Ten of my favourite ‘Unusual Singer’ songs

By which I mean:

(a) That it’s the person who’s lip-syncing to the song (and not the playback singer) who’s unusual…

(b) and unusual because the actor in question is a well-known face, but doesn’t usually lip-sync to songs.

The idea for this post arose because of this wonderful post on Ashok Kumar’s songs, over at Ava’s blog. Ava drew attention to the fact that Ashok Kumar—one of the stalwarts of Hindi cinema, and with a pretty long stint as hero, too—rarely lip-synced to songs. In the post, another similar example was pointed out, in the case of Balraj Sahni: also a major actor, also a ‘hero’ in a lot of films, yet a man who didn’t lip-sync to too many songs.

That set me thinking of other people, other actors and actresses, who have rarely ‘sung’ songs onscreen. Not that they’re otherwise unknown; this is not a case of ‘Who’s that lip-syncing?’, but a case of people one generally doesn’t associate with doing too much singing onscreen. The leads of films (barring exceptions like Ashok Kumar or Balraj Sahni) are invariably excluded, because most songs end up being picturized on them. Major comedians, like Johnny Walker, Rajendranath, and Mehmood, also often had a comic side plot and a romance of their own, which allowed them to ‘sing’ often enough in films (have you ever seen a film that featured Johnny Walker and didn’t have him lip-syncing to at least one song?) And the dancers—Helen, Kumkum, Madhumati, Laxmi Chhaya, Bela Bose, et al—may appear in a film for only five minutes, but you could bet those five minutes would be a song.

Which leaves us with the somewhat more unusual people, the actors who played non-comic roles, character actors. Not stars, not dancers, not comedians. The Manmohan Krishnas, the Lalita Pawars, the other not-often-seen-‘singing’ characters. Here, then, are ten songs that are picturized on people not usually seen lip-syncing. As always, these are in no particular order, and they’re all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen.

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Ten of my favourite ‘nazar’ songs

My blog posts come about in odd ways. Some are suggestions or recommendations from blog readers, or from friends. Some strike me as I go through life. Some are serendipitous—a video appearing on the sidebar in Youtube while I’m watching something else. And some are like this: an idea which strikes two people at almost the same time. Anu and I don’t always see eye to eye (pun intended), but more often than not, we look at things in exactly the same way.

Therefore, it came as no surprise that Anu’s ‘zulfein’ songs post gave me the idea for an ‘aankhen’ songs post (and, even less surprising, that Anu had already thought of an ‘aankhen’ songs post too). Or that, as I was publishing my post, I thought, “I should do a post on either nigaah or nazar next.” Or, that Anu should send me an e-mail later the same day, in which she wrote: “Perhaps I should do ‘Nigahein’ as a complementary post.”

Anyway, to cut a long story short: Anu and I decided we’d do twin (but not quite; look-alike, as in Hum Dono or Mujrim, might be a more appropriate description) posts. And then Anu suggested we ask our third soul sister, Bollyviewer, if she’d like to join the party as well: with a post about nayan/naina songs. Bollyviewer, good sport that she is, agreed. So here we are, with a trio of song lists. Head over to Anu’s blog to read her post on nigaahein songs, to Bollyviewer’s for her post on nayan/naina songs—and read on for my list of ‘nazar’ songs.

Aapki nazron ne samjhaa - nazar songs

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Ten of my favourite Dupatta/Chunri/Chunariya songs

In November last year, friend, fellow blogger and soul sister Anu came to India on work—and actually came all the way to Delhi to meet me (now if that isn’t flattering, I don’t know what is!) We spent two days chatting, comparing notes on everything from books to our families to recipes; wandering around Chandni Chowk; buying jewellery and sarees and whatnot… and, as a gift, Anu bought me this absolutely lovely dupatta from Mrignayani, the Madhya Pradesh State Crafts Emporium on Baba Kharak Singh Marg.

Dupatta
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Ten of my favourite Geeta Dutt solos

Looking back at the six years this blog has been in existence, I find myself surprised that I’ve never done a post on Geeta Dutt. Geeta Dutt, née Geeta Ghosh Roy Chaudhury, the woman with that beautifully melodious, faintly nasal voice, who was known for singing bhajans and other songs with a classical or folk lilt to them—until SD Burman chose her to sing Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana de, and opened up to millions of listeners across the years the astounding versatility of this glorious voice. Geeta Dutt, who could sing with equal finesse everything from club songs to wandering minstrel ones. Geeta, who sang some of the most achingly beautiful songs in Hindi cinema.

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Asha in Ten Moods

A couple of months back, blog reader Shalini alerted me to the fact that this year was Asha Bhonsle’s 80th birthday. Would I be doing a special post to mark the occasion? I hadn’t known that it was such a landmark birthday for Asha, but I couldn’t miss this opportunity, because—at the risk of being labeled an iconoclast and inviting censure (and possible debates?)—I have to admit that I tend to prefer Asha to her sister Lata.

Unfortunately, most people tend to associate Asha Bhonsle only with the sultry, ‘cabaret’ songs that she sang for umpteen songs picturised on vamps, all the way from Helen to Parveen Babi. Few remember that Asha’s was also the voice of the hauntingly beautiful Yehi woh jagah hai, or the bhajan Tora man darpan kehlaaye.

To compile a list of my ten favourite Asha Bhonsle songs would be impossible; there are far too many Asha songs that are simply out of this world as far as I’m concerned. So I decided to celebrate Asha’s birthday with this list: ten Asha solos, from pre-70s films, all in different moods. Not merely seductive, not merely cheerful or come-hither, but songs that are proof of Asha’s superb versatility. As always, these are from films I’ve seen.

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Ten of my favourite “I am -” songs

I’d been thinking, for the past few months, of doing a post on songs that a person uses to introduce himself or herself in Hindi cinema. Not the “Awaara hoon” or “Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi” type, which actually use a set of adjectives to describe the singer, but an actual introduction: this is my name, this is where I live, stuff like that. I can think of a number of songs along those lines, and it seemed like a good idea to do a list.

When I watched Love in Bombay last weekend (and saw Kishore Kumar belting out Maazaa naav ahe Ganpat Rao), I was reminded of that long-pending list. So here it is: ten of my favourite songs, mostly from pre-70s films, where the singer introduces himself/herself by name. These are, as I usually stipulate for my lists, from films I’ve seen. Not all of them are necessarily good songs, music-wise, but they invariably have something or the other—lyrics, picturisation, situation, whatever—which sets them apart for me.

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Ten of my favourite ghoda-gaadi songs

This post is dedicated not just to music directors like O P Nayyar and Naushad (who made ‘tonga beats’ an important musical style), but also to friend and blog reader pacifist, who came up with the idea. Writing to me some weeks back, pacifist made a request: that I do a list of horse-drawn vehicle songs.

So: here’s the list, pacifist. Ten of my favourite ghoda-gaadi songs, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Other than that, my requisites for the selected songs were:
1. That the person singing (on screen, that is) remains in the ghoda-gaadi through at least 80% of the song (which is why Ae dil hai mushkil doesn’t feature in this list).
2. Horse-drawn vehicles of all types qualify: tongas, Victorias, phaetons, even chariots. Horseback is out.
3. And, no two songs from the same film are allowed.

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Ten of my favourite Madhubala songs

The Hallmark Group recently introduced a limited edition of gold-plated silver ingots representing 25 historic stamps of India. Issued under the authority of India Post, it’s called the Pride of India Collection. The stamps replicated run the gamut of concepts, events and people dear to India: Rabindranath Tagore, kathakali, the Taj Mahal, cricket—and more. And with Bollywood so close to the hearts of so many millions of Indians, there had to be a film star featured: and they couldn’t have chosen better.

Pride of India Collection - Madhubala ingot

[Personally, I think the stamp (released in March 2008) does Madhubala justice; the ingot doesn’t. She looks as if, as P G Wodehouse would put it, she’d been bingeing on starchy foods. The eyes are puffy; the smile is off; and she has a double chin. No, I wouldn’t pay Rs 6,000 for this.]

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Ten of my favourite O P Nayyar songs

My sister gave me Ganesh Anantharaman’s Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song for Christmas. Yes, I know, my sister’s a gem: I adore her. I also adore a lot of the people Anantharaman writes about in his book. He admits he’s biased towards classical music, but then he does go on to acknowledge the worth of people like O P Nayyar, who’s a classic example of unclassical.
Omkar Prasad Nayyar was born on January 16, 1926 (now you know why this post today, of all days). He grew up in Lahore, and was composing music for All India Radio Lahore by the time he was fifteen (makes me feel utterly worthless. All these child prodigies do). When India was partitioned in 1947, Nayyar left Lahore and came to Bombay. Thank heavens. The rest, clichéd though it may sound, is history.

O P Nayyar

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