I have not forgotten the Forgotten Composers, Unforgettable Melodies. It so happens that in a unique coincidence birth anniversaries of Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, and death anniversaries of Mohammad Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore Kumar fall in a narrow band of two and a half months between July 31 to October 13. They are the biggest icons of playback singing in the Golden Era, and I did not want to miss these special occasions to offer my tributes. I am back with C Arjun, who should rank among the top in this series not only alphabetically but because of his timeless creations. It was characteristic of the period that in a crowded field of many highly talented composers, some were consigned to B or C grade films. C Arjun was one of them. But his music towers over his films. Only one song of his – Paas baitho tabiyat bahal jayegi sung by Rafi is enough to give him immortality. Many of this blog’s readers have mentioned his name and this song. Much later his C grade film Jai Santoshi Maa, released in the year of the mighty Sholay and Deewar, established itself as one of the highest grossing films ever on the strength of his music.
Originally a Sindhi, he was born on September 1, 1933. After partition his family settled in Baroda. He inherited his musical talent from his father who was a singer. He became assistant to another Sindhi music director Bulo C Rani. He started his career with composing for a Sindhi film Abana. His first Hindi film was Road no 303 (1960). Off and on he got films under nondescript banners with B/C grade cast. That he created memorable music nevertheless did not do much to change his fortunes. His teaming with the lyricist Jaan Nisar Akhtar would rank at par with the best of Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s composed by SD Burman or Roshan. He also composed a number of non film songs. He died at a relatively young age of 59 of heart attack he suffered at a recording studio. (Biographical information based on Pankaj Raag’s ‘Dhunon Ki Yatra’).
Here are his all-time great songs, which every music lover knows though many may not be aware that they are C Arjun’s compositions.
1. Paas baitho tabiyat bahal jayegi by Rafi from Punrmilan (1964), lyrics Indivar
Any mention of C Arjun has to start with this song. It is easily among Rafi’s all time greats. KR Vaishampayan, a regular follower of this blog, in one of his comments, drew attention to an interesting story behind this song told to him by his friend Dr Satyavir Yadav, who heard it on Binaca Geetmala hosted by Ameen Sayani. Once C Arjun and and Indivar were returning home from studio by a BEST bus, when a pretty young girl boarded the bus and stood beside their seat. Indivar looked at her repeatedly and asked C Arjun to leave his seat to let her sit beside him, and thus this song was born. Incredibly this song is picturised on Jagdeep who was in the lead role opposite Ameeta, who had a brief period of glory with some super hit films in the late 50s and early 60s such as Tum Sa Nahi Dekha and Goonj Uthi Shenai.
2. Chaah karni thi chaah kar baithe by Asha Bhosle and Mubarak Begum from Punarmilan, lyrics Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Paas baitho tabiyat bahal jayegi was not a flash in the pan. Punarmilan had several outstanding songs. C Arjun shows his prowess for composing ghazal in this beautiful poetry of Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. Asha Bhosle and Mubarak Begum have rendered it equally beautifully, so have Shashikala and Ameeta acted it on the screen.
3. In pyar ki rahon mein tera hi sahara hai by Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Punarmilan, lyrics Gulshan Bawra
Punarmilan had three lyricists. This one is a duet by Rafi and Asha penned by Gulshan Bawra. This duet would compare with the best Rafi – Asha Bhosle duets by OP Nayyar. Jagdeep and Ameeta do the dancing around trees like any mainstream stars.
4. Bhai re bhai, main to bawri bhai by Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar from Punarmilan, lyrics Gulhan Bawra
Now you have a totally different flavour in this rarely heard Manna Dey – Lata Mangeshkar duet. A beautiful Krishna – Radha dance song performed on stage by Jagdeep – Ameeta.
5. Gham ki andheri raat mein by Rafi and Talat Mahmood from Susheela (1966), lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar
Gham ki andheri raat mein must be one of the best male duets of two legends Rafi and Talat Mahmood. The beautiful poetry is again by Jaan Nisar Akhtar who seemed to have a very creative pairing with Jaan Nisar Akhtar. This song bears an uncanny similarity to Sahir Ludhiyanvi – Khayyam composition Wo subah kabhi to ayegi from Phir Subah Hogi.
6. Bemurravat bewafa begana-e-dil aap hain by Mubarak Begum from Susheela
If a composer creates an unforgettable song for a B/C grade movie he must be immensely talented. If he creates two such songs you bow your head to him. C Arjun creates one of the most unforgettable songs of Mubarak Begam, a beautiful ghazal.
7. Main abhi gair hun mujhko abhi apna na kaho by Mukesh and Asha Bhosle from Main Aur Mera Bhai (1961), lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar
Mukesh and Asha Bhosle have sung some heavenly duets, and Main abhi gair hun mujhko abhi apna na kaho should easily rank among their best.
8. Peenwale meri ankhon se piya karte hain by Asha Bhosle from Mangu Dada (1970), lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar
C Arjun displayed amazing variety in whatever limited assignment he got. Here is a lovely mujra by Asha Bhosle in another C-grade film which has actors like Sheikh Mukhtar, Faryal etc in the cast.
9. Jitni haseen ho tum utni hi bewafa ho by Rafi from Mangu Dada, lyrics by Jaan Nisaar Akhtar
Here is an amazing Rafi solo. If you close your eyes you would imagine it must have been picturised on a top star like Rajendra Kumar and composed by a top music director like Shankar Jaikishan. Besides being highly talented composer, C Arjun must have been a very sincere person to create this gem for Sujit Kumar romancing Faryal.
10. Main to aarti utarun re by Usha Mngeshkar from Jai Santoshi Ma (1975)
The pinnacle of C Arjun’s work was Jai Santoshi Ma, a low budget film which came in the year of Sholay and Deewar and soon became a surprise super duper hit ranking among all-time highest grossers, obviously riding on the wave of his amazingly lilting compositions. Those were the days of radios at paan-shop and loudspeakers at every neighbourhood corner, blaring songs incessantly. You could not spend half an hour without listening to one or the other song of Jai Santoshi Ma. Here is an iconic aarti which really started the cult of Santoshi Mata. Before this film Santoshi Ma was hardly among the well-known deities.