Songs of Yore award for the Best Male Playback Singer goes to?
In the first Wrap Up I take a look at the best male solos of 1953. I am greatly helped by the readers’ comments on the survey article – Best songs of 1953 - which are not only very exhaustive, but much more involved and analytical compared to the last year when I did a similar string of posts on the songs of 1955. So, here is my attempt to summarise the sense of the House about the best male playback singer of 1953.
A very general observation that comes out from the readers’ comments is that “it was not the year for male solos” (Subodh). Jignesh went further to say that the music of 1953 was the weakest in the entire 50s. However, it is interesting to note that it was the male solos which attracted the most intense and involved discussion, and I can point two reasons for that. One was Lata Mangeshkar – she alone accounted for as much as all the male songs taken together – we are grateful to Mr N Venkataraman for this observation based on a detailed statistical analysis. Such asymmetry always draws attention. The other reason to my mind is Mohammad Rafi – he is conspicuous by the absence of any great song which you would definitely like to include. This sent people on a feverish hunt for Rafi songs which, some felt, I might have missed to include in the shortlist. These explorers included Jignesh, Venkaramanji as well as Mr Ashok Vaishnav, who is a management professional, but who in his previous birth must have been a gold prospector. The result was that a lot many very good songs were added by these dedicated searchers, which were either unknown to me or which I had inadvertently missed. Most others such as Subodh, Anuradha Warrier, Gaddeswarupji, Kuldep Chauhan, Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh, Canasya and Mahesh Mamadapur confined themselves to my shortlist which had about two dozen male solos.
So how do I make a list of the best ten from about 35 songs placed on the table, and finally come down to one or two? One approach is what may be called the saree-shopping approach which we generally follow for such exercises. If the lady has to buy one saree, she would make the shop attendant show her one after another, nodding approval or disapproval as they keep coming, and keeping the approved ones to a side untill she has a stack of about twenty. Then she proceeds to do a number of iterations to bring down to ten, to five, to three, when she would solicit the endorsement of husband, or daughter, or whoever is accompanying her – saree-shopping is never done alone. Very often, if she is undecided she would come out with two sarees instead of one, which is akin to declaring two persons joint winners. Venkaramanji took the saree-shopping approach to an impossible height – he churned the whole shop, trawling through almost the entire lot of 100-odd solos to come up with his best ten.
It would appear that my task has been greatly simplified, but as I mentioned, it has become very challenging, albeit extremely interesting. I would approach it from the opposite direction, which we may call grocery-shopping approach. (Ashokji, please help me with a more impressive management jargon, such as ‘Waterfall’ approach or ‘Dutch Auction’ approach.) The lady goes to the neighbourhood kirana store – those going to supermarkets are surely missing a great human drama – with her essential list of grocery. After she is done, the shopkeeper would chat her up, why don’t you see this new brand of juice or biscuit which has just been launched, or this has 20% off, or Madam aapne is baar cornflakes nahi liya and so on. She would buy some more stuff, less important, pushed by the shopkeeper till her purse or bags are breached.
So I would go by the must-include songs, taking care that I do not miss out any major singer. Let me start with Rafi whom I mentioned in the beginning. I had included his two solos from the film Paapi in the shortlist. But the readers added some more, one of which immediately caught my attention – Humne to dard-e-dil ko fasana bana diya. This is better that the two in my shortlist. So if a Rafi song has to be included, because how can you keep Sachin Tandulkar out of the team? – it should be Humne to dard-e-dil ko.
I come next to Kishore Kumar. He had a great duet in Fareb, but I had not included any solo of his in the short-list. His solo Husn bhi hai udhas udhas from the same movie was mentioned by some readers. This is a very good song. If we had room this could have been included. But in this song Talat-effect is too pronounced, making it sound almost like his song. Including this for equity may be unfair to some more deserving songs.
Manna Dey is a very interesting case. I had included his two solos – Lapak jhapak tu aa re badarwa from Boot Polish and Chali Radhe Rani from Parineeta – without realising he had such a passionate following. I started seeing Lapak jhapak with a special respect after I read an article on the song, sent by Gaddeswarupji, written by a PhD scholar whose main area of interest is humour in classical. Among the additions made by the readers two are noteworthy – Torey naina raseeley kateeley haye Ram and Tera haath haath mein aa gaya – both from Hamdard. I would include Torey naina raseley katteley haye Rama. If I have to include another one, it is a toss-up between the remaining two, but I would go for Lapak jhapak for the sake of that PhD scholar and the readers who have endorsed this song.
As for Hemant Kumar, he seldom sings a bad song. Almost everyone would want to include Zindagi pyar ki do char ghadi hoti hai.
On the same logic, either solo from Aah can be included – Raat andheri door savera or Chhoti si ye zindagani – both are outstanding. The first is in slow tempo, the second fast tempo, but both poignant. I might have preferred the second song, but I find that there is greater support for the first, so it would be Raat andheri door savera.
That leaves the dominant singer of 1953, Talat Mahmood, who had many must-include songs. Sham-e-gham ki qasam, Zindagi denewale sun, Ae gham-e-dil kya karun are in everyone’s must-include. I have two more songs which cannot be left out. Mere naghmaon mein un mastana ankho ki niashani hai – he had some fast and peppy songs in which he was as good as his songs in the blue mood. The street singer-entertainer, with rabab in his hand, singing this song to the crowd in an Arab market place, is amazing. Reminds me of Bechain nazar betaan jigar. And Sapnon ki suhani duniya ko from Shikast – a quintessential Talat song – whose sthayi is somewhat flat, but if you wait till the antara it is incredibly sweet.
We have already reached 10. But I have to mention some more Talat Mahmood songs which would be on many people’s how-can-that-be-left-out list. At least one from Patita – Andhe jahan ke andhe raaste, Tujhe apne paas bulati hai teri duniya and Hain sabse madhur wo geet mere; Teer chala from Naghma; Chal diya karwan from Laila Majnu; Hai ye wohi asmaan from Char Chaand; Mujhe dekho hasrat ki tasweer hun main from Baaz. It seems, to be fair we should include one from this list. Going by the recall value we can give this slot to Hain sabse madhur wo geet.
Thus we have Talat Mahmood’s six songs, Manna Dey’s two, Mukesh, Hemant Kumar and Rafi one each – eleven in all. I am inclined to exclude Rafi’s song – if something has to take a hit, let us take out the one which is less known. There has been some comments from readers such as Hans and Rajinder Sharma about the trend of putting down Rafi consciously or inadvertently. In 1953, frankly, he is not there (he had some great duets though).
I should mention in passing that Venkataramanji also mentioned eight more non-mainstream singers, two of whom I had included in ‘special’ songs – Krishnarao Chonkar and Hridaynath Mangeshkar. While Chonkar’s rendering in Raga Chandrakauns was outstanding, fitting them in mainstream list would be too elitist.
Thus the ten best male solos of 1953 are as follows.
1. Sham-e-gham ki kasam by Talat Mahmood from Footpath, music Khayyam
2. Zindagi denewale sun by Talat Mahmood from Dil-e-Nadan, music Ghulam Mohammad
3. Ae gham-e-dil kya karun by Talat Mahmood from Thokar, music Sardar Malik
4. Mere naghmon mein un mastana ankhon ki kahani hai by Talat Mahmood from Alif Laila, music Shyam Sundar
5. Sapnon ki suhani duniya ko by Talat Mahommod from Shikast, music Shankar Jaikishan
6. Hain sabse madhur wo geet mere by Talat Mahmood from Patita, music Shankar Jaikishan
7. Torey naina raseeley kateeley haye Rama by Manna Dey from Hamdard, music Anil Biswas
8. Lapak jhapak tu aa re badarwa by Manna Dey from Boot Polish, music Shankar Jaikishan
9. Raat andheri door savera by Mukesh from Aah, music Shankar Jaikishan
10. Zindagi pyar ki do char ghadi hoti hai by Hemant Kumar from Anarkali, music C Ramchandra
The above list is very tightly fitted with hardly any room for play. If we wish to include Rafi’s Humne to dard-e-dil ko or Kishore Kumar’s Husn bhi hai udhas udhas, we would have to knock off a song or two of Talat Mahmood. But that does not change the overall picture – Talat remains the dominant singer, and I should say by far the “best”. What he means in 1953 is best summed up in the words of Anu, “Talat made great strides during this period, but my favourite of all male singers is Rafi… Heck, this is not about my favourites, so yeah, Talat Mehmood it is.” Jignesh goes further, “….in male section, from ’50 to ’55, for this 6 yrs span i will go for only TALAT MEHMOOD.” Venkataramanji’s heart is for him (though his mind went for Manna Dey).
Which is his best song? Sham-e-gham ki kasam is the overwhelming favourite. Canasya has compared and contrasted it with Rafi’s Suhani raat dhal chuki (Dulari, 1949). I had some view on this comparison. Hans, who joined late, also made some valuable contribution with regard to this compariosn. My own favourite in this genre, on precisely the same grounds that Cansya has mentioned, is Ae gham-e-dil kya karun. It starts with a recital Sahar ki raat aur main nashad-o-nakara phirun/ Jagmagaati jaagti sadkon pe awara phirun, then the familiar mukhda of the song, and coming to antaraa, Talat Mahmood glides smoothly from high to low pitch. It immediately evokes a picture of a forlorn, dejected man, walking aimlessly on the lonely, but illuminated, streets of the city in the night. Quintessential Talat. Had I included a category for the best lyrics, probably this would have won hands down, as Subodh and Jignesh have strongly endorsed
Songs of Yore Award for the Best Male Playback Singer of 1953 goes to Talat Mahmood.
And the best song is: Take your pick from Shame-gham ki kasam and Ae gham-e-dil kya karun.