Romantic Duets

Flirtation in the Force

Balraj Sahni is one of my all time favourite actors. He was prepared to take on any role. Handsome and slim, I can recount many scores of his roles. The one kind of role he wasn’t much seen in was the romantic hero prancing around in gardens, chasing the leading ladies in Figures of Eight around trees, a clichéd sequence in Bollywood.

This is a favourite duet of mine oozing affection, even romance from every pore. I have heard and loved the song for decades and it is one of the hundreds where I chased the origins in the era of the www. Listen to the wonderful song first.

The first shock when you see the visuals is that the movie has Balraj Sahni romancing a lady who was wasted and typecast into just one type of act by Bollywood. Undoubtedly Minoo Mumtaz, Mehmood Ali’s older sister was a wonderful dancer. But her acting abilities were only rarely tapped into and that too mostly in the mujra/kathak dance sequences she was in. Lead roles were infrequent for her, although she had all the elements necessary for the job. The wonderful poetry (unfair to call it derisively as mere lyrics of the song), was by Jan Nisar Akhtar ( it was his 46th remembrance day yesterday), the lisping story and dialogue writer turned lyricist turned bigamist turned holier than thou master of doublespeak, who has the incongruous handle of Jadoo.

With a name like Black Cat, you would expect the movie to be doomed. But the movie actually did fairly well commercially when released in the late 50s. The music director was N Datta, who was hugely talented and definitely deserved many more projects than he did get, he was great friends with the mercurial Sahir Ludhiyanvi. Balraj Sahni is the undercover Inspector Rajan ( can you believe it?) who is a hot detective assigned the task of nailing and nabbing the elusive and very clever head of a criminal gang who leaves a calling card at every scène de crime. The gang is tough to crack and the one member ( No 14) that the courageous cop manages to get to turn informer has his cover blown and he is sent to an early funeral pyre by the baddies. He then makes further investigations and tries to collect the dope on the criminal (who’s actually a respected Professor in his alternative existence) by wooing the sister: ergo, Minoo Mumtaz. Despite the odd name, the movie is actually well made and worth a watch (luckily available in a decent print on YouTube). The movie was produced by G P Sippy and directed by Nisar Ahmed Ansari who also doubles up as the two faced eponymous baddie. Another reason to watch the movie is one of my favourite actors in Bollywood. A bumbling private detective Popat (Johnny Walker) and his side-kick/crony/secretary/fan Bulbul {reminiscent of Karamchand & Kitty in the TV serial} (Shammi). Popat belongs to the Sherlock Holmes school of detectives. He believes in the importance of crawling all over the floor, a magnifying glass in hand and tabulating every grain of dust and every speck of fibre he finds. He also firmly believes in classifying all sleeping forms as corpses despite the corpses’ loudly expressed denials!!! Their rather unique, offbeat approach to detection of crime or rather because of it, the two jokers manage to provide our hero with really invaluable information about the Black Cat, although they don’t really realize it.

Have a wonderful weekend, folks as I get lost in this awesome duet. Lata Mangeshkar and Rafisaab at their very best.

Asha Bhosale Film Ghazal Mohammad Rafi Sad Film Songs

Tired of life…

Pyaasa was the very first Guru Dutt movie with Anju when I had just entered my teens. I was not aware of Guru Dutt’s serious movies and Anju told me of the Guru Dutt week they were having at Topiwala theater in Goregaon. So we went down (walked down from home) & saw the movie. It was one of three Guru Dutt movies I saw that week. Pyaasa the story of a sensitive poet who finds himself unappreciated by most of those that he meets, and finds emotional succour from the unlikeliest of people (Gulabo, the streetwalker with the heart of Gold), who buys his poetry from the raddiwala, loves it and the two actually meet when she recites a poem he has written. The movie has outstanding acting by Guru Dutt (as Vijay), Waheeda Rehman (as Gulabo), Mala Sinha (as the lady who has been very much in love with Vijay but who marries a rich publisher, Rehman), Mehmood and Johnny Walker. Of all these, the surprise in the pack undoubtedly is Mehmood, who unfortunately got stuck to comic roles later in life and never got an opportunity to actually show the entire spectrum of his acting prowess.

The movie has truly eternal music by the man who chose to be an Emperor and rule the hearts and minds of an entire country, rather than the King of a small territory, Sachin Dev Burmanda, who gave up every material possession for the love of music. His creativity is on resplendent display in the movie. Sahir Ludhiyanavi wrote the lyrics (as he had not yet had the famous fallout with Burmanda). Rafisaab is at his very best: singing all across the spectrum from Jinhe naaz hai Hind par wo kahan hain to Sar jo tera chakraye and a few romantic ones as well.

Look at this exquisite number. Sahir’s skilled wordcraft on show that is matched and even embellished by Rafisaab’s divine voice that recites the poetry , rather than singing.

The emoting by both Guru Dutt and Mala Sinha who on hearing a familiar voice, looks up, startled, from the piece she is reading from the magazine, is just awesome. They let their faces and eyes do the talking, captured wonderfully by Guru Dutt’s favourite lensman, V K Murthy who was an unquestioned wizard with an Arriflex and monochrome film.

तंग आ चुके हैं कशमकश-ए-ज़िंदगी से हम

ठुकरा न दें जहाँ को कहीं बे-दिली से हम

हम ग़मज़दा हैं, लाएं कहाँ से खुशी के गीत,

देंगे वहीं जो पाएँगे इस ज़िन्दगी से हम..

मायूसी-ए-मआल-ए-मोहब्बत न पूछिए

अपनों से पेश आए हैं बेगानगी से हम

लो आज हम ने तोड़ दिया रिश्ता-ए-उमीद

लो अब कभी गिला न करेंगे किसी से हम

उभरेंगे एक बार अभी दिल के वलवले

गो (माना के )दब गए हैं बार-ए-ग़म-ए-ज़िंदगी से हम

गर ज़िंदगी में मिल गए फिर इत्तिफ़ाक़ से

पूछेंगे अपना हाल तिरी बेबसी से हम

अल्लाह-रे फ़रेब-ए-मशिय्यत कि आज तक

दुनिया के ज़ुल्म सहते रहे ख़ामुशी से हम

Amazing poetry, really unfair to classify Sahir as a mere lyricist. Some words some might have difficulty understanding/ appreciating: कशमकश-ए-ज़िंदगी: struggle of life मायूसी-ए-मआल-ए-मोहब्बत: sorrow of consequence of love, रिश्ता-ए-उमीद: आशा का धागा, thread of hope, वलवले: शोरगुल, आवेश, बार-ए-ग़म-ए-ज़िंदगी: the burden of sorrow of life फ़रेब-ए-मशिय्यत: divine deception

The trio ideally suited to elevate a simple recital to such sublime heights pull off the near impossible. Rafisaab, Sahir, and Burmanda’s minimalistic composition ….

The same ghazal was set to tune by Sahir’s great friend, Datta Naik, ( aka N Datta) for Light House which starred Ashok Kumar and Nutan. This has been sung beautifully by Asha Bhosle. Take a listen:–3ROg

Those were the days of effective simplicity. Of the KISS philosophy. (Keep It Simple, Stupid) Today you will have such a song being shot in a sequence that takes you through countries from Iceland to Namibia to Tasmania to Fiji to Lesotho with a different troupe of male and female dancers voyeuristically ogling the lead pair while clothed in some curtain cloth all the time dancing in unison to rather suggestive steps and gesticulations. That is if you find a so called lyricist to write actual poetry rather than string along a random set of words, some utterly meaningless, just because they happen to rhyme and can fit a plagiarized tune from Ghana/Korea/Indonesia/Mali (ask Annu Malik or Preetam and their ilk)

Stay happy and healthy, folks. Take care in the blazing summer. Hydrate yourself well, especially if you are consuming ground water from borewells , lest you land up with a few stones because you concentrated body effluents.

Mohammad Rafi Sad Film Songs

A melodious memory

The morning ritual now involves a long walk and some stretches and light weights. After returning from the walk, we have both got into the habit ( a must do, too) of switching on old songs. The first song that came over the airwaves today brought back amazing memories. In fact opened veritable floodgates. Here it is

Rafisaab at his maudlin best, bordering somewhat on a tearful rune and a genre that he has a number of very memorable and exemplary threnodies over the decades that he ruled the roost.

The movie Chandrakanta was made by G P Sippy, for his production house, Sippy Films. The movie was quite a puerile and utterly predictable fantasy that I saw in the 70s on DD Mumbai’s weekend movie show. I remember being one of maybe 25-30 of our neighbours who had absolutely packed our living room with every seat taken and every corner occupied as TV sets weren’t a universal commodity those days.

Veerjal , the rather grandiosely named villain vanquishes the ageing ruler and takes over his kingdom. On insisting on seeing (seeking) the most beautiful girl in the land, he is told it is none other than Chandrakanta, aptly the beauteous daughter of the defeated King ( Bina Rai). The princess refuses to comply, upon which the despicable villain whips the helpless old man in public till Chandrakanta comes to him and dances rather suggestively, and at the end of which she tries to kill the scum. She has of course to be unsuccessful as the movie hasn’t run it’s course. Enraged, the devil responds by killing Chandrakanta’s father in front of her eyes. She escapes swearing revenge. Landing up in a remote ashram where she gets refuge away from the villain’s forces, she meets and falls in love with Bharat Bhushan. Amidst this romantic diversion which takes up a lot of reels and time, news reaches her of Veerjal’s increasing tyranny, she finally remembers her vow and now gets into an activist mode, and rouses the people against Veerjal. Finally Veerjal is killed and Bina Rai and Bharat Bhushan are united. Pretty predictable plot, one would say. The part I remember the movie for is it’s music, by N Datta, who had actually run away from Goa in his preteen years, came to Mumbai to work with Ghulam Haider, worked in a street music group and was spotted by SachinDev Burman da. Burmanda gave him a job, training in music and therefore a life. Datta Naik was great friends with Sahir Ludhiyanvi who wrote unforgettable lyrics for many of his songs. The music and the songs were frequently far better than the otherwise run of the mill movies, as in this case.

Stay safe, folks, stay healthy and happy. Enjoy the song and have a wonderful week ahead. I am quite excited about some very interesting people I will meet in the evening over dinner.