Wishing the readers a very happy Valentine’s Day with guest article by Shalan Lal
(Today on Valentine’s Day, love is in the air everywhere. Love of mushy messages; of roses and chocolates; of romance and togetherness. ‘Genre’-theorists hold that the concept of genre is not relevant for Indian films, as all our films are essentially musical romances. Thus, right from the beginning of the talkies we had love songs aplenty in our films. On Songs of Yore, I have explored some variants of love: New Theatres’ Prem’ which was deeply spiritual; the intelligent woman’s romance for the dunce etc. Its converse is the attraction women have for the ‘zulmi’ or ‘bedardi’.
The ‘bedardi balma’s in our songs are naughty and playful, but not mean or vicious. However, taking off from Subodh’s query as to why the women in our films find men with such negative qualities attractive, Shalan Lal explores the darker side of love based on domination by men over women in literature, arts and films. Her thesis may jolt you and you may find the narration discordant to the occasion, but her selection of songs is quite benign depicting love with many shades. Her research is as usual very exhaustive. I wish the readers a very happy Valentine’s Day with this befitting piece by Shalan Lal. Thank you Shalan. – AK)
The Hindi word “Pyaar” evolved out of the Sanskrit word “Prem”, so says the “Hindi Shabd Saagar”, the mammoth Hindi word dictionary in many volumes, published by the Nagari Prachaarini Sabha of Varanasi in 1933. It has had many reprints, and revised editions. AK has written a wonderful post on “Prem” and called it New Theatres’ romance with Prem. And he has interpreted the songs of love by the New Theatres’ composers, lyricists, singers and actors who presented them as he said, “The New Theatres took love to entirely unexpected heights. It was not merely a matter of semantics that pyar, mohabbat, ishq, for them was Prem or Preet. It also denoted for them something deeply spiritual, other-worldly and supremely blissful.”
(Someone suggested a post on flower songs, Hans offered to compile a list of such songs, and our man of many flowers, the evergreen and eternal romantic, DP Rangan, offered to write a post. And here we are.
Flowers are a common motif across cultures with a variety of associations – from offering in pujas, to greetings for all occasions, to decorations, to expression of love, to varmala, to funeral wreath etc. The wilted flower can also denote sadness of a lady whose lover is away. Bollywood found another use during its prudish phase when two flowers touching each other due to breeze signified intimacy between the leading couple hiding behind the bushes. Mr Rangan explores through film songs several of these emotions and moods. His write-up shows his usual in-depth research of the subject. As we welcome the onset of spring with blooming of myriad flowers, let us enjoy another fine post by Mr Rangan with thanks to him. – AK)
The mere sight of flowers lining the roads and pathways sends us into a tailspin of unbounded joy and uplifts us into a higher plane of existence. When we see them spread all over the meadow or covering bushes and trees in full bloom with resplendent hues and colours, our spirit is uplifted and romantic illusions start building up. Flowers in splendid array affect human beings in a myriad ways and we all succumb to its magic of seduction to forget our day to day worries and travails and be a part of the magic world they entice us to.
A tribute to OP Nayyar on his 10th death anniversary (16 January 1926 – 28 January 2007) by guest author Ravindra Kelkar
(After I had written on OP Nayyar’s best songs for Mahendra Kapoor, Rafi, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle, I had no intention of writing any more on him. But the readers’ clamour for ‘Ye dil maange more’ put mein a spot. I didn’t want to disappoint them; yet, I felt inhibited because I do not relate to OPN’s music as passionately as many do. While I was in this state of dilemma, a most pleasant surprise came in my mail when, out of the blue, Ravindra Kelkar offered to write a series of articles on OPN.
Mr Kelkar has Master’s degrees in Statistics and Computer Science and is an IT professional in a Swedish multinational, based in Pune. He is passionately fond of film and classical music. He has known OPN closely and has met him a number of times. On SoY, we have already known him as an OPN-expert from his comments. He starts off the series on OPN with a broad overview of different phases of his career. We could not have asked for a better tribute to the genius composer on the occasion of his tenth death anniversary. Huge thanks to Mr Kelkar on my behalf and on behalf of all the readers. – AK)
The name OP Nayyar evokes mixed reactions from people. He had such a controversial career that many people react to his music with a coloured view, mixing his personal life with the musical life. The best way to enjoy OP’s music is to keep his personal quirks out of mind and listen to his music without thinking about OP the person. Then, one is likely to discover a treasure of wonderful melodies. Many of his songs have the quality to take you into a different world, which is full of life, zest, gaiety, energy and happiness. This post attempts to take a critical look at OP’s musical career, which can be divided very neatly into three time periods. You can discern three different musical styles of OP.
It was 19th May 1951, OP Nayyar was getting married to his lady love Saroj Arora. At about 4 pm on the same day, OP received a telegram, it stated, “You are signed as a music composer, please come immediately”. It was signed by Dalsukh Pancholi, a very well-known film producer. This is the story of OP’s first film, Aasman. This was followed by two more films, Baaz and Chham Chhama Chham . All the three films bombed at the box office. This marked the end of the first phase, in which he composed 27 songs. If one listens to the songs of these films, the influence of New Theaters is quite evident.
Due to the failure of these three films, OP had almost made up his mind to quit Bombay, when a prominent distributer, KK Kapoor, intervened. It resulted into OP getting Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar. Guru Dutt dumped at OP’s hotel room lots of western music records including Bing Crosby and asked him to listen to them and create music like that. The result was the music of Aar Paar, which was a major ingredient in the success of the film along with Guru Dutt’s slick direction. The success of Aar Paar helped OP to create his own distinct identity. Thus began the second and a highly successful phase of OP’s music career. It lasted till Do Ustaad released in 1959. During this phase he composed music for many commercially successful films like Mr. & Mrs. 55, CID, Choomantar, Hum Sub Chor Hain, Naya Daur, Tumsa Nahin Dekha, Howra Bridge, Phagun, etc. In all these films OP’s music was a major contributor. In the highly popular, weekly Binaca Geetmaala programme broadcast on Radio Cyelon, at the height of OP’s popularity, it is claimed that, sometimes, out of 16 songs played, 14 were OP songs. During this period, OP composed music for 38 films, comprising 307 songs. His orchestration during this phase was based upon combination of clarinet/flute/violins, mandolin, electric guitar, double base, cello, harmonium, sarangi, and various rhythm instruments like dholak, castanet, bongo, Chinese box etc. The typical OP song would have breezy intro music and then mukhada in western beats. Tthe interlude music would mostly be based upon combination of clarinet/flute/violins and mandolin. The antara would have dholak beats, again shifting back to western beats on returning to mukhada. Also, another feature was having three stanzas, squeezed in the 78 RPM record of three minutes. The tune would also be easy to hum. This formula generally resulted into the songs enjoying instantaneous popularity amongst the public. Geeta Dutt, Shamshad Begum, Asha Bhosle and Rafi were the main singers.
After Do Ustad, OP was without work for more than a year. So, OP was forced to have a rethink about his old style of composing music, which had outlived its time span. So when OP was signed for Ek Musafir Ek Hasina by Shashadhar Mukherji, he came up with totally revamped musical style. His music now had a more melodious content; OP also put in more focus on the quality of lyrics. He metamorphosed his orchestration style by making profound use of sitar, sarod and taar shehnai along with sarangi to enhance the sweetness of melody. The western style based rhythm would have guitar chords and/ or drum beats and Spanish brush. Of course, dholak remained but tabla also came to be more frequently used. Since, Asha Bhosle had also matured as a singer by this time, he could experiment without being shackled by the ability of the singer. This resulted into top quality, memorable music compositions, which sounded very different from his earlier music. Also, many of the films enjoyed commercial success, resulting into revival of his career. This phase of OP lasted till his parting of the ways with Asha Bhosle after Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye in 1972. During this period, he composed music for 25 films, comprising 186 songs. In this phase, the female songs went exclusively to Asha Bhosle. Rafi always remained OP’s main male singer in the 2nd and 3rd phase, though due to differences with Rafi, Mahedra Kapoor got quite a few songs. After his break-up with Asha Bhosle, OP composed music for 12 films (80 songs) spanned over a period of 20 years, but I don’t think he changed his style as such. Thus in totality, he composed 600 songs for films, this includes 10 songs for a Telagu film Neerajanam and 29 songs from unreleased films.
OP was a born composer, he never worked as an assistant to any MD. This is quite remarkable, since he had no formal training in Indian Classical Music. The genius of OP lies in that he successfully could transform his music style twice, without diluting the quality. His music throughout remained breezy, peppy, lively and joyous. Let us listen to some of his iconic songs from these three eras. I have excluded all the songs posted by AK in his earlier blogs on OP.
During his adolescence days, OP’s musical character was highly influenced by music from New Theatres and Ghulam Haider. He had the highest regard for singing abilities of KL Saigal and Kannan Devi. In this song, the influence of New Theatres music style as well as his love for KL Saigal is evident. CH Atma has sung this song in KL Saigal style very effectively. This song is the first song recorded by OP in his film music career. Aasman was the only film which DS Pancholi himself directed. Nasir Khan (DIlip Kumar’s brother) and Shyama were the main cast of the film. The film is not available in DVD.
Geeta Dutt recommended OP to Guru Dutt for this film. Her love affair with Guru Dutt was in full swing, so Guru Dutt could not refuse her request. This was the first film Guru Dutt produced and is available on DVD. It’s a film depicting overthrowing of a kingdom which is proxy-ruled by Portuguese. Guru Dutt plays the kind hearted prince and Geeta Bali plays the role of the leader of the revolution. This song is enacted by Kuldeep Kaur who plays the role of a vamp, travelling on a ship, trying to enamour Guru Dutt. This song has a tranquil quality, and the soft orchestration very effectively reflects the serene atmosphere of ship movement in calm water on a starry night. The peaceful mood is very effectively captured by the song. Geeta Roy’s voice is sweet, fresh and melodious.
3. Dekho jadu bhare more nain – Aasman (1952) – Geeta Roy – (Prem Dhawan)
The words are a bit unusual, in the sense that the heroine herself is praising the quality of her eyes! Generally the hero showers such accolades on the heroine or vice versa. The mukhda is based upon Gaud Sarang, though it gets developed into Bihag, Tilang etc. One can safely bet that it happened on its own in a natural way, since OP had no knowledge of the classical ragaas. The intro piece is excellent and the overall impact of the song is to make you happy and joyful. Aasmaan was OP’s first film. DS Pancholi asked him, which female singer do you want, Lata or Geeta? OP replied, whichever that you select. It so happened that DS Pancholi called up Geeta. It was sheer providence that he didn’t go for Lata, otherwise OP’s career could have taken a different direction altogether. This was the only realistic occasion where Lata could have sung for OP.
4. Man more ga jhoom ke – Mangu (1954) – Asha Bhosle – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
This was a Sheikh Mukhtar film. OP held that three producers helped him shaping his musical career, one of them was Sheikh Mukhtar, the other two being Guru Dutt and Shashdhar Mukherjee. This is a typical OP-style song, in western mood, with subtle changes in the rhythm pattern. Notice how the rhythm smoothly changes from bongo to dholak. Excellent throw of words in OP mould. Accordion, played by Goodi Sirwai, sets the mood of the song; interlude of the flute brings the antara back to the mukhda. This film is not available on DVD either, so not much is known except that Sheikh Mukhtar was the hero and Nigar Sultana, the heroine. For this film, one song sung by Suman Kalyanpur (her first independent song) was composed by MD Mohammad Shafi, after which OP replaced him, presumably due to the success of Aar Paar.
5. Ye lo main haari piya – Aar Paar (1954) – Geeta Dutt – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
The success of this film was the launching pad for the successful careers of both Guru Dutt and OP. OP always admired the ingenuity of Guru Dutt in creating interesting situations for the placement of the song and the way he picturized the songs. Shyama (the heroine) accuses Guru Dutt of being an ex-convict. Guru Dutt takes her to the jailer, who explains why he was jailed, presumably for fast driving. Thus convinced of Guru Dutt’s innocence, Shyama pleads forgiveness through this song. Shyama looks beautiful and has given full justice to the song. Though she is the pleader, still she retains her spunk and almost demands forgiveness. No grovelling here. OP held this as the best song of Geeta Dutt sung under his composing baton.
6. Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan – CID (1956) -Rafi & Geeta Dutt – (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
CID was the biggest hit for Guru Dutt Productions. The major success factors were wonderful music, Dev Anand, good plot and excellent direction by Raj Khosla. Guru Dutt had promised new cars for Raj Khosla, Waheeda Rehman and OP if the film became a hit. As per promise, Guru Dutt presented new cars to Waheeda and Raj Khosla, but not to OP (he already had a car). As usual, OP took it as an insult and stopped working for Guru Dutt. How OP agreed to work for Bahaarein Phir Bhi Aayengi is another story. Johnny Walker owes a lot to the popularity of his songs composed by OP. The first was Aare na na na na na na tauba tauba from Aar Paar, the second was Jaane kahan mera jigar gaya ji and then this song. The success of these songs made Johnny Walker’s songs an instant draw, and in almost all his films afterwards had at least one song picturized on him. This song was Binaca Geetmala topper in 1956.
7. Yeh kya kar dala tune–Howra Bridge (1958) -Asha Bhosle – (Hasrat Jaipuri)
This is an iconic song of OP, capturing the essence of OP’s musical style prevalent in this phase. A breezy intro music set in western beats, sets up the mood of the song beautifully. Typically, you have dholak for antara. Fine singing by Asha Bhosle, with Madhubala looking ravishingly alluring. Madhubala was a great friend of OP, she used to offer discount in her fees, if the music was to be scored by OP. OP composed music for six of her films, which is the most by a music director. The best part of the song is the unexpected sarangi piece. Sarangi is being accompanied by cello. Sarangi is tuned in high pitch while cello is tuned to low pitch. The effect is magical. OP had a great affinity with sarangi and was mainly influential in making it popular as a romantic instrument. A foot tapping number for sure.
This remains the biggest hit of BR Chopra films. OP got the only Filmfare award of his career for this film. The musical success of this film resulted in the formation of OP-Asha musical partnership to the exclusion of Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum from OP’s music. The lyrics were by Sahir Ludhiyanavi and the producer was BR Chopra. Both were from Punjab, as was OP. So it was a team from Punjab. OP was a big fan of Gulam Haider who introduced Punjabi folk music in Hindi films in the film Khajanchi in 1941. OP himself was born and brought up in Punjab, and so had Punjab folk music in his blood. This song represents the true Punjabi folk music, moulded in the romantic style of OP. The honour of reviving the Punjab folk in Hindi film music, thus, goes to OP after a gap of 16 years. The picturisation is very good, with magical dancing by Vaijayantimala. The song remains hugely popular till date.
9. Main kho gaya yahin kahin –12 O’Clock (1958) – Rafi (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
Though this film was directed by Pramod Chakraborty, song picturization remained in Gur Dutt’s domain. It’s a delight to view this song. Waheeda Rahman is Guru Dutt’s secretary and both of them are tenants, living in the same building. Guru Dutt sings this song while both are going through the morning chores, getting ready to go to the office. Such a simple song, with Rafi in his elements and all the OP masala in full measure. This truly makes one feel that all is well and God is in his heaven.
10. Jawaniyan ye mast mast mast bin piye–Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) – Rafi (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
This was Nasir Husain’s maiden venture as a director. The film was made under the banner of Filmistan. Nasir Husain was dealt with a short hand with Shammi Kapoor and Amita as the leading pair. Shammi Kapoor was almost at his wits end after struggling for four years, Amita was also a non-entity. The only ace he was dealt with was that the music director was OP Nayyar. But S Mukherjee, the doyen of Filmistan, knew what he was doing. He was sharp enough to know the story-telling talent Nasir Husain had. He had also seen OP’s music play a crucial role in turning many small budget films into a commercial success, for example, Choomantar, Musafirkhana, Shrimati 420, Hum Sub Chor Hain, etc. The result was that this movie became a huge musical hit, mainly due to OP’s music and Nasir Husain’s excellent direction. However, the biggest surprise was the acceptance of Shammi Kapoor by the public as a new heartthrob. Shammi Kapoor and Nasir Husain were close buddies, and Nasir had a heart to heart talk with Shammi Kapoor about how to make over his image. He made Shammi Kapoor shave off his silly short mustache, cut his hair short, wear trendy clothes and express himself like walking jauntily, spreading hands and have an impish smile on his face. The impact of this was instant. OP’s foot tapping music made Shammi Kapoor shed his inhibitions, it was as if his inherent dancing talent which was shackled inside by his self-imposed restriction came out like a flood. During the premiere of this movie, Shammi Kapoor and Nasir Husain were very nervous, biting their nails. When this song started on the screen, there was an instant public acclaim as soon as Shammi Kapoor’s image came on the screen. Shammi Kapoor was well on his way to become a dancing idol of the young generation and Nasir Husain’s career was launched. There was an additional stanza to this song (which was presumably cut from the film), the words were ‘ Idhar Se Jo Gayi Gujar, Usi Pe Hum Machal Gaye, Jo Kuchh No Ho Saka To Phir, Karib Se Nikal Gaye’. What romantic sentiments!!! if nothing happens, at least she walked past me…that’s good enough for me.
11. Bahut shukriyaa badi meharbani– Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (SH Bihari)
After the success of Tumsa Nahin Dekha, a rift developed between OP Nayyar and Shashdhar Mukherjee, mainly due to OP insisting that his music was the main ingredient in the success of the film. S Mukherjee went for Usha Khanna in his next two films. Due to the intervention of Asha Bhosle, the rift was healed and OP got this movie. This was OP’s comeback film and was a tremendous success at the box office. OP based this tune on Tere pyar ka asara chahata hoon from the film Dhool Ka Phool. The treatment OP gave to this song makes it very hard to recognize this. Harmonium in this song is played by Babu Singh, OP’s favorite harmonium player. The antara is fabulous and influenced by Punjabi Gayaki. The words of SH Bihari are also noteworthy.
12. Aaj koi pyar se – Sawan Ki Ghata (1966) – Asha Bhosle (SH Bihari)
The intro piece is out of this world. It’s as if there is a sawal jawab between santoor and violins. The mukhda starts after a thaap on dholak in a true OP fashion. The tune is based on raag Pahadi and the taal is Deepchandi. This song is a prime example of how Asha Bhosle’s singing had matured under OP’s tutelage by this stage. The sensuousness, the khanak and the blithe spirit in Asha Bhosle’s voice needs to be imbibed and admired to enjoy this song. Mumtaz was a side heroine in this movie and has enacted this song wonderfully. She bursts into this song when Manoj Kumar (the hero) praises her qualities. As can be guessed, Mumtaz wrongly interprets this as love. In the orchestration you can notice all the Indian instruments like santoor, sitar, flute, taar-shehnai, along with dholak and tabla.
13. Dil to pahle hi se – Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (Shewan Rizvi)
Guru Dutt came back to OP for this, after SD Burman got sick, with OP managing to overcome his silly grievance. Guru Dutt had okayed all the 6 songs before his sad demise. The song starts with typical sitar piece, OP’s signature tune. The tune is based in Gaara/Jayjawanti that. “Kabhi Khud Pe” from Hum Dono and “Aise to na dekho” from Teen Deviyan also have the same tune. But see the treatment OP has given to this song. It has western beats, there is sitar, there is sarangi, there is flute, still rhythm beats catch your attention. Rafi and Asha Bhosle are having their duel about who will steal the show. It has typical OP-style throw of words, it’s a Hindi/Urdu song, based upon classical raga, with a touch of Thumri. All this is blended immaculately by OP. Nowadays this is called as ‘Fusion’, which OP perfected long back.
Feroze Khan was the hero and Mumtaaz was the heroine. A typical spy thriller. This song was a major draw of the film. All the six songs were excellent and fairly popular. OP in this song has used Persian instruments. When OP played this tune to S Mukherjee, he chided OP for wasting this song on this B-grade thriller. OP replied in his usual blunt manner, “the Producer has paid me my fee, so I must give him the best that I have to offer”.
15. Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra – Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) – Rafi (SH Bihari)
This was the last film OP made with Shammi Kapoor. It’s claimed that An Evening Paris was to go to OP, but something happened due to which SJ came in. In the instance of this song, it was Shammi Kapoor’s suggestion to repeat the words Tarif karun kya us ki a number of times as ending of the song. He had an idea in mind about how to enact it. Though OP was skeptical about it, when he saw the final result, he hugged Shammi Kapoor in admiration. The friendship of OP and Shammi Nayyar went long back, in fact from OP’s first film Aasmaan. Shammi Kapoor has gone on record that, he was to play the hero in this film, originally, before being replaced by Nasir Khan. This song is representative of OP’s title of ‘Rhythm King’. The short intro music of electric guitar is truly electric, in the second antara, you have a melodious piece of santoor as well as apt accompaniment of soft sarangi. This is a highly popular song with today’s generation also.
16. Humdum mere khel na jano – Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963) – Rafi & Asha Bhosle (Majrooh Sultanpuri)
This is a typical Nasir Husain film. This was his first independent film under his own banner. OP’s music was again the major plus point and the film was a great commercial success. This is a terrific song, starts with a sher and then antara, before coming to the mukhda. The changes in rhythm from western beats to Punjab style dholak, mouth organ, claps, it’s full of OP’s standard tricks to make his song popular. This turned out to be the last film by OP for Nasir Husain, since Teesari Manzil which was supposed to go to OP finally went to RD Burman.
17. Chain se humko kabhi – Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye (1973) – Asha Bhosle ((SH Bihari)
This is an iconic song as it marks the end of OP-Asha Bhosle collaboration, resulting in the end of OP’s film career for all practical purpose. It’s a ‘soul-toucher’ by which one eternally remembers the tuneful togetherness of OP and Asha Bhosle. It’s just uncanny, how the words so aptly represent the break up. This song remains ultra-special for all OP-Asha Bhosle fans, as it epitomizes the pain of OP and Asha Bhosle finally parting musically. Both Asha Bhosle and OP have given everything they could to make this song so memorable, knowing possibly that this could be their swan-song. The tune is so simple, soulful and heart-rending. The slow rhythm is perfect, made up of just piano notes and church bell. The orchestration is minimal, with beautiful flute interludes. The song has silence as well as speechlessness underlined by silence between two notes. This song is actually tailor made for Lata Mangeshkar, but the way Asha Bhosle has delivered this song there is hardly any shortcoming in her rendering. This song is the final proof of the progress Asha Bhosle made as a singer under OP’s careful grooming. The great Anil Biswas considered this as OP’s best song. We started with Aasmaan song and end with this song, both of them cast in New Theatre’s style. OP had travelled full circle after going through Punjabi / western stops!! (Note: The YT link below explains that since the original video was unavailable, scenes of ‘Ye Raaste Hain Pyar Ke’ have been mixed. – AK)
(Subodh makes an appearance as a guest author after about two years, of which I am responsible for a few months in scheduling his article. He makes up for it by presenting a selection of film songs and classical pieces which best represent Bihag and its variants. As he explains, Bihag is the raga of love in its myriad forms: Happy, sad, expectant, despondent etc. His writing is as usual sure, fluent and crisp, and demystifies the raga for the lay listeners. Thank you, Subodh for another excellent article in your series, hoping, as you are assuring us, that we would now be getting offerings from you regularly. – AK)
Let me begin with a few words of apology and explanation. The last article in this series appeared about two years back. Readers of SoY and AK have often egged me to get back into action, but I have not been able to respond. Most of last year was lost to my habitual laziness. I thought of starting again with the New Year but then a series of problems with my internet connection alternating with problems with my own health took care of most of this year. Fortunately, I have recovered fully now and the internet also seems to be in a good mood for the past couple of weeks, so here is my much belated post in this series.
Dilip Dholakia? D. Dilip? Dilip Rai? – A Singer or A Music Director or A Music Arranger?
A tribute to Dilip Dholakia on his 6th death anniversary (15 October 1921 – 2 January 2011) by guest author Ashok M Vaishnav
(Hindi film music attracted talents from different regional languages and musical traditions. Some, especially from Bengal, achieved great success and, in fact, became known as founding fathers of Hindi film music, such as RC Boral, Pankaj Mullick, Anil Biswas and, later, SD Burman, Hemant Kumar and Salil Chaudhary. Stalwarts from some other regional languages, such as Gujarati, could not achieve the same success. Dilip Dholakia is one such doyen from Gujarat who in Hindi film music is primarily known as assistant to Chitragupta. Ashok Vaishnav introduces us to many unknown aspects of this multi-faceted talent. Earlier, he had written an excellent article on another doyen from Gujarat, Avinash Vyas. This is an important addition in the series on Forgotten Composers Unforgottable Melodies. Thank you Ashokji for this enlightening article as a tribute on the 6th death anniversary of Dilip Dholakia which was a few days ago. – AK)
Those who are familiar with any aspect of Dilip Dholakia’s world of music probably may know of him by any one of these names that he used for his different music career roles. For Hindi Film’s mundane history, Dilip Dholakia (Born: 15 October 1921 / Death: 2 January 2011) was probably noticed more as an assistant to Chitragupta or S N Tripathi or to the music-duo Laxmikant Pyarelal. And yet, Dilip Dholakia remained all of singer, music director, music arranger and at times even lyricist and an actor, during his active career. Probably that is the reason the lady luck did for not favour him with great worldly success in any one field!
Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year with guest article by DP Rangan
(Steam engines are everyone’s childhood romance. The billowing smoke, the speck of light becoming bigger, the strange rhythmic sound of the wheels clanking with the rails, and a gentle tremor as the train chugged into the station, were a source of wonder not only for the children, but also for the adults. Waiting for the train was as exciting as the journey itself. Those days ‘people like us’ did not travel by planes. With air travel becoming middle class, and the modern diesel/electric-powered successors of the steam engine entering the station quietly, the train journey has been denuded of a great deal of its charm. Taking us on a nostalgia-trip is our seventy-plus-but-eternally-young DP Rangan, who packs in a massive amount of research into the origin of the steam engines, interesting trivia and their uses in films and songs all over the world. One couldn’t ask for a better New Year gift. I am delighted to wish the readers a very Happy New Year with this guest article by Mr. Rangan. Than you, Mr. Rangan. – AK)
The little boy standing at the railway platform with his uncle is completely entranced. As a 7 year old, he is going on a rail journey to the great metropolis Madras, capital of the Madras Presidency, with his uncle. He is keenly gazing at the distant spot where he expects the steam engine to emerge. Suddenly, he sees a dark shape hurtling towards him belching smoke and steam with a tell-tale rhythm peculiar to the steam engines. He is quite close to the edge ignoring his uncle’s warnings. As the engine rushes past him with passenger cars in tow, he is pulled back by his alarmed uncle, but not before a fire-spark from the smokestack has burnt a nice hole in his shirt and also scorched his skin. He is all smiles and brushes off his uncle’s rebukes after they are seated in the train. His uncle does not understand the enthusiasm of his nephew and tells him he has made umpteen number of journeys by train since his birth. The boy states that this is the first time he is conscious of it and would savour every moment of it. They had to travel seated as sleepers were not invented in British days. The boy did not sleep during the whole night and was always peeping out to have look at the steam engine. He was brushing off irritating carbon specks lodged in his eyes. By the time they landed in Madras Egmore next morning, his upper half was besmirched in coal dust and his eyes were a bright red. The boy was following by sight a bunch of white cap-clad young men being shepherded by a few policemen. His uncle, a keen wit, simply remarked they were in the garb of satyagrahis protesting against British, but, in reality, were seeking His Majesty’s prison to ensure they do not starve for a few days, not at all bothered by the hard looks of passers-by. Concerned at the sorry state of his nephew, the uncle hauled him off quick to his residence where an indulgent grandmother started right away to make him look presentable. The boy could not conceal his joy when he saw railway lines close to the house. During the summer vacation he was forever watching the trains plying to and fro throughout the day. All good days come to an end and, eventually, he was back in his home town to resume his humdrum life. The boy preserved the mutilated shirt as a talisman and guarded it fiercely from being worried by his siblings. One day his mother, unable to find the usual mop cloth, picked up the fragile shirt and wiped the rough floor of the house and reduced it to tatters. The boy, on discovering it, was disconsolate for some time and kept a frosty silence with his mother. Eventually, he made peace with her, after her profuse apology, tendered from time to time for her act of inconsideration, was accepted. This is not a figment of imagination, but an episode from the life of the author. Since that tender age, I had made many journeys in trains hauled by steam engines and my fascination for them has only grown more since they were phased out of operation. I am about to unfold history of steam engine none too briefly. After my previous posts, you all must expect something of the kind. I know it is a bitter pill to swallow but would compensate it with offerings of wonderful songs to bring smiles to your faces.
The SoY Award for the Best Music Director goes to?
For the final wrap up, I can do no better than quote Mahesh: “The year 1949 itself was the biggest winner of all.” That refers to the historical place of the year in the evolution of Hindi film songs which we have discussed in the overview post, as well as in the various wrap ups: Wrap Up 1 (Best male solos), Wrap Up 2 (Best solos of ‘other’ female singers), Wrap Up 3 (Best solos of Lata Mangeshkar) and Wrap Up 4 (Best duets). In brief, there were two watershed events that changed the course of film songs. Lata Mangeshkar’s coming as a Tsunami shook the established order of the full-throated vintage era singers – her high-pitched thin voice becoming the industry standard for female playback singing for leading ladies. This started the era of Lata Mangeshkar versus ‘others’. Shankar-Jaikishan had a sensational debut with Barsaat in which they came with a unique orchestration, which was easy on the ears and extremely melodious. For the next twenty years they would be counted among the five most dominant music directors.
A tribute on her birth centenary (16 September 1916 – 11 December 2004)
(About three months ago, there was a burst of discussion on SoY on MS Subbulaxmi, initiated by a new member RSR (RS Ramaswamy) to which many others joined. Shalan Lal posed a question why MS had not been covered yet on SoY. Around this time, I had come across an article on her in the Hindustan Times on the occasion of her birth centenary. N Venkataraman informed that he had collected some materials on her. While her birth centenary was passing by, he said he would be able to put out an article within the calendar year, which could be published on her death anniversary December 11. Thus, we have this wonderful article on her as a tribute to her in her centenary year.
The first person from the field of music to be conferred the highest civilian honour of Bharat Ratna, MS’s fame rests mainly as a doyenne of Carnatic classical music, but she has acquired an indelible image as Meera-incarnate among the people at large, not only for her role in the bilingual film Meera (Tamil/Hindi), but also for her Lord Venkatesh Suprabhatam, and the devotional songs and bhajans like Bhaja Govindam, Vishnu Sahasranamam etc. Her journey from Kunjamma to Meera is a saga of toil and struggle for perfection and rebellion against social prejudices. I am delighted that SoY is able to pay a worthy tribute to a great soul of India with thanks to Venkaramanji for this erudite article. – AK)
The life of M S Subbulakshmi is an extraordinary story with all the elements of a fairy tale; a journey of a small-town singer who reached the pinnacle of glory.It was an extraordinary transition from what was good to what was moulded to be great to what became grand. Guy De Maupassant once wrote “Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe; it gives back life to those who no longer exist”. In keeping with the saying, this post is my humble effort to recount her life and her art, and thus pay my tributes to the celebrated musician Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi, on her birth centenary year.
M S Subbulakshmi or MS as she was popularly known as or Kunjamma as she was called in her childhood, was born to Shanmukhavadivu on 16th September 1916 in the ancient city of Madurai. Her roots can be traced to the Devadasi community (an ancient tradition) who dedicated themselves to the service of the temple gods. The Anti-Nautch Movement, which coincided with the Purity Movement in England in the last decade of the 19th century, brought in a vast change. Ritual dancing almost came to an end by this time. But the all-round training they had received in music stood in good stead at their hour of need.
Since MS was born in a class of temple singers, it was natural for her to identify with her matrilineal lineage. MS’s mother Shanamukhavadivu was an eminent veena artist and MS’s maternal grandmother, Akkammal was a violinist. Although Madurai Pushpavanam Iyer (a distinguished Carnatic musician) was referred to as MS’s father, as per T J S George the biographer of M S Subbulakshmi, ‘MS herself had gone on record saying that Subramania Iyer was her father. There the matter should rest’. She lost her father at the age of ten. MS’s sister Vadivambal was a promising veena player but her life and career were cut short untimely. Her brother Saktivel was a mridangam artist and had accompanied MS in the early years of her career. MS received her initial training in music from her mother and later she was trained by Srinivasa Iyengar, who passed away soon. Later in life, even after becoming the doyenne of Carnatic music, she had no hesitation in learning to sing kritis (Carnatic classical songs) from her contemporaries like Thanjavur Brinda, Musiri Subramania Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. Among others who helped her to build up her vast repertoire were Dilip Kumar Roy, Pt. Narayan Rao Vyas and Vidushi Siddheswari Devi. She gave her first performance in Madurai at the age of ten and cut her first disc at Bangalore at the age of thirteen.
After the demise of MS’s father, Shanmukhavadivu along with MS shifted to Madras. MS was 12 years old then. Madras was the new cultural and music capital, replacing the ancient city of Thanjavur. Mylapore was the home of the Brahmin male vidwans, who dominated the classical music scene, and George Town became the home of the women musicians from the Devadasi community. Her natural talent and beauty made her vulnerable in a ruthless male world. At this stage she needed the benefaction of the Sabhas, the new platform providing patronage to art and culture. In 1932, her performance at the Kumbakonam Mahamaham festival attracted appreciation from various artists and paved the way for her first major concert in Madras. In 1935, MS was at the prestigious Music Academy’s annual season and that year she was one of the few singers who came in for praise from the press and the public. And, later on in the year 1968, when she was honoured with the title of Sangeetha Kalanidhi, the first woman to be conferred with this title by the Music Academy, she acknowledged that in conferring this honour on her the academy has sought to honour the womanhood of this country. With her immense talent and golden voice, aided in no small measure by the managerial abilities of T Sadasivam, MS’s popularity graph soared from 1937 onwards. Within ten years of her arrival in Madras she became the reigning queen of melody appreciated by the connoisseurs and the commoners alike.
The year 1936 can be considered as the turning point of her life. She met T Sadasivam, 14 years elder to MS. He was a freedom fighter, working for the popular Tamil magazine Ananda Vikatan. T Sadasivam was taking enormous interest in her career and this led to her first film opportunity. Seva Sadanam was published as a weekly serial in Ananda Vikatan, translated from the novel, Bazar-e-Husn, written by Munshi Premchand. K Subramaniyam, well-known producer-director of south Indian movies then, wanted the rights of the story. Sadasivam struck a deal that MS should act in the movie. Shanmukhavadivu didn’t agree to this and MS took the courageous decision to leave her home and landed in Sadasivam’s residence in Triplicane, much to the chagrin of Sadasivam’s mother and wife. This landmark film was close to MS’s heart. The story dealt with marital issues, domestic abuse, prostitution and women’s liberation. One of the early Tamil films set in a contemporary social settingand to advocate reformist social policies, the film and her songs became immensely popular. The success of the film further heightened MS’s popularity.
Thus we come to the first songof this post from her first film Seva Sadanam (1938). MS had trained under the guidance of Pt. Narayan Rao Vyas for a brief period. The song was adapted from a Bhajan sung by Pt. Narayan Rao Vyas. I could not find any video link to this song. Here is an audio link to the song from Seva Sadanam. To listen to the song please click against song number 7.
Shyamsundara Kamalvadana, film Seva Sadanam (1938), lyrics and music Papanasam Sivan
Buoyed by the success of Seva Sadanam, Sadasivam decided to turn to production and launched Sakuntalai with MS in the title role. Their association with the American director Ellis R Dungan began with this film. And then there was GN Balasubramaniam, or GNB, as he came to be called – a dashing and handsome musician, six years older than MS. She was mesmerized by GNB’s unrivalled singing style. By the time they started working together for Sakuntalai, MS’s reverence for GNB had blossomed into a full-fledged affair of the heart. The feeling was mutual, as evident from the fact that he kept all her love letters (written between 1939 and 1940) safe, until the end of his life. But things took a different turn. Sadasivam rushed through his marriage (10th July 1940) with MS, soon after his first wife’s tragic death. Thus her romantic affair with GNB came to a rather abrupt end. The film Sakuntalai was released in 1940 and had 24 songs mostly sung by MS, including two duets with GNB, and all of them were hits.
My next song is from her second film Sakuntalai (1940). Here MS by way of her beautiful rendition does full justice to the wonderful lyrics and music. The first line of the song goes like this “I surrender to the all-encompassing Nadabrahmam”, the primordial sound.
Engum nirai Nadabrahmam, film Sakuntalai (1940), lyrics Papanasam Sivan, music Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sharma
The tune of the above song was adapted and used in the Hindi version of the film Meera (1947).Thus we enter into the sphere of Meera. Unable to accept Meera’s single-minded devotion to Lord Krishna, a distressed Rana, orders the demolition of the temple at Chittorgarh by use of cannon and sends his brother Vikram to execute the job. Meanwhile, Rana comes to know from his sister the failed attempt earlier by Vikram to poison Meera and the truth dawns on him. He rushes to the temple to stop the demolition and in the process gets injured. Meera declares to Rana that she has failed as a wife and queen and she expresses her desire to leave for Dwaraka in response to the call from Lord Krishna. Here MS playing the role of Meera renders the song Mere to Giridhar Gopal doosaro na koi.
In the meantime MS acted in the role of Narada, in Savitri (1941). A mythological, Savitri, attracted considerable attention. Savitri had many songs, mostly sung by MS and some by Shantha Apte, who played the title role. Then Meera came. The film was produced by T Sadasivam under the banner Chandraprabha Cinetone. ‘Kalki’ Krishnamoorthy and T Sadsasivam wrote the script. In the Hindi version Amrit Lal Nagar was part of the team. Ellis R Dungan was the director for both the versions. Dilip Kumar Roy played a vital role in the selection and composition of the songs for the Hindi version. Naresh Bhattacharya, G Ramanthan and Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sharma were part of the music team. And Paapanasam Sivan and Pt. Narendra Sharma were part of the lyrics section. The Tamil film was released on the Deepavali day, in the year 1945, followed by its Hindi version two years later on 5th December 1947 at the Plaza Theatre, New Delhi. This was her only Hindi Film and her last film too. The film Meera and its songs propelled her to national fame. I would like to present some of the songs out of the 15 exceptional solos she rendered for the film Meera. People may have complained about MS’s accented Hindi, but they adored her music, its mellifluousness and its sanctity.
Even after her marriage to Rana of Mewar, against her wishes, Meera’s love for Lord Krishna remains unaltered. Soon after her marriage, Meera, while wandering around the royal gardens, entranced by the drifting sweet melody of the flute, renders this beautiful song. A perennially popular song, Kaatriniley Varum Geetham, is said to be adopted from a Bengali song sung by Juthika Roy. Here is the immortal number from the Tamil Version.
MS stands unparalleled in her bhakti and devotion. Maybe it was the presence of the implied shringara rasa transformed into bhakti in her music. Let us listen to the equally enchanting Hindi melody, Hari aawan ki awaaz, aaj suni mein.
Responding to the request from Meera and out of his love for his wife, Rana constructs a temple for Krishna at Chittorgarh, capital of Mewar. Much to the disappointment of Rana, Meera spends most of the time in the temple, singing in praise of Lord Krishna along with the other devotees. Kannan leelaigal chaivane is one such song rendered by MS (with chorus) in the Tamil version. In this song we can find the touch of Dilip Kumar Roy.
Let us listen to the Hindi version of the song Mane chaakar raakhoji.
Meera is criticized by the royal family for her unworldly ways. To get rid of her, Vikram gives poisoned drink to Meera through his sister, but Meera is saved by the grace of Lord Krishna. Krishna’s idol at Dwaraka turns blue due to the effect of the poison. The temple door closes spontaneously and remains shut till Meera reaches Dwaraka (at the end of the film). Meera expresses her gratitude to Giridhari for saving her life by rendering this song Aaravene…. Giridhari unadhu arule.
Now I present the Hindi song,Pag ghunghroo re set to the situation mentioned above. During the filming of Meera, the Maharana of Udaipur said to MS and her husband “In the olden days I would have exchanged my whole kingdom for her singing. Now I shall give you whatever help you need by way of horses and elephants for the shooting.” This incident speaks volumes about the beauty and grace of her music which over a period of time matured into greatness. Let us listen to the song. I am presenting an audio of this song recorded much later, since the video of the film, available in YT, ends abruptly.
Legend has it that the Mughal Emperor Akbar, on hearing about Meera’s singing and devotion to Lord Krishna, accompanied by Man singh, travelled all the way from Delhi to Chittogarh in disguise to see and listen to Meera, with an offering of a pearl necklace as gift. The song Unnaiye enathu uyir thunai enru is set to this situation. Another superb song. The polarities of seeking and finding, loss and conquest, desire and fulfillment are realised in her rendition and the lyrics. The song comes after a viruttam/ aalap Characharam unnaiyavum thedume.
In the Hindi version, the song Main Hari charanan ki daasi is set to the same situation. Please listen to this captivating song.
After the cannon incident (mentioned earlier), Meera leaves Chittor in quest of her beloved Lord Krishna. On reaching Brindavan, on her way to Dwaraka, she breaks into another enthralling song, laden with spiritual ecstasy. The Tamil song Brindavanathil Kannan valarndha.
Followed by the Hindi versionYaad aavey, Brindavan ki mangal leela set to the same situation and tune.
The next pair of melodious songs is set to the situation where Meera leaves Brindavan for Dwaraka to attain her ultimate goal. The Tamil song Enggum niranithayefollowed by the Hindi song Kunjan ban chhaadi he Madho kahaan jaaun.
In the decade 1935-44, we find MS in a different mode, a defiant and daring woman who could walk out of her maternal home for a career in films, a woman afflicted by love, who loved all good things in life. MS was a sensitive person and she was saddened by the gossips/ scandals doing round in the local magazines/Journals. All this started changing in 1944 and ended in 1947. With Meera came the transformation of MS. MS’s aesthetic changeover was clearly visible,the transcendence and actualizing Meera in herself. She deeply immersed herself in the role of Meera and that association would never leave her. Meera was a national success, launching a small-town south Indian singer into the national headlines. Sadasivam ensured that MS never acted again, thus etching the image of Meera, an image of divinity and dignity, forever on the frame of MS. Thus the makeover from Kunjamma to Meera was complete.
And the journey after………
MS was primarily a Carnatic classical singer who also acted in a few films. I would not discuss her Carnatic classical songs here, nor would I present any of her renditions form this genre. If any of the readers feel like, we can bring in this genre for discussion in the comments section. The image of Meera would never leave her, and there was never a concert which did not have Meera bhajans. MS also rendered and recorded a wider repertoire of Bhakti Sangeet, including the works of Tulsidas, Kabir, Nanak, Surdas, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta and other composers. She also learned Rabindra Sangeet. Thus she acquired many identities in her music. I would post a few of her non film bhajans.
A Tulsidas Bhajan,Shri Ramachandra kripalu bhaja mana, preceded by a Shloka / Stotram.
In MS’s singing there is a partnership between the singer and the sung which arises from the depth of her being. A false note from MS was unimaginable. There could not be any slip, her concerts had to be as impeccable as her personality. In my next offering a Surdas bhajan,Ankhiyan Hari darsan ki pyasi,at the end of the clipping /rendition you can notice MS (4:25), giving a rebuking look, when Radha Vishwanathan slips / falters and goes off key.
MS’s association with Dilip Kumar Roy is well known and needs no further elaboration. Indira Devi, a trained and accomplished dancer, who later left everything to become a Yogi and a disciple of Dilip Kumar Roy, had penned few devotional numbers. My next presentation, Ghunghroo baandh pag ayi Meera, a Bhajan penned by Indira Devi and set to music by Dilip Kumar Roy.
During the course of filming of Meera, MS came into the national limelight, attracting the attention of Mahatama Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu and others. She was handpicked by Gandhi to sing two of his favourite Bhajans,Hari Tum Haro jan ki Bhirh and Vaishnava jana to. My last offering would be the Bhajan, Vaishnava jana to penned by Narsi Mehta.
MS received many an accolades including the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1974 and Bharat Ratna in 1998. After the death of her husband T Sadasivam in November 1997, she stopped all her public performances. MS left for her heavenly abode on 11th December 2004. Thus an era ended.
Borrowing from T M Krishna, an eminent Carnatic musician of this era and a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee this year, I quote:
“Every time she sang, she allowed every moment of her life experience to imbue the melody, letting go of all her inhibitions, abstracting herself into the raga. Once in a great while, we experience an unadulterated sense of what is real, so tender and vulnerable that our fences break down when it touches us, and we see ourselves like never before. MS, more than any other musician, can gift us these moments of self-realisation.”
Thus I bring to close my post on M S Subbulakshmi.
I have hinged heavily on a few books, articles and writings from various magazines and internet for doing this post. I have simply gathered materials/ information collected from various sources and collated/ arranged them in a best possible way known to me and the real credit goes to the authors of these books and articles. I owe responsibility for any mistakes or wrong information
Acknowledgements & References:
1. Menon, Indira. The Madras Quartet: Women in Karantak Music. Indira Menon. Roli Books
2. George, TGS. MS, A life in Music. Harper Collins Publishers India
3. Articles/writings of Gowri Ramanarayanan, grandniece of M S Subbulakshmi and author of the book MS and Radha: Saga of Steadfast Devotion, New Horizon Media, Chennai, published under the auspices of the Suswaralakshmi Foundation for Classical Music and Performing Arts
4. Krishna, TM. MS understood. The Caravan
5. Dhananjayan, G. Pride of Tamil Cinema: 1931 to 2013. Chennai:Blue Ocean Publishers
6. Talks by V Sriram on MS, (author of Carnatic Summer: Lives of twenty Great Exponents) published in Rasika.org
7. Ramakrsihan, Nivedita. MS Subbulakshmi’s Hindi Meera.Cinemacorridor.blogspot.in
8. Saregama Tamil, Alkananda 2007, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and other uploader(s) of the songs
Let me convey my wholehearted thanks to all of them. My apologies to the authors and writers of those books and articles, whom I might have inadvertently missed out or failed to remember.
In my series on Shankar-Jaikishan, I have covered so far their best songs for his leading singers, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Rafi and Manna Dey. SJ would be easily reckoned among the top five music directors for these major singers. Besides, I have also presented his best dance songs for Lata Mangeshkar and female dance duets. One measure of a music director’s versatility is the number of diverse singers for whom he gives their career-best songs. Take the case of SD Burman – there is no prominent singer for whom he has not composed some songs which would count among his or her best. As I come towards the close of the series, it is useful to take a look how Shankar-Jaikishan fare with other singers. SJ’s oeuvre is so huge that some more posts would be needed to give a fair coverage to their music. But I have been generally closing a series on a music director in the calendar year, and I have some other mandatory posts scheduled in the remaining part of the year. Therefore, I am presenting my final tribute to SJ with their songs for ‘other’ singers which give a glimpse of their multi-faceted talent.
It is always a pleasure to write the Wrap Up 4, which is for the best duets of the year. The best solos always generate some controversy. In male solos this year, there was a close tie between Rafi and Mukesh. My conclusion that Mukesh was the No.1 singer of the year left many readers dissatisfied. Lata Mangeshkar versus ‘other’ singers can never be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Even in a year in which it was acknowledged that Lata Mangeshkar came as a tsunami, there was a dissenting voice. The duets, however, present a less contentious scenario. Here the ‘others’ come in full force; their combination with the leading male singers, such as Rafi and Mukesh, creates a kaleidoscope of colours. Shamshad Begum sheds off the challenge of Lata Mangeshkar when it comes to duets. Suraiya is always supremely melodious. Surinder Kaur, who is a legend in Punjab, gives some wonderful duets, besides solos which we have seen in Wrap Up 2. In female-female duets, we get some niche vintage voices. But the main charm is that we also get duets in which none of the familiar voices are there, and they are as delightful as any by the leading singers.