Sunday, June 29, 2008

Remembering Madan Mohan & Pancham

June is the month when Hellen Keller was born. June is the month when Thomas Hardy was born. Robert Stevenson, W B Yeats, Salman Rushdie, Donald Trump, Meryl Streep….all born in June – the month that has greatness written all over it!.

And, if I didn't mention it earlier, I was born in June too!  Smile

This week marked the birth anniversaries of two Hindi film music composers who I am quite fond of – Madan Mohan Kohli and Rahul Dev Burman. It is difficult for me to say exactly why I have such fondness for their compositions, but the fact is that I return to their compositions quite frequently.

As my tribute to Madan Mohan and RDB, I can easily come up with a Top 10 list or something like that, but after the hugely involved listing exercise I indulged in for close to 3 months, I don't think I want to do any other list (at least for some time).

I thought it would be cool to dig out some gems from the oeuvre of these composers, which are usually not talked about. Some of these songs might be well-known, but they usually get overshadowed by other creations of these composers.

Madan Mohan Kohli: When we talk of Madan Mohan today, it's mostly in reference to his association with Lata Mangeshkar. Together they created endless masterpieces. Given how much everyone loves to talk about the Lata-Madan Mohan combo, it would come as a surprise to many that the number of Madan Mohan songs sung by Asha Bhosle is not significantly lesser than those sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Agreed that the proportion of 'great' Lata-MM songs far exceeds those by Asha, but there still exist many gems. Here are some non-Lata compositions by Madan Mohan that I want you to savour.

Saba Se Ye Keh Do (Bank Manager, 1959, Jalal Malihabadi): This is one of Asha Bhosle’s finest songs not only with Madan Mohan, but with any music director.

Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyan (Woh Kaun Thi, 1964, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan): This song would easily figure among the one of the best Madan Mohan compositions, and in my opinion is among Asha's best as well. Wonder why this song has been so badly ignored. Asha's singing in this song (particularly note the antaras) makes this song sound a bit like an O P Nayyar creation, but I guess that was because this song came at a time when Asha Bhosle was heavily under the influence of OPN's style.

Zameen Se Humein Aasman Par (Adalat, 1958, Rajinder Krishan) - Madan Mohan is mostly known for his solo compositions, but one of my all time favourite romantic duets is his composition - Zameen Se Humein by Mohd. Rafi and Asha Bhosle.

Ae Dil Mujhe Bata De (Bhai Bhai, 1958, Rajinder Krishan) - One could almost say that Madan Mohan's choice of a female singer started at Lata Mangeshkar and ended with Asha Bhosle, but this is one number by Geeta Dutt that ranks among the biggest hits of Madan Mohan's career.

Rahul Dev Burman: Like Madan Mohan, Pancham's pet singers were the sisters as well. Come to think of it, so complete was the domination of the sisters till the 70s, that a major chunk of any composer's work would include songs by either of them. I am picking up 3 songs from Pancham's huge repertoire of songs, which were sung by female singers other than Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle.

Hari Din To Beeta Shaam Huyi (Kitaab, 1977, Gulzar) - This song was sung by Rajkumari, one of the top female singers of the 1940s, who had settled into retirement in the 50s except for a few odd songs in between. This evocative song was penned and picturised wonderfully by Gulzar. Watching this song, there can be little doubt that this was the perfect voice for this song. The quivering in the voice brought about by ageing seems tailor-made for this song. Watch this video to see how Rajkumari's voice seems perfect for Dina Pathak.

Kabhi Kuchh Pal Jeevan Ke (Rang Birangi, 1983, Yogesh) - Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Rang Birangi is one of my favourite comedy films of all time. Who can forget the character of Dhurinder Bhatawadekar? The film's music never caught on, but it had a lovely same-sex duet by Anurada Paudwal and Aarti Mukherjee. Who would have thought that Anuradha Paudwal, who had been the most vocal 'victim' of the so-called 'Mangeshkar Monopoly', would  be called to sing by Pancham, a ghar ka aadmi? This could well have been a Lata-Asha duet and there is nothing special that Anuradha or Aarti lend to the song, but as a composition it's an under-rated gem. Watch this video (Anuradha sings for Deepti Naval and Aarti Mukherji for Parveen Babi... ignore the minor goof-ups -once in the middle and once at the end - when the two actresses seem to undergo an sudden inexplicable change in voice)

Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani (Masoom, 1984, Gulzar) - Talking of Aarti Mukherji, one cannot help but talk about this wonderful song from Shekhar Kapur's Masoom. This solo fetched the singer a Filmfare Award. Personally, I don't like Aarti Mukherji much. She has a nice voice, but what is lacking is the clarity of enunciation. The words do not come out very clearly when she sings them. Anyway, we're talking about Pancham here and this is surely among his many good compositions.