Guest Post: The Guitar That Sang

Today is the 80th birthday of my father, Andrew Verity Liddle. Papa has influenced me in many ways, but possibly the greatest influence on my life that I owe to him is my love for old Hindi cinema and its music. Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve been surrounded by the voices of the 50s and 60s—if it wasn’t our old record player and the LPs whirling on it, it was the radio, with Ameen Sayani’s voice announcing one song after another… and most of it courtesy my father, who loves the music of that period.

As I’ve mentioned on several other posts on this blog, my father had an elder brother who worked in the cinema industry. David Vernon ‘Verni’ Liddle (also known professionally as ‘David Kumar’, or ‘Kumar Sahib’), nine years older than my father, was a guitarist who played for some of the greatest hits of Hindi cinema (and yes, I have mentioned some of these before, but recent research done by my father has thrown up pleasant surprises far beyond what I’d expected).

David Vernon Liddle (1929-1982)

When my father told me he’d been compiling a list of my Verni Tau’s songs, I asked Papa if he would write a guest post for Dustedoff. His recollections of his older brother. So here it is, in celebration of Papa’s birthday, his essay on Verni. Over to my father:

David Vernon (Verni), born on October 12, 1929 at Saharanpur, was the fourth child out of six. A love for music was inherited from our great grandfather (paternal grandmother’s father, Mr. Cray) who was the conductor of an orchestra. Between him and the next (John) there was a gap of six years (unlike the three years between the other siblings). I brought up the rear. As there was a long gap (nine years) between him and me, I have recollections only of some of the most striking episodes of the pre-Partition era.

The Liddles, circa 1944. Verni is sitting on the ground, in the middle. My father is on Verni’s right, and the brother between them, John, is on Verni’s left.

Our two eldest brothers played the Spanish Guitar, but Verni preferred the Hawaiian. During war time, the Whiteway circus came to Moradabad, where we were living. They promised to show a leashed tiger outside a cage for the first time in India. All three of us at home wanted to go but after considering the risks, only Verni was permitted to go, accompanied by a trusted servant who carried a long lathi along. What happened at the circus is another story but our brother was most impressed with the band, and did pick up the catchy tunes they played.

Verni playing his guitar

To display his talent, a small circus was arranged in the back verandah. The first act showed me riding on the puppy backwards with a fast tune being played on the guitar—to the delight of the distinguished family members—but the puppy played spoil sport and yapped on my lower back, mercifully on the drill shorts I was wearing! Despite my age, about five or six, I put up a brave face, but in the next act, fell from the swing doing the trapeze, fortunately with no serious injury, but plenty of wailing and crying. The Circus Chapter was over—with only a good wallop for the chief organizer!

He was not even sixteen years old when he ran away from school to Bombay, and promptly got quite a thrashing from the male parent for the infringement. Nevertheless, he had impressed the famous Naushad so much, that he gave him a break in Anmol Ghadi to record songs with Noorjahan (the top female singer at the time) and Suraiya, and followed it up with Dard, Andaaz, and Dulaari. Surely it was a great feat and therefore widely appreciated by everyone in the family. After all, we did have a connection with film music. K L Saigal was the younger brother of my father’s colleague in the East Indian Railway and we had met and heard him sing for us at Moradabad.

K L Saigal

All the songs in which my brother played proved instant hits.  Ram Ganguli got him to play in two songs from Raj Kapoor’s Aag, both of which proved popular. Anil Biswas followed up with Anokha Pyaar, Gajre, Pyaar ki Jeet and Laadli; and Husnlal Bhagat Ram got him for Jaltarang, Raakhi, Saawan Bhaadon, Aadhi Raat and Birha. About this time he joined Filmistan Studios as a staff artist and was a regular member of the orchestra in films produced at the studios. At the time of recordings those not forming part of the orchestra either joined the chorus or even formed the crowd, if required.  Filmistan had two studios, one in Bombay and the other in Goregaon (West). The staff artists had to report at each studio on alternate days. This irked them immensely as they could not use monthly tickets on the suburban railway and had to spend more on transportation, besides having to haul their instruments every day. While Anand Math was being shot and the song Vande Matram was being recorded, several artists who were not directly in front were observed  singing  “One day Bombay, one day Goregaon”!

At the time of Partition, Verni was in Lahore, recording for Shyamsunder for Lahore (and probably Bazaar) when he had to board a refugee train to India hurriedly, and lost his chappals in the bargain! He stayed in the refugee camp, and being a Christian, was used for distribution of food to members of both communities.

On reaching Ludhiana, he was provided a new pair of chappals by our uncle and aunt, before leaving for Moradabad.  He made friends with another musician, S Mohinder, who came to Bombay from Lyallpur under similar circumstances without money and stayed at the gurudwara, and led the shabad kirtan for some time before getting an opportunity to compose music for films. My brother was soon recording under the batons of SD Burman, Shankar Jaikishen, C Ramchandra, Roshan, Husnlal Bhagatram, Basant Prakash, S Mohinder, Jimmy Singh, Bhola Shreshtha, etc.

The next big break for him came in the shape of Mahal, under Khemchand Prakash. His guitar provided the famous eerie chimes of the clock for “Aega aanewala”, and solo  pieces in the alternate version of this great composition, which was recorded in a big hall with Lata Mangeshkar slowly walking up to the mike as she sang—to get the special effects desired by the producer (Ashok Kumar himself). His guitar featured prominently in “Mushkil hai… ”. He also provided the background for most of the early scenes between Ashok Kumar and Madhubala, along with the violin played by Van Shipley, a distinguished violinist, another musician from Saharanpur, who also played the guitar.

In those days Lata Mangeshkar was still coming to the Bombay Talkies Studios on a bicycle. Within a couple of years, two of the assistants under the music directors he had played for—Ghulam Mohammed (under Naushad) and N Dutta (actual name Dutta Naik) under SD Burman (who called him  ‘Dotto’,  with a typical Bangla accent) also signed up to compose music independently. Verni’s guitar was used to advantage in their movies Shair, Nageena and Pakeezah; and Mr X and Ek Phool Chaar Kaante respectively.

The early 50s saw him join All India Radio as a staff artiste at Delhi, though he continued to visit Bombay frequently for recordings. By now he was quite popular as a guitarist and was in great demand at concerts and private functions, not only in Delhi but all over North India, where he was often asked to play requests.

Verni and his wife Sheila performing at a concert with the rest of their band.

As both my brother John and I used to spend our long summer holidays in Delhi, we had a gala time because he would provide us with funds to go and watch newly released films to identify tunes likely to be popular, for him. We would also procure a sheet of the lyrics of all the songs in the movie to help us identify each song. This carried a standard price of one anna (one sixteenth of a rupee)! He would then procure 78 rpm records of the songs he liked (priced at a little over a rupee each) and practice. He had a unique style of playing. He not only followed the tune and musical interludes accurately, but ensured that each stroke replicated a syllable in the song.  While playing duets he would stroke different strings for the male and female singers. We often heard people say “David Saheb doesn’t just play the guitar, he makes it sing!”

Not only did his guitar sing, but it could mimic other instruments, particularly the sitar. To the best of my knowledge, he never had any formal training and always played by ear. Even the Indian classical ragas he picked up simply by listening to the ustads, who were his colleagues at the studios of All India Radio, New Delhi. It must be remembered that in those days AIR started its morning programme with a melody on the shehnai by Ustad Bismillah Khan and the staff artistes included such stalwarts as Pandit Ravi Shankar, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Allauddin Khan, among others; and the use of a harmonium was strictly prohibited—to preserve the purity of the SWAR!

My brother  was particularly fond of the classical-based songs in which he had played (such as Rasik Balma from Chori Chori and Jyoti kalash chhalke from Bhabhi ki Chooriyaan)and they almost always featured in his concerts as well as the daily riyaz (practice sessions).

(Note by Dustedoff: To demonstrate Verni’s skill at making his guitar ‘sing’, here are two recordings of him playing the guitar. Both are probably home recordings of his riyaaz, instrumental versions of famous songs that he’d played in the corresponding films. In both, he uses just the guitar to almost create a syllable-by-syllable reproduction of the song. These are Jyoti kalash chhalke from Bhabhi ki Chooriyaan and Rasik balma from Chori Chori. Much thanks to Tom Daniel, who was kind enough to do some work on cleaning up what was otherwise a scratchy and none-too-good recording).

Rasik balma: 

Jyoti kalash chhalke:

And, before I let my father take over again, a non-Hindi film song, played by Verni. Since Verni used to play at a lot of concerts at parties, weddings and other occasions, he had a considerable repertoire of the most popular American hits of the time—songs originally sung by people like Billy Vaughn, Jim Reeves, Pat Boone, and Elvis Presley (in fact, one of Verni’s favourite songs was the title song of the Robert Mitchum-Marilyn Monroe starrer, River of No Return). Anyway, here is Verni playing Elvis’s very popular ‘It’s now or never’:

Over to my father, again.

During this period, personal circumstances required his continued presence in Delhi. Consequently his involvement with the film industry was curtailed to a large extent. Notable recordings during this period were the songs of Chori Chori, Paying Guest and Shirin Farhad.  He got married in 1957 and the very next year shifted once again to Bombay. He was approached by Attahullah Khan (film star Madhubala’s father) to compose music for his forthcoming film, Pathan, in collaboration with his friend Brij. The production ran into difficulties (on account of litigation with B R Chopra, Madhubala’s ill health and, of course, finance). The film was ultimately released in 1962, but flopped at the box office. However the lullaby my brother had composed “So ja salone so ja” (based on a hymn) and the two ghazals by his old friend Talat Mehmood (jointly composed with Brij) proved popular.

Tragedy struck on the home front as well .Their firstborn, a son, died shortly after birth—and the Bombay climate did not suit our Bhabhi. Meanwhile, close friend and mentor Anil Biswas had shifted back to Delhi to join All India Radio (in 1961). So my brother also decided to shift back to Delhi and rejoined All India Radio. About this time, Doordarshan was formed and his services were transferred to this new entity.

Verni with a group of musicians and singers who travelled to Kabul. Here shown with King Zahir Shah (front, centre) are (from left) Surinder Kaur, Sheila Kashmiri, Pyara Singh, Verni, Talat Mahmood and Parkash Kaur, among others.

His association with movies was continued with frequent trips to Bombay. The next stop was the release of Bheegi Raat, where he had played for the monumental hit Dil jo na kah saka set to music by Roshan.   Notable compositions he featured in were in Pakeezah, released in 1972, with two songs set to music by Ghulam Mohammed. This movie had taken many years to complete. Ghulam Mohammed died (in 1968) before the release, so Naushad had to step in to do the background score as well as the title music.  It was a singularly bad period for the Hindi film industry. Music director Anil Biswas had lost his son in a tragic air-crash and had left Bombay. In quick succession, Roshan (1967), Husnlal (1968) and Ghulam Mohammed (1968) had died. Madan Mohan, S D Burman and Ravi were not too well either and were forced to slow down. The golden era of Hindi film music was coming to an end.

He recorded three songs under the baton of R D Burman for Khel Khel Mein, released in 1975.It was under the baton of Rajesh Roshan that he recorded his last film song, Uthe sabke qadam dekho rum pum pum, sung by Rajesh Roshan himself with Lata Mangeshkar and Pearl Padamsee in Baaton-Baaton Mein released in 1979.

My brother’s association with the movies lasted 33 years, during which he worked under all the famous music directors of the time, repeatedly. However, he played only once for O P Nayyar, in Aar Paar. But then, Nayyar‘ s was a different style of music. In his early films he relied mostly on rhythm and therefore almost always needed a full orchestra. As a rule, he recorded without solo pieces of individual instruments. The exception, of course, was the sarangi, which served more or less like a mascot and figured in most compositions. Nevertheless, towards the end in Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi he did produce soul-stirring melodies. There was another connection with O P Nayyar. After Aar Paar, the Hawaiian guitar was used very rarely—one such occasion being in Kashmir ki Kali in the song Taareef karun kya uski. Interestingly, the guitar in that popular song was played by our cousin Sammy Daula, son of our paternal aunt and uncle at Ludhiana (who had provided the chappals when Verni was coming from Lahore in a refugee train in 1947!!)

At various stages of her long career Lata Mangeshkar has been asked to list her favourite songs. The common songs in the lists have been Uthaaye ja unke sitam, Aega aanewala, Baharein phir bhi aaengi, Dunya hamare pyar ki yunhi jawan rahe, Ajeeb dastan hai yeh and Seene men sulagte hain armaan—all of which had my brother’s guitar. When a similar question was put to Asha Bhosle, she includes Aage bhi jaane na tu and Dum maro dum in her shortlist. Considering that Asha Bhosle was not the preferred singer for the directors for whom Verni usually played, and, as a result providing accompaniment to her in very few songs, it was no mean achievement.

Till the end my brother continued with Doordarshan and featured regularly in all programmes to mark important occasions.

He breathed his last at Delhi on January 18, 1982.

The guitar that had sung so beautifully  for well over three decades, and helped two generations of Music directors (e .g. S D Burman and his son R D Burman, Roshan and his son Rajesh Roshan) create scores of unforgettable melodies, suddenly became quiet forever.

Following is a list (certainly not exhaustive!) of songs he had recorded during his career.

(Note from Dustedoff: Keep an eye open for the sequel to this post, which will mainly consist of photographs. The playlist of the songs below can be accessed here; it contains most of the songs listed here). 

1946

Anmol Ghadi (Naushad)

Mere bachpan ke saathi mujhe – Noorjehan
Socha thha kya ho gaya – Suraiya
Man leta hai angdaai – Suraiya

1947

Dard (Naushad)

Beech bhanwar mein aan phansa hai – Lata Mangeshkar
Yeh kaun chala – Uma Devi

1948

Aag (Ram Ganguli)

Dil toot gaya ji chhoot gaya – Shamshad Begum
Kaahe koyal shor machaaye re – Shamshad Begum

Anokha Pyaar (Anil Biswas)

Ek dil lagaana baaqi thha – Lata Mangeshkar
Ek bhoolne waale ko – Lata Mangeshkar

Gajre (Anil Biswas)

Door papiha bola  – Suraiya
Reh-reh ke tera dhyaan – Suraiya

Pyaar ki Jeet (Husnlal Bhagatram)

O door jaanewaale vaada na bhool jaana – Suraiya

1949

Andaaz (Naushad)

Uthaaye jaa unke sitam – Lata Mangeshkar

Badi Bahen (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Mohabbat ke dhokhe mein koi na aaye – Mohammad Rafi

Bazaar (Shyam Sundar)

Saajan ki galiyaan chhod chale – Lata Mangeshkar

Dulaari (Naushad)

Taqdeer jagaakar laayi hoon – Lata Mangeshkar
Kaun sune faryaad – Lata Mangeshkar

Ek Thi Ladki (Vinod)

Ab haal-e-dil ya haal-e-jigar – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

Jaltarang (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Lut gayi ummeedon ki duniya – Lata Mangeshkar
Dil ki duniya ko basaaya thha – Lata Mangeshkar

Laadli (Anil Biswas)

Zindagi ki roshni toh kho gayi – Lata Mangeshkar

Lahore (Shyam Sundar)

Duniya hamaare pyaar ki yoon hi jawaan – Lata Mangeshkar and Karan Dewan
Toote hue armaan ki duniya – Lata Mangeshkar

Mahal (Khemchand Prakash)

Aayega aanewaala – Lata Mangeshkar
Mushkil hai bahut mushkil – Lata Mangeshkar

Nazrana (unreleased; C Ramachandra)

Pyaasi hi reh gayi piya milan ko – Lata Mangeshkar

Raakhi (Husnlal Bhagatram)

O rooth jaanewaale – Lata Mangeskhar

Saawan Bhaadon (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Sau-sau gham ne ghera – Lata Mangeshkar
Teri is dorangi duniya mein – Lata Mangeshkar
Lut gayi hai kisi ki jawaani – Lata Mangeshkar and SD Batish

Shair (Ghulam Mohammad)

Yeh duniya hai yahaan dil ka lagaana – Lata Mangeshkar
Mohabbat par bahaar – Lata Mangeshkar

1950

Aadhi Raat (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Dil hi toh hai tadap gaya – Lata Mangeshkar
Rona hi likha thha kismet mein – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

Birha ki Raat (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Thehro jaanewaale – Lata Mangeshkar

Maang (Ghulam Mohammad)

Aye dil beqaraar – Lata Mangeshkar

Muqaddar (Jimmy Singh and Khemchand Prakash)

Ek do teen chaar – Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle (Jimmy Singh)
Aahen bhar bhar kar tujhko – Nalini Jaywant (Khemchand Prakash)

Neeli (S Mohinder)

Barbaad meri duniya – Suraiya

Nirala (C Ramachandra)

Majboor meri aankhen – Lata Mangeshkar

Pardes (Ghulam Mohammad)

Jaanewaale tujhe hum yaad karte jaayenge – Lata Mangeshkar

Pyaar ki Manzil (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Aankhon se door hoke dil se na door – Lata Mangeshkar
Aankhon mein aansoo honton par faryaad – Lata Mangeshkar

Sartaj (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Rahe jkhush teri duniya jigar ke tukde – Lata Mangeshkar

1951

Aaraam (Anil Biswas)

Mil-milke bichhad gaye nain – Lata Mangeshkar

Afsana (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Woh paas bhi rehkar paas nahin – Lata Mangeshkar
Kahaan hai tu mere sapnon ke raja – Lata Mangeshkar

Badi Bahu (Anil Biswas)

Badli teri nazar toh nazaare badal gaye – Lata Mangeshkar

Gumasta (K Dutta)

Mohabbat dilon se judaa ho gayi hai – Lata Mangeshkar

Nagina (Ghulam Mohammad)

Roun main sagar ke kinaare – CH Atma
Dil beqaraar hai mera dil beqaraar hai – CH Atma
Toone haaye mere zakhm-e-jigar ko chhoo liya – Lata Mangeshkar

Naujawaan (SD Burman)

Thandi hawaayein lehraake aayein – Lata Mangeshkar

Sazaa (SD Burman)

Tum na jaane kis jahaan mein kho gaye – Lata Mangeshkar

Shagoon (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Daaman pakadke chhod gaya – Lata Mangeshkar

Taraana (Anil Biswas)

Seene mein sulagte hain armaan – Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar
Woh din kahaan gaye bata – Lata Mangeshkar

1952

Amber (Ghulam Mohammad)

Tootegi na pyaar ki dor – Lata Mangeshkar
Duniya mein nahin koi yaar – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

Anand Math (Hemant Kumar Mukherjee)

Kaise rokoge aise toofaan ko – Geeta Dutt and Talat Mahmood

Badnaam (Basant Prakash)

Ghir aayi hai ghor ghata – Geeta Dutt
Kaahe pardesiya ko apna banaaya – Lata Mangeshkar
Leja apni yaad bhi le jaa – Lata Mangeshkar

Baiju Bawra (Naushad)

O duniya ke rakhwaale – Mohammad Rafi

Deewaana (Naushad)

Mere chaand mere laal – Lata Mangeshkar and Suraiya

Doraaha (Anil Biswas)

Loota hai zamaane ne – Lata Mangeshkar

Najariya (Bhola Shreshtha)

Hanste-hanste rona pada – Lata Mangeshkar

Naubahar (Roshan)

Woh paas nahin majboor hai dil – Lata Mangeshkar

Nirmohi (Madan Mohan)

Laadle so jaa – Lata Mangeshkar

Raag Rang (Roshan)

Yeh kaisi adaayein jo dil ko – Lata Mangeshkar
Kisi nazar ka mast ishaara hai zindagi– Lata Mangeshkar

Saloni (Basant Prakash)

Meri beena ke sur saat re – Lata Mangeshkar
Mujhe dard tune yeh kya diya – Lata Mangeshkar
Meri zindagi ke sahaare laut aa – Lata Mangeshkar

Sanskaar (Roshan)

Jeenewaale o matwale zindagi se pyaar kar – Lata Mangeshkar

Shrimatiji (S Mohinder)

Barkha ki raaton mein – Asha Bhonsle
O babu o babuji main na karoon – Shamshad Begum

1953

Aabshaar (Bhola Shrestha)

Chale aao aansoo hamaare tumhein yaad – Lata Mangeshkar

Aansoo (Husnlal Bhagatram)

Din pyaar ke aaye – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

Aar Paar (OP Nayyar)

Mohabbat kar lo ji bhar lo – Geeta Dutt and Mohammad Rafi

Dil-e-Naadaan (Ghulam Mohammad)

Zindagi denewaale sun – Talat Mahmood

Paapi (S Mohinder)

Abhi-abhi bahaar thhi – Asha Bhonsle
Ae jazba-e-mohabbat – Asha Bhonsle

1954

Chor Bazaar (Sardar Malik)

Chalta rahe yeh kaarvaan – Lata Mangeshkar

1955

Do Dulhe (BS Kalla)

Pyaar ki nishaaniyaan – Lata Mangeshkar
Chanda chamakti raat – Lata Mangeshkar and Talat Mahmood

Munimji (SD Burman)

Ek nazar bas ek nazar – Lata Mangeshkar

1956

Chori Chori (Shankar Jaikishan)

Rasik balma – Lata Mangeshkar
Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum – Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar
Yeh raat bheegi-bheegi – Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar

Shirin Farhad (S Mohinder)

Khushiyon ko lootkar – Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar

1957

Paying Guest (SD Burman)

Haaye haaye haaye yeh nigaahein – Kishore Kumar

Mr X (N Dutta)

Laal-laal gaal – Mohammad Rafi
Kitna haseen hai jahaan – Asha Bhonsle

1958

Detective (Mukul Roy)

Aankhon pe bharosa mat kar – Mohammad Rafi and Sudha Malhotra

Ghar Sansar (Ravi)

Yeh hawa yeh nadi ka kinaara – Manna Dey and Asha Bhonsle

Madhumati (Salil Chowdhury)

Dil tadap-tadap ke keh raha hai – Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar
Toote hue khwaabon ne – Mohammad Rafi

1959

Black Cat (N Dutta)

Nashe mein hum nashi mein tum – Mohammad Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur

Barkha (Chitragupta)

Ek raat mein do-do chaand – Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar

Duniya Jhukti Hai (Hemant Kumar Mukherjee)

Gumsum sa yeh jahaan – Hemant and Geeta Dutt

1960

College Girl (Shankar Jaikishan)

Hum aur tum aur yeh samaa… lovely lovely – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi
Hum bhi karte hain pyaar – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi
Yeh college ka zamaana – Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi and Chorus
Hip hip hurray – Mohammad Rafi and Chorus
Chali ho kahaan dekho idhar – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammad Rafi

Dil Apna Aur Preet Paraayi (Shankar Jaikishan)

Ajeeb daastaan hai yeh – Lata Mangeshkar
Mera dil ab tera – Lata Mangeshkar

Ek Phool Chaar Kaante (N Dutta)

Tirchhi nazar se yoon na dekh – Mohammad Rafi
O o o meri baby doll – Mohammad Rafi
Dil ae dil bahaaron se mil – Lata Mangeshkar and Talat Mahmood

1961

Bhabhi ki Chudiyaan (Sudhir Phadke)

Jyoti kalash chhalke – Lata Mangeshkar

Chhaya (Salil Chowdhury)

Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badha – Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar

Kohinoor (Naushad)

Do sitaaron ka zameen par hai milan – Mohammad Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar

Miss Chaalbaaz (Jimmy Singh)

Rock n’ rolla haseenon ka tola – Geeta Dutt and Chorus

Modern Girl (Ravi)

Yeh mausam rangeen sama – Mukesh and Suman Kalyanpur 

Roop ki Rani Choron ka Raja (N Dutta)

Tum toh dil ke taar – Lata Mangeshkar and Talat Mahmood

Saranga (Sardar Malik)

Saranga teri yaad mein – Mukesh and Mohammad Rafi

Shama (Ghulam Mohammad)

Dhadakte dil ki tamanna  – Suraiya

1962

Half Ticket (Salil Chowdhury)

Aankhon mein tum dil mein tum – Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt
Cheel cheel chillaake kajri sunaaye – Kishore Kumar
Na pakka hai na kachcha – Kishore Kumar

Manmauji (Madan Mohan)

Main toh tum sang – Lata Mangeshkar
Zaroorat hai zaroorat hai – Kishore Kumar

Pathan (Brij and Verni)

Chaand mera baadlon mein kho gaya – Talat Mahmood
Aaja ke bulaate hain tujhe – Talat Mahmood
So jaa salone so jaa – Lata Mangeshkar (composed solely by Verni)

1964

Chitralekha (Roshan)

Man re tu kaahe na dheer dhare – Mohammad Rafi

1965

Bheegi Raat (Roshan)

Dil jo na keh saka – Lata Mangeshkar

Waqt (Ravi)

Aage bhi jaane na tu – Asha Bhonsle
Din hain bahaar ke – Asha Bhonsle and Mahendra Kapoor

1970

My Love (Daan Singh)

Woh tere pyaar ka gham – Mukesh

1971

Anand (Salil Chowdhury)

Maine tere liye hi – Mukesh
Zindagi kaisi hai paheli – Manna Dey

Hare Rama Hare Krishna (RD Burman)

Dum maaro dum – Asha Bhonsle
Kaanchi re kaanchi re – Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar

1972

Pakeezah (Ghulam Mohammad)

Mausam hai aashiqaana – Lata Mangeshkar
Peeke chale – Lata Mangeshkar

1974

Rajnigandha (Salil Chowdhury)

Kai baar yoon bhi dekha hai – Mukesh

1975

Khel Khel Mein (RD Burman)

Sapna mera toot gaya – Asha Bhonsle and RD Burman
Aaye lo pyaar ke din – Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar
Tumne humko dekha – Shailendra Singh

Chhoti Baat (Salil Chowdhury)

Na jaane kyon hota hai – Lata Mangeshkar
Jaaneman jaaneman tere do nayan – Yesudas and Asha Bhonsle

1978

Golmaal (RD Burman)

Aanewaala pal jaanewaala hai – Kishore Kumar

1979

Baaton Baaton Mein (Rajesh Roshan)

Uthe sabke kadam – Rajesh Roshan, Lata Mangeshkar, Pearl Padamsee

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52 thoughts on “Guest Post: The Guitar That Sang

  1. Really, really beautiful. So many lovely details. All, I can say is this piece requires a wide readership, there’s simply so much for music lovers, social and film historians. Thank you so much for this post :)

  2. I am so happy and overwhelmed by this post. I have been a lover of Hindi film music for over 60 years, but my real liking is for the music of the 50s and early 60s , in the B&W era, with rare exceptions in the 70s.[ Nothing beyond that.] This post contains so many of my favourites. I have known that Goan musicians had much to do with the richness and attraction of HIndi film music of that era, enriching it with their mastery over western instruments, notations, solo pieces, interludes, counter melody, etc. Many of them have remained largely unknown, and without proper recognition.. Only now due to YouTube we are learning about them. This piece gives so many rich details of the era, and the contribution of one more giant. That Verni Liddle played for so many MDs of the era, and had such a part in so many hit songs is really amazing! We can only guess ( and sigh) how much more it could have been if he had remained in Bombay all along!
    This piece contains so many other aspects. That music runs in families in one. That great music is imbibed through listening/hearing, not necessarily by strenuous practice/formal training is another. This is a gift from The Most High. Some talents are truly exceptional.
    The family photo of 1944 is so charming. How simple the people were! It makes us nostalgic.
    Music is basically spiritual, even if not ostensibly ‘religious’. It connects us with something deeper in ourselves. This we can discern especially in instrumental pieces, when it is played with “unhurried chase, unperturbed pace” as it mostly was in the music of the golden era. That is why the film music of that era still lives in our memories and rules our hearts. Verni who played guitar in so many gems of that era will live in our hearts too, now that we know! The list contains so many of my old favourites, it is unbelievable that one guitarist featured in them all! He has connected genres, as also generations!
    Thank you that you brought it to our knowledge. Otherwise, Verni would have remained unknown and unacknowledged.
    Full many a gem of purest ray serene
    The dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear;
    Full many a flow’r is born to blush unseen
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air..
    Now, due to this article, Verni will not be unknown, nor will the sweetness of his guitar music go unacknowledged! How great!
    Many thanks for your father for this post.

    • I had known of some of these songs – like Aayega aanewaala, Uthaaye jaa unke sitam, Mausam hai aashiqaana and Tum na jaane kis jahaan mein till recently, but when my father unearthed this entire list some months back, I was overwhelmed, because there were so many of my favourite songs here. It was then that I decided I had to ask my father to write about his brother – after all, he knows more than I ever could. I’m glad my father agreed to write this.

  3. I fully agree with your observation that music runs in families But this does prove disastrous at times. My two year old Grandson Deb, came crying to my elder daughter Swapna with the complaint that he had been slapped by his elder sister, Neeti. On being confronted by the mother Neeti did accept that she had slapped him ,but that was because he was not singing properly !!!.
    So you see it is the purity of the “Swar” that counts ,ultimately !
    Thanks for the ” Zarra Nawaazi “

  4. Wow! It was a treat reading the article. Fascinating….
    I wish Mr liddle (your father) a very happy birthday.
    So many wonderful songs, I love most of them. To pick some real gems
    Jyoti kalash chhalke
    Tum to dil ke taar (I love this song for the guitar pieces) my most favourite from all Talat’s songs. Chand mera badalon mein from Pathan is my favorite too. But had no idea about its composer.
    My favorites list would not end.
    It was such a pleasure going through all the details of his career. He has played for so many hits. Oh! Can’t express myself now.
    It was one of the best posts on Dustedoff.
    Looking forward to the next part.
    Thank a lot Madhuji and Mr Liddle for this!
    I wish you again a very happy birthday sir.
    :-)

  5. Dear Madhuji,
    I wish your father a very happy birthday and I seek his blessings.
    This was both an entertaining and educative post. I must say that there are so many things and people whose contributions to our film industry I know nothing about. Frankly never gave it much thought. But since last one year my knowledge in these aspects has increased profoundly and this is the hugest addition to that.

    On another note: Talking about coincidences, this is the second one we have. You know I was planning a guest post too this weekend.

    • To be honest, I’d forgotten that you had a guest post on your blog. I’ve been going a bit mad with the amount of work I’m currently loaded down with, so my memory is playing tricks with me. Too much to do, too little time to do it in…

      • No-2 you are getting it wrong. So far there have been no guest posts. I was planning it for this weekend. But both the posts- the guest post and the one in continuation of my last one didn’t happen. I too have a load of work with Ministry of Corporate Affairs announcing deadlines. On top of it their site is just refusing to work properly. But enough with my problems.

        The post that I actually wanted you to read was the one before the last, dtd. 5th September and it’s in continuation of CFSI series. Please do read it whenever you get the time.

  6. A very, very Happy Birthday to you, Mr Liddle. Thank you so much for such an interesting insight into your brother’s career. Madhu had told me you were compiling a list of his songs, but this list, albeit incomplete, is fascinating for the different genres and moods of music for which he played his instrument. From the serene Jyoti kalash chhalke to the rollicking Itna na mujhse tu pyar badha to the haunting Aayega aanewala – what a fabulous repertoire.

    Thank you.

    • Thank you, Anu. My father’s had a hectic and tiring birthday, so will probably return to this blog post later sometime, but in the meantime, I thought I’d come by and see what people had to say.

      Yes, the wide range of songs Verni played for is quite amazing, isn’t it? So very classical on the one hand, so very pop on the other – and just about every mood in between. Very impressive.

  7. Fascinating and riveting Post. Your family has been an integral part of Hindi Film History! I would just like to ask a question (probably
    irrelevant). Was your family Anglo Indian?
    Or Goan? I ask only out of curiosity since
    I am Goan myself.
    Nitin Nadkarni

  8. Oh, my! What an incredible and unique read – a sort of family cum Hindi film music history lesson. The norm is for the birthday person to receive a gift, but in this case it’s the blog readers who’ve been treated! Thank you so much Madhu and Mr. Liddle for sharing these memories with us. Extra thanks for compiling the playlist – off to listen now.

  9. What a wonderful post! Such a pleasure to read it. Your uncle Vernon’s story is inextricably intertwined with the history of Hindi film music. People know the names of the top singers, music directors and lyricists of that era, but the talented musicians like Vernon who played in the songs are often overlooked

    • Very true. While music directors and singers are highlighted (lyricists do get shortchanged a bit in comparison), almost nobody pays attention to the actual musicians themselves. There are only a handful of names – like Hazara Singh or Chic Chocolate, for instance – whom the aficionados may know about, but that’s about it.

        • Oh, yes, I should have remembered Manohari Singh: a legend. I don’t think I’ve heard of Goody Servai. Another for the list would be Van Shipley, about whom Anu had written an excellent post.

      • Can there be a post on these musicians? I know it won’t be easy, but as you may have an informer (your uncle’s friends or so, who joined him) and can give you some information about it.
        As I always say about the lyricist being actual father (as majority of them were males) of the song, the musicians can be said to be the ones who actually shape the songs future.
        :-)

        • “(your uncle’s friends or so, who joined him) and can give you some information about it.

          Sadly, no. My father did get a lot of information some years back from one of his brother’s oldest and best friends (not a fellow musician, though), but that gentleman passed away a couple of years back. My father’s older brother, John, who knew more about Verni and his career, also passed away last year. Verni’s wife, my Tai, died several back, and their only surviving son was too young – just a teenager – when his father died, so he knew next to nothing of Verni Tau’s career.

          But yes, I think those of us who love old cinema should make an effort to document the lives and careers and perspectives of more of the behind-the-scenes workers who made that cinema. The musicians, the extras, the stuntmen, the technicians, etc – most of these go completely ignored.

          • (I think those of us who love old cinema should make an effort to document the lives and careers and perspectives of more of the behind-the-scenes workers who made that cinema)
            Yes, we should do it! These important but always ignored people should receive their due.
            Let’s see what can be done!

  10. I enjoyed reading so nicely written post. I take this opportunity to wish you a very happy 80th birthday and also seek your blessings.

  11. First of all, Happy Birthday to Mr. Liddle.

    This is such an amazing lot of information. Just imagine, Madhu, if more people came out with anecdotes and profiles of people who were never much in the spotlight but did so much for movies. Musicians, lyricists, assistants on set, costume designers, lightsmen, cameramen, scouts. It is mind boggling.

    It is so hard to imagine someone only sixteen launching out on his own and achieving so much, it is almost incredible. He was so talented! The recordings are beautiful.

    When I was young there used to be a slot for popular songs which were played on instruments, mostly by Enoch Daniels. I am sure your Tau did a lot of those in early days.

    What a wonderful life he had. I am awaiting the part II eagerly.

    • Oh, yes, Ava! I remember those Enoch Daniels versions too.

      And yes, sixteen. I was awestruck when I discovered that. I mean, at sixteen, I had no idea what I wanted to be, and more importantly, I had no one big talent. That Verni had a talent, that he honed it and pursued it on his own (and against great odds – his parents were very orthodox and regarded cinema as ‘evil’) and managed a breakthrough with none other than Naushad, and all on the basis of his own talent, without any mai-baap to look after him… now that is really impressive!

  12. Wow! This is amazing. Wishing a very happy birthday to Mr. Liddle! Hope you had a special fun day!

    There are so many overwhelming points about this post Mr Liddle. I wouldn’t know where to start. I am just mesmerized by the amount of details. I will need to revisit this many more times because I want to play each song that has been mentioned in this prolific list.

    As others on this blog have mentioned, I also admire the musicians, technicians whose names we never hear. I am especially fond of these unsung heroes. Their contribution to this industry is clearly enormous. I can’t imagine any song that didn’t require due support from musicians.I am reading every little detail with interest trying to imagine how passionate your brother must have been about the work he did. Clearly his passion shows in his work.

    Madhu – Thank you for this. It’s one fantastic post. Looking forward to the sequel.

    Regards!
    Ashish

    • Thank you on my father’s behalf, Ashish! I am so glad you liked this post, and I totally agree with you about the unsung heroes of cinema. Few people realize the contribution of people like Verni, but without their talents – musical, artistic, technical, whatever – cinema would have been a far poorer industry (it probably wouldn’t even have existed, actually…)

      Do note that the sequel will be almost primarily photos. I’ve only just received them yesterday, and while some hold promise, others are just of Verni playing. Good memories, but nothing exceptional.

  13. What a way to celebrate your 80th birthday Mr. Liddle! Congratulations for this outstanding post. Now I know where Madhu got her writing skills from!

    We hardly knew much about the musicians who embellished the songs. Without them the songs would have been bare bodies. Van Shipley became well-known because of his commercial records of instrumental tunes of film songs. One gradually learned of others in bits and pieces. After Greg Booth’s path-breaking ‘Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios’, we became aware of the whole ecosystem, the men behind the instruments, and the arrangers who contributed, and not the music director alone, to the making of the melodies. That world no longer exists, because electronic, digital sound has dispensed with the requirement of live musicians, rehearsals etc. Such articles, coming from people close to the musicians, have a great historical value.

    Thanks and congratulations Madhu for this nice piece.
    AK

    • Thank you, AK. Coming from one such as you, that is high praise indeed!

      So sad, really, about the way digital music has put an end to that era. There is something about human talent which, to my ears, at least, surpasses the crystal-clear (and obviously synthetic) tones of a digital tune.

  14. Wish you a wonderful 80th birthday, Mr Liddle. Thanks a lot for taking the time to write about your brother and compile the long list of wonderful songs that he played for. 33 years in the music industry is a long time and his large body of work is a testimony to his passion, talent and hard work.

    Music connoisseurs and fans of the Golden era of music like me, enjoy these type of posts, especially when a ‘behind the scenes musician’ and his work are showcased. Singers and composers grab a lot of attention, but musicians like ‘David Kumar’ also deserve to be appreciated along with singers, composers, lyricists.

    When I heard some of the pieces, I did feel that the ‘guitar was singing’.

    Madhu: Thanks for thinking of this guest post – it makes such a difference to music fans. We learnt a lot and hopefully, ‘David Kumar’ will get recognised even more in the days and years to come.

    • Thank you so much! Even though I’ve published several posts about my uncle in the past, I wanted my father to do one, because, after all, anything I write is second-hand. I’m glad my father agreed to do this. If it can go even a little way in drawing attention to the talent that was Verni’s, that will be worth the effort my father’s put into this.

  15. Hi, Madhulika, this made my day and as I teach music and media in my course I was looking for the bio of his for some time as i had just finished reading and compiling Manohari singh, another maestro’s.
    i am so glad my students can have the glimpse of someone who gave such delightful music.

    • I had no idea you taught music and media as part of your course, Rakesh! How fascinating. :-) Talking about the Manohari Singh bio, is it a book? Or did you gather various bits and pieces from different sources and create your own notes?

      (And perhaps you’ll be perceptive enough to guess where this is leading… I am hoping, really hoping, you will consider writing a guest post here about Manohari Singh. If you like the idea, just leave a comment here and I will send you an e-mail).

  16. A belated 80th happy birthday Mr. Liddle. Thank you for an interesting article on your brother. So interesting that he was able to break into movies in his teens, one does need a great deal of confidence and talent to be able to carry that off.
    I liked the two pieces of his playing (Hindi film song) that Madhu has uploaded particularly the way he played the interludes in the songs. It was interesting to hear the guitar playing the parts that the sitar plays in “Rasik balma”, the way the notes go it is difficult if you have to get the meend correctly (glissando) on a steel guitar, you have to slide the steel bar very quickly over the strings,

    I had not heard the song “Now or Never” earlier, the base tune is taken from the old gondolier favourite “O Sole Mio”.

    In “Aar Paar” in the song “Mohabbat Kar lo ji bhar lo”, your brother is playing a type of two part harmony in the interludes .

    Incidentally did he also play the regular guitar other than the steel guitar (by steel guitar I mean Hawaiian)? In some of the songs you have listed I hear the regular guitar but I do not hear the distinct tone of the steel guitar. It could be that my ears are not good enough or that the recording wasn’t up to scratch.

    Once again thank you for an engaging post.

    • SSW, I think it might be a couple of days before my father recovers from the rather hectic birthday celebrations and returns to this post, so he’ll answer your questions then. :-) Thank you, on his behalf, for the wishes and the appreciation.

  17. I am familiar with most of the songs and people mentioned in the post but cannot call myself an informed music buff. Nonetheless this made fascinating reading for me on many levels. Thank you for this lovely gem!

  18. Dear Madhuji,
    A heartfelt thanks to your father for this article on his brother. Bollywood generally has been very poor in honoring the many unsung talented artists who were the backbone of the industry. Truly, your uncle was a man of talent and determination. To accomplish what he did in the face of parental opposition, without a guru and that too at an early age, is worthy of admiration. A salute to this unsung hero.
    Kaviraj

    • “To accomplish what he did in the face of parental opposition, without a guru and that too at an early age, is worthy of admiration.

      Very true. That is what I find so admirable about my uncle – to have achieved so much, all on his own, against parental opposition, and at such a startlingly young age. As I was telling a friend recently, at sixteen, I had no idea what I was going to do in life, let alone have played music for a hit film!

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