I’d been toying with the idea of this list for a while, and memsaab’s recent post on Bhoot Bungla reminded me of it, what with Aao twist karein and its very obvious resemblance to Come on let’s twist again.
I am—and my family and friends know this by now—absolutely and completely enamoured of old Hindi film music. Especially of the 50’s and 60’s. What singers we had! What lyricists! What music directors! What inspiration! The songs were often derived, in small part or large, from a wide range of sources: folk music, classical ragas, Western music, even the rhythmic hoofbeats of a cantering horse. Sometimes the inspiration wasn’t too obvious, or the end result was such a change from the original, it was hard not to give credit to the music director. Other songs were shameless ‘lifts’ from originals.
So here goes: my favourite ‘inspired’ songs, all from 50’s and 60’s films that I’ve seen. And to make the scope more manageable for myself: tunes that were originally Western. These are in no particular order.
1. O babu o lala (Dilli ka thug, 1958; composer: Ravi; original: Rum and Coca-Cola):
If I had made this list in order of preference—beginning with the song which I think does the most to differentiate the inspired version from the original, this would be it. The Andrews Sisters’ song is repetitive and positively bland compared to Ravi’s breathtakingly sensuous version. The interludes—now wind instruments, now piano accordion—Geeta Dutt’s breathy and sultry singing, the brilliant orchestration: all of it make O babu o lala a superb example of what inspiration should be: merely something to help you surpass the original and take a road completely different.
2. Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badha (Chhaya, 1961; composer: Salil Chowdhury; original: Mozart’s 40th symphony):
Salil Chowdhury’s song begins very differently from the well-known classical piece by Mozart, but soon turns into a fairly faithful rendition of the original. He does revert to form later in the verses, where it’s Salil again, not Mozart; but I’d still list this as one of the most easily recognisable inspirations from classic Hindi cinema that I can think of.
3. Aao twist karein (Bhoot bungla, 1965; composer: R D Burman; original: Come on let’s twist again):
This song doesn’t just sound like the original, it even has almost the same words in the refrain: Aao twist karein means more or less the same as Come on let’s twist again. In both cases, it begins with the singer (Chubby Checker/Mehmood) “talking to the audience” before launching forth into song. But there onwards, RDB leaves the inspiration way behind: his version has way more pizzazz, with clapping, hooting, and more to add variety to the music. And Manna Dey? He’s just too good.
4. Dil tadap-tadap ke keh raha hai (Madhumati, 1958; composer: Salil Chowdhury; original: Szla dzieweczka do laseczka):
I have to admit: I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the version I’ve been able to unearth on youtube of Szla dzieweczka do laseczka (which warrants another confession: I can’t even begin to think how to pronounce that). Szla dzieweczka do laseczka is a Polish folk song, and Salil Chowdhury certainly used a good bit of it to create Dil tadap-tadap ke. A more Indian version, but with Polish roots all right.
5. Jeevan ke safar mein raahi (Munimji, 1955; composer: S D Burman; original: Mexican hat dance):
This is one of those songs I’d list really as an inspiration rather than a faithful copy—the start of Jeevan ke safar mein raahi is almost identical to that of the Mexican hat dance, but after that, the two tunes go two very different ways (literally like raahis—travellers—parting ways?) Both tunes are lovely, but I think S D Burman’s is the more interesting one, with some wonderful variations and flourishes.
6. Gore-gore o baanke chhore (Samadhi, 1950; composer: C Ramchandra; original: Chico-chico):
I have Richard to thank for this one: he told me about it when I reviewed Samadhi and raved about Gore-gore o baanke chhore. Edmundo Ros’s classic Chico-chico is so undoubtedly the source of Gore-gore o baanke chhore. C Ramchandra does manage to redeem himself somewhat, in the verses of the song, which are very different from Ros’s version.
7. Dil deke dekho (Dil deke dekho, 1959; composer: Usha Khanna; original: Sugar in the morning):
Usha Khanna’s score for her first film, Dil deke dekho, has the dubious distinction of being ‘inspired’ by as many as four Western songs, from the blatantly obvious Meri Neeta, copied from Diana, to this one. I’ll give her more credit for Dil deke dekho, though: the chorus is from the tune of Sugar in the morning, but beyond that Ms Khanna brings in some fairly original interludes, with guitars and violins giving this a fairlydifferent feel from Sugar in the morning.
8. Baba loo baba loo baba (Jhumroo, 1961; composer: Kishore Kumar; original: Tequila):
Tequila has long been a favourite in India (I guess long before most people even knew what tequila was). And Kishore Kumar paid quite a tribute to Tequila by composing this song, which is pretty much an as-is copy of the original. This is one tune where I do think the copy lacks the zip and pep of the original: Tequila gets diluted as Baba loo baba loo baba.
9. Thandi hawa yeh chaandni suhaani (Jhumroo, 1961; composer: Kishore Kumar; original: Domani):
Also from Jhumroo. Thandi hawa yeh chaandni suhaani has long been one of my favourite songs, in fact the main reason why I slotted Kishore Kumar as a highly underrated music director. Alas, I am proven wrong. Our man lifted this tune almost verbatim from Julius la Rosa’s Domani. The start is, almost note for note, the same, though Kishore da does redeem himself somewhat by making the verses more soulful and beautiful than in the original.
10. Ae dil hai mushkil (CID, 1956; composer: O P Nayyar; original: Oh my darling Clementine):
Not one of those immediately obvious ‘inspirations’ (I’d heard both tunes dozens of times before I realised they were too similar for it to be a coincidence). Which I think says a lot for O P Nayyar’s skill in adaptation—Ae dil hai mushkil has very different interludes (I love the harmonica, the tonga beats, the violins, the piano—everything!). Another of the songs that’s better in the copy than in the original.
So what are your favourites? And no Anu Malik examples, please!