Indian music has evolved in the past century, especially with the advent of Indian cinema and the establishment of satellite and cable as forms of mass entertainment. But Indian film music truly took its own shape in the 70’s, the Golden Era of Bollywood music as I believe the Golden era of Bollywood films was the late 50’s and 60’s.
The Indian film music we have come to love today is definitely a result of the past, in particular the 70’s. So in this article, I would like you all to salute some of the most fantastic musicians of the time. Starting with some composers: such as Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Kalyanji-Anandjiand R.D. Burman.
Sunny, honey-toned molten gold creating jewels of timeless exquisiteness. That effectively sums up Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s musical repertoire that contains timeless melodies like ‘Hansta hua noorani chehra’.
Thirty five years ago Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma were a couple of struggling musicians in the Mumbai film industry. And they first got their break in 1963. The Lata Mangeshkar-Kamal Barot duet ‘Hansta hua noorani chehra’ remained steadfast at the No.1 position of Binaca Geet Mala for weeks. It was the beginning of the duo’s long-lasting and extremely rewarding association with Lata Mangeshkar.
The second turning point in Laxmi-Pyare’s career was Dosti in 1964. It fetched them their first Filmfare award. The song ‘Chahunga mein tujhe’ for which singer Mohd. Rafi and lyricist Majrooh won Filmfare awards was to be scrapped from the soundtrack. It was Rafi Saab who insisted that Laxmi-Pyare retain the song and what a momentous decision that was from Dosti where there was no looking back. Scores of silver and golden jubilee musical blockbusters spilled out of recording rooms. From the late 60’s to the end of the 80’s the letters ‘L’ and ‘P’ came to stand for the ‘long-playing’ Laxmikant-Pyarelal.
It is doubtful that any other composer has given so many hit scores and so consistently. Filmmakers like Subodh Mukherjee, Raj Khosla, Manoj Kumar, R.K. Nayyar, J. Om Prakash, L.V. Prasad and Subhash Ghai swore by the music of L-P. The songs composed by the duo were an intrinsic part of director’s creative output.
What would J. Om Prakash’s ‘Aaye Din Bahar Ke’ be without the sweetly melodic ‘Suno Sajna’?. V.A. Subba Rao’s ‘Milan’ would be incomplete without ‘Sawan ka mahina’ as would Raj Khosla’s ‘Do Raaste’ without the coquettish ‘Bindiya Chamkegi’. It is difficult to imagine R.K. Nayyar’s ‘Inteqam’ without the sizzling ‘Aa-jaan-e-jaa’.
Laxmikant-Pyarelal brought bahaar into so many hit films of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that their music came to be considered an essential component for a successful film. L-P delivered truckloads of chartbusters often with one film, unlike today where only a couple of songs from a film go on to become hits.
Bobby had Chabi kho jaye, Jhooth bole kauva kaate, Pyar mein sauda nahin, Mujhe kuch kehna hai, Beshaq mandir masjid todo and Main shayar to nahin. Most L-P admirers felt that the duo had exhausted its creative fuel in Bobby. But six years later they were still the emperors of the charts with Sargam in 1979 and its hit song ‘Dafli wale’.
Then there was of course the magical talents of R. D. Burman that also mesmerised the 70’s.
It was an inherited talent. Music was a gift bequeathed to Rahul Dev Burman by his father, Sachin Dev Burman. If Burman Dada immortalised himself with his two manjhi songs — O re manjhi (Bandini) and Sun mere bandhu re (Sujata) — Burman Baba belted out O manjhi teri naiyya se chhoota kinara in that long-forgotten river-bank(rupt) bilingual Aar Paar directed by Shakti Samanta.
This timeless manjhi song proves that Papa and Burman Jr were sailing in the same boat. Sadly, by the time RD’s boat sailed into the 1980s, it developed a leak. If the song hadn’t gone unnoticed, RD would surely have sung more such reflective quasi-philosophical songs.
Doubtless, the distinctive voice of R.D. Burman was capable of conveying the emotional of a lyric as well, if not better than some male playback singers who sang for him. This is specially true of RD’s tunes for Amit Kumar. In the popular Bade achhe lagte hain (Balika Badhu), Amit’s voice synchronises so well with RD’s that listeners can scarcely tell when Pancham stealthily slips into the number with the boatman’s clarion call O manjhi re jaiyo piya ke des… R.D. Burman often contributed key lines to his compositions without claiming credit. Though the legendary cabaret number Piya tu ab to aaja in Caravan is credited only to Asha Bhosle, Pancham’s banshee cries of ‘Monica o my darling’ have rooted the number in the public’s mind.
In the hauntingly bare Kishore Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar love duet Hum dono do premee duniya chhod chale (Ajnabi), the composer chips in as the bystander at the railway station to ask where the fugitive lovers are off to.
In Lata’s version of Phoolon ka taron ka sab ka kehna hai (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), Pancham sings for ‘Daddy’ Kishore Sahu — with Daddy ka mummy ka sabka kehna hai ek hazaron mein teri behna hai… These incidental vocal appearances verify Pancham’s casual yet unforgettable artistry.
Recalls Gulzar, “Pancham was an excellent singer. He knew the nuances of classical singing. For my films, he sang only a couple of songs. But he lent his voice even so often. For instance, in Jabbar Patel’s Musafir, the boatman’s voice-over, is Pancham! As a singer, he would perfect a tune by singing it repeatedly. In the album that I did with him in 1994, listen to how well he has sang the numbers Raah pe rahte hain and Koi diya jale kahin (later rendered by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle, respectively).”
Then in Dil Padosi Hai, the original soundtracks by Pancham before they were dubbed by Asha Bhosle are superb. They show his range as a singer.
The solos and duets that R.D. Burman sang in the ’70s asserted his growing reputation as a rock-`n’-roll renegade. Somehow the serious songs sung by Pancham (such as the manjhi number in Aar Paar) never got their due. The hits that Pancham sang were almost invariably gimmicky.
With Mohammed Rafi, RD was heard in his element in the yummy Yamma yamma number in Shaan. RD’s most memorable duet of male bonding was the zany jazz-tinged title song of Gol Maal. Sung with Sapan Chakravarty, the song’s verve is unmatched by any other song of male bonding in the ’80s except perhaps Jaan-e-Jigar, the groovy Goan gaana that RD ‘dared’ to duet with his favourite male singer, Kishore Kumar in Pukaar.
Whenever R.D. Burman went solo, he made sure it was a song that needed his voice, and no one else’s. Incredibly, the all-time favourite Mehbooba oh mehbooba (Sholay), might not have been sung by Pancham at all. At first, this vibrant sexy titillator was to be sung by Asha Bhosle. When Jalal Agha was brought into the picture to lend a vocal drizzle to Helen’s sizzle, R.D. Burman was considered by Javed Akhtar, Anand Bakshi and Ramesh Sippy as the best bet for this number inspired by a Demis Roussos chart-topper.
Equally accomplished was Pancham’s interpretation of the locomotive rhythms of Dhanno ki aankhon mein raat ka surma. Gulzar’s words in Kitaab were transported to a wonderland of images. It became a voyage of self-discovery for Pancham. Equally devil-may-care was RD’s interpretation of the number Kal kya hoga kisko pataa (Kasme Vaade) and Samundar mein naha ke (Pukar).
And how elegantly Pancham wore the shirt of hurt into the two Nasir Hussain musicals Hum Kisise Kam Nahin and Zamane Ko Dikhana Hai. In the ever-young songs Tum kya jaano mohabbat kya hai and Dil lena khel hai dildar ka, R.D. walked tall over a terrain of pain.
The most meditative solo melody that Pancham sang was Yeh zindagi kuchh bhi sahi in the flop Kumar Gaurav-Poonam Dhillon starrer, Romance, containing some of RD’s best compositions ever. The emotional grip of the lyrical delivery rivals Kabhi palkon pe aansoon which Kishore Kumar sang for R.D. Burman in Harjaee.
With his singing soul companion Asha Bhosle, R.D. created a dense romantic atmosphere. Though they sang no more than seven or eight full-fledged duets, the slender repertoire created a voluminous impression because of their impact.
The first duet that R.D. and Asha sang was O meri jaan main ne kahaa (The Train). The Rajesh Khanna-R.D. Burman team that bloomed in the ’70s was in its infancy when R.D. composed and sang with Asha for The Train. The film had two strikingly original-sounding solos Gulabi aankhen by Mohammed Rafi and Kis liye maine pyar kiya by Lata. Inadvertently, the RD-Asha duet was left out, sidetracked.
R.D. Burman and Asha Bhosle had their revenge the very next year when their uptempo number outpaced all other chartbusters of Apna Desh. Their heat-and-run number? The high-pitched ode to raunch — Duniya mein logon ko dhokha kabhi ho jaata hai. The number stressed the outlandishness of Pancham’s vocals. Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz were dressed as a couple of freakos in this climactic song.
Just when you thought they were the 70’s version of Sonny and Cher, belying all expectations, the RD-Asha pair hit an all-time high of emotional expression in Sapna mera toot gaya in Khel Khel Mein. While Kishore Kumar accompanied Asha in all the frothy fun duets in the film, R.D.Burman stepped in to create waves in this memorable song of parting and remembrance.
Peculiar, passionate and palpably Pancham is Na jaa jaan-e-jaan, that largely ignored, scene stealer RD-Asha duet in Joshilay. Here and in the disco-very-very special of the ’80s, Jaan-e-jaan o meri jaan-e-jaan in Sanam Teri Kasam, Pancham stepped back into the shadows to let Asha ‘squeal’ the limelight. But his contribution to the two duets is like a mistletoe decorating a Christmas tree.
The last duet that R.D. Burman sang with Asha was Yeh din to aata hai (Mahaan). Sadly by then R.D. Burman’s career was under a cloud.
There’s an interesting end-game associated with R.D. Burman’s career as a singer. In the selective, reluctant and meagre repertoire of songs that the chameleon composer chose to sing, one song is extra-special, Kya bhala hai kya bura in Gulzar’s unreleased Libaas. It’s one of the few film songs that dares to make light of the burden of existence.
The song is special for another reason. It’s the only time, Rahul Dev Burman dared to face the microphone with the singer who had seen him as a child fooling around in shorts at his papa’s recordings… and whom the young adult-Pancham hesitantly approached to sing the first song that he ever composed.
That duet with Lata Mangeshkar was the last song R.D. Burman ever sang in a film.
Other legends that cannot be forgotten, Kalyanji-Anandji, yesteryears Vishal-Shekhar and Salim-Suleiman
Brothers Kalyanji and Anandji Shah were but cogs in the staggeringly productive machinery of the Indian film industry in the ’70s, when “Bollywood,” as the Bombay film center is called, was making a transition from Busby Berkeley-style musical super-extravaganzas to low-budget James Bond-inspired thrillers. Their job was to extrapolate a culture-specific version of the new genre’s music from the Western original.
Apparently, Kalyanji and Anandji spent a lot of time locked in a room with nothing but the scores from Dr. No, Shaft, and S.W.A.T., a Casio keyboard, and a sitar. What they produced, with the help of an orchestra of Bollywood session players, outstrips mere imitation. Like the best Bollywood films, it presents a reinterpretation that is at once shamefully derivative and proudly original.
Folks with a less critical ear might simply call it “bizarre,” but that is what sold and made them the well-known names in Bollywood.
Kalyanji was born on June 30, 1928 in Kundrodi in Kutch, Gujarat and entered the film industry in 1952. He worked as an assistant to Hemant Kumar and even played the refrains of the snake music in Nagin (1954). In fact, Kalyanji pioneered a virtual revolution in film music when he imported a claviolin and played it to get the sinuous snake music in the film – the first instance of the use of electronic music in Hindi films.
He got his independent break as Kalyanji Veerji Shah with Samrat Chandragupt (1958). Joined by his younger brother Anandji Veerji Shah the following year, they formed the Kalyanji – Anandji team. Chhalia (1960) first brought them recognition in a big way as the songs of this Raj Kapoor – Nutan starrer became extremely popular particularly the communal harmony song Chhalia Mera Naam and of course Dum Dum Diga Diga. With the success of Himalaya ki God Mein (1965), Kalyanji – Anandji made it right to the top.
Saraswatichandra (1968) saw them win the National Award for their work on the film. The film, adapting Govardhanram Tripathi’s reform novel, boasts of some of Kalyanji – Anandji’s best work – Chandan sa Badan, Chod De Saari Duniya Kisike Liye, Phool Tumhe Bheja Hai Khat Mein besides immortalizing the garba with Main to Bhool Chali Babul ka Desh.
The year 1970 was perhaps the duo’s golden year as a succession of musical hits flooded the box-office – Geet, Johnny Mera Naam, Sacha Jhootha, Mere Humsafar, Safar, Kab, Kyon Aur Kahaan, Ghar Ghar ki Kahani and Purab Aur Paschim to name some. They formed a popular team with Prakash Mehra (Hasina Maan Jaayegi (1968), Zanjeer (1973), Haath ki Safai (1974), Hera Pheri (1976), Muqaddar ka Sikander (1978), Lawaaris (1981)) and Feroz Khan in particular (Apradh (1972), Dharmatma (1975), Qurbani (1980) and Jaanbaaz (1986)) besides winning the Filmfare Award for their work in Kora Kagaz (1974). It’s title track is remembered till today and is one of singer Kishore Kumar’s greatest songs.
Special mention must be made of the songs that Kalyanji – Anandji composed with Mukesh. Mujhko Is Raat ki Tanhai Mein (Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere (1960)), Humne Tujhse Pyaar Kiya Hai Jitna (Dulha Dulhan (1964)), Main to Ek Khwab Hoon (Himalaya ki God Mein (1965)) and Chandan sa Badan (Saraswatichandra) represent some of the finest work in Mukesh’s career.
Kalyanji – Anandji continued composing well into the 1970s and 1980s. However the period mid 1980s onwards wasn’t a particularly distinguished period for them barring stray films like Jaanbaaz or Tridev (1989). Their last film was Pratigyabandh (1991) though an older, much delayed film Ulfat ki Nayi Manzilein made it to the theatres in 1994.
Besides scoring music for films, Kalyanji – Anandji have also given many singers a break, prominent among them being Sadhana Sargam, Sapna Mukherjee, Manhar Udhas and Alka Yagnik. They also formed Little Wonders in 1993 to encourage children with singing talent.
Other well known films with music by Kalyanji – Anandji include Bluff Master (1963), Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965), Raaz (1967), Upkar (1967), Mahal (1969), Blackmail (1973), Rafoo Chakkar (1975), Don (1978) and Tridev (1989).
So as you can see, our little trip down memory lane has been very informative and if not, then the very least nostalgic. Who can say that their parents, albeit tunelessly, croon to these works of art. This music has survived for so long for a reason. This music has inspired our generations’ composers and, needless, to say future generations of composers and musicians. If one decade can produce such marvels, surely so can another?