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.
Wishing a very Happy Holi to everyone
Holi was the time when one went to one’s ‘native’ place – everyone belonged to a place where he came from. In the olden days, going to the native place might involve using multimodal transport – by train to the nearest railhead, from there by bus, and the last mile by tonga, bullock cart, tractor-trailer or foot. ‘Native’ places are disappearing fast. We might have a job or be located somewhere, but we do not belong to any place.
I had described Mahendra Kapoor as the most unloved singer in my last post on him. I have to modify that phrase, because the comments on that post indicate that he had more passionate fans and admirers than I had realised. Despite not counting myself among his passionate fans, I have a great liking for some of his songs which I place at par with the best sung by any of his contemporaries. Chalo ek baar phir se is one such iconic song which had a post dedicated to it. Similarly, I am greatly fond of some of his duets. Some readers also added duets anyway, in their comments on the post, which was dedicated to his solos. Mahendra Kapoor story would not be complete unless I write on his best duets.
Guest article by DP Rangan
(DP Rangan has been a familiar figure in the comments section. He recently debuted as a guest author with his piece on Bollywood’s love affair with horses. I had introduced him as a member of the very senior brigade, who has the enthusiasm of a teenager. The proof is this sequel to his last post. He had planned to put the cart before the horse, but on my suggestion he has right-sequenced the order. For someone whose first language is not Hindi, the collection of songs is absolutely impressive. Thank you Mr Rangan for another outstanding piece. – AK)
I have written enough about the horses in my earlier post and how they are part and parcel of humans even in the present age of technological advancement. Encouraged by the response of the generous readers to my first effort at ‘writing’, I venture to write its sequel on their use in horse carts, or tongas. Horses continue to be yoked to carts and haul people and goods from place to place. Fortunately, horse carts have been phased out from almost all the metropolis and may be a rare sight in countryside too. I am happy to see them in partial liberation. I hope to see a reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln to free them in totality and ensure they roam in whatever little is left of the wild. Film producers, of late, are not incorporating such scenes in their films. It is only an educated guess as I have not been to a theatre for more than fifteen years and have rarely sat before the idiot box with the technical name of Television. I am a computer nerd and, while trawling through internet, chanced upon SoY and my life thereafter became topsy turvy. I saw many snippets of songs based on tonga/cart scenes and decided to present them to the followers of this blog.
Ghulam Mohammad was Naushad’s senior in the music industry by several years. He was an established tabla player, earning Rs 60 per month, with Ustad Jhande Khan, when Naushad joined him, in 1937, as a piano player at Rs. 40 per month. Fate catapulted Naushad to commanding heights, making him the greatest Mughal of Movie Music. And fate destined Ghulam Mohammad to work for several years as his Chief Music Assistant. Concurrently, he also composed music independently in several films, giving outstanding music. When Naushad broke with AR Kardar finally in 1952, Ghulam Mohammad, too, decided to cease being his assistant. Dil-e-Naadan (1953) was launched with great fanfare typical of Kardar and its music was entrusted to Ghulam Mohammad, hoping that he would repeat the magic of Naushad. Its music was absolutely mesmerizing – not a poor copy of Naushad, but very different and very original. But Ghulam Mohammad was not lucky, the film bombed.
(DP Rangan recently asked me who would be the music director of 2016. Obviously, he presumed there would be one, because I celebrated 2015 as the Year of Naushad (with C Ramchandra in tandem), and the year before that as the Year of Anil Biswas. Concurrently, I also covered SD Burman extensively, but that happened organically. Next in line, no one deserves this honour more than Shankar-Jaikishan, who were arguably the most successful music director(s) ever, and among the most dominant figures on the music scene for about two decades. I start my tribute to SJ with a special niche of their songs for Lata Mangeshkar which has been my great favourite, and which would make your heart dance. Thank you Mr. Rangan, for the timely reminder. – AK)
Shankar-Jaikishan have come in for some unkind comments on Songs of Yore, not so much for the decline in their music in the later years – everyone has a sunset – but for some of their astonishing Filmfare Awards. When they composed Jai bolo beimaan ki, no one would have realized they meant it literally, and would pull it over Pakeezah. They had achieved a similar feat with Pehchaan. This was no less brazen than their Dil Apna Aur Preet Paraayee victory over Mughal-e-Azam, or Suraj over Guide. Yet, even if we delete all of this, and all that is considered loud and unmusical, what is left is still enormous in scale, and of outstanding quality. Shankar-Jaikishan are by any yardstick among the greatest music directors, and arguably the most successful ever. When I think of them, I remember a very nice line from a story of Nirmal Verma – कुछ झूठ अनावश्यक होते हैं. Siddharth put it very aptly that Beimaan is not their only Pehchaan. One very important part of their identity is their songs for Lata Mangeshkar, and I start my tribute to them with a very special sub-set of their songs for her, which is very dear to me.
Guest article by Ashok M Vaishnav
(The founder of the mega series Multiple Version Songs, Ashokji brings up another one from his inexhaustible storehouse of multiple versions on different criteria. The multiple versions so far have generally been from the same film. Continuing his series he brings up an interesting variety of songs which have multiple versions across different films. In some cases these may be a traditional bandish, where you may find some versions outside films. Some traditional bandishes have been sung by a large number of classical and semi-classical singers. He has left out such songs for practical reasons. This post too shows his capacity for detailed research. The present post includes less than half of what he has compiled. We may put up the remaining songs subsequently, depending on the readers interest.– AK)
Till now all the multiple version songs that we talked belonged to the same film, except of course, version songs across different languages. We now chart a different trajectory of Multiple Versions of Songs.