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A classical conundrum

Hindi film music started more than 90 years ago when Bollywood moved from the silent  era to get sound and become “talkies”. Alam Ara is the generally agreed first movie with live recorded sound. In the early days movies had live recording on the sets or locations itself, with the musical instrumentalists having to be cleverly concealed behind or beneath various props to hide them from the cameras. This made the audio recording as well as the visual recording restricted. The advent of playback singing in Bollywood, almost by accident, of course changed all that. The majority of compositions in the early days were based on Hindustani Classical Music, without stating it as being so. Later other musical influences got introduced and the classical compositions got eclipsed to a great extent.

As a somewhat contrarian statement of sorts, the Film Producer Vijay Bhatt decided in the early 50s to make a movie based on Hindustani Classical Music. He was warned by everyone against doing so, as they felt Hindustani Classical Music did not have a mass appeal. However Vijay Bhatt persisted and handed over the responsibility to Naushad Ali. Naushad had started his career as a piano and harmonium player and was taken on a salaried job by Khemchand Prakash, the giant at the time. Naushad publicly called Khemchand Prakash his guru several times. The movie was Baiju Bawra, which had a perplexing casting decision with Bharat Bhushan and Meena Kumari in the lead. The latter had actually debuted in a Vijay Bhatt movie, Leatherface, as a child artiste when just 6. Baiju  is the son of a musician who also grows up to be a singer. He carries a grudge/belief that Tansen, the legendary Court singer at the court of Akbar, is responsible for his father’s death. The movie then follows Baiju’s attempt to avenge his father’s death by challenging Tansen to a musical duel. A pretty laughable premise.

The musical score is both remarkable for its genre and quality. All compositions are based on some raag or the other. Shakil Badayuni was forced to abstain from using any Urdu words as he was wont to and had to stick to pure Hindi.

The galaxy of singers are awe inspiring. Look at this song that sounds like a traditional bandish. Rendered by the iconic Classical Singer of the Indore gharana, Ustad Amir Khan, it evokes a sense of sublime surrender to the Supreme Being.

An amazingly melodious composition in Puriya Dhanashree, a raag belonging to the Poorvi thaat, it is actually a sampoorna raag, but the aaroha frequently omits the pancham, making it shadav-sampoorna. Ideally performed at dusk, it is actually referred to as a raag for sandhiprakash. Ustad Amir Khan needed no direction really, and all that Naushad must’ve done is told him, “Khan sahab, Puriya Dhanashri mein in chand lafzon ke liye gaa dijiye” .

How can you actually “direct” a legend how to sing. Naushad was too humble to even think of doing it.

Despite the cynics and critics’ many reservations and fears, the movie was a blockbuster and is actually known for its musical score (impossible to imagine Bharat Bhushan actually contributed to its success, it was a hit despite his presence, not due to it)

Stay healthy and happy, folks, as we start the next week. Enjoy the late winter.

Edit/Add: a mistake had occurred in posting the song. The wrong link had got posted. I’ve corrected it now. Thanks to some visitors for pointing it out


By abchandorkar

Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Pune, India

19 replies on “A classical conundrum”

Despite his presence 😅😅😅Yess Bhishan da’s career took a sky jump after this👍
Your each word is a wisdom as usual 🙏🏾
Thank you for sharing it 👌👌👌🙏🏾

Liked by 1 person

Adorable, your description and choice of the song. Amir Khan was superb. The whole episode became so lively and absorbing, thanks to your presentation.

Liked by 1 person

It’s a duet with Ustad Amir Khan and Pt. D.V. Paluskar for Surendra and Bharat Bhushan respectively.
One of the best after Pt. Bhimsen Joshi and Manna Dey for Basant Bahar, Ketaki Gulab juhi champak ban phoole.
Tori Jay Jay kartar by Ustad for Baiju Bawra also may be mentioned here.

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Baiju bawara is Iconic movie purely for it’’s musical score . Each and every song is masterpiece, this one , jalme aag laga de , o duniyake Rakhawale, man tarpat hari darshanko, tu Ganga ki maujme , mohe bhool gaye savariya . This was propabably first attempt to have all the songs in movie based on ragdari , and ofcourse meenaji’s adakari, She claimed first filmfare for this .

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