Signature Tunes – 1

Dev Anand in Hum Dono

This Sunday, Times Now, which is usually an unbelievably shrill television news channel, broadcast an outstanding episode of its show, Total Recall on classical songs in Hindi cinema.

Total Recall is one of those rare shows on the telly these days that celebrates the magical tunes of the years gone by. Watching songs come alive once again, albeit on the small screen, is one of the best ways to relax on a Sunday.

The show got me thinking of a few things, and one aspect in particular. Music directors in Hindi cinema, lyricists, singers – a highly venerated breed – at some point end up writing the cinematic equivalent of an epitaph during their careers. When Dev Anand died this year, no tribute was complete without the shot of him, slim, bare-chested, puffing away non-chalantly, while singing Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya. I am attempting to list down a few more of such epitaphs – poignant in meaning and full of the soul of their makers. As you can see, this post is listed in parts, so contributions, ideas and suggestions are welcome.

1. Tum Mujhe Yun Bhula Na Paoge 
Film: Pagla Kahin Ka (1970)
Singer: Mohd. Rafi
Music Director/s: Shankar Jaikishen
Lyricist: S Bihari and Hasrat Jaipuri.

During his lifetime, Mohd Rafi sang nearly 4,500 songs. I don’t claim to have heard all of them, but whenever I hear the mukhda (chorus) of this song from Pagla Kahin Ka, it’s almost as if the maestro were communicating to a generation through his music. It’s a song that in just four lines speaks volumes of the Rafi legacy.

2. Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya
Film: Hum Dono (1961)
Music Director: Jaidev
Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Possibly the most melodious treatise on life and philosophy, Dev Anand immortalised this song with his rakish mannerisms and complete languid charm. I don’t believe any other actor could have lived this song in all its entirety as Dev Anand did. No song captures the ephemeral mist of life as this one.

3. Jeena Yahaan Marna Yahaan
Film: Mera Naam Joker (1970)
Music Director: Shankar Jaikishen
Lyricist: Shailendra

This is perhaps the most parodied song across offices in India, often sung with biting sarcasm at the conditions of our employment and our helplessness. And yet, this is a song that rises above all that. In many ways, the song is the ultimate tribute to the people who work tirelessly in the cinematic industry. The enchantment with the silver screen and the spotlight never dies down, irrespective of the tribulations one faces. It is also the final salute from Raj Kapoor, the eternal showman. Mera Naam Joker bombed badly at the box office but the magic of Raj Kapoor hasn’t faded an iota.

4. Main Pal Do Pal Ka Shayar Hoon
Film: Kabhie Kabhie (1976)
Music Director: Khayyam
Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

When they hear the name of the movie, most people don’t immediately recollect this song. The title track, Kabhie Kabhie, was a runaway hit when the film released. Yet, in an album brimming with such memorable numbers, Main Pal Do Pal… stands out for its writing (the great Sahir Ludhianvi) and the rendition – Mukesh, unusually voicing songs in the movie for Amitabh Bachchan. Kabhie Kabhie set the bar as far as music goes for Yash Chopra movies and it was a high that only Silsila could truly match. Sahir Ludhianvi, perhaps captured the passing of an age in his memorable lines – Mashroof zamaana mere liye kyon waqt apna barbaad karein (Why should a busy world waste its time listening to me?).


 

5. Naam Gum Jaayega
Film: Kinara (1977)
Music: RD Burman
Lyricist: Gulzar

For any film buff, Gulzar’s lyrics are hardest to define. His songs aren’t quite poetry, in the conventional way. Instead, they are conversations (Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikva, Mera Kuch Saaman). Yet, for all the complex emotions that are packed into his poetry, Gulzar’s songs remain disarmingly simple. Naam Gum Jaayega is wistful contemplation at its best. There is a sense of loss, but the optimism lingers.  This may have made for a great Gulzar tribute, but it is Pancham’s song – a hark to his voice, his melodies, and the joy they bring when you accidentally bump into them in the midst of Black-Eyed Peas and Green Day on the iPod playlist.

 

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