The song La re lapaa la re lappa layee rakhda from Ek Thi Ladki (1949) always intrigued me. Its words (of mukhda) carried no meaning to me. Today I know it is based on a traditional Punjabi folk song, and these words indeed have some meaning. Then, the music director Vinod. Who was he? What other songs he composed?
All this was a black box, and for many years he was a one-song wonder for me. Yet when Lata Mangeshkar tornado hit the music scene that year with Ayega anewala and several more songs, now considered iconic, with the greatest music directors of the time Naushad, C Ramchandra, Anil Biswas, and soon to become great Shankar Jaikishan and many others, La re lappa stood tall among them. It is still extremely popular, I have seen many reality shows featuring Daler Mehdi’s medley of songs which invariably include this song.
Thanks to this site and Pankaj Raag’s Dhuno Ki Yatra we now know Vinod was born Eric Roberts in a Punjabi Christian family, converted from Hindus, in Lahore in May 1922. He learnt music from the famous music director Pandit Amarnath (the elder brother of the duo Husnlal Bhagatram). As per the prevailing norm of those days he adopted the name Vinod to make it look more appropriate. He was a highly talented music director in Punjabi films in Lahore, moved over to Bombay with Roop K Shorey team and composed music for several Hindi films. Though a highly talented person, the fickle film industry did not allow him the commercial success and fame he deserved. He died young in 1959 in poverty, which may be another reason why we do not get to hear more about his music.
But more importantly, I have come across several Vinod songs, which are incredibly beautiful. There are some I now recall I always knew and regarded as my top favourites, without knowing they were his composition.
The Golden Era of 1950s and 60s abounds in such unforgettable melodies whose composers are forgotten. I am excluding 1930s and 40s from this as the songs of that period (I call it the Vintage Era) face the problem of oblivion from public consciousness and have to be discussed in a different manner. I had planned to start this series on Forgotten Composers, Unforgettable Melodies with Vinod, who is also among the first chronologically in the period, and who held a special fascination for me for his music. He is coming second, as I did Daan Singh as the first article in the series as my obituary on hearing about his death.
Now enjoy some of Vinod’s great songs which are absolutely brilliant and unforgettable.
1. Jab kisi ke rukh pe zulfen aa ke lahrane lageen by Talat Mahmood from Anmol Ratan (1950), lyrics DN Madhok
Anmol Ratan had several songs of incomparable beauty. Here is a Talat solo which is so melodious and sweet that once you hear it, it lingers forever. My attraction for this song is because it has a special charm akin to what you find only in his non-film songs.
2. Yaad anewale phir yaad aa rahe hain by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Anmol Ratan
If you had any doubts about Vinod’s versatility here is a Talat-Lata duet which I easily rate among their best.
3. Shikwa tera main gaaun by Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar from Anmol Ratan
Vinod is not done yet. Here is another great Talat-Lata duet from the same film.
4. Dilli se aya bhai Pingu from Ek Thi Ladki (1949), lyrics Aziz Kashmiri, music Vinod
Interestingly, the music conductor seen in the video is Vinod himself. Actor Singer is Honey O Brien, the lady who also danced to Ek bewafa se pyar kiya in Awara. (Correction: See comment #59, Arunji informs that while Honey O Brien performs on the screen, the playback singer is Vinita Kalmadi, who took the name Binota Chkravarty after her marriage to the pianist in the orchestra, Krsihna Chakravarty.)
5. Ab haal-e-dil ya haal-e-jigar kuchh na poochhiye by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar, from Ek Thi Ladki
One of the best Rafi-Lata duets ever. I am surprised why such a beautiful song remained virtually unknown.
6. Ghatkari matwari kari ghir ayi by Zeenat Begum from Ek Thi Ladki
Ek Thi Ladki, coming in the watershed year of 1949, was musically also a confluence of the Vintage and Golden Era with Zeenat Begum firmly from the Vintage Era and Lata Mangeshkar who would be the dominant singer of the Golden Era, both featuring prominently in the film.. Motilal, a senior manager, had been sent by his company from Bombay to discuss an important business deal with a Delhi seth (whom he had not seen before). But his scatterbrained secretary, Meena Shorey has gotten themselves in a situation where she and her boss Motilal have to take up residence as a servant couple in the house of the same seth. He rues that she has managed to reduce him from a manager to naukar to bawarchi to dhobi. But unconcerned, Meena Shorey dances on to this beautiful song by one of the famous singers of 1940s. Motilal also gets to enjoying the situation and smilingly passes the washed clothes to her for hanging on the clothesline. From the review of this film by dustedoff, I visualise this as a perfect screwball comedy, and I could almost imagine Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in this scene.
7. La re lappa la re lappa laye lakhda by Lata Mangeshkar from Ek Thi Ladki
And now the signature song of Vinod you might have heard a million times, but sounds as fresh as ever.
8. Ankhiyan mila ke ankhiyon ki need chura ke aa
Here is beautiful song by Sulochana Kadam from the film Mukhdaa (1951), lyrics by Aziz Kashmiri, and composed by Vinod. One song which made her known to all lovers of old film songs is Chori chori aag si dil mein laga kear chal diye from the film Dholak from the same year, composed by Shyam Sundar. In an interesting coincidence this song is also picturised on Meena Shorey.
9. Thumak thumak chali kamini by Asha Bhosle and GM Durrani in Ek Do Teen (1953), lyrics Aziz Kashmiri
This song is from Ek Do Teen, which was made by the same team of Roop K Shorey, with actors Moti Lal and Meena Shorey. This is a lovely duet by Asha Bhosle and GM Durrani. Asha Bhosle seems to be consciously singing in Lata Mangeshkar style. SD Burman and OP Nayyar would be happening to her a few years later to evolve her own style. GM Durrani was the prime singer of 1940s and a role model of Rafi. Ironically Rafi’s ascendancy directly brought GM Durrani’s fall, but you do occasionally get his songs in 50s. Another feature of this song is that it distantly reminds you of DV Paluskar’s Thumak chalak Ramchandra.
10. O Arabpati ki chhori dil le gayee by Talat Mahmood and Geeta Dutt in Makhichoos (1956), lyric Pt Indra Pandit, music Vinod
Here is a fun and light hearted duet by Talat Mahmood and Geeta Dutt on Mahipal and Shyama. Shyama as ever is a delightful dancer. Mahipal complements her in playful flirting. Talat is an unlikely choice for such a song, but there are several songs, especially duets in which Talat Mahmood comes out of his image trap of a soulful, slow tempo ghazal singer and lets himself go.
(I would like to acknowledge that I heard some of the songs mentioned in this article for the first time on Atul song a day).