This post has been in the pipeline for a while. I had been thinking about compiling a list of philosophical songs from classic Hindi cinema, and blog reader Kamini Dey’s request for a post with that theme served to spur me on. I got distracted midway, and decided to do a cynical songs post, but here it is, finally: a list of ten philosophical songs from old Hindi cinema that I especially like.
I saw very few films till I was about ten years old. Till then, my father had been posted in small towns that had rather dreadful cinema halls. Then, in late 1982, we acquired a TV. And suddenly, though there wasn’t a spate of films to see (Doordarshan’s Sunday 5:45 PM film was the highlight of our week), there were some films to see. And, thankfully, I was old enough to understand what was happening onscreen.
One of my earliest recollections of that period is of watching Anand. For me—exposed till then to the usual Hindi film, where the hero always had a love interest, and where there were few (and mostly pretty melodramatic) moments of tragedy—Anand was different.
There was never any doubt that Rajesh Khanna’s character was the hero. He was ebullient, full of life, charming, friendly, yet (in those moments of solitude) sensitive. I kept waiting for a heroine to pop up.
My major complaint against Hindi cinema has been that we’ve never given comedy the sort of status it’s received in the West. True, there has been the occasional classic comedy – Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, Dekh Kabira Roya, Dholak and Padosan, for example – but as a genre it seems to have been largely neglected. Which, in turn, has meant that comic actors have also often not been given due respect for their talents. Making people laugh is I think more difficult than making them cry: and Johnny Walker is one of the very few who’ve excelled at the art. Here, therefore, are some of his roles that I find the most memorable. All, of course, from films that I’ve seen.
Of all the male singers who ruled the 50’s and 60’s, the one I’ve usually tended to ignore is Mukesh—and for what I must admit is a somewhat prejudiced reason: the most recognisable Mukesh songs, at least for me, are the ones he sang for Raj Kapoor, and nearly all of them just don’t appeal to me. Is it the fact that they’re picturised on RK (whom I, being the iconoclast I am, don’t much like)? Who knows?
But for Mukesh’s birth anniversary (he was born on July 23, 1923), I decided to explore Mukesh’s songs in greater detail—and realised that a lot of songs I really, really like are in his voice.
Prabodh Chandra Dey—better known as Manna Dey—turns 90 years old on May 1, 2009. A long innings, and though with too little recognition (in fact, far less than a talent like his deserves), a superb one. In my opinion, Manna Dey’s was one of the most beautiful male voices to have ever sung playback for Hindi cinema: warm, sensuous, and with a glorious smoothness, throaty and full of feeling, that’s unparalleled. Listen to him sing a qawwali, a raag, a rock-and-roll number—all with equal ease, panache and conviction, and it’s easy to become a fan. Happy birthday, Mr Dey; may you and your songs live long!