Friday, December 27, 2013


The other day while listening to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation’s  (“Aap ka Purana Dost Radio Ceylon”, as the broadcaster nostalgically introduces themselves) morning Hindi programme, the song ‘Yeh phoolon ki rani, baharon ki mallika, tera muskurana.......’came out crystal clear in all its glory to our utter delight. This happy, melodious  romantic song penned by Hasrat Jaipuri and composed by Shankar Jaikishen  from Sagar Films International’s   ARZOO (Direction: Ramanand Ragar) was a huge hit of those days. In fact for music directors Shankar Jaikishen, who were riding high on popularity charts throughout the decades of the 1950 and the 60, the music of the film was an outstanding success, the film bagging four Filmfare Awards, for best music(SJ), Best Lyrics (Hasrat: Aji ruth karna),best direction and story(Ramanand Sagar)and best actor(Rajinder Kumar).

The song ‘Ye phoolon  ki rani’ is rarely heard nowadays  and hearing it suddenly over the radio was a pleasant experience. Mohammed Rafi had made it his own, rendering it as only he could, bringing out  the mood of the song and its nuances pleasingly to the discerning ears! Film ARZOO had a few other outstanding songs in it like ‘Aji ruth karna’(Lata) , Yeh nargise mastana and ‘Chalke teri aankhon mein (both by Rafi) and the haunting ‘Bedardi balma tujh ko (Lata). But for us those days ‘Ai phoolon ki rani’ was closer to the heart as it touched a chord somewhere. What pains today is the feeling that the musical duo, S-J, who had given us innumerable wonderful songs in films from Aag, Barsaat, Chori Chori to Sasural Sangam, Jis desh nein Ganga bahti hai to Be-iman and so on and who were the kings of the music industry, earning a record nine Filmfare Awards, for more than two decades are not getting the deserved prominence nowadays in music related programs and features. Are they being slowly pushed into the oblivion?

While listening to ‘Ae phoolon ki rani’ three songs with a similar tune but entirely different in content , treatment and style flashed through my mind. Two are from film PYASA  with music by S.D.Burman and penned by Sahir Ludhianvi. While the  songs, ‘Jinhen naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hai’ and ‘ Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jayen to kya hain’ rendered by Rafi are intense, grief filled and filmed  on the tragic hero of the film played by Guru Dutt , the song ‘Ae phoolon ki’ is simple, pleasant and romantic.  These songs show Rafi’s range and flexibility in singing songs to the mood of the situation and the theme of the film. The film PYASA  created a sensation when it  was released and it became a milestone in Indian film history and is considered as one of the top romantic films of the world.  Singer Geeta Dutt was at her best in the immortal songs ‘Jane kya tune kahi’and ‘aaj sanam mohe ang lagalo’ as was Hemant Kumar in the song ‘Jane woh kaise log they’, argueably, his best remembered song.
The third song which came to my memory was a ghazal (Nazm) by Jagjit Singh from film Aaj,viz., Woh kaghaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani’ with music by Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh  for the lyrics penned by Sudarshan Faakir. The similarity of the tune with the earlier mentioned songs are clear. But the content and mood of the song are entirely different . The song takes us nostalgically back to our childhood days with the beautiful lyrics  soulfully rendered by Jagjit Singh. People often wonder why we always long to hear old songs. They are not mere old songs; each song evokes  special memories and feelings in the hearts of listeners, especially those who had heard them  and seen the films when they were released in their local theatres  giving them immense joy and a sense of belonging! The song ‘Kaghaz ki kashti’epitomises all that can be said about the wonderful olden days.  

Sunday, December 15, 2013


In the 60s,the 70s and the 80s non resident Indians coming from Gulf countries used to bring portable transistor radios, radio cum cassette recorders popularly known as two-in-ones,  pocket radios and so on to the envy of the local residents for whom such gadgets were a luxury owing to their short supply in the regular shops and high price. It was a common sight, at airports, railway stations and bus stands in this part of the country, to see the ‘Gulfees’ carrying these sets ‘naked’  by their handles with their cartons/covers removed to display their proud possessions in front of the onlookers covetously eyeing them. A variety of such sets in different colours, sizes and shapes, with and without leather covers, stereos and monos, with double, single, and more than double speakers were common. Many of these sets used to be available for sale within a couple of months of their arrival as many NRIs sold them off at the time of their departure to make a quick buck. The grey market also used to be very active dealing in electronics, watches, pens, perfumes, suitcases and so on. Displaying a formidable looking foreign ‘Two-in One’ in the drawing room was considered by many as a status symbol!

The most popular brand of music players was NATIONAL,(Pronounced by a section as Nasenal) made and marketed by Mitsushita Electric Industrial Co., Japan, which later became Panasonic Corporation and their products appeared as National, National Panasonic , Panasonic and Technics. Other brands were Soni, Hitachi, Sharp, Toshiba, Akai, Philips and so on. Originally all these brands were ‘Made in Japan’only; but later they were made in other countries also including India and China. I had a Sharp compact recorder purchased in Bangalore in 1971 but I don’t know where it is now. A similar looking National Panasonic cassette recorder(made in Japan)purchased around the same period is still with me in good working condition. Both cost  around Rs.800/-each  those days. In early 1970s BUSH introduced a similar compact cassette recorder in India costing around Rs.900/- along with the famous  and popular transistor radio  Bush Baron.  But the Bush model of cassette recorder was no match for the National cassette recorders in quality and price. My efforts to get the very popular Bush Baron radio set of the late 60s repaired were in vain. But the Philips Victor  radio of 1970 which used to be kept on throughout the day during cricket matches is still working! The small Philips pocket radio used for hearing  cricket commentary is still used during power cuts as well as while sitting in one corner of the terrace to be away from the T.V. and to be in the company of oneself!  Yes, the tiny  BPL Stereo Walkman cassette player and another similar one of the 90s are still there evoking  nostalgia.

National Rx 5235
The provocation for this post is the radio cassette recorder the photo of which is shown at the beginning of the post and alongside; a ‘NATIONAL TWO-WAY 4 SPEAKER STEREO RADIO CASSETTE RECORDER MODEL Rx.5235’. It was originally purchased by a friend from my childhood days and classmate too in the school, sometime during  the early 70s from an NRI for about Rs.4000/- if my memory is correct. He had used it for years and had kept it aside, uncared for, unable to get some repairs done. But I could, through my contacts, bring it sparklingly back to great working condition. In fact its radio section required only minor attention.. The  problem was with its cassette deck as spares like belt, wheels, pinch rollers and a few other parts could not be obtained. But with a lot of search, follow-up and contacts a few of them were collected and the rest by my friendly repairer by ‘cannibalising’ on an old hopeless set kept by him for the purpose! Luckily the recording / playback head was still in good condition. The result, after some serious cleaning and polishing, is a set as good looking and performing as a new set. The thrill of getting it back to work from a dilapidated and unpromising condition was so great that I decided to put it on record. What is amazing about this more than 40 years old set is its powerful hi-fi sound quality coming through the 4 way speakers especially while playing the radio with its high gain tuner  with an FM band. Remember FM band was widely in use abroad even in the 70s whereas for us it is a more recent experience.The fine tuning knob helps in locating and stabilizing SW stations from the crowded SW1 and SW2 bands.The long telescopic antenna also helps. It is indeed a delightful nostalgic experience to listen to Purani Geet and Aap ki Farmaish  on Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corpn’s Videsh Vibhag in the morning  and Vividh Bharati on the set. How many radio sets of today can boast of clear reception of short wave stations leave alone Radio Ceylon’s Videsh Vibhag?.Of course, it does’nt matter either as very few are nowadays interested in listening to short wave broadcasts! The cassette deck is now working well and the special auto reverse mechanism, a rare feature those days,  enhances the convenience  of the set. No wonder people, especially music lovers world wide still prefer  a genuine ‘Made in Japan’ product over others. A Panasonic or Soni equipment made in Japan commands a higher price than their own similar sets made in Singapore or India. The National Rx.5235 is a typical old ‘Gulfee’ set by its looks, performance and price. It still commands an astronomical price on the net!
Aftron BoomBox
There were many Indian and foreign brands manufactured in India like Murphy, Nelco, HMV, Philips, BPl/Sanyo, Bush/Akai, Videocon/Toshiba, Telefunken/Grundig and so son. We had also a very popular local brand of transistor sets. viz., KELTRON. Their sets, Keltron Kamal and Keltron Kranti, were noted for good performance . The tiny Kamal set bought in 1983/84 , still used by me, lends credence to this. But over the years, with the revolution  in electronic/music industry and change in people’s listening habits these once wonderful products have faded from even the memory of many. Philips, Panasonic, Soni, etc. are still marketing  small radios on a limited scale targeting old timers. A few major manufacturers like Toshiba, JVC etc. and others  also marketing  All-in-One sets like, for example, AFTRON BOOM BOX and NIPPOTEC  Rechargeable radio cum CARD/USB player.The Boombox is a Radio cum DVD/MP3/VCD/CD/USB/MMC /Cassette player! But I really do not think that devices like the small transistor radios, two-in-ones etc. will make a comeback even though  the surge being made by record players and vinyl records worldwide in recent years does evoke a faint ray of hope. What is disheartening for the  enthusiasts is the sight, at repair shops and service centres, of dusty heaps of tiny radios, amplifiers, cassette decks and  a variety of other old equipments which once occupied a prominent space in the drawing rooms of the owners, lying uncared for. Owners’ apathy,  repairers’reluctance/resistance to spend time on them and difficulty in getting spares have, regrettably, made them  a part of the bulging global electronics waste.

Tail piece:- What is an useful method of maintaining old equipments? Well,  use them as often as possible.