Dec 04, 2023
Dec 04, 2023
The 1950s were truly known as the Golden Age of Hindi film music and 1951 was the harbinger of some of the most enduring melodies of all time. Established music directors like Naushad, C Ramchandra and SD Burman, emergent music directors Shankar-Jaikishan and budding music directors Roshan, Madan Mohan and Jamal Sen all contributed to this feast of music in 1951. Moreover, each of the top ten films of the year 1951 had some distinguishing feature.
Awara was RK films third production. It was the first time that Raj Kapoor displayed Chaplinesque mannerisms and the first time he cast his father Prithviraj to act under his direction. Prithviraj's father Dewan Basheshwarnath Kapoor also played a cameo role in his only film appearance. With Raj Kapoor’s younger brother Shashiraj playing young Raj Kapoor in the film, there were four Kapoors from three generations of the family acting together in the movie. The dream sequence in Awara was the first of its kind in Hindi films. It became a trendsetter for other producers. It was the first Indian film to become a success in the Arabian countries, Russia and China. The film was nominated for the Grand Prize at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival. The film and the song Awara Hoon became very popular in Russia. On his arrival in Moscow with the Indian Film delegation, Raj Kapoor was greeted with chants of Awara Hoon. Awara was remade in Turkey as Avare (1964).
Navketan films production Baazi ushered in two of the most iconic personalities of all time into Hindi films, debutant director Guru Dutt and lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi. Balraj Sahni collaborated with Guru Dutt on the story and wrote the screenplay and dialogues of the film. With this film Dev Anand picked up his style, which was to keep him on top, along with Dilip Kumar and Raj Kapoor, for decades to come. Albela marked the entry into mainstream Hindi cinema of Bhagwan Dada, hitherto confined to B grade movies. Filmkar Productions Deedar directed by Nitin Bose and edited by Bimal Roy, one of noted tragedies made in early Hindi cinema became a popular film of the Golden era and further established Dilip Kumar as the "King of Tragedy". It moved family audiences so much that Vikram Seth devoted a chapter in Suitable Boy to describe a family visit to watch the movie in which people watching it burst into tears and people who could not get tickets started a riot. It was a golden jubilee hit all over India. Jadoo was an Indian version of Loves of Carmen, with Nalini Jaywant trying to recreate Rita Hayworth’s image including a Spanish number in Lara lu lara lu.
Jab nain mile nainon se
AV Maiyyappan and director MV Raman made their first foray into Hindi films with AVM’s Bahar, Hindi version of the successful Tamil film Vazhkai, debut film of Vaijayantimala. In the Hindi version, Kishore Kumar sang his first full song for SD Burman, a duet with Shamshad Begum Qusoor aapka huzoor aapka. After the success of RK films Barsaat, in which he played the second lead, Premnath attracted offers of leading roles from the best directors of the day. Amiya Chakravarty’s Badal, in which he costarred with Madhubala, was his first major hit. He was the hero of three more films in 1951, HS Rawail’s Sagai with Rehana, Mahesh Kaul’s Naujawan with Nalini Jaywant and Kidar Sharma’s Shokhian with Suraiya. Director Zia Sarhady had been making films for some time but it was Hum Log that brought him to public notice, along with Balraj Sahni and Nutan.
BR Chopra, another iconic producer director made his debut with Afsana based on a story by IS Johar. The Chopra family continues to dominate Hindi films even today. IS Johar carved a niche for himself in Hindi films as a writer, producer, director, and actor. He was among the first Indian actors to be offered roles in English films. He costarred with Stewart Granger in Harry Black and the Tiger and in David Lean’s Academy Award-winning movie Lawrence of Arabia he acted alongside Peter O’ Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, and Omar Sharif. Afsana starred Ashok Kumar as twin brothers, starting a trend for such dual roles. Nagina, with haunting music by Shankar-Jaikishan introduced CH Atma as the new Saigal. It was Nutan’s second movie after her debut a year earlier in Hamari Beti directed by her mother Shobhana Samarth, herself a well-known actress, who earned applause for her performance as Sita in Vijay Bhatt’s Ram Rajya. The newly formed Board of film censors declared the film as an adult-only film, barring the 15-year-old heroine from seeing her own film.
Among the other films released in 1952 was Sansar, produced by SS Vasan’s Gemini Studios Madras. After the phenomenal success of Chandralekha, Gemini followed up with Nishan and Mangla, dubbed versions of costume dramas with moderate success. Vasan remade a highly successful Telugu family drama in Hindi. Soon afterwards, AVM released Bahar. In Nagpur, these two movies ran continuously for over 30 weeks each in adjacent cinema halls. Playback singer Mukesh became a producer with Malhar, with newcomers in leading roles. Its leading lady Shammi did not stay long as a heroine but essayed many memorable character roles right into the 1990s.
Dilip Kumar was obsessed with the character Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. He had already essayed the role in Shaheed Latif ‘s Arzoo. K Asif gave him another chance to recreate the character in Hulchul. He gave a great performance alongside Nargis and Balraj Sahni. Kishore Sahu, who played the archeologist husband of Wahida Rehman in Dev Anand’s Guide (1965), started his career in 1937 as an actor. He was a writer and director of many successful films starting from Kunwara Baap in 1942. In 1951, he introduced three new actresses, Bina Rai, Asha Mathur and Indira Bansal, in his film Kalighata in which he played the lead. Bina Rai went on to act as a heroine in many films, notably blockbusters Anarkali (1953) and Taj Mahal (1963). The other two had limited success. Asha Mathur married Mohan Segal, maker of hit films like New Delhi (1956), Sajan (1969) and Sawan Bhadon (1970), debut film of Navin Nischol and Rekha. In Kalighata, Bina Rai plays a French girl spouting, “la belle” every now and then. There is also a song filmed on her including the expression.
Il labelle aayee re
Shabistan is most remembered for the tragic death of its hero Shyam, during filming on the set. He was leading a group of riders when he fell off the horse he was riding and was trampled on by the following horses and died of a broken skull. Had he lived longer, with his Errol Flynn-like looks, he would have given stiff competition to the 1950s popular film heroes, Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor. When he began his career Baburao Patel had predicted in Filmindia that he was the successor of Motilal and Prithviraj Kapoor. He had already acted opposite several of the top actresses of the time such as Nargis (Meena Bazaar), Nigar Sultana (Bazaar & Patanga 1949), Naseem Bano (Chandni Raat & Shabistan), Suraiya (Dillagi & Naach) and Nalini Jaywant (Nirdosh). Shyam was among the close friends of writer Saadat Ali Khan Manto. He was Manto's friend, confidant, and inspiration for stories. He is featured in Nandita Das’s 2017 film Manto starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Manto.
Tarana brought Dilip Kumar and Madhubala together for the first time beginning a love affair that lasted several years, eventually resulting in a messy breakup. Their offline chemistry carried to the screen, making them a much sought after leading pair.
The Music of 1951
By 1951, Naushad had grown to the stature of the Sangeet Samrat of Hindi films, one who made music on his own terms, brooking no interference from producers, directors, or distributors. Naushad was music director for two films, Nitin Bose’s Deedar and AR Kardar’s Jadoo. For Deedar, Naushad charged a hitherto unheard-of fee of Rupees one lakh.
In the early years of film making, all artists including music directors were salaried employees, bound by contracts, of production studios. They could not work outside the studios without permission. When Naushad, who was employed by Karda Productions owned by AR Kardar worked in Rattan for Jaimani Dewan, the credits for the film displayed the words, “Courtesy Kardar Pictures” below Naushad’s name. Likewise, when Madan Mohan composed music for his debut film, Aankhen, produced by Goel Cine Corporation, the credits for the film displayed the words, “Courtesy Filmistan” because Madan Mohan’s father Chunilal was production controller of Filmistan.
Naushad worked for Kardar Productions on a salary ranging from Rs 500 per month to Rs 1000 per month. For Rattan, outside the Kardar fold, he was paid Rs 8000. Ghulam Haider, well known music director of the 1940s, who gave Lata Mangeshkar her first break in Bombay Talkies production Majboor (1946), berated Naushad for accepting peanuts for Rattan. Ghulam Haider moved to Pakistan after partition. In one of his visits to India, he told Bombay based composers that, for scoring the music of K. Asif’s Phool (1945), he had asked for and got a whopping Rs 20,0000. He urged them to demand a fee befitting their contribution to a film’s sustained success. Naushad and others were unsure of the consequences of making such a claim. Earlier, C. Ramchandra, after giving consecutive jubilees, had been told to pack his bags by Jayant Desai Productions for asking for a just raise in his salary of Rs 300 a month. Having come up the hard way, literally from the footpaths of Bombay, Naushad knew the value of a steady income, unaffected by the vagaries of box office collections. At the same time, there was no doubt that the producers were raking up the bulk of the profits on films which succeeded solely based on their songs. But Naushad took his time, and it was only with Deedar that he insisted on an appropriate pre-fixed contracted price for a film.
Naushad also made it a rule that producers and directors shall not interfere with his work. When Naushad worked for the first time with Mehboob Khan on Anmol Ghadi, AR Kardar told Mehboob Khan that Naushad had become too big for his shoes. Mehboob decided to stamp his authority straight away so, he strode into the recording theatre in a proprietorial manner and began instructing musicians and technicians on how to go about the take and even asked the singer, Noorjehan to change a note here, a stress there. Naushad silently accepted the interruption whereupon Mehboob, satisfied that he had asserted his authority, asked Naushad to carry on and moved away. The following day, Naushad walked on to the Anmol Ghadi sets on purpose, as the song sequence was being shot. With Mehboob’s consent, Naushad peered through the camera view finder and asked the staff to move this table to the left, that chair to the right and so on, until Mehboob screamed,
“This is not your job. Your job is music direction, direction is my job.”
“Exactly”, Naushad told him, “your job is direction, not music direction.”
Mehboob’s response was never to enter Naushad’s music room again. That understanding stayed with all other directors and producers with whom Naushad worked.
Naushad had used different male singers to playback in his films, GM Durrani, Shyam Sunder, Mukesh, Talat Mehmood and Mohammed Rafi had all sung for him. Mukesh sang in several films, but Naushad dropped Talat Mehmood after only one film despite the success of the compositions in Babul. Naushad was apparently impressed with Mohammed Rafi in Dulari, especially in rendering Suhani raat dhal chuki, Naushad chose Mohammed Rafi to render playback for Dilip Kumar in Deedar, beginning an association that would last for decades.
What was the reason for this sudden disenchantment with a highly talented and successful singer? What happened to Talat Mehmood after this setback? This and other follow up stories in the next instalment of my journey through films and film songs.
Continued to Next Page
More by : Ramarao Annavarapu