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.
A tribute to Manna Dey (1 May 1919 – 24 October 2013) on his 97th birth anniversary
Mumbaikar8 has rightly pointed out that Manna Dey has not yet got the importance on SoY he deserves. That in a way is also a reflection of his career. Recognised as an unparalleled singer of classical songs, he sang songs ranging from classical to romantic to comic, from devotional to patriotic to qawwalis which became synonymous with his voice. Yet his voice could not be identified with any top hero on a sustained basis, unlike Mukesh for Raj Kapoor, Rafi/Talat Mahmood for Dilip Kumar or Kishore Kumar for Dev Anand. Along the way, Rafi, with his range and fluidity, became the voice for almost every major hero, which mantle was taken by Kishore Kumar post-70s. In this marketplace, Manna Dey somehow became typecast as a niche singer. Yet, in this not a very happy scenario for him, if Manna Dey was especially beholden to any music director for doing the most for his career, it was Shankar-Jaikishan.
A tribute to Kanan Devi (22 April 1916 to 17 July 1992) on her birth centenary
The most important female pillar of the New Theatres, an enormously popular actor-singer of Bengali and Hindi films at the dawn of the film industry, having received the best actress awards a number of times, Padmashree, Gold Disc from the Gramophone Company of India, and finally Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 1977 – Kanan Devi couldn’t have asked for more. Yet her life was one of pain and inner-conflict about her legitimacy and acceptance in the ‘respectable’ Bengali society. Those were the days when cultured ladies from ‘good’ families did not join the film profession. She herself was from the fringes of society. But a time came when at an award function the Governor stood up to greet her. She was now a respected cultural icon of Bengal. Her greatest achievement was earning respectability for women in the film industry.
A tribute to Shamshad Begum (14 April 1919 – 23 April 2013) on her 97th birth anniversary
When I did two back-to-back posts on Shamshad Begum’s songs by Naushad and C Ramchandra last year there was inevitably a reference to OP Nayyar as he is the third member of the trinity which made the greatest contribution to her. In fact the discussion on C Ramchandra-Shamshad Begum post was wholly dominated by OP Nayyar. The three-way conversation between Ravindra Kelkar, Hans and Arunji was very enlightening on statistics, some popular anecdotes about them and analysis and inferences. While there was general agreement with my observation that Naushad gave the best songs for her, our OPN-expert Ravindra Kelkar felt that OPN’s best ten would be as good if not better than Naushad’s or CR’s. With so much of OPN readily available with me courtesy these three readers, I felt it necessary to write a post on his best songs for Shamshad Begum to complete the picture. As for the comparison, it goes without saying that it is impossible to rank between three sets of outstanding songs. It is largely a matter of personal preference. But suffice it to say that OPN gave some immortal songs for Shamshad Begum. OPN also has the credit for composing her last memorable song Kajra mohbbatwala, a duet with Asha Bhosle from Kismat (1968) – a song which spawned numerous remix versions, bringing Shamshad Begum again in focus among the music lovers.
In our journey in the Time Machine to yearwise review of the best songs of a year, we now enter what is the single most important year in the history of film music. The evolution of Hindi film music can be seen as gradual changes, shaken with major tectonic shifts once in a while. One such tremor happened in 1969 with Aradhana which marked the resurgence of a new Kishore Kumar who became the voice of every hero. It also led to a new kind of sound and musical style which would herald the decline of erstwhile doyens like Naushad, C Ramchandra, OP Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan, leaving only SD Burman with his fresh sound unscathed, and emergence of RD Burman as the industry standard. Compared to this, 1949 was a Tsunami. Lata Mangeshkar who had an inconspicuous debut a couple of years earlier, and was gradually being noticed in 1948, burst forth on the scene in 1949 as the would-be defining voice of female playback singing, and marking the beginning of the end of the old courtesan/ theatrical style singing of the vintage singers. Shankar-Jaikishan with their very first film Barsaat shook the music scene with a different kind of orchestration and musical style which was easy on ears. At a very young age they would break into the rarefied world of top music directors and would stay there for two decades.