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The tippler’s anthem

Think of an immortal song about alcohol which was sung by an all time great singer and picturized on screen on an unforgettable actor in a famous Hindi movie. Now you will surely think of several songs that foot the bill.

Now think of both the actor and singer being teetotallers. That will surely narrow the search down.

And if I tell you the movie won a basketful of Filmfare awards including, the only Filmfare that the genius of a music director would get in his brilliant career, a man who should surely have won many more of these when folks with much less quality were manoeuvring their somehow through means fair and unfair to multiple awards, for pretty pedestrian wares , you would probably get the plot.

The movie Madhumati, was made by the doyen of filmmaking in India, an institution of sorts, Bimal Roy. He took the reincarnation theme that was first meant to be utilized in Mahal , (but nixed by Ashok Kumar, the male lead and co-producer) & took it across three generations. At the time it was released, it was a great critical and popular success and the turnstiles kept on rolling. It raked in huge profits for the producers and also won no less than 9 Filmfares in all, a record tally that stood for a number of years. Salil Chowdhury gave the most memorable musical score of the time which was such a hugely popular one that it undoubtedly contributed to the success of the movie. From haunting numbers by Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh, Rafisaab, to the lilting folksy Zulmi sang aankh ladi, and Chadh gayo papi bichhua the music had it all.

To me this song is a class apart by itself. Rafisaab probably consumed alcohol only when it was in a cough syrup. I doubt if Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi aka Johnny Walker ever did it himself. But the two pull off one of the most memorable songs of the genre ever sung and picturized in the history of Bollywood.

Rafisaab always managed just the right amount of slur in his speech without ever going overboard. I am amazed at his ability to bring in so many emotions into his speech uncannily. Sadly he was time and again let down by the Parkinsonian actors on screen, perhaps making his singing sound even better. Listen to his unbelievable emotional input into “हम जो थोड़ी…सी पीके जरा झूमे…” with the slightly drawn out thodi–si conveying Johnny Walker’s inebriated state. No worries about Rafisaab’s singing not being emoted on-screen in this instance, though. Johnny Walker , the former BEST bus conductor spotted by Balraj Sahni who was then writing a story for his good friend GuruDutt, was much more capable of emoting than most leading men. With a very responsive face and amazingly lithe body, Johnny Walker ruled the roost right upto the masterly characterization of Issabhai Suratwala in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s tour de force Anand, he was truly brilliant. He acted in more than 300 films and never descended into vulgarity. Not one line of his was ever deleted by the Censors. He was liked so much by Guru Dutt, he acted in all but one of the latter’s films after the two met.

One more iteration of one of my favourite songs of this type wouldn’t be excessive at all..

Stay safe folks, stay healthy and happy. Stay away from the malicious Chinese and their instrument of global bioterrorism. Do take the jab and have a memorable weekend.

By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

2 replies on “The tippler’s anthem”

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