And the Songs of Yore award for the best male solo goes to?

Rafi and MukeshSome general observations are in order. The year 1948 did not have a great diversity of male playback singers, unlike the female singers. KL Saigal had passed away a year earlier; Talat Mahmood would appear a couple of years later; Hemant Kumar and Manna Dey who had been around for some time, did not yet have their big breaks. Among the great playback singers of the Golden Era, Mukesh was the only one who had a significant presence with great songs in at least four films; Rafi was playing a catch-up game. From the Vintage Era, GM Durrani had some nice songs. The actor-singer Surendra was virtually on his last lap, though with some outstanding songs. His singing career would decline sharply, and he would graduate to ‘character’ roles in the later years.

 

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Wishing S Mohinder (b. 8 September 1925?) a very happy 92nd birth anniversary (and wishing Asha Bhosle a very happy 84th birth anniversary)

S MohinderGuzra hua zamana aata nahi dubara, hafiz khuda tumhara. This one song is enough to make S Mohinder immortal. But he also composed many more memorable and extremely sweet as well as fast-paced peppy numbers. He is among the music directors who had a wide range in the style of music as well as choice of singers. It is the vagary of the showbiz that a talented composer like him was not counted among the top rung. But some of his songs dominated the airwaves in the programmes on old film music, Guzra hua zamana being an eternal favourite. He was in my list for the series on “Forgotten Composers Unforgettable Melodies”. I would have written on him at leisure. But, despite this year being quite tight in scheduling, I had to do it now in deference to the sincere request made more than once by our passionate reader, KS Bhatia.

 

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Guest article by Ravindra Kelkar

(OP Nayyar was a craze for some years from the mid-50s. Every music director was imitating his style, composing OP-type songs from time to time. If you thought it was simply a bandwagon effect, our OP Nayyar-expert Ravindra Kelkar unravels several factors that were at play. Some did it voluntarily, some under producers’ pressure, and some also with the not so noble intention of cutting OP out – flood the market with OP-clones to drive out the original. According to Mr Kelkar’s fascinating thesis, even redoubtable names like Naushad, C Ramchandra and SD Burman were not untouched by the OP-influence. After his inaugural article on ‘The three distinct phases of OP Nayyar’s career’ and the second article on OP Nayyar-Geeta Dutt songs, Mr Kelkar comes up with another Ace on OP.  Just close your eyes and enjoy these ‘OP’ compositions by several other MDs, with profuse thanks to Mr Kelkar. – AK)

OP NayyarOP’s musical career took off from Aar Paar (1954). A succession of musical hits followed, in the next two years, like, Baap Re Baap (1955), Mr & Mrs 55 (1955), Musafirkhana (1955), Chhoomantar (1956), CID (1956), Hum Sab Chor Hain (1956), and many others. Some of them were big hits, however, most of the movies managed to recover the money invested by the producer, largely due to the lilting music by OP. His music had freshness, liveliness, was infectious, easy to identify with, easy to hum and it was distinctly different from others. He had created his own style. It was easy to guess the identity of the composer as soon as you listened to the intro music of the OP song. Even the title music of the films had an OP stamp. It would be typically breezy and include a clarinet/flute/violins combo piece as well as a sarangi piece. In fact, OP would try to compose the title music in such a way that he would time the clarinet piece or sarangi piece when the title would show “Music Composed by O.P. Nayyar” on the screen. All this created a certain mystique around the name of O.P. Nayyar. Also, OP was easy to work with as long as you paid his price and didn’t interfere with his work, by giving him full freedom in composition, selection of song writers and singers. He didn’t really care about the star cast, story, name of the banner etc.

 

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Asymmetric Duets

August 21, 2017

Guest article by Subodh Agrawal

(I have often mentioned that duets, though far less in number than solo songs, present a fascinating variety of music. One variety is on account of the lesser known female singers getting a chance to sing with major playback singers like Rafi and Mukesh, and we are richer for that because we get some absolutely fabulous songs minus the Mangeshkar sisters. The other and, perhaps more interesting, variety is on account of the experimentation the music directors do in composition. On this blog there has been detailed discussion on a number of occasions about the duets in which one singer just hums, or has only a few words or just a couple of lines to sing. I developed a Duet Balance Index for analysing this kind of asymmetry in my post titled ‘Some thoughts on mathematical-taxonomic analysis of Hindi films and songs’. That dealt with what may be called ‘airtime asymmetry’. Another interesting asymmetry is ‘tune asymmetry’.

In this guest article, Subodh Agrawal takes a look at such asymmetric duets. I am sure readers will welcome his taking a break from classical songs. Thank you Subodh for another interesting and ‘different’ article. – AK)

I am taking a break from classical songs in films to write on this topic, which arose from a discussion on AK’s post on duets of Talat and Asha. Duets are common in Hindi film music. I don’t have the encyclopaedic knowledge of Mr Vaishnav, Mr Bhatia or Mr Venkataraman to do a detailed analysis, but my hunch is that male-female duets would account for about one third of all songs.

 

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(While I had already scheduled the first part and was working on the draft for this part on Husnlal-Bhagatram, I was also in touch with Pt Husnlal’s US-based son, Dinesh Kumar Prabhakar, and Pt Bhagtram’s Mumbai-based son, Ashok Bhagatram Sharma. Communication with Ashokji was difficult as he has kept himself outside the digital word, but I was delighted to get a call from Dineshji who was in Delhi, and I had a most memorable meeting with him and his mother, the 90-year old Nirmala Devi, the wife of late Pt Husnlal. I have incorporated the gist of my conversation with them in the later part of this post.)

Husnlal-BhagatramHusnlal-Bhagatram shone like a meteor very briefly, during 1948-51, when their main singers were predominantly Lata Mangeshkar, Suraiya and Rafi. During this period, they created some absolutely mesmerising songs, but in many songs there was a repetitiveness in the melody and orchestration. In the Golden Era of playback singers, they did not diversify much beyond their above preferred singers. Thus, they were behind the curve when Mukesh and Talat Mahmood were creating waves. However, whenever they used them, HB showed their immense potential, for example in Kismat bigadi duniya badli (Mukesh, Afsana, 1951), or Ai meri zindagi tujhe dhoondhoon kahan (Talat Mahmood, Adal-e-Jahangir, 1955). If there was any doubt that they had a limited range, they dispelled it with an absolutely superb song in Kishore Kumar’s voice (duet with Lata Mangeshkar), Lahron se pooch lo ki kinaaron se pooch lo (Kafila, 1952). We also get a sprinkling of some nice songs in Shamshad Begum’s voice.

 

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Meena Kumari: An enigma

August 1, 2017

A tribute to Meena Kumari on her 85th birth anniversary (1 August 1932 – 31 March 1972) by guest author DP Rangan

(SoY readers are now familiar with DP Rangan’s prolific guest posts. So far, he has focused on themes. He now forays into film personalities. Several readers have suggested that I write on songs picturised on specific heroes or heroines. I have been generally hesitant, because my primary classifications are music directors and singers, and any new category becomes overlapping. Our 70-year-old-going-on-17 Mr Rangan is not deterred by such challenges. The tinsel town is full of stars who were at the height of name and fame, but who had a most unhappy personal life, finally dying in penury. Meena Kumari is the foremost example of such tragic figures. It is befitting that Mr Rangan chooses her to pay tribute on her 85th birth anniversary. He also introduces us to her less known singing talent; and true to SoY’s tradition, he presents a good number of her vintage and unknown songs. Thank you Mr Rangan for another excellent article. – AK)

Meena KumariIt was about a year ago that my ‘writing’ was first published, thanks to the generosity of AK in accepting it for this august blog. It was a wonderful moment for me, and enthused by this success I wrote a number of posts on different themes. Emboldened by my new-found confidence, I decided to foray into areas other than themes and plunge into the field of biography, even though I knew it to be a minefield.

 

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A tribute to Geeta Dutt on her 45th death anniversary (23 November 1930 – 20 July 1972) by guest author Ravindra Kelkar

(A general grievance against SoY is that Geeta Dutt has not been given her due place on the blog. There has been one exclusive post on her best songs by SD Burman which, too, incidentally appeared on her death anniversary, four years ago. My post on SD Burman’s best duets for Rafi, too, contained some songs with her. Her songs have also appeared in some other contexts. However, I am aware this is not commensurate with her appeal among music lovers. I was waiting for a worthier person to do justice to her. My wish was granted when our OP Nayyar-expert, Ravindra Kelkar offered to write a series of articles on OPN. His first article giving an overview of three distinct phases of OPN’s career was highly acclaimed. Continuing his series, he comes up with another outstanding article, on OPN-Geeta Dutt combination, as a tribute to her on her 45th death anniversary. I am sure this would more than recompense for my omission. Thanks a lot Mr Kelkar. – AK)

OP Nayyar-Geeta DuttOP Nayyar-Geeta Dutt association started right from OP’s first film Aasman in 1952, in which Geeta Dutt sang 4 solos. It ended with Ragini in the year 1958. She sang in 22 of OP’s films for 62 songs, which included 35 solos, 22 male duets, all with Rafi, and 5 female duets, all with Asha Bhosle. During their association in Aasman, she was impressed with OP’s potential and recommended his name to his would-be husband Guru Dutt for his maiden venture Baaz (1953), and as everybody knows it was the success of Guru Dutt’s next film Aar Paar (1954) which launched OP’s career. So, he had a lot to be grateful to Geeta Dutt.

 

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Husnlal-BhagatramI have signed off the series on Shankar-Jaikishan recently. Before that I had done series on Anil Biswas, Naushad, C Ramchandra and SD Burman. As the readers now expect the next famous music directors in line, there are some yesteryears stalwarts who shone like meteor for a short while, or who gave great music consistently over a long period, but who were not lucky to get sustained commercial success. Though not counted among the G-5 or G-7, they are very dear to the lovers of songs of yore. I was always conscious while doing the series on the superstars that I have to take care that we don’t miss the lesser, but no less talented stars. Husnlal-Bhagatram occupy a very important place in the history of film music as a bridge between the vintage and the golden era, between the theatre-style singing of Zohra Ambalewali, Zeenat Begum and Amirbai Karnataki, and the smooth, melodious singing of Suraiya and Lata Mangeshkar, between GM Durrani and Rafi.

 

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Devdas_Sarat ChandraSome time back,  there was an interesting discussion between Ashok Kumar Tyagi and Hans about the story of Devdas and as to why Sanjay Leela Bhansali took so much liberties with it. I doubt if they realised that it was the centenary year of the publication of Sarat Chandra’s eponymous novel. Such coincidences have often happened on SoY. When I was planning to celebrate 2014 as the centenary year of Anil Biswas, his daughter Shikha Biswas Vohra happened to visit SoY, and on my request, she wrote the inaugural article of the series on him. Last year, a new visitor RS Ramaswamy visited some old posts and commented about MS Subbulakshmi. It happened to be her centenary year, and N Venkataraman wrote an excellent tribute to her.

 

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Guest article by DP Rangan

(It is ironic that while bicycle is being crowded out by scooters, motorcycles and cars in the developing world, it is the developed world where bicycle riding is being promoted in a big way as a means of transport to commute to work or pleasure. A time may come when bicycle may become a distant memory to be savoured from old film songs in India.  Not too long ago, it was the main mode of transport. It also has a fascinating history going back to about three centuries, but, surprising as it may sound, the modern pedal-bicycle evolved later than trains.

After taking us through horses, tongas and steam engine, our indefatigable DP Rangan now logically takes us on a joy-ride of cycle songs. Along the way, he also writes a dissertation on its history. Blog readers have a short attention span, but SoY has a number of readers who would find this part interesting and useful. I must thank Mr Rangan profusely again for his great effort. – AK)

Cycle songI started my first post on a thematic subject – ‘horse’ – because my knowledge of Bollywood in its various aspects is next to nothing. I even admit to some muted feeling of jealousy on my part at the multi-faceted genius of the blog founder AK who can turn out post after post of a bewildering variety with aplomb and rapidity. Theme writing has already been established and I adopted it conveniently to suit my needs. Dinesh K. Jain, a keen and punctilious commentator of the blog made an observation on my first post:

 

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