Ten of my favourite Khayyam Songs

… and Khayyam, too, is no more. One of the last stalwarts of the Golden Age of Hindi cinema (and one who, like SD Burman, was able to reinvent himself and his music beautifully) passed away earlier this week, on August 19th.

Born on February 18th, 1927 in Rahon (Punjab), Mohammad Zahur ‘Khayyam’ Hashmi was so interested in music from a young age that he ran away to Delhi to become an actor, and ended up being enrolled to learn music—not an endeavour which lasted long, since his family hauled him back home to complete his studies. Khayyam did not show too much interest in studies, however. At the young age of 17, having gone to Lahore to learn music from the Punjabi music director Baba Chishti, he so impressed the man that Baba Chishti took him on as assistant music director.

After serving in the Army during World War II, Khayyam came to Bombay and the film industry, initially working as part of a team: as the Sharmaji of ‘Sharmaji-Varmaji’ (Rahman Varma was the ‘Varmaji’), he made his debut with Heer-Ranjha, in 1948. Varma left for Pakistan shortly after, and Khayyam struck out on his own, notching up, though slowly, some of Hindi cinema’s loveliest songs over the decades to come.

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Songs of romantic love – in ten moods

Ah, well, the Valentine’s Day bandwagon and all that.

Seriously, I’ve blogged through five Valentine’s Days, and steered clear of the temptation to post something even vaguely romantic (largely because my idea of what constitutes ‘romantic’ is more often than not at odds with what old Hindi cinema, or even a lot of Hollywood, thought of as romantic). This year, however, I’ve decided to throw in the towel. Romance is in the air. And Hindi cinema, as any Hindi film buff will know, has always loved romance (especially in the 50s and 60s, when any self-respecting film had at least one romance in it, if not more).

Happy Valentine's Day!
But, since I’m a bit of a non-conformist, I’m doing this with a twist: not necessarily a serenade to a loved one, and not necessarily two lovers billing and cooing to each other. Instead, romantic love in its different forms and shapes and tones and hues. All of these songs are about romantic love (not maternal/fraternal/patriotic/devotional or other forms of the sentiment), and they’re all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. And they’re each in a distinct mood that shows some aspect of romantic love. Enjoy!

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Ten of my favourite filmi wedding songs

It’s wedding season in Delhi (has been, in fact, for the past couple of months). Almost every night, there’s a large shamiana at our local municipal park. There are traffic jams because of huge baaraats, all the women laden with jewellery and tinsel. We see white mares (or, in some cases, a pair of mares pulling a flower-bedecked ‘chariot’) trotting along on roads. We hear a lot of music—or what passes for music.

In fact, every time I hear the sort of music that’s played at many Delhi weddings, I’m tempted to go up to whoever’s acting the DJ, and ask them to play some good shaadi songs.
Since I can’t actually do that, I decided to create my own list: ten Hindi film songs that are directly related to weddings. (Which is why Ab ke baras bhej bhaiyya ko baabul or Laali-laali doliya mein laali re dulhaniya don’t qualify; the words relate to a wedding, but the context is completely different).

Ten wedding songs, therefore, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Enjoy!

Waheeda Rehman as a bride in Chaudhvin ka Chaand Continue reading

Ten of my favourite ‘woman pianist’ songs

When I created a list of my favourite car songs, blog reader Ragni requested a list: of songs that feature women playing a piano. I riffled mentally through the film songs of the 50s and 60s, and quickly responded: there would be just too many; how could I choose just ten? Another reader, Chris, came up with a suggestion: songs only from black-and-white films.

When I actually got down to compiling this list, however, I realized how impetuous I’d been. A closer look at most of the piano songs that sprang to mind, and I discovered that even if it’s a woman singing (as in Tu jahaan-jahaan chalega or Mujhe tum mil gaye humdum), it’s a man sitting at the piano. Songs where a woman is the one actually playing the piano are, when I came to think of it, relatively rare. I had to, perforce, expand the scope to colour films too.

Simi plays a piano in 'Yeh kaun aaya', from Saathi

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Ten of my favourite saheli songs

(And a very brief tribute to Dev Anand, 1923-2011).

This is the second of my ‘prize posts’ for the Classic Bollywood Quiz. The first of these posts was dedicated to Karthik, who’d once suggested I do a list of lesser-known composers. This post is dedicated to Anoushka Dave, our overall winner. Anoushka, whose prize included a signed copy of my latest book, also got the chance to tell me which post she’d like me to do: which film to review, or which list to come up with. Anoushka suggested this one: ten saheli characters, or ten saheli songs.

This was, for me, a very unusual (and interesting) challenge, because I’d never really thought of it. Some pondering, and I realised that while Hindi cinema makes a huge deal about a bromance, the female equivalent of it has been largely pushed into the background. Offhand, I could think of only one film (the forgettable Saheli, starring Kalpana and Vijaya Choudhary) that focused on girl friends. But songs? Yes, with some effort (a lot of it, actually), I could draw up a list of ten songs that featured sahelis, at work, at play, at general saheli-ness.


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Ten of my favourite Waheeda Rehman songs

What made Bees Saal Baad such a good watch was its music, its fairly good suspense – and its lovely heroine.
Waheeda Rehman had it all: an immense amount of talent, a rare beauty, a grace and dignity that few possess – and she was a superb dancer. What’s more, as I discovered in a TV interview a couple of years back, she’s also very modest. “When I was a girl, my siblings would call me the ‘ugly duckling’”, she said. A flash of that trademark smile, and she added, “The camera was very kind to me.” As fellow blogger Sabrina Mathew remarked when I recounted that on her post, “I want that camera!”

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Ten of my favourite Sahir Ludhianvi songs

Among the most popular posts on this blog are my top ten lists of songs. They’re also among my favourites; old Hindi film music is one big, big reason for my watching these films in the first place. Which is why I’ve ended up doing so many lists of songs—for music directors (S D Burman, O P Nayyar), singers (Rafi, Mukesh, Hemant, Manna Dey, Talat, Lata, Mahendra Kapoor), even for actors (Madhubala, Asha Parekh, Johnny Walker). But lyricists tend to get left out. A song wouldn’t exist without someone to write the words, would it? So, a post honouring one of my favourite lyricists: Sahir Ludhianvi, on his birth anniversary.

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Shagoon (1964)

Dare I repeat myself by admitting that one of the reasons I wanted to see this film was the music? Shagoon (which I think should have been spelt Shagun) combines Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics with Khayyam’s music, to stunning effect. But my other reasons for watching this film were equally valid. It stars the matchless Waheeda Rehman in the only film where she co-starred with Kamaljit, later to be her husband. What chemistry there must be here, I thought. Plus the film featured some of the most dependable character actors of Hindi cinema: Nasir Hussain, Achla Sachdev, Pratima Devi, Chand Usmani. This one had to be worth seeing, I thought.

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