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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Aap To Aise Na The

My selection of songs for this post may well come as a bit of a surprise to those who know me. My tendency to stay within my self-defined time warp would appear to be seriously challenged here. The main actors here actually began their careers when I was already in high school – now this seriously undermines my “old hindi songs” label :-)

Not really !

This post is all about just one 1980 film – Aap To Aise Na The. And, though less than three decades have passed by since, heaven knows there have been at least four or five generations in this period.

So 1980 could well qualify as “old” – and in any case, it would be a pity to allow such nitpicking to come in the way of enjoying songs of this quality. Perhaps I will draw a line at 1988 – being the year of Tezaab and Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.

I cannot speak for others but I cannot help feeling that from this time onwards, things just became different in Hindi films. We had a new set of actors coming up (Aamir, Juhi, Madhuri) , a new set of music directors (Nadeem Shravan, Jatin Lalit) and even a new style to film-making and music composition. Gulshan Kumar and his T-series took off and music – and even singers - suddenly seemed to become a commodity.

But this is stuff for another post – we are not discussing the changes in the music landscape here. Let us just say that even 1988 was all of twenty years ago (wow, how time flies ! Perhaps I should book a flight to India on time instead of on another airline - I should reach there real quick. ;-). (Sorry, I know even by my PJ standards, this is pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel but restraint places too heavy a demand on my natural self and I just have to let myself go every now and then. Some will wistfully eye the “then” piece but there is a “now” inextricably attached to this expression – so just cope with it).

So where was I ? I think even I have forgotten now. Even by my not-inconsiderable digression standards, this is one hell of a detour. Almost like going to Malad from Churchgate when the destination was actually supposed to be Colaba.

So let me get back on-topic.

Aap To Aise Na The.

(Aji, hum to hamesha aise hi rahe hain ! Jab se hosh sambhala hai….aap ne hosh sambhala bhi hai ?…nahin, aapse guftagu jo karne lag gaye na… ok, STOP. None of this nonsense…back to topic. I do not want to be certified mad……………………..I would rather be uncertified. ;-) ).

So there was this movie which was released during the AB days. A mention must be made of this time period because at that time – when AB ruled like a colossus - there was not much space for other movies to exist, let alone leave much of a mark. And I do not recall ATANT actually doing too much at the box-office though I think it was a moderate success. With a hero like Deepak Parashar and a typical love-triangle story, that ATANT did not tank completely has probably a lot to with the then-upcoming actor Raj Babbar. And of course, the songs.

Or rather, one song. Which has three versions to it.

There is the Manhar Udhas version – picturised on Ranjeeta and Raj Babbar.

There is the Hemlata version – picturised on Ranjeeta.

And there is the Mohammad Rafi version picturised on Deepak Parashar (just realized, the name almost sounds like a male version of Deepika Padukone).

Normally I would always go with Rafi as my first choice to listen to – but in this particular case, I cannot help feeling that Manhar’s version is the best of the lot. I know this sounds blasphemous but it is not just the voice, it is the music and the picturisation also that influences me.

I find the Rafi version - the faster version - a louder version too, compared to the Manhar version which is more deliberate, romantic and has the outdoors as an added advantage. Not to say that Rafi saab’s version is not good – it is just that I personally prefer the slower rhythm version.

The Hemlata version - also in slow rhythm - I find decent. There are other Hemlata songs (like in Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se) where she is outstanding – I cannot help feeling that here she does not quite match up to that high standard. But the overall effect, thanks also to the soft music, is still pleasing.

The lyrics all through are excellent though – they are penned by Nida Fazli and the music is by Usha Khanna.

As with most songs that are close to my heart, I can listen to this any number of times. Any of the versions actually – I just love this song so much that the version does not matter.

I am presenting all three versions here for you to enjoy and comment on. Let me know what you think of them.

So just sit back, completely erase the nonsense of this post from your mind (assuming you actually read it) and just enjoy.

The Manhar Udhas version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjh20uFlzKI

The Hemlata version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfmWA1QL7t8&NR=1

The Mohammad Rafi version
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QntH-Uq9YiY&NR=1

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pulling at the chords of my heart

First of all, my apologies for not following up on my previous post "Aye maalik tere bande hum". I have many songs that I want to post here and share with you - so it is not for lack of intent that nothing has been forthcoming from me for almost two weeks now.

Today I will be sharing two songs with you. Both these songs have one thing in common. They immediately go to my heart. Every single time I hear them. I can listen to them time and time again without ever getting bored or tired of them.

I cannot put a finger on what I find particularly heart-rending about these songs. I suspect it is not just one aspect of these songs. Not just the melody or the music or the lyrics. It is a combination of them all.

Listen to them and judge for yourself.

Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya - Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966)

I first heard of Sonik Omi (the nephew-uncle combo) as a young boy. In the midst of the RD Burmans, Kalyanji Anandjis and Laxmikant Pyarelals who were beginning to crowd that generation’s music space, Sonik Omi as music composers managed one fleeting shot at fame. Their song “Kaan mein jhumka” from Saawan Bhadon was a tapori superhit.

I would however like to remember them for this classic from DNPYK.

As far as I know, this was the film where Sonik Omi made their debut as independent music composers. Till then, Omi had composed as music assistant to Roshan for such superhits as Taj Mahal and Dil Hi To Hai. DNPYK was his first independent venture – and straightawy he hit the jackpot !

What a fantastic composition this is ! Everything about it is just perfect. The soft music actually accentuates the effect of the voices of Mohammad Rafi, Suman Kalyanpur and Mukesh.

And the picturisation is to kill for. Nature at its most beautiful. And Dharmendra rowing a boat with Nutan and Rehman. I have not seen the film and therefore cannot comment on it but this song is enough paisa vasool for me for the whole movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2v0QEiYRyE


Lakhon Taare Aasmaan Mein - Hariyali Aur Raasta (1962)

I remember seeing this movie as a young boy. And, since I love old movies, I caught up with it again a few years ago.

I loved it – from beginning to end.

There is something about old movies that I find very endearing. Maybe it is that they transport me to a time so different from today that I actually feel that I have escaped reality for those two or three hours. True, the stories are hackneyed, the dialogues could have been written by you in your sleep – and often they are in black-and-white. Inspite of all this, I love them.

And nothing gives me more pleasure while watching an old movie than waiting for that song to come. You know the song, you are guessing when it is going to come – and as the situation in the movie develops, you can almost “feel” it. When the song finally hits you, it is totally in context – and the feeling is exhilarating. (There is only one feeling to beat this one – the feeling of hearing a song that you did not even know belonged to this movie. You go like “wow….this is from THIS movie ?”).

As usual, I have digressed considerably and must get back on track.

HAR (sorry, too much influence of today’s generation :-) ) has a soundtrack that can hold its own against any other. All-time classics (ATCs :-) ) like “Ye Hariyali Aur Ye Raasta”, “Bol Meri Taqdeer Mein Kya Hai”, “Itbidaaye Ishq Mein Hum”, “Teri Yaad Dil Se Bhulaane Chala Hoon”…and the song I am presenting here “Laakhon Taare Aasman Mein”.

There is a lot about this song that I love. First of all, like I have already mentioned, it pulls at the strings of my heart. By his own very high standards of soulful songs, Mukesh should be proud of this particular song. And, amazingly matching him outcry-for-outcry, is Lata Mangeshkar here. The combination makes for enthralling listening.

Which is precisely what I did on that train journey in 1982. I was travelling from Delhi to Kolkata (then Calcutta). It was my first journey on this route - and most importantly, I was travelling by the Rajdhani Express, then the pride of Indian trains.

It was a pleasant though not particularly eventful journey.

As the train left Mughalsarai station, I heard some music. I thought somebody had got a transistor with him but it was, I believe, part of the "service pack". Music played on that train for the benefit of passengers.

I was not used to all this "luxury" at that time - being more used to second-class compartments where you try not to keep your feet on the floor or, even your luggage, for fear of suddenly discovering that somehow, miraculously, water has managed to find its way exactly where your feet are.

Anyway, I heard some music. And then I heard this song "lakhon taare...". I was mesmerised. It was early morning. At the risk of the bhajan-types frowning at me for drinking in film songs so early in the day, I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it and craved for more. A few more songs followed - but they were neither of the same quality nor were they clear. Maybe the audio system in the train had conked. Maybe it had not been working all the way till Mughalsarai - somebody had fixed it for a few minutes before it conked again. Whatever it was, that one song was total paisa vasool for the trip. I would have been happy to listen to that song again and again for the whole duration of my journey.

The other things about this song. It has simple, but emotionally rich, lyrics from Hasrat Jaipuri. And the music - somewhat typical of their style - but in no sense meant derogatorily is from the reigning music badshahs of the time, Shankar Jaikishen.

The picturisation is on Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha. I like watching Manoj Kumar’s mannerisms (there is something about them :-) ) and in this particular song, Mala Sinha is not bad either.

All in all, a classic. Yes, and not just by my definition. :-)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CUh3HKw__w


I hope you listen to these two songs and enjoy them as much as I do.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Warming up with "Aye maalik tere bande hum"

I have often asked myself what sort of songs I like in particular. And I must admit I have never been able to answer that question.

Songs of a particular singer ? No, I like songs of a wide variety of singers. Particular composer, particular lyricist ? No. If I draw up a list of favourites (it would be very difficult to do so, by the way), the variety would be evident at first glance.

Songs of a particular genre ? Period ? Raag ? Again, no, no and no. (Raag ? I have no clue of the raag of a song, so this is most definitely not a criterion).

One criterion I can possibly think of is the lyrics in general. I am a big fan of lyrics, so a song with very good lyrics is likely to hold my interest. I like shaayari (I am not good at it) , I like good dialogues in movies – so I think good lyrics could be considered a criterion.

Good lyrics does not necessarily mean heavy-duty language. Or, for that matter, classy Urdu words. Of course, these would help to get me interested enough to start looking for translations (I learnt the Urdu word "tawajju" a few months ago :-) ) but I also find that I am just as happy with simple lyrics that combine well in a song to express an emotion.

For example, I find a song like “tujh sang preet lagayi sajna” , with reasonably simple lyrics, very nicely “threaded” into a beautiful expression of love. Compare this with “baith ja, baith gayi, khadi ho ja, khadi ho gayi, jhoom ja, jhoom gayi, ghoom ja, ghoom gayi, ghoom ja, ghoom gayi gayi gayi gayi gayi gayi gayi gayi..”…I think you get the point.

So, good lyrics, yes. Or, at the very least, not bad lyrics.

Another thing I tend to like is a sense of involvement in and with a song. I get involved with songs I listen to. They can be happy songs or sad songs but if I find myself singing along naturally - or not wanting to be disturbed while listening to the song - then yes, it has got me.

A third criterion (if you can call it such) is that the song should have caught my interest the first time itself. I know some songs can “grow” on people but I do not think I am that type. I need a sort of “love at first sight” or rather “love at first listening” feeling. Thankfully, there are many, many songs with which I have this sort of relationship. Especially amongst old Hindi songs.

I cannot think of other criteria at the moment. Nor do I intend to analyse this any more. Some songs click in my mind, some do not. And, like I have said before, they cut across singer, music director, lyricist, picturisation, genre and era. Since I am often not even aware of some of these details while listening to a song the first time, it is safe to say that the song comes first – the details come later.

I think I have talked enough. It is now time to move on to sharing some of my songs with you.

All the songs I have in mind satisfy all the above criteria for me. These are songs that held me captive the first time I heard them. So it was definitely a case of "love at first listening". Even now, when I listen to them, I get totally involved.

Given the number of songs that I love, my list will be a long one. It will contain happy songs and sad songs. Obviously I cannot include them all in this one post.

I will therefore start with just a couple of songs. You could see this as a "teaser" - with more to follow.

Being a start to this series, I thought it apt to start with two songs which are prayers rather than typical Hindi songs. I was mesmerised when I heard them the first time. And, even today, when I listen to them, I am totally lost in them. Just listen to them and judge for yourself.

Here is the opening song...from the Nightingale of India, Lata Mangeshkar...

It is a song from one of my favourite films "Do Aankhen Barah Haath" (1957). One of V. Shantaram's classic films (featuring Sandhya of course !), it made a huge impression on me when I first saw it as a little boy. When I saw it years later, it made just as much of an impression on me. A very good movie. Apart from a very good storyline, it has some pleasant songs (like sainya choron ka bada sartaaj nikla). But this one from Lata is a masterpiece. Written by Bharat Vyas and composed by Vasant Desai.

"Aye Maalik Tere Bande Hum"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2CJZiP4_Sc

Lata, having brilliantly opened the innings here, hers is a very tough act to follow. But I think Manna Dey does not do a particularly bad job here. In this song from Seema (1955), watch Nutan in an agitated state of mind as Balraj Sahni appeals to a higher force. Shailendra's lyrics and Shankar Jaikishen's music.

"Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5QM8ohMGneY


That's it for this post. Just a "jhalki". For all you "jhalak dikhla ja...jhalak dikhla ja" guys. :-)

Adios ! Till the next time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

More than cricket - a passion for old songs

Many of my posts until now have been about cricket. It may give the impression that cricket is my all-consuming interest.

Well, not really.

Yes, cricket is one of my biggest passions. I can spend hours watching it, discussing it, reading about it, checking scores and statistics. And I do. I have spent many nights just following cricket scores on the internet. And not just weekend nights. Many a sleep-deprived messy work-day morning has my cricket passion to blame entirely for it.

But there is one other interest of mine that beats even cricket. It may not seem possible but yes, there is. It is my interest in old hindi songs and movies.

I have intentionally been very specific and said "old hindi songs". Instead of saying "old hindi music" - and appearing to know more about music than I do.

I have absolutely no claims to knowing anything about music. I have never learnt music, never played a musical instrument, never learnt singing.I will almost certainly fail to recognise an instrument nine out of ten times, a raag ninety-nine out of hundred times.

So I know nothing about music. What I do know is that one does not need to know about music to be able to enjoy it. There is something natural about music that seems to get into one's psyche. It cuts across age, sex, race, every type of barrier.

Of course, tastes are different. Thankfully. If everybody liked only one type of music, other types would not exist at all. Life would be so monotonous. The different tastes allow different types of music to get created. And to flourish.

I would also like to clarify another point. My interest in "old hindi songs" is not in any way a criticism of other songs. Of other languages or generations. It is just that I have been exposed much more to these songs and they have found a special place in my heart.

Maybe I should make an effort to listen to other types of songs. Maybe I will. I am sure there are plenty of new songs out there that are just as melodious as old ones. And plenty in other languages too. The few English songs I know, I actually like. I happen to hear Spanish songs every now and then. And find that, even without understanding a word of the lyrics, they are quite catchy. Understanding the lyrics would probably enhance an appreciation of the music.

Another clarification. When I say "old hindi songs", I am talking about songs of upto the 1970s or early 1980s. I feel that somewhere in the mid-80s, there was this gap. It was as if all the good music directors and lyricists had decided to take a sabbatical at the same time. They returned in 1989-90 (QSQT, Aashiqui et al) and once again songs took centrestage in Hindi films.

I have been very much out of touch with Hindi songs since that sabbatical. I know some songs of the 1990s. But this century has completely passed me by. I can count on my fingers the number of songs I know of the current decade. And I have absolutely no clue about the composer, singer, lyricist, film.

So I think it is best to stick with what I know. I will stick with "old hindi songs". Mostly film songs but the odd song that I recall may be a non-filmi song. Like a non-filmi ghazal.

In discussing songs here, my approach is going to be very simple. This is MY blog - and I can discuss whatever songs I like. Whether anybody has heard of them or not. Or finds them interesting or not.

No, that is not exactly the attitude I am going to adopt. Yes, I do want to personalise my song presentation with my comments about the songs, any experiences associated with the songs, maybe some background information about the songs.

But I do not want this to be all MY show. There is no greater joy than sharing. Sharing experiences, sharing interests. Educating one another.

THAT is going to be something I hope to achieve here. I will be presenting some songs - not necessarily the most popular ones. In fact, most likely they will not be the best-known songs around.

I can almost visualise my niece Nandu, and my nephew Chikki, smiling. I have forced my choice of songs on them a number of times. They jokingly refer to these songs as ATCs (all-time classics). The main qualification of such songs for them is that they would NEVER have heard the song before had it not been for me.

Well, N & C, you are my prime target audience for this blog. And others of your generation.
You like old songs, you know a number of old songs. But there are so many old songs out there (yes, ATCs :-) ) that you do not know about. Maybe the combination of the song, the lyrics, the music, the visuals - you may just find yourself enjoying the song.

Or maybe not. In any case, I would just request all you youngsters out there to have an open mind about old songs. One man's food is another's poison. To each his own, I always say. If you like the songs, fine. If you don't, that is just fine too. (I have even listened and tapped to "jhalak dikhla ja" to try to understand the taste of today's generation. :-). And believe me, I do like catchy songs like "oonchi hai building". :-)).

Since nowadays many songs are available on youtube, I plan to use this where possible. It is fantastic to be able to present the song in its entirety - song, music, lyrics and visuals.

That is how and why I plan to go about presenting my songs. This is an outlet for myself - to share my songs (well, not my songs but my choice of songs) with the world. Anybody who wants to join in and comment, is most welcome to do so.

Watch this space.