Anil Biswas Introspective melodies Memories Sad Film Songs

A legend was thus born

I woke up to this song today morning. The rain soaked night had been cool, but not cold and my sleep interrupted once by my mom having some issues at an odd hour. Pune in the rains is an excellent place to be. The area we live in is one of the (sadly) few green patches left in the old part of the city and the luxuriant tree cover is easy to spot from a nearby hill. The pleasure of walking (or driving) through tree-lined avenues is indescribable but we owe this to a previous generation (actually at least 2 before us) & it is incumbent on us to do our bit for the ones to come. It is saddening to see concrete jungles come up in farmland, all vegetation mercilessly hacked to build heat generating, smoke creating, and fossil fuel guzzling complexes and also our utter disregard for the environment is cruelly called development. I can’t think of a greater oxymoron.

Mukesh Chand Mathur was born in a large family in Delhi. His father was an engineer and Mukesh learnt music vicariously from an adjoining room of his home when a teacher would visit to teach his older sister, Sundar Pyari. Surprisingly for a family with that background, Mukesh actually dropped out of school before the Matriculation. He worked briefly in the PWD in Delhi before devoting time to his singing. Motilal , pretty much one of the top stars of the time was related to them, saw and heard the tall, fair, handsome boy sing in his older sister’s wedding, heard of the boy’s disinterest in academic matters and took him under his wing, bringing him along to Mumbai to stay with him. He also organised singing tuitions with Hindustani Classical Music Pandits and even arranged for Mukesh to fructify his dream as a singing male actor. Mukesh actually debuted in a movie Nirdosh, when Mukesh wasn’t yet 18. His initial films bombed. That effectively put paid to his cherished dreams of becoming an actor.  Motilal talked to a few of his friends including the genius composer, Anil Biswas, who is referred rightfully as “The Bhishmpitamah of Bollywood music direction”. The duo leaned upon the producer of one of Motilal’s films as a male lead (very much riding over objections by the producer and director) to give Mukesh his debut in a “reincarnation” as a playback singer. The movie was called “Pehli Nazar” and had Motilal and Munawwar Sultana in the lead. The music was scored by Anil Biswas himself and this is the very song that saw a great playback singer Phoenix-like, out of the ashes of his dreams of becoming an actor.

The one lost actor-singer (And I honestly must say Mukesh was much better looking than many logs of wood of the time who were thrust on a hapless, unsuspecting public as male leads. Watch the song in Aah, made by Raj Kapoor, “Chhoti se ye zindgani re…”) gave way for a truly gifted and divine singer who created a space for himself at the golden era of Hindi Film Music when one was spoilt for choice for the male singers.

Clearly influenced by the legendary Kundan Lal Saigal (as were pretty much every other singers of the time) he sang from his heart and the song remains fresh in my memory, despite having been sung more than a decade before my birth.

Legend has it (corroborated by many) that the Big Man (KLS himself) heard this song and said “Strange! I don’t remember having sung this song!” . A massive compliment to a budding singer from the undisputed numero uno of the time.

Stay happy, folks, enjoy the rains. So essential for life to thrive in India, more than elsewhere on the planet.

Human Tales Mukesh Salil Chowdhury

It happened one night….

Very few films have been made with such a temporally taut and telescoped script. The movie in Hindi, one of the most celebrated products to come out of RK Films, was actually made in two languages: Bangla (Ek Din Raatre) & Hindi ( as Jaagte Raho). Based on a story by the left leaning Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, it deals with the happenings of one night when a country bumpkin who has come to the city in search of a better life, meanders into a large housing complex in search of water, is mistaken for a thief, turning his life (& also those of the denizens of the urban abodes) upside down. His discovery of the seamy sides of lives of apparently respectable people changes the perspective for him (& for the audience). A wonderful, slick, straightforward storyline, narrated effectively. It had a wonderful musical score by the genius Salil Chowdhury. This is a wonderful song filmed on Motilal who was an amazing actor of the black and white film era.

The song in the Bangla version was sung by my favourite singer and an undercelebrated maestro, Manna Dey, Ei Duniya Shobi Hoi, and picturized on Chhabi Biswas, a very big name in Bangla films of the era. There is an extremely interesting metaphorical interaction between the fugitive Raj Kapoor and a young Daisy Irani towards the end of the movie. Nargis is seen in a cameo at the end singing Jaago Mohan Pyaare ( changed to Jaago Mohan Pritam in Bangla), & would mark her last on-screen appearance with Raj Kapoor. A very symbolic slaking of his thirst at her hands.

The film was a huge popular and critical success, directed by Amit Maitra and Sombhu Mitra, it’s leftist ideals appealed in particular to the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, (as with many of Raj Kapoor films) & it won (albeit in a shortened version) the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary film festival in Czechoslovakia. It was a massive hit in the USSR, collecting nearly $10 million in box office collections in that country alone. (Equivalent to ₹ 600 Crores in today’s terms). Great lyrics by Shailendra and fabulous lensmanship by Radhu Karmakar make this movie a must-watch delight to the senses.

Have a great day ahead, folks. Take care as the summer recedes.