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.
Several years back, to mark International Women’s Day, I’d compiled a list of ten female duets: songs celebrating the friendship between women, women teasing friends, women performers dancing and singing together, women singing a devotional song together… a range of emotions and situations, but all featuring two women singing one song.
Sometime back, blog reader Naghma happened to come upon that post, and suggested I do a list of male duets. A great idea (and one I wondered why I hadn’t thought of). After all, there are plenty of instances of two men singing together: sometimes as friends, more often, it seems, in a competition of sorts. And more. Here, therefore, are ten songs I really like, all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen, which feature two men singing: two actors (at least) onscreen, two playback singers contributing their voices to the song. An important caveat: these songs do not include trios, quartets or more singers; they’re only all duets.Continue reading
Hindi film songs, in the context of being part of films, have always struck me as rather unreal. Of course it’s a miracle that people in cinema (and that’s not just Hindi cinema, but almost any cinema that produces musicals) break into song at the drop of a hat. How do they think up lyrics on the fly? How do they think up a tune as they go along? How can they dance and jump around and not run out of breath while singing?
Let’s say that’s all artistic license, and that we need to accept it (we do). But what happens when there’s no way a song could be possible? A duet, for instance, sung perfectly in tandem—the tune the same, one verse completely responding to the previous one, even the voices sometimes blending together? —when the two people supposedly singing the song are nowhere close to each other? One is one part of town, the other in another. Or even, in some cases, not even in the same town. Impossible, that’s what I call such duets.Continue reading
This is a post that’s been in the works a long time. Several years back, I’d compiled a list of string instrument songs—songs where the person lip-syncing to the lyrics is also shown ‘playing’ a guitar, sitar, ektara, mandolin or other stringed instrument. I also did a post featuring, in a similar vein, percussion instruments of different kinds: castanets, tabla, bongos, and more. Here, then, after a very long gap, is the third post in the series. Wind instrument songs.
Wind instruments, as the name implies, are instruments that create a sound as a result of wind: mostly (not always) the player blows into them—the wind in the player’s lungs produces the sound, which is amplified, made to resonate, and varied by the use of various devices built into the instrument, such as resonators, holes, the length of the air column in the instrument, and so on. Or, in some cases, the player doesn’t use his or her breath but uses his or her hands to work bellows that draw air into the instrument.
Over the years this blog has been in existence, several people have asked me to compile a list of songs that are beautiful to listen to, but which are terribly picturized—songs which I don’t like to watch, only listen to. Every time I’ve started to compile a list, I’ve given up quickly, because I’ve found myself listing almost all of Bharat Bhushan’s songs.
Bharat Bhushan, while he lip-synced to some truly memorable songs, has never been one of my favourite actors. But one thing is undeniable: this man was at one time hugely successful, working opposite some of Hindi cinema’s leading ladies—from Madhubala to Meena Kumari, Nimmi to Mala Sinha—and commanding among the highest fees of his time. Bharat Bhushan, in his heyday, was not to be scoffed at (it’s a different—and very sad—story that he went from rags to riches, being reduced to acting as an extra, and being spotted by Amitabh Bachchan waiting in line at a bus stop).
Several years back, poet, friend and fellow Sahir Ludhianvi fan Karthika Nair and I were discussing Sahir’s poetry. After a while, we arrived at the conclusion that, while everybody acknowledges the brilliance of Sahir’s more revolutionary poetry—of the Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye or Chini-o-Arab hamaara—and some of his more angsty and emotional lyrics (Chalo ek baar phir se, anyone?), many people tend to overlook the fact that Sahir was also one of those poets who could describe nature brilliantly.
When I mentioned having studied Pighla hai sona in school (it was in our school textbook), Karthika remarked that, in that song, “nature became an active agent, not a landscape.” That reminded me of a theme I’d been toying with for a long time, for a song post. Songs that celebrate nature, songs that appreciate the beauty of nature. Nature or an aspect of nature should be an important part of the song; it should not merely be an incidental pretty backdrop for romance (or any backdrop for any other emotion).
The monsoon has arrived here, in Delhi and around. We’d had a parched and hellish June, the heat seeming to grow more unbearable—and then, suddenly, one morning we woke to an overcast sky. Grey clouds looming, and soon, rain. Except in my childhood (when I remember going out in the rain to play, with the express purpose of getting thoroughly soaked), I’ve never really liked getting wet in the rain. Come the monsoon, I don’t venture out without an umbrella. In our car, we always have an umbrella or two to spare (our latest acquisition in that department is a golf umbrella, large enough to accommodate two adults). If I should by some chance get caught in the rain—a rare chance, indeed, given the precautions I take—I will bolt for the nearest shelter, even if it consists of six inches of overhang.
The last thing that occurs to me is to sing.
Not so in Hindi cinema, where getting wet (almost always in pouring, roaring thunderstorms that come out of a clear blue sky) is invariably a precursor to bursting into song. For various reasons.
It’s often struck me that there are a number of Hindi film songs that could well be interpreted to refer to medical problems. The omnipresent theme of romantic love in itself has enough substance for everything from insomnia to palpitations of the heart, giddiness, and whatnot. Bung in heartbreak (hah! Another medical problem?), and you can also tag on mental illness, in the form of depression. Of course, romance isn’t the only reason for problems concerning one’s health: betrayal, fear, family troubles—everything can be cause for singing about ailments concerning one’s heart, one’s liver, and sundry other body parts.
Sometime back, I was watching Dil Hi Toh Hai, and for the first time, actually paid attention to the scenario and picturization of the classic Laaga chunari mein daag. Raj Kapoor, in disguise, plays a classical singer who prides himself on singing such complex tunes that no accompanying dancer can match him. That sparked off a memory: the situation in Madhuban mein Radhika naache re is similar—it’s a faceoff between a singer (a man) and a dancer (a woman).
And that led to memories of other songs, all with a similar setting: a man singing, a woman dancing. A good enough theme for a post, I thought—especially as I could think of some superb songs that would fit right in. I only had to set down some rules for myself, and these (besides my usual one of including only songs from pre-70s films that I’ve seen) would be that in each of these songs, the man shouldn’t dance, and the woman shouldn’t sing.
Also, the man must be physically present in the picturization of the song (which is why the popular Tu hai mera prem devtaa doesn’t feature in this list, even though I like it).
The other day, I was thinking about some of those songs that end up featuring on every other list I make. Songs that are perennial favourites of mine, because they are those rare combinations of brilliant music and equally brilliant lyrics, singing, picturisation—everything. Songs like Aage bhi jaane na tu, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai, and Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh.
Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh made a thought pop into my mind: that a fair number of Hindi songs are an invitation to be hugged. That might seem fairly innocuous, but in the good old days of nodding flowers and birds putting their beaks together onscreen, an embrace was a daring enough statement: it meant you did love someone; you weren’t being frivolous. No heroine (or hero, even) worth their salt actually hugged anybody—in a romantic way—other than the love of their life. So telling someone to come on and give you a hug meant you were serious (even if the way it was said—as it is in some of the songs in this list—in a light-hearted way).