Today, I’m in a mood for celebration. Firstly because this is 75th post on my blog, and secondly, the post was suggested to me by a blog reader, Dr Ravindra Shrikhande. He was kind enough to meet me in February, when he happened to visit my town for a conference. We had a short discussion on various posts, and he mentioned about it. He also sent various references and links helping the post. Though the topic must have been covered on other blogs, I always wanted a post of my own, on the subject. I was glad to be backed.
There’s always been an association between the classical music artists and Hindi films. Sometimes, the vocalists from classical music sing for Hindi films or other times, they participate in composing songs for a film. I always wonder, what would be the driving force, in either case? There might be attraction! The classical artists might get attracted to the film music because of its universal appeal, its reach even to a small village. So that their voice may reach the depths of the society. But I believe, the classical artists must have been invited by the producers of the films to lent the voice for a particular song, or to compose for a particular film that needs a thorough classical background. I don’t think, they themselves approach the filmmakers for the participation.
Hindi film songs have always been more popular than the classical music. It’s a fact that we may or may not like! Of course, the former is designed in a way to appeal all, where as, usually the latter needs at least some knowledge of the classical music to enjoy it. General public (including me) take the classical singers just as classical singers! They are not supposed to sing a romantic song or a club song for instance! For that sort of stuff,we have our playback singers! Similarly a celebrity Santoor player like Shivkumar Sharma, is not considered a professional composer by the general public. I think these factors prove a hurdle for assimilating the classical music artists with the mainstream composers and singers of the film fraternity. They are kept at a certain distance because they are thought to be unreachable! The classical music is thought to be difficult and out of reach of general public. ‘Oh! This classical stuff is not my cup of tea!’, majority of us think!
So even if a classical vocalist or musician composes successful music for a film, it is just perceived as an exception! No one expects them to deliver hits after hits over the years! I think this is a possible cause of their so called failure as a popular film composer or a playback singer!
And it won’t be correct to expect a renowned classical singer to be a popular playback singer or vice versa. They both represent completely different genres and it’s not so easy for a classical singer to end his performance in three minutes. Similarly, even if a playback singer has a deep knowledge of classical music and he sings a classical based song for a film, he may not be able to sing for a classical music concert and get acclaim. They may or may not succeed on some other fronts! It should not be taken as their failure!
Please share your thoughts and views on,
What would be the possible explanations for the so called failure of classical artists, as a popular composer, in Hindi films.
The first part of the series deals with the composers, who originally were related to classical music as a popular instrumentalists or classical vocalist.
The list is not so exhaustive, of course! We will have a look at each of them, one by one. So let’s start!
1. PANDIT RAVI SHANKAR –
He is a famous Sitar Maestro across the globe. His first entry into Hindi films was in 1946, for films, ‘Neecha Nagar’ & ‘Dharti Ke Laal’. Both the films, more or less represented
parallel cinema, than a pure commercial one! The former won the Grand Prize at International Film Festival of Cannes in 1946. India wasn’t still an independent country and the British Rule was in its last legs! The songs from both the films were not so popular, though it should be remembered that the films had a strong social message, and in general songs could not form a major attraction for both the films! though I believe, both the films had a theme song, representing the basic concept of the film.
‘Neecha Nagar’ should always be remembered for Ravi Shankar’s debut as a film composer, so was Kamini Kaushal’s as lead actress.
Still I would highlight one stage dance performance from Neecha Nagar. I could not get the singer’s names anywhere nor could I identify them.
Dil Mein Samake – Neecha Nagar (1946) singer?? / Lyrics – Vishwamitra Adil, Manmohan Anand
A simple but attractive tune, and seems based on a folk dance. There is no excessive use of instruments, just to support the tune.
May be due to the failure of songs in both the films, Ravi Shankar was away from Hindi films for more than a decade. In 1960, he was approached again for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Anuradha’. The film was based on a story of a singer, who loses her identity as a singer, after marriage. It had scope for songs and the film opens with mind blowingly wonderful ‘Sanware Sanware’ by Lata Mangeshkar. It was a musical film portraying the deep anguish of a woman! The music department was handled very sensitively by Ravi Shankar.
The songs penned by Shailendra were equally wonderful and all the four songs by Lata Mangeshkar are close to my heart. This film was again acclaimed by critics, was honoured at The National Film Awards but, wasn’t successful at the box office, despite wonderful performances by all the artists related to the film.
My pick from the movie would be
Kaise Din Beete Kaise Beeti Ratiya – Anuradha (1960) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Shailendra
For me, Anuradha is Ravi Shankar’s masterpiece. What magnificent songs, he composed for it! I have a chosen the song, where disappointed Anuradha expresses her grief and repressed emotions. Her husband is totally disinterested in her musical talent. He keeps on reading something, while she sings her heart out. The opening ‘हाए’ itself evokes a sensation of pain.
The next, he composed for ‘Go Daan’ in 1964. Though the film was also average at the box office, the songs were wonderful and were much popular. The film also highlighted lyricist
‘Anjaan’, who got commercial success after a long time.
Jane Kahe Jiya Mora Dole Re – Go Daan (1964) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Anjaan
Just listen to the prelude of the song. What a brilliantly crafted musical piece! The lady’s happiness grows gradually, as apparent from the music. Initial Sarangi, then violins and then Sitar. The initial 45 seconds are sheer pleasure! The whole song celebrates joy, as if there never exists a place for sorrow!
Again, after a gap of fifteen years, he was seen composing for Meera (1979), directed by Gulzar with Hema Malini in title role. It is said that, Laxmikant Pyarelal refused the film,
as Lata Mangeshkar wasn’t available. Finally Ravi Shankar accepted the project, though he knew Lata won’t be associated with it. He approached Vani Jairam, who did her best for the songs. The songs and the film both saw failure.
Ae Ri Main To Prem Deewani – Meera (1979) Vani Jairam (1979) / Lyrics – Meera Bai
Vani Jairam sang all the fourteen songs for the prestigious project by Gulzar. She sang with full dedication and sincerity, though that couldn’t boost her career. This song has been set to tune by different composers, but this version is also equally melodious. I think the song appears at the climax, when no one finds Meerabai anywhere in the temple.
In all, though Ravi Shankar did the job perfectly well for all the films, he was far from commercial success! We can’t guess the reasons, but I don’t think, he would have cared for success. He must have been chosen as a composer, by the film makers because they thought him to be perfect for that particular film. To get fame as a commercial composer, might not have been Ravi Shankar’s goal. So the success or failure wouldn’t have mattered much to him. But these failures even more brightly highlighted the presumption,
“classical music stalwarts don’t get much success in Hindi films”.
2. ALLA RAKHA QURESHI (A R QURESHI) –
Ustad Allah Rakha, or A R Qureshi, was a Tabla maestro. He composed for quite a sizeable number of films in 40s and 50s. Unfortunately he also could not get much acclaim as a popular film composer. He worked for AIR and was the first solo Tabla player on the radio. He entered Hindi films in 1943, with, Mahasati Anasuya. And then, I think got typecast for b grade movies. If we take a look at the films he composed for, majority are B grade costume dramas. ‘Sakhi Hatim’, ‘Hatimtai Ki Beti’, ‘ Shan E Hatim’, ‘Sim Sim Marjina’, ‘Aladdin Laila’, ‘Jadui Angoothi’, ‘Flying Man’ etc etc. His last film was ‘Eid Ka Chand’, in 1964 with lyrics by Kaifi Azmi. In all, he composed for around forty films, and 350+ songs. He sang fourteen songs for Hindi films. He could not get associated with big banners. Bewafa (1952), is undoubtedly his best known film, starring Raj Kapoor, Ashok Kumar & Nargis. The latter was also the producer of the film. A couple of solos from Sabak (1950) by Asha Bhosle & G M Durrani are popular too. But even after the success of the songs from Bewafa, big banners remained a dream for him.
Perhaps he never tried to get them! He might have been satisfied with his work! Throughout 50s & 60s, he worked for B grade films only.
His contribution to classical music is noteworthy. He accompanied other stalwarts for the concerts, in India and abroad. His sons Zakir Hussein and Toufik Qureshi have continued the legacy and made a mark with their contribution.
My pick would be from Bewafa (Isn’t that too obvious?)
Dil Matwala Lakh Sambhala – Bewafa (1952) Talat / Lyrics – Sarshar Sailani
What a beautiful composition, with excellent use of piano. I have always loved the song, even when I wasn’t aware of the composer. The film had a couple of Talat’s solos, and Lata’s soulful solo, all worth listening to.
3. SHIV HARI –
The pair of two renowned instrumentalists, Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia. The former is world famous Santoor maestro and the latter, one of the finest flute players in the world.
They worked almost exclusively for Yash Chopra (Except Sahibaan). The duo opened their relationship with Yash Chopra’s much talked about ‘Silsila (1981)’. Though the songs reached heights of popularity, the film itself couldn’t create magic at the box office. Later the duo composed for many of the films by Yash Chopra. The last of their films were released in 1993. Sahiban was outside Yash Chopra, whereas Darr and Parampara was related to Yash Chopra.
They composed for eight Hindi films,
Silsila(1981) – Javed Akhtar
Fasle (1985) – Shaharyar
Vijay (1988) – Nida Fazli
Chandni (1989) – Anand Bakshi
Lamhe (1991) – Anand Bakshi
Darr (1993) – Anand Bakshi
Sahiban (1993) – Anand Bakshi
Parampara (1993) – Anand Bakshi
They composed good, contemporary songs. They composed all types of songs, let it be a peppy number like, ‘Rang Barse’ or a bhajan like, ‘Jo Tum Todo Piya’ or a number of romantic duets throughout the career. I think they were at their best in romantic duets. Almost all of the romantic songs were hits.
The songs had a typical Yash Raj flavour. May be the duo help build the flavour. Perhaps they were not much interested in composing for films, because they hardly worked outside Yash Chopra banner.
My picks would be
Dekha Ek Khwab – Silsila (1981) Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar / Lyrics – Javed Akhtar
My favourite from the film. Amitabh Bachchan sang three songs for the movie, two solos and a duet.
Mere Haathon Mein – Chandni (1989) Lata Mangeshkar & Chorus / Lyrics -Anand Bakshi
A pre marriage song with Punjabi folk base. It’s one of the most popular song from the movie. And the popularity continues.
Morni Baga Ma Bole – Lamhe (1991) Lata Mangeshkar & Ila Arun / Lyrics – Anand Bakshi
A Rajasthani folk based song. Was very popular that time.
Jadu Teri Nazar – Darr (1993) Udit Narayan / Lyrics -Anand Bakshi
The song was at number one position for a number of months, on countdown shows that time. Udit Narayan’s fresh voice, enchanting guitar pieces attracted audiences a great deal. Juhi Chawla’s fresh look added to the popularity of the song.
After 1993, why the duo stopped composing for Hindi films remains a mystery for me!
4. ALI AKBAR KHAN –
He was classical musician, a Sarod player. He has composed for a handful of films. For Hindi films, he has Aandhiyan (1952) and Humsafar (1953) to his credit. Incidentally, both the films had Dev Anand in main lead. The latter was a flop movie by Navketan, and the former is somewhat known for its Lata solo. In 1955 film Seema, Ali Akbar Khan played the Sarod, that formed an important part of the song, ‘Suno Chhoti Si Gudiya Ki’. It is said that when Shankar Jaikishan approched him for the song, he at first wasn’t ready. But SJ took pains and efforts to learn the basics of Sarod and then made him listen to the Sarod interludes. He praised SJ and was ready for the song.
He also composed for a couple of Bengali films. Both were released in 1960, Devi & Kshudita Pashan. He is also credited for music in Shashi Kapoor, Leela Naidu starrer ‘The Householder’ released in 1963. I don’t know, if the film actually had songs or not!
In all, he again wasn’t a successful composer as far as Hindi films were concerned.
I would chose one song from both the Hindi films,
Hai Kahin Par Shadmani – Aandhiyan (1952) Lata Mangeshkar / Lyrics – Narendra Sharma
The song has impressive Sarod pieces. The song has three parts, the shared song has all the parts. I’m not much fond of the song, though it’s counted among Lata’s best songs.
Tumhe Dulhan Mili – Humsafar (1953) Kishore Kumar / Lyrics – Sahir
A surprise awaits! A fun song, not very much expected from Sahir. And I hadn’t heard it before. But it seems popular among rare song listeners.
I would also add,
The Classical based songs from क्षुधित पाषाण (Kshudit Pashan), by Ustad Amir Khan
Three classical based songs, composed for the film by Ali Akbar Khan saheb.
5. KISHORI AMONKAR –
She was a classical vocalist of Jaipur Gharana. She was trained under her mother’s guidance, Mogubai Kurdikar. Later she got training from other gharanas as well. But she never believed
in Gharanas. For her there was only music. Her career as classical vocalist flourished in 1960-70s. The same time, she chose for playback singing in ‘Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne’ in 1964. But her mother never approved of her film career. It is said that, Mogubai told her that she would be forbidden from her mother’s tutelage and should not touch her Tanpura, if she would continue to work in films.
But in 1990s, she not only sang, but composed for Govind Nihalani’s ‘Drishti’.
Savaniya Sanjha Mein Ambar – Drishti (1991) Raghunandan Panshikar & Kishori Amonkar / Lyrics – Vasant Dev
I particularly chose this song, as it has only aalaps by Kishori Tai and the main song was sung by Raghunandan ji. Though it’s a film song, it’s totally classical based.
6. USTAD VILAYAT KHAN –
He was a renowned Sitar Player. He composed only one song for the film, Kadambari. The song was written by Amrita Pritam. Sung by Asha Bhosle, it is one of her memorable songs.
Composed beautifully, it has a rich flavour of classical music.
Amber Ki Ek Paak Surahi – Kadambari (1975) Asha Bhosle / Lyrics – Amrita Pritam
7. ZAKIR HUSSAIN –
Everyone knows about the ace Tabla player. He is the son of Tabla Maestro Ustad Allah Rakha. He popularized the Tabla and his Jugalbandi with other musicians is a delight to watch and listen to. He has composed for and acted in a few movies. In 1983, he acted and composed for ‘Heat & Dust’ and later he was offered the role of a young composer opposite Shabana Azmi in ‘Saaz’ in 1998. He also composed for it along with other guest composers. The film was based on a story of two sisters, both entering into Hindi films as playback singers. He had an opportunity to compose in both old and contemporary styles. In 2018, he composed background score for ‘Manto’, a film based on Saadat Hasan Manto.
My picks would be
Phir Bhor Bhayi Jaga Madhuban – Saaz (1998) Devaki Pandit / Lyrics – Javed Akhtar
It represents the golden era, the 1950s to be precise. Devaki Pandit sings it beautifully, especially, the aalap on the word ‘koi’. I get goosebumps!
Kya Tumne Hai Keh Diya – Saaz (1998) Kavita Krishnamurthy / Lyrics – Javed Akhtar
This is a wonderful fusion, excellent use of western and Indian instruments! Tabla of course, with electric guitar. The song was very much popular during the release of the film.
8. RAHUL SHARMA –
Son of Shiv Kumar Sharma, he also has achieved his own place as Santoor player. He has also tried fusion music and some of his records are popular. He also tried his luck in Bollywood with the film, ‘Mujhse Dosti Karoge’ in 2002. It was also a Yash Chopra film. He never composed for any Hindi film later, though the songs from MDK were fairly popular. The movie wasn’t a success and it didn’t deserve also. There wasn’t anything fresh about it, except perhaps the songs. I used to like a couple of songs,
and I would pick
Andekhi Anjani Si – Mujhse Dosti Karoge (2002) Lata Mangeshkar & Udit Narayan / Lyrics – Anand Bakshi
The songs were good, melody and rhythm hand in hand. But again, the film itself was very average and saw failure at the box office. A couple of songs, in addition to the mentioned one, are worth listening to.
I lost interest in Hindi film music after 2005, and didn’t give much attention to it. The readers are welcome to add any composer from the classical music, if he or she has contributed to Hindi films as a composer, after 2005. I hope I haven’t missed anyone till that year. I intend to cover, the classical vocalists providing playback in Hindi films in next part of the series.
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