As you very likely know, in Hindustani classical singing, compositions run typically between 20 and 40 minutes. The singer starts his performance slowly, without accompaniment, and then moves on to be supported by a slow tempo, in what is called vilambit laya. He gradually builds up this tempo, going into madhya laya (medium pace), and towards the end, he goes into a fast tempo called drut laya. The idea of these transitions is not just to allow the singer to present his case in as many shades of meaning as possible, but, in the faster section at the end, to showcase his ability as a vocalist. The mastery that the singer has over the medium is often accompanied by taans, which are fast-paced vocal techniques using the aa sound. Hear classical renditions on a stage, or in a recording, and you may find much the same progressions in place.
But since the classical music genre has always been elitist, it has not touched as many listeners as popular cinema music has. Hindi film music is eclectic, taking from everywhere, and so, classical singing—or more correctly, semi-classical singing—has had hundreds of outings in Hindi cinema too. Semi-classical has many of the characteristics of out-and-out classical, but since it is made to end in a much shorter time (3 to 7 minutes typically), some features like tempo changes, and the repeated returns over chosen phrases are often skipped.
This is not to say that classical music has never been miniaturized in our films. A hearing of Lata Mangeshkar’s Raag Jaijaiwanti based Manmohana bade jhootthe from Seema (1955) abundantly exposes classical singing, with all its elements, in a bonsai of just four and a quarter minutes. Earlier, Miss Mangeshkar had teamed up with classical exponent Saraswati Rane to record their bandish in raag mishr-Jaunpuri, Jab dil ko sataave gham (Sargam, 1950), which too had the elements of Hindustani classical vocal. But such examples are rare. Most of the time, something or the other is sacrificed from proper classical.
Sprint runs at the end
Sometimes, semi-classical film songs follow the idea of the drut laya finales—the sprint runs at the end, even if it’s sometimes the instruments that race away to the finish. But what explains film songs that are not rendered in classical fashion, and yet sprint at the end? Let’s first look at such songs that are sung in semi-classical fashion, and later we consider the non-classical kind, with the reasons why the latter are planned that way. Singers and composers are mentioned:
- Lapak jhapak tu aa re (Manna Dey/Shankar-Jaikishan/Boot Polish, 1953)
- Ketaki gulaab juhi champak (Bhimsen Joshi, Manna Dey/Shankar-Jaikishan/Basant Bahaar, 1956)
- Chhed diye mere dil ke taar (Amanat Ali, Fateh Ali/OP Nayyar/Raagini, 1958)
- Ud ja bhanwar maaya kamal ka (Manna Dey/SN Tripathi/Rani Rupmati, 1959)
- Madhuban mein Radhika (Rafi/Naushad/Kohinoor, 1960)
- Basant hai aaya rangeela (Mahendra, Asha/C. Ramchandra/Stree, 1961)
- Deepak jalao jyoti jagao (Rafi/SN Tripathi/Sangeet Samrat Tansen, 1962)
- Meha aao re (Lata, Asha/Manna/SN Tripathi/Sangeet Samrat Tansen, 1962)
- Gori tore nainwa (Rafi, Asha/Lachhiram/Main Suhagan Hoon, 1964)
- Tu chanda main chaandni (Lata/Jaidev/Reshma Aur Shera, 1971)
- Kaali ghodi dwaar khadi (Yesudas, Hemanti Shukla/Rajkamal/Chashm-e-Baddoor, 1981)
Western musicians call it accelerando, for when they want to gradually increase the speed of the song, from say 80 beats per minute to 160. On the notation sheets, the word accel. is used over the bars whose tempo has to be increased. Here at home, we just write drut over the notes that need to run fast.
As for why some songs speed up near the end, in spite of not being clearly classical, much of the time the idea is to create a kind of frenzied atmosphere to galvanize people into action. This action may be to break the earthen pot on Janamashtmi days, when the boys need a last big push to go for it (as in Govinda aala re/Bluff Master, 1963), or when a concerted rebellion is called for through a collective charge, as in Har zubaan ruki-ruki (with Geeta Bali, a prisoner of the Portuguese, exhorting other prisoners to strike in Baaz, 1953).
In Deedar (1951), the dramatic, fast-paced end of the Rafi-on-Dilip solo Bachpan ke din bhula na dena was designed to shake up Nargis vigorously. It did; she lost control of the horse she was steering. The music of Deedar was made by Naushad, who used the same horse and carriage percussion and speeded up the end for the same Rafi on Dilip combine in Dil mein chhupa ke pyaar ka toofaan le chale next year, in Aan (1952). This time, the finale was to dramatize that even as things were trotting along well for the hero, towards the end of this song Nimmi was being assaulted by Premnath elsewhere. But was Naushad done with such an idea? Nah! The delighted maestro used it again for the same Rafi-Shakeel-Dilip combo in Madhuban mein Radhika in Kohinoor (1960). Now this is a classical bandish in raag Hameer, and so is listed above, but it is also a song and dance competition between Dilip Kumar and Kumkum, a situation that needs help in climaxing at high speed. This musician had also accelerated the speed in Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj (Baiju Bawra, 1952), the Malkauns bhajan structured to invoke the gods with its presto end.
Apart from these cinematically relevant situations, speeding up a song near the end may sometimes be to just sprinkle some charm over it. Whatever the reason, such songs do manage to create a sense of drama, an urgency if you will, injecting so much charge into a tune. Think of these that fit the bill:
- Man tadpat Hari darshan (Rafi/Naushad/Baiju Bawra, 1952)
- Zor laga ke pair jama ke (Geeta/SD Burman/Jaal, 1952)
- Jaati hai aaj naiyya mori (Manna Dey/Timir Baran, SK Pal/Baadbaan, 1954)
- Babul mora (Manna Dey/Anil Biswas/Mahatma Kabir, 1954)
- Mera dildaar na milaaya (Suraiya/Husnlal-Bhagatram/Shama Parwana, 1954)
- Chaahe koi khush ho chaahe (Kishore, Johnny Walker/SD Burman/Taxi Driver, 1954)
- Suno suno suno ji more rasiya (Lata/Vasant Desai/Jhanak Jhanak Paayal Baaje, 1955)
- Zindagi hai zinda (Geeta/SD Burman/Munimji, 1955)
- Senorita…Kabhi aaj kabhi kal (SD Batish, Uma Devi/Roshan/Taksaal, 1956)
- Moohn se mat laga cheez hai buri (Manna Dey, Rafi/OP Nayyar/Johnny Walker, 1957)
- Maang ke saath tumhaara (Asha, Rafi/OP Nayyar/Naya Daur, 1957)
- Mere gore-gore gaal (Shamshad, Rafi/Ravi/Dulhan, 1958)
- Mera naam chin chin choo (Geeta/OP Nayyar/Howrah Bridge, 1958)
- Arre ja re hat natkhat (Asha, Mahendra, Chitalkar/C. Ramchandra/Navrang, 1959)
- Tum saiyaan gulaab ke phool (Asha/C. Ramchandra/Navrang, 1959)
- Ittihaas agar likhna chaaho (Usha Mangeshkar/SN Tripathi/Rani Rupmati, 1959)
- Jhoomta mausam mast maheena (Manna, Lata/Shankar-Jaikishan/Ujala, 1959)
- Saathi na koi manzil (Rafi/SD Burman/Bambai Ka Babu, 1960)
- Ho raasa saayaang re (Rafi, Lata/Shankar-Jaikishan/Singapore, 1960)
- Ho re ho re…jhanan ghunghar baaje (Lata, Rafi/Naushad/Ganga Jamuna, 1961)
- Ye duniya usi ki jo pyaar kar le (Asha/Ravi/Gharana, 1961)
- Yamma yamma yamma (Rafi, Asha/Ravi/China Town, 1962)
- Chali jaaye re jeevan ki gaadi (Suman, Badri Pawar/Avinash Vyas/Royal Mail, 1963)
- Humen dum daike (Mubarak Begum, Asha Bhosle/Iqbal Quereshi/Ye Dil Kisko Doon, 1963)
- Kya hua maine agar ishq ka izhaar kiya (Asha, Rafi/Iqbal Quereshi/Ye Dil Kisko Doon, 1963)
- Ye chaand sa roshan chehra (Rafi/OP Nayyar/Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964)
- Dim dim dim dim digo (Asha/Vasant Desai/Rahul, 1964)
- Teri aankhon ne in aankhon se (Asha, Kamal Barot, Mahendra/OP Nayyar/Nasihat, 1973)
- Yaari hai imaan mera (Manna Dey/Kalyanji-Anandji/Zanjeer, 1973)
The art of changing speeds has almost disappeared now, because going slow is considered silly these days. Everyone wants to be on a high all the time. And films do mirror life. Or is the other way more true, cinema influences life?
Photo on top: Ameeta in Zindagi hai zinda
(Written substantially as above on 31.07.17. Minor updates have since been made)