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Truly one of a kind

Today marks the 107th birth anniversary of this pioneering genius in Bollywood. Anil Biswas, the man who really successfully saw and established many firsts in Hindi Music, including Playback singing, a 12 piece orchestra (of Indian instruments), & his unique innovation, raagmala, the clever blending of multiple raags to create an amazing musical experience, was born today in Barisal in what is now Bangla Desh in 1914.

After a memorable career, he realized he couldn’t relate to what was going on in Bollywood. The music factories in the 50s and 60s had degraded music to make more noise, less melody and tossed quality out of the window by the wayside during the journey. He withdrew from the industry to explore other worlds.

This is a song from the very last movie he composed for in Bollywood, Chhoti chhoti batein, a unique movie because it was written, produced and directed by the thespian, Motilal, the only such movie produced under his home banner Rajvanshi Productions. The movie had a unique cast of Nadira , Motilal and Moti Sagar. The movie which was highly appreciated and praised uniformly by the critics, didn’t do very well at the box office. Sadly it also turned out to be Motilal’s last. He took mortally ill during the last stages of the production, and was hospitalized. Mukesh the great singer who was related to him actually oversaw the final part of the project and ensured it’s release.

This wonderful song , written by the amazing poet, Shailendra (can’t call people like him, Sahir, Neeraj and Gulzar mere lyricists) sounds so much like Geeta Dutt. In fact it used to be a question in the music rounds of quiz competitions. It is sung by Meena Kapoor, Anilda’s wife for 5 decades.

We (of my generation) know Moti Sagar also as the father of the amazing Preeti Sagar who had such a memorable entry into Hindi films, with Julie and the enchanting and captivating, even addicting “My heart is beating”, and the wonderful songs from Manthan, but went out too soon (thanks to the machinations by the usual suspects, I suspect).

Chhoti chhoti batein won Motilal awards at the National Film Awards of the year, and he was conferred the National Award for the Best Story posthumously.

The film explores theme of humanity, society, trust, importance of money, altruism, charity and relationships.

He himself spoke of the movie and his role in an interview he gave 2 years before the movie released.

“He has an air of ineffable sadness and, inside of him, he is full of goodness to the world—a world which hasn’t been all good to him, in which he finds ultimate dignity only in death.

His name is Motilal, too. I play him in “Chhoti Chhoti Batein”, the film I have laboured much to put together bit by bit.

This is my most recent role but the one I have wanted to do longest. In visualising the Motilal of my film, a suburban philosopher, a man who is silently asking himself: “Where is peace?” and is led on from corner to corner, I have borrowed of myself, of many echoes from all my yesterdays”

In that sense an autobiographical story of sorts, the movie makes wonderful viewing with a bouquet of superb songs, Anil Biswas’s genius on glorious display . The song will play in a loop inside my head today.

Stay safe, folks and avoid everything Chinese. Take the jab…

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

6 replies on “Truly one of a kind”

Anil Biswas composed the song in Raag Gaur Sarang, Tal Dadra. The song was sung for Nadira by Meena Kapoor.
Gaur or Gaud Sarang is a raga in Hindustani classical music that combines the characteristics of Sarang and the now extinct raga named Gaud. Unlike most other members of the Sarang family of ragas, Gaud Sarang is assigned to the Kalyan thaat rather than the usual Kafi.
Its Jati is Sampurna-Sampurna Vakra (all swars are Shuddha except both Madhyam are used in Avroha).
The time of the day for rendering this Raaga is the third prahar of the day, ie, between noon & 3 PM. The overall impact of the Raag is identical to that of Raag Kedar or Raag Bihag.
Shuddha Madhyam is a prominent note which is a Deergh Swar but not a resting note. Pancham & Gandhar are the resting notes of the Raag. Like in Raag Kedar & Raag Hameer the Teevra Madhyam (M) is rendered Vakra.
It is one of the best ever lyrics penned by Shailendra.
The reference was to Shailendra’s own movie Teesri Kasam starring Raj Kapoor, which was delayed by the latter so that he could first revel in the success of his movie Sangam. Some said that the lyrics of the song: Dost dost na raha probably fitted with Shailendra’s emotions for not having got any support from his friend Raj Kapoor for the early release of his own movie, leading to its getting a much reduced box-office & ultimate untimely death of Shailendra. Teesri Kasam was released a year after Chhoti Chhoti Baatein & Shailendra conveyed in this song whatever he obliquely wanted to refer to, a year earlier! The most revealing lines are:
Duniyaa ne hamen berahamii se
Thukaraa jo diyaa, achchhaa hii kiyaa
Naadaan ham samajhe..
Whatever Shailendra wanted to tell people close to him he conveyed through his lyrics. For example, when Shankar- Jaikishan dilly-dallied about introducing him to other music directors despite their promise, Shailendra wrote to them: “Chhoti si ye duniya, pehchaane raaste; tum kabhi to miloge, kahin to miloge, to poochhenge haal”. This, later, became a popular song.
Chhoti chhoti baatein, indeed…

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