A tribute to Rafi on his 36th death anniversary (24 December 1924 – 31 July 1980)
Rafi is arguably the best male playback singer of Hindi films, and Shankar-Jaikishan are, by any yardstick, among the greatest music directors. In any case they have been commercially the most successful and dominant figure over two decades (1950s-60s). Therefore, one would expect that any compilation of Rafi’s greatest songs would have a good number of SJ compositions. However, when I think of the best of Rafi, SJ do not pop up in my mind instantly. At the top in my reckoning are Naushad, Roshan, SD Burman and OP Nayyar, followed by a platter of Madan Mohan, Ravi, Chitragupta and Khayyam; thereafter, an assortment of Ghulam Mohammad, Hansraj Bahal, Husnlal-Bhagatram, and even ‘Forgotten Composers’ such as C Arjun, Lachchiram, Iqbal Qureshi etc. Surely, SJ cannot be dismissed in such a peremptory manner. To make sure that I was not missing something, I went through the entire list of Rafi songs closely.
A tribute on Mukesh’s 93rd birth anniversary (22 July 1923 – 27 August 1976)
Mukesh debuted as (actor-)singer in 1941 with Nirdosh, i.e. 8 years before Shankar-Jaikishan’s debut in 1949 with RK Films’ Barsaat. After some initial struggle, Mukesh got a chance to work with the music titan of the era, Anil Biswas, courtesy his relation Motilal’s recommendation. Dil jalta hai to jalne de from Pehli Nazar (1945) created a sensation making Mukesh one of the leading singers of the time. Three big films with the successor stalwart, Naushad, in 1948-49 – Mela, Anokhi Ada and Andaaz – further boosted the popularity of Mukesh. Thus, when he first sang for SJ in their debut film, he had already achieved fame for his sweet, mellifluous voice. But this association proved to be the most important factor in the later career of Mukesh.
And the SoY Award for the Best ‘Other’ Female Playback Singer goes to?
As the readers would recall from the overview post on the best songs of 1949, this was a great year for the ‘other’ singers, and female singers in general. There were about 80 female solos in my select list of 160 (the list mentioned up to #157, but some songs had more than one version), i.e. about 50%. The number of male solos, i.e. 22, was only a quarter of female solos. Further, the female solos presented amazing variety. Lata Mangeshkar’s 35 songs contain the largest number of all-time great songs she sang in any single year. And to think that she was just 20 then, having made a very inconspicuous debut only a couple of years earlier. The remaining 46 songs are shared by the doyennes of yesteryear. The two singers who had maximum number of songs are Shamshad Begum and Suraiya having 16 and 14 respectively. The remaining 16 was accounted for by others (i.e. others within the ‘others’), such as Rajkumari, Amirbai Karnataki, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Geeta Roy, Zeenat Begum, Surinder Kaur etc. Here is a convenient pie chart showing the relative share of different singers in female solos.
Guest article by DP Rangan
(Full Moon evokes poetry, beauty and romance. One would think its converse, Dark Moon, must be very depressing. But think again. That is the time when the stars come out in full glory. As with the moon, stars, too, have evoked wonder, admiration and myths. We see our seven ancient great sages in the stars, known as Saptarshi. When a dear one passes away, we imagine he/she has become one of the stars in the sky. Bollywood has also been inspired to create ‘Taare/Sitaare’ songs in great numbers. A Full Moon Night is followed 15 days later by the Dark Moon, or Amavasya, according to our Almanac. No sooner had we been satiated by the Bollywood’s romance with the Moon, DP Rangan was ready with his ‘stars’ post. On my suggestion he has cut out a great deal of astronomical details. Having read his full article I can say he is not an amateur astronomer. Mr Rangan has diligently covered every year of the 50s with some great selection of songs. ‘Moon’ came on a Full Moon Day. Today is Dark Moon, the best time to enjoy Mr Rangan’s dalliance with ‘taare’ and ‘sitaare’. Thank you Mr Rangan. – AK)
Anyone could jump to a conclusion that this post has something to do with the glittering actors of filmdom, particularly female of the species, popularly known as stars or actress. Such is not my intention. I will commence with my personal experience as a boy.
Songs of Yore Award for the Best Male Playback Singer goes to?
As we have seen in the overview post on the Best songs of 1949, and as I have observed elsewhere a number of times, 1949 was the year of Tsunami wave of Lata Mangeshkar. The yesteryear vintage singers, like Suraiya, Shamshad Begum, Rajkumari and others like Zeenat Begum, Zohrabai Ambalewali, Surinder Kaur etc. were also at their glory. This is reflected in the numbers included in my Select List of about 160 memorable songs in the year which has 22 male solos as against 80 plus female solos. I find from my review of earlier years, too, that female solos generally outnumber male solos by a factor of four or five. If I include the memorable songs added by the readers which I had inadvertently missed, the ratio would still be the same, as female solos added would be far more. Can we conclude from this that this was not the year for male solos (as Subodh had famously said for 1953)?
I don’t remember when I last wrote a letter. I can safely say no one writes letters these days – the one you wrote in long hand to a dear friend or family, on a piece of stationary, neatly folded it, put it in an envelope, glued it, walked over to the nearest red letter-box and pushed it inside its slot. Its arrival at the other end was an equally momentous occasion. Whether at homes, hostels, border posts or village squares, the scene was reminiscent of what happened several millennia ago when Uddhav arrived in Braj, carrying a letter to the lovelorn gopis from Krishna, who had left Braj never to return.
Celebrating with some discovered gems and a tribute to Vidya Nath Seth
I recall that on the fifth anniversary of SoY, Gaddeswarupji commented that many promising blogs start losing steam around the sixth year. The sixth year brought in some major constraints in my personal logistics. I had just taken up a new full-time assignment in a city about 1000 km from my settled home. Daunted by the hassles of packing and moving household effects, and going through the same in reverse after a couple of years, I preferred to live out of a suitcase in a guest house – sans internet. Which meant that when I touched base, about twice a month, I had to pray to God that the internet did not conk off, race like Usain Bolt to catch up with fellow bloggers and write some article banks. The wife dear was not amused to find the absentee husband glued to the computer, and my attempts to humour her with romantic dialogues of eternal love one has learnt from Yash Chopra films only infuriated her more.
My post on Shankar-Jaikishan’s dance songs for Lata Mangeshkar generated a great deal of enthusiasm. I think the readers were with me that these songs are of exceptional quality and their orchestration and picturisation are very unique to SJ. KS Bhatiaji who has a great liking for SJ, matching mine for Naushad, suggested that their female duets and the standard male-female duets, too, have outstanding dances, and asked whether I had any plans of writing on them. On female dance duets, I am entirely with him, because a large number of songs pop up in my mind, which are absolutely melodious, and their dance rhythm is equally pleasing. The songs I refer to are not the ones in which you have to storm up the floor, but your heart and the whole being sways to joy in bliss – the feeling of Jhoome jhoome dil mera.
Guest article by DP Rangan
(After riding the high horse, Mr Rangan now explores the romance of moon. I have earlier mentioned he is always bubbling with energy. A seventy-plus going on seventeen, he is a great romantic – don’t be misled by his astronomical wanderings. This piece is another evidence of his zest for life. Coincidentally, today is Full Moon day – the best time to enjoy this post written by a person young at heart. Thank you Mr Rangan. – AK)
What is a moon one may wonder. Wikipedia will probably define it as a heavenly object going round a planet. It evolved either as a part of the original planetary system or a captured asteroid. Hubble telescope has identified numerous planets around stars in our galaxy. Probably many of these exoplanets may have their own moons. But, the present day technology is not adequate to confirm them. We are concerned more with our solar system where there are many more mysteries to be unraveled. The four gaseous giants – Jupiter (67), Saturn (62), Uranus (27) and Neptune (14) together have approximately 170 moons orbiting them. More moons could be discovered in future. Even the tiny Pluto, recently dethroned from the family of planets and downgraded, has 4 moons.
Anil Biswas, Naushad, C Ramchandra. Shankar-Jaikishan, SD Burman, OP Nayyar – the doyens of the Golden Era of film music. We know all about their music. We know all about them: their oppressive family, their supportive family; their happy marriage, their troubled marriage, their extra-marital affairs, their heartbreaks; their animosities, their break-ups and patch-ups; the games they played (also of the football, tennis and badminton kind). And there are others who are known only for their immortal songs. Who has not heard of Ta thaiya karte ana – one of the best female duets ever – or the quintessential Mukesh song Mujhe raat din ye khayal hai, or Rafi’s evergreen Subaha na ayi sham na ayi and Wo hum na the wo tum na the wo rahguzar thi pyar ki or Rafi’s duets like Phir aane laga yaad wohi pyar ka aalam and Ek chameli ke madwe tale. Most of the SoY-ers would know that these are composed by Iqbal Qureshi. But how many of us know about him, or how did he look like or where he came from or what happened to him? I don’t, unless I look up some source.