Oct 172015

Bhimsen Joshi having a lot of fun, signing this very famous composition in Raga Yaman.

It is a drut bandish – drut (fast tempo), and bandish (literally a composition that is relatively fixed).  I have, in my collection somewhere, the same bandish sung by a much younger Bhimsen Joshi – that performance was seductive. The song is about a woman in the throes of longing for her piya ( lover or beloved  ) . Bhimsen Joshi with his deep baritone voice singing a part that is about the pangs of longing felt by a woman, is quite outstanding.

This is a version by Lata Mangeshkar

And, this is a very different variation of the same bandish – Abida Parveen



Oct 242013

The Last of the Great Playback singers of Indian Cinema has passed on today, marking the end of a glorious era of Film Music. Manna De is no more. His music however, lives on.  Compared to Mohd. Rafi or Kishore Kumar – he didn’t sing as much for Hindi films, but the songs that he sang left a mark.

It’s been a long time since i put together a compilation of songs, for quite sometime my music consumption has been predominantly Hindustani Classical Music.But, Manna De along with Mohd. Rafi gave me my first ever taste of the classical, something that has been with me for life.

Manna De, more than any other Hindi singer – was completely at ease with classical music. A voice like honey, he was comfortable with all sorts of songs – the philosophical (Tu Pyaar ka Saagar Hai) l, the romantic (Yeh raat bhigi bhigi) , the teasing (dil ki umange hai Jawan) , the classical (Ketaki Gulab Juhi), the tragic (sur Na saje)  .

Here in no order of preference, are some of my favourite songs sung by Manna De. if you have your favourites, please post them.

Yeh Raat Bhigi Bhigi – Mukesh is said to be the voice of Raj Kapoor, but i personally preferred the duets that Manna De sang for him with Lata. Be it this, or Pyaar huva or Aaja Sanam …. Shankar Jaikishen composed the music, and the film is Chori Chori . The guitar as the prelude is possibly one of the most distinctive pieces of Hindi film music. i need to hear two chords to identify the song. Enjoy Raj Kapoor & Nargis in this brilliant composition.

Na to Karvan Ki Talaash Hai – My favourte Qawalli from Hindi Films. Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle, Mohd. Rafi and others. The song runs for almost 10 minutes. Manna De opens the classic piece and Rafi ends it… both are at their best in this song. Roshan Sahab (the father of Rakesh & grand father of Hrithik) composes a masterpiece, lyrics are by Shailendra –

Tu Pyaar ka Saagar Hai – I used to have this huge crush on Balraj Sahani when i was a kid. in those glorious days of watching Chitrahaar and Hindi films on Doordarshan. I could never understand his films in those days – but i simply thought he looked yummmm 🙂 i still do. and of all his songs, this one was played the most frequently. Soul stirring stuff. Balraj Sahani & Nutan in the film Seema. Music by Shankar Jaikishen.

 Kaun Aaya mere Dil ke Dwaare – I cannot remember watching this film, though i must i have. i devoured everything on Doordarshan whether it was Krishi Darshan or Santakukdi or Kilbil … Anoop Kumar (Kishore Kumar’s brother) and Anita Guha in Dekh Kabira Roya. Music by Madan Mohan

Dil Ki Girah Khol Do – the film “Raat aur Din”. The subject multiple personality disorder. The year 1967. And a commercial success. Nargis in her last leading role. Fabulous film. Fabulous music. Watch it also for a very young Feroze Khan. Music Shankar Jaikishen

Ja Tose Nahin Bolu Kanhaya – Raga Hamsadhwani. Lata Mangeshkar & Manna De. The movie is Parivaar and the music director is Salil Choudhary .

Hoke Majboor Mujhe – The film Haqeeqat. Possibly the finest war film ever made in India. From the point of view of the men who serve. Directed by Chetan Anand it starred Balraj Sahni (him again), Dharmendra and a host of others it is set around the 1962 war – which no one talks about. The song ‘kar chale ham fida jaan aur tan saathiyo’ by Rafi is guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes. But, this song, more philosophical is equally good. Check out Manna De in this

Mausam Beeta Jaye – The film “Do Bhiga Zamin”, the director Bimal Roy. Music Salil Choudhary. Actor Balraj Sahni and the voice Manna De. I cry everytime is see this film – nothing has changed for the farmer. When we decided to make our film “Jhing Chik Jhing” i went and rewatched this film — the famers’ lot is the same. there is a line in Jhing Chik Jhing where Bharat Jadhav says ‘we are farmers, we grow food but our children go hungry; we grow cotton and our kids wear torn clothes’. This is not the post to call for agricultral reform or greater support to farmers, but consider it said :(.

By the way, despite the subject this was not an art film. it was a commercially viable film .

Ketaki Gulab Juhi – a duet with Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. The song is a competition between the two singers, and in typical Hindi Film ishtyle … Pandit Bhimsen Joshi loses. If your mind can overcome this fact… listen to the song…

Zindagi kaisi yeh Paheli – Manna De sings for Rajesh Khanna – a man with a medical death sentance. the music by Salil Da. The film Anand. Lyrics by Yogesh.

Laga Chunri Mein Daag – Music by Roshan (grandfather to Hrithik ). The film is Dil Hi to Hai starring Raj Kapoor and Nutan

O Meri Zohra Zabeen – the Film is Waqt – the first of the last and found sagas …. The song is picturised on Balraj Sahni (be still my fluttering heart),the music is by Ravi and lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi.

Mud Mud ke Na Dekh Mud Mud Ke – Asha and Manna De in this fabulous number from Shree 420. Picturised on Nadira & Raj Kapoor. The music is by Shankar Jaikishen and lyrics by Shailendra. The film is about a young idealist Raj Kapoor, who is seduced by wealth, fame and fortune – represented by Maya (nadira) … and brought back to the straight and narrow (not to mention poverty) by Vidya. The song marks the turning point in the film when Raj Kapoor goes over to the evil side….

Pucho na Kaise Man – The film was hackneyed but the music was great. Staring Ashok Kumar in a triple role , the film is Meri Surat Teri Aankhen. Music by S.D.Burman

Sur Na Saje Kya Gaaon Mein – the film Basant Bahar. music by Shankar Jaikishen – who hitherto had been considered to be ‘pop’ music composers without a handle on classical – and how they proved the world wrong. Starring Bharat Bhushan who possibly had some of the best classical songs featured on him. The other great song in this film is Ketki Gulab Juhi sung by Manna De and Bhimsen Joshi !

Phir Kahi Koi Phul Khila – the film is Anubhav – a complicated tangle of marital relationships. It has a wonderful sound track. Other classics in this film include the brilliant number by Geeta Dutt – Mujhe jaan na Kahon, meri Jaan. The film stars Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja as the newly married couple with more than than their share of problems.

And, today when it seems that the heavens are spring cleaning (atleast in Mumbai) one of the most famous duets sung by Manna De and Lata Mangeshkar … his ease with both high and low notes, and the sheer beauty of his voice.

Jul 012012

There was something about the way Rajesh Khanna smiled that made your heart lurch. It wasn’t a perfect smile by any stretch of imagination. It was slightly crooked. But there was a twinkle in the eye that went with the smile – a slight tilt of the head and  a swagger. It is hardly surprising that women of all ages fell for him like a ton of bricks. He was possibly the first Star to get mobbed and police would be deployed to keep the women away from him. In his hey day there was no other actor or star who could come close to his popularity . He was the original Superstar of India.


Rajesh Khanna (born Jatin Khanna) was the product of a talent hunt run by Filmfare and United Producers, in 1965. In a world without reality television or indeed 24 hour television – it is difficult to believe how a short, pimply, slightly podgy person, with really small eyes and poor skin won a talent hunt. But, obviously the panellists saw something that modern television does not. That something was Star Quality. The X factor that we all talk about but can never define. It is strange that none of the superstars produced by India have ever been the ‘gora, chikna’ varieties that television repeatedly throws up.


Rajesh Khanna’s first big – though big is an understatement – hit was Aaradhna, that set up the hit pairing of him and Sharmila Tagore. The film has Rajesh Khanna in a double role. Two songs in that film helped build the myth of Rajesh Khanna – super Romantic hero. The first was the wet song. The smouldering eyes of Rajesh Khanna following a very wet, blanket clad Sharmila in “roop tera mastana, pyaar mera deewana, bhool koyi humsena hojaye’. And the second is “Mere Sapnon ki Rani Kab Aaye gi tu” – the carefree lover boy song for that generation. Rajesh Khanna and Sharmilla Tagore was a hit jodi starring in some fabulous films- tragedies in which the loving couple never gets together. Amar Prem a film in which e he plays a dissolute landowner in Calcuttaand she a courtesan, and their unfulfilled love story. Songs such as Chingari Koi Bhadke, and Kuch toh Log Kahenge add to the pain of two good people (despite her profession and his habits) who will never see happiness in their lives. The same is the case in Safar – a story of sacrifice and tears and unconsummated love.

If the pairing between Sharmila and Rajesh Khanna was riddled with angst and guilt , the pairing between Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz was zany and fun. Who can forge the scene where like Jack and Jill they come tumbling down the hill under the influence of bhang in the film “aap ki kasam” – Jai Jai Shiv Shankar encapsulates the zing of the pairing. While the film is a tragedy (his possessiveness drives her away), their pairing was not. Films such as Apna Desh – remember Rajesh Khanna in that ghastly red jacket and peach trousers and Mumtaz in a blonde wig singing Duniya Mein Logon Ko Dhoka Kabhi Ho jaata hai – Sachcha Jhoota and Roti brought audiences in droves to the theatres.


While Rajesh Khanna played a great romantic hero, wooing his heroine with a light tough, he played the heart broken hero with more panache. There was something terribly vulnerable about him as the man who is pining for love. It is hardly surprising that his fanclub was predominantly women. They probably wanted to hug away all his sorrows. In films like Kati Patang , Safar, Aap ki Kasam or even Anand – his pain at rejection is palpable. Songs like Zindagi ke Safar mein bichad jayege (aap ki kasam),  Jeevan se Bhaari in Aankho mein, Zindagi ka Safar hai yeh kaisa safar (both in Safar)  – all added to the aura of Rajesh Khanna. The Rajesh Khanna Kishore Kumar combination is as much a part of Indian film legend as was the Raj Kapoor Mukesh or the Shammi Kapoor Mohd. Rafi Combination. IF people loved to see him fall in love, they also seemed to love to see him lose in love. And more importantly die before he can tell the one he loves that he loves her. The films in which he doesn’t get together with the heroine are numerous. Movies such as Aap Ki Kasam, Safar, Anand, Khamoshi, Namak Haram, Amar Prem saw the hero lose, women cry buckets in the theatre and box office registers ringing over and over again.

There were accusations of him being a light actor – but films like Safar and Anand– where he plays a cancer patient who knows he is dying – Khamoshi – where he plays a man committed to an asylum because he has had a nervous breakdown because he has lost in love or even Avtaar where he is the unforgiving father to ungrateful children – laid to rest that notion. But, audiences wanted to see him as the romantic hero, when romantic films were going tout of vogue. Audiences moved away from the romantic classics to the angry young man films – that were personified by Amitabh Bachchan. And Rajesh Khanna could not make the transition. Its possibly because audiences could not imagine him smouldering with anger, with passion maybe, with unrequited love maybe – but not with the desire to change society. His persona was very much – my corner of the world rather than I will change the world. And, he stuck to that. No matter how the industry or the fans treated him – he maintained his dignity and his distance and remained the star.


Top 10 films

  1. Aaradhna
  2. Aapki Kasam
  3. Anand
  4. Amar Prem
  5. Apna Desh
  6. Avtaar
  7. Kati Patang
  8. Khamoshi
  9. Namak Haram
  10. Roti
Jun 252012

Today is the birth anniversary of one of the most talented music directors in Hindi Cinema – Madan Mohan.

To look at his body of work and pick a few great songs is difficult -because he had a repertoire that was awe inspiring. His sense of music and rhythm, his ability to use silence in his musical scores  led to some music that has – and will  – stand the test of time. His partnership with lyricist Rajinder Kishan created poetry set to music.   Madan Mohan, like other music directors of his generation, had this uncanny knack of being able to blend western instruments with Indian sensibilities. He was, supposedly, Lata Mangeshkar’s favourite music director. She definitely sang some of her best songs under his direction. But, personally i loved Mohd Rafi’s work with Madan Mohan – many of which are listed here. One of these days i will get down to researching, and writing about those songs. ..

So, in no particular order of preference, my favorite 15

Aai Dil Mujhe Bata De – lyrics by Rajinder Krishan. Sung by Geeta Dutt. The film is Bhai Bhai

The song is a fun, flirtatious falling in love song… playful and wistful at the same time.

Aap Ki Nazron Ne Samjha – lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar. One of my favorite all time Lata Songs. The song is based on Raga Adana. The film is Anpadh – starring Mala Sinha and Dharmendra (who looked uffff so edible). The film looks at the issue of the education of girls. Mala Sinha is the anpadh (uneducated). The film also features the other Lata hits Hai isi mein Pyaar ki Aabru and Jiya Le Gayo ji Mora Saawariya (in Raga Kalyan)


Baiyan Na Dharo – lyrics by Rajinder Krishan. The film was Dastak – the 1970 version starring Sanjeev Kumar & Rehana Sultana. The song is based on Raga Charukesi and sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Trivia : The film was edited by Hrishikesh Mukherjee who won the national award for this film. The film was directed by Rajinder Singh Bedi who was considered to be the father of the parallel cinema (art film) movement in India.


Bhuuli Huyi Yaadon Mujhe Itna Na Sataao – lyrics by Rajinder Krishan. The film is Sanjog and the singers is Mukesh. The song is based on Raga Kalyan.

Dil Dhoondta Hai Phir Wahi – Lyrics by Gulzar. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder. This was a song in two versions – a happy one shared here, and a morose one. The film starred Sanjeev Kumar & Sharmila Tagore, and looks at the life of a young foul mouthed prostitute (Tagore) who is hired for a month by an old man (Sanjeev Kumar), who never touches her and treats her with tremendous respect.

Ek Haseen Sham Ko Dil – lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan sung by Mohd Rafi in the film Dulhan ek Raat ki. A lovely, flowy falling in love song – that is seductive in its composition. The film stars Dharmendra and Nutan. A typical Mills and Boons story (it was actually based on Thomas Hardy’s book Tess of D’ubervilles). A lot of victorian novels were highly rated M&B’s ..but that is the subject of another post.

Hum Pyaar Mein Jalne Walon Ko – Lyrics by Rajinder Krishan. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The film is Jailor directed by Sorabh Modi

Kaun Aaya Mere Mann Ke Dware -lyrics by Rajinder Krishan. The film is Dekh Kabira Roya and the singer is Manna De. The song is picturised on Anoop Kumar (brother to Ashok & Kishore Kumar). The song is based on Raga Rageshri.

Khelo Na Mere Dil Se – based on Raga Charukesi – lyrics by Kaifi Azmi. Singer Lata Mangeshkar and the film is Haqeeqat – possibly the best Hindi war film ever. Based on the life of soldiers in the 1962 war against China, the film is a masterpiece on all levels, acting, direction and music. This song was never featured in the film. The film has 4 other songs I absolutely adore – Kar Chale Hum Fida Jaan aur Tan Saathiyon (cannot hear this song, sung by Rafi, without the eyes filling up with tears), Main ye sochkar uske dar se uthha tha ( a lovely song sung by Mohd. Rafi), Hoke Majboor Hame and Kahi yeh woh to nahi ( based on raga Kalyan)

Meri Yaad mein na tum aansu bahana – lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. Singer Talat Mehmood. The song from film Madhosh is based on Raga Jaunpuri. A farewell song, that just has the right amount of pain and pathos in it. Both Madan Mohan and Talat Mehmood handled this emotion very well.

Naino Mein Badra Chaye -lyrics by Raja Mehdi Ali Khan. The singer is Lata Mangeshkar in the film Mera Saaya starring Sunil Dutt & Sadhna. The film is the story of twins – one good and the other not so good – and the man who has to figure which is the one he loves … The song is based on Raga Bhimpalasi. The film has a great sound track – that includes the title song Mera Saya (sung by Lata), Aap Ke Pehlon mein Aake Ro Diye (sung by Rafi) , and the ever green Jhumka Gira Re (sung by Asha)

Baad Mudat ki Hai – lyrics by Rajinder Krishan. Sung by Mohammed Rafi & Suman Kalyanpur for the film Jahan Aara. A lovely love song, composed in Raga Chayanat. The pace of the song, that allows the singers to have a ‘conversation’ through the lyrics makes it one more of Madan Mohan’s songs to savour. There are two other great songs in this film. Phir Wohi Sham – and sung by Talat Mehmood . A wistful melanchonic song that talks of lonliness. For a period of time in my life, that song resonated with state of mind. Talat Mehmood’s voice was velvet and just apt for this song. The second is Kisi ke Yaad mein – a lovely ghazal sung by Mohd. Rafi in Raga Kedar

Rang aur Noor ki – lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi. And, sung by Mohammed Rafi for the film Ghazal. The film is based on Raga Puriya Dhanashree.

Tujhe Kya sunaon dilruba – lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri and sung by Mohd. Rafi for the film Aakhri Dao. The song is picturised on an Actor called Shekar. Which, also tells us a bit about the Madan Mohan problem. Despite a fantastic body of work he never, in his lifetime, found the kind of glory that music directors like Shankar Jaikishen (most of the RK Films) or SD Burman (most of Dev Anand Films) found – and that was primarily because he worked with smaller film makers and more obscure films. Many of these films did not last for too long at the box office. And, the songs usually died with the film. Tapes and LP’s didn’t sell that much and it was left to All India Radio (AIR) and its shows to popularise the song.


Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho – lyrics by Kaifi Azmi. Sung by Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar for the film Haste Zhakm. The film is picturised on Naveen Nischol and Priya Rajvansh. A simmering, passionate song that has a fantastic background score – check out the sounds of thunder & lightning as part of the song..

When you talk about Madan Mohan, the first thing one thinks of is his body of work with Lata Mangeshkar and ghazals. But, Madan Mohan worked with a great number of other artists and his body of work was myriad. Truly talented. But, his inability to play politics and find a mentor – a studio or a powerful producer – meant that he ended up composing for second rung films. Those films barely ran. In an era before mass Television, a non running film was the kiss of death for the music director – the music didn’t get heard. His many fans, including singers and musicians, kept his legacy alive for a new generation. We talk about Madan Mohan with a lot more awe and respect, and he is possibly more popular now than in his lifetime .

His was a story of immense talent, neglected by the industry. He took to drinking heavily and died of Liver Cirrhosis – he wasn’t the first in the industry to plumb the depths of despair because he wasn’t popular, and he won’t be the last. That is the nature of the business – to survive, you don’t need to be just talented but incredibly thick skinned.

Jun 172012

Monsoon have arrived. The rains washing away the heat and the dust of the past few months. There is something uniquely beautiful and reinvigorating about the season – its almost as though its onset revives the parched soul and gives it hope. For most rains are the season of renewal, of rejoicing, of kids on the street playing cricket or football in the rain, of getting drenched. For an agrarian people rains represent life itself. It is almost as though nature wipes clean all the ugliness of the past year and gives you a second shot at living. Monsoons – the world looks washed, the skies look silver and grey. The trees sway, the air smells fresh and there is that cool breeze that refreshes. And, despite the wetness, the slush, the potholes and the traffic jams – it is a time for fun, a time for flirting and a time for falling in lust and in love.


Have fun for it is Raining – Rains are a time for pakodas, garma garam chai and masti. There is something wonderful about getting soaked.

There is an energy and a buzz, and just that wee bit of a devil may care attitude. Kishore Kumar in Chalti ka Naam Gaadi lightly pulls the leg of a rain soaked and very irritated Mahdubala – ek ladki bheegi bhaagi se. There is nothing romantic about that song, unless you happen to think “uska koi peech bhi dheela hai’ to be particularly romantic. It is a fun song, lilting and merry and quite out of synch with the weather outside (pagli si kaali raat mein –says the song). But it is rain that makes one giddy with cheer. A bit like the kids dancing in the rain and singing Ghode Jaise Chaal, Haathi Jaise Dum – as a prelude to the song picturised on Shahrukh and Madhuri Dixit in Dil Toh Pagal Hai. More recently in the hit film 3 Idiots, Rajkumar Hirani recreates the fun of old fashioned Hindi cinema with a hat tip to the rain song and dance. Kareena in a blazing orange sari that looks like she has been poured into it, and Aamir Khan have fun in the rain with Zobie Doobie (bhigi bhigi sari mein yooh tumki lagati tu, )

Hold me – thunder and lightning scare me – The first rains with thunder and lightening is when the hero and heroine discover that they are more than just good friends. It is almost as though they realise in a thunderclap what they mean to each other. But thunder and lightening serve another purpose and that is to get the hero and the heroine together. She is obviously frightened, he has broad shoulders – and chemistry takes care of the rest. In the film Dil Tera Deewana, the sound of thunder sends Mala Sinha scurrying into the waiting arms of Shammi Kapoor who declares his intent and is pleasantly surprised when she reciprocates. In Betaab it is the turn of Amrita Singh to rush to Sunny Deol (who indeed has very broad shoulders) with Badal yoon baraste hain. Thunder also brings Zeenat Aman and Rajesh Khanna closer in the film Ajnabee – Bheegi, Bheegi Raaton mein..

Sizzling in the Rain – For some strange reason, rains in India have an opposite effect of a cold shower. Instead of cooling down passions they invoke them. And, the hero and the heroine discover hormones in addition to love. Rajesh Khanna and Sharmil Tagore in Aaradhna get drenched in the rain, and find shelter in a convenient wooden lodge with a blazing fire. And while Kishore Kumar croons Roop Tera Mastana – and the rain rages outside the house, passion rages inside. In later years women took the initiative. Somehow there is something special about women wearing saris and getting wet in the rains. Raj Kapoor mastered the art of the wet look for a traditionally draped woman, and other directors have just taken it forward. Shekar Kapoor in Mr.India gives Sri Devi the wet look while she dances away with an invisible Mr.India. While Rain with non stop thunder & lightening, doesn’t deter a sari clad Raveena Tandon, in the film Mohra, from sizzling to Tip Tip Barsa Paani while Akshay Kumar looks dumb struck.

Falling in love in the Rains : Remember Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil dancing to Aaj Rapat Jaye to in Namak HalaI. The streets of Mumbai have never looked cleaner, and discovering the joys of love on a handcart has never seemed more appealing. Getting wet for an entire song sequence – shot over multiple days is never fun. It is a testimony to the skills of both actors who make the song seem to be the ultimate falling in love experience. If that song was energetic love, then Mujhe Jaan na Kahon meri Jaan picturised on Sanjeev Kumar & Tanuja is at the other end of the spectrum. Sung by Geeta Dutt with almost no musical accompaniment the song oozes romance & tenderness. Then there is the amazing Rhim Jhim Rum Jhum from 1942 – where Manisha Koirala and Anil Kapoor discover a whole new world of romance and oneness in the rains. And, who can forget Nargis and Raj Kapoor in Shree 420 – Pyaar Huva ik raar huva defined romance for an entire generation, as sharing an umbrella and getting equally wet in the rains
Longing in the Rain – where is there is love, there is longing. And for some reason rains make you miss the one you love. O Sajna Barkha Bahar aayi picturized on Sadhna for the film Parakh deals with the parched yearning of a lover for her beloved – ‘tum ko pukaare mere man kaa papeeharaa meethhee meethhee aganee me, jale moraa jiyaraa’. And longing itself is sweet. Because you know that the rains will bring him or her back to you, because they remember you just as much as you think about them. When Bharat Bhooshan sings Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat – his song resonates ith the woman he briefly met – Madhubala –who longs for him as much as he longs for her. Today’s world of instant messaging and instant communication does not leave much scope for longing to see the one you love. He or she is but a click or a speed dial away. But, in an earlier era – longing for the lover was expressed through verse. Barsaat mein humse mile tum Sajan – possibly the most definitive of all love songs that speak the yearning of love in the rains.

The monsoons – a time to forget about water borne diseases, and potholes, of traffic jams and water logging and maybe just for an afternoon reminiscing about love, romance and the nicer things of life.

Ssongs featured in this column