This enthralling volume presents a kaleidoscopic view into the world of Hindi flim music, which has held us spellbound for close to 80 years! India’s topmost music historian, Raju Bharatan, delves deep into the legendary treasury that is our song history to spotlight how stardom and ‘songdom’ do meet to make the film number a part of the nation’s psyche.
The author, on the basis of his being physically present when many memorable melodies were composed and recorded, describes how they came to be audio-visually immortalized. Right from the era of vintage composers such as Khemchand Prakash, Naushad and Anil Biswas to the present-day musician such as A.R. Rahman, Raju Bharatan paints a broad canvas with bold strokes. He also puts in perspective the significant contributions made by the singers, the lyricists and the instrumentalists. The roles played by ‘wavemakers’ such as Raj Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand and Yash Chopra in picturizing various unforgettable melodies are delineated in graphic detail.
This unique ‘odyssey’ will reveal fascinating facts such as:
• Which composer was to originally score the music for Umrao Jaan (1981).
• Why there was an egostand-off between Lata Manageshkar and Mohammed Rafi for three years in the 1960s.
• How Rahul Dev Burman lost out on a on a prestigious award in the late 1960s.
• How a factual error went unnoticed in the question-and-answer format of Slumdog Millionaire, which recently swept the Oscars.
Here is a tuneful compendium that both the music lover and the lay reader cannot afford to miss.
Raju Bharatan, who is widely recognized as the leading authority on film music in India, was assistant editor in The Illustrated Weekly of India (in The Times of India Group of Publications). Over the decades, he has contributed numerous articles to publications such as Filmfare, SCREEN and the Hindustan Times. He is also the author of Lata Mangeshkar: A Biography.
When more than 15 years ago Lata Mangeshkar: A Biography was published, there were very few books on music idols. But with the passage of time, a variety of publications in this genre made an appearance, crystallizing into a trend. What one misses, however, is a kaleidoscopic work that views-vintage musically- Hindustani cinema through the luminous prism of the galaxy of stars upon whom all those vintage numbers came to be audio-visually immortalized. In other words, a book cinematically highlighting the tuneful contribution, to our film lore only of music makers, lyric writers and singers but also of such exceptionally creative wavemakers as Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Vijay Anand, Guru Dutt and Yash Chopra.
A Journey Down Melody Lane is ideated as such a breakway book epitomizing the ‘Musey’ musicality of the motion picture in India. It examine, in sonorous detail, how the timeless music we so cherish came to be crafted by a Naushad Ali via a Mohammed Rafi; a Madan via a Lata Mangeshkar; and an O.P. Nayyar via an Asha Bhosle. It expressively explores our treasure trove to spread out, before rasiks, gems so polished as to make our silver screen an eye-filling phantasmagoria. It comes up with fascinating nuggest of information that whet the appetite to know more about films in general and film music in particular.
I am grateful to Doordarshan for conferring upon me the title of ‘film historian’. For all that, I am a listener first, a chronicler after. That is why I feel bewildered when I find a slew of writers and commentators today presuming to hold forth on the nitty-gritty of Hindustani cinesangeet as if they were ‘there’ when it all happened in the golden age of film music. If they were there, I never saw them. I regularly beheld, at such 1950s-1960s song recording and music ‘siting’, only Jitubhai Mehta alongside SCREEN photographer-reporter R.M. Kumtakar.
While a music recording happens with everything rehearsed and ready, a song sitting is where you get to witness the number’s writer, composer and singer including in the scale of non-jhonk bringing a certain rounding to the tuning. Like, for instance, lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri apostrophizing it as Chashm-e-bad door to complete Teree pyaaree pyaaree soorat ko kissee kee naar na lage as the Jaikishan take on B. Saroja Devi-via the 1961 ‘come-over-to-Sasural’ overtures of a Rajendra Kumar vocally vindicated by Mohammed Rafi. You think the Teree pyaaree pyaaree tune was final and ready for recording after that? Perish the thought! A week passed in further refining the tune for it to acquire the razzle-dazzle it did on the screen.
As a fresher still, I watched entranced as, first, Jitubhai Mehta and then R.M. Kumtakar softly ventured to offer their mellifluent impressions to the tune’s composer. If O.P. Nayyar genuinely valued Mehta’s insinghts, Madan Mohan habitually turned to Kumtakar for final ghazal approval. To think that I joined the Mehata-Kumtakar assigned to me- after all those intellectual heavyweights considered it beneath their dignity to handle something so demeaning as ‘films’!
Thus did popular cinema and quality music mingle in my bloodstream-over a period of 60 years. It therefore amuses me no end upon being ‘authoritatively’ told, on TV, that ace composer C.Ramchandra created all nine songs of Azaad (1955) during a single night’s sitting! ‘It’s but the mere outline of a tune you could get in a flash,’ C. Ramchandra enlightened me. ‘Recording the song after that is a humdrum process consuming a minimum of two-to-three days even when rushed, as we were on Azaad. No composer on earth could conjure a tune and “take” it in the same breath. Each Lata tune needs nursing in the heart and mind’.
Let no one therefore dare tell you that any tune got ‘done’ in two shakes of a duck’s tail. It might sound great to hear that R.D. Burman ‘songscaped’ Asha Bhosle as Dum maaro dum with a snap of the fingers, but the ground reality is quite something else. The aim of this book, therefore, is to set the gramophone record straight-for instance, by noting that Lata Mangshkar’s entery of 30,000 songs in the Guinness Book of World Records was officially expunged in 1990 itself. In underpinning such fragments of facts, the integrated effort its to orchestrate our evergreen music in an idiom designed to offer a orchestrate our evergreen music in an idiom designed to offer a grandstand view of the 60 song-laden years spanning the 1947-2007 musical spectrum. Nor is the music made before 1947 and after 2007 by any means underplayed for I have update my musings to embrace the period up to the arrival of A.R. Rahman.
It was in a Rahman-era newspaper supplement, HT Café of the Hindustan Times, that I resumed writing on our song treasury via a column titled Mausam Hai Musicana-at the invitation of cineaste Khalid Mohamed. After doing a number of such columns, I obtusely lost, on the computer, each piece so written! This was when my perceptive musical admirer, Rupa Dore, magically materialized, on my computer, to retrieve each such piece for me. But for Rupa and her spot audio-visual feedback, this book could not have been undertaken. If only because those HT Café contributions represent some of the source material shaping this book-something for which I sincerely thank the HT Group in the face of having proceeded to expand each such 450-words column! The stimulus for the book’s mood-setting opening chapter came from a musical odyssey I undertook for the prestigious Sangeet Natak journal in its centenary issue-something I acknowledge tribute to composer Vasant Desai carried in Filmfare, The Illustrated Weekly of India, SCREEN, MID DAY, rediff.com and others.
My long-time fan Shiva Shetty was remorselessly at me never losing hope of motivating me into actualizing this book. Even as I sat down with Shetty to check out on certain song details, he brought heaps of Xeroxed material whose originals I had never bothered to collect. I could use but a fraction of it all, given my habit of ‘writing into’ my writings! Many others helped, notably the soft-toned Ashok Rege, whose memory-bank recall I employed to the hilt. My cinesangeet-committed friends , Mukesh Geet Kosh compiler Harish Raghuwanshi and Shankar-Jaikishan biographer Padmanabh Joshi, were always on tap to clear any doubt that suddenly arose.
But real assistance came from my phenomenally computer-saccy wife Girijia Rajendran- as an eminent movie journalist and film music specialist herself. Her totally unexpected death on 18 December 2009 proved a body blow. It was the signal for our only child, Shilpa Bharatan layer, to take me-our eyes still moist-through the 1980s-1990s music, which is her strong suit. I have praised our musical legends generously where due but not spared the holy crows of our sondom from critical scrutiny. For all that, Lata Mangeshkar remains, in my euphonious esteem, the greatest singer ever to be heard in Hindustani cinema. But for Lata’s inspirational vocalizing, I would never started writing on music. If only because cricket is my passion, music is my pastime. Lata Mangeshkar is thus still the impetus to my writing a second book on music. An irreverent book that, hopefully, turens out to be as ‘unputdownable’ as the Mangeshkar of Mangeshkars has been from 1949 Dulari Down:
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