Remembrance Day Romantic songs

Romance, revisited…

Today is the 97th birth anniversary of my most favourite music director, Salil Chowdhury. While thinking of his large and unforgettable body of work, I was reminded of this amazing song. When I ever think of songs of this genre, it is one of the first I would think of. A truly eternal melody.

The movie, Maya had Dev Anand and Mala Sinha in the lead. A story of a rich man (born with the proverbial silver spoon) who, reminiscent of Siddharth, seeks to discover the realities of life by staying incognito amongst the poor, after he discovers the rich socialite his parents want him to marry is only after his money. It is there, amongst those who seemingly have so little, that he discovers they have much to share and do so, unconditionally. In that, he discovers a better himself and is apprised of the reality of the larger world, not really connected with the secluded, cloistered, microcosm he has hitherto been brought up in.

The movie written and directed by D D Kashyap who also made Halaku and Dulhan Ek Raat Ki, is always one that ticks all the boxes in the check list. Dev Anand as debonair and suave as only he could be, Mala Sinha, the beauteous belle who would appear so vulnerable at times, and so strong at others, fabulous monochrome photography that’s an eternal source of amazement to me, and above all, the main reason for me to watch the movie again and again and yet again, Salilda , the wizard, the maestro of melody.

He composed music for films in 13 languages. This includes over 75 Hindi films, 41 Bengali films, around 27 Malayalam films, and a number of other languages.

His musical genius was widely recognised and acknowledged in the Indian film industry.

He was an accomplished composer and arranger who was proficient in several musical instruments, including flute, the piano, the harmonium and the esraj.

He was also widely acclaimed and admired for his inspirational and original poetry in Bengali.

Salilda’s childhood was spent in the Tea Gardens Region of Assam. His father staged plays with coolies and other low-paid workers of the tea-gardens. From an early age he was exposed to varying influences as he imbibed the folk music of the tea garden workers while listening to the Western Classical collection of his father.

While studying for his MA during the WWII years, Salilda witnessed people dying on the streets of Calcutta, as 60 lakh Bengalis alone died during the famine. The famine was man-made as local rice was instead directed to Britain’s war effort overseas, leading to scarcity, aggravated by black marketeers and hoarders. A crime against humanity committed by Winston Churchill (who should be definitely held responsible and brought to account) with the complicit poodle dog of the Brits, M K Gandhi (who incidentally was bestowed by an honorific of Mahatma– which he certainly was anything but- by a gazette notification issued by the colonial government of the day, and not by the people of India, as we have been deluded into believing by the Distorians)  This led  to Salilda getting immersed in the peasant movement, and becoming a full-time member of IPTA and the Communist Party. Subsequently, arrest warrants were issued in his name, and he went underground in the Sunderbans, hiding in paddy fields and supported by local peasants. During this time, he continued writing plays and songs.

When he came to Calcutta for his graduate studies, he joined the IPTA (Indian Peoples Theater Association) the cultural wing of the Communist Party of India. Many famous Bengali literary figures and actors were at the stage associated with IPTA. He started writing songs and setting tunes for them.

The IPTA theatrical outfit travelled through the villages and the cities bringing these songs to the common man. Songs like Bicharpati, Runner and Abak prithibi became extremely popular.

Songs like Gnaayer bodhu, which he composed at the age of 20, brought about a new wave of Bengali music.

Almost every notable singer you can name at the time from West Bengal had sung at least one of his songs despite his young age.

He started life as a music composer in a Bangla movie Poriborton. In all likelihood he could have remained happy working in Bengal, if it had not been , as he himself narrated on AIR, for a stroke of luck.

He was at the time writing the script for a Bengali film about a peasant who had been robbed of his land and had gone to Calcutta to earn a living as a Rickshaw puller.

Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who heard of it from Salilda during a visit to Calcutta, loved it immensely and suggested that he narrate it to Bimal Roy, at that time the biggest name in Bollywood.

Bimalda heard it, and asked him to meet him again the next morning. However, when Chowdhury went to meet him the next day, he learnt that Roy had to rush to Bombay on an urgent call the very same night . A week later, he received a telegram from Bimalda that he wanted to turn his script into a movie.

This resulted in Salilda‘s debut in the Hindi film industry in 1953  as the music director (& story writer) for one of the most evocative and impressive movies ever made: Do Bigha Zamin. The movie was based on Tagore’s poem by the same name, but the story was different and was written by Salil Chowdhury himself.

Salilda created masterpieces that leave me amazed 70 years on. Isn’t it sad that for all his unmatched brilliance, he only got the one Filmfare for Madhumati? Speaks volumes for the value Bollywood attaches to quality and merit.

Here’s to you, Salilda. People like me will always be grateful to you for your genius and the incomparable legacy you’ve left behind. One that will always be cherished and celebrated and undoubtedly will inspire many.


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

8 replies on “Romance, revisited…”

Great song and great commentary but for the political overtones against a national hero Mahatma Gandhi. I suggest you remove that from the blog, as this article is about Salilda, and not your personal views about the politics of that time. A humble request. 🙏

Liked by 1 person

These are facts. Indisputable. By denying an atrocity of this magnitude, we are only asking for it to be repeated. The number of Jews dying in the Holocaust is almost the same as the number of Bengal Famine deaths. Should we not apply the same yardstick to a mass killing. If the Holocaust is despicable, so are the Bengal Famines. There is nothing personal. There is nothing national about this figure. You may be shocked at his being shown in true colours. Have you ever wondered how he ever got to enter a bogie meant for the Europeans in South Africa without standing in a queue to buy a ticket and not be found out? Think for yourself, not stay happy with false glorification of a charlatan


A beautiful song.I ve rendered it in my”sadabahar gayak,’mohd.rafi’tribute show.Another song which mesmerised me was’koi sone ke dilwala,koi chandi ke dilwala ‘by rafisahib.

Liked by 1 person

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