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The Pick Of Composer Nashad’s Songs

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

Jadugar Baalma (Naghma, 1953)

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

Ek Dil Do Hain Talabgar (Darwaza, 1954)

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

Tasveer Banata Hoon (Baradari, 1955)

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

Aaj Gham Kal Khushi (Jawab, 1955)

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

Rafta Rafta Woh Meri (Zeenat, 1975)

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

[This post originally appeared here.]

C. Ramchandra’s 10 Most Memorable Songs

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

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

Shehnai (1947)

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

Patanga (1949)

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

Sargam (1950)

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

Albela (1951)

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

Parchhain (1952)

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

Anarkali (1953)

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

Nastik (1954)

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

Azad (1955)

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

Navrang (1959)

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

Bahurani (1963)

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

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

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Best Of The Naushad – Rafi Partnership

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

Here are my top 10 picks of this legendary duo.

Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele – Mela (1948)

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

Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki – Dulari (1949)

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

Taara Ri Yaara Ri  – Dastan (1950)

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

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

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

Maan Mera Ehsaan Arey Naadan – Aan (1952)

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

Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re – Kohinoor (1960)

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

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

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

Tere Husn Ki Kya Tareef Karoon – Leader (1964)

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

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

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

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

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

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

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Best of Shailendra

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

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

Barsaat (1949)

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

Awara (1951)

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

Shree 420 (1955)

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

Madhumati (1958)

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

Anari (1959)

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

Chhote Nawab (1961)

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

Bandini (1963)

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

Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein (1964)

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

Guide (1965)

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

Teesri Kasam (1966)

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

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

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

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Charming Voice Of Sudha Malhotra

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

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

Darshan Do Ghanshyam (Narsi Bhagat 1957)

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

Tum Mujhe Bhool Bhi Jao (Didi, 1959)

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

Aaj Mujhe Kuchh Kehna Hai (Girl Friend, 1960)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Na Main Dhan Chahoon (Kala Bazar, 1960)

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

Bonus:

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

[This post originally appeared here.]

The Best Of Geeta Dutt In 10 Songs

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

Mera Sundar Sapna Beet Gaya (Do Bhai, 1947)

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

Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui (Baazi, 1951)

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

Ja Ja Ja Ja Bewafa (Aar Paar, 1954)

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

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

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

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

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

Jaane Kya Tune Kahi (Pyaasa, 1957)

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

Mujh Ko Tum Jo Mile (Detective, 1958)

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

Nanhi Kali Sone Chali (Sujata, 1959)

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

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

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

Meri Jaan Mujhe Jaan Na Kaho (Anubhav, 1971)

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

[This post originally appeared here.]

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.

Bonus:

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.

MySwar References

One of the things we love on MySwar is the trivia – the story behind the music and the musicians. We source the trivia from books we read and from the World Wide Web. While we stored these source references, we didn’t have a way to show them to our users. Not anymore. We just rolled out the display of references from which we derive these trivia. Now, you will see a reference link next to trivia items (where applicable). Book references are listed together on one page and other references are listed right there on the song or album page.

Special mention must be made of the Hindi Film Geet Kosh compiled by Mr. Harmandir Singh ‘Hamraaz’. The Hindi Film Geet Kosh, a collection of 5 book volumes cataloguing Hindi films from 1931 to 1980, is not just the source of trivia for MySwar but also the foundation of our data from this period. It’s not a coincidence that it’s listed at the top in our list of references.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc1HHA5S9yo

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