The SoY Award for the Best Music Director goes to?
This year’s detailed review had more songs (152) than in any preceding year, and I had hoped that this would cover most of the noteworthy songs. Nevertheless, the readers added a large number of songs in the comments. This shows that there are a number of persons spread all over the world, who are deeply passionate about old Hindi film music and who consider it worthwhile to spend hours and hours reminiscing about songs, looking for them on the YT, and sharing their favourite songs and their thoughts on the SoY. This vindicates that my laborious exercise is, after all, not futile. We discover some forgotten or unknown gems, get new insights and become more aware of difference in tastes. I have to thank all the readers deeply for their valuable comments, which enrich the exercise and help me in my Wrap Ups. The Final Wrap Up is a distillation of the Overview post and the four Wrap Ups: Wrap Up 1 on the best male solos, Wrap Up 2 on the best ‘other’ female solos, Wrap Up 3 on the best Lata Mangeshkar songs and Wrap Up 4 on the best duets.
Songs of Yore Award for the Best Duet goes to? (Wishing Happy Diwali to everyone)
Hans recently commented in some other context that duets generally create less impact than solos. This is certainly true of tennis where the doubles players are not counted in the same league as Federers and Djokovics. In the olden days before the open era, it was quite common for the top ranking players (think of John Newcombe and Tony Roche) to be at the top both in singles and doubles. I have mentioned earlier that often the contrasting voices make duets extremely charming. Duets also provide more opportunity to the music director for innovation.
A tribute to SD Burman on his 40th death anniversary (1 October 1906-31 October 1975)
Music evokes strong emotions. Therefore, it is natural that SoY has seen serious difference of views on songs, singers, music directors and a whole host of related issues. But none has been as sharp as mine with Dinesh’s. It is beyond my comprehension that anyone could be as dismissive of Naushad as he has been. Further, very often he ‘does not care much for’ the songs I have posted. He very graciously ascribes this to the difference in personal tastes. But there has been something more basic on which our views are diametrically opposite.
(After the overview post on the Best songs of 1950, I have written Wrap Up 1 on the best male solos, and Wrap Up 2 on the best female solos by ‘other’ singers. Continuing the series, here is the third Wrap Up on the best songs of Lata Mangeshkar. – AK)
Songs of Yore Award for the Best Female Playback Singer goes to Lata Mangeshkar (?)
In the three previous yearwise reviews for 1955, 1953 and 1951, the announcement of the Best Female Playback Singer of the Year was an exultant, “The Award goes to Lata..Lata…Lata..Lata Mangeshkar”. This year we had some very strong voices questioning her invincible superiority, though, by and large, she remained the overwhelming favourite for the best female playback singer. Most readers took the trouble of giving separate lists of her best and the best of “other” female singers, as well as a combined list, which had on the average about 4-5 of her songs, and the rest by the others, she, of course, being rated as the overall best. However, in a democracy, minority voices are equally important. The dissent is very categorical, and quite interesting. Therefore, this year’s announcement is suffixed with a question mark in parenthesis.
I came to Mumtaz Ali in a very roundabout way. Before the Internet era I was only aware of his name as the father of Mehmood and Minoo Mumtaz etc. Internet made me aware that he was also into films, with the Bombay Talkies. Then a rare chance occurrence gave me a day out with his grandson, Ajaz Ali a.k.a AJ (son of Minoo Mumtaz), and later with his help, with Minoo Mumtaz. What they told me about his early life was most fascinating, which could be straight out of classic tales: How a young boy in Saudi Arabia, run-away from his oppressive elder sister, hid himself in a ship’s hold, and found himself on the shores of Bombay where he started eking out a living with other street children, when a kind-hearted Englishman, BG Horniman, editor of Bombay Chronicle, took a liking for him and brought him up. Mumtaz Ali was a born dancer. Bombay had a large number of theatre groups where he started dancing. Devika Rani took a liking for him and employed him in the Bombay Talkies, where he danced in many films. His dance in the song Main to Dilli se dulhna laya re ae babuji became a roaring hit. You can see the account of my meeting with AJ and his mother in conversation with Minoo Mumtaz.
Wishing Lata Mangeshkar a very happy 86th birth anniversary (b. 28 September 1929) with her songs for Naushad
A blog would start losing its appeal if it became too predictable. Today is one such day when everyone is going to exclaim, ‘’I knew it!’ However, there is no way I can avoid it. There are many who are as enamoured of Naushad as I am. As for Lata Mangeshkar, I doubt if there is anyone who does not regard her as The Female Playback Singer, as a class by herself, far above her rivals. The Great Mughal of film music and the Empress of playback singing make an unparalleled combination.
I could not have imagined until sometime back that I would be writing two posts back to back on Asha Bhosle. But I have since become conscious of a strong Asha Bhosle Fan Club on SoY. In my last post on her songs with Naushad and C Ramchandra, we saw that even though they might have gone to her reluctantly, they created some of the best songs of her career. That post was devoted to her solos. While looking for their songs I realised that her duets, too, composed by them are no less memorable. We can make a general statement that duets as a class, right since the earliest days from when film songs are available, have held a special charm. Therefore, to have a complete picture of the songs that Naushad and CR composed for Asha Bhosle, I am presenting her duets made by the two reluctant Masters.
Greeting her happy birthday on her 82st birth anniversary (b. 8 September 1933)
Asha Bhosle’s position in the early 1950s was very unenviable. Her elder sister, Lata Mangeshkar, had debuted as a playback singer (Aap Ki Sewa Mein; 1947) only a year before her (Chunariya; 1948), but the former stormed the music scene in 1949 as a Tsunami wave, emerging soon as The Female Playback Singer. While most of the vintage singers disappeared fast, some of the early era stalwarts like Shamshad Begum, Suraiya and Geeta Dutt were holding their own. In this scenario, it was difficult for Asha Bholse to make a space for herself. The two dominant composers of the era, Naushad and C Ramchandra, were even more firmly on Lata Mangeshkar bandwagon. They gave a look-up to Asha Bhosle very sparingly in the early years. My view is that they came to Asha Bhosle in later years, especially in the case of C Ramchandra, reluctantly.
And the award for the Best ‘Other’ Female Singer goes to?
This year, too, I faced the familiar dilemma I faced last year while reviewing the best songs of 1951: whether to make a combined list of the best female solos or split it in two – Lata Mangeshkar and ‘Others’. Male solos which I reviewed in my last post do not pose this difficulty. This was best underscored by Mumbaikar 8’s comment: there is not much to wriggle about in male solos. It is both a question of numbers and diversity. The female solos outnumber male solos by a factor of four to one. Within the female solos Lata Mangeshkar had established her position as the frontrunner by miles. As per Venkataramanji’s statistics she had 20% of female solos, in all, in the year, whereas in my Select List she has 32%. The other dominant singers were Geeta Roy and Shamshad Begum accounting for about 41% of the total songs, but in my list they had 31%. Thus, Lata Mangeshkar not only had a large share in the pie, her share in the memorable songs was even larger. I described this phenomenon as flattening of the pyramid. Many readers gave two separate lists, but tried to give a combined list, too, by including 3 or 4 of Lata Mangeshkar and apportioning the rest among the ‘other’ singers.
Hindi films have a very neat structure. They can be divided into three parts – romance, conflict and resolution. The lovers meet, or childhood friends grow up into lovers and dance around trees and sing romantic songs. Then the villain strikes, who lusts for the girl or her wealth, and kidnaps her; or the girl’s Daddy cannot stand the boy and locks her up; therefore, the lovers sing sad songs. In the end all the misunderstandings are removed, or the villain is beaten to pulp, and the lovers unite singing happy songs again. If eight or nine songs are divided evenly, about two or three should fall under the sad part. Some movies have weepy endings, especially if they happen to star a ‘Tragedy King’ or ‘Tragedy Queen’, which means that there could be proportionately more sad songs.