Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shankar Jaikishan -No.1 Music Duo

The period of about four decades from the later half of the 1940s could be called the golden age of music in Hindi films. The period was memorable not only for the great contributions of musical stalwarts but also for the fact that music formed an integral part of Hindi films and to a large extent the music and songs determined the success or failure of a film. People wanted to know who the director and the actors were. But they equally wanted to know who scored music for the film. In the usual full page advertisements of films in magazines like SCREEN and CINE ADVANCE top billing was, in those days, given to music directors. Nowadays film advertisements in print media have become brief and, often, one has to use a magnifying glass to find out the name of the music director.

During this golden era Hindi cinema had several talented, dedicated and successful music directors who gave us a variety of wonderful songs in their films. Arguably, the most successful of them was duo known as Shankar Jaikishan[ShankarSingh Raghuvanshy 1922-87 and Jaikishen Dayabhai Bansal (1929-71). Shankar from Punjab and Jaikishan from Gujarat began their musical 0dyssey as assistants to the duo of Husnlal Bhagathram and later became an integral part of Raj Kapoor's R.K. Films along with Duttaram who also later became a noted muic director. SJ got their first break as music directors in Rajkapoor's Barsaat in 1953.That was the beginning of a long and fruitful musical partnership between RK and SJ. All films produced by R.K Films thereafter,likeAwaara,Sree 420,Boot Polish,etc., upto Sangam and Mera Naam Joker were musical hits of SJ. However thereafter there was a shift in loyalty and RK started using the music of Lakshmikant Pyarelal beginniFng with Bobby.There was a time when none could think of a RK Film without the music of SJ. In fact RK's films were popular even in Russia due,largely,to the personal charm of RK, SJ's music and Mukesh's soulful rendering.The songs of Barsaat came as a whiff of fresh air in Indian film music and people wholeheartedly accepted and celebrated them!! The pathos filled "chod gaye baalam" and the joyful "hawa mein udtha" were made immortal by the listeners.
From the year 1953 to1971(the year Jakishan died) the team SJ remained at the top of Hindin film music.The name SJ was synonymous with success and they became the highest paid music diectors of film industry. With about 250 films to their credit it is difficult to rank them according to their success and popularity as they all were! The long list f awards and recognition they got give ample testimony to their contribution. They got the prestgious Filmfare award for best music director for a record 9 times for their films CHORI CHORI (1957),ANARI(1960),Dil Apna Preet Parai(1961),Professor(1965),SURAJ(1967),BRAHMACHARI(1969),PEHCHAN(1971),MERA NAAM JOKER(1972) and BE-EMAN(1973)In Binaca Geetmala programme apart from dominating the programmes through the weeks their songs listed below were ranked No.I of the year in popularity six times between 1955 to 1971. [ A scene from Sri 420]

Mukesh Mera jhoota hai Japani Sree 420 Md.Rafi Teri Pyari pyari soorat Sasural 1961

Lata Ehsan Tere hoga mugh par Junglee 1962

Mukesh Bol Radha bol sangam Sangam 1964

. Rafi Baharon phool barsao Suraj 1966

Md Rafi Zindagi ek safar Andaz 1971

There are innumerable films in which SJ had shown their mettle.Aah, Patita,Seema, Yahudi,Arzoo,Aasique,Poot polish, Choti Bahen,Gumnam, Humrahi, Jish desh mein ganga bahati hai, Jab pyar kise se hota hai, Rangoli, Aas ka panchi, Ujala etc are a few of them.

The combination of Shammi Kapoor,SJ and Md.Rafi and his style of singing for Shammi Kapoor was a hit formula as the songs perfectly gelled with the taste of the young generation who thronged to see these films. Films like Junglee,Janwar,Dil Tera Diwana,Professor, Laat Saheb, Prince, Love in Tokyo and An Evening in Paris are a few examples.To the credit of SJ goes the one and only lullaby picturised on Shammi Kapoor contrary to his then popular image.(Mein gaon tum so jaao. Film Brahmachari). Similarly a song sequence picturised for the first time on the handsome,loveable "villain",Pran was by SJ in film Jis Desh Mein Ganga Bahti Hai.

Though SJ created hits during their entire reign, to the connoisseur, their earlier films like Barsaat,Chori Chori,etc., upto the middle of the 60s were the best. The apparent decline may possibly be attributed to their romoured split and their tuning songs separately instead of each song as a joint effort.

The hallmark of SJ's music was its rich orchestration, their penchant for rythm, intelligent use of Indian folk music and western music to inject a youthful zest and joy into their songs, delightful use of the piano accordian and extensive use of Hindustani classical ragas. They had given a number of semi classical songs as seen in film Basant Bahar(Sur naa saje -Manna Dey and Ketaki gulab - Manna Dey and Bhimsen Joshi) and Chori Chori (Rasik Balma-Lata) and Jis Desh Mein Ganga(Oh Basanti-Lata).

Though Md.Rafi, Lata, Mukesh and Asha were their favourite singers, they had used the voice of other singers like Manna Dey, Suman Kalyanpur etc., also often. New singers like Subir Sen( Dil mera ek aas ka panchi in film Aas ka Punchi, Manzil Vohi hey pyar ki in film Katputli and Mein Rangeela pyar ka rahi with Lata in Choti Bahen) and Mubarak Begum( Mujko apne gane with Lata in Hum Rahi) and Sharda( Titli udi in Suraj) were also given chances. Talat Mahamood sang a number of beautiful gazals for SJ like Eh mere dil kahi aur chal(Daag) and Andha jahan ke Andhe raste and Hai subse madhur woh geet ( both from Patita).

Another feature of SJ's music was that they used the lyrics of only Shailendra and Hasrat jayapuri in their films except rare exceptions.

After Jaikishan's death in 1971 Shankar continued to do music in the name of the duo. But the magic was missing in the songs and eventually Shankar was lost in the fierce competition and died in the year 1987.Though the duo is no more their rich legacy remains even today making millions happy.

Tail piece: What is the height of musical ecstacy? To sit alone away in an underlit corner of the house, preferably at night, with your gramophone and records and listen to the soul stirring music of yester years.

Chood gaye balam........Yaad kiya dil ne .........Teri pyari pyari soorat................. Sur na saje...............Oh basanti............Tera janaa dil ki.............Yeh mera divanapan ........Choudvin ka chand..............Suhani rath.......Soja rajakumari........

Monday, November 24, 2008

About fountainpens

This is about a different but interesting hobby,viz.,collection of fountain pens and ball pens.

My interest for collection of pens might have come from the nonavailability and low affordability for pens which students of late 40s and 50s faced.In the early years of my student life, even though Lewis waterman had patented the modern fountain pen as early as in 1884, we were carrying ink bottles to the class rooms. We were using a steel nib attached to the end of a pencil like rod for writing. This instrument was known as "steel pen" and "pen holder'". Writing was done after dipping the nib in the ink in the open ink bottle. In fact, the students' desks of those days used to have round holes at the edge for keeping ink bottles so that they will not easily fall down. Small cute ink bottles of different shapes and colours were available. Fortunate students of the class used to display their fountain pens to the envy of less fortunate ones. Possessing a pen was a dream for many of us.

Looking nostalgically back, there were several brands of pens, mostly foreign makes, in use. Blackbird, Waterman ,Parker,Swan, Standard,etc.were common. Later in the 60s two brands,Hero and Youth were available. Pens without filler mechanism were the common variety. Pens with filler pumps of different types were convenient.But their "tank capacity" was less than the ones in which ink was poured into the barrel. While filler pens are leak proof, others, mainly made in India in those days,were often leaky. We used to roll a piece of paper on the neck joint of the pen to prevent fingers getting soiled. Another way to prevent leak was to apply soap inside the neck groves of the pen! The common brands of Indian pens were the Olympic and the Writer. Common replacement nibs were Signature,Alloy and Iridium.Pens with transparent barrels were not available.So, in the class rooms, while taking down notes, often the pen would go dry . The student sitting next was then poked on his side to make him spill some ink on the desk[a crime if caught] from his pen. "Ink transfusion" was done by dipping the nib in the ink spilled on the desk. The process of spilling and dipping continued till the other pen also went dry. This used to happen even in my post graduate days.

The interest for pens continued in my official days also. Working in a bank there were several colleagues who shared interest in pens. Most of us were using only fountain pens throughout our long career. Even though different varieties of ball pens, jotter pens and roller ball pens flood the markets people like me still stick to fountain pens. I get a student like pleasure in filling ink in pens and getting the fingers soiled in ink in the process! Unlike the present day computerised environment a lot of paper work was involved in the bank in the past. The need and scope for using ink pens and inks of various colours were also there giving us a lot of satisfaction in parading our writing instruments on the table!
Sometimes I wonder at the countless pens and ball pens I had purchased during the last 50 plus years. While most of the cheaper ones were used ,spoiled and discarded the better ones of the lot are still with me. The collection includes high end brands Mont Blanc,Sheaffer, Waterman,Parker,Cross, Pelicano, PiereCarden, Christian Dior etc. and other lesser brands like Hero,Pilot,Writer,Flair and many others. Indigenously made pens like the famous BRAHMAM pens of Andra pradesh including the gold nibbed one are there. What makes the collection priceless to me are the nostalgic memories connected with them and the persons who had fondly presented a few of them to me.Some of the pens like a Parker51 and a Parker45 have been in use with me for about 50 years. Similarly several others also.
It is a pity that the young generation,wedded to the computers, are not getting exposed to the wonderful world of fountain pens. The young ones in my family are amused at my needless effort to fill ink in my pens instead of using a" throw away "ball pen. There is still a ray of hope for pens. The schools in the state are now a days persuading students to use ink pens for improving their handwriting. Fountain pens which had vanished from shop shelves are slowly making a reentry.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Music on Gramophone

A few months prior to my retirement from service in Andhra Pradesh, in the year 2000, my colleagues and well wishers started asking me as to what I was going to do after retirement. Suggestions were plenty ,for taking up a job to make my future life worthwhile and interesting.They told me about opportunities for financial consultants, scope in private banking and corporate sectors, etc. especially in big cities.
Opportunities might have been there. But I had taken a considered decision , dictated more by my heart than mind, not to get re-employed primarily as I believed that I have had a fairly long innings and felt enough is enough. Most importantly, I wanted to pursue my long time interest and my hobbies which I was not able to pursue during my career. Many of my colleagues who knew me well and were aware of my basic nature and interests could understand my stand. My decision was, however, received by many others with a look of utter disappointment and sympathy as if I was being incorrigible (probably, immensely foolish) to refuse to accept good advice (that too absolutely free!) .A few of them could,suddenly, contrary to my belief as to what their opinion about me was , find talents in me, when they said," sir, you will be wasting your talents!"
Of course,I stuck to my guns without any regrets. What helped me was my interest in film music in general and Hindi and Malayalam film songs in particular. In my younger days it was radio and then gramophone and stereo systems. Then tape recorders, CDs and portable digital music devices followed. Though I could acquire all these electronic equipments, my basic interest was in gramophones and radio and listening to music on them. I still remember the late 60s when stereo music records were introduced in the market. A variety of stereo systems were available, viz, COSMIC,SONODYNE,MURPHY,NELCO,PHILIPS,HMV, etc.Radiograms(radio cum record player)were also inroduced by HMV,Philips and Grundig. They were not easily affordable.A LP record itself used to cost Rs50, costly by then standard. However, HMV and Philips also introduced reasonably priced stereo systems mostly combo systems, i.e., player with amplifier and separate speakers . But records continued to be costly. Yet I did purchase a stereo system, a HMV Super Stereo player and Bush amp and speakers in 1971 at Bangalore and joined my group of friends having stereo systems. We started buying records and lending them among ourselves. Records were also available on rent at some music shops. I was not able to pursue this interest seriously because of frequent transfers, a feature of my job, and also as record players and records lost their fight against the onslaught of cassettes and CDs and music companies in India stopped cutting music records.

After retirement and settling at this place, the first thing I did was to go back to my nostalgic world of music by getting my old record player serviced. Then I started listening to my favourite old records. The first among them was an LP album of film songs by Talat Mahmood, the singer with a vibrating velvet voice.

The album is titled''IN A BLUE MOOD'' which was also the first ever LP record purchased by me in 1971.

During the last 8 years I could get a number of gramophones ,old and new, including the hand wound player with the famous "horn"and also the box type one in which the sound box and arm are twisted and kept back.The latest is a combo set with a player,radio,CD Player and USB/SD card slot and with facility to record songs from a LP record played on the set on a USB device/SD card.I could also collect hundreds of records of all speeds and sizes covering mainly old Hindi and Malayalam film songs. Collection also includes instrumental music, Hindustani and Carnatic music by stalwarts ,devotional songs, gazals and English music. As records are not on regular sales now at music shops they have to be collected from shops selling old items, from antique shops, from old timers, from the attics and corners of old households and from the godowns of music shops who had stopped selling records long back. Mutual interest groups like Gramophone club, Voice of Kerala and Gramophone World at Calicut are collecting records from various centers and supplying to members and public. Record players are also collected, repaired and sold on a small margin. Collection of records is not a very easy job but not a very difficult task either. Records were sold in huge numbers throughout India in their heydays . As they are not perishable like cassettes they should be around us hiding in darkness! The only thing is to knock at the right door. It is gratifying to see a large number of people including younger generation taking renewed interest in this wonderful hobby as evidenced by the scramble at "new arrivals" of old records at Voice of Kerala and Gramophone world.
As regards record players new ones are still being introduced in foreign countries.In fact, models like Panasonic,Sony,Technics, Sanyo, Roadstar,G-Hanz etc. are still available in Gulf markets. I could get a couple of them during my visits to UAE in recent years. Beginners need not worry about availability at least for many more years. An old record player in good working condition with amplifier is available for Rs. 2000.It is worthwhile to own a player and a few records and listen to them nostalgically away from the heavy sound bytes of new music.

This hobby has given me great pleasure and peace of mind. The thrill of getting an old favourite record is something to be experienced. My collection includes all eminent personalities of the music world of yesteryears. Records of old Hindi films from Deedar, Ratan, Ann etc, to Madhumati, Nayadaur ,Mugal-E-Azam, Kohinoor etc. to Aradhana , Qurbani, Jawani Diwani etc. and hundreds of others keep me company.It is a wonderful feeling to study the pictures of stars, music directors ,singers, scenes from the films and the descriptive comments all appearing on the jackets of the records.These will give us an insight into the styles ,trends, specialities and developments in Indian film music and will put us in happy wonderment about our rich, melodious and soulful music legacy we can boast of! So friends, start now itself. Don't be deterred by cynical comments which may come flying towards you.

Tail piece:- Seeing a LP record running on my gramophone a young servicing engineer attending to my computer asked me "Sir, from where did you get this big CD?"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Binaca Geetmala Radio Show No.1


Perhaps the most successful sponsored radio show of all time (yes,you guessed it)was Binaca Geetmala aired by Radio Ceylon continuously from the year 1952 to 1988 when it was renamed as CIBACA Geetmala and later Godrej Cibaca Geetmala on Vividh Bharati. The show was aired on Wednesdays at 8 P.M. ,first as a half hour "HIT PARADE" and later as a one hour countdown programme.
The programme was anchored by the golden voiced Ameen Sayani, considered as the first RJ of India, a former student of St.Xavier's College, Bombay. Commercial broadcasting programmes were being recorded at the technical wing of the college at that time and Ameen Sayani was given the task of scripting, producing and presenting a half hour program of seven Hindi film songs.He was, reportedly,given a budget of Rs.125/-per week including his salary of Rs.25/-!!
The program was an instant success and the number of listeners sending their list of choices for the hit parade swelled to about 35,000 per week within a short period making it difficult for Ameen Sayani to handle them. It was then that CIBA, the sponsors, decided to make it a one hour count down program. The count down list was prepared first on the basis of the number of records sold and later from the responses received from hundreds of radio listeners' clubs which sprung up all over the country.The number of listeners rose to about 20 millions within a few years!!The rest was broadcasting history.
The program was so popular that Wednesdays were known as Binaca geethmala day. Fans kept everything else aside and waited with excited anticipation to hear the bugle playing the signature tune of the program and the sonorous voice of Ameen sayani beginning with"Behano aur bhayio ".People thronged the public parks to hear the community radio and the overflowing crowd created traffic jam. Hotels playing radios and shops did good business on Wednesday nights.Newspapers referred to the program for rating films and film songs.The program became an integral part of the lives of countless Indians from all walks of life and a subject of discussion among neighbours and when people met on the road.

The huge success of the program was not only due to the quality of music of the time and the meticulous selection of songs but also the inimitable style, silken voice, vocabulary and the knowledgeable mind for music of the presenter. Ameen Sayani had an uncanny knack of knowing the pulse of the listeners who identified themselves with the program and the presenter. It was an incredible feat that he produced and presented it with out break week after week for 40 years except on a few rare occasions when he could not present it for unavoidable reasons.( If I remember correctly, Sri Manohar Mahajan of Radio Ceylon presented the program on those rare occasions.).Those, including me,who could live and listen to Binaca geethmala, are the fortunate ones and we still remember nostalgically those wonderful days and the golden era of music. Ameen Sayani also made his mark in the film world as a successful compere. All worthwhile film events of those days including the prestigious Filmfare Annual Award functions were compered by him.
In the early 80's, HMV released a set of cassettes and CDs covering Binaca Geethmala programs and hit songs. In 1977 they had released two LP records of 25 top songs which came first every year for a period of 25 years from 1953 to 1977. The two LPs were titled "Binaca Geethmala Volume 1&2. A Silver jubilee presentation by Ameen Sayani, the broadcaster who has produced, scripted and compered Binaca Geethmala since its inception. " They are a treasure and delight for gramophone record collectors. Each song in the LP is presented with fluid commentary by Ameen Sayani which in his own words," is a chronicle of Hindi film song hits, a review of musical trends and the' musicalities' that set them" over a period of 25 years. The albums were released at the BinacaGeeth mala Silver Jubilee function on the 12th December 1977 at Bombay, one of the most glittering functions in the history of Indian film music.The jacket of one of the two LPs shows photographs of the function and dignitaries from the film world present. The center of the jacket displays ,very appropriately, the photo of a smiling AmeenSayani facing what but the inevitable mike!!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Long Live My Old Radios

As an enthusiastic lover of music,in general, and film songs in particular,and pursuing the hobby of collecting gramophone records,I could collect thousands of film songs on vinyl records, cassettes, CDs and USB/SD devices. But I still love to listen to music on gramophones(Record players) and my old valve radios, a Murphy (Mayfair) , a UMS(p3) radio and a Phillips radio mainly due to their old world charm, good sound quality and the original undistorted voice available on records. Besides,when we play a record,cassette,CD or USB/SD device we get a song(s) of our choice. But while listening to a Radio there is an air of anticipation about the next song and very often,all on a sudden,we get a forgotten old 'favourite' giving us a lot of listening satisfaction.A radio broadcast (especially by AIR)usually gives the name of the singer,music director and even lyricist which adds to our information and helps to enjoy the song better.
With the advent of FM Stations, the number of radio listners has increased considerably and radio is gaining popularity again. Still,I prefer the old SW/MW stations and Vividh Bharati DTH service as they transport me to the nostalgic days of my college life in the 50s and early 60s; the happy days of listening to Radio Ceylon and Vividh Bharati; the Binaca Geetmala programme of Radio Ceylon by the golden voiced Ameen Sayani. The listeners' request programmes of RadioCeylon (now Srilanka Broadcasting Corporation) and the Manoranjan,Aap ki Farmaaish and Chhayageet and similar other programmes ( which are still available on AIR DTH ) were real treat to the ears compared to the cacophony and nonstop exercise of the vocal cords on trivia by the RJs of new FM stations.In the 50s and early 60s even radio was not available in many households. We used to stand before hotels,radio shops and public parks to listen to the songs blared out on radios!!Not only films and actors but also singers,music directors and lyricists were subjects of hot discussion after each Binaca Geetmala programme on Wednesdays(8PM)!!Those were the days!!I am happy that I could preserve my radios and can still listen to Radio Ceylon airing the same old programmes in the morning upto 8-30 AM.!!
Bye now.More on this later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nostalgic Memories on Music

I am a person interested in listening to old Hindi Film songs and my hobby is to collect old Gramophones and gramophone records particularly that of old Hindi films. I have a fairly good collection of old records. I still enjoy listening to radio music from my old Murphy Radio and UMS brand Radio.I will be writing on old Hindi film songs .I invite all to read them