Monday, January 26, 2009

Naushad: Mela (1948/1980)

Mela's soundtrack creates a great mood inspired by romanticism, a certain "attractive despair", as I could name it, that is characteristic of a time in Hindi cinema, (and as far as I know maybe to other Indian cinemas as well) called the 40's. But this being 1948, I could also blame this "depression" on a certain, um, let me think...Partition. I think it's a mix of both the melancholy of the country's separation mirrored in the lover's separation that set the tone of the film and it's music. Also, the film visually looks like a filmed play as the director uses theatre to show the insignificance of the backdrop and the importance on concentrating more on the emotions and the characters (which Naushad picked up on and developed in his music). Also, I think, in those days, theatre had more prestige then cinema and early in the development of the film industry the only reference for cinema was theatre. Bizarrely enough, this does not take away from the realism, not portrayed visually but musically (emotionally as well) of the two main heroes Manju (Nargis) and Mohan (Dilip Kumar).

The 40's was the heyday of the "sad song". Not the kind you feel like skipping or fast forwarding, but the kind that people actually liked, and still like even today. One brilliant song "Gham Ka Fasana" is one of the finest examples of a great "sad song", and it is also my favorite track on the record. Naushad could have picked the melody queen, Lata or, Geeta, the empress of tragedy, but he chose Shamshad. I think he was looking for something raw. Her voice expressed the voice of the people, like the persevering village girl that wants more than what is destined for her. Mela is a high point in her career, although Shamshad's luck did not last long, when the "classical trend" came in the early 50's, Shamshad did not have the training to stay at the top.

Besides the classic sad song, some of Mela's most memorable tracks are, one of Mohd. Rafi's first big breaks with the song ''Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele'', and another one of my favourites ''Aai Sawan Rut ''. For the track ''Phir Aah Dilse Nikli'' you can almost imagine that you are sitting in a zeenat during the very late reign of the Mungals. (Well, at least that is what I imagined the vocals would have sounded like.)

Some other tracks I enjoy are the playful ''Pardes Balam Tum Jaoge'' and the duet ''Mera Dil Todnewale''. In the second one I mentioned, you can really hear the Talat Mehmood influence for sure, who was the usual voice of Dilip Kumar. He's not singing for Raj Kapoor that's for sure.

Overall good soundtrack, resembles Babul (my post) but let's Shamshad really shine trough. Inspired by emotion and the northern sound this album can seem dull on the first try, but the more you listen the better it gets. Enjoy!


Side 1

1. Shamshad Begum: Dharti Ko Aakash Pukare
2. Shamshad Begum & Mukesh: Main Bhanwra Too Hai Phool
3. Shamshad Begum, Mukesh & Chorus: Aai Sawan Rut
4. Shamshad Begum: Gham Ka Fasana
5. Shamshad Begum: Taqdeer Bani Bankar Bigdi
6. Zohra Ambala: Phir Aah Dilse Nikli

Side 2

7. Shamshad Begum: Mohan Ki Muraliya
8. Shamshad Begum: Pardes Balam Tum Jaoge
9. Shamshad Begum & Mukesh: Mera Dil Todnewale
10. Mohd. Rafi: Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele
11. Mukesh: Gae Ja Geet Milanke
12. Music

Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

Stella_1's score: 3.5/5

Get the music now: Naushad Mela

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Books on Indian Film: Part 2 - Filmi Music (1)


The books in "Part 2" of this series focus more on the soundtracks of films than the films themselves. But film music, in my opinion, is just as important in analysing and studying cinema, especially Indian cinema moslty because that specific cinema gives much space to music.

That said, these books only focus on Hindi film music, and not all filmi music from across India. (Maybe I should write that book one day!)

A little history

The tradition of filmi music seems to have started before cinema even existed, as musicians and vocalists would serve the same purpose as in films today, but in theatre. Most of this "theatre music" is lost principally because it was not recorded (no recording technology) or was later recorded but no copy has survived. The term Indian Film Music or "Hindustani Cine Sangeet" was first used by Raju Bharathan. This new type of music, born with the art of "Talkies" or films with sound*, could only be heard on Radio Ceylon because All India Radio would only play classical music. With the gaining popularity of films and their music, slowly but surely filmi music got its place on the airwaves and became, what I think, the music of the people.

* I would like to add that a study on filmi music should start (both books I read start with the 30's) with recorded music for plays and continuing to music played for silent films. It would be interesting to hear what was done at the beginning of the merging of the two art forms, cinema and music.

Book 3: Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song (2008)

Do Lata, Asha, Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar or Mukesh ring a bell? Or, maybe, Laxmikant Pyarelal, R. D. Burman, Kalyandji Anandji, Shankar Jaikishan or C. Ramchandra? Well if none do, then I strongly suggest that you familiarise yourself with these wonderful talents. Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song is just what a curious filmi fan needs to familiarise his or herself with the different people who made film music legendary. It is written by self proclaimed filmi music buff Ganesh Anantharaman (yet, before writing the book he had never listened to any other Naushad soundtrack besides Mughal-E-Azam and Baiju Bawra?) who specifically wanted to write about music from the 50's and 60's but his editor convinced him to broaden his horizon. After doing some extensive research he discovered many other talented people like Saigal and Naushad Ali (Naushad is not overlooked on this blog anyway!). I wrote a list of all the personalities you can find in the book at the bottom of the page.

The book is called Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, but in actuality the number of pages dedicated to history are only 18 in a book of about 250. So really what you are getting is a "brief" overview of the evolution of the Hindi film song added to short essays (about 90% of the book) each on specific singers, music directors or lyricists. In their turn, they comprise of some biography, low and high points in the specific persons career and some of their most memorable songs. There are also five interesting interviews, one of Dev Anand, Pyarelal, Gulzar, Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar (the last to which he lied to get the interview. Oh my!). But besides those first pages in the book most of the history of the Hindi film song is found in the people from all different eras.

But since musical taste differs from one person to the other, and in the book a singer’s best song is ultimately either one of the author’s favourites or a classic that many people appreciate. Anantharaman tries his best to stay objective and please everyone by not insulting anyone but always lets a few of his thoughts slide trough (e. g. his favourite music director is S. D. Burman or he finds “Choli Ke Piche” from Khal Nayak (1993) lyrics repulsive).

Also, like me, the author is a fan of older soundtracks (50’s and 60’s). Sadly, this affects the content somewhat when he pushes aside music from the 1970's, but mostly the 1980's and beyond, because it is seemingly invalid. The name of the section about film music of the 70's is called "When music becomes secondary" and do I agree? Yes and No. Personally, I think, that in those days it did not become secondary but rather detached from the film. Because, as we see in some cases, especially in films starring Amitabh Bachchan, there is no need of good music in films (from a financial perspective, anyway). But on the other hand some films succeeded on most part because of the songs. Other than the bollywood start system talking over, I think that the past “clans” (or teams) e.g. Naushad-M. Khan, R. K. Films -Shankar Jaikishan-Lata-Mukesh or Dev Anand-S. D. Burman were either no longer existent or changing. This made music more independent of the film it was being composed for.

Bizarrely, the cover of this book resembles very much a book on the same subject yet more expensive and rare called Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema written a year earlier by Anna Morcom (I really want to get my hands on that one! Also to compare, the cover picture is beside the book I am presently reviewing).

Pictures - the same picture of Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (1972) on Ganesh Anantharaman's book (2008) and Anna Morcom's (2007)


He is one of the few to write about hindi film music, and one of the very few to write about filmi lyricist. They deserve more recongrition. (I'm starting to understand, now that I'm learning Hindi).

The book is easy to read, as he writes in a laid back manner.

Interesting interviews and insight on many different personalities.


The book is aimed at an indian public and if you don't understand hindi (it is atleast written in roman script) then you will have trouble apreciating the book.

The book is for begginnier's but not for the total ingnorant, because you need to have enough filmi knowledge to know what songs he is refering too. So, I wish all books on the subject of filmi music would have a CD or tracks you can download that play in the order in which they are mentionned, so when the author name's a tune, you can hear it right away. (But in the meantime, thank god for Youtube).While reading the book I felt very "handicapped" because I cannot understand Hindi/Urdu, and it truly took away from me fully understanding what he was trying to demonstrate or prove in the text.


To list all the people mentioned in the book:

Music Directors:Pankaj Mullik, Khemchand, Anil Biwas, Naushad Ali, C. Ramchandra, Shankar Jaikishan, S. D. Burman, Madan Mohan, O. P. Nayyar, Salil Choudhury, Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Ravi, Jaidev, Vasant Desai, Kalyanji Anandji, R. D. Burman, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Khayyam, Ravindra Jain, Bappi Lahiri, Rajesh Roshan, A. R. Rahman, Anand-Milind, Nadeem-Shravan, Annu Malik, Jatin-Lalit.

Lyricists: Kidar Sharma, D.N. Madhok, Pradeep, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Kaifi Azmi, Gulzar, Anand Bakshi, Javed Akhtar.

Playback Singers: K. L. Saigal, Noorjehan, Suraiya, Shanshad Begum, Lata Mangeshkar, Geeta Dutt, Asha Bhosle, Mukesh, Talat Mehmood, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, Anuradha Paudwal, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sonu Nigam, Alka Yagnik.

Previous Posts (Book Series):

- Indian Film (1963) by Erik Barnouw and S. Krishnaswamy
- Bollywood: A History (2006) by Mihir Bose

Stella_1's score: 3.5/5

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

O. P. Nayyar: Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963/1978)

I was totally ready to praise Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon with it's wonderful cover (Asha Parekh looks great!). And without even knowing who the composer was I put on the first track.....Ahrg! No...nahin! Not the horse trotting songs! Picture my reaction in cinematic terms. The scene starts, I've just heard the song, then there is a shot of horse hooves trotting, quick shot of O. P. Nayyar, back and forth shots, horse trotting-O. P. Nayyar, horse trotting-O. P. Nayyar, then a turning spiral superimposed on a spinning picture of me looking confused and demented. The album cover was a trap! And it only got worse as I realized that there is not 1, not 2, but 3 "horse trotting songs" on the same record. Didn't I just mention in my last post that Nayyar needed to crank up the originality button. If some people couldn't hear the constant auto-copying last time (Kashmir Ki Kali or Kismat), this record is certainly proof of it. If some people don't know what type of song I am talking about, a standard O. P. Nayyar soundtrack has at least 1 song with a beat that resembles the sound of a horse trotting. Too name a few examples, you have Naya Daur's "Maang Ke Saath Tumhara" or "Piya Piya Mora Jiya Pukare" from 1955's Baap Re Baap " and then the less evident "Deewana Hua Badal" from Kashmir Ki Kali or "Dekho Kasam Se Kehte Hain" from Tumsa Nahin Dekha, and I could go on.

Anyway, on this record the three "horse trotting songs" consist of the title track "Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon", "Ankhon Se Jo Utri Hai Dil Men" (the beat is used more subtly since it's played on the guitar) and "Lakhon Hain".

My favorite song has to be "Dekho Bijli Dole Bin Badal Ki" probably because it is inspired by classical music, but I also think that I have a weakness for dance battles especially in Indian movies (e.g. Vijayantymala Vs unknown in Amrapali, Vijayantimala vs Helen in Prince or Padmini vs Vijayanthimala in the tamil film Raj Tilak). Also, even though I like classical music I also enjoy O. P. Nayyar's Punjabi inspired songs, which in this specific film is shown in "Aji Kibla".

I would simply like to end this post by saying that my intentions are not to bash O. P. Nayyar, I even applaud him for having succeeded in the film industry without having musical training or using the instant success magnet Lata Mangeshkar. I also applaud him, for his courage to be different and original at the beginning of his career and not following the latest craze, but making one instead. But as I once said, there is missing something, especially at the stage in his career of Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon. The folk songs seem to be fuller but most of the time you can almost listen to this album and not even know when the songs change from one to the other because the mood and style do not vary much through the record. And as I have said before, I still find that his music becomes more and more unoriginal as time passes, especially after listening to more and more of his work. But even with that said, I cannot say that this is a bad soundtrack, just an unimaginative one.
Thanks and Enjoy!
Both screencaps are from Apni East India Company

Side 1
1. Mohd. Rafi: Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon
2. Asha Bhosle: Dekho Bijli Dole Bin Badal Ki
3. Mohd. Rafi: Anchal Men Saja Lena
4. Asha Bhosle: Ankhon Se Jo Utri Hai Dil Men
5. Asha Bhosle: Mujhe Pyar Men

Side 2
6. Mohd Rafi: Lakhon Hain
7. Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle: Zulf Ki Chhaon
8. Mohd. Rafi: Aji Kibla
9. Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle: Hamdam Mere

Lyrics: Majrooh

Stella_1's score: 3/5

Get the Music now: O. P. Nayyar Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bhupen Hazarika: Aarop (1973)

Aarop is my first taste of Bhupen Hazaika's music and, as far as I can tell, this soundtrack is distinctly 70's yet the music has a very organic feel. The closest I can compare it to is Ananda Shankar's Sa Re Ga Machan album (you can get a track on eastern eye), yet this one is a lot less experimental and more filmi. This "organic feel" is mostly caused by Hazaika's choice of instruments. Even though most songs have the classic high pitch violin intros, most of the time a light mix of classical and western instruments added to the sweetest melodies which are often played on the flute, are accompanied by some traditional folk instruments. The singers all have very good classical background, especially Manna Dey and Lakshmi Shankar, but you won't hear pure classical music on the record. Basically, this album has great vocals with music that has hints of earthy/indian/filmi/classical/western/folk music etc. Yeah, I know it's a mix of a lot of things, and weirdly enough, except for the last song, each category is so diluted by one or the other, that it creates a united feeling yet at the same time creates one that points in no particular direction.

I would never have guessed that my favourite song on the album, "Jab Se Too Ne Bansi Bajayi Re",was sung by a 47 year old woman. Lakshmi Shankar is a trained classical singer with a lovely youthful voice that portrays, in the song, innocents and a feeling of loss and hope at the same time. I love it.

"Nainon Men Darpan Hai'' is the only song I could find the video for. It is probably the most popular as it is sung by top playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar. But I find it very ordinary and moulded to be very filmi. Deja Vu or in this case Deja Entendu. Yawn.

The album ends with a totally R. D. Burman sounding cabaret number that seems a little out of place compared to the rest of the record. I feel as if the composer just wrote it because the film format, especially of the 70's, demanded a sexy upbeat track for the vamp. In this case, the song called "Sub Kuchh Mila Too Na Mila" is sung by no other than Asha Bhosle and, judging by the back cover, is picturised on Bindu.

Even though no specific songs, except "Jab Se Too Ne Bansi Bajayi Re" really capture my attention, the whole soundtrack is well constructed and I feel connected to the overall sound. It's kind of like I know what he's going for, and he's almost there but not quite. Also, I find Hazarika used each singer to his advantage, Lata and Kumar for the popular tune, Asha for the cabaret, Manna Dey to sing for the mature hero and Lakshmi Shankar, somewhat underused, for the simple melody. He knew what each singer could do best.


For more info on Bhupen Hazarika (he's coming out with a new album) here is a link to a fan blog and to his web site.


Side 1

1. Manna Dey: O Phoolon Ke Desh Wali
2. Manna Dey: Haath Mere Hai Madhu Ka Pyala
3. Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar: Nainon Men Darpan Hai
4. Asha Bhosle: Chale Aao

Side 2

5. Manna Dey: Toot Gaya Mera Sapna Suhana
6. Bhupen Hazarika & K. N. Sharma: Hey Jai Yashoda Nandan
7. Lakshmi Shankar: Jab Se Too Ne Bansi Bajayi Re
8. Asha Bhosle & Chorus: Sub Kuchh Mila Too Na Mila

Lyrics: Maya Govind

Stella_1's score: 3.5/5

Get the music now: Bhupen Hazarika Aarop

Sunday, January 11, 2009

O. P. Nayyar: Kashmir Ki Kali (1964)

The film, Kashmir Ki Kali , introduced Sharmila Tagore to Hindi cinema (she is of course Bengali, and is a distant relative of the TAGORE. Previously, she acted in two Satyajit Ray films, World of Apu (1959) and Devi (1960)) co-starring with an always charming and overly expressive Shammi Kapoor. Even though the film is set in Kashmir, generally for many films, O. P. Nayyar, who is Bengali (Jan. 12th Correction who is Punjabi), focuses on Punjabi folk which I consider to be Nayyar's forte (strength).

The film was a big hit and the soundtrack as well, but I truly think that it was Shammi Kapoor's persona, more than O. P. Nayyar's songs, that helped sell records. Because I find the music not bad, just uninspired.

Two tracks which I enjoy are, firstly, my favorite, "Subhan Allah Haseen Chehra" with Rafi's wonderful voice on the most melodious song on the record, accompaning some folk instuments and harmonium. Secondly, "Meri Jan Bale Bale", (love "Punjabi Shammi" ! My heart goes oy! oy! bale bale!) is a great song but Asha's voice isn't Punjabi sounding at all (Shamshad or Noor Jehan would have been better) and is missing a little authenticity. Though Mohd. Rafi is not "authentic" compared to let's say Gurdas Mann, but he seems to get away with it more easily.

I also enjoy, "Diwana Hua Baadal"but honestly I am not impressed with this album. Maybe my hopes where too high, but I am beginning to become too familiar with O. P. Nayyar's work, and the more I listen too his soundtracks, the more it's all sounding the same. It sounds as if Nayyar would say: "I'm cool. I am the highest paid music director. I sound western and rebellious. Come targeted urban youth! Want to rock'n'roll?". Ah, but this type of music would later become either a musical and creative trap for O. P. Nayyar (or a way to make easy money in the film music industry by duplicating his own style, either way it's starting to get to me. I mean, give me Naushad or give me R. D. Burman, but not the squeaky clean somewhat repetitive attempt to be different. C. Ramchandra was western before him and Shankar Jaikishan could imitate Nayyar better than he could imitate himself with rock'n'roll songs (e.g. Gumnaam, Junglee) which had at least some melody. I know I'm a sucker for classical inspired albums or really wacky musical gems , but O. P. Nayyar is on the bottom in my best composers list. Ok, ok, I will stop this useless rambling, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. So I hope you enjoy the record more than I do! I encourage you too watch the film.

In the 60's there was Kashmir Ki Kali, now we get Mission Kashmir? Sad. One day peace will come and we will be singing and dancing in Kashmir once again.


Side 1

1. Mohd. Rafi: Taarif Karun Kya Uski
2. Mohd. Rafi: Hai Duniya Usiki Zamana Usika
3. Asha Bhosle: Phir Thes Lagi Dil Ko
4. Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle: Meri Jan Bale Bale
5. Asha Bhosle: Balma Khuli Hawa Men

Side 2

6. Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle: Diwana Hua Baadal
7. Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle: Isharon Isharon Men Dil Lene Wale
8. Mohd. Rafi: Subhan Allah Haseen Chehra
9. Mohd. Rafi: Kahin Na Kahin Dil Lagana Padega

Lyrics: S. H. Bihari

Stella_1's score: 3/5

Get the music Now: O. P. Nayyar Kashmir Ki Kali

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

I know it's been a while, but don't worry I will be posting albums soon. As to celebrate the new year, and since I could not find any new year Indian videos to share, I decided to initiate some some of you to my French-Canadian roots with a song, called "Degeneration", which is a modern twist on traditional Quebecois music.

tragedia, who posted the video writes : "I put subtitles on this music video by Québec band Mes Aïeux that is really good. It's about different generations in Quebec and what kind of life/possibilities they had. I suppose it could apply to anywhere but the transition in Quebec from Catholic backwater to liberal modernity was particularly quick and harsh. (Read up about the Quiet Revolution/Révolution Tranquille.)"

Usually this song is played on the 24th of June (St-Jean-Baptiste day) or on New Year's Eve, and at the end of the video there is usually more music which is a musical interlude that makes everyone dances like crazy (but it's not included in the clip). Hope you like it, if you don't, don't worry I will be back to hindi soundtracks soon.

Bonne Année!