Over a period of about four years, from 2010 to 2014, Lata Mangeshkar was interviewed by the biographer Yatindra Mishra, the interviews coming together in the form of a Hindi book, Lata: Sur Gatha. The biography won a National Award, and was published in its English translation (Lata Mangeshkar: A Life in Music, translated by Ira Pande) earlier this year.
Tag Archives: Hindi film music
Ten of my favourite crooner/club songs
This post has been in the pipeline a long, long time. When I first started this blog way back in November 2008, the very first ‘ten favourites’ song list I compiled was for Madhubala songs—and (unlike what I now do, which is to steer clear of assigning ‘absolute favourite’ status to any particular song), I actually went out on a limb and marked one Madhubala song as my favourite. That was Aaiye meherbaan baithiye jaan-e-jaan. And, even as I was putting that down on my list, I thought to myself: “I must do a list of my favourite crooner and club songs someday.”
Well, here it is, finally. It’s not as if I’ve spent the last many years thinking of this post; but the ‘Crooner Songs’ folder has been there on my laptop all these years, even with some screenshots taken of the songs I knew had to be part of the list.
In any self-respecting, urban-centric film of the 50s and 60s, a club song was almost de rigueur. It would probably be picturized on someone of the likes of Helen, but not necessarily: at times, what was needed was not someone who was a fabulous dancer, but someone who could project the oomph one associated with the club singer.
Ten of my favourite spooky songs
Some days back, I watched A Shamshir’s Woh Koi Aur Hoga (1967), starring Mumtaz, Feroz Khan, and Sohrab Modi. It turned out to be one of the most incoherent and illogical films I’d ever seen: Sohrab Modi’s character, a professor, is drugged (by Asit Sen in yellowface, a Chinese villain pretending to be the professor’s Indian servant) and made to do the dirty work of the Chinese: that is, inject hapless victims with something that will drain the blood from their bodies. The corpses are then covered with wax and sold off as mannequins to the wealthy gullible who want realistic-looking statues in their homes (and are possibly not averse to the frightful stench).
But, digressions aside: there was also, in the film, Mumtaz. Wearing a shimmery white dress and roaming about the hills at night, singing a sad song. Repeatedly.
Watching Ae raat ke andhere mujhko gale lagaa le, I was reminded of many other songs with a similar premise: a ghostly figure (invariably female), wandering about in the night and singing a signature spooky song. There is often an echo, sometimes other props, something else perhaps to suggest darkness, mystery, ghosts.
Lata Mangeshkar: Ten Solos, Ten Composers – Part 4
Last year, when Lata Mangeshkar passed away, I did a series of posts featuring songs she’d sung for different composers. This post, the fourth and final one, had been lying waiting to be published for the past several months.
I began the first list as a tribute to Lata when she passed away, but that, I realized, was too little; there were too many very talented composers, too many wonderful songs, which had perforce been left out of that list. I therefore ended up making another list. And then another.
Here, I cover ten more composers, most of them unfortunately either forgotten now or never really given their due. But, as can be seen (or heard?) by this list, they were not short of talent. These ten solos are all, as always, from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen. Plus, these songs do not overlap with the very first Lata Mangeshkar post I had published on this blog, here.
Ten of my favourite ‘two songs in one’
Some years ago, while watching Adalat, I was struck by the interesting way in which the song Jaa jaa re jaa saajna was composed (by Madan Mohan). It begins as a plaintive, melancholic song, the singer (Nargis, lip-syncing to Lata Mangeshkar’s voice) filling her song with the emotion she feels at being betrayed. Then, just as one had settled into thinking that this was a particular type of song, the tone of the song changed. The tempo increased, and though the lyrics still conveyed the same emotion, the singer (Asha Bhonsle) made them so teasing and flirtatious that their import changed. Two songs, one slow and anguished, one fast and vibrant, but woven together into one song.
What an impressive performance, I thought: and it occurred to me that there were other songs, too, of this type, where a composer and a lyricist create two songs but weave them together. Note that I’m not talking of the back-to-back songs, like Kya se kya ho gaya/Mose chhal kiye jaaye. I mean songs where the two styles of the song alternate. Also note that I regard two tempos of the same tune as two different styles.
The ‘Not-Naachnewaali’ Gaanewaali: Ten Songs
I have been watching Hindi cinema for most of my life. And for most of my life, too, I have been happily swallowing all the many outlandish tropes and elements that are part of this realm. Not the least the many obscurities and questions that surround songs: how do people think up a tune and words at the drop of a hat, with no rehearsals whatsoever? How do two people who are not even within earshot of each other, manage to sing—perfectly—a duet? Where does the music come from? And how do people who are dancing about energetically manage to sing at the same time?
The naachne-gaanewaali so derided by the ‘shareef’ of Hindi cinema is, in essence, an unlikely character. The Vyjyanthimala of Sadhana, who dances with so much energy, or even the Meena Kumari of Pakeezah, her dance often more sedate, but a dance nevertheless… or the many, many other onscreen naachne-gaanewaalis, from Minoo Mumtaz in Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi to Kumkum in Dekh idhar o jaadugar: they must be having Olympic athlete-standard fitness levels to be able to dance so vigorously and sing so well at the same time.
But there is the occasional naachne-gaanewaali who doesn’t dance. She only sits, or, at the most, stands up a bit and languidly moves about. No proper dancing. Not, I think, because she realizes that it’s well-nigh impossible to do both at the same time or that she’s conserving her energy, but perhaps because that’s the filmmaker’s way of showing that she is relatively pure. This invariably happens in cases where the heroine is the naachnewaali, sitting in a kotha or other similar house of ill-repute and forced to use her beautiful voice to earn her living. Only her voice, mind you. No more.
Ten of my favourite Shankar-Jaikishan songs
When it comes to Hindi film composer duos, for me there’s none greater than Shankar-Jaikishan. By no means the first (Husnlal Bhagatram, for one, predated them) and definitely not the last (there have been many others, from Laxmikant Pyarelal and Kalyanji Anandji to more recent duos like Anand-Milind), Shankar Jaikishan were unparalleled in the sheer quality of their work. They composed some of Hindi cinema’s best-loved tunes, all the way from Westernized club songs to ghazals, from dreamy love songs to peppy folk numbers. Versatility, finesse, and that ability to appeal to the common janta, to have ordinary folk humming their tunes: these were some traits which set Shankar-Jaikishan apart.
One Voice, Two Faces: Ten of my favourite ‘one-singer-duets’
One playback singer sings for two (or, in some cases, more than two) people who lip-sync to the song onscreen. Within the same song, not two different versions of the song.
You’d have thought that wouldn’t be very common, given that a lot of our playback singers have had such distinctive voices that you wouldn’t expect two people in the same setting to be singing with that same voice. But then, reality and Hindi cinema have never been the best of friends; and anyway, there were probably other considerations: one singer is cheaper than two; it’s easier to get recording dates if you don’t have to juggle dates for two people; and all said and done, Hindi cinema is all about the willing suspension of disbelief. If three women (or four, or five) can all ‘sing’ in Shamshad Begum’s voice, so be it.
Ten of my favourite Sheila Vaz songs
RIP, Sheila Vaz.
This post is a little late in coming—Sheila Vaz passed away on June 29—but by the time I learnt of her passing, I was just about to post the first of my Nainital-Corbett travelogues, and knew that it would anyway take me at least a couple of days to compile a suitable tribute to one of Hindi cinema’s best dancers. So I decided to go ahead with that, and come back to this.
Sheila Vaz, without my knowing it, was probably one of the very first Hindi film dancers I ever saw onscreen: the first Hindi film I remember watching was CID, which I was taken to see when I was about nine. And there, lip-syncing to Leke pehla-pehla pyaar was this unabashedly effervescent woman, her eyes sparkling and her movements graceful. I won’t say that image stayed with me; I have no recollection of the song from back then. But Sheila Vaz became, years later when I grew much more devoted to Hindi cinema, one of my favourites. Besides the fact that she was so graceful and so emotive, I loved one thing that struck a chord with me: she was, like me, somewhat plus size. I’ve always been overweight, and have faced a lot of derision, hurtful ‘ribbing’ and more, for it: and here was Sheila Vaz, by no means a size zero, but undeniably beautiful and successful—I loved her the more for that.
Ten of my favourite bicycle songs
Today is World Bicycle Day, used to promote the use of bicycles as a cheap, healthy, and eco-friendly means of transport. I have to admit I actually never learnt to cycle (I fell too many times as a kid when learning, and was too much of a coward to persist).
But bicycles happen to be important and very visible means of transportation in old Hindi cinema, so why not a post to celebrate it? The bicycle, as it is even now, is the one vehicle that’s available even to the not-terribly-prosperous. A character who owned a car, just by virtue of that ownership, was automatically identified as moneyed. If you could not afford a car but were not utterly broke either, you had a bicycle. It didn’t need expensive fuel, yet it got you around faster than if you just walked everywhere.