AIR FM Gold Brunching with music

The genius of Salilda

The third time I figured on Kiran Misra ji’s radio show on FM Gold was to present my selection of Salil Chowdhury songs. Choosing a finite number of songs from innumerable ones that everyone (me included) remembers, recalls easily and loves/ adores was in itself a Sisyphean task. Something I would have loved to devote maybe 3 or 4 sessions to, but had to perforce restrict to a single episode.

Salilda is of course my most favourite of all Bollywood composers. Absolutely alone at the top. ( And I am aware I will ruffle a few feathers in stating this). To top it, I had used his most favourite composition, O Sajana Barakha Bahar aayee from Parakh, in the very first of the series. It was really a wrench to have to leave it out. Salilda is undoubtedly a multifaceted genius. He wrote stories, poems, composed and sang as well. His one trait of reusing some of his tunes for multiple songs and also as part of the background score, and this has been seen multiple times. Salilda has composed for 75 Hindi, 40 Bangla, 23 Malayalam and has given the musical scores in 13 Indian language movies. His childhood was spent in the tea gardens of Assam and he imbibed those influences and produced immortal compositions.

His ability to give the most memorable and brilliant background scores was seen in the fact that the legendary Filmmaker Bimal Roy asked him to compose the background score for Devdas, although SachinDev Burmanda composed all the songs. So also B R Chopra who made the first “Songless Film”- Kanoon, asked Salilda to compose the background score, whereas Ravi was at the time, the usual composer for B R Chopra sahab.

So after a lot of head-scratching, and trying to be fair to the other singers (there was a real threat the selection would have just become a “Salilda composes for Latadidi” show), I submitted my list of songs to Kiran ji. I like her style- non interfering and allows total freedom to the guest. A very rare quality amongst Radio and TV hosts. So here it is, the selection of songs I presented and the conversation I had with Kiran Misra ji.

I opened the presentation with an extremely gut wrenching, soul searching melody by Latadidi: “Raaton Ke Saaye Ghane” from a wonderful movie with great roles by Jaya Bhaduri and Om Prakash, the latter easily a far better actor than many male leads. Hollywood would have created roles specifically for him. Annadata and Chupke Chupke are two movies that come closest to doing that for Om Prakash. The album is an excellent example of Salilda’s phenomenal versatility in being at ease with all kinds of musical genres, from folk to Western. This song itself is said to be inspired by a Chopin piece (his own admission). The Bangla version is by Sandhya Mukherjee“Gahana rati ghanaye”, and the Malayalee version has been sung by none other than the immortal legend, K J Yesudas in Swapnam.

At #2, was a lovely Talat Mehmood and Latadidi duet from Chhaya, a movie that had Sunil Dutt with Asha Parekh. Directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee for AVM Films, the lyrics were written by Rajinder Krishan. Nirupa Roy picked up the Filmfare for Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable role. Based on Mozart‘s 40th Symphony (Salilda acknowledged this publicly , unlike the current lot of shameless plagiarists who have made it their SOP) the song has two versions, a happy one in the form of a duet with Talat and Lata, and a sad one which is a Talat Solo. I went with the happier one.

#3 had to be this poignant lament by Manna Dey, for Kabuliwala, a movie based on a short story written by none other than Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur. The movie was directed by Hemen Gupta and produced by Bimal Roy. Hemen da was a revolutionary son and his revolutionary activities saw painful punishments for the whole family (and a jail term as well). Hemenda worked with Netaji Subhaschandra Bose (one of my really favourite leaders of the time with Swatantryaveer Savarkar) as his personal secretary and later came into the world of movies. And made a bunch of hard-hitting, realistic movies that got him into trouble with the British appointed censors of the time. his movie (42) was a hardhitting story based on the Quit India movement on the backdrop of the Great Bengal Famines without the glamorisation of suffering. Balraj Sahni (my most favourite actor from the era- can’t just restrict him to being a chocolate hero, given his amazing repertoire), Usha Kiran and Baby Farida have very important roles, with Prem Dhavan‘s gut wrenching lyrics never failing to bring a tear to the eye (rather a bucketful) as he describes the pain and longing of a father pining for his child in a faraway land as he toils in the hope of earning some money to take back to his impoverished family.

#4 was a wonderful Mukesh melody from Rajnigandha, “Kai Baar Yunhi Dekha Hai” . The movie by Basu Chatterjee was a simple, uncomplicated story of a dilemma a young woman faces, torn between her fiancé and her old flame who suddenly drops in and puts her life in turmoil. Based on a short story by Mannu Bhandari, “Yehi Sach Hai”, it was the debut film for both Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha with Dinesh Thakur as the third angle of the triangle. Basuda originally went through difficulties in casting, starting with the initial choice of Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Sharmila Tagore, then considering Aparna Sen and Samit Bhanja ( remember Jaya’s fiancé in Guddi?) , then even thinking of Mallika Sarabhai (nixed due to the lady’s MBA exams) and finally choosing Vidya and Amol. The movie won awards by the sackful and was a huge commercial success, too.

#5 was from Parakh, but not “O Sajana” only because I had used it in my opening program. Parakh is a wonderful Bimal Roy movie based on a short story by Salilda himself. It is a sarcastic/ humorous depiction of the fledgling democracy in India after it gained independence from the British murderers and looters. Sadhana looks stunningly pretty and millions of young men (like me) must have surely lost their hearts to the lady who has been so beautifully captured in monochrome film. The Bangla version is Ene de ene de jhumka by Sabita Chowdhury, Salilda’s wife and a great singer who never quite got her due. The movie won Bimalda a Filmfare for Direction and Motilal a Filmfare for Best Supporting Actor. An amazing movie that I love watching for its wonderful characterisation and relevance to this day. Mila Hai Kisika Jhumka is the typical Salilda- Latadidi offering.

#6 was an amazing song from Gulzar‘s directorial debut, Mere Apne” , almost a frame by frame remake of a National Award Winning Tapan Sinha movie, “Apanjan”. The tune figured first as part of the background score in Anand towards the end. Originally the song was made in Bangla as “Jete Jete Path Bhulechhi” by Hemantada. Interestingly Kishore Kumar was always untouched by Salilda only because Kishoreda had not been trained as a singer. When he finally did give Kishoreda a “break”, he was amazed at the magic he had created, with his grainy voice that brought in a degree of loneliness and poignancy that was truly unimaginable. To Salilda’s credit, he owned up on his oversight and showered fulsome praise on Kishoreda. The movie has a fabulous role by Vinod Khanna (always gave his best performances for Gulzar) and Meena Kumari‘s last role. Meena Kumari was very sick when the movie was being made and Gulzar actually rushed through the filmmaking to finish her role. She passed away a few weeks after the movie released at the (un)ripe old age of 38 years and a few months, of her Bacchanalian excesses. The song, Koi Hota Jisko Apna is easily one of Kishoreda’s career best ones.

#7 is a bubbly song by Asha Bhosle for the movie Chand Aur Suraj. The song picturised on an effervescent, youthful Tanuja and a clearly clueless Dharmendra, as the stand in tutor who is scandalised to see the swimsuit clad student, is an all time personal Ashatai favourite. The tune was used by Salilda as an interlude in Saathi Re, tujh bin jiya udaas re (from Poonam Ki Raat, a meaningless Manoj Kumar movie) and was also used by him in the landmark, award winning Malayalam Movie, Chemmeen.

#8, had to be from the only Filmfare award that Salilda won (isn’t that so sad and so unfair for a man of his consistently outstanding quality and variety), Madhumati. (he did win the National Award for Chhoti Si Baat thru Mukesh). Madhumati was made by Bimal Roy based on a story by Ritwick Ghatak. It was the runaway biggest earner of the year and won an unprecedented 9 Filmfare Awards, as also the National Award for the Best Hindi Film. Aa Ja Re Pardesi won Latadidi a Filmfare as best singer, but I opted for the folksy Zulmi Sang Aankh Ladi because it so much livelier and shows a different aspect of Latadidi’s amazing vocal repertoire.

The entire program is on this clip. please overlook the first 40 seconds or so, it got accidentally included in the recording

I hope you like hearing the selection and are wowed by Salilda’s unquestionable genius, I could only show a glimpse of it in the time given.

Stay safe and away from Chinese malevolence, the virus and all the cheap goods they flood all markets with. Stay happy, healthy and do take the jab.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

36 replies on “The genius of Salilda”

What a lovely lovely superb Radio show👍👌
This time on your blog you give all the details in print🤭👍👍👍🤭How thoughtful of you🙏🏽
All the songs very well chosen and all the information in crisp and entertaining manner was a treat to heart by a heart specialist 👍
SO PROUD OF YOU🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽My best wishes for the next show👌👌👌👌

Liked by 1 person

Fantastic presentation…. Wht a difficult and uphill task it would hv been to do all this research over and above choosing these superrrrb songs. You have made it a wonderfully melodious journey for ur audience and it was treat to listen to ur confident narration as well. Look fwd to more and more and more🎼🎼❤❤😍😍👏👏

Liked by 1 person

Dear Dr,
Awesome collection and choice of Salild
and compositions.
I admire the minutest details that you give and the trivia related to each composition.
I never miss your programme.
Thanks for the wonderful songs and the beautiful compositions by the genius.
All my favourite numbers.
Thanks a lot.

Liked by 1 person

Lovely melodious bouquet of songs
Enjoyed thoroughly
And most imp, you included song
Mila hai kisika zumka, beautiful song and lady

Liked by 1 person

Awesome! Your passion for music and very special admiration for Salil Chaudhary, are amply clear from the selection of songs. They really bring out the unique quality (usp) of Salilda, as a composer. It almost covers the entire gamut of his creation. Of course, a connoisseur like you only could do it.
Also liked your word of caution about the evil tentacles of our neighbour China with their virus and rubbish cheap goods.

Liked by 1 person

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