The elevated space is fast shrinking in Bollywood as more and more stalwarts bid goodbye to the mortal world. The slide that suddenly began with the slipping away in deep sleep of ‘rebel star’ Shammi Kapoor, and snatched away ‘evergreen star’ Dev Anand within seconds seems in no mood to take a pause. Then Jagjit Singh, the voice of ghazal in India, bade adieu. Followed a major poet and lyricist Shaharyar whose ghazals like ‘Dil cheese kya hai aap meri jaan lejiye contributed significantly to the making of Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan a cult classic. And moving on there goes one of the last of the surviving composers out of job in this era of ear-shattering, drum-beating, loud unmelodious composers. Ravi’s passing away leaves a void difficult to fill. And now Joy Mukherjee who during his short stint regaled the audience with his unassuming performances, beginning opposite pleasant faced, Sadhna, perhaps the only heroine of her time whose hairstyle ‘Sadhna cut’ became a rage in the seventies.
Shaharyar was the last of the genuine Urdu poets with a foot in Bollywood. Known mainly for his lyrics in Muzaffar Ali’s Daman, Anjuman and Umrao Jaan, Shahryar’s Seene Mein Jalan Ankhon Mein Toofan Sa Kyun Hai and Ajeeb Saneha Mujhpar Guzar Gaya Yaaron from Daman, and Dil Cheez Kya Hai, In Ankhon Ki Masti Ke, Justuju Jiski Thi, Ye Zameen Chaand Se Behtar Nazar Aati Hai Hamein and Ye Kya Jagah Hai Doston from Umrao Jaan are now a part of great Bollywood lore. Though unconfirmed the name ‘Shaharyar’ also features in the credit titles of Bimal Roy’s Yahudi, especially the immortal song, Yeh mere dewana pan hai ya mohabbat ka suroor. He is also credited with the dialogue of Anjuman, the abandoned Zooni and Yash Chopra’s Faasle. He succumbed to the dreaded cancer on February 14 in Aligarh, his home all his life.
The Delhi-born Ravi Shankar Sharma undertook the journey to tinsel town in the hope of becoming a singer, instead after struggle landed up the job of a percussionist in Filmistan Studio, participating in a chorus under singer Hemant Kumar’s debut film as a music director in Anand Math (1952). His performance both as a tabla player and a singer soon found him elevated to the position of an assistant with the same composer and films like Samrat, Shart, Jagriti, Champakali and the iconic, Nagin followed in quick succession, the last being his last as an assistant. The grapevine has it that so impressed was Hemantda with his work in the latter that he set him free to pursue his career as an independent composer. It was Ravi on harmonium and Kalyanji (of Kalyanji Anandji fame) playing claviolin that produced the famous ‘been’ effect which continues to be emulated till date.
Ravi’s first film as an independent composer was Devendra Goel’s Balraj Sahni-Geeta Bali-Rajendra Kumar starrer musical hit Vachan (1955). Though Ravi went on to make memorable melodies in another 108 movies (including 30 jubilee hits, 5 of which Chaudvian ka Chand, Do Badan, Humraaz, Aankhein and Nikaah brought him the Filmfare Best Music Director nominations in 1960,1966, 1967, 1968 and 1982, and won the coveted trophy twice, for Gharana and Khandaan 1961 and 1965 respectively) 1965, like Madan Mohan, Khayyam, and Jaidev he never acquired a cult status that many of his less talented contemporaries did, and in this he was unlucky to have been failed by the very directors whose careers took off because of his music. Many contend that he really ruled the roost in the decade of the 60s, 1963 in particular when he rode the popularity chart with as many as a dozen hits in a row.
Some of Ravi’s other big ones that walked the mile of success considerably because of music included Mehndi (58), Chirag Kahan Roshni Kahan (59), Ghoonghat (60), Nazrana, Pyar ka Sagar (61), China Town and Raakhi (62), Bharosa, Yeh Raaste Hai Pyar Ke, Gumrah (63), Waqt (65), Dus Lakh, Phool aur Pathar (66), Neel Kamal and Ek Phool Do Mali (68) after which he gradually faded out except for an occasional Nikaah, though during this period too his music did not fail, though some of his let him down. The films included Dharkan (72), Dhund, Mehmaan (73), Umeed (74), Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka (75), Aadmi Sadak Ka (77), Aaj Ki Awaaz (83), Tawaif (84) and Ek Alag Mausam (03). He also scored music for 14l Malayalam films like Panchgni, Nakhakshathangal (86), Vaisali (88), Mayooakham (05) being the last. He breathed his last on March 7, 2012 in a Mumbai hospital at the ripe age of 86.
“If only life could be a series of lullabies…In the millions of toothless smiles that his songs evoked, the countless sweet dreams that followed, lies the greatest contribution of Ravi, a self-effacing music director,” commented a connoisseur of Hindustani film sangeet.
After his debut in Love in Simla (60), Joy Mukherjee, son of the erstwhile Filmistan boss, Sasadhar Mukherjee—also labeled poor man’s Shammi Kapoor in whose shoes he uncomfortably came down the Himalayan slopes—went on to give one hit after the other. Followed Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (62), Phir Wahi Dil Laya Hoon (63), Ziddi (with Asha Parekh) after which the downward slide with Ji Chahata Hai, Ishaara, Door ki Awaaz, Aao Pyar Karen (all 64), Bahu Beti (65), Saaz aur Awaaz, Yeh Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai (66). It seems lady luck then decided to give him a second chance, two blockbusters in a row: Love in Tokyo (66), Shagird (67). But, in retrospect, it was a mere flash in the pan, though felt he was on cloud nine. He not only formed his own company but also went on to not only wield the megaphone himself, essayed a double role opposite Mala Sinha and Sharmila Tagore. Humsaaya (68) with war as the backdrop turned turtle at the box office leading to bankruptcy.
It was now the end of the road. In the next nearly a decade he starred in eleven lustreless films, including the non-decrepit Puraskar (70) in which an ageing Helen was his leading lady. The others in the same year were Moojrim, Aag aur Daag, Ehsan, Inspector, Kahin Aar Kahin Paar (71), and Ek Baar Muskura Do—home production (72). Joy’s last appearing was in the dreadful Haiwan (77). His last directorial work, Chaila Babu (07), a moderate success with Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman in the lead. Like many others of his tribe he too made a valiant attempt for a possible return with the TV serial, Aye Dil-e-Naadan (09) before totally fading out. He was declared dead due to multiple organ failure, after being in a coma on March 9.
May their souls rest in peace, or regale gods with their individual versatility.
By Suresh Kohli