This blog hosted a ‘Classic Bollywood Quiz’ a while back. In true film awards style (and we have pacifist to thank for this idea), everybody who submitted answers got a prize. The winner, Anoushka, got a tangible prize, and our runner-up, Anu Warrier, got the ‘dictate-a-list’ prize. For the others, I decided I’d dedicate one post each. This is the first of those posts; it’s dedicated to Karthik, who won the Just for the Heck of it Award (I assume full responsibility for that ghastly name; my creative juices had run dry by the time I got to naming this prize).
So, Karthik: this is for you, because though I’d thought vaguely that I’d do this list sometime, it was your suggestion (that comment on a long-ago post…) that spurred me on to get down to it. Enjoy!
Now, a few words about what this post entails. I’ve noticed that a lot of people, including those who do like old Hindi films and their music, tend to equate good music direction with the ‘greats’: Salil Choudhary, S D Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, Roshan, O P Nayyar, Naushad… and so on. I did, too, till not too long ago. But a spate of watching some rather obscure films over the past decade or so has made me more aware of music directors who may not have made it big, but who certainly did not lack talent. In some cases, a couple of their songs became runaway hits. In some cases, the songs may not have been huge hits but are nevertheless very melodious.
Here, therefore, is to the uncelebrated: ten of my favourite songs from classic Hindi cinema’s lesser-known composers, mostly from the 50s and 60s (I’m not even thinking of venturing earlier – except in one case – because I cannot claim to being familiar with many songs from before 1950). These are all from films I’ve seen, and, wherever possible, they are songs that you’re likely to have heard and appreciated without having ever even heard of the music director’s name.
My particular favourites are bunched at the top.
1. Mujhko tum jo mile yeh jahaan mil gaya (Detective, 1958; Composer: Mukul Roy): The brother of Geeta Dutt (née Roy), Mukul Roy composed the music for just a handful of films in Hindi and Bengali. This song is from a film for which Mukul Roy created a wonderful score (it also featured the melancholy Do chamakti aankhon mein, as well as the peppy Kal talak hum theek thha). This song, however, is my favourite (and, even otherwise, one of my favourite duets from the 50s). The music is soothing and melodious; and Hemant and Geeta Dutt’s very faintly nasal voices combine humming and words in a song that always makes me think of a waltz. Serene and perfectly coordinated and so beautiful.
2. Aayega aanewaala (Mahal, 1949; Composer: Khemchand Prakash): Okay, raise your hand, everybody who’s heard this song.
Now, raise your hand if you know who composed the music for it.
Khemchand Prakash was not an unknown; not by a long shot. But the bulk of his work was restricted to films from the 40s (including the K L Saigal classic, Tansen), and the last film for which he composed music was Tamasha (1952) – he died before he was 43.
But, Aayega aanewaala. I’ve praised this song very often on this blog, and I’m going to praise it all over again. It’s a spectacular composition, a song that always gives me gooseflesh. And, while Lata’s voice is a huge reason for the perfection of the song, you cannot help but appreciate Prakash’s music. That restrained piano and guitar, the violins, even the ‘bong’ of the clock’s pendulum at the beginning, giving away to interesting variations that reflect the story as it unfolds. The repetitive, hesitant, but gentle music as Ashok Kumar’s character moves slowly forward; the joyful, full-throated crescendo of the woman’s voice; the echo effect; the interludes; the fading away of her voice at the end… what a song.
3. Saranga teri yaad mein nain hue bechain (Saranga, 1960; Composer: Sardar Malik): Unfortunately, the few people who appear to know of Sardar Malik know of him as the father of Anu Malik. Sardar Malik composed the music for
only seven films about thirteen films (according to Anu; see her comment below in the ‘comments’ section), of which I’ve seen two (Saranga and Abe-Hayat). Both had excellent scores.
I watched Saranga as a child, when the only TV channel we had was Doordarshan, and the Sunday 5:45 Hindi film was the week’s highlight. Saranga was a crashing bore. The leads (Sudesh Kumar and Jayshree Gadkar) weren’t great, and the film was well past the halfway mark when my parents decided they’d had enough. My sister and I sat on, simply because we knew this song was coming. And, when it eventually did appear, we agreed we’d been rewarded for our patience.
Listen to this song. To its simple, uncluttered notes. To the sad, almost-wailing of the flute (? Is it?) in the interludes. The restrained sorrow in Mukesh’s voice, and the seamless way in which Sardar Malik’s music reflects the pain and the longing in the lyrics.
Note: Incidentally, there are two versions of Saranga teri yaad mein; the other is a shorter, more cheerful one – with a slightly different tune – sung by Mohammad Rafi.
Another of Saranga’s hit songs was Haan deewaana hoon main.
4. Dhalti jaaye raat, keh le dil ki baat (Razia Sultana, 1961; Composer: Lachhiram): Like Saranga, Razia Sultana isn’t a great film. It stars, in the title role, Nirupa Roy, opposite P Jairaj. Even the name of the composer (whom I’d never heard of before) didn’t tempt me to watch on just for the songs. But I persevered, and was rewarded with this surprise. Dhalti jaaye raat is a song I’d heard (and loved) for a long time, but I hadn’t known it was from Razia Sultana.
I love the serene beauty Lachhiram (who was he? Does anybody know? The only other film for which he’s credited on IMDB is Madhubala, 1950) brings to this song. The gentle, lilting tune magically evokes a cool, moonlit night in which two lovers try to fit in one last rendezvous before being separated, perhaps for ever. Lovely.
[Later note: See Anu’s note in the comments section, below. She lists several other films for which Lachhiram composed the music].
5. Aa tu aa zara dil mein aa (Phoolon ki Sej, 1964; Composer: Adi Narayan Rao P): Adi Narayan Rao P composed music for a number of Telugu films between the 1940s and the 1970s – in fact, right up to 1980. Phoolon ki Sej is one of the very few Hindi films for which he scored the music. And while it wasn’t chartbusting music, it was very good, nevertheless. This one, Aa tu aa zara dil mein aa, is my favourite from the film.
I just love the beat of this song: it’s peppy and infectious without being intrusive or in any way undermining the romance in the song. And the transition between the relatively fast-paced chorus and the slower, gentler stanzas is perfect. I’d think Adi Narayan Rao deserves to be better known in Hindi film music if only for this one song…
6. Dil thhaam chale hum aaj kidhar (Love in Simla, 1960; Composer: Iqbal Qureshi): Iqbal Qureshi wasn’t a couple-of-Hindi films-wonder like P Adi Narayan Rao; he composed the music for a clutch of 50s and 60s films (and, according to IMDB, even through the 80s and 90s). These included the Helen starrer Cha Cha Cha (remember Ik chameli ke mandve tale?), and the Sadhana-Joy Mukherjee launch pad, Love in Simla.
Love in Simla had quite a few very hummable songs: Gaal gulaabi kiske hain, Kiya hai dilruba pyaar bhi kabhi, and Love ka matlab hai pyaar, among others. But my favourite is Dil thhaam chale hum aaj kidhar, because Qureshi uses the sounds of a train so creatively in his music. Its chugging, its whistles, the click-clack of its wheels going over the tracks: delightful. Also note the interludes, which move the action to a club, where lots of familiar faces (including Abe Cohen and Herman Benjamin) are dancing. Here the music’s more obviously ‘dance floor’ style, with a chorus taking up from where Rafi leaves off.
7. Ae watan ae watan humko teri kasam (Shaheed, 1965; Composer: Prem Dhawan): Prem Dhawan should probably be counted as among one of Hindi cinema’s most versatile talents. He’s known primarily as a lyricist (the achingly beautiful Ae mere pyaare watan and Seene mein sulagte hain armaan included); but he was also a choreographer. He choreographed some iconic songs for films like Dhool ka Phool, Do Bigha Zameen and Naya Daur (Udein jab-jab zulfein teri is Dhawan’s work).
More relevant to this post: Prem Dhawan was also a music director. He composed only for a handful of films, but some of the songs he did score – especially for Shaheed – are superb.
This one, for example. Ae watan ae watan is repeated at various points in the film, but at various tempos and in different moods. In this particular version, though, it shines through with its determined, somewhat ‘marching song’ feel: the drumbeats, the eventual rising of Rafi’s voice into a crescendo that screams defiance in every syllable. For a revolutionary nationalist like Bhagat Singh, this fits so perfectly…
8. Sambhal ae dil (Sadhana, 1958; Composer: N Dutta): Considering he was the music director for close to thirty films, N Dutta is (very unfairly, in my opinion) one of the lesser-known composers of Hindi cinema. This, despite being the genius behind lively, vivacious Western-inspired tunes like Laal-laal gaal and Beta dar mat dar mat, to the exquisite Chaand bhi koi deewaana hai.
To Sambhal ae dil (in fact, to the other songs of Sadhana as well) N Dutta gave a distinctly ‘Indian’ touch. There is a dominance of tablas here, and the tune is as lyrical as the words themselves. What I especially like is the fact that he keeps the musical instruments to a minimum – they’re there mostly in the brief interludes – and allows Asha and Rafi’s voices to take centrestage.
9. Saiyaan pyaara hai apna milan (Do Behnen, 1959; Composer: Vasant Desai): Like N Dutta, Vasant Desai wasn’t a one-film wonder, but a very talented composer with an impressive portfolio that included films such as Goonj Uthi Shehnai, Do Aankhen Baarah Haath, and Jhanak-jhanak Paayal Baaje: all films known as much for their music as for the films themselves. Unfortunately, though, too many people tend to ignore Desai’s work.
So here is an example: one of my favourite Vasant Desai songs, a relatively little-known one that appears in two versions in the film, a sad one and this, the happy one. I love this song – it’s so soothing, so gentle and shy, yet romantic and even seductive, all at the same time.
10. Mohabbat zinda rehti hai (Changez Khan, 1957; Composer: Hansraj Bahl): Much of Hansraj Bahl’s corpus of work extended over B-grade films (including several Dara Singh starrers like Sikandar-e-Azam and Rustom-e-Hind). But, simply because he was creating for a film that wasn’t big budget and crowded with stars, didn’t mean Bahl did a shoddy job. He has to his name some great songs: Le chala jidhar yeh dil nikal pade, Jahaan daal-daal par sone ki chidiyaan,and Mere pehloo mein aake baitho.
Mohabbat zinda rehti hai is probably one of Hansraj Bahl’s best-known songs. It appears at several points in the story, but the main version, the longest, is the one that stands out. It begins slow, soft, with almost no music, just Rafi’s voice. Then, as both hope and despair begin to mount, the music gradually speeds up and becomes louder. It still remains, however, subsidiary to Rafi’s voice, which is what really made this song such a hit. But where would it be without Bahl’s music, right?