Lullabies Salil Chowdhury

An invitation to Somnus

Today, 5th September, is celebrated in our country as Teacher’s Day, in deference to the great philosopher and teacher, the former Vice Chancellor of the iconic and prestigious Banaras Hindu University, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnayya (the latter was changed to Radhakrishnan).

Today also marks the transition of one of the greatest (& my most favourite) composers to make Bollywood music his chosen area of activity, Salil Chowdhury. Salilda has given me so much joy over the decades with his uber melodious compositions, gave my soul succour, nourishment and solace, it is well nigh impossible to be fair to the genius of the man in a few hundred or even a few thousand words.

Salil Chowdhury passed away this day 27 years ago and was a true polymath: an equally skilled songwriter, composer, lyricist, writer, and poet who predominantly composed for Bengali, Hindi, and Malayalam films (he actually composed music for films in 13 languages) . This includes over 75 Hindi films, 41 Bengali films, around 27 Malayalam films, and a few Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Odia and Assamese films. His mastery of his oeuvre was a source of admiration and envy in the industry. He was himself proficient in several musical instruments, including flute, the piccolo, the piano, and especially the esraj. He was also extremely famous for his inspirational and original poetry in Bangla.

With so many hundreds of glittering gems to choose from, I am truly spoilt for choice. For today I will dedicate the blog to one unique form of song that’s so typically Indian.

Hypnos was the son of Nyx (Night) and the twin brother of Thanatos (Death). He is also the Greek God of Sleep. Somnus is his Roman ( Latin) equivalent. Using music to induce sleep is a widespread habit especially amongst the mothers of young children. It has been refined in Indian folklore and music, employing several calming, soporific raags of the night. Lullabies don’t come close to this unique form. Listen to this insanely treacly sweet composition from an extremely famous movie, Do Beegha Zameen. Bimal Roy, arguably THE most accomplished filmmaker who was a one man institution in the early days of Bollywood and who trained and gave us several gifted filmmakers including Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Sampooran Singh Kalra ( aka Gulzar) made this outstanding piece, a classic in every sense of filmmaking. He was apparently inspired by the Italian neorealist movies and made Do Bigha Zameen 5 years after watching Vittorio De Sica‘s Bicycle Thieves.

Like most of Bimal Roy’s movies, the boundary between art and commercial cinema is purposefully kept ill-defined and he undoubtedly created an outstanding movie that is still viewed as a benchmark. It is viewed as a lesson in filmmaking ever since.

Do Bigha Zameen was based on a Gurudev Ravindra Thakur short story Dui Bigha Zami and won awards by the sackful : An All India Certificate of Merit for Best Feature Film, it then became the first film to win the Filmfare Best Movie Award and the first Indian film to win the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival after Indian Independence ( Neecha Nagar had won the Palme d’Or in 1946) . It also won the Social Progress Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Indiatimes Movies ranked the movie amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. (I would include it in my personal top 10 must see films)

The film was also released in China and in USSR – and met, (unsurprisingly) much acclaim and success.

The film also marks Meena Kumari‘s maiden guest appearance in her 33-year-long career. The lead pair is my favourite actor of all time, Balraj Sahni and Nirupa Roy. Meena Kumari turns up virtually for just this song.

Meena Kumari looks truly captivating in the song which has amazing, soulful lyrics by Shailendra.

आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ

आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ
आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ
झिलमिल सितारों से उतर
आँखों में आ सपने सजा
आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ

सोई कली सोया चमन
पीपल तले सोई हवा
सब रंग गए इक रंग में
तूने ये क्या जादू किया आ
आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ

संसार की रानी है तू
राजा है मेरा लाडला
दुनिया है मेरी गोद में
पूरा हुआ सपना मेरा
आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ
आजा री आ निंदिया तू आ

Salilda sadly died a couple of months short of his 72nd birthday. A man who didn’t market himself, didn’t buy awards , didn’t produce truckloads of trashy music, but produced lustrous gems of a rare quality that remain eternally appealing. Look no further than this one loree made 7 decades ago.

Stay safe, folks, stay happy and I will stay busy with numerous Salilda melodies through the day.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

14 replies on “An invitation to Somnus”

Kalesathi Kalaa.. “Love For Art for Art only”.. Yach tatvavar far kami lok jagtat tyat Saleel Chowdhary ek.. Ani mhanun, tyanchya rachna Ajramar rahtat.. 70 varsh houn pan sahaj lakshat rahanare shabd, chaal, sagalach apratim. 🙏🏻

Liked by 1 person

Simple,soft, beautiful melody at its best.
उत्तर रात्री असे गीत ऐकले कि झोप लागलीच पाहिजे..

Liked by 1 person

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