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The Vasant Desai show and the Concert Memorability Index


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I wonder if such a term exists, but let’s call it the ‘Concert Memorability Index’. The idea comes from the thought that many of us enjoy live performances and rave about them for a few days. We write about them on the social media or in newspaper articles and blogs. But slowly, the details fade.

Keeping this in mind, I tried an experiment. On March 13, just a month and a day ago, I attended a tribute to the legendary music director Vasant Desai at the Ravindra Natya Mandir, Prabhadevi. Now, as I had interviewed the director Vikas Desai before the show, I had a rough idea about what it would be like.

However, I decided not to take down any notes or write an extensive review immediately. The objective was simple: Would the show have very fine and detailed memories a month later? If it did, it obviously had a very high Concert Memorability Index. So let me try my luck at writing a month-late review.

THE show was named ‘Vasant Desai – Ek Anubhav’. Not a seat was empty, and some people sat on or stood in the aisles. Though one expected a bit of delay, the concert started 30 minutes late, which is pretty normal for most musical events in Mumbai. Director Vikas Desai, wearing his trademark hat, addressed the gathering.

The first thing the audience realised was that it wouldn’t be just a continuous rendition of Vasant Desai’s songs. The actor Sumeet Raghavan played the sutradhar, or narrator, and Tushar Dalvi enacted the legendary music director’s role. The script was in Marathi, and film clips were shown on the screen at the back. What was instantly obvious was that this would be a fine blend of theatre, music, storytelling and cinema.

The orchestra was totally live. On the right were a group of chorus singers and the string section. The left side had the keyboardists, guitarists, flautists and percussionists. Different singers came in and did different songs. The line-up included Ravindra Sathe, Vaishali Samant, Rattan Mohan Sharma, Tyagraj Khadilkar, Kirti Killedar, Nachiket Desai, Ankita Joshi, Mansi Multani, Vaibhav Upadhyay and, in a special appearance, Sachin Pilgaonkar. A few others whose names I didn’t quite catch.

The songs were mostly in Hindi and Marathi. The names of the film, original playback singers, lyricists and stage singers were mentioned on the screen. Vasant Desai’s association with the legendary filmmaker V Shantaram was showcased through his earlier songs in Marathi films like ‘Shakuntala’ and ‘Amar Bhoopali’. His music in PK Atre’s ‘Shyamchi Aai’ was also rendered.

The idea was to fit in a theme, rather than go by chronological events. Hence, the ‘Guddi’ hits ‘Bole Re Papihara’ and ‘Hum Ko Man Ki Shakti Dena’ were presented before the interval. The latter was even followed by a video of AR Rahman’s rendition.

It was pure showbusiness. There were dancers for the lavani songs, Chinese costumes for songs from ‘Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani’ and a brilliant solo song-and-dance version of the ‘Aashirwad’ hit ‘Rail Gaadi’. Snippets about the composer’s eating habits, fondness for soda, lack of any vices like tobacco and alcohol, and his passion for exercising were shared.

The way Vasant Desai used background music in ‘Do Ankhen Baarah Haath’ was portrayed wonderfully. The scene depicted the passing of the day. Cinematically, it involved the use of how the length of a shadow changes. Musically, it moved from morning to afternoon to evening raags. What director Vikas Desai did was to first show the scene without any music. Then the cast explained the concept, before the scene was played again with sound. Mesmerising.

Though some rare gems were missed, most classics were rendered. The late Ustad Amir Khan’s title song from ‘Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baje’ was sung by classical vocalist Rattan Mohan Sharma. ‘Nain So Nain’ from the same film was sung as a duet. From ‘Goonj Uti Shenhai’, there were ‘Ankhiyan Bhool Gayi Hai Sona’ and the slower version of ‘Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet’. From the Marathi repertoire, there was the immortal Kumar Gandharva-Vani Jairam hit ‘Runanu Bandhachya’.

The ending was total gooseflesh. First, mention was made about how as Maharashtra’s first honorary music director, Vasant Desai tried to ensure that school-children in the state learnt ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in chorus. Then, the cast talked of the Marathi film he planned to direct. On December 22, 1975, after a day-long recording session, he returned home and walked into his lift. Because of some technical problem, he was killed in the mishap. An era was over.

Now, see how Vikas Desai portrayed the sequence. Dalvi, playing the music director, talked about his plans. A picture of a lift emerged on the background screen. Dalvi walked towards it. Sudden darkness and the sound of a crash. Short silence. ‘Times of India’ and ‘Indian Express’ headlines about the mishap were shown. Darkness again.

Candles were lit. A man in white came on stage. He was joined by all the singers. He recited a line from the ‘Do Ankhen Baarah Haath’ masterpiece ‘Ae Maalik Tere Bandhey Hum’. The singers recited the line in chorus. The whole number was rendered that way. The song over, the crowd was reminded of Desai’s effort’s of teaching ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in schools. The entire audience stood up and sang the National Anthem. What a memorable way to end a brilliant concert. No wonder many of us can talk about it weeks later.

Now, didn’t this show have a very high Concert Memorability Index? Even a month later, it is totally fresh in my mind. A five on five rating, for sure. Vikas Desai announced that he was planning to take the show to Thane, though it was still early to decide on other cities. It wasn’t an easy show, simply because of its sheer magnitude and scale. But it was done with sheer precision, and truly brought out the character of the legend named Vasant Desai.

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Let’s play Panchamakshari


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RAHUL and Dev have been named for obvious reasons. Their fathers have been the best of friends, and both grew up on Rahul Dev Burman. The age gap between the two is five months, with Rahul being elder. And both of them have been fans of Pancham, or RD, since childhood.

Now in their early 30s, Rahul and Dev stay in different corners of Mumbai. Yet, they meet at least twice a year – on June 27, RD’s birthday, and January 4, his death anniversary. Each time, they choose a different theme, and play those songs on the music system. On his birthday last year, they tripped on RD’s songs with lyricist Anand Bakshi. In the session before that, they covered his songs with Kishore.

This year, on RD’s death anniversary today, they wonder what to do. They meet at Dev’s place in Belapur, Navi Mumbai. Rahul had a business appointment in Vashi, but has to leave early to catch a flight. Since time is limited, Dev suggests a quick antakshri of a maximum of 20 songs, preferably only the first line or mukhda. As all antakshris begin with the letter ‘M’, he asks Rahul to begin. This is how it goes:

Rahul: One of my favourites from Kishore. Mere naina saaawan bhaadon, phir bhi mera man pyaasa, phir bhi mera man pyaasa. Dev, start with ‘S’.

Dev: Saagar kinaare, dil yeh pukaare, tu jo nahin hai mera, koi nahin hai.. Aah, Dimple looked gorgeous. But I am Rishi, and you are Kamal. The letter ‘H’.

Rahul (playing an air guitar): Humne tumko dekha, tumne humko dekha, kaise? Hum tum sanam, saaton janam, milte rahenge, aise. ‘S’ again’

Dev (clears throat to sound like four people singing together): Saare ke saare ga ma ko lekar gaate chale, saare ke saare ga ma ko lekar gaate chale… (hums dhi-jhi-jhin-jhin-jhi-jhin jhin for the music).. Sing with ‘L’

Rahul: I loved the Yaadon Ki Baaraat music. (Begins dancing) Lekar hum deewana dil, phirte hain manzil manzil, kahin toh pyaare, kisi kinare, mil jaao tum andhere ujale, ta-ra-tar lekar hum. Start with ‘M’

Dev: Remember Jalal Agha and Helen? (clears throat to deepen his voice) Mehbooba mehbooba, mehbooba mehbooba, ooo-oooo, gulshan mein phool khilte hain, jab sehra mein milte hain, mein ur tu. Of course, the song was lifted from Demis Roussos’ ‘Say you love me’. (Sings that too to prove it) Your chance ‘T’, from ‘tu’

Rahul (showing his mastery over an imaginary sitar): Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin, shikwa nahin, shikwa nahin, tere bina zindagi bhi lekin, zindagi toh nahin, zindagi nahin, zindagi nahin.. It’s ‘nahin’. So take either ‘H’ or ‘N’.

Dev: Humein tumse pyaar kitna, yeh hum nahin jaante, magar jee nahin sakte tumhare bina-a-a, yeh dil beqarar kita yeh hum nahin jaante, magar jee nahin sakte tumhare bina… Tumhein koi aur dekhe… I wish I could sing the whole song, but take ‘N’ for ‘tumhare bina’

Rahul: Nadiya se dariya, ta-tang, ta-tang, Dariya se saagar, doo-do-doo-do, saagar se gehra jaam, oh ho ho jaa-aam mein doo-oob gayee hai yaaron jeevan ki har shaam.. ‘M’ for you, Dev. (Still humming ‘Kisiko daulat ka nasha..’)

Dev: Mere saamne waali khidki mein ek chaand ka tukda rehta hai, afsos yeh hai ko woh humse kuch ukhda ukhda rehta hai.. Your turn for ‘H’.

Rahul: Hum donon do premee duniya chhod chale, jeevan ki hum saari rasmein tod chale, babul ki aaye mohe yaad, jaane kya ho ab uske baad… Too much ‘H’ and M’ so far. Try ‘D’.

Dev: (Continuing with ‘jhumna jhumna’ from the previous song and mimicking a train whistle) Stop dreaming of Zeenat, Rahul. You’re my friend, na? Diye jalte hain, phool khilte hain, badi mushkil se magar, duniya mein dost milte hain, aahaha, diye jalte hain.. There we go again.. ‘H’ or N’.

Rahul: Huzoor is kadar bhi na itaraate chaliye, khule aam aanchal na lehraa ke chaliye.. ‘Y’ for you

Dev: This song was written for the two of us, so sing it with me. I Kishore, you Manna De.. for me, always easier to sing Kishore than Manna. Yeh dosti hum nahin todenge, todenge dum magar, tera saath na chhodenge.. (Produces mouth organ sound) Sing in ‘G’. The letter, not the key

Rahul: You get all the dosti songs. I get the Rekha songs. Ghum ho kisike pyaar mein, dil subah shaa-aa-am, par tumhe nahin likh paaon, mein uska naam, haay Ram, haay Ram… too-roo-doo, too-roo-doo.. ‘M’

Dev: A classic. (clearing his voice to sound like Asha Bhosle) Mera kucch saaman tumhare paas pada hai, o o saawan ke kuch bheege bheege din rakhe hain, aur ek khat mein ik liptee raat padee hai, woh raat bhula do, mera kuch saamaan lauta do. Under one lonely umbrella, when we were getting half-half wet, half-wet, half-dry, I had got the dryness to you. Start with ‘D’. Four songs to go.

Rahul: I will sing, but can you explain the meaning of the Ijaazat song first? That ‘Ek akeli chhatri mein’ line you just translated. Apparently, even RD didn’t know what it meant when he composed it. Ha ha, or even the one I am about to sing with ‘D’. Anyway, here goes.. Do naina aur ek kahaani, thoda sa baadal, thoda sa paani, aur ek kahaani. ‘N’ for you

Dev: Ni sultana re, pyaar ka mausam aaya. Bolo na bolo mukh se gori chudee tumhaar bole, Yahee batiya sun sunke jeeya mora dole, o ni sultana re.. But I prefer ‘Tum bin jaaon kahan’ from this film. For the last round, you have ‘R’

Rahul (pretending to ride a motorcycle): Rote huye aate hain sab, hanstaa hua jo jaayega, woh muqaddar ka sikandar

Dev: Stop cheating. That’s Kalyanji-Anandji, not Pancham

Rahul: (trying to cover up the fact that he had goofed up). Hahaha. Was just testing your alertness. Roz roz ankhon tale, ek hi sapna chale, raat bhar kaajal jale, aankh mein, jis tarah khwaab ka diya jale-e-e-e, Roz roz ankhon tale.. Yup final song,.. In ‘L’

Dev (clears throat to make his voice sound childlike): Lakdi ki kaathi, kaathi pe ghoda, ghode ki doomb pe maara hathoda, dauda dauda dauda ghoda doomb utha ke dauda. Hurrrr! Wow! What a game we played..

The game over, another round of tea is ordered. The two friends continue talking.

Rahul: What a time we had. And guess what! Main bach gaya. If you had sung ‘Lakdi ki kaathi’ earlier, you’d have asked me to sing in ‘Da’. And the only two songs I know in ‘Da’ are ‘Dum dum diga diga’ by Kalyanji-Anandji and ‘Dafli waale’ by Laxmikant Pyarelal.

Dev: I wouldn’t even remember those. But know what? Most music directors composed tunes using the ‘da-da-dee-da’ style. So I would sing ‘Da da dee da, dee dee da da, dada dee dee dee dee daa dey’ to the tune of ‘Panna ki tamanna hai ke Heera mujhe mil jaaye’

Rahul: Heera toh pehle hi kisi aur ka ho chukka, kisiki madbharee aankhon mein kho chuka…

Dev: Yaadon ki dastoor, ban chuka dil ka phoo-oo-ool.. (Banging the table like bongos).. Da da dee da, dee dee da da, dada dee dee dee dee daa dey

Rahul: Dee dee daa dee, de de de da… But lots of letters never came. I was waiting for ‘O’ to sing ‘O mere dil ke chain’, ‘O meri soni meri tamanna’, ‘O hansini’ and ‘O Maria’

Dev: I wanted ‘K’. ‘Kuch toh log kahenge’, ‘Kiska raasta dekhe’, ‘Karwate badalte rahein’, ‘Khulam khula pyaar karenge’, ‘Katra katra’

Rahul: You got ‘M’ so many times. Was worried you would sing ‘Main shaayar badnaam’. I adore the song, but when you sing it, you just don’t stop.

Dev: Aaah, I remember it only after a few drinks down. (Clearing his throat to get the Kishore pathos timbre) Rasta rok rahi hai, thodi jaan hai baaki, jaane toote dil mein, kya armaan…

Rahul: Okay, okay, okay, Got it. Ab tumko mera salaam. Main chala, main chala. We covered quite a bit. Time to leave for the airport. See you on June 27.

Dev: Yes see you. Have a great trip. You have a long drive. Hope you have some good music to play.

Rahul: Don’t worry. Stay online. We shall continue our Panchamakshari on WhatsApp. Today we can do anything with our mobile phones. Why not do something constructive for Pancham-da?

Dev: Hahaha: Jai Pancham… Let’s continue with the game. But instead of starting with ‘Ma’, let’s start with ‘Pa’. ‘Pa’ for Pancham. Don’t start with ‘Panna ki tamanna’.. we just sang that. And please don’t cheat using Google! Bye!

The musical side of the moon


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ON the occasion of Eid, I thought it might be interesting to compile a random list of Hindi film songs which talk about the moon. Most of them would have the word ‘chaand’ in the mukhda, besides variants like ‘chaandni’ and ‘chanda’. And from the names mentioned below, it is obvious that the moon inspired most lyricists to write at their romantic best.

The idea struck me when I suddenly remembered the Lata Mangeshkar classic ‘Chaand phir nikla’, composed by SD Burman, written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and picturised on Nutan in the 1957 film ‘Paying Guest’. Slowly, other songs came to mind, and after some research and Whatsapp chats, I managed to get a fairly fantastic list. Of course, most of these are top-of-the-mind songs, and there may be many rare ones which I may remember later, or which readers may point out.

Remarkably, some of the best ‘chaand’ songs have been sung by Mukesh. These include ‘Woh chaand khila’, his duet with Lata and written by Hasrat Jaipuri in ‘Anadi’, which had music by Shankar-Jaikishen. Then there are ‘Chaand aahein bharega’ (‘Phool Baney Angaarey’, Kalyanji-Anandji, Anand Bakshi), ‘Chaand si mehbooba ho meri’(‘Himalay Ki God Mein’, Kalyanji-Anandji and Bakshi again), and ‘Chaand ko kya maloom’ (‘Lal Bangla’, Usha Khanna, Indeevar). All of them beauties.

Mohammed Rafi also had some great songs, specially ‘Khoya khoya chand’ (‘Kala Bazaar’, SD, Shailendra), ‘Chaudhvin ka chand ho’ (‘Chaudhvin ka chand’, Ravi, Shakeel Badayuni) and the Lata duet ‘Dheere dheere chal chaand gagan mein’, composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and written by Hasrat in ‘Love Marriage’. He also had gems like ‘Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra’ (‘Kashmir Ki Kali’, OP Nayyar, SH Bihari), ‘Chaand mera dil’ (‘Hum Kisise Kum Nahin’, RD Burman, Majrooh) and ‘Maine poocha chaand se’ (‘Abdullah’, RD Burman, Bakshi).

For his part, Manna Dey had two outstanding songs sung with Lata and picturised on Raj Kapoor in the film ‘Chori Chori’. While ‘Yeh raat bheegi bheegi’ goes on to say ‘Yeh chaand pyaara pyaara’, the other song begins ‘Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum’. The tunes have been composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and written by Shailendra. In ‘Ek Phool Do Mali’, under the baton of Ravi, he sang ‘Tujhe suraj kahoon ya chanda’.

And how could one forget Hemant Kumar? Two songs in ‘Shart’, ‘Dekho who chaand chupke karta hai kya ishaare’ and the immortal ‘Na yeh chaand hoga’, were composed by him and written by SH Bihari. In ‘House No 44’, he sang ‘Chup hai dharti, chup hai chaand sitare’, and in ‘Jaal’, he had the famous ‘Yeh raat ye chaandni phir kahan’. Both tunes were composed by SD.

Coming back to Lata, one of her early hits was ‘Chanda re ja re ja re’, composed by Khemchand Prakash in ‘Ziddi’. Then she sang ‘Dum bhar jo udhar moonh phere, o chanda’ with Mukesh in ‘Awara’, a number composed by Shankar-Jaikishen and written by Shailendra. Then, she had ‘Ruk ja raat theher ja re chanda’ for Shankar-Jaikishen and Shailendra in ‘Dil Ek Mandir’, and ‘Chanda hai tu’ for SD and Bakshi in ‘Aradhana’, besides the duet ‘Chanda o chanda’ with ‘Kishore Kumar’ in ‘Lakhon Mein Ek’.. Asha Bhosle had ‘Kyon laga pyaar ko chaand grahan’ in the unreleased film ‘Chaand Grahan’, which had music by Jaidev.

The list is pretty long actually. There are older songs like the Noorjehan masterpiece ‘Chaandni raatein’, and ‘Tu mera chaand mein teri chaandni’, composed by Naushad and written by Shakeel in ‘Dillagi’, with versions by Suraiya-Shaam and Geeta Dutt. In the 1950s, there was ‘Yeh hawa yeh raat yeh chandni’, sung by Talat Mahmood in ‘Sangdil’, with music by Sajjad. In the 1970s, we had Yesudas singing ‘Chaand akela’ in ‘Alaap’, with music by Jaidev, and Kishore singing ‘Chaand churake laaya hoon’ for RD Burman in ‘Devata’. And there’s the unforgettable ‘Abhimaan’ song ‘Tere mere milan ki yeh raina’, which has Majrooh’s line ‘Chandaniya gungunayegi, tabhi toh chanchal hai tere naina, dekho na, dekho na’ set to tune by SD.

Later, there were ‘Chaandni raat hai tu mera saath hai’ from ‘Baaghi’, and ‘Chaand chupa baadal mein’, by Udit Narayan and Alka Yagnik in the Ismail Darbar-composed ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’. Not to forget Jatin-Lalit’s ‘Chaand sifaarish’, sung by Shaan and Kailash Kher in the 2006 film ‘Fanaa’. And just in case you thought of the title song of ‘Chandni’, it was based on the name of the heroine, and not on moonlight.

There have been dozens of great ‘chaand’ songs. And while this list mentions songs that came early to mind, there may be many more such songs. And if we’ve stuck to Hindi film songs so far, there are some non-film ghazals and nazms which portray the moon eloquently. Examples are Anup Jalota’s ‘Chaand angadaaiyan le raha hai, chaandni muskurane lagi hai’ and the Ghulam Ali charmer ‘Ae husn beparwah’, which has the lines ‘Chanda ki tu hai chaandni, leheron ki tu hai ragini, jaane tamanna main tujhe, kya kahoon, kya na kahoon’.

The west has had its share of moon songs too. Beginning with Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight sonata’, the list would include the popular standards ‘Moonlignt in Vermont’ and ‘Fly me to the moon’, Cat Stevens’ ‘Moonshadow’, Chuck Berry’s ‘Havana moon’ (with Santana having a song of the same name), Neil Young’s ‘Harvest moon’, Sting’s ‘Sister moon’, REM’s ‘Man on the moon’ and Savage Garden’s ‘To the moon and back’. And among albums, there was, of course, Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.

The western list would be pretty exhaustive too, and this was just a teaser. The Hindi list will hopefully take you on a trip down melody lane. The songs are en-’chaand’-ting enough.

The SD Burman-Majrooh combine


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SD Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri

TODAY, October 1, is the birth anniversary of two of Hindi film music’s most creative and consistent artistes. While music director SD Burman, born in 1906, continued to weave reams of melodic magic till his death in 1975, the 1919-born lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri remained active for over five decades, till he passed away in 2000. And the best thing about both these geniuses who shared birthdays was that they combined to create many outstanding songs together.

In Hindi cinema, a few combinations of music director and lyricist have reigned supreme. Naushad and Shakeel Badayuni, and Shankar-Jaikishen and Shailendra were the earlier successes. Before his best work with Majrooh, SD and Sahir Ludhianvi were a fantastic team, till they parted ways after the magnificent ‘Pyaasa’. Later, Sahir was to do some phenomenal work with Ravi. For his part, Madan Mohan’s work with Raja Mehdi Ali Khan was exceptional. In the 1970s, RD Burman paired very well with Anand Bakshi and Gulzar, and also with Majrooh in the Nasir Hussain productions. In more recent times, AR Rahman/ Mehboob Kotwal and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/ Javed Akhtar are two examples of combinations that have clicked.

In their day, the SD-Majrooh collaboration was special in its own way, one of their last being in the Amitabh Bachchan-Jaya Bhaduri film ‘Abhimaan’. Over the years, of course, a large chunk of their films featured Dev Anand, examples being ‘Paying Guest’, ‘Nau Do Gyarah’, ‘Kala Pani’, Manzil’, ‘Solva Saal’, ‘Bombai Ka Baboo’, ‘Baat Ek Raat Ki’, ‘Jewel Thief’ and ‘Teen Deviyan’.

A highlight of most Dev Anand films was the high quality of music, and these were no exception. ‘Paying Guest’ (1957) had gems like Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Chand phir nikla’, Kishore Kumar’s ‘Maana janaab ne pukara nahin’ and the Kishore-Asha Bhosle hit ‘Chhod do anchal’. ‘Nau Do Gyarah’, from the same year, had Kishore’s ‘Hum hain raahi pyaar ke’, th Kishore-Asha duet ‘Aankhon mein kya jee’ and the Mohd Rafi-Asha charmer ‘Aaja panchi akela hai’.

The following year, 1958, saw the two combine in ‘Solva Saal’ and ‘Kala Pani’. While the former had Hemant Kumar’s ‘Hai apna dil toh awara’, and the latter had Rafi’s ‘Hum bekhudi mein’ and Asha’s ‘Nazar laagi raja’. In 1960, the Dev Anand film ‘Manzil’ had the Rafi-Geeta Dutt beauty ‘Chupke se mile pyaase pyaase’, Manna Dey’s ‘Humdum se gaye’ and Hemant Kumar’s ethereal ‘Yaad aa gayee who nasheeli nigahen’. In ‘Bombai ka Baboo’, Mukesh sang the unforgettable ‘Chal ri sajni’.In the 1962 movie ‘Baat Ek Raat Ki’, Hemant Kumar sang the marvellous ‘Na tum hamein jaano’, with Suman Kalyanpur doing a version too.

The SD-Majrooh-Dev Anand combine had two more masterpieces. In the 1965 film ‘Teen Deviyan’ we heard Kishore singing ‘Khwab ho tum’, the Kishore-Asha song ‘Arrey yaar meri’ and the Kishore-Lata tune ‘Likha hai teri aankhon mein’. In 1967, Shailendra was to do ‘Jewel Thief’. He fell ill, and contributed only ‘Rula ke gaya sapna mera’. Majrooh took over and chipped in with Kishore’s ‘Yeh dil na hota bechara’, the Kishore-Lata gem ‘Aasman ke neeche’ and Asha’s ‘Raat akeli hai’.

Besides the Dev Anand films, SD and Majrooh combined on such classics as ‘Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi’ (which had Kishore’s ‘Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi’, the Kishore-Manna Dey song ‘Babu samjho ishaare’ and the Kishore-Asha superhit ‘Haal kaisa hai janaab ka’) and ‘Sujata’ (which had Talat Mahmood’s unforgettable ‘Jalte hain jiske liye’, Geeta Dutt’s ‘Nanhi kali sone chali’, Asha and Geeta’s ‘Bachpan ke din’ and SD’s own rendition of ‘Sun mere bandhu’). The Lata song ‘Pawan deewani’ from ‘Dr Vidya’ was a major hit too.

The two of them also worked in films like ‘Lajwanti’, ‘Sitaron Se Aage’, ‘Talaash’, ‘Phagun’ and ‘Sagina’ (remember ‘Saala mein to saahab ban gaya’?) But their biggest hit arguably was in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1973 film ‘Abhimaan’, which had ‘Tere mere milan yeh raina’ (Lata-Kishore), ‘Teri bindiya’ (Lata-Rafi), ‘Lutey koi man’ (Lata-Manhar Udhas), Kishore’s ‘Meet na mila’ and three Lata solos ‘Nadiya kinarey’, ‘Ab toh hai tumse’ and ‘Piya bina’.

Forty years after its release, ‘Abhimaan’ is still considered to be among that all-time great soundtracks. Appropriately, it was the result of the creative combination of two geniuses who had the same birthday. As a team, SD Burman and Majrooh Sultanpuri made a contribution that was timeless.

On Madan Mohan’s 90th birth anniversary, some Lata classics


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Great combination: Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar

MANY glorious combinations of music director and singer have marked Hindi film music over the years. Some of the best examples are Naushad-Mohammed Rafi, Shankar Jaikishen-Mukesh, SD Burman-Rafi, RD Burman-Kishore and RD Burman-Asha Bhosle. As for Lata Mangeshkar, she’s done great songs with almost all composers ranging from Naushad, Shankar-Jaikishen and SD Burman to RD Burman, Salil Chowdhury and Laxmikant-Pyarelal, but some of her most memorable tunes have been for Madan Mohan.

With fans celebrating Madan Mohan’s 90th birth anniversary tomorrow, June 25, thought it would be ideal to list my favourite Lata-Madan Mohan numbers. Usually, it would be difficult to rate such a list in order of preference, as most of the tunes are classics. So very diplomatically, I am mentioning my top 20 “in no particular order”. This list only contains Lata’s solo songs, not her duets.

1. Tu jahaan jahaan chalega – From the 1966 film ‘Mera Saaya’, it was written by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan.

2. Aap ki nazaron ne samjha – Who can forget this Lata Mangeshkar gem, written by Raja Mehdi Ali in the 1962 movie ‘Anpadh’?

3. Agar mujhse mohabbat hai – From the 1964 release ‘Aap ki parchaiyan’, this Lata song is hummed even today.

4. Yun hasraton ke daagh – One of Lata Mangeshkar’s most popular songs, from ‘Adalat’ in 1958. Lyrics are by Rajendra Krishan.

5. Lag ja gale – Another beauty by Raja Mehdi Ali, in the 1964 film ‘Woh Kaun Thi?’

6. Naghma-o-sher ki saugaat – Sahir Ludhianvi’s words and Madan Mohan’s music work wonders in this song from the 1964 film ‘Gazal’.

7. Zara si aahat – From the 1964 war film ‘Haqeeqat’, with lyrics by Kaifi Azmi.

8. Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim – Once again, Madan Mohan, Raja Mehdi Ali and Lata combine to create this gem in the 1964 film ‘Woh Kaun Thi?’

9. Unko yeh shikaayat hai – Lata at her melodic best, in Rajendra Krishan’s song from the 1958 film ‘Adalat’.

10. Nainon mein bhadra chaaye – Another Madan Mohan-Raja Mehdi Ali-Lata combination, this was from the 1966 film ‘Mera Saaya’.

11. Jab yaad kisiki aati hai – The title song of the 1967 film of the same name, written by Raja Mehdi Ali and picturised on Mala Sinha.

12. Baiyan na dharo – From ‘Dastak’ in 1970. The film also had Lata’s brilliant ‘Mai ri’ and ‘Hum hain mata-e-koocha-o-bazaar’, penned by Majrooh.

13. Milo na tum to – Written by Kaifi Azmi in the 1970 film ‘Heer Ranjha’.

14. Ruke ruke se kadam – From the 1975 film ‘Mausam’, this was written by Gulzar.

15. Husn haazir hai – From the 1976 film ‘Laila Majnu’. Sahir Ludhianvi’s lines ‘Koi patthar se na maare mere deewane ko’ became a rage.

16. Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhaaye kaise – Written by Naqsh Lyallpuri for the 1973 ‘Dil Ki Rahen’, this was one of Lata’s outstanding hits of the 1970s.

17. Aaj socha toh aansoon bhar aaye – The 1973 film ‘Hanste Zakhm’ was best known for Rafi’s singing and the orchestration of ‘Tum jo mil gaye ho’, but Kaifi Azmi shines on this one too.

18. Woh bhooli dastaan – An unforgettable tune from the 1961 movie ‘Sanjog’, this is classic Lata.

19. Woh jo milte the kabhi – From the 1963 film ‘Akeli Mat Jaaiyo’, with lyrics by Majrooh.

20. Badi barbadiyan lekar – A rarer song from the 1953 film ‘Dhun’, with lyrics by Kaif Irfani.

A case for the 1990s playback singers


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Kumar Sanu and Alka Yagnik

ON May 25, one was pleasantly surprised to see Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu on the Colors TV show ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’. Neither of them has been in the news as a playback singer, but their appearance revived memories of songs one relished about two decades ago.

Along with Udit Narayan, Kavita Krishnamurthy and Abhijeet, Alka and Sanu dominated the Hindi film music scene of the 1990s. All of them came up with a string of hits, which are hummed even today. Overall, films from that decade had some memorable music, marvellous examples being ‘Aashiqui’, ‘Saajan’, ‘Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge’, ‘Dil Hai Ke Maanta Nahin’, ‘Dil’, ‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’, ‘1942: A Love Story’, ‘Yes Boss’, ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’, ‘Roja’, ‘Bombay’, ‘Baazigar’, ‘Dil Se’, ‘Border’, ‘Taal’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ and ‘Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam’, to name only a few.

Though these singers continued singing in the early half of the 2000s, their market position and prolificacy suddenly came down about a decade ago. Today, they hardly have any songs in films, and barring Udit’s appearance along with other male singers in the ‘Student of the Year’ song ‘Radha’ two years ago, one cannot think of any major hit by them. Which is sad because all five of them were once very consistent, and were ideal representatives of a particular generation of playback singers.

What went wrong? To begin with, the beginning of the 2000s saw the entry of many new music directors who experimented with newer sounds. They were influenced more by rock, electronic music and world music, and the standard Hindi film love song got lesser importance. Item songs and ‘masti’ songs became trendy, and they required a different set of voices.

If one looks at the music directors, only A R Rahman has been around from the 1990s till today, though even here, critics may argue that he produced his best music during the first five or six years after ‘Bombay’. The other popular music directors from that period – Nadeem-Shravan, Jatin-Lalit, Anu Malik, Anand-Milind, Raam Laxman – have either cut down on their appearances, become full-time TV show judges or simply vanished from the scene.

All these music directors were very careful in the way they associated the singer’s voice with the actor on screen. Thus, in each film, Alka, Sanu or Udit would get the entire list of songs, and there was a time when Abhijeet was specially chosen to represent Shah Rukh Khan. The Udit-Alka and Sanu-Alka partnerships were very regular, and all these singers knew how to adapt to one another.

The 1990s in fact saw the revival of good music in Hindi cinema. After experiencing a terrible musical time in the 1980s – barring a few ghazal and semi-classical based scores in parallel cinema – the early 1990s saw the return of melody in a big way. In fact, Anand-Milind’s ‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’, Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s ‘Tezaab’ and Raam Laxman’s ‘Maine Pyar Kiya’ kicked off the trend in the late 1980s, but it was Nadeem-Shravan’s work in the 1990 movie ‘Aashiqui’ which marked the real change in sound.

For most of the 1990s, the emphasis was thus on simple melodies, and here, the voices of Alka, Udit, Sanu, Kavita, Abhijeet and in some cases Sadhna Sargam seemed perfect. While Hariharan came up with a few hits, Shaan, KK and Sonu Nigam were concentrating more on Indipop, eventually shifting their focus to films. Many films from that decade boasted of musical consistency, and the songs had the retention factor.

With the turn of the century, the newer crop of music directors not only began experimenting with new sounds, but also started trying out new voices. One of the reasons was to get in some freshness, but the other also had to do with the fact that the younger brigade charged much less than the established singers of the 1990s.

In some cases – like Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan and very recently Arijit Singh – the composers have been successful. But by and large, they did not focus on specific singers for specific actors. Many singers would sing for the same actor in the same film – one example being ‘Barfi’, where Pritam had six singers for Ranbir Kapoor. Last year’s biggest musical hit ‘Aashiqui 2’ had some wonderful tunes, but besides multiple singers, it had three music directors.

Another unfortunate development is that the era of the singing duo is practically over. Today, one can’t think on the lines of Lata-Rafi, Asha-Kishore or Udit-Alka.

On the one hand, with the passage of time, there were bound to be changes in Hindi film music. But on the other, it’s sad that some singers who were so brilliant throughout the 1990s and up to the early 2000s are barely heard today. Alka, Udit, Sanu, Abhijeet, Kavita and Sadhna are still capable of rendering the kind of hits they did 20 years ago, as long as they are given the right opportunities.

An occasional appearance on shows like ‘Comedy Nights’ may bring about some pleasant nostalgia, but it’s time music directors and filmmakers think of constructively using their voices once again.

Farooque Shaikh and the 1980s ghazal revival in Hindi cinema


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Farooque Shaikh and Rekha in ‘Umrao Jaan’

THE sudden and untimely death of Farooque Shaikh has come as a huge shock to friends, colleagues and fans, who are at a loss when it comes to speaking about his immense contribution to the world of films, theatre and television. Some wonderful tributes have been written, both in the print and social media, describing his brilliance as an actor, his simplicity as a human being, his passion for cinema and food, and his vast knowledge of politics and current affairs.

This blog aims to touch upon another aspect revolving around Farooque ― of his being the actor who regularly symbolised the late 1970s and early 1980s ghazal revival in Hindi cinema. More than any other actor, it was he who was picturised on some of the best ghazals released between 1978 and 1982, when the ghazal wave was at its peak. Even today, those songs are popular among the generation that grew up on them.

To be precise, of the six films that focused on ghazals during that period, whose music was commercially successful then and is considered timeless even today, four featured Farooque. These were ‘Gaman’ (1978), ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981), ‘Bazaar’ (1982) and ‘Saath Saath’ (1982). The other two were Mahesh Bhatt’s ‘Arth’ and BR Chopra’s ‘Nikaah’ (both 1982), the former having Kulbhushan Kharbanda in the male lead and Raj Kiran in a supporting role, and the latter featuring Raj Babbar and Deepak Parasher.

In these four films, quite a few songs were picturised on Farooque ― either portraying him singing them, or being part of the scene when the heroine is singing them. But before talking of the music of these films, here’s a bit on the overall music scenario during that period.

WHILE the late 1970s brought back the genre, ghazals were actually nothing new in Hindi cinema. Ghazals basically involve a certain format while writing poetry, and poets like Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Jan Nisar Akhtar had been using that structure for film songs, which were set to tune by music directors from Naushad to Madan Mohan to SD Burman. From the 1940s onwards, all major singers like KL Saigal, Talat Mahmood, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle had sung them.

Besides ghazals, Hindi films also featured related forms like the nazm, which involves free-flowing poetry, or the simple ‘geet’ or love song. But trends changed and by the late 1960s, there were fewer ghazals in the traditional sense of the term. So what happened in the late 1970s was essentially a revival sparked off for two reasons.

The first was that the Hindi parallel cinema movement had gained momentum, and directors like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Saeed Mirza, Gulzar, Muzaffar Ali, Kumar Shahani and Mahesh Bhatt, to name a few, came up with a realistic alternative to the fantasy-ridden commercial films of the day.

Even for their music, such filmmakers preferred something that differed from and went against the popular commercial sound. Some chose light classical or folk music, while others relied on simple melodies not belonging to any genre as such.

Still others opted for the ghazal, as the genre had been making waves in the non-film segment. Artistes like Jagjit-Chitra Singh and Rajendra-Nina Mehta had become popular, and the late 1970s and early 1980s saw the discovery of new artistes like Hariharan, Talat Aziz, Pankaj Udhas, Anup Jalota and Penaz Masani in the non-film ghazal segment.

Thus, the second reason for this revival was that with ghazals becoming popular outside of films, it was only natural they found a place in parallel cinema too. With commercial films getting into disco and loud music that went with the violence and sleaze, ghazals acted as a refreshing change. Ghazal singers like Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh, Talat Aziz and Hariharan got opportunities to sing in films.

However, one just couldn’t put in a ghazal everywhere for the sake of it. The song had to fit with the storyline and the situations. So while there were quite a few films that used one or two ghazals (like Jagjit Singh’s ‘Honto Se Choolon Tum’ in the 1981 film ‘Prem Geet’ or the couple of songs in Bhimsain’s 1979 venture ‘Dooriyan’), only a handful of them focused entirely on the genre. Of these, four starred Farooque Shaikh.

LET’S now look at the music of these four films, in the chronological order of their release. Needless to say, even today, their songs create the same impact, though it’s unfortunate that large sections of the younger generation are yet to discover them.

Gaman (1978): Directed by Muzaffar Ali, ‘Gaman’ had music by the great Jaidev. Two of the songs, written by the brilliant Shahryaar, were picturised on Farooque.

‘Seene Mein Jalan’ gave a huge boost to the career of Suresh Wadkar, and the lines “Seene mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai; Is sheher mein har shaks pareshan sa kyon hai” became a hit among Mumbai residents.

The second ghazal is an absolute beauty sung by Hariharan. Titled ‘Ajeeb Saaneha Mujhpar Guzar Gaya Yaaron’, it has marvellous lines like, “Woh kaun tha, woh kahan ka tha, kya hua tha usey; suna hai aaj koi shaks mar gaya yaaro.” Hariharan is a treat to hear, showing perfection in classical technique and Urdu diction.

The film has two other beauties. In ‘Aap Ki Yaad Aati Rahe Raat Bhar’, Maqdoom Mohiuddin’s lines are sung by the National Award-winning Chhaya Ganguli. The traditional semi-classical ‘Ras Ke Bhare Torey Nain’ is rendered soulfully by Hiradevi Mishra.

Umrao Jaan (1981): Music director Khayyam, lyricist Shahryaar and singer Asha Bhosle combine to make this an unforgettable collection of songs. For Farooque, Talat Aziz charmingly sings ‘Zindagi Jab Bhi Teri Bazm Mein’, which had those amazing lines, “Har mulaqaat ka anjaam judaai kyon hai; Ab toh har waqt yehi baat sataati hai humein.”

The other songs are picturised on Rekha, and in some cases Farooque, who plays Nawab Sultan. These include evergreen numbers like “In Aankhon Ki Masti’, ‘Dil Cheez Kya Hai’, ‘Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston’ and ‘Justuju Jiski Thi’. Poetry, melody and cinematic beauty at their best.

Both Khayyam and Asha Bhosle won the National Award for this film.

Bazaar (1982): Starring Smita Patil, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooque Shaikh and Supriya Pathak, Sagar Sarhadi’s ‘Bazaar’ made amazing use of the ghazal medium. Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s ‘Phir Chiddi Raat Baat Phoolon Ki’, sung by Talat Aziz and Lata Mangeshkar, is picturised on Farooque and Supriya, and Lata’s solo ‘Dikhayi Diye Yoon’, written by the legendary Mir Taqi Mir, is one of the best songs she’s rendered in that era.

Jagjit Kaur renders the touching Mirza Shauq-penned ‘Dekh Lo Aaj Humko Jee Bhar Ke’, which shows Farooque in an emotional scene. Finally, ‘Karoge Yaad Toh Har Baat Yaad Aayegi’, written by Bashar Nawaz and sung by the outstanding Bhupinder, is picturised on Naseeruddin and Smita.

Saath Saath (1982): With music by Kuldeep Singh and lyrics by Javed Akhtar, Raman Kumar’s film had some wonderful ghazals and geets sung by Jagjit and Chitra Singh, and filmed on Farooque and Deepti Naval.

Jagjit’s ‘Tumko Dekha Toh Yeh Khayal Aaya’ remained one of his concert favourites till the end, with lines like, “Aaj phir dil ne ek tamanna ki; Aaj phir dil ko humne samjhaaya” and “Hum jisey gunguna nahin sakte; Waqt ne aisa geet kyon gaaya.”

‘Kyun Zindagi Ki Raah Mein’, ‘Pyaar Mujhse Jo Kiya Tumne Toh Kya Paaogi’ and ‘Yeh Bata De Zindagi’ are still admired by connoisseurs, and the lighter ‘Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar’ has become a staple among newly-weds.

Of the four films, ‘Saath Saath’ had the most accessible music, attracting both serious ghazal lovers and lay listeners.

WITH these films, Farooque just had a wonderful repertoire of ghazals to portray on screen. Though the music of his ‘Noorie’, composed by Khayyam, was successful too, and other films like ‘Chasme Buddoor’ had a couple of popular songs, the ghazals recorded during that five-year span had a different class altogether.

Sadly, after1983, the ghazal fad slowly died down in films. In concerts and non-film albums, it lasted another few years, but by the second half of the 1980s, the overall consistency of the existing singers had declined, and the entry of too many singers had affected the quality. Only a few artistes survived, and continued to carry the baton for years.

As a tribute to Farooque, it would be ideal to get back into the music of these four films, and understand the beauty and depth of the ghazals. The actor will definitely be missed. But as that song said in ‘Umrao Jaan’, “Har mulaqaat ka anjaam judaai kyon hai; Ab toh har waqt yehi baat sataati hai humein.”

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