My Journey through Films and Film Songs 2

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Towards the end of the scholastic session my father was transferred again, this time to a station beyond Rajnandgaon, in Chhattisgarh. We joined the school hostel till the end of the term. Enjoying more freedom than we had at home, we managed to see a few films during this period, Filmistan's first film Chal Chal Re Naujawan starring Ashok Kumar and Naseem (mother of Saira Bano), Sohrab Modi's Prithvi Vallabh with Sohrab and Durga Khote and Ram Rajya starring Shobhana Samarth (mother of Nutan). Manna Dey made his debut in film with Thyagamayee tu gayi filmed on Valmiki. For some time after this he was offered only songs for Sadhus, mendicants etc. In an interview on AIR Calcutta, he bemoaned how he was typecast to sing songs for old men in his early twenties. Bharat ki ek sannari ki a song filmed on Luv and Kush was a very popular song from Ram Rajya. Another song that still moves me is "Beena madhur madhur kachhu bol".

When the schools reopened, my father rented a couple of rooms in Chitar Oli in the house of Babulal Agarwal, a forwarding agent (dalal) whom my father knew from Kanhan. We stayed there up to the end of the school session in 1945. My father lived alone in Parmalkasa and visited us from time to time.  We commuted to our school in Dhantoli on foot or on bicycles. During this period, I recall seeing Do Bhai with Gita Roy's songs, mera sunder sapna toot gaya and yaad karoge yaad karoge.

My father requested for a posting as Relieving Station Master and, after summer, we moved to Nagpur to stay in a railway colony called Punjabi lines on Kamptee Road just north of Gaddigodam. We lived in Punjabi Lines up to 1949, by which time I finished Intermediate Science. This period coincided with the some of the best songs of KL Saigal and saw the emergence of the great music directors and singers of the 1950s and 1960s. Naushad, C Ramchandra and SD Burman, closely followed by OP Nayyar and Madan Mohan, and Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, and Kishore Kumar surfaced at this time. Songs from Jugnu, (yahan badla wafa ka bewafai ke siva kya hai) Zeenat (aahen na bhari shikwe na kiye), Rattan (Rum jhum barse badaruwa and O jane wale balamuwa), Anmol Ghadi (Aaja Aaja and udan khatole pe ud jaoon),  Shehnai (jawani ki rail chali jaye re and maar katari mar jana), Shah Jehan (jab dil hi toot gaya and gham diye mushtakil) and others blared from loudspeakers in marriage pandals, Ganesh Puja and Durga Puja functions. Soon after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, suno suno ae duniyawalo bapu ki ye amar kahani, a tribute written by Rajinder Krishen, composed by Music Director duo Husnlal Bhagatram and sung by Mohammed Rafi became very popular. It brought Mohammed Rafi into the limelight. The songs that became popular immediately after a movie was released were not necessarily the best or the most lasting. For example, milke bichhad gayee akhiyan from Rattan, aawaz de kahan hai from Anmol ghadi, baje shehnai hamare angana from Shahnai were remembered for long afterwards. To learn a song, we had to stand near the venue of a function, try to memorize the tune and words and practice at home. Occasionally, we would borrow the gramophone record of a new song, play it on our gramophone repeatedly to get the tune and lyrics. We learnt Kanan Devi’s song Prabhuji Rakho Laaj Hamaari from Hospital this way.

Three movies released during this period deserve special mention. Meera (1947) starring MS Subbalakshmi made her a national celebrity. Her songs from the film are still popular. Kalpana (1948), a film on Indian dances made by dancer Uday Shankar was a unique experience. Chandralekha (1948) made by SS Vasan for Gemini Studios at the phenomenal cost of 35 lakh rupees made a breakthrough for South Indian producers into Hindi films.

When I joined College of Science, Nagpur for my B Sc, my father was posted in Raipur. We four brothers lived for a short while near Itwari railway station at first but soon we moved to a lodging-cum-boarding house - a Khanaval in Marathi - in Sitabaldi. This not only brought us closer to our colleges but also to the markets and cinema halls. Many of our friends and classmates lived nearby and we developed our interests in films and film music in this period. I was in my 16th year when we came to Sitabaldi. Mahesh Chandra Sharma, who was my classmate and close friend in school was in the same class, but we only had one common subject, Chemistry, because he was in the biology group in intermediate, whereas I had joined the mathematics group. He lived very close to our lodge.

The lodge was in the area known as Somvari, named after the weekly fair, held there every Monday. Some of the shops in the area owned radios which they played loudly to attract customers. A crowd would collect near these shops when songs were broadcast. Mohan and I could often be found in that crowd. That was the time we heard of the singers who made waves in the fifties and sixties; Mukesh singing tu kahe agar and jhoom jhoom ke, Lata Mangeshkar with hawa me udta jaye, jiya bekarar hai and lara lappa and both of them singing together ye duniya hai, Rafi with tera khilauna toota and is dil ke tukde hazaar huye, Talat Mahmud with, tasvir teri dil mera etc.        

We also began seeing more films. We would go in the lowest class at 4 annas & 3 pice (about 30 paise). Finding money for the tickets was always a problem. On one occasion Mohan and I sold our old exercise books to see Raj Kapoor's Barsaat. Other memorable films we saw were Dulari and Patanga. We thus got introduced to the trio of music directors, Shankar-Jaikishen, Naushad & C Ramchandra, who would rule our hearts for the next two decades. We were already familiar with Kumar Sachin Deb Burman through Shikari, his film with Ashok Kumar, who had remained our favourite. We were very fond of the songs from the 1943 film Kismet but didn't know till much later that its music director was Anil Biswas, who had scored in Arzoo and brought Talat to films. Madhubala appeared in Beqasoor and followed it up with Mahal, a big hit of the time with haunting music by Khemchand Prakash. V. Shantaram’s Dahej was a big hit too but it's singing heroine Jayshree did not attract us much with her shallow voice. But Shantaram's next film Parchhain got us humming to C Ramchandra"s melodious tunes including muhabbat hi na jo samjhe. Roshan made a notable entry with Bawre Nain.

The hit pairs of the time were Suraiya-Dev Anand, Kamini Kaushal-Dilip Kumar, and Raj Kapoor-Nargis. After Shikari, Ashok Kumar stopped acting for a while. We heard that he had gone to England. When he returned, he returned with a film called Khiladi costarring Suraiya. In the trailer for the film, he looked rounded and flabby and we wondered what had happened to our childhood hero. But in a cluster of films that followed, Poonam, Aadhi Raat, Nishana and, most notably, Mahal he was his old self, now much more mature and self-assured. He paired up with Nalini Jaywant in several successful movies, Kafila, Samadhi, Nau Bahar and Sangram. Actually, Ashok Kumar had stopped acting to focus on the revival of Bombay Talkies which he and Savak Vacha had acquired after Devika Rani, the widow of Himanshu Roy, the founder of Bombay Talkies married painter Svetoslav Roerich and moved to Bangalore. A series of films followed from the studio, Majboor, Muqaddar, Ziddi and Maa without Ashok Kumar as an actor. After Bimal Roy made waves with Pehla Admi, Ashok Kumar invited him to direct Maa for Bombay Talkies. Ashok Kumar acted in subsequent Bombay Talkies films Mahal, Mashal, Tamasha and Sangram.

My brother Mohan was an ardent fan of Dilip Kumar. He saw all his films and raved about him. I would argue with him in favour of Ashok Kumar or Raj Kapoor and avoided seeing Dilip's films. My friend Mahesh and I had similar tastes and relied on each other’s opinions. He had watched Kidar Sharma’s Jogan and advised me strongly to watch it. Kidar Sharma, who wrote the lyrics for PC Barua’s Devdas, earned respect as a director with Bawre Nain starring Raj Kapoor and Geeta Bali. Jogan was a milestone in his career with sterling performances from both Nargis and Dilip Kumar. What a performance that was! I dropped my prejudice and became an ardent fan, making up for my earlier neglect by seeing all his old films in reruns.

In 1949, Prithviraj Kapoor visited Nagpur with his drama troupe to stage his extremely popular plays, Aahuti, Dewar and Pathan. As part of the publicity for the shows, the 150 strong party paraded the streets. We got a glimpse of Prithviraj and his son Shammi, lean, tall and peach coloured, as well as several others who became celebrities in subsequent years.

The untimely death of Kundan Lal Saigal in January 1947 left a vacuum in film music. Saigal was the most versatile singer of his time.

"Saigal's unique voice quality which was a mixture of baritone and soft tenor was the benchmark for most of the singers who followed him. In fact, it remains the gold standard even today, shining through very early and practically primitive recording technology." --- Wikipedia

Naushad said that in all his career he had not come across a voice with a quality to match Saigal’s. Some have tried to imitate him but in vain.

Saigal left an indelible mark on Indian film music. In a span of fifteen years, he sang 185 songs, film and non-film, in Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Persian and even Tamil. Saigal was at home in geet, ghazal, bhajan, songs of romance or pathos. He sang sad songs with an intensity of feeling unmatched by his peers. He showed his mettle with Thumri in babul mora naihar chhuto jaye (Street Singer 1937) and the songs of Tansen in classical style.  Saigal died young, a couple of months short of his 43rd birthday, a victim of alcoholism. It was reported that he was so emaciated during the last period of his life that bandages were wrapped round his body under his costumes for his roles in his last movies, Shahjehan (1946) and Parwana (released posthumously in 1947). Amazingly, the quality of his singing remained unimpaired in these films.

Naushad recalled that when he recorded his first song with Saigal for Shahjehan, Saigal was suffering from liver cirrhosis. He could barely eat and practically lived on alcohol. His physician, Dr Latif had left his practice in Kolkata to take care of him. At the recording, Saigal took a peg before each rehearsal and drank the whole night long. The next day, Naushad persuaded Saigal to sing without drinking. Saigal agreed on condition that the take won’t be screened without his consent and that he would also record separately in his own way. When the two recordings were played back, Saigal was surprised to find that the take without a peg was better.

Naushad told him that he was living under a delusion that he couldn’t sing without drinking. Those who told him so were his enemies, not his friends. Saigal broke down and wished someone had told him this earlier. “May be, I would have lived a little longer” said Saigal, “but now it’s too late.” As per his wish, this song Jab dil hi toot gaya was played at Saigal’s funeral.

One of my favourite Saigal songs is an inspirational non-film song composed by DN Madhok. During the British regime, poets often wrote patriotic songs metaphorically to escape prosecution.

Panchhi kahe hot udas

Panchhi (bird) is the freedom fighter, sajan (beloved) is freedom and pinjra (cage) is slavery.

Uth aur uth kar aag laga de 
Phoonk de pinjra pankh jala de
Raakh baboola bankar teri 
pahunche unke pas.

The poet exhorts the bird to burn the cage and sacrifice himself. His raakh (ashes) will raise a whirlwind (baboola) that would bring freedom.

Saigal’s voice and style are the perfect foil to convey the poet’s emotions to listeners.

Everyone tried to follow Saigal’s singing style. Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar acknowledged him as their guru. After his death, music directors desperately searched for a singer matching his voice quality. All actors were singers and vice versa. Ashok Kumar, Surendra, Pahari Sanyal and Asit Baran all singing stars. Play back singing was in its infancy so much so that for several years gramophone records credited the songs to the actors or the characters they played instead of to the play back singers. Baburao Patel, editor of Filmindia moaned that, “Saigal threatens to be immortal, with Surendras and Pahari Sanyals turning unmusical day by day.” When Talat Mehmood made his film debut as a playback singer in Kamal Ke Phool in 1950, the film’s trailer hailed him as the best singer after Saigal. In Dalsukh M Pancholi’s Nagina (1951) CH Atma was hailed as the new Saigal singing roun mai sagar ke kinare in Saigal's style. Atma had sung a private song earlier, composed by OP Nayyar and written by Nayyar’s wife Sushila Nayyar. This song by CH Atma - Preetam Aan Milo - became a big hit in the 1950s.

Dalsukh M Pancholi was a film distributor, studio owner and film maker in Lahore before he was forced to move to Bombay after partition. He tried to resume film making in India and produced Meena Bazar in 1950 with limited success. His next Nagina (1951) was a mystery film starring young Nutan and Nasir Khan and haunting music by Shankar-Jaikishen, fresh from their successful debut in Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat. Looking for a cheaper option for a music director for his next film Aasman (1952), he gave a break to OP Nayyar.    

Among the highest grossing films for the year 1948 were Gemini’s Chandralekha and Homi Wadia’s and Basant Pictures maiden production 11 O’Clock, a stunt film starring Fearless Nadia. Chandralekha starred Tamil film stars TR Rajkumari and MK Radha in the lead and Ranjan in a negative role. Ranjan’s performance earned him several roles in Hindi movies, including Kafila (1952), costarring Ashok Kumar, Motilal and Nalini Jaywant, and a leading role in Shin Shinaki Boobla Boo (1952). Raj Kapoor’s and RK Films maiden production Aag was also released in 1948.  

Other notable films of the year were Anokhi Ada, Anokha Pyar, Pyar ki jeet and Gopinath. Naushad came up with mournful tunes bhulanewale yaad na aa and kabhi dil dil se takarata to hoga for Mukesh in Anokhi Ada. Anil Biswas’s jeevan sapna toot gaya for Mukesh and Lata in Dilip Kumar starring Anokha Pyar was a chart buster, while Suraiya’s voice reverberated from loudspeakers with o door janewale and tere nainon ne chori kiya from Pyar ki jeet. Mahesh Kaul’s Gopinath was distinguished by captivating performances from a young Raj Kapoor and Tripti Mitra, who was destined to become one of the most legendary figures of Bengali theatre. Other hit Songs of 1948 were watan ki raah me and badnam na ho jaye from Shaheed, gaye ja geet milan ke and ye zindagi ke mele from Mela, dekh chand ki or and na ankhon me aansoo from Aag.

Bhulane wale yaad na aa (Anokhi Ada 1948)

Watan ki raah me watan ke naujawan (Shaheed 1948)

In Patanga Shamshad Begum was the lead singer and Lata Mangeshkar had only two songs, but they caught the attention of listeners. Here is one of them,

Dil se bhule do tum hame (Patanga 1949)

The films released in the next two years provided a bonanza for music lovers. Gore Gore from Samadhi and mere piya gaye rangoon from Patanga are still popular in social media. Talat Mehmood scored his first hit with ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal from Aarzoo (1950). Madan Mohan entered the field with Ankhen. He had hoped to record the songs for his first film in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar but had to settle for Meena Kapoor for Meri ataria pe kaga bole. C Ramchandra got another hit with PL Santoshi’s Sargam with classical based jab dil ko sataye gham and a medlee like main hoon ek khalasi, in which C Ramchandra created a flurry of drum beats. He was to claim later that with this he had invented rock and roll long before the dance beat arrived in India. Geeta Dutt (then Geeta Roy) scored heavily with her rendering of Meera Bhajans, ghunghat ke pat khol re, aeri mai to prem diwani and mat ja mat ja mat ja jogi under the baton of Bulo C Rani for Jogan as well as kankar kankar se main poochhoon, gun gun gunjan karta bhanwra and other songs for music director Avinash Vyas from Har Har Mahadeo, the surprise hit of the year. Sohrab Modi’s Sheesh Mahal (1949) and Swayam Siddha (1949) were distinguished by powerful dialogues. The latter was remade later as Bahurani (1963).

Gun gun gunjan karta bhanwra (Har Har Mahadeo 1950)

Mat ja mat mat ja jogi (Jogan 1950)

Main hoon ek khalasi (Sargam 1950)

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  Ramarao Annavarapu

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Views: 3685      Comments: 1

Comment Interesting to read. Thank you.

Hira Duvvuri
29-May-2023 20:58 PM

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