Today is the birth centenary of one of my favourite music directors, C Ramachandra: he was born a hundred years ago, on January 12, 1918, in Puntamba (Maharashtra). I won’t go into his biography, since that is something I’ve covered before on this blog, when I compiled a list of my ten favourite songs composed by C Ramachandra.
That said, I couldn’t possibly have let C Ramachandra’s centenary pass by without celebrating it in some way. So, a list of great songs C Ramachandra sang. Like SD Burman, C Ramachandra (billed often as Chitalkar, especially when he sang playback) had a slew of songs to his name as singer. Unlike SD Burman’s instantly recognizable voice, Chitalkar’s was a little more elusive—to the average listener, he can be recognized at times, but more often than not, he sounds like someone else altogether…
But, without further ado, the list. These, as always, are songs from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Furthermore, no two songs from the same film appear on this list (which, I will admit, made my task a good deal more difficult when it came to films like Albela).
1. Kitna haseen hai mausam (Azaad, 1955): Even though the rest of the songs in this list appear in no specific order, I could not help but put Kitna haseen hai mausam at the top, not just because this is my favourite C Ramachandra song, but because it is a tribute to two of his greatest talents. One, as a composer whose speed at composing was astonishing (he composed the ten songs of Azaad in an unbelievable two weeks, after Naushad had refused to even consider doing it). Two, as a singer who could mold his voice beautifully to suit the actor—and to even mimic another singer (Talat was initially supposed to sing Kitna haseen hai mausam but could not find time for the recording, so C Ramachandra decided to do it himself, and ended up emulating Talat so well that it actually does seem, at least superficially, that this is Talat singing).
2. Naacho ghoom-ghoom-ghoomke (Sarhad, 1960): Sarhad was one of those relatively little-known Dev Anand films that could have been far better (it had Dev Anand as a surprisingly aggressive, harsh man—harsh enough to actually beat up his own father; but the trope of the reformed rake was badly executed). Sarhad, however, had C Ramachandra composing some interesting music (including Aaja re, the opening verses of which are obviously ‘inspired’ by Volare). And it had him singing this song, where a tipsy (and therefore less belligerent) Dev Anand hangs out with a bunch of local villagers/tribals and lets his hair down. A catchy, Western-influenced song that’s quite a bit of fun, and Chitalkar infuses his voice with some of that masti too.
3. Kadam-kadam badhaaye jaa (Samadhi, 1950): Samadhi featured one of C Ramachandra’s best-known compositions, the peppy Gore-gore o baanke chhore. It also featured a song sung by the composer himself, a song that was singularly apt for a film that was about Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army: Kadam-kadam badhaaye jaa, written by Pt. Vanshidhar Shukla and once the regimental quick march of the INA (it is now the regimental quick march of the Indian Army). C Ramachandra’s stirring music and the raw vigor of his voice make this one of those patriotic songs that give me gooseflesh. Brilliant.
4. Ek din Lahore ki thandi sadak par (Sagaai, 1951): From the poignant and patriotic to the farcical and utterly entertaining. Yaqub, Gope and Rehana perform on stage a song about two roadside Romeos who make passes at girls while walking down a cool street in Lahore—and find themselves being pelted with shoes that leave them having (hopefully) learnt a lesson once and for all. Singing playback are Rafi, Shamshad Begum—and Chitalkar, in a delightful number that’s a fine example of the vintage songs of the early 50s. I really like the way Rafi and Chitalkar match their voices: they are distinctive, but there is also a somewhat common tone to their voices which also matches brilliantly the voices of the actors they’re singing for.
5. Shola jo bhadke dil mera dhadke (Albela, 1951): Probably one of the most iconic Chitalkar songs there is, Shola jo bhadke is from a film which had only Chitalkar as the male playback singer. From Bholi soorat dil ke khote to Shaam chale khidki tale, from Kismat ki hawa kabhi naram to Mere dil ki ghadi kare tik ti tik: Chitalkar and Lata sang one hit song after another for Albela. My favourite, though, is Shola jo bhadke, not just a fine display of C Ramachandra’s skill as a composer, but also as a singer. His voice has a velvety softness to it which is a far cry from the earthiness of Kadam-kadam badhaaye jaa (just a year earlier) or the comic Ek din Lahore ki thandi sadak par (the same year, 1951). Lovely, and well complemented by the infectious music, plus the voice of Lata.
6. Zor lagaa le zaalim (Nastik, 1954): The more Chitalkar songs I heard while researching this post, the more grew my admiration for this man’s skill. Just as Rafi could mold his voice to suit such a range of actors, so, it seems, could Chitalkar. Not, perhaps, to Rafi’s extent, but close (one must of course consider the fact that Rafi sang for a far, far wider range of actors than Chitalkar did, and Chitalkar’s songs come nowhere close to perhaps even a tenth of Rafi’s in number). Here, in a bhajan which derides the atheist and proclaims the dominance of ‘God’, Chitalkar sounds uncannily like Kavi Pradeep. The somewhat raw, slightly nasal tone of his voice here fits in perfectly with the devotional tone of the song.
7. Mere piya gaye Rangoon (Patanga, 1949): And, to add a further example to that particular talent of Chitalkar’s that I mentioned in the previous paragraph: his ability to match his voice to that of whichever actor he was singing playback for. In Mere piya gaye Rangoon, Chitalkar sings playback for Gope, in a classic duet with Shamshad Begum about a husband and wife missing each other. A delightful song, and I think Chitalkar manages to do a good job of replicating the voice of Gope, besides infusing the song with the requisite comic touch (that ‘lungi baandhke karein guzaara, bhool gaye patloon’ never fails to crack me up!)
8. Woh humse chup hain hum unse chup hain (Sargam, 1950): The only reason I watched Sargam was C Ramachandra’s music (it’s a different matter that the film, for the most part, turned out better than I had expected it to be). While Sargam had a bunch of good songs, my absolute favourite is this delightfully romantic one. Chitalkar sings playback for Raj Kapoor and Lata sings playback for Rehana in a song that begins with a somewhat teasingly huffy ‘roothna’ on both parts, then quickly graduates to a mutual confession of love before going full-throttle romantic. A lovely song, and who’d have thought Chitalkar would prove to be such a convincing voice for a young RK?
9. Aana meri jaan meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday (Shehnai, 1947): I don’t remember if the National Egg Coordination Committee’s memorable ‘Khaana meri jaan meri jaan murghi ke ande’ ad campaign was my somewhat tangential introduction to this iconic song, or whether I was an anomaly. But yes, I do know that lots of people who were children in the 80s and 90s, growing up watching Doordarshan, got to know of one of C Ramachandra’s first big hits through an ad campaign extolling the virtues of eggs.
And what a delightful song the original is! Chitalkar (singing with Lalita Deulkar and Ameerbai Karnataki in the version used in the film, though his co-singers for the 78RPM recording were Meena Kapoor and Shamshad Begum) also composed the music for Shehnai. It had plenty of other songs (this was a film, after all, about a nautanki company), but Aana meri jaan meri jaan achieved a status all its own: peppy, funny, and just generally one of those earworms that refuse to dislodge themselves from your memory. Chitalkar’s deliberately oddly-accented Hindi, of a character (played onscreen by Mumtaz Ali, father of Mehmood and Minoo Mumtaz) acting as a brown sahib, is a hoot.
10. Kehte hain pyaar kisko (Baarish, 1957): Dev Anand has had several very disparate male voices singing playback for him—all the way from the more usual Mohammad Rafi and Kishore to Hemant, Talat, even Dwijen Mukherjee. And, as in the song from Sarhad, Chitalkar Ramachandra. In Baarish, Chitalkar sang playback for a couple of songs picturized on Dev Anand; this one, a romantic duet with Nutan, is my favourite. I don’t think Chitalkar’s voice really fits Dev Anand too well here, but it’s a good song nevertheless.
Happy 100 years, Chitalkar! May your voice and your music live on.