In May next year, it’s going to be a hundred years since an excited young man, DG Phalke, released a silent film called Raja Harishchandra. That path breaker went on to be called the father of Indian cinema, which leads the world in the number of films produced every year, way ahead of Japan and the USA, at no. 2 and 3, respectively. Seen by so many in practically every part of the world, our cinema has become our de facto universal cultural ambassador. And riding the crest in this cultural invasion have been our songs.
These songs have been around for over 80 years now (since Alam Ara, 1931), and the magical treat that they offer is truly awesome both in numbers as well as in variety. Many of these melodies vitalize our spirits, in a sort of ‘lift kara de’ way! This essay flies over just one such randomly-chosen song per decade, if only to smell the fragrance of what was up over the years. But of course every reader will have their own random list in their minds. Here is our today’s winner from the 1930s:
Duniya rang rangeeli baba (singers KC Dey, Uma Shashi, KL Saigal/writer Pt. Sudarshan/composer Pankaj Mullick/Dhartimata, 1938). This medium-brisk song—Allegro speed, in musical parlance—is remarkable for its celebration of the elements. Not only that, the planning is awesome, with blind actor KC Dey (playbacked by Pankaj Mullick) starting the celebration and praising, without a trace of irony, the birds and flowers and what have you. Then Uma Shashi (via actress Krishna Kumari) overlaps her voice with his, outlining the value of hope, perhaps an oblique reference to his handicap. And then appears Saigal, as if in a baton race; he in turn overlaps the lady’s vocals, to take the product to the end, where the three go ensemble. What a song was this!
Our elevating song from the 1940s is in fact a sad one, but what an experience this is! A product makes you say wow! A Majrooh work of class, and Lata’s first ghazal in Hindi cinema, with quite exceptional use of the piano and guitar by maestro Naushad. And Lata’s voice? Kya kehne! Here’s is that ghazal from Andaz (1949):
Utthaaye ja unke sitam, aur jeeye ja
Yoon hi muskuraaye ja, aansoo peeye ja!
In Nausherwan-e-Adil (1957), deeply-in-love Raj Kumar and Mala Sinha render a lovely Rafi-Lata duet, Bhool jaayen saare gham, doob jaayen pyaar mein, baj rahi hai dhun yehi raat ke sitar mein. This one spells class for C. Ramchandra, tuned to the words of one Parvez Shamsi. This songwriter wrote in only this film, and perhaps no one knows much more about him than that.
Mora gora ang layi le, mohe Shyam rang dayi de
Chhup jaoongi raat hi mein, mohe pee ka sang dayi de
Thus goes Nutan in Bandini (1963). But does she end it there? Nah! For infringing on her privacy, she showers a curse on the moon, a majestic one too!
Badri hata ke chanda, chupke se jhaanke chanda
Tohe Rahu laage bairi, muskaaye jee jalaayi ke!
Many of us feel fortunate to have experienced such songs!
(to be continued next week)
Originally published: 13th November, 2012