A tribute to Anil Biswas in his centenary year and to Suraiya on her 10th death anniversary
For many years after getting deeply attached to the vintage songs, I regarded Anil Biswas as peripheral to the music career of Suraiya. When I thought of Suraiya, the composers who came to mind most prominently were Naushad, Husnlal Bhagatram and Ghulam Mohammad. Much later, I heard Door papiha bola in a most unlikely situation. This created an impact I had not felt before. Songs of Yore was not on the anvil then, and my browsing the net was also sporadic. Therefore, locating the co-ordinates of the song by chance gave me an indescribable joy, and I started looking at Anil Biswas’s songs for Suraiya in a different light. Door papiha bola represents to me the very essence of every music lover’s relationship with music – a distant call of the papiha in the night, which you wish went on forever, but soon the night is half gone when your tryst has just begun. When I started this blog, effectively its first post was titled Door Papiha Bola.
While Naushad is credited with giving break to Suraiya in 1942 (Nai Duniya/Sharda), a couple of her songs were on herself as a child-artiste. Her most well known early songs were as playback for Mehtab. She came to prominence as an actor-singer in Bombay Talikes’ Hamari Baat (1943), in which she had four duets with Arun Kumar composed by Anil Biswas. Her most famous songs by Anil Biswas were in Waris (1954), in which she acted opposite Talat mahmood. She was also the lead actor-singer in Gajre (1948), Jeet (1949) and Do Sitare (1951), under his baton.
Anil Biswas may not be very prolific and may not have given too many foot-tapping numbers, but his songs for Suraiya have a soothing effect. They are the two most melodious people, whose songs you would like to listen in tranquility, transporting you to another plane. Continuing the series on Anil Biswas in his centenary year, I present his songs for Suraiya, also as a tribute to her on her 10th death anniversary (Suraiya: b. 15 June 1929, d. 31 January 2004).
1. Door papiha bola from Gajre (1948), lyrics Gopal Singh ‘Nepali’
I generally avoid repeating a song on my blog. But if there could be a song that could send a thousand hearts aflutter, Door papiha bola is one such song. In my earlier post titled this song, I wrote what I felt emotionally in words that were quite inadequate. Now we have this very learned comment on this song by a reader SSW which I am reproducing below:
At that time I did not know Anil Biswas was the composer but the initial notes on the piano followed by the long bell like notes on the oboe and then the flute playing a counter point was an aural delight. When Suraiya starts with the first long deep “door” the oboe is silent but then as she moves into “papiha bola” the oboe starts up again in the background supporting the voice. Instead of the traditional interlude before the antara there is a quick phrase where the guitar and sitar meld and then the voice starts again with the oboe still playing the a counterpoint in the background.
The little rest beat at “badal aaye” before “barsaat baki reh gayi” is enchanting as it introduces a lovely lilt.The instrumental interlude after that with the hawaiian and spanish guitars is lovely especially towards the end of the interlude there is the long drawn out glissando by the hawaiian guitar (perhaps there is a flute that doubles along but I cannot be sure) which is played again during the next antara and at the point where Suraiya goes “ban me chameli” the beat(dholak?) becomes more pronounced and remains so to the end of the antara where if finally reverts to the original slightly muted beat.
I used to wait for the last long guitar note to end the song and as often happened the announcer would come on to announce the next song,and I used to feel cheated that the song wasn’t played in its entirety.It seemed to me that nobody cared for the carefully crafted music and only waited for the words to end.
Gopal Singh ‘Nepali’ was an eminent Hindi poet who wrote lyrics in about 50 films. His name came into prominence some time back when his song, Darshan do Ghanshyam (Narsi Bhagat), was wrongly credited to Surdas in the quiz in Slumdog Millionaire. When a poet from literature wrote film lyrics, you could immediately see a distinct literary flavor.
2. O dupatta rang de mera rangrej from Gajre, lyrics Gopal Singh ‘Nepali’
Another less known Anil Biswas-Suraiya beauty, with literary lyrics from Gajre.
3. Karwatein badal raha aaj sab jahan, duet with Arun Kumar from Hamari Baat (1943), lyrics Narendra Sharma
Even though she has four duets in the film, Suraiya’s voice is secondary to the Bombay Talikes favorite, Arun Kumar, in these songs. But 1943 is a major year for Anil Biswas when he had one of the most stupendous successes in Hindi films, Kismet. It was a big year for Suraiya too as the beginning of her superstardom as actor-singer. Therefore, for historical importance let us hear this song, which should be the first of their collaboration. Set to a marching beat, my guess is that this was another of thinly veiled nationalist songs, sneaked past the British censors. A more celebrated case is of Door hato ae duniyawalo from Kismet.
4. Jeevan jamuna paar milenge, duet with Arun Kumar from Hamari Baat (1943)
Now a romantic duet from the same film.
5. Saqi ki nigahein sharab hain, duet with with Arun Kumar from Hamari Baat (1943)
But the most enjoyable is this duet. Narendra Sharma, known more for his lyrics in pure Hindi, does a proper Urdu song with the quintessential imagery of saqi and sharab.
6. Tum meet mere tum pran mere from Jeet (1949), lyrics Prem Dhawan
The lead players Dev Anand and Suraiya were now passionately in love in real life, which shows in Suraya’s singing and acting on the screen. You can’t think of a more melodious composer to give voice to love that is blissful.
7. Kuchh phool khile armanon ke from Jeet
This one is more familiar from the same film. A sad song, something must have come between the lovers.
8. Tum man ki peeeda kya samjho from Jeet
Another beautiful sad song. The misunderstanding continues. This song is a response to Dev Anand’s cavalier comment, using his own words Tum man ki peedaa kya samjho.
9. Chahe kitni kathin dagar ho, duet with Shankar Dasgupta from Jeet
This duet with Shankar Dasgupta from the same film is very interesting. The lyrics are of a marching song, but the picturisation is very romantic, set to a sweet melody by Anil Biswas. While the lovers are enjoying their blissful walk in the woods, some conspiracy against them is afoot. In the prelude to the song, you see the slimy Chacha Kanhaiyalal preparing a tentative and very young Madan Puri for some nefarious plan.
10. So ja re so ja bete gareeb ke from Do Sitare (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
By this time Suraiya-Dev Anand romance had met with stubborn obstacles from her family, making it clear it had no future. This was their last film together. Suraiya has four songs in the film, all very sweet and poignant. This lullaby deserves to be better known.
11. Ho mere dil ki dhadkan mein ye kaun sama gaya from Do Sitare
A lovely romantic song from the same film.
12. Mujhe tumse mohabbat hai, magar ab tak kahan the tum shikayat hai from Do Sitare
Suraiya’s declaration of love is one of the sweetest you can find in her any song, the tinge of sadness in her real world, making the song even more poignant.
13. Taron ki nagri se from Waris (1954), lyrics Qamar Jalalabadi
The most famous song from this film is Rahi matwale, a duet with Talat mahmood, which also has a solo version in Suraiya’s voice. The film also had a couple of more duets with him, and two solos by her. We saw a lullaby earlier, here is another one, which should rank among the best in films.