Sunday, July 24, 2011

English songs, Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard and more memories.

My collection of records includes a few LPs of English songs of old even though I am not a big fan of English music now. This includes a number of LPs. of instrumental English music purchased in the 70s at Bangalore after buying a stereo system for the first time. These English LPs helped in testing and enjoying the stereo effect of the system better than any other LPs as their stereo quality was the best. Besides, there are other reasons also for taking interest in English songs in the 60s.

English films were regularly screened in the theatres at Kozhikode and English songs were very popular among the college students and youngsters. In the functions of college fine art societies and in the college annual day functions a main item for students to participate was the 'Orchestra' in which Hindi and English songs dominated. There were several Rafis and Mukeshs as also Jim Reeves, Cliff Richards, Frank Sinatras etc. among us and their singing used to be normally accompanied by hooting and catcalls from the student audience eventhough both the singers and listeners enjoyed the 'orchestra' best among all the variety entertainments. The singers to perform on the stage were selected after trials and they used to have a big fan following especially among the fairer sex which made them the buts of envy of others which also contributed for the hooting. Whatever little interest I have for English songs owes much to this experience. The songs of Jim Reeves and Cliff Richards were the ones sung most along with those of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Niel Diamond, Elvis(the pelvis)Priestly etc to a lesser extent.

There were several very active music clubs in Kozhikode and Brothers' Music Club was the most popular. Their frequent musical evenings were highly enjoyable . We used to look forward to for their annual day program, normally held at the Town Hall, which used to be a musical extravaganza those days. Songs were mostly from Hindi films and English albums mostly of Jim Reeves. I still remember one singer named Ralphy who used to sing the songs of Rafi and Jim Reeves to the thunderous applause of the audience. There was also Premnath who specialised in the songs of Mukesh. I wonder where they are now! Music and musical evenings were an integral part of Kozhikodan life those days along with cinema, drama and football.

There were then onl
y three theatres in Kozhikode city,viz., THE CROWN, CORONATION AND RADHA. Later DAVISON theatre came up. PUSHPA with latest equipments and comfortable seats including air-conditioned box came up followed by the small but beautifully designed GEETHA at West Hill. There were two other talkies on the outskirts, viz., CHANDRA at Chevayur and LAKSHMI at Kallai. Kozhikode seemed to have a penchant for giving female names for the theatres!! Much later the centrally located and grand BLUEMOON and SANGAM arrived Alas!Only the oldest four (Crown, Coronation, Radha and Davison) are alive now. Pushpa and Sangam are still there in a closed condition and others have either been demolished or converted and used for other purposes. With the problems faced by the theatre industry and by the look of it I don't know how long Davison will survive. But fortunately, kindling nostalgia in old Kozhikodans like me, The Crown, Coronation and Radha are still there without much alteration and face lift.

These three theatres have a special place in our hearts and we have fond memories about them. Malayalam films were few in those days and Hindi, Tamil and ,of course, English films were regularly shown. The Crown theatre, in particular, used to show Emglish films as and when they are released at other important centres. I still remenber seeing films like TEN COMMANDMENTS and BENHUR, a number of Westerns like 'the dollar series' of Clint East wood, A FIST FULL OF DOLLARS, A FEW DOLLARS MORE and THE GOOD, BAD, AND THE UGLY at Crown as also Yul Brynner's MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, and John Wayne's TRUE GRIT and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID and so on. Seeing Western cowboy films was a passion for us in those days. Hindi films LIKE MUGHAL-E-AZAM, MADHUMATI, NAYA DAUR and so on are also fresh in the memory. Tamil films were usually shown at Radha and I remember seeing films like Palum Pazhamum, Aalayamani, Kathalikka Neramillai, Vennira Adai, M.G.R's Ayirathil Oruvan, Balachander's Major Chandrakanth, Neerkumizhi etc.Malayalam films were seen mostly at Coronation. But the classic film,'Bridge on the River Kwai' was shown at Coronation. Yes, those were the days when we really enjoyed going to film theatres. Compared to that, going to a theatre nowadays has become a nightmare. No wonder theatres are being shut down left,right and centre to be mourned only by sentimentalist old timers.

A couple of months back, when I was at Kozhikode, I just walked around the city to see my old favourite theatres and it was then that I realised that except the four theatres mentioned earlier all the others are no more alive. But I was happy that The Crown, Coronation and Radha are still there . There has been no change to Radha and the hotel Arya Bhavan which stood in the compound is still there. The theatre is now air-conditioned and with Dolby and Dts. Malayalam film KAYAM was on. There has been a face lift on Coronation and it was gleaming with a fresh coat of paint. But its compound has been eaten away by the widened road. It may not survive the next widening of the road. The Crown, I found, was getting a facelift/a fresh coat of paint. They were showing the film TOURIST and I was temped to enter just for old time's sake but refrained as it was getting late for me to return. Later I realized that seeing a film at Crown alone like a stranger/outsider would have made me sadder.

It was mostly during the 60s and 70s that I collected the English L.P. records. There are three LP records of Jim reeves, viz.,the famous 'Moonlight and Roses' with the title song and the beautiful song,'There is a new moon over my shoulder'.The other one is 'The Best of Jim Reeves' with his best selling songs,'The Blue Boy'and 'Four Walls'.The third is JIM REEVES-BIMBO' with his ever popular song 'Bimbo' in it. These three along with two records of Olivia Newton John,.viz.'Don't Stop Believing' and 'Olivia Physical 'are my favourite English records which I listen to often. I also listen to Cliff Richard's 'Love Songs' and Neil Diomond's album,'Classics-The Early Years'.Among the instrumental tunes the favourites are'GOLDEN NON-STOP DANCING 10--JAMES LAST.It has several beautiful songs including,'Raindrops keep falling on my head' used in film, 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid' and the ACCORDIAN CARTE. Among the LPs of jazz music the LP of Brooker T & the M.G.'s. titled 'I WANT YOU'with the song,'Johnny,I love you' is a favourite of mine. Another one is ,'THE VERY BEST OF WES MONTGOMERY.

Well, for a collector of English records these few records in my possession mean nothing. But their nostalgic value is what is important to me.

Tail piece:- Seeing the picture of Jim Reeves on the L.P. my grandson exclaimed
'Woh! Ricky Ponting! Awesome!

Friday, July 1, 2011


The other day, rather bored with the numerous reality shows and news channels repeatedly dishing out visuals of same events, I was furiously clicking the remote control when I saw in the B4U Music channel the famous quawali scene from the film BARSAT KI RAAT, with the actors singing with gusto, in the true quawali style, the song, 'Nato karavan ki talaash hai''. The song penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and set to music by Roshan and sung by MannaDey, Asha Bhosle, S.D. Batish,Sudha Malhotra and chorus is, to me, one of the best ever film quawalis matched only by a few others like,e.g, ' Parda hai parda' from Amar Akbar Antony, 'Hamein to loot liya' from film Al Hi Lal, and the other quawali from Barsat ki Raat itself, viz.,'Yeh hai ishq ishq hai' in which Rafi also joins.The 'na to karavan' song and the scene with the lead artistes of the film, Bharat Bhushan, Madhubala and Shyama, participating, was also a visual treat in black and white which lifted me out of my boredom and took my mind to the contribution of Roshan to Hinfi film music during his rather short career.(1917-1967)

The music of Barsat ki Raat was sensational and popular and the success of the film was, to a large extent, due to the quality of the songs which made the names Roshan and Barsat ki Raat synonymous. The song,'Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat' sung solo by Rafi, which was the No.1 song in Binaca Geetmala for the year 1960, and also as duet with Lata continues to be as hauntin
g as ever. There is another beautiful Rafi song,'Main ne shayad' and a Lata solo,'Mujhe milgaya bahana' , both with melody and 'bhav' at their best. As the theme of the film demanded, there are two more quawalis, 'Niga-e-raazki' and 'Ji chahta hey jhoom loon' and the LP record is a must for quawali lovers and it is a rare LP where we can listen to the great S.D.Batish,Sudha Malhotra, Balbir, Shankar Shanbhu,Bande Hasan in addition to a semi-classical duet by Suman Kalyanpur and Kamal Barot,'Garjat barsat sawan ayo re'.

Roshan went on to give outstanding music in the period film 'Taj Mahal'. a Pradeep Kumar- Bina Rai starrer. The evergreen duet,'Jo wada kiya woh'by Lata and Rafi(two versions, one sad and the other happy) was the No.1 song of 1963 in the Binaca Geetmala and the music of the film also bagged the Filmfare Award for the year. The melodious ,'Jo baat tuj me hai'(Rafi)and 'Julme ulfat pe'(Lata) were also ranked high in Hindi film music. Yes, being a period film it has also a very popular quawali,'Chandi ka badan sone ki nazar' emphasising Roshan's penchant for Quawalis proved again in another film with similar back ground, "Bahu Begum'. In 'Bahu begum', a Pradip Kumar-Meena Kumari film. there are two famous quawalis, 'Waqif hun khub ishqake' and Dhund ke laoon kahan se' both sung by Rafi and Manna Dey apart from a Rafi melody,'Hum intezar karenge'. The success of Taj Mahal also was due, a large extent,to the popularity of Roshan's music. In film ,'Dil Hi To Hai', with Raj kapoor-Nutan duo, apart from Manna Dey's, 'Laga chunari me daag' and the title song,'Dil jo bhi kahega' by Mukesh, there is the quawali, 'Nigahe Milane ko jee chahata hai' by Asha Bhosle in her inimitable style reinforcing Roshan's contribution to filmy quawalis.

It is not only in 'Bahu Begum' that Pradip Kumar, the handsome hero, and Meena Kumari, the tragedy queen, had appeared together with outstanding m
usic by Roshan. In 'Bheegi raat' there is this haunting Rafi number of Roshan,'Dil jo na kahsaka'; in 'Aarti' there is the 'Ab kya mishal doon' by Rafi; in 'Chitralekha' there is an all time great number (I had mentioned about this in a previous post) by Rafi,' Man re tu kahe na dheer dare'. Pradip Kumar, Meena Kumari, Roshan team appeared to be a sure success mantra those days!!

While the films mentioned were of the 60s, there were a few films of the 50s in which Roshan had tuned music in the traditional style with which listeners were so familiar with. But what made these songs outstanding was the modernity he infused in them which made them far beyond their time and loved even now.While in the 60s he used the voice of Rafi more , it was Mukesh he depended on to render some of his classic numbers in the 50s. The Raj Kapur-Geeta Bali film, 'Bawre Nain' comes to mind in this context. The Mukesh-Geeta Roy(Dutt) duet, 'Khayalon mein kisi ke' is one such song heard occasionally even now on Sri Lankan radio. The grief filled,'Teri Duniya men dil lagta nahin' by Mukesh is another great number'. It was after a lot of search and waiting that I got the LP record of Bawre Nain and it is a valuable one as it contains three solo songs of the legendary singer-actress, Rajkumari, including the most famous and popular song,'Sun Bairi Balam'. The other two are,'Kyon mera dil mein' and 'Roothe hua chanda'.The nostalgic Rajkumari-Mukesh duet,'Mujhe such such batado' is also there in the LP. That again eminds me of the 1952 Raj Kapur-Nargis film, Anhonee, in which Roshan had used the voice of Rajkumari for two of her sweet songs, 'Zindagi badli'(with Lata) and 'Sharifon ke mehfil mein'. It is also the film in which Roshan used the sweet, trembling voice of Talat Mahmood to create the evergreen,'Mein dil hoon ek armaan bada' and two other duets with Lata,'Mere Dil ki dhadkan kya bole' and, 'Sama ke dil mein humare'.

It is in film Malhar, a film produced by Mukesh himself under the banner, Darling Films, that the Roshan- Mukesh duo is at their best. Two beautiful duets with Lata, 'Bade armanon se' and 'Ek bar agar too kah de' are nostalgic.Who can forget the' 'Zalim zamana' by Lata and 'Dil tujhe diya tha rakhne ko ' by Mukesh?But in spite of these songs the film did not succeed in the box-office probably in the absence of a big star cast! In 1966 Roshan again came up with two melodious Mukesh songs, 'Baharon ne mera chaman' and 'Aaya hai mujhe phir yaad' in film Devar, a Dharmendra-Sharmila starrer. There were several other films also where Roshan had given memorable tunes like e.g, Noor Jahan, Chandni chowk, Humlog, Soorat aur Seerat, Nayi Umar ki Nayi Fazal and so on. Let me mention only the Mukesh number;'Bahut diyaa denewale ne tujhko' from Surat aur Seerat and 'Aaj ki raat bahut shok badi natkat hai' by Rafi in film 'Nayi Umar ki Nayi Fazal''.I cannot but mention two great songs by Lata from film,'Mamta', ' Rehena rahen' and 'Rahte they kabhi'. His last film was Anokhi Raat released pothmously in 1968 with the poignant Mukesh song,'Ore taal mile nadi ki jal mein Nadi mile sagar mein.'

In his rather short career Roshan had not created music for a large number of films when compared to some other music directors of his time. But the quality of his songs is that matters.The songs of Barsat ki Raat and Taj Mahal alone gave him a permanent place in the hearts of music lovers.'Zindagi bhar.............. Barsat ki Raat'. What a song it is!!

Like the combination of Roshan and Barsat ki Raat, there are also other similar combinations like Hemant Kumar- Nagin.... S.D.Burman-Aaradhana...Shankar Jaikishan- Awaara....Khayyam-Kabi Kabhi..... Jaidev-Hum Dono.....R.D.Burman- Kati Patang.....O.P.Nayyar-Naya Daur....Naushad- Mughal-E-Azam....Kishor kumar-Jhumroo....Khemchand Prakash-Mahal....Salil Choudhuri-Madhumati........... Can any music lover think about these music directors and these films separately?

Tail piece: While searching I realized that CHITRAHAR the most popular TV program of the 80s on the DD is still on!!