earth tell me that for the last 10 days, radio stations are only playing songs from my films.”
Dev quips: “They did the same with Shammi-ji and me. Looks like the radio stations desperately wait for our departure so they have something good to play. Otherwise, they don’t have much to play, with today’s kind of music. Anyway, let’s do something to remember these songs, maybe an antakshri or something like that.”
The three of them think for a while, before Dev comes up with a solution. He says: “Hey, didn’t Shammi-ji say the A to Z of male Hindi film music has been picturised on the three of us? So let’s play a game where we take each letter of the alphabet, and talk about songs or films with hit music beginning with that letter.”
Shammi says: “Great idea, Dev-saab. But let’s not go in any specific order. It’ll be something like a buzzer round. I only request Rajesh-bhai to begin with the letter ‘A’, as he’s just come in today.”
“Perfectly fine with me, sir,” says Khanna, and begins the game, which goes on something like this:
A (Rajesh Khanna): All my films beginning with ‘A’ have had hit music. Aradhana, Amar Prem, Anand, Apna Desh, Aan Milo Sajna, Aap Ki Kasam, Ajnabee. Next, the letter ‘B’.
B (Shammi Kapoor, singing): ‘Baar baar dekho, hazaar baar dekho…’. One of my favourite songs. And the films Bluffmaster, Badtameez and Brahmachari had memorable songs too. Dev-saab, what do you have in ‘C’?
C (Dev Anand): Of course, CID! What songs. One of OP Nayyar’s masterpieces. ‘Ankhon hi aankon mein ishara ho gaya’ is one of my all-time favourites. (Sings).
D (Rajesh Khanna, singing one after the other): ‘Diye jalte hain’. ‘Deewana leke aaya hai’. ‘Dil ko dekho chehra na dekho’. Also films beginning with ‘D’ had amazing music — Do Raaste, Dushman, Daag.
E (Shammi Kapoor): ‘Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar’ from Junglee. The film Evening In Paris too. Shankar-Jaikishen rocked.
F (Dev Anand): The film Funtoosh. SD Burman classics like ‘Dukhi man mere’ and ‘Aye meri topi’.
G (Dev Anand, again): Sorry to break the order but ‘G’ has to mean Guide. Sachin-da again. Also Gambler, which had that super-duper hit ‘Dil aaj shayar hai’. I won’t go on for ‘H’.
H (Rajesh Khanna): ‘Hum dono do premi’, that train song from Ajnabee that only Pancham-da would have composed. Also ‘Hamein tumse pyaar kitna’ from Kudrat. Among the films with hit music, Haathi Mere Saathi, by Laxmi-Pyare.
I (Dev Anand): Definitely the film Ishq Ishq Ishq. Don’t remember much of the film myself, but RD was definitely in great form on ‘Valla kya nazara hai’.
J (Dev Anand, continuing): ‘J’ is to me what ‘A’ is for Rajesh-bhai. The songs of Jewel Thief, Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai, Johnny Mera Naam, and that one hit from Joshila — (singing) ‘Kiska rasta dekhe, ai dil hai saudaai’. Actually, even ‘K’ has a lot of my hits like Kala Bazaar, Kala Paani, the songs ‘Khoya khoya chand’, ‘Khwab ho tum’ etceteraaaa etceteraaaa. But I have played two rounds continuously so might as well give the others a chance. I never believed in monopoly, you see. Shammi-ji, you’ve been silent for a while.
K (Shammi Kapoor): Sorry am a bit distracted as I’m missing my computer and gizmos. Hope to bump into Steve Jobs in Paradise one of these days and propose an Apple Afterlife series for people like us. Anyway, ‘K’ for Kashmir Ki Kali. How can one forget songs like ‘Diwana hua badal’, ‘Taareef karoon kya uski’ and ‘Isharon isharon’. Another of my favourite ‘K’ songs is from Junglee — ‘Karoon main kya suku suku… Aai yai yaa’ (dancing for a while).
L (Dev Anand): Love Marriage. Who can forget its classic song ‘Dheere dheere chal chand gagan mein’? (Sings the whole song).
M (Rajesh Khanna): I have loads here. ‘Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu’. ‘Mere dil mein aaj kya hai’. ‘ ‘Main shayar badnaam’. ‘Meri pyaari bahaniya banegi dulhaniya’. ‘Maine tere liye hi saat rang ke sapne’. ‘Mere naina saawan bhadon’. ‘Maine dekha tune dekha’. ‘M’ was a very lucky letter for me.
N (Dev Anand, singing): ‘Nafrat karne waalon ke seene mein pyaar bhar doon’. Kalyanji-Anandji’s music and Indeevar’s words in Johnny Mera Naam.
O (Rajesh Khanna, singing the whole song): ‘O mere dil ke chain…’. Kishore, RD and Majrooh-saab combined to produce one of my biggest hits.
P (Shammi Kapoor): I just missed pressing the buzzer for ‘O’ with the Teesri Manzil song ‘O haseena zulfonwali’. But for ‘P’, I have Prince and Professor. Specially for the songs ‘Badan pe sitare’ and ‘Aye gulbadan’.
Q (they all think a while, and don’t remember a song, before Dev Anand asks): Guys, can I cheat a little? Since we can’t think of a song in Q, will this do? (Sings). Qasam li. Hey maine qasam li. Nahin honge judaa, hum-m-m. Okay, okay, I know, it’s Kasam, not Qasam, but this was the closest I could get. Hopefully, there are no nitpicking music critics here (The others agree).
R (Rajesh Khanna, singing): ‘Roop tera mastana, pyaar mera deewana’. One of my biggest hits ever.
S (Rajesh Khanna, again): The films Safar and Saccha Jhoota had some gems from Kalyanji-Anandji.
T (Dev Anand): Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (sings the title song). Teen Deviyan. Taxi Driver. Tere Mere Sapne. All SD Burman beauties. In fact, Sachin-da gave me most of my biggest hits.
U (Dev Anand, getting up and swaying to the tune): ‘Uff yumma’. It became a catch phrase when Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai was released. It was a rage. Uff yumma! (accompanied by the Dev swagger)
V (Rajesh Khanna): ‘Vaada tera vaada’ from Dushman was one of the biggest hits of its time.
W (Rajesh Khanna again, singing): ‘Woh sham kuch ajeeb thi’ from Khamoshi. Hemant Kumar’s composition and Kishore Kumar’s voice. Bliss!
X (for a while, they can’t figure out a song, and Dev Anand jokes): None of us do X-rated songs or X-rated films. Leave that for today’s generation. Ha ha ha! (the others join in the laughter). So let’s move to ‘Y’.
Y (Shammi Kapoor, in a total rock and roll mood now, dancing and jumping): Yaaaahoooooo!!!! Yaaaahoooooo!!! Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe….. (He sings and enacts the entire song).
Z (Rajesh Khanna): The word ‘zindagi’ was used in so many hit songs. (Sings the first lines of each). ‘Zindagi ka safar hai yeh kaisa safar’. ‘Zindagi ek safar hai suhana’. ‘Zindagi kaisi hai paheli haaye’. “Zindagi ke safar mein bichad jaate hain jo makaam’. Strange I am still singing them after my ‘zindagi’ is over.
The game over, the three superstars are full of joy. They all want to continue the celebration. Dev says: “Yes, there’s no doubt that 50 per cent of the hit male songs of Hindi film music have been picturised on the three of us. Someone should give us a combined Lifetime Achievement Award for our contribution to music.”
Rajesh yodels: “Udley udley yohooo, udley udley yo’, and Shammi does an Elvis Presley jig.
Suddenly, the main door is swung open. A voice comes out of nowhere. It says: “I want to play too. Let’s start again with the letter ‘A’. ‘Awara hoon. Awara hoon. Ya gardish mein hoon aasman ka taara hoon.” It’s the great Raj Kapoor, who has walked in with Mukesh, Shankar and Jaikishen.
Shammi Is stunned. “Bhai-saab, so good to see you. Am surprised you could make it. I wasn’t allowed to meet you till August 14, but you were the first person I wanted to meet here.”
Raj replies: “I was sitting in Super Heaven, when I heard you guys partying. I couldn’t resist. Honestly, 60 per cent of all male hit songs have been picturised on the four of us. I wasn’t allowed entry into this room, but after much pleading, the director-general of Paradise made an exception, only for a day.”
Another voice is heard. It says: “I too managed to make it for a day. I’m playing the game too. ‘B’ for ‘Baharon phool barsao’.” It’s Rajendra Kumar!
Suddenly, Guru Dutt also comes in. He says: “’C’ for ‘Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho’ (sings the full song). The most romantic song ever written.” Composer Ravi walks in from the neighbouring room. And a few minutes later, the song’s singer Mohammed Rafi and lyricist Shakeel Badayuni march in together.
Within half an hour, the greatest names from Hindi films and film music are in the room. All the legends who have left Mother Earth. The next to come in is the legendary Naushad, greeting everyone with his trademark ‘Khawateen-o-hazrat’. To which Dev whispers into Khanna’s ears: “Sadly, I left my dictionary on Mother Earth.”
Jagjit, Bhupen, Sultan Khan and Mehdi-saab walk in from the neighbouring room. Soon, the ‘Hindi Film Superstars’ room is packed.
The stars include KL Saigal, Bharat Bhushan, Sunil Dutt, Rajkumar, Ashok Kumar, Balraj Sahni, Shantaram, Nargis, Madhubala, Nutan and Meena Kumari. Among the singers, Kishore Kumar, Hemant Kumar, Talat Mahmood, Geeta Dutt, Noorjehan and Suraiya join those already present. Among the music directors, SD Burman, RD Burman, Madan Mohan, OP Nayyar, Roshan, Salil Chowdhury, C Ramchandra, Anil Biswas, Jaidev, Laxmikant and Kalyanji arrive too. The list of lyricists is long: it includes Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi, Anand Bakshi, Kaifi Azmi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, Shailendra, Rajendra Krishan, Indeevar, Hasrat Jaipuri, Gulshan Bawra and Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, among others.
Each genre of Indian music is represented. Bhimsen Joshi and Bismillah Khan. Begum Akhtar and Nusrat. The divine Subbulakshmi herself.
In Paradise, the biggest musical night in history has just begun. It’s the greatest gig in the sky, the mother of all music get-togethers. And in the audience, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer, ‘newcomer’ Jon Lord and scores of other international luminaries are getting a first-hand taste of old Hindi film music, hearing some of the most tuneful, wonderful and heavenly melodies ever produced.