Monday, 11 November 2013

Mohd Rafi- Association with Bengali Composers



Mohd Rafi had truly been the voice of common man in India. Even today, the suburbs and villages of India wake up with this voice of the soil. It is of no surprise that, in the 50s and 60s, Rafi was mostly used by almost all the music directors in Bombay- Naushad, Madan Mohan, O P Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishen, Ravi, Chitragupta and Roshan- all sworn by Rafi.

 The gap perhaps existed with a lot of musicians hailing from the East. No regionalism intended, but it is a surprising fact that Rafi was not the most used male singer by any Bengali Director of that period. From Anil Biswas to Bappi Lahiri, Rafi was never the prime choice. S D Burman, R D Burman, Bappi Lahiri used Kishore more(although, Rafi enjoyed being the prime singer for the Burmans in the 60s), Salil chowdhury used Manna De the most, while Anil Biswas’ favourite remained Talat. Hemant Kumar recorded 30 odd songs with him, but again, his maximum memorable male songs were crooned by him only. And then, there were MDs like Shyamal Mitra, who in spite of composing in around half a dozen Hindi films, carefully overlooked Rafi. Was there a disconnect? Regionalism can be overlooked due to the fact that almost, or for that matter all the Bengali music directors, when it came to female singer selections, had no problem whatsoever with Lata and Asha. Salil and Hemant recorded umpteen Bengali songs with Lata whereas R D Burman and Sudhin Dasgupta did the same with Asha without any problem, when they had home grown talents like Geeta Dutt, Sandhya Mukherjee, Arati Mukherjee and Nirmala Mishra who were great on their own; Sandhya and Geeta especially were considered by many to be as good as Lata.

 As a classically trained non-Bengali friend of mine residing in US, who took classical training under Pandit Jasraj and never wants to reveal his identity owing to personal reasons, once told me about the “exclusive” range which Rafi possessed which none before him or after him had. “Starts at the beginning of Mudara Saptak(medium octave) and goes to the extreme end of Tara Saptak(High Octave)- Rafi’s range was quite contrast to the Saigalian school(K L Saigal) of modern Indian singers who had coverage from mid of Udara saptak(Low octave) to the mid of Tara saptak.” Studying Rabindra Sangeet, the specific dose all those Bengali musicians have been brought up with, the example can be made clearer- almost all the Tagore songs are bound within the specified range of Saigalian schhol- of course, Tagore came much earlier than Saigal, but I refer this term for understanding sake.

 Rafi had very few low octave exhibitions- of course in his youth, he could touch around 1-2 notes in the lowest octave in “Man tadpat hari darshan” and “Toote hue khwabon ne”. Salil Chowdhury, reportedly had repeated problems with Rafi’s hitting low notes and had a small skirmish during the recording of “Tasveer teri dil mein” when Rafi wanted the scale to be higher to his comfort. All these Bengali music directors were good singers as well, barring perhaps, Salil. The Burmans, especially, were classically trained and possessed supreme vocal skills and had a range more resembling towards the traditional Bengali school. S D Burman, between 1958- 1965, used Rafi the maximum. Looking at his usage of Rafi, vis-à-vis SJ or Naushad, it is not surprising to notice that he used Rafi at a different scale and with “controlled emotions”( barring a few situational requirements like “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye” climax) as compared to Naushad or SJ who wanted him to be higher and higher. It is worth mentioning here that, the notes Rafi touched in tara saptak like in "Zindabad zindabad ae mohabbat zindabad" are unmatched in the industry. He was the King of High notes.

Salil never used Rafi in the 70s all throughout. R D used him, but always like a distant, light-years behind second. SD was worse than his son, in the 70s. Anil Biswas anyhow was out of the gambit long before, even when he was, he carefully opted out of Rafi. Hemanta had only one movie with Rafi in the 70s- Love In Canada- way later in 1979. Shyamal Mitra had none. Basu Manohari had no Hindi releases but a few Bengali modern songs for Puja in 1978. Ironically, Rafi, who seemd to have covered all ranges of music in his 36 years career, never had a Rabindra Sangeet album released. It seems, Shantidev Ghosh- the Tagore erudite- had some Rabindra Sangeet recorded with Rafi, but did not get clearance from stringent Vishwa Bharati those days. A gap in musical school, perhaps…

Friday, 27 September 2013

United Colors of Separation

Today if you ask Salman Khan who was his initial voice, it might take him a while to recall the name of S P Balasubramanium. By the time, Salman came into acting, one hero one playback voice concept had long been over. Still, it seemed, SPB had finally got a superstar face on screen to boost his career with Salman. Together they gave hits like Maine Pyar Kiya, Sajan, Love, Dil Tera Aashiq and Hum Aapke hai kaun- but that was it. Salman took a break for couple of years and when he made a re-entry with Judwaa(1997), he was a different Salman altogether. SPB-Salman can safely be termed as the terminal combination of the concept of one hero-one voice.

But there was a time, when Shammi Kapoor wanted only Rafi, Rajesh Khanna vouched for only Kishore and Raj Kapoor would never sign without Mukesh(or, Manna De at best). There were also some type of heroes who never cared who the playback was- Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Shashi Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar spent bulk of their career giving lips to right from Mahendra Kapoor to Bhupinder. And there was a third lot, who started with one particular voice and then with the change of times, immediately shifted to another.

Majority of Shammi Kapoor hits in the 50s were rendered by Talat Mehmood. Talat was for quite a long time Shammi’s voice till “Tumsa Nahi Dekha” happened. It is not that Rafi did not playback for Shammi before Tumsa Nahi Dekha, but the extent of Talat’s contribution was far higher. But, with a clean shaven cleared moustache and more youthful resurrected Shammi from Tumsa Nahi Dekha, only Rafi could do justice to the image. So, it was a Bye Bye for Talat henceforth from Shammi, and welcome Rafi for good.

Shailendra Singh created quite a sensation as the playback for young Rishi Kapoor with Bobby. He continued for some more years with movies like Rafoo Chakkar, Zehreela Insaan, Khel Khel Mein etc. But, then, with Laila Majnu and Hum Kisise Kum Nahi- Rishi Kapoor swiftly shifted to the more matured voices of Mohd Rafi and Kishore Kumar by the late 70s. While Rafi catered to the romantic Rishi in Amar Akbar Anthony, Karz and Sargam; exuberant Kishore gave chartbusters in Hum Kisise Kum Nahi, Karz, Jhutha Kahin Ka etc. Shailendra was there for Rishi, pitching in intermittently in Zamane ko Dikhana Hai and Sagar, but the good old days were all but over.

There was also Biswajeet, who started off his career by giving lips to the hit songs of Hemant Kumar. Bees Saal Baad, Kohra and Bin Badal Barsaat. But those were the stories of Black and White Biswajeet. With the colour era, Biswajeet turned swanky with rock and roll numbers of Rafi under the tunes of Shankar Jaikishen and O P Naiyyar. Between 1965-1970, Biswajeet carefully left his “Bhadralok” Bengali Babu image with Hemant Kumar songs behind and turned into a hip-hop hero with a good female following as well!!

 The first 5 movies of Rajesh Khanna- Aakhri Khat, Raaz, Baharon Ke Sapne, Doli and Aurat- had all of them with Mohd Rafi as his voice, just like any other hero those days. His 6th and 7th movies- Aradhana and Do Raaste- also had Rafi singing for him. The problem was in the last mentioned movies, the Kishore songs made super heavy impact and within a couple of years, although Rafi kept on singing intermittently for him throughout, Kishore-Rajesh combo became a Nationwide phenomenon.

Regarding lapse in association, coming out of hero-singer discussion, there were some worth mentionable instances in other combos as well. Director- Music Director: Well, as a director-producer, Raj Khosla was never ditched by the melodies of Madan Mohan. In fact, Woh Kaun Thi and Mera saaya might just qualify to be the best musical soundtracks of Khosla’s career. Just when the things were looking bright, Khosla suddenly changed his preference and shifted to Laxmikant Pyarelal in Do Raaste, never to return to Madan again.

 Lyricist- Music Director: We all know why S D Burman and Sahir never worked together post-Pyasa. But, who had the advantage at the end of the day? Don’t know about others, but Guru Dutt, definitely considered keeping SD in the camp to be more important.

Music Director-Singer: Chain se humko kabhi aapne jeene na diya, O P Nayyar’s last composition for Asha Bhosle ironically, told his own feeling towards the singer, perhaps.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Thandi Hawayein Legacy





Anirudha Bhattacharya and Balaji Vitthal's book on R D Burman has a reference to the tune of Thandi Hawayein having its original roots to the theme song of Algiers(1938).
Charles Bayer crooned “C’est la vie” in Algiers(1938) without even realizing what a big chain of inspirations he had set for the next generation of Indian music makers.  The tune was also used as an instrumental during the credit title at the start of the movie and then later, of course, Bayer sang it in his own baritone polishing his shoes and looking out of the window.


S D Burman indeed might have been hugely influenced by that tune. His first composed duet of Kishore Kumar and Geeta Dutt- Ek hum aur dusre tum- in Pyar(1950), starts with Kishore humming the C’est la vie tune. The song was tuned into an altogether different parameter though. But the foundation of a bigger and better manifestation of that tune was ready for S D.
A year later came Najawan(1951)- where S D Burman simply bettered and over manoeuvred the Algiers tune to make the evergreen “Thandi hawayein”. The starting humming by Lata sticks to the basic tune crooned by Charles Bayer (same as what Kishore had done a year ago) and the mukhda is a simple manifestation of that tune with clever changes here and there and transforming it to a different feel of a composition altogether. This sets the pace- Thandi Hawayein tune, the root of which belonged to the Algiers song- has been the most inspiring Hindi tune ever for the composers.
N Dutta was an assistant to S D Burman in the early 50s before he made mark of his own as an independent music director. He was very much there around S D Burman when the Naujawan song was done. No surprise, he chose to manoeuvre the tune for his own in Jaal Saaz(1959) with “Pyar ka jahan ho”. The song starts with an accordion piece simply playing the “Thandi Hawayein” tune only. The antaras of the song were again highly resembling to those of Thandi Hawayein.
Madan Mohan took a small leaf out of the Thandi Hawayein tune to make “Yehi hai tamanna” in Aapki Parchhaiyan(1964).
Roshan simply reinvented the tune to make “Rahein na rahe hum” in Mamta(1966). Frankly speaking, the finest remake of “Thandi Hawayein” tune ever, Roshan Lal recreated the tune without even making anyone realizing the root of the same. And then, it was again Lata Mangeshkar who delivered the job.
Sonny Rahul Dev Burman used “Thandi Hawayein” connect more than occasionally. While “Naghma humara” from Bundalbaaz(1976) might carry a shade of influence, “Sun zara shokh haseena” from Harjaee(1981) is nothing but a recreation of “C’est la vie” in all aspects.  It would take really an expert’s ear to find out the root of the tune again.
Very late in his career, RD made the second best adaption of Thandi Hawayein tune (first for me being Rahein na rahe hum of course)- Sagar kinare. A silght, delicate reconnect to his father’s tune, but then, a master work nonetheless. He had a couple of years ago made "Humein raaston ki zaroorat" in Naram Garam which followed the same tune again.
Thandi Hawayein might not have been an altogether original a tune, but it had influenced a generation in a manner even its original source could not.