Monthly Archives: April 2007

Debonair detectives and seductive Bharatanatyam dancers

Potential spoilers ahead. Images courtesy Google image search. All song titles are linked to their audio files on MusicIndiaOnline and will open in a new popup window using the MIO player. If you don’t like popups, don’t click on the links.

A boy and a girl are sharing a sweet, mushy moment. Let’s call them Dev and Gina for the sake of the story. He holds her hand, she blushes and pulls her hand away, giggling. This goes on for a while, seeing as neither of them is in a rush for the moment to end. Eventually, the girl overcomes her shyness and looks at him. Their eyes meet, and without the need for words, they signal their feelings to each other. But alas. At that instant, a giant gust of wind throws them into a spin, and when the dust settles, the boy finds himself in the middle of a vast expanse of desert. There’s no girl in sight. Just him and lots and lots of sand.

If this cinematic moment had to be captured in song, which one would it be? Aakhon hi aakhon mein ishaara ho gaya, baiThe baiThe Gine ka Sahara ho gaya .. Yes, all the gushing and blushing was just a distractionary tactic. I know, I know. I deserve to have heavy objects thrown at me. But to be fair, I did not make that one up. No really, I promise. Laung ke tel waala. It is an old-favorite that I learnt in my college days. (No, believe it or not, I did not go to school to learn PJs.) But it has withstood the test of time and continues to pull in the groans like few others can. Our movie today is much like that. An old favorite. But without the groans.


While Guru Dutt’s musical collaboration with S D Burman is unforgettable in Baazi (1951), Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), the trio of classics that came out of Dutt’s association with O P Nayyar, are no less memorable — as actor, producer and director in Aar Paar (1954) and Mr and Mrs 55 (1955) and as producer in CID (1956).

CID is often mentioned amongst the best of the black-and-whites of Bollywood. Produced by Dutt for his protegé and assistant Raj Khosla, CID came from a period of Hindi cinema that was heavily influenced by film noir of Hollywood. Shades of Dutt can surely be found in Khosla’s CID. The focus on the actor’s eyes, dramatic chiaroscuro lighting, wet roads at night, backlighting characters as they smoked .. all noir-isms that were Dutt trademarks. Another factor common to Dutt was V K Murthy, the brilliant cinematographer who was working with Dutt for the fifth film here and went on to film classics like Pyaasa (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962).

Khosla however, soon grew out of Dutt’s shadow and went on to be a versatile moviemaker of his times. He touched upon a variety of genres — romantic musicals like Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962), crime thrillers like Kaala Pani (1958), dacoit dramas like Mera Gaon Mera Desh (1971) and the unforgettable trilogy-of-sorts with Sadhna — Woh Kaun Thi (1964), Mera Saaya (1966) and Anita (1967). But CID remains what Khosla is most remembered for.

Waheeda Rehman in CID

While Aar Paar (1954) had Shyama as the heroine, Shakila is more remembered for her smaller vamp role. With CID, Shakila graduated to a heroine, but history repeated itself. A flamboyant Dev Anand, a glamorous Shakila, a sinister K N Singh, and Johnny Walker in fine comedic form, but the person who outshone them all in a brilliant debut as a vamp, was Waheeda Rehman. Singing kahin pe nigaahen kahin pe nishaana in Shamshad Begum‘s voice, she dances with her eyes and her feet as she seduces the audience and villain both, warning the hero of the impending danger and hinting at his escape route. In the room hangs a painting of a woman with long hair, behind which is a lever for a trap door. Through song, she tells him —

aaya shikaarii o panchhii tu sambhal jaa
ek jaal hai zulfon kaa tu chupke se nikal jaa
ud jaa O panchhi, shikaarii hai deewaanaa ..

The classically trained Waheeda started out in Telugu films (remember eruvaakaa saagaaloyi from Rojulu Marayi (1955)?), but after CID there was no looking back for her in Hindi cinema. CID also has the brilliant and incomparable Mehmood in his first role of significant length. As Sher Singh, the killer hired to bump off the newspaper editor, which in turn starts up the investigation that forms the plot of the film, Mehmood was finally noticed. And lastly, here’s a bit of fun trivia — most movie watchers are familiar with Jagdish Raj, the resident police inspector of more than a hundred movies. CID happens to be the *first* movie he played inspector in. Neat, eh?

By the time CID came around, O P Nayyar was a known name. First with Aar Paar (1954) and then Mr and Mrs 55 (1955), this ‘westernized’ composer had established that he was here to stay. He was a colorful personality outside of his music, as well. Obstinate about doing things his way and willing to make enemies for it.

CID is arguably one of OPN’s best, every song a memorable gem and a huge hit. Besides kahin pe nigahein, there is the perpetual Chitrahaar favorite, leke pehla pehla pyaar, a whopping six-antara song, that appears in two places in the movie. Asha Bhosle sings the first three antaras, picturized on a boo-hoo Shakila missing her Dev. But the last three antaras are the high point. Sung by Shamshad and Mohd Rafi and picturized on some street singers, with Dev walking behind Shakila with the express purpose of annoying her. She realizes of course, like every heroine before and after her, the futility of rebuffing the advances of a Hindi movie hero and breaks into a smile in the end. Just then Shamshad’s infectiously playful voice sings —

sun sun baatein terii gorii muskaaii re
aaii aaii dekho dekho aaii hansii aaii re ..

A much more charming version of the hansii to phansii concept, methinks. Then there’s the effervescent Geeta Dutt-Rafi duet aankhon hi aankhon mein ishaara ho gaya (and thus the perfect chance to reminisce about the PJ). Both songs have the OPN trademark of using identical interludes between the antaras. Shamshad’s chirpy boojh mera kya naam re starts off with a slow violin solo but breaks into glee soon after. And there’s the sensual Geeta sung jaata kahaan hai deewane, which doesn’t make an appearance in the movie, since the censor board found its lyrics to be too risqué!

Johnny Walker in ae dil hai mushkil

But think CID and the song that comes to mind more than any other, is the quintessential ode to Bombay immortalized by Johnny Walker on screen ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahaan, (nicely channeling O my darling Clementine) with Majrooh‘s words that still echo true —

kahiin building kahiin traamein, kahiin motor kahiin mill
miltaa hai yahaan sab kuchh ik miltaa nahiin dil
insaan kaa nahiin kahiin naam-o-nishaan
zara hatke, zara bachke, ye hai Bambai meri jaan!

A new series

Somewhere on the sidebar of this blog lies a listing of categories. In a rare moment of lucidity, one grandly named it Method in Madness. And somewhere in it lies a dedicated category called Music. You see, once upon a time, I imagined I’d be doing a whole lot of music writing on this blog. No, not in a ‘Yay! I shall give Altaf Raja some competition!’ sort of way. (Although those who have heard the seventeen of us sing a harmonized chorus version of yaaron maine panga le liya will vouch for it being a perfectly viable career option for us.) But writing about music.

But alas, it did not happen. The silliness took precedence, the lunacy invaded the blog, and the poor music got pushed aside. It still sits at the top of the list though, looking imposing and all-important. Saala main to saahab ban gaya it sings, thinking of itself as a Dilip Kumar in Sagina (1974). But it is more like Dilip Kumar in Devdas (1955) — all talk and no action. Its only purpose is to taunt me from time to time — Music is your passion, you claim? How many posts? Thirteen? Pfffft. Passion, it seems. Snigger.

So one has decided that enough is enough. (Why do we always say that, by the way? Why can’t someone else be enough? Why should only enough be enough? I think everyone should be given a chance to be enough. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mr Mukkavalli Sambasiva Rao. He will be enough from today on. Thank you.) So where was I? Ah yes. One has decided to start a new series.

What is it going to be about, you ask? I will pick a movie, any movie, and write about it. The focus will primarily be its music, but the movie will also get spoken about. I will not limit myself by composer, director, era or genre. Obscure movies, obscurer music, everything is welcome. Connoisseurs will find a Bandini (1963) and lovers of cheese will find a Dance Dance (1987). Or a Meera Ka Mohan (1992) even.

Oh and yes! I want you to recommend movies to write about. I hope that this series will help me (and you) discover music that we had forgotten about or never heard. Or never wanted to. Songs that fill you with déjà vu. Or soundtracks that we love to hate. But I also hope, that this series will result in discussion. Who is better? Kishore or Rafi? Should Lata stop singing? Is there a difference between inspiration and plagiarism? Is Pritam a suspect composer but an excellent arranger? In sansanikhez aur hairat-angez sawaalon ka answer, coming soon to a commentspace near you. And I’m counting on you all to make it happen. Yes, you. So stop lurking and start writing!

Finally, I will say this. Music, for me, is a matter of the heart. As it must be for a lot of you, I am sure. So while I will try to be unbiased and analytical, what I write will be subjective. It will be my opinion at the time of writing the post. It may change the next day, or it may not, but it is still just an opinion and not the gospel truth. So, if I step on your toes sometimes, it might be because you were trying to waltz while I was attempting to dhinkichiki. But it doesn’t mean that either of us doesn’t know how to dance.

Speaking of déjà vu, a little nonsense before I go —

Q: What do you call a feeling of déjà vu that also makes you very happy?
A: Déjà-woo-hoo!

Okie, now let’s talk music.

Photoblog : Ha Khel Savlyancha

Ha Khel Savlyancha
Ha Khel Savlyancha
(The play of shadows)
Boston, Massachusetts

Many years ago, when I started listening to Marathi music, I came into the possession of an album of bhavgeet by Asha Bhosle sung under the baton of her brother Hridayanath Mangeshkar, a composer who often gets shortchanged when judged on the basis of his Hindi output, but who has done far brilliant-er work in Marathi.

The CD, titled Aawaz Chandanyache, is a must-have for anyone who likes Marathi music, be it a beginner feet-wetter or a connoisseur. Hridayanath, who is renowned for his complex and intricate compositions, is also known for reserving his best for his sisters. This album is no different. Be it the incredible raaga Puriya Dhanashri composition jivalagaa raahile re duur ghar maazhe, the sensual tarun aahe raatra ajunhi, or the delicate and nuanced kevhaa tarii pahaate, every song makes one marvel at the singer’s ability to traverse the complex notes with such remarkable ease and grace. There should be a law against it somewhere, methinks.

But the song from the album that makes all this babble relevant is one called kaajal raatina odhuun nela. The melody of this will be familiar to Hindi film music listeners as the Lata Mangeshkar sung khudse baatein karte rehna from the Ketan Mehta directed and Hridayanath composed Maya Memsaab (1992). The low and high notes and chord changes in this gorgeous roller-coaster number make it a joy to hear and a challenge to sing. The song is from a Marathi movie called Ha Khel Savlyancha (1976). I have no idea what the movie is about, but its intriguing name stayed with me, skulking around in the backbenches of my mind. And today, on seeing this picture, it ran up to the front of the class to the teacher handing out chocolates, waved its hand excitedly and said — Me! Me! Pick me! And so here we are.

Coming to the picture — every once in a while, the evening sun reflects off a neighbor’s porch door, streams in through my kitchen window, gets partially blocked by a wall and finally casts a spot of light on my living room’s vertical blinds, illuminating the leaves of my ficus plant. It takes a very specific set of conditions for this to occur, and when it happens, it lasts for just a minute. But while it does, it is an incredibly beautiful and moody sight to watch. The orange glow of the sun contrasting with the blue-ish light slipping through the chinks in the blinds. The fascinating play of the many hues of light. And more so, the play of shadows. Ha khel savlyancha.