This is another of the prize posts for those who participated in the Classic Bollywood Quiz I hosted on this blog last year. I’ve two awards left to ‘hand out’ – (read ‘two more posts to dedicate to readers’) – but this post is dedicated to Neha, whose blog is really niche: it’s a collection of interesting trivia about black-and-white Hindi films. Neha won the Hope Springs Eternal Award in the quiz, simply because she didn’t allow herself to be deterred by the fact that she couldn’t guess more than a handful of the answers. Atta-girl, Neha! That’s the attitude.
Anyway, here goes: a post for Neha. Since Neha’s so keen on trivia, I decided to do something along those lines for her post. Not, unfortunately for Neha, from just black-and-white Hindi films, but at least from pre-70s Hindi films. Just some little snippets that I’ve discovered over the years, and thought were fun.
1. Naushad: Tailor or Music Director?
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the cinema industry was still considered a low profession – and not necessarily just for women, and not necessarily if you appeared onscreen. The music director Naushad, who’d delivered his first big hit score with Rattan (1944), had just become Hindi film music’s blue-eyed boy.
But his parents – who were very keen to get their son married – figured that there was no chance of getting a good match for Naushad if they let on that he was in the cinema industry. When they eventually found a good bride and fixed up the wedding, they informed Naushad: “We’ve told the girl’s parents that you’re a tailor. If they knew you worked in the pictures, they’d never allow the marriage.”
So Naushad got married, posing as a tailor – and, ironically enough, found that the wedding band along with the baaraat was playing the latest hit songs – from Rattan.
2. How Madan Mohan ‘bribed’ Manna Dey
Manna Dey recalls that the music director Madan Mohan was a very good cook (as, actually, was Manna Dey himself). One day, Madan Mohan phoned Manna Dey and invited him over for lunch. When Manna Dey jokingly asked, “But what are you cooking?” Madan Mohan replied, “Bhindi meat.”
So Manna Dey went to the composer’s house and enjoyed a hearty meal of bhindi meat curry and rice. When he was sated and happy, Madan Mohan said, “Now, you must listen to a tune I have composed – but on one condition: you will be the one to sing it in the film.” And, having thus ‘bribed’ Manna Dey into agreeing, Madan Mohan proceeded to sing the song – which ended up being Kaun aaya mere mann ke dwaare, sung by Manna Dey and picturised on Anoop Kumar in Dekh Kabira Roya.
3. Mohammad Rafi’s meeting with Mohammed Ali
When visiting Chicago once on tour, Mohammad Rafi (who was very keen on sports, especially boxing and cricket) requested the organisers of the tour to try and get him an appointment to meet Mohammed Ali, of whom Mohammad Rafi was a big fan.
Mohammed Ali was not usually available for meetings such as these, but when he was told how legendary Rafi Sahib was in India, he not only agreed, but even made the effort of coming all the way to Mohammad Rafi’s hotel to meet him.
4. How Joy Mukherji’s dance in Duniya paagal hai came about
En route to Tokyo for the filming of Love in Tokyo, Joy Mukherji stopped over in Hong Kong. There, in a nightclub, he saw a dancer dancing very vigorously and with an infectious verve. He was so impressed that he introduced himself to her and asked her if she would teach him the dance. She did, and that was the dance he replicated in Duniya paagal hai ya phir main deewaana, from Shagird.
If you’ve seen this Shashi Kapoor-Nanda starrer, you know that it climaxes when the ‘hero’ Raja (Shashi Kapoor) realises that his urbanised, made-over persona is all fake and causes only unhappiness. He therefore decides to go back to his roots – by donning his old clothes and catching the train back home. In the last scene, his sweetheart Rita (Nanda) realises that she loves him so much, she would rather be poor and live in a village with Raja than in the high society of Bombay.
In the last scene, Rita is running along the edge of the platform pleading with Raja (who’s in the train) to take her with him. The director, Suraj Prakash, gave Shashi Kapoor explicit instructions on exactly when to pull Nanda into the train. Shashi Kapoor followed the directions so completely that he hauled up Nanda when just a few feet of platform were left. Suraj Prakash, at the last moment, was so petrified that Shashi Kapoor wouldn’t lift her up in time and she would be killed, that he shut his eyes. The last few critical moments were therefore shot with the director not watching.
Remember the title song of Dil Deke Dekho (1959)? It was a nice, peppy tune composed by Usha Khanna – well, sort of ‘composed’, since the tune was a pretty much straightforward lift from the McGuire Sisters’ song Sugar in the morning.
That, incidentally, is a song that Shammi Kapoor actually went on to sing – onscreen, in his own voice, with only a minor change in the words – in a film just two years down the line.
The film was Junglee (1961). When Shammi’s character, Shekhar, comes back after a meeting with his unwanted fiancée, he does an impromptu jig in his office with his secretary and the manager. He provides the song for the little dance: “Love in the morning, love in the evening –” You can see the clip shortly after the beginning of this video.
One of my favourite Navketan productions from the late 1950s is the engrossing suspense film, Nau Do Gyarah. This one had Dev Anand playing an impoverished young Dilliwallah who, on receiving a letter that a wealthy uncle intends to leave a fortune – 11 lakhs’ worth – to him, motors down in a lorry from Delhi to Bombay to meet the uncle.
The film, directed by a 21 year-old Vijay Anand, was actually filmed along the highway from Delhi to Bombay, so it’s an excellent ‘road film’. Dev Anand, recalling an incident along the way, said that during the journey, the crew stopped for the night at Shivpuri. Shivpuri is in the heart of the Chambal area, which back then was the haunt of some of India’s most notorious dacoits.
In the middle of the night, Dev Anand heard a pounding on the door of his room. When he opened the door, he found a dangerous-looking dacoit outside, fearsome moustaches, belts full of cartridges, rifle and whatnot. “Can I have your autograph, please, sahib?” the man said with an ingratiating smile, as he extended a photograph of his favourite star.
Yes, we city-dwelling softies aren’t the only ones who like Dev Saab!
8. Why it wasn’t all hariyali for Manoj Kumar
… in fact, it must have been pretty ugh for him at times.
Hariyali aur Raasta (1962) became Manoj Kumar’s first jubilee hit, although he’d already acted in more than ten films. Here, he was teamed with Mala Sinha, who had been a major lead actress for quite a while by the time Hariyali aur Raasta came around.
One scene of the film takes place while snow is falling. There was no real snow; instead, it was simulated by using ‘artificial snow’: soap flakes. Mala Sinha was either lucky or experienced enough to know how to deal with a shower of soap flakes, and managed to say her lines. When Manoj Kumar’s turn came to speak up, he couldn’t – because his mouth was so full of soap.
That earned him a sharp set-down from his co-star (it seems Mala Sinha snapped at him, “Who invited you to join the industry?”). He supposedly retorted that while she might be in films for the money, he was in the industry because he loved acting.
Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha must’ve made up soon after, because they acted together in Apne Hue Paraaye (1964) and Himalaya ki God Mein (1965).
9. C Ramchandra, Speed King
C Ramchandra composed some of Hindi cinema’s best-loved songs – including light and peppy ones like Shola jo bhadke dil mera dhadke (Albela), Mere piya gaye Rangoon (Patanga), Eena meena deeka (Asha) and Gore-gore o baanke chhore (Samadhi) and more soulful or romantic tunes like Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag (Anarkali), Aadha hai chandrama raat aadhi (Navrang), and Balma anari man bhaaye (Bahurani).
While he was an extremely creative music director, what is perhaps less commonly known about C Ramchandra is that he was also a frighteningly (for his competitors!) fast worker. The story goes that in 1955 S M Naidu, the producer of the Dilip Kumar-Meena Kumari starrer, Azaad, had approached Naushad to compose the music for the film: with two weeks’ notice. An indignant Naushad turned Naidu down, saying he was a composer, not a factory. Naidu, therefore, turned to C Ramchandra, who took on the challenge – and composed the music for the ten songs that made up the score of Azaad. All within the fortnight he’d been allotted.
Azaad went on to be a huge hit, with many of its songs topping the charts: most of us have heard Radha na bole na bole na bole re, Kitna haseen hai mausam, Aplam chaplam chaplai re, and Pi ke daras ko taras rahi akhiyaan.
There’s also a story that C Ramchandra received the lyrics for the lullaby Dheere se aaja ri akhiyan mein (Albela) just two hours before the recording, and composed the tune in the taxi on his way to the studio. I’m not sure exactly how true that could be (wouldn’t Lata Mangeshkar and the orchestra have needed extensive rehearsals before they recorded the song?)
One of my favourite actors of the 50s and 60s, Rehman had a lot of trouble speaking lines which began with the sound ‘k’. If a dialogue began with a ‘k-’ sound, he’d stumble over it, and not be able to speak it. Waheeda Rehman, in an interview, recalled an example: if the sentence went: “Kaash tum yahaan aa jaate, toh main kitna khush hota” (“If only you would come here, I would be so happy”) – it would stump Rehman. But if the dialogue writer simply switched the sentence around a bit, making it “Main kitna khush hota, kaash tum yahaan aa jaate” (which means the same thing), Rehman would be fine.