Films or movies are basically a form of entertainment and any form of entertainment is in some way or the other inspired by music. Music has been an essential ingredient of Indian films and film music is, arguably, the most popular form of Indian music. And it is this popularity of film music that attracts and draws a large number of talents to the realm of films, the archetype of what was known earlier as motion picture or cinema.
Genesis of Cinema
Circa 1896. The Ninth Earl of Lord Elgin ruled the country as the representative of Queen Victoria and Viceroy of India. During his regime, there were widespread floods, famine and fire all over. In the wake of these rampant rages and ravages, two French cinematographer-brothers named Louis Lumiere and Auguste Lumiere (known as the Lumiere brothers) arrived in India to showcase their cinematic skills and photographic prowess.
The Lumiere brothers had screened their inaugural public cinematographic event or ‘motion picture’ to a select audience in Paris on 28 December, 1895. Inspired by its phenomenal success, they traveled to other countries and India. On 7 July, 1896, they screened and showcased six short films in Mumbai (then Bombay) at the Watson Hotel, an exclusive inn for the European elitist. This was followed by screening of 12 to 24 films at the then newly opened Novelty cinema for the general public. Tickets were priced between four annas to a rupee.
The Times of India hailed the “living photographic pictures in life-sized reproductions” as the ‘Miracle of the Century, Marvel of the World’. The screenings ended successfully on 15 August, 1896. The entire country was mesmerised by this miracle and marvel and welcomed it with frenzied ovation.
The short films of the Lumiere brothers inspired a few like-minded young creative enthusiasts and geniuses of our country to venture into making ‘motion pictures’.
Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatavdekar, popularly known as Save Dada, a portrait painter, was the first to make two short films as early as 1897. With the motion picture camera he imported from London, he went on to make ‘films’ on the day to day happenings in the city and local scenes. He first captured a wrestling match, titled “The Wrestlers”, between two well known musclemen Pundalik Dada and Krishna Nahvi and followed it up with a short on the “Antics of Monkeys”. In 1901, he shot a newsreel of the public reception accorded to the famous mathematician Raghunath Paranjpye. In 1903, he covered the pomp and pageantry to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII.
In 1898, Hiralal Sen, an exhibitor turned filmmaker, made his first short film “A Dancing Scene” from the opera “The Flowers of Persia” staged by the Pathe Studios of France. He then went on to shoot on the streets of Calcutta, cock fights, people bathing in the river Hooghly and ‘filmed’ actual scenes from popular Bengali plays: “Alibaba, Bhramar, Buddha, Dole Lila, Hariraj, Sarala and Sitaram” staged at the Classic Theatre. He is credited to be the first to make two brief ad films on Jabakusum Hair Oil and Edward Tonic. He also made a documentary on the Anti-partition Demonstration and Swadeshi Movement at the Town Hall, Calcutta in September 1905, possibly the first political film.
Ramchandra Gopal Torney and Nanabhai Govind Chitre from the Marathi Theatre attempted jointly a film “Pundalik”, a brief episode from a Marathi play. However, it was not an indigenous production; the film was photographed by Johnson, a British national attached to the well known photographic studio Bourne and Shepherd and processed in London. The film was released on 18 May, 1912 at the Coronation Cinema which was owned by Chitre. The film failed to evoke any response and was passed off as an amateurish attempt. Years later, Torney made a few silent films and then moved to Ardeshir Irani’s Imperial Studios and to Sagar Movietone which gave us one of the greatest filmmakers Mehboob Khan.
All these attempts were either in the form of ‘filming’ a scene or a portion from a stage play or making a documentary or newsreel covering public performances, processions, pageants and parades with no story, script or a structure, the prerequisites of a full fledged feature film. Their efforts were no doubt commendable but these and a few more isolated efforts, most of them amateurish, failed to provide the needed thrust and fillip to the regular production of motion pictures.
‘Dawn’ of Indian Cinema
Yet another enterprising man, in his early 40s, with vision and versatility, made a more decisive, definitive and determined entry and went on to lay the foundation of Indian Cinema and virtually shape its future. That man was Dhundiraj Govind Phalke, who was hailed as the Father of Indian Cinema. A printer, painter, playwright, photographer, magician, a multi- talented man, Dadasaheb Phalke (as he was fondly called) made the first indigenous feature film “Raja Harishchandra”, starring D D Dabke in the title role and an effeminate looking Anna Salunke as Taramati. The film was released successfully in Bombay’s Coronation Cinema on May 3, 1913. That heralded the Silent Era in films.
Phalke made several other successful ‘silent’ films mostly based on epics and legends like “Mohini Bhasmasur”, “Lanka Dahan”, “Satyavan Savitri”, “Shri Krishna Janma”, “Kaliya Mardan”, “Sant Tukaram”. All of them now find a special niche in the history of Indian Cinema.
Several other filmmakers and companies like Madan Theatres (Calcutta), Kohinoor (Bombay), Maharashtra Film Company (Kolhapur) joined the bandwagon and film making gather momentum. And, for almost two decades, the ‘sounds of silence’ dominated and reverberated!
The world economic crisis and the Great Depression of the late 20s fostered yet another new marvel i.e sound.
Ardeshir Irani is called the Father of Indian Talkie. He started his career as an exhibitor and co-owned the Alexandra Theatre where he exhibited Phalke’s films “Kaliya Mardan” and “Shree Krishna Janma”. The spectacular success of these films inspired Irani to make his own films.
He made a few silent films, first under the banner of Majestic Films and then under his now iconic Imperial Films. He then introduced ‘sound’ to the Indian screen and made “Alam Ara”, the first full length Indian talkie film. The film, starring popular stars of the time Master Vithal and Zubeida, inaugurated a new chapter at the Majestic Cinema on March 14, 1931. Ergo, the ‘Sound’ Era began and the idea of ‘synchronising recorded sound with running pictures’ clicked.
Music was composed by Pirojshah Mistry and B Irani.
The film had in all seven songs which were recorded with only three instruments viz. Harmonium, Tabla and Violin. Wazir Mohammed Khan sang the beautifully worded minstrel song :
De de khuda ke naam pe pyaare, taaqat ho gar dene ki,
Kuch chaahe agar to mangle mujhse, himmat ho gar lene.
Since then, music lovers, with a ravenous appetite for good music, haven’t stopped begging for more songs and the bollywood badshahs have been bounteous enough in dishing out a bellyful of these melody notes to us who are reveling in the feast of the flow of good songs, ad infinitum.
The Golden Era of Music was all set to dawn and dazzle in times to come.
Close on heels of “Alam Ara” followed a few more musicals like Madan Theatre’s “Laila Majnu”, “Shakuntala” and “Shirin Farhad” featuring the legendary singing stars Master Nissar and Jahan Ara Kajjan. The latter film had about 17 songs by the lead pair and an incredible run for 14 weeks thereby establishing music and dance as an integral part of Indian cinema.
Master Nissar and Jahan Ara Kajjan acted together in some more films: “Bilwamangal”, “Chatra Bakawali”, “Gulru Zarina” and “Indrasabha”, the latter having about 70 songs and dialogues in poetic form. With their good looks, sound musical background, good command over Urdu, rich theater experience and an impeccable dialogue delivery, they became the first and the most popular singing stars of the Indian cinema.
These films had music by Vrajlal Varma and Nagardas Nayak and the songs are lost forever. Other leading composers of the nascent 30s were the now forgotten Ustad Zande Khan (whom Naushad was to assist in the beginning of his career) and S P Rane.
With the advent of sound, many of the earlier studios found it difficult to adapt and afford the transition to sound and were forced to pull down their shutters. Many popular stars, mostly the Anglo Indians, too found themselves like a fish out of water, jobless and disoriented, their voices bringing and ringing their death knell. They could neither speak fluent Hindi or Urdu nor could they sing which was a must then.
The Indian talkie paved the way to the studio system. Some of the prominent studios like New Theatres, Bombay Talkies, Prabhat Films, Sagar Movietone, Ranjit Films held the sway providing unabashed entertainment with lot of songs, dances, drama and thrills. These studios had their in-house talents i.e. actors, directors, musicians, technicians who worked under a contract and were paid a monthly stipend, whether films were made or not.
There was no playback system and the actors had to willy nilly sing their songs under severe and several constraints: huddling with low fidelity microphones, obsolete equipment, poor acoustics, noise of camera drowning the sound track, moving images framed in a single shot, self conscious performances etc A promising attempt at introducing playback, however, was made by Nitin Bose, in house Director of New Theatres, along with his brother Mukul Bose, a sound engineer during the filming of the song Main khush hona chaahun, khush no na sakun sung by Parul Ghosh, Suprova Circar and Harimati for the film “Dhoop Chhaon” in 1935 which had music by R C Boral.
R C Boral, reverentially called the Father of Indian Film Music, was one of the in house composers of New Theatres and is credited for introducing playback (though playback came in full force almost a decade after) and also for introducing the legendary actor-singer K L Saigal.
Some of the memorable films of New Theatres for which Boral composed music include classics like: Chandidas, Dhoop Chhaon, Mukti, Pooran Bhagat, President, Street Singer and Vidyapati.
As there was no playback system, the actors who were pushed to singing their songs included renowned names like Ashok Kumar, Billimoria, Devika Rani, Leela Chitnis, Maya Bannerji, Motilal, Sardar Akhtar, Sitara Devi many of them now forgotten. The other actors who were much more proficient in singing were names like Ashraf Khan, Asit Baran, Bibbo, Kanan Bala, Krishna Chandra Dey, Pahadi Sanyal, Pankaj Mullick, Parul Ghosh, Shanta Apte, Shanta Hublikar, Surendra, and not the least, Kundan Lal Saigal. With ‘gold’ in his voice, he was the most successful singing star sensation of the pre-independence era.
Film music then had strong theatrical influence and songs with literary flourish were rendered with dramatic flamboyance and in a declamatory style. Prolific and pioneering names like R C Boral, Pankaj Mullick, Timir Baran (New Theatres), Saraswati Devi (Bombay Talkies), Anil Biswas (Sagar Movietone), Khemchand Prakash (Ranjit Films), Govindrao Tembe, Keshavrao Bhole, Master Krishna Rao (Prabhat Films) wielded the baton and laid the cornerstone of Hindi film music.
Afresh even after eighty years, the pure and pristine songs of the 30s are heard with a great feeling of nostalgia:
|Baba mann ki ankhen khol||K C Dey||Dhoop Chhaon|
|Babul mora||K L Saigal||Street Singer|
|Bahar aayi pyaari||Shanta Hublikar||Aadmi|
|Balam aaye baso more mann mein||K L Saigal||Devdas|
|Birha ki aag lagi more mann mein||Surendra||Deccan Queen|
|Chhod akash ko sitaare||Gobindrao Tembe||Maya Machhindra|
|Dole hriday ki naiyya||Kanan Devi||Vidyapati|
|Door des hai jaana babu||Pankaj Mullick||Mukti|
|Dukh ke ab din beetat naahin||K L Saigal||Devdas|
|Duniya rang rangeeli baba||K C Dey – Uma Shashi – K L Saigal||Dhartimata|
|Ek bangla bane nyaara||K L Saigal||President|
|Jhuki aayi re badariya sawan ki||Renuka Devi||Bhabhi|
|Karun kya aas niraash bhayi||K L Saigal||Dushman|
|Kis liye kal ki baat||Shanta Hublikar||Aadmi|
|Loot liyo mann dheer||Kanan Devi||Jawani ki Reet|
|Main ban ki chidiya banke||Ashok Kumar – Devika Rani||Achhut Kanya|
|Mann ki baat bataaun||K L Saigal – Kanan Devi||Dhartimata|
|Mann saaf tera hai ke nahin||Master Parshuram||Duniya Na Maane|
|Naacho naacho pyaare man ke mor||Snehprabha / Arun Kumar||Punarmilan|
|Piya milan ko jaana||Piya milan ko jaana||Kapalakundala|
|Prem nagar mein banaaungi ghar||K L Saigal – Uma Shashi||Chandidas|
|Pujari more mandir mein aao||Surendra – Bibbo||Jagirdar|
|Radha Radha pyaari Radha||Ashok Kumar – Leela Chitnis||Kangan|
|Sundar naari preetam pyaari||Pankaj Mullick||Manzil|
|Suno suno he bann ke praani||Shanta Apte||Amar Jyoti|
|Tumne mujhko prem sikhaaya||Surendra – Bibbo||Manmohan|
Much of what was created in the 30s remains now as remote as a reality, as distant as a dream. The noteworthy significance of this phase is that it was the beginning of film music. The composers and singers worked in primitive conditions and constraints in the matter of sound recording. Looking back, one cannot help reiterating the fact that the progress and accomplishments of the latter days were made possible by the initiatives taken in the 30s, however imperfectly, by providing a Sound T(h)reat to Silence which had dominated the scene till then!!
Guzar gaya woh zamana kaisa kaisa!!
At the time when songs from films made by New Theatres, Bombay Talkies, Prabhat were reverberating in the air, World War II broke out in the late 30s. War generated a lot of unaccounted wealth in the hands of a few unscrupulous businessmen. Many of them, with no aesthetic values or idea of the art and craft of film making, turned to the lucrative business of film making only to absorb their unaccounted wealth. In the process, genuine and organised film companies and studios suffered a setback. And with them, the purist composers of Prabhat, New Theatres and Bombay Talkies too suffered. Their principles clashed with the non-idealistic ways of film making and they were reluctant to churn out music which had more mass appeal. Quite naturally, they faded away into oblivion and paved way for new composers who were more flexible and susceptible to the changing trend. These new entrants judiciously combined puritanism with populism, embellished the songs with ‘modern’ and ‘trendy’ orchestration and presented them in a light and listener-friendly manner. And they succeeded!
Anil Biswas was the only successful composer from the earlier decade who rode high even in the changing music scenario of the 40s without compromising. After his successful stint with Sagar Movietone in the 30s which was restructured as National Studios and after its subsequent closure in the early 40s, he joined Bombay Talkies to fill the void created by Saraswati Devi. He was the composer of the studio’s biggest blockbuster “Kismat” which ran for over three years in a single theater in Calcutta, a record broken after 40 years by Ramesh Sippy’s multi starrer spectacle “Sholay”.
Sadly, “Kismat” turned out to be the last major hit of Anil Biswas. The film’s super success is also attributed to the ever resonant song Door hato ae duniyawalo, Hindustan hamara hai, penned by Pradeep, which aroused the patriotic fervour in the countrymen during the turbulent political situation prevailing then.
Anil Biswas is credited for introducing and / or giving a major thrust to legendary singers like Surendra, Mukesh, Talat Mahmood and Lata Mangeshkar in their formative years.
Master Ghulam Haider was the first to bring about a musical revolution in the early 40s. He brought with him Punjab’s rich folk music and rustic and robust instruments like the Dholak, Dhol, Duff, Matka, Khanjari etc. which added verve and vigour to the songs. The phenomenal popularity of his refreshingly free-wheeling songs from Pancholi’s “Khazanchi” like Sawan ke nazaare hain with the cute aha aha refrain and Laut gayi paapan andhiyari brought him instant name, fame and money. He went on to give music in other films like: Bairam Khan, Chal Chal Re Naujawan, Humayun, Khandaan, Majboor, Mehndi, Padmini, Poonji, Shama, Shaheed, Zamindar.
Ghulam Haider became the highest paid composer of his time and it is believed that he demanded and got an incredible sum of Rs. 25,000 per film in the mid-40s. He took the nation by storm and also made his contemporaries sit up and take note. He migrated to Pakistan soon after partition.
Incidentally, Shamshad Begum sang all the nine songs in “Khazanchi”, probably the only singer of any time to have the distinction of singing all the songs in his or her debut film. Credit goes to Ghulam Haider for introducing the legendary singers Shamshad Begum and Noorjahan and bringing to limelight Lata Mangeshkar.
Other composers from the Punjab school of thought who stylised and popularised the folk music of Punjab through their catchy tunes were Pandit Amarnath, his younger brothers Husanlal-Bhagatram (the first composer duo), Shyam Sundar, Hansraj Behl, Gobindram, Dhaniram, G A Chisti, Vinod, Lachhiram, S Mohinder.
Husanlal-Bhagatram became the most sought after composers with two back to back super successful musicals: “Pyar Ki Jeet” and “Badi Behan”. The duo became a household name with their hugely popular non film song Suno suno ae duniyawalo Bapu ji amar kahani penned by Rajinder Krishan as an ode to Mahatma Gandhi soon after his assassination in 1949. The song was rendered with great feelings by Mohammed Rafi, the favourite of most Punjabi composers.
It wasn’t just the Punjab folk that reverberated in the air; folk music from all parts of the country became a major inspiration to the composers.
Naushad based his compositions on UP’s folk music and purbi thumris and created great musical waves in blockbusters like “Andaz”, “Anmol Ghadi”, “Dard”, “Dillagi”, “Dulari”, “Mela”, “Rattan” and “Shahjahan”. Hailed as the Maestro with a Midas Touch, Naushad gave new identity to singers like K L Saigal, Surendra and Noorjahan through his compositions in “Shahjahan” and “Anmol Ghadi”. In fact, music lovers of the later generations remember them by the songs of these films. He also introduced lyricists like Majrooh Sultanpuri (in Shahjahan) and Shakeel Badayuni (Dard), singers like G M Durrani, Shyam, Suraiya, Uma Devi (Tuntun) and gave a major thrust to the career of Lata Mangeshkar in her formative years.
Anil Biswas and S D Burman banked heavily on the Rabindra Sangeet, Nazruli Geeti and other folk forms of Bengal like baul and bhatiali as also the kirtans. The latter made a late but promising start with musical films of Filmistan, an offspring of Bombay Talkies and one of the leading film companies of the 40s (and 50s). Burman gave music in films like “Do Bhai”, “Shikari” and “Shabnam” and went on to bask in the uninterrupted spate of big time success in the 50s, 60s and 70s till his death in 1975. With advancing age, his became more youthful.
Khemchand Prakash popularised Rajasthan’s colourful folk music and Maand through his songs in films like “Bhanwra”, “Bharthari”, “Holi”, “Pardesi”, “Sawan Aaya re”, “Sindoor”, “Tansen” and “Ziddi”. Ditto Ghulam Mohammed who too hailed from the same colourful land. An ace and accomplished percussionist and rhythmist, he assisted Naushad for almost twelve years and simultaneously gave music independently.
Composers like S N Tripathi (one time assistant to Saraswati Devi) and Vasant Desai (assistant to the purist composers of Prabhat) with heavy classical leanings based their compositions on traditional ragas and bandishes as well as folk music.
C Ramchandra, the rebel maestro, however, combined both the oriental and occidental music and established an identity of his own distinct from Anil Biswas whom he assisted for a short while. Starting his career as a composer of B grade and stunt films of his filmmaker-actor friend Bhagwan, his career got a kick start through the musicals made by Filmistan. A string of hits like “Safar”, “Saajan”, “Shehnai”, “Nadiya Ke Paar” catapulted him to the rank of top composers; “Shehnai” ranked among some of the biggest hits of the decade which had the trend setting song: Aana meri jaan, meri jaan, sunday ke sunday.
On the whole, the songs of the faraway yet forever 40s and their orchestration sounded simple and uncluttered, pleasing and soothing to the auditory senses.
Prolific poets and lyricists like Arzoo Lucknowi, Bharat Vyas, D N Madhok, Indra, Kidar Sharma, Pradeep, Qamar Jalalabadi, Sudarshan, P L Santoshi, Wali Sahab, Zia Sahrhadi too cascaded from all over the country whipping up patriotic fervor, revolutionary spirit, philosophical zeal and /or churning out idyllic and romantic sentiments in chaste Hindi, exquisite Urdu and / or dialects of the northern region.
The pre-independent 40s saw the predominance of female singers with heavy, rustic and robust voices and a nasal twang: Amirbai, Khurshid, Noorjahan, Rajkumari, Shamshad Begum, Suraiya, Zohrabai held the sway. Noorjahan, with her vivacious looks and a voice vibrant but less heavy than that of the others, carved a special niche for herself. The Malika-e-Tarannum was the singer model to inspire Lata Mangeshkar in the initial years of her singing career. Like Ghulam Haider, Khurshid, Zeenat Begum and a few others, Noorjahan also migrated to Pakistan after the partition of the country and continued to reign supreme there.
The year 1947 was an epochal year in the annals of our country as well as Hindi film music. One one hand, the country attained independence from the long British rule. And, on the other hand, the beginning of the year marked the untimely death of K L Saigal, the most successful singing-star of the pre independence era. Saigal was born to ‘live’ the role of an alcoholic in “Devdas”. And, like the death of the alcohol afflicted doomed and depressed Devdas, in real life too Saigal died young at the age of 42 – sick, sullen, somber and sozzled! With his demise, an era ended!
The classic but formula ridden studio set up which started crumbling during the war years also came to a virtual end by the end of the decade. The fate of New Theatres, Bombay Talkies, Prabhat, Ranjit and others was almost sealed though some did manage to survive. A classic example is Bombay Talkies which had lost its glory by the mid 40s. Soon after the sudden demise of its owner Himanshu Rai in 1940, a power game and internal dispute erupted between his legally and administratively strong actress-wife Devika Rani and a section of the staff headed by the creatively influential S Mukerji. Key persons like S Mukherji, Gyan Mukherji, Ashok Kumar, Pradeep, Rai Bahadur Chunilal, Savak Vachha, Dattaram Pai and a few others left Bombay Talkies and formed Filmistan in 1944.
The fading glory of Bombay Talkies was resurrected towards the end of the decade by Ashok Kumar who was introduced as a singing star by Bombay Talkies in the 30s. Along with Savak Vacha, he took over the reins of the company and made the monumental musical marvel “Mahal” starring himself and Madhubala in the lead.
The haunted edifice, with no plot of murder and yet a mysterious blockbuster, had immortal music by Khemchand Prakash. But, he was not fortunate enough to savour the success of the film and the unprecedented popularity of his all time classic haunting creation Aayega aanewala; he died just two months before the release of the film. In a career spanning about a decade, Khemchand Prakash made a niche for himself with his outstanding classical score in “Tansen” starring K L Saigal and Khurshid and his haunting music in “Mahal” among others. Besides giving a major thrust to the budding career of Lata Mangeshkar, he also gave break to Kishore Kumar as a playback singer in Bombay Talkies’ “Ziddi”.
Coming back to the year 1947, while, on one hand, the country attained independence from the British rule, on the other hand, the entire nation got enslaved by the honey sweet, captivating voice of Lata Mangeshkar who made her foray into the realm of playback with the thumri stylised song Paa laagu kar jori re from the film “Aap Ki Seva Mein” with music by Datta Davjekar. With her captivating and heart-tugging songs that she sang in the nascent years (1948-49) of her career for great maestros like Anil Biswas (Anokha Pyar, Gajre, Jeet and Ladli), Khemchand Prakash (Asha, Mahal and Ziddi), Ghulam Haider (Majboor and Padmini), Shyam Sundar (Bazar and Lahore), Naushad (Andaz and Dulari), Husanlal-Bhagatram (Badi Bahan and Jal Tarang), C Ramchandra (Namoona, Patanga and Sipahiya) and Shankar-Jaikishan (Barsaat), Lata Mangeshkar became the undisputed melody queen of all times.
The super success of the three mega films viz Andaz, Barsaat and Mahal and the unprecedented popularity of her songs in the films did great wonders to her budding career. She came, she sang, she conquered and she concurred. The end of the decade heralded the arrival of a new era and the arrival of the Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar: Aayega, aayega, aayega, aayega… aayega aanewala!!
The beginning of the 50s marked the end of organised film making. Big studios were closing down, independent producers came in and new production concerns were being floated which attracted freelance directors, composers, young and glamorous stars. The star system gave rise to star tantrums and star idolization.
The triumvirate of Dev Anand – Raj Kapoor – Dilip Kumar, who had made promising debuts in the 40s, called the shots and ruled the hearts of cine goers and the marquee in the 50s. The star system accorded them the ‘privilege’ to choose heroines, composers, lyricists and / or singers of their preference. Notable teaming was that of ‘Raj Kapoor – Nargis – Shankar-Jaikishan – Hasrat Jaipuri-Shailendra – Mukesh’ followed by ‘Dilip Kumar – Naushad – Shakeel Badayuni – Mohammed Rafi’ and ‘Dev Anand – S D Burman’.
Playback, which had made an unobtrusive beginning in the 40s, came in full force in the 50s. Playback was a boon to both the actors and the composers. The actors were relieved as they didn’t have to sing their songs any more. And the composers rejoiced as they got an opportunity to display their composing skills. With the emergence of trained and talented singers like Asha Bhosle, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Mohammed Rafi, the composers heaved a sigh; they imbued the tunes with all their creative skills and ingenuity and provided ample scope to the singers for displaying their vocal prowess and range. Aided by advancing technology, both the singers and the songs sounded more refined and sophisticated. The entire music scenario underwent considerable changes but still melody reigned supreme.
In the early 50s, the film industry lost giant composers like Khemchand Prakash, Ghulam Haider and Shyam Sundar; they shed their mortal coils while still in their prime and at their creative best. By mid 50s, Anil Biswas and Husanlal-Bhagatram, who did not and / or could not adapt to the changing times rather trends, went out of commercial reckoning and faded away gradually with grace.
Composers like Naushad, C.Ramchandra, S.D.Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan who had made impressive debuts and / or established themselves in the 40s came to be the most sought after composers of the 50s. The camaraderie was tuneful and the competition tough with each one vying for the top slot.
Naushad, as a matter of principle, gave music for one or two films a year. With a string of successful musicals like “Aan”, “Amar”, “Babul”, “Baiju Bawra”, “Dastaan”, “Deedar”, “Shabab”, “Mother India”, “Udan Khatola”, the numero uno position was, however, held by Naushad, the Maestro with the Midas Touch. C Ramchandra and Shankar-Jaikishan came a close second followed by S D Burman.
C Ramchandra graduated from B grade and stunt films to social films; he was the composer of some of the biggest musical hits of the 50s like “Albela”, “Anarkali”, “Asha”, “Azaad”, “Nastik”, “Navrang”, “Paigham”, “Samadhi” and “Sargam”. He introduced the western form of rhythm like Ramba Samba and Rock n Roll and set a successful trend.
Shankar-Jaikishan swept the entire nation with their melody imbued catchy songs in Raj Kapoor’s romantic musical “Barsaat”. Following the spectacular success of the film and huge popularity of the songs, the duo posed an instant threat to both Naushad and C Ramchandra.
Some of the chartbuster musicals of Shankar-Jaikishan in the 50s include films like “Aah”, “Anadi”, “Awara”, “Baadal”, “Basant Bahar”, “Chori Chori”, “Daag”, “Halaku”, “Kathputli”, “Love Marriage”, “New Delhi”, “Patita”, “Poonam”, “Seema”, “Shree 420”, “Ujala” and “Yahudi” to name a few. With two major awards for their popular score in “Chori Chori” and “Anadi”, they emerged as the numero uno composers of the 60s.
S D Burman made a relatively late entry into the realm of film music in the mid 40s and went on to have an uninterrupted space of success in the 50s, 60s and 70s till his death in 1975. Some of the major musical hits of Burman Da, as he was fondly called, include films like “Baazi”, “Bahar”, “Jaal”, “Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi”, “Devdas”, “Funtoosh”, “House No. 44”, “Kaagaz Ke Phool”, “Kala Pani”, “Munimji”, “Nau Do Gyarah”, “Paying Guest”, “Pyaasa”, “Solva Saal”, Sujata, “Taxi Driver”. Most of these films starred the evergreen Dev Anand. His dashing and debonair romantic looks and free wheeling spirit and Burman’s compositions with a youthful zeal, zest and zing complemented each other.
The formidable foursome, along with the rebel maestro O P Nayyar who made his debut in the early 50s, ruled the entire decade. After three consecutive flops, Nayyar rose like a phoenix with his effervescent, rhythmic and foot tapping melodies as heard in successful films like “Aar Paar”, “C I D”, “Howrah Bridge”, “Mr. & Mrs. 55”, “Naya Andaz”, “Naya Daur”, “Phagun”, “Tumsa Nahin Dekha” and others like “Baap Re Baap”, “Chhoo Mantar”, “Hum Sab Chor Hain”, “Ragini”, “Sone Ki Chidiya”, 12 O’Clock”.
There was something distinct and unique about Nayyar that set him apart from his seniors and contemporaries. Unlike many of them, he made it to the top bracket and continued to remain at the top for two decades without ever depending on the vocal prowess of Lata Mangeshkar. Indeed, an enviable accomplishment!
The Nayyar Daur was marked with the magic he created with Mohammed Rafi, his favorite male singer and other accomplished singers like Shamshad Begum and Geeta Dutt (in the initial years) and thereafter, Asha Bhosle, his muse and madira; the nAsha of Asha was OmniPotent and OmniPresent in his music and life for almost two decades!
Meaningful and thought-provoking lyrics complemented the mellifluous music with a good number of progressive writers and litterateur-lyricists like Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Rajinder Krishan, Hasrat Jaipuri, Indivar, Kaifi Azmi peaking and speaking with their pen. With a PENchant so unique of them, they wrote evocative lyrics expressing multi hued emotions ranging from humanism and human feelings and follies to mawkish sentimentality and sensitivity; from pains and pangs of love to pleasures and philosophy of life and ephemeral relationships; from beauty and bounty of nature and celebration of fiestas and festivals to decadence of society and degeneration of moral values…. in short, all encompassing of life and death and everything in between.
The eleven top notch singers: Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt, Hemant Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey, Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Shamshad Begum, Suraiya, Talat Mahmood, whose names are familiar and songs popular even with the current generation, were all at their euphonic best and scaled great artistic peak in the 50s.
The effervescent and exuberant romantic songs which appealed to the heads and hearts and the senses and sensibilities alike held the sweepstakes. The distinct and dashing personalities and persona of the trinity: Dev – Dilip – Raj, the poetical or princely looks of Bharat Bhushan – Pradeep Kumar, the new rebel star on the rise, Shammi Kapoor and multi talented maverick Kishore Kumar complimented by the grace, gaiety and glamour of the femme forces: Geeta Bali, Madhubala, Meena Kumari, Nalini Jaywant, Nargis, Nimmi, Nutan, Vyjayantimala, Waheeda Rehman… captured and enraptured movie goers and music lovers with their lovely looks and lively lilts. They enhanced the tune and the time value of the songs; the lyrical and the life shelf of the songs. Songs became a treat to the eyes and ears; rather, eye catching songs now became ears for years !
There existed a great feeling of camaraderie and cohesiveness between the composers, lyricists and the singers; each complimented and complemented the other and the competition was in fine fettle. The feverish competition became strong and expectations soared with the influx of many talented composers like:
Roshan (who made his debut with Neki aur Badi – 1949),
Madan Mohan (Ankhen – 1950),
O.P.Nayyar (Aasman – 1952),
Hemant Kumar (Anand Math – 1952),
Khayyam (Foot Path – 1953),
Salil Chowdhury (Do Bigha Zamin – 1953),
N Datta (Milap – 1955),
Jaidev (Joru Ka Bhai – 1955),
Ravi (Vachan – 1955),
Kalyanji Virji Shah (Samrat Chandragupta – 1958) (Anandji joined him later) and
Usha Khanna (Dil Deke Dekho – 1959), the only female composer to make a name for herself years after Saraswati Devi had made headlines in the 30s as in the in-house composer of Bombay Talkies.
While some of them were yet to establish themselves, some showed immense promise as evinced by their contribution to the oeuvre of the decade through their melodious scores in films like: “Adalat”, “Anand Math”, “Anhonee”, “Ashiana”, “Bawre Nain”, “Bhai Bhai”, “Dekh Kabira Roya”, “Dhool Ka Phool”, “Dilli Ka Thug”, “Madhumati”, “Malhar”, “Nagin”, “Naubahar”, “Phir Subah Hogi” and “Sadhana”.
The list of the legendary maestros would be incomplete without a mention of some of the unforgivably underrated and unsung composers like Chitragupta, Ghulam Mohammed, Hansraj Behl, S N Tripathi, Sajjad, Vasant Desai. These composers had all entered the music scene in the earlier decade but in pursuit of the much cherished name, fame and glory, gave way losing track and remained in the sidelines. The 50s saw them maturing and come of age; they were at their creative best but never considered a safe bet commercially.
Some of the memorable musicals of these composers in the 50s include “Barkha” and “Bhabhi” (Chitragupta), “Ambar” and “Mirza Ghalib” (Ghulam Mohammed), “Chengiz Khan” and “Milan”(Hansraj Behl), “Janam Janam Ke Phere” and “Rani Roopmati” (S N Tripathi), “Hulchul” and “Sangdil” (Sajjad) and Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, Do Ankhen Barah Haath and Goonj Uthi Shehnai (Vasant Desai). The latter had a consistent backing of the prestigious banner of V Shantaram.
All these maestros had their distinct style of composition and orchestration and had their respective share of success in different measures at different points of time. The 50s: Faraway yet Forever, was unmistakably the Golden Era of Hindi Film music; an era of roses and romance, innocence and ingenuousness, serenity and simplicity and pure and pristine melody. Truly, the Maestros were the Kings and Melody was the Queen!
Guzra hua zamaana aata nahin dobara….
The 60s saw the emergence of a new generation of stars, stars who symbolised style and showmanship, stars who dissipated inhibitions and displayed vim, vigour and vitality and stars who serenaded and swayed, sizzled and swooned. But, the real star of the sixties was pancake i.e. glitz and gloss, glamour and grandiose.
Colour added a new dimension to both cinema and songs. Subodh Mukherji’s hugely successful film “Junglee”, released in 1961, was the first colour film. Hindi films and film music broke free (the spirit of freedom captured with animated vivacity and boisterous sensuality by Shammi Kapoor screaming Yahoo) from the stark and sultry studio settings of the 40s and 50s to the snow clad mountains, silvery lakes, serene landscapes, smoky valleys, shimmering shikaras and spectacular foreign locales, not to forget our own scenic spots like Shimla and Srinagar.
In line with this fascinating transformation, songs also became more frothy and flamboyant but still retained the earlier decade’s melody and magic, poetry and passion. The visual appeal of the songs was enhanced by the colourful and captivating picturisation, trendy and tortuous orchestration, boisterous and rumbustious singing and more effervescent and easy-on-ears lyrics oozing and overflowing with courtly and chivalrous chauvinism.
The ‘shairana andaz and fankarana nazaqat’ (the poetic panache and artistic elegance) of the poets were discernible even in the light hearted romantic songs: Ab kya misaal doon main tumhare shabab ki; Ae gulbadan, ae gulbadan; Ae phoolon ki rani bahaaron ki malika; Chaudvin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho; Husnwaale tera jawab nahin; Jo baat tujhmein hai teri tasveer mein nahin; Tauba ye matwali chaal, Tere husn ki kya tareef karun; Teri pyaari pyaari surat ko; Tum kamsin ho, nadaan ho, naazuk ho…
Among the vintage vanguards, one did not see or hear much of C Ramchandra but for the epoch making patriotic parabola Ae mere watan ke logo… The song was written by Kavi Pradeep soon after the Chinese aggression in 1962 to boost the sagging morale of the countrymen when doom and despair loomed all over the country. It was sung with great feelings by the one and only Lata Mangeshkar. However, the mating of minds and melding of feelings between the muse and the maestro had melted away in the latter half of the 50s itself and C Ramchandra had lost his grit and grey to compose and soon faded into oblivion.
Naushad, S D Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan and O P Nayyar continued to hold their sway and swing in the 60s; but, it was Shankar-Jaikishan who ruled the roost through a string of musicals starring their mentor Raj Kapoor and the new romantic icons of the 60s viz. Shammi Kapoor and Rajendra Kumar. The two stars, by their own admission, owe their stardom not only to the composer duo but also to the versatile singer Mohammed Rafi. In fact, ‘Mohabbat’ Rafi was the only choice for playback not only to the senior actors like Dev Anand and Dilip Kumar, Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar, Rajendra Kumar and Sunil Dutt and many lesser known actors but also to the new breed of chocolate boy and macho looking heroes like Biswajit, Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Joy Mukerji, Shashi Kapoor and, of course, the new star icon, Shammi Kapoor. The visages were manifold but the voice just one: that of Mohammed Rafi who was the real and reigning star of the romantic 60s.
Maestros like Chitragupta, Roshan, Madan Mohan, Hemant Kumar, Salil Chowdhary, Ravi reinforced their mellifluous presence in the 60s and also asserted their commercial reckoning in different measures.
Younger composers like Kalyanji-Anandji (with their hit musical score in films like “Chhalia”, “Himalay Ki Godmein”, “Jab Jab Phool Khile” and “Saraswati Chandra” and others) and Laxmikant-Pyarelal (“Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke”, “Aaye Din Bahar Ke”, “Do Raaste”, “Dosti”, “Farz”, “Jeene Ki Raah”, “Mere Hamdam Mere Dost”, “Milan”, “Parasmani”, “Pathhar Ke Sanam” and “Shagird”) went on to become big and bankable names in the 60s (and also 70s) posing threat to the ruling duo Shankar-Jaikishan and also O P Nayyar.
They were not only inspired by Shankar-Jaikishan to become musical partners but also influenced, in the initial stages of their careers, by the music style of the duo till they developed their own styles. Laxmikant-Pyarelal won three major music awards for their scores in “Dosti”, “Milan” and “Jeene Ki Raah” in the first six years of their debut . This raised their box office quotient and gave them an edge over the other duo. In fact, they replaced Shankar-Jaikishan in films of several big banners including that of Raj Kapoor in the early 70s.
The 60s saw yet another musical revolution in the realm of Hindi film music brought in by R D Burman, the talented son of S D Burman; a revolution brought in a full 25 years after the first revolution ushered by Ghulam Haider in the early 40s and 25 years before the revolution perpetuated by A R Rehman in the early 90s. The trendy and youthful rhythmic melodies, modern orchestration, innovative usage of percussions and sound effects earned him the epithet: The Maestro with the Mod Touch. After a promising start in some B-grade films, the Chhote Nawab made it to the top manzil with his westernised and jazzy scores in Nasir Husain’s “Teesri Manzil”, one of the best musical suspense thrillers of all times. Thereafter, no climb down for R D Burman from that dizzy height in the next two decades.
The 60s need a special mention of Shakti Samanta’s romantic musical “Aradhana” with a fresh pair: Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore. The film released during the fag end of the decade went on to become a super success and worked wonders for many: Rajesh Khanna, arguably, the last romantic star of the pure innocent romantic era, became the new youth icon and sensational super star overnight. The multifaceted maverick Kishore Kumar found the much-delayed and much-deserved big time commercial success come his way in full glory with chartbusters like Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu and Roop tera mastana. Dada Burman scored youthful music for the film and resurfaced with new found vim and vigour. He was aging and ailing but his tunes were ageless and awe inspiring as always. R D Burman was in complete charge of the musical arrangements and orchestration and had a major hand in the phenomenal popularity of the songs.
The trio: Rajesh Khanna – Kishore Kumar – R D Burman is to write a new chapter and create a new musical history in the 70s, a decade which is otherwise hailed for the unrivalled supremacy of the angry young man Amitabh Bachchan. With the arrival of a new ‘Dawn’, the musical resplendence of the 60s turned dusky and dim!
Jaane kahan gaye woh din….
The 70s witness the preponderance of a new generation of macho and brawny stars, new composers, new singers, new concepts and new trends in film making; alongside the mainstream commercial films, the ‘new wave’ or ‘art’ films too emerged. ‘Love’, in its myriad form, continued to remain the favourite subject of the film makers from Barua and Bimal Roy to Basu Chatterji, Guru Dutt to Gulzar, Raj Kapoor and Raj Khosla to Ramesh Sippy, Shantaram to Subodh Mukherji and Shakti Samanta, Mehboob to Manmohan Desai, Nitin Bose to Nasir Husain, Chetan Anand to Vijay Anand, B R Chopra to Yash Chopra, Amiya Chakravarty to Pramod Chakravarty and F.C Mehra to Prakash Mehra… Sadly, the simple and sensitive, seminal and social themes of the 50s and 60s with the all pervading roses, romance and rishtedaars took a back seat in the 70s and gave way to a new genre of films – that of vendetta and violence, razzmatazz and rebellion and, above all, action and Amitabh Bachchan. The films also became more bold and brazen with relatively open attitude to sensuality and sex.
The changed scenario provided relatively less scope for pleasing and soothing music, ringing the death knell of melody. The mantra of the machismo was violent and venom-spewing songs, songs articulating angst and attitude, chauvinism sans chivalry and challenge; rebellion and revenge:
|Anhonee ko honee karde, honee ko anhonee||Amar Akbar Anthony|
|Chal shuru ho ja, lagaa mukka, jama thappad||Humjoli|
|Haan jab tak hai jaan, jaan-e-jahan, main naachoongi||Sholay|
|Hai agar dushman dushman ….Hum kisise kam nahin||Hum Kisise Kam Nahin|
|Jaise ko taisa mila ….maaroon ke chhodoon, teri taangen todoon||Jaise Ko Taisa|
|Maar diya jaay ke chhod diya jaaye||Mera Gaon Mera Desh|
|Meri nazar se bacha na koyi … aaj tu dhoka khaayega||Chori Mera Kaam|
|Ye mera dil ….mushqil hai pyaare tera bachke jaana||Don|
The list is long and listless!
Yet, a few romantic and sensitive musicals like “Aap Ki Kasam”, “Abhimaan”, “Alaap”, “Amar Prem”, “Chitchor”, “Ek Nazar”, “Gaman”, “Kabhi Kabhi”, “Mera Naam Joker”, “Pakeezah”, “Reshma aur Shera”, “Sargam”, “Satyam Shivam Sundaram” stood out on the strength of their melodious scores and tried to reassert and reassure that melody was not completely mauled and massacred in the maar-dhaad era of the swingeing 70s.
All the hit-n-hate songs were mostly from action-oriented films of a promiscuous nature where conflict struck more than cupid and guns and goons popped up more than roses and rishtedaars. These vindictive ‘maar’vels were not the creations of the senior maestros who ruled the 50s and 60s with their benign and gentle musical wands but by their more energetic and exuberant juniors like Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and R.D.Burman. The trio had to yield to the diktats of the changing times and tune in to the sensibilities of the new generation movie and music buffs.
The lyrical support to the trio (particularly the latter two) was mostly lent by the most prolific and versatile wordsmith Anand Bakshi who had the PENchant for expressing the character’s lingo. His songs were not without rhyme or reason; they suited every season, every situation, every celebration, every cerebration1
KA – LP – RDB, arguably the last of the composers of the Golden Era, were the monarchs of all they surveyed in the 70s. In the years to come, they are to face stiff competition from yet another trio who made promising debuts in the 70s: Bappi Lahiri, Rajesh Roshan and Ravindra Jain. Melodious songs of the trio were heard in films like Chalte Chalte, Chitchor, Doosra Aadmi, Julie, Kunwara Baap, Saudagar to name a few but the more domineering and despotic ditties were the emerging trend.
The 70s saw the resurfacing of non-conformist geniuses like Jaidev, Khayyam and Salil Chowdhury with new found success and popularity of their songs. Maestros like Anil Biswas, Naushad, C.Ramchandra, O.P.Nayyar, Shankar (minus Jaikishan), Hemant Kumar had either ceased to be in the race and reckoning and / or opted for voluntary retirement in various stages of their careers. By mid-70s, composers like Roshan, Ghulam Mohammed, Husanlal-Bhagatram, Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, S.D.Burman and Vasant Desai had passed away in that order. And in the years to come, the others too passed away one by one leaving a big inconsolable and irreplaceable vacuum and void in the realm of music!
Bichhde sabhi baari baari rather Bichhde sabhi ‘bhaari bhaari’! And with their passing away, the Golden Era of Music also came to an end and ushered in the Golden Era of Mediocrity and a new order of musicality.
Each of these maestros was a genius, a master, a wizard with exemplary creative capabilities of an exalted order. Setting new trends, creating new records and scaling new heights, each was a pioneer, a leader and a torch bearer in his own way. Each became a legend during his lifetime and inspired immense awe and admiration. And each of them has given us a rich legacy of tuneful treasures to keep their melodious memoirs alive.
Melody paved way for Mediocrity with a solacing but self depreciating note to mUSic lovers:
Kal aur aayenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyan chunnewale,
Mujhse behtar kehnewale, tumse behtar sunnewale;
Kal koyi mujhko yaad kare, kyon koyi mujhko yaad kare,
Masroof zamaana mere liye, kyon waqt apna barbaad kare?
Main pal do pal ka …… hoon!!!