Dec 09, 2023
Dec 09, 2023
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Between 1949 and 1951 I completed my graduation. I was still very young, just into my seventeenth year, the youngest student in my class. In the company of my three older siblings, I was discovering myself, developing my interests in reading, literature, films, and music. I was close to my third brother Jagan Mohan who was two years older than me. As is to be expected, we often differed in our opinions, tastes, and interests. In literature, he liked adventure, mystery, and detective fiction. Sir Walter Scott, Arthur Conan Doyle, Perry Mason, John Dickson Carr and the cheaply available Sexton Blake detective novels were his favourites. He introduced me to Baroness Orczy. In music he liked the fast numbers and those with twists and quirky lyrics. He had a knack of tweaking the lyrics of sober songs to make them sound funny. At the same time, if he was fond of Chittalkar’s pahle to ho gayi namaste namaste from Patanga (1949), main hoon ek khalasi from Sargam (1950), GM Durrani’s hum to tere dil ke bangle me aana mangta from Magroor (1950) and hello sai hello from Bade bhayya (1951), he was equally fond of the melodious chanda re jare jare from Ziddi (1948) and tumhare bulane ko from Doli (1949). We were both fond of Kishore Kumar ’s hilarious fun songs. I am posting the links to these songs in memory of my brother Mohan.
chanda re jare jare: Ziddi (1948)
tumhare bulane ko Doli (1949)
Ziddi brings me back to the happy coincidence that this was also the time when the shining stars of the 1960s and 1970s were struggling beginners. Up to 1947 the main male stars were Ashok Kumar, KL Saigal, Prithviraj Kapoor, Motilal and Chandramohan. Ashok Kumar was the most highly paid, reportedly receiving a lakh of rupees for his role in Najma (1943), the first Muslim social. The death of Saigal left him and Motilal as the two romantic heroes. Dilip Kumar, who had debuted in 1944 with Jwar bhata, tasted success only with Jugnu (1947). Raj Kapoor, noticed in Gopinath, had a series of unsuccessful films until Barsaat (1949). Dev Anand was looking for an opening until Ashok Kumar inducted him into a role written for Ashok Kumar by Shahid Latif, Ismat Chughtai and Sadat Hasan Manto in Ziddi (1948). Singing heroines were Noor Jehan, Khurshid, Sitara devi and Suraiya. The first two left for Pakistan along with several other Muslim artists and Sitara devi returned to dancing, her first love. Nargis and Madhubala were still struggling youngsters. The same applied to singers after the departure of Saigal, Noorjehan and Khurshid.
Some snippets from a biography of Kishore Kumar are worth citing in this connection. Lata Mangeshkar first met Kishore at a recording with Khemchand Prakash mistaking him for a stalker. Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle got their breaks in Bombay Talkies singing for Khemchand Prakash. Both faced rejection early in their careers when they had gone to record a duet. The sound recordist rejected them because of their ‘voice’! Kishore’s audio test for All India Radio was taken by young Madan Mohan who was conducting children’s programmes on AIR. The person who accompanied him on the Tabla was Raj Kapoor! Lata and Asha were struggling for a living while the others, who were well off, were looking for their careers. Madan Mohan was the son of Rai Bahadur Chunilal Kohli, production manager of Filmistan Studios
Returning to Kishore Kumar’s fun songs, it was Khemchand Prakash who spotted this talent and tuned songs in Muqaddar (1950) for Kishore to sing duets Ek do teen char and mujhe yaad aati hai janwari pharwari with Asha Bhonsle. We fell in love with this side of Kishore Kumar, the way he could effortlessly move from scale to scale, mixing yodeling and chiki bum chiki bum in every song. None of the other singers had these skills, then or now. Kishore also sang some lovable romantic songs, mostly for Dev Anand, but everyone, including perhaps Kishore himself, thought he was good for light songs only, not for the emotional, soulful numbers. Music directors routinely assigned them to Mukesh, Talat Mahmud, Mohammed Rafi or Manna De. If anyone had told Kishore Kumar then that he would rule the charts in the 1970s and 1980s, he would probably have reacted, “Arre bangdu, pagla gaye kya?” Anil Biswas was one of the few music directors who thought otherwise. More about that later.
Khemchand Prakash (1907-1949) died young but in a short span of 14 years left an enviable legacy of film music. Later generations remember him for songs from Tansen and Mahal but during his lifetime he had many hits like Holi (1940), Fariyad (1942), Bhanwra (1944) and Bhartruhari (1944) to name a few. Born into a family steeped in music and dance (his father was the court dancer and singer in Bikaner Court), he was employed in the royal courts of Bikaner and Nepal before joining New Theatres in Calcutta, where he was Assistant to music director Timir Baran for Saigal starring Devdas. Moving to Bombay in 1939 he joined Ranjit Movietone to provide music for a series of hits including Tansen. He left Ranjit Movietone in 1947 to join Bombay Talkies ending his career with Ziddi, Mahal, Muqaddar and Tansen. He did not live to savour the sensational success of his creations for Mahal.
Both Naushad and Anil Biswas rated him highly. When Khemchand Prakash joined Ranjit Movietone, Naushad was employed there as an instrumentalist. Khemchand took him as his assistant for his first film. Naushad recalls him with great respect saying that he followed in his footsteps but couldn’t reach Khemchand’s heights. Naushad recalls the effective use of classical music by Khemchand Prakash for the songs in Tansen. He says, modestly, that he too had tried to do so in Baiju Bawra but not as well as Khemchand! Anil Biswas mentions that most musicians compose khayals for Tansen. But Khemchand, knowing that khayals were introduced in Hindustani music much after Tansen, composed Sapt Suran teen gram in Tansen in dhrupad. Anil Biswas picks ghabra ke jo hum sarko sung by Rajkumari from Mahal as one of Khemchand’s most memorable compositions.
ghabra ke jo hum sarko: Mahal (1949)
One of his last compositions was this lovable duet from Jan Pehchan (1950) sung by Talat Mahmud and Geeta Roy.
Armaan Bhare Dil Ki Lagan: Jan Pehchan (1950)
We began to take more interest in movies and avidly read the popular movie publications of the day. Baburao Patel's Filmindia, launched in 1935, was already there. It was very popular with students, most of whom couldn’t afford to buy it. But we managed to read it by borrowing it or in the public library reading room. Filmindia was known for its no holds barred, ruthless, observations with headlines like,
“Avoid Afsar (1950) on health grounds.”
“A wretched, boring hotch-potch” for Nargis (1946).
CID (1956) was described as an “unpleasant but stupid crime tale” where “Dev Anand fails to look like an inspector even for a single second”. Mala Sinha was called a “potato face”, Suraiya an “ugly duckling”, while G.P. Sippy was simply dismissed as Mumbai’s “foremost producer of trash”. Baburao Patel went overboard to praise those whom he liked. For example, when Parchhain (1952) was released, he wrote praising V Shantaram’s performance as a blind man and opined that Dilip Kumar, who had acted as a blind man earlier in Deedar (1951), should learn acting from Shantaram. The Filmindia cover for March 1946 featured a poster for K Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam.
In the early 1940s, the tale of Anarkali inspired producer Shiraz Ali Hakeem and young director Karimuddin Asif (K Asif) to make a film adaptation which they would title Mughal-e-Azam. Four Urdu writers, Aman aka Amanullah Khan (Zeenat Aman's father), Wajahat Mirza, Kamaal Amrohi, and Ehsan Rizvi were assigned to develop the screenplay and dialogue. Asif cast Chandra Mohan, D. K. Sapru, and Nargis for the roles of Akbar, Salim, and Anarkali, respectively. Shooting started in 1946 in Bombay Talkies studio. The project faced multiple hurdles, including India's 1947 partition and independence, which forced its temporary abandonment. Shiraz Ali migrated to Pakistan and Chandra Mohan died in 1949. Production was restarted in 1950 with a new cast, after business tycoon Shapoorji Pallonji agreed to finance the film. Meanwhile, Kamal Amrohi, believing that the film had been cancelled, planned to make a film on the same subject himself but agreed to shelve the project when confronted by Asif. From the original cast, only Durga Khote remained in the movie.
The review of Baazi makes interesting reading. “In the hands of a competent director”, Patel writes, “dramatic aspects of Baazi could have become very effective screen sequences.” According to him, “The technical side of the picture is poor, photography and recording being very indifferent. The direction is amateurish throughout.” The target of this tirade is one of the greatest filmmakers of Indian cinema, the redoubtable Guru Dutt. While showering high praise on his favourite actress, “Wherever there is Geeta Bali, it is useless to look for a better performance elsewhere”, Patel trashes the debutant heroine “the pigeon-chested Kalpana Kartik is utterly useless for screen work.”
Screen, a film magazine published by The Indian Express Group was launched in September 1951. It had the get-up of a newspaper but had the usual features of a film magazine including a gossip column.
J. C. Jain who was working for Bennett, Coleman and Company Limited, owned by RK Dalmia, conceived the idea of Filmfare at the house of actress Kamini Kaushal. The magazine was launched on 7 March 1952 with her on the cover. It claimed to represent the first serious effort in film journalism in India. In 1953, Filmfare instituted the Filmfare Awards, initially called Clare Awards, named after late film journalist Clare Mendonça. The first award ceremony took place at Metro Cinema in Bombay on 21 March 1954, when five categories were presented awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Music Director.
We began watching English movies too, mostly in morning shows. To begin with we watched adventure and swashbuckling movies like Blood and Sand but soon switched to old classics like Random Harvest, Captains Courageous, Lost Horizon, All Quiet on the Western Front, and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We also began reading English movie magazines like the British Picturegoer and the American Photoplay.
Among the films of this period Dillagi, Dulari, Andaz, Mela (Naushad), Bazaar (Shyam Sunder), Patanga (C Ramchandra) and Raj Kapoor's Barsaat, the debut film of Nimmi and the musical duo of Shankar-Jaikishen, Mahal (Khemchand Prakash), and Badi Bahen (Husnlal Bhagatram) were all musical treats. The songs from these movies, particularly hava me udta jaye from Barsaat, aayega aane wala from Mahal, chup chup khade ho from Badi Bahen and lara lappa lara lappa from Ek Thi Ladki, established Lata Mangeshkar as the leading playback singer.
Until then, names of singers did not appear on the labels of gramophone records. I remember seeing the gramophone record of aayega aane wala bearing the name of Kamini, the character played by Madhubala in Mahal. When the song was first played on All India Radio and the presenter announced the name of Kamini, AIR was flooded with letters asking for the real name of the singer. AIR referred to the producers and announced the name of Lata Mangeshkar. Following this incident, singers led by Lata fought for their rights including getting credit and a fair share of royalties.
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More by : Ramarao Annavarapu
|Wonderful reading.Took me back to my childhood time.Mr Ramarao happens to be my elder brother and therefore the narrative stired many more memories of related incidents.|