Celebrating the Uncelebrated: Ten of my favourite songs by lesser-known composers

This blog hosted a ‘Classic Bollywood Quiz’ a while back. In true film awards style (and we have pacifist to thank for this idea), everybody who submitted answers got a prize. The winner, Anoushka, got a tangible prize, and our runner-up, Anu Warrier, got the ‘dictate-a-list’ prize. For the others, I decided I’d dedicate one post each. This is the first of those posts; it’s dedicated to Karthik, who won the Just for the Heck of it Award (I assume full responsibility for that ghastly name; my creative juices had run dry by the time I got to naming this prize).

So, Karthik: this is for you, because though I’d thought vaguely that I’d do this list sometime, it was your suggestion (that comment on a long-ago post…) that spurred me on to get down to it. Enjoy!

Now, a few words about what this post entails. I’ve noticed that a lot of people, including those who do like old Hindi films and their music, tend to equate good music direction with the ‘greats’: Salil Choudhary, S D Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, Roshan, O P Nayyar, Naushad… and so on. I did, too, till not too long ago. But a spate of watching some rather obscure films over the past decade or so has made me more aware of music directors who may not have made it big, but who certainly did not lack talent. In some cases, a couple of their songs became runaway hits. In some cases, the songs may not have been huge hits but are nevertheless very melodious.

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Ten of my favourite Hemant songs

My maternal grandfather used to work in the Gramophone Company of India. Mummy grew up in a house full of LPs, and a lot of those—including dozens of albums from Hindi films of the 50’s and 60’s—ended up in our house. I grew up listening to music; but for a long time, I couldn’t tell one singer from another. The first singer whose voice I learnt to identify (I must have been about 11 or 12 at the time, I think) was Hemant.
Hemant Kumar Mukherjee was born on June 16, 1920, and went on to become one of Hindi cinema’s great music directors—and a singer with a very distinctive voice, rich and deep and sonorous.

So, as a birthday anniversary tribute: my ten favourite Hemant songs. These are all from the 50’s and 60’s, from films that I’ve seen, and in no particular order. Frankly, each song is a masterpiece in itself.

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