Songs for all times: Celebrating 100 years of Hindi film music

Late last year, an editor from ForbesLife India wrote to me, telling me they’d be doing special ‘100 years of Indian cinema’ editions this year. Would I be interested in contributing an article? That was a no-brainer (or so it seemed), but when I got over my initial excitement and began to think, I realised that:
(a) I know virtually nothing about Indian cinema in general. Hindi cinema, yes; other Indian cinema, almost negligible.
(b) It was too vast a canvas. What would I write?

Much thought later, I offered to write about something I know something about: Hindi film music. What follows is a version of the article that appeared in the April-June 2013 issue of ForbesLife India. Do buy yourself a copy to read the final article—and to read some more interesting writing on a century of Indian cinema.

Jaan-pehchaan ho, from Gumnaam

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Rafi in Ten Moods

The other day, after a long gap of 16 years, I met someone who used to teach me in college. I never knew back then that he was a Mohammad Rafi aficionado; and now, chatting with him about Dusted Off, I got a request: do a Rafi post.
So, as a sort of gurudakshina, here it is: a Rafi post. And since I cannot even begin to think of trying to narrow down my favourite Rafi songs to just ten (or even a hundred), I’m taking the easy way out. Rafi, in ten moods. Ten songs that showcase the breathtaking versatility of this man and his voice. There will always be dozens of other Rafi songs out there that reflect the same emotions behind these songs, but these are my favourites. And, in keeping with the rules I always set for myself, they’re all from the 50’s and 60’s, from films I’ve seen.

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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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