Tuesday, August 26, 2014


I just finished reading Sri Natwar Singh’s recently published book, ONE LIFE IS NOT ENOUGH  which had stirred up a lot of political controversies, arguments and debates especially on the English news channels. These discussions had, regrettably,  centred mainly on those portions of the book dealing with Smt Sonia Gandhi’s role in Indian politics and her stranglehold on the UPA 1 and UPA 2. The reasons as exposed by Sri Natwar Singh for her not accepting the country’s prime ministership which was offered to her on a platter  received more attention than anything else. 

Sri Natwar Singh a well known editor, author, successful bureaucrat and influential diplomat  entered politics at his option and went on to become the Minister of  External Affairs of the country. An ardent admirer and friend of British writer and author E.M.Forster , Sri Natwar Singh gives interesting details of his association and meetings with the author.  So also about his association with R.K. Narayan, Kenneth Kaunda the first President of Zambia,  rulers, diplomats and world leaders. Closely associated with the Nehru-Indira Gandhi family right from the days of India’s independence as revealed by him in his book he was privy to and had first hand information on  several of the course changing decisions taken by successive Congress governments at the Centre.The partition of India, invasion of Kashmir by Pakistan, the handing over of the issue to the U.N.,  the Indo-Chinese engagements and the war with China in which India was defeated, the nationalisation of banks, Operation Blue star, the two wars with Pakistan and the forming of Bangladesh, declaration of emergency, the Sri Lankan expedition of the IPKF, Shah Banu case,the deeds and misdeeds of UPA 1 and UPA 2 and so on have all been discussed from a diplomat’s point of view as well as that of an insider who had a ring side view of the happenings. In fact the book helps the reader to know how the country’s foreign policy evolved over the years, its nuances, its high as well as low points, how the foreign offices worked and so on  coming as it is from the author who was an officer of the foreign service, a diplomat and a minister of external affairs. Sadly these aspects did not  find a place in the discussions on the book.

The book is interestingly written, is easy  on the reader and succeeds in giving the impression that the author is nearer to the actual than otherwise.   He does not seem to allow his closeness to the ruling family to cloud his vision. He does not mince words while pointing out the blunders of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at the same time highlighting the contributions of the first three. He is highly critical of the UPA1 and UPA 2 regimes, Sonia Gandhi  and the former Prime Minister Manmohan  Singh. It is in this context that the reader gets the impression that the  frustration and bitterness, in connection with the circumstances that made him  resign from the cabinet and the Congress party, get the better of him. But he had the last laugh when the people of  India gave a resounding slap to the UPA and the Congress  when the results of the parliamentary elections were announced on the 16th May 2014. 

The book also contains a number of nostalgic photographs  including  a photo of Natwar Singh and wife with Lata Mangheshkar and another showing Natwar Singh with the pet lion of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethopia.

EP Record
One paragraph  on page 35 of the book touched a chord somewhere. The picture of a young Natwar Singh visiting a movie house in Bharatpur with his parents to see the  Bombay  Talkies film Achhut Kanya, an Ashok Kumar-Devika Rani  film, evoked memories of my going to see films with my parents though the circumstances were not comparable. It also made me take out and play the EP record of the film’s songs rendered by Ashok  kumar and Devika Rani! The 1936 film directed by Franz Osten and produced by Himanshu Rai was one of the first super hit movies of Hindi films and one of the earliest Indian movies with a social reformist theme. I also liked a sentence in another part of the book, “I knew too well the fate of the retired officers- the doers of yesteryears become the drifters of today.”

Sunday, August 3, 2014


 Walking down  the memory lane, there are several  films that evoked plenty of nostalgic memories of our younger days. One such film is Bimal Roy Productions, MADHUMATI (1958) directed  by  Bimal Roy with Dilip Kumar and Vijayantimala in the lead. The novelty of the story and theme, viz. reincarnation and life after death, beautiful picturisation, pleasing performance by the lead and supporting actors, the way the story  was handled retaining the suspense till the end and above all,  the fascinating songs and music by Salil Choudhury made lasting impressions especially on the younger viewers.The fact that the film bagged six National Awards and nine Filmfare Awards for all the major categories added to its aura. Bimal Roy, who had earlier made such wonderful films like PARINEETA, DO BHIGA ZAMIN, DEVDAS, NAUKRI, BIRAJ BAHU etc.  acquired cult status with Madhumati and went on to make highly acclaimed films like SUJATA, BANDINI, PARAKH  and so on.

While listening to the LP record of Madhumati on  my record player, I realised that the most important factor for the success of the film was the music of Salil Chowdhury . The  LP record holds 12 songs of the film and most of them are even today hugely popular with Lata’s Filmfare Award winning  ‘Aaja re pardesi’ topping the list. The Lata-Mukesh duet  “Dil tadap tadap’ is regarded as one of the top duets ever of Hindi films. The  Mukesh-Salil-Dilip Kumar song, ‘Suhana safar aur mausam’ happens to be a rare song of Salil Chowdhury filmed on Dilip Kumar. Two lively group  songs, viz., ‘chad gayo papi bichhua’ and ‘Zulmi sang aankh ladi’adds variety and displays Salil’s penchant for folk music. Mubarak Begum’s sweet and soulful ‘Ham hal-e-dil sunnaaeenge’was a hit over the radio those days. Not in the least is one of Rafi’s best ever ‘Toote hue khwabon mein’ making the LP record of the film one of the most sought after one even now.
Some of the evergreen songs of Salil Chpidhury also flashed through my mind while listening. Manna Dey remained one of his favourite male voices right from the 1953 film ‘DO BIGHA ZAMIN’, the chorus ‘Dharti kare pukar ke’( with Lata) being very popular.The song  ‘Hariyaala saawan dhol bajata aaya’, again a chorus with Lata, revealed Salil’s mastery over folk style of music. In film USNE KAHA THA there is ‘Janewale sipahi se poochho’, a highly patriotic song by Manna Dey. Two very popular and melodious songs of Manna Dey for Salil Choudhury coming readily to mind are ‘Zindagi kaisee hai paheli’ from Aanand and the sweet ‘Ek samay par do barsati’ from JHOOLA. For me, the second is the favourite for his softness of voice in the Talat Mahmood style. And for voice modulation and style of singing  there is this beautiful song from Bimal Roy’s KABULIWALLAH ,viz.,’Yeh mere pyare vatan’. My search for a gramophone record of this song fructified only a couple of days back when I got a well maintained 78 r.p.m record! The credit for using Manna Dey’s voice for a Malayalam film and making him a much loved singer of Keralites also goes to Salil Choudhury  with Manna Dey’s song ‘ Manasa maine varoo’ from the President’s gold medal winning Malayalam film  CHEMMEEN. That reminds me about Lata Mangeshkar’s only song in Malayalam ,viz., ‘Kadali thenkadali’ in the much accclaimed film  NELLU  which was also composed by Salil Choudhury.The film also has a chorus. ‘Chemba chemba’, sung by Manna Dey and Jayachandran . The rhythmic, vibrant and catchy folk/tribal songs of the film, as the story demanded, were very popular those days.

Many of the well known and popular songs of Talat Mahmood were composed by Salil Choudhury and the songs of film CHHAYA , a Sunil Dutt – Asha Parekh starrer, come readily to mind.The song , ‘Ankhon mein masti sharaab ki’, is a rare, but beautiful and pleasant, romantic song of Talat as against his usual ghazals. So also is the song, ‘Itna na mujhse to pyar badha, sung solo  by Talat as weIl as as a duet with Lata. Talat is at his ‘ghazali best’ in the song ‘Aansoo samajh ke kyon mujhe’ from this film. The duet of Talat with Lata, ‘Aha rim jim ki ye pyare pyare’ from film USNE KAHA THA and the song,’Raat ne kya kya’ from film EK GAON KI KAHANI  are Salil Choudhury’s gems with Talat. And for me Lata’s best song for Salil Chudhury after ‘Aaja re pardesi’ is the melodious lilting song from film PARAKH, viz., ‘Oh sajana barkha bahar ayi’.
Two songs of Mukesh for Salail Coudhury,  I just remembered, are  the one from the superhit Rajesh Khanna film AANAND,viz., ‘Kahin door jab din dhal jaye’ and the immortal song from the Raj Kapur film JAGTE RAHO, viz., ‘Zindagi kwab mein’ which haunts listeners even today. I also remember two songs of Jesudas for Salil, a popular duet with Asha in film CHHOTI SI BAAT,viz.,’Jan-e-man jane-e-man’, an example as to how a duet is to be sung with the singers trying to excel each other at the same time retaining the mood and tempo of the song. The other is the semi-classical song, ‘Ni sa ga ma pa ni.’ from film ANAND MAHAL. It is also a fact that only Salil Choudhury and music director Ravindra Jain could exploit fruitfully the talent and voice of Jesudas at his prime for Hindi films.

Any discussion of Salil Choudhury’s music without mentioning his fine compositions in film MAYA could be termed incomplete. Lata Mangeshkar’s lilting ‘ Ja re ja re ud ja re panchi’ and Rafi’s fast paced ‘Koi sone ke dilwala’ are outstanding numbers. But, to me, what makes the music of the film noteworthy are the two duets. In fact Salil Choudhury could be credited with some of the best duets of Hindi films with ‘Dil tadap tadap’(Lata Mukesh), ‘Itna na mujhko’ and ‘Ah ha rim jim’ (both by Lata-Talat), ‘Chhota sa ghar hoga’(Film Naukari- Kishore–Usha Mangeshkar)and so on proving the point.The two duets from film Maya are also equally fascinating. One is the lilting melody by Lata-Rafi, ‘Tasveer teri dil mein’ which is even now often heard on the radio. But the top of the chart is the two part duet , ‘Ae dil kahan teri manzil’ by Lata and the inimitable, but sadly foregotten, Dwijen Mukherjee. The tune of the song, meaningful lyrics, the beauty of the two sweet voices matching and complementing each other make this song a top favourite. Dwijen Mukheri, with a voice and singing style of Hemant Kumar, Aas ka Panchi Subir Sen and Hoke Majbhoor Bhupinder , was not heard much in Hindi films in spite of the  success of this song and soon vanished from the scene to the utter disappointment of discerning listeners! But the song is still as refreshing as ever.
Salil Choudhury’s presence in Malayalam film music did not end with CHEMMEEN and NELLU. In fact he had composed music for about 25 Malayalam films besides providing background music for ABHAYAM,DWEEP and the award winning film VASTUHARA etc. In association with noted Malayalam poets like Vayalar, O.N.V. Kurup and Srikumaran Thampi he gave a large number  of highly popular songs for Malayalam films and achieved a high level of success in Malayalam film music which no other Hindi music director except Ravi could achieve. With Srikumaran Thambi he created the songs for film ETHO ORU SWAPNAM.  With Vayalar he tuned songs for several films like RAAGAM, RAASALEELA, THULAVARSHAM, EZHU RAATHRIKAL and so on apart from the songs of CHEMMEEN and  NELLU. The song ‘Kaadaru masam’ from film Ezhu Raathrikal and ‘Kelee nalinam’ from Thulavarsham were super hits of the period.

It was with O.N.V. Kurup that Salil Choudhury created a large number of popular songs which are even today a rage among singers and listeners. In film PAREEKSHA  there is this soulful song rendered by Jesudas, viz., ‘Oormakale’ and the rare EP record of this song is one of my proud collections.In film SWAPNAM the song ‘Saarikee’ by S.janaki; in MADNOTSAVAM the song ‘Sagarame santha maaku nee’ by Jesudas, in film SAMAYAMAYILLAPOLUM  the song ‘Shyama meghame’ by Jesudas and several other films  and songs bear testimony to Sali’s prowess as a music director even in a language which was alien to him. In THUMBOLIKADAPPURAM (1995), probably the last film of Salil in Malayalam, singer Chitra rendered this immortal song ‘Kaathil thenmazhayay paadoo’ which remains as  sweet as ever.

Salil Choudhury had used the tunes of his successful Hindi songs in Malayalam either for songs as such or in the background. For example, the tune of this beautiful song ‘Chhotta sa ghar hoga badalon ki chhaomen’ from film NAUKARI  rendered by Kishore and Usha  Mangeshkar has been beautifully used for O.N.V’s lyrics in film AIR HOSTESS for the song ‘Onnaanam kunninmel.’http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=chhotta+sa+ghar+hoga&ei=UTF-8&fr=moz35 In film CHEMMEEN  the tune of the song ‘Baag mein kali khili’ from  film CHAND AUR SURAJ has been fruitfully used in the background of the chaakara song ‘Pennale kannale’.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TwAvatrW3XA

Salil Choudhury whose melody was based on Indian Classical music and folk music with orchestration influenced by Western music  ruled the hearts of millions of listeners for more than 40 years. His musical creations will preserve his memory for generations to come.

Tail piece: Madhumati remains as the only film I had seen twice in a theatre. It was on its  second release at a local theatre in 1960 on an intervening holiday of my degree exam!