Guest article by N Venkataraman
(In my introduction to Venkataramanji’s last article, I had traced how he had originally planned to write three articles on Tamil-Hindi version songs, which he later decided to expand to five. This is his fourth, which looks at similar songs from Tamil films remade from Hindi films. Its converse, i.e. remakes from Tamil to Hindi, would be his last, but surely not the last of the mega series on Multiple Version Songs. For new visitors to Songs of Yore, this mega project is the brainchild of an SoY regular, Mr Ashok M Vaishnav. Without repeating what I have said earlier, the best way to understand how it came about is to browse through old articles in the series, which are all placed here. – AK)
Winter has heralded its arrival and I am out of my ‘monsoon hibernation’. Hibernation is only a state of mind and it takes very little time and, of course, effort to wake up. Incessant monsoon rains can make one sleepy and at time depressed. Autumn followed by winter brings in clear sky and hope. With gentle breeze blowing and clear blue sky, it is time to set the sail once again.
Wishing her a very happy 77th birth anniversary
A female playback singer in the 1950s and 60s, if she did not bear the name Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhosle, was in a very unenviable position. She knew she had to remain consigned to the outer orbit. The world of male playback singers was a complete contrast. Here also someone sang a few hundred songs and another person ten times more, but everyone had his passionate following; the respect a singer enjoyed was not exactly correlated to the number of songs he did; and you don’t hear stories of someone doing the rehearsal and discovering that final recording was done in another voice.
You need not rub your eyes; this post is indeed about KC Dey’s songs in Devdas (1935). I know that this movie is synonymous with KL Saigal and his eternal songs – Balam aye baso more man mein, Dukh ke ab din beetat naahi and his rendering of Abdul Karim Khan’s thumri, Piya bin nahi aawat chain. Even though Saratchandra’s novel came about two decades earlier, it was Saigal who made the eponymous character a metaphor for a doomed lover who could not stand up to his parents’ notion of loss of honour in marrying into a family of lower status. Paro gets into a loveless marriage with a much older widower, who has children her age from his previous marriage, and Devdas hurtles on the path of self-destruction – even the selfless love of the dancing girl, Chandramukhi, not being able to rescue him.
In the radio era, when the faintest strains of Sun mere bandhu re or O re majhi mere sajan hain us paar fell into my ears from a distant radio, I would be inexorably drawn towards it, as if pulled by a magnet. SD Burman’s either of these two songs would tower over twenty other songs in a one hour programme. These songs were enough to give him an immortal place in film music; but he sang about a dozen more, such as Wahan kaun hai tera, Safal hogi teri aradhana, Doli mein bithai ke kahar etc. Harvey has written an excellent post on his film songs.
Mera sab kuchh mere geet re sang Manna Dey for SD Burman in Zindagi Zindagi. In a sad coincidence, in the midst of my SD Burman series, Manna Dey passed away exactly a week ago at the age of 94 (b. 1 May 1919, d. 24 Oct 2013). Today happens to be SD Burman’s death anniversary (b. 1 Oct 1906, d. 31 Oct 1975). It is deeply mysterious how people, who are connected in various ways, also get connected in their birth or death anniversaries. Both from Bengal, they were both trained by Manna Dey’s uncle, the legendary singer-actor-composer, KC Dey, which led to their close friendship even though SD Burman was 13 years senior to Manna Dey in age. Both shared the Bengali’s characteristic passion for football.
Multiple Version Songs (14)
With this post my SD Burman journey is intersecting Ashok Vaishnavji’s mega-project on multiple version songs. My journey has taken many interesting turns. I started with the idea of doing a post on my top ten favourite songs of SD Burman, which would have included his film as well non-film Hindi and Bengali songs. Then I came across Harvey’s post, Sun mere bandhu re, on his film songs. I then decided to cover only his non-film songs, which would have included both Hindi and Bengali songs. In course of searching his songs, I found there were so many of them in each category, and many of them absolutely outstanding, that I decided to cover his non-film Hindi and Bengalis songs in separate posts. I have already done his non-film Hindi songs, which was very well received. The readers also mentioned many of his Bengali songs, which were adapted by SD Burman as Hindi film songs in the voices of Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt. These songs are among all time great compositions of SD Burman, without most of us being aware that these are adapted from original Bengali songs sung by SD Burman.
It is widely reported that SD Burman had a special fondness for Kishore Kumar. In my earlier posts some statistics has also been discussed regarding SD Burman’s number of songs with different singers. Kishore Kumar has more than any other male singer – beating his nearest rival Rafi by 53 solos to 46 (114 to 94 taking solos and duets together), and others by a wide margin. Hans has given excellent analysis by breaking these numbers into three phases – the initial phase of 1946-56, the middle period of 1957-65 and the last phase of 1966-75. So to the extent these numbers convey a message, Kishore Kumar, besides being a lovable lad, was also SD Burman’s most preferred singer.
Songs of Yore Award for the best duet goes to?
After the survey post on the best songs of 1953, I have already done Wrap Up 1 on the best male solos and Wrap Up 2 on the best female solos. Continuing the series I present the third Wrap Up on the best duets.
While surveying the music of 1953, Subodh made a somewhat radical statement that it was not a great year for male solos. Some other readers also too seemed to echo that sentiment. The absence of any great Rafi solo did make the year less diverse, and it ultimately became a one-horse (Talat Mahmood) race. Subodh was equally dismissive of female solos ‘Female solos too don’t do much either’. If a year had Ye zindagi usi ki hai, Ye sham ki tanhaiyan, Raja ki ayegi baraat, Aa ja ri aa nindiya tu aa, Hamare baad ab mahfil mein afsane bayan honge of Lata Mangeshkar, and great songs by Rajkumari, Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt and Jagjit Kaur which we discussed, I would say it was as great a year as any. Nevertheless, it was a given that in the most of 1950s and 60s it was going to be a one-horse race (Lata Mangeshkar), which meant that one had to make special efforts to include ‘other’ female singers in the final list of ten.
Wishing Lata Mangeshkar Happy 84th Birthday
The most discussed aspect about SD Burman-Lata Mangeshkar combination is their break up for about five years, 1958-62, rather than their music. In that, he is among a long line of film and music personalities with whom she had one of her famous run-ins. But there is a vital difference. From all accounts, this one did not have the acrimony common to her other fall-outs. And when they finally came together, my understanding is – again from accounts available in public domain – that it was with mutual respect. In the hiatus of five years SD Burman was none the worse as he continued to give some of the greatest music of his career, now with Geeta Dutt and Asha Bhosle, but he realized he had something beyond, where only Lata Mangeshkar could reach. She also felt that there was something unique in Dada’s music, without which she would remain incomplete. Thus their second innings led to another set of great melodies in Bandini, Guide, Tere Mere Sapne, Prem Pujari, Talash, Anurag, Abhiman etc which continued till the very end of his career. For those interested, here is one account of their split and patch-up. (Note: While most accounts mention Bandini (1963) as their patch-up film, she has a couple of songs in Dr Vidya (1962). Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh has informed me that their first song after patch up was ‘Pawan diwani’ from Dr Vidya.)
Songs of Yore award for the Best Female Playback Singer goes to Lata, Lata,.…..Lata Mangeshkar
Continuing the string of posts on the best songs of 1953, and Wrap Up 1 on the best male playback singer, I present here the second wrap up on the best female playback singer, based on the readers’ comments and my own preferences.
Who is the best female playback singer of 1953, is really a no-brainer. You can give slot 1 to 10 to Lata Mangeshkar, and there would be another ten outstanding songs, anyone of which could have made it to the list. So, writing the second wrap up on female playback songs boils down to looking carefully at the songs by ‘other’ singers to see how many can be included in the final list of ten, leaving the rest for ‘The Female Playback Singer’ of the Golden Era.