Bollywood Sounds Of Music
Would anyone except a diehard fan or an incorrigible film historian know in how many films which composer provided those lilting tunes that continue to cast a spell when replayed on radio or television decades after they had been set to music since playback was incorporated in the talkie? And which music director outscored the other in terms of number because it has not always been talent alone for had that been so composers like Khayyam and Jaidev—to mention just two from a longer list—could have outnumbered some of their luckier contemporaries. Which lover of Hindustani film music not recall Shaharyar’s Dil cheese kya hai aap meri jaan leejiye, and other renderings picturised on Rekha in Muzzafar Ali’s immortal Umrao Jaan; or Sahir’s Woh Subah Kabhi to aayegi on Raj Kapoor and Mala Sinha in Phir Subah Hogi. Both Khayyam tunes, and the versatile composer has done only 55 films in as many years.
Or look at Jaidev’s diminished record despite compositions in films like Dev Anand’s Hum Dono and Sunil Dutt’s, Mujhe Jeene Do that piggybacked to box office success also because of the music. In the short Bollywood career span of two decades he scored music for 40-odd films including (apart from the two above) Reshma aur Shera, Do Boond Pani, Gharonda, Duriyan, Aalaap, Gaman, Ankahee. He won the National Award for Best Music Director for his work in Reshma aur Shera, Gaman and Ankahee. It was also his non-film work that stands testimony to his genius, including Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Madhushala and Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s Urvashi. And like many of his contemporaries he died unsung.
One always felt tempted to explore which of the more famous music directors composed music for how many films. A Herculean task by any standards. But now a brave heart has done the near impossible. Well known chronicler of Hindustani film music, Raju Bharatan has dug into memories and accomplished the enviable in the form of a book, A Journey Down Melody Lane which goes into details of who did what in how many films, set which song to which raga, and what was the end result. He comes out with the revelation that it was the duo of Laxmikant Pyarelal which tops the charts, in terms of sheer numbers by scoring music for 502 films with Bappi Lahiri occupying the second place with 369 films. RD Burman with 292 and Kalyanji Anandji with 245 films come anywhere close to them. It will be amazing if anyone of the present crop would come anywhere close to the lowest…Jaidev.
Although Madan Mohan was nick-named ‘Ghazal ka Shahzada’ there were others like Roshan, Naushad and SD Burman who were no less really. But there was something uncommon in the manner this composer set ghazals to music. He was ‘Madan bhaiya’ to Lata Mangeshkar and scored music for 93 films including Adalat, Anpadh, Chirag, Dekh Kabira Roya, Haqeeqat, Heer Ranjha, Jahan Ara, Mausam, Who Kaun Thi. In comparison, his bête noire Roshan could do only 56 films. Both died young. Back to the list of centurions: Shankar Jaikishen worked in 173 films while Chitragupta did 145, Rajesh Roshan (son of the late composer) has 137 to his credit closely followed by Ravindra Jain with 132, Sonik Omi with 117, Nadeem Shrawan team before the break up scored music for 116, Ravi had 112, C Ramachandra got bowled out at 109, and SN Tripathi—eventually the most successful music director for Bhojpuri films—has a tally of 104. All other major composers had varying scores from 42 (Jaidev) to 93 (Madan Mohan). This comprises of Anil Biswas, OP Nayyar, Salil Chowdhury, SD Burman, Naushad, Hemant Kumar, Vasant Desai, Khayyam.
While highlighting the point of highest standards maintained by the earlier music directors, Bharatan rightly asks: “…is it too early to judge the true value of today’s music as crafted by the now generation of composers? Am I being too condemnatory of the music being made today? Music with which today’s youth tunes? Am I expediently forgetting that music to root—being Panchamly-Rahmanly—is generational in its appeal? Hearing the music of Rahman extensively, recently, did make me wonder if I was not a whole generation behind the times in my daily listening.” He also wonders if any of the young composers will be able to make music for 150 films, and yet retain or maintain the exacting standards by which the earlier music directors worked.
No doubt technology has made the task easier, but what about the remix business, and the quality of lyrics being produced. One can really count the number of lyrical numbers on one’s finger tips from the films made in the past decade. Songs might have been chart busters, but what about the poetry? “Today’s songs vanish as swiftly as do their singers. A number is here today, gone tomorrow, landing in the dung heap of instant history,” contends Bharatan rightfully, the redoubtable chronicler of Hindustani film music. Where are the likes of Shabbir Kumar, Udit Narayan, Kumar Sanu, Mohammed Aziz—who fitted into the vacant slots left behind by Rafi, Kishore and other leading singers? How long did that half a film wonder Himesh Reshammiya last before disappearing in the thin air. Some others of his ilk are trying to make a comeback through the small screen, but albeit not on their own strength, or of their own songs but by mouthing the perennial hits.
The same goes for composers (more visible pronouncing judgments on the small screen for singing competitions). How many of us can recall a Reshammiya, or an Aadesh Srivastava, a Salim-Suleiman, Anand Raj Anand or distinguish their music? If the team of Shankar-Ehsan-Roy has succeeded thus far in giving quality music, and AR Rahman continues to be in great demand despite international work commitments, it is because they haven’t shown too much ambitious or rush to reach the last post.
By Suresh Kohli