Ten of my favourite ‘not-quite-duet’ songs

Sometime back, blog reader Anup remarked that some songs had a major singer not really doing much singing. Duets, he pointed out, where one singer does almost all the singing, while the other one just does a supportive ‘la-la-la-la’, or something along those lines. Anup suggested I compile a song list of duets like that. Of what I call ‘technically duets’: not songs in which both singers play an equal part in making the song what it is, but in which the ratio is somewhat skewed.

Then, only about a week after Anup made this suggestion, yet another blog reader, Bhagwan Thavrani, sent me an e-mail with pretty much the same suggestion. He was rather more precise: songs in which one singer only hummed, while the other did the singing.

Two readers, both requesting songs of the same basic type? I decided I had to take up the challenge. Especially as, offhand, I couldn’t think of many songs that would fit the bill. This would require a good deal of research, and a lot of listening to songs. I decided, however, to make this a little more wide-ranging: not necessarily one singer humming, but definitely one singer dominating the song.

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Ten of my favourite romantic duets

One would’ve thought a blog dedicated largely to old Hindi cinema would milk Valentine’s Day for all it’s worth; after all, the number of old Hindi films that didn’t feature a romance of some sort, of some duration, can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. True, the romance may end in tragedy; it may come up against one obstacle or the other; there may be misunderstandings galore—but romance and Hindi cinema did go hand in hand (still do, to a large extent). So a Valentine’s Day-themed post is pretty much de rigueur.

This year, after having dilly-dallied and wondered whether I should try a ‘romantic songs’ list, I decided I should. And, oddly enough, all the romantic songs that kept occurring to me—the ones which immediately popped into my head and kept playing—were of Shammi Kapoor lip-synching to Rafi. Too easy. So I decided to go a different route: ten romantic duets (yes, there’s still a good bit of Shammi Kapoor here, but not completely).

Romantic duets

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Dev Anand in Ten Moods

As teenagers, my friends and I were unanimous about one thing: there was no beating Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand as the most watchable stars. Not that they were then in their prime; this was in the very late 80s, but as far as my pals and I were concerned, Hindi film heroes stopped being interesting somewhere in the 60s. Both Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand were all we starry-eyed sahelis could’ve hoped for: utterly handsome, always in films that were generally happy (we conveniently forgot Guide), and always singing the most awesome songs.
We weren’t mature enough then to appreciate that Dev Anand was actually also a good actor, who could switch from melancholy to philosophy, tapori to suave gentleman, in a jiffy.

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Ten of my favourite S D Burman songs

Sachin Dev Burman was born on October 1, 1906, a scion of the royal family of Tripura—and a king in the world of Hindi film music. From his first major hit—Mera sundar sapna beet gaya (Do Bhai, 1947)—on, Burman made a name for himself with songs that ran the gamut from folk to Western, from hauntingly poignant to unbeatably seductive (remember Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam? Remember Kya ho phir jo din?) To celebrate Burman Da’s music, therefore, this post.
To narrow down my list of S D Burman favourites to a mere ten, I’ve had to resort to a few self-imposed restrictions. All of these songs are, as always, from the 50’s and 60’s, and from films that I’ve seen. In addition, they’re songs that don’t just sound good, but are wonderful in other ways too: songs that I value not just for the music, but also for the lyrics, the picturisation, the feel of the song. Enjoy!

Sachin Dev Burman stamp released by the Indian Postal Department

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