Chitalkar Ramachandra Sings: Ten Songs

Today is the birth centenary of one of my favourite music directors, C Ramachandra: he was born a hundred years ago, on January 12, 1918, in Puntamba (Maharashtra). I won’t go into his biography, since that is something I’ve covered before on this blog, when I compiled a list of my ten favourite songs composed by C Ramachandra.

That said, I couldn’t possibly have let C Ramachandra’s centenary pass by without celebrating it in some way. So, a list of great songs C Ramachandra sang. Like SD Burman, C Ramachandra (billed often as Chitalkar, especially when he sang playback) had a slew of songs to his name as singer. Unlike SD Burman’s instantly recognizable voice, Chitalkar’s was a little more elusive—to the average listener, he can be recognized at times, but more often than not, he sounds like someone else altogether…

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Ten of my favourite non-romantic male-female duets

Whew. That’s a long title for a song list.

But at least it covers the basics for what this list is all about.

I listen to a lot of old Hindi film music. Even when I’m not listening to one old song or another, one of them is running through my head. And the other day, remembering some old song, I realized just how uncommon it is to find a good song that’s a duet (male and female) that doesn’t have some shade of romance to it. When the song’s a solo, there seems to be no problem doing themes other than romance: the singer could philosophize, could sing of life or past childhood, of—well, just about everything. When the song’s a duet between two females or two males, it could run the gamut from friendship to rivalry on the dance floor, to devotion to a deity, to a general celebration of life.

But bring a man and a woman together, and it seems as if everything begins and ends at romantic love. They may be playful about denying their love; they may bemoan the faithlessness of a lover; they may try to wheedle and cajole a huffy beloved—but some element of romantic love always seems to creep in. Even when there’s no semblance of a romantic relationship between the two characters in question (for instance, in a performance on stage, or—in my favourite example of a very deceptive song, Manzil wohi hai pyaar ki)—they end up singing of romantic love.

So I set myself a challenge: to find ten good songs which are male-female duets, and which do not mention romantic love in any form, not even as part of a bhajan (the Radha-Krishna trope is one that comes to mind). Furthermore, I added one more rule for myself: that the actors should both be adults (because there are far too many songs which have a female playback singer singing for a child onscreen).

Hariyaala saawan dhol bajaata aaya, from Do Bigha Zameen

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Ten of my favourite C Ramachandra songs

…specifically, songs which he composed, not just songs he sang (since C Ramachandra also lent his voice to some of his best songs).

Chitalkar Ramachandra was born 97 years ago—on January 12, 1918, in the town of Puntamba in Maharashtra. Although he’d studied music, it was as an actor that C Ramachandra joined the film industry—he debuted in a lead role in a film called Nagananda. This didn’t continue for long, though; he eventually shifted to composing songs, first for Tamil cinema, and then for Hindi. And he came like a breath of fresh air to Hindi film music: in a period dominated by classical tunes composed by the likes of Naushad, Anil Biswas and Pankaj Mullick, C Ramachandra had the guts to bring in music with distinctly Western rhythms, what with hits like Aana meri jaan Sunday ke Sunday and Mere piya gaye Rangoon. And he was brilliantly versatile: as the following selection will (hopefully) show, he could compose just about everything from peppy club songs to lullabies to ghazals (if one can expect a particular style of music for a ghazal) and lilting love songs.

Chitalkar Ramachandra, b January 12 Continue reading

Crime and the Hindi film song: Ten examples

I attended an interesting Conference on Crime Fiction at St Stephen’s College, Delhi University, last month (for more on that, click here). During a couple of the less-engrossing sessions, I found my mind wandering a bit – but not too far: only to crime in cinema. And from there, to songs about crime.

Also, over the past several months, I’ve been wracking my brains over what post to dedicate to friend, blog reader, fellow-blogger and participant in the Classic Bollywood Quiz, Raja. For the other prize winners, deciding a post was fairly easy: some had requested particular posts in the past; some had voiced interests in a way that made me fairly sure of what they’d like. But Raja? I was flummoxed.

Then I remembered that Raja, besides sharing my love for old Hindi cinema (and its songs), also has a fantastic sense of humour. And a strong sense of justice, of what’s right and what’s not. This post, therefore, is dedicated to you, Raja. I hope you enjoy it.

Here it is, then: a list of ten film songs – as always, mostly from pre-70s films that I’ve seen – that talk about crime. To leave no room for doubt, they’re all actions that are illegal under the Indian Penal Code (or Acts of Parliament). And yes – no crimes are repetitions.

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Ten of my favourite train songs

Continuing with my plan to link every post to the previous one… well, what next? (Harvey: you were close when it came to guessing!)
My last post, North-West Frontier, was set mostly in a train – and that too a train in the Indian subcontinent. So it seemed appropriate to do a list of my favourite songs set in what seems to have been one of Hindi cinema’s much-loved settings. From this lovely old song by Pankaj Mullick (thank you, AK, for introducing me to that), to newer songs – from Teri hai zameen teri aasmaan, to the much later Chhaiya chhaiya.

But: I’m restricting myself to pre-70s songs, and those too from films I’ve seen. What’s more, these are songs where the person on whom the song is picturised is on the train throughout the song. That’s why, no Mere sapnon ki raani kab aayegi tu (for me, that’s a jeep song; I’ll do it in another post) and no Jab pyaar kisi se hota hai.

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