Title: Gaata Rahe Mera Dil: 50 Classic Hindi Film Songs
Authors: Balaji Vittal, Anirudha Bhattacharjee
Publihser: Harper Collins
Pages: 320; Price: Rs 350
The world might scoff at the song-n-dance routine in Hindi films, but if we didn’t have gaana bajaana in them, we would not be the people we are. No wonder, we take our films and their soundtracks very seriously. Songs make the films live long, they make heartthrobs out of our stars and some even end up having such personal relevance that in the journey of life, when you are searching to describe yourself, a lyric can magically help you unlock yourself. All the more reason why the very idea of this book can come off seeming blasphemous. How can anyone pick out just 50 songs out of the repository of over hundred thousand gems and term them “classic”?
Writers Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal, however, have gone ahead and done the unthinkable. One has to commend their bravery because there is no way that any Hindi film aficionado will agree one hundred per cent with their playlist (although they do say they are their “personal favourites”). But, they have packaged this book as an entertaining listicle peppered with fanboy enthusiasm, super research and lovely anecdotes. The book is a keepsake because the writers have told the story behind each song and packed it with delicious conversations with the team behind the songs. The trivia is worth cherishing. Let me share some with you: did you know that Kishore Kumar chose Woh shaam kuch ajeeb thi (Khamoshi) as his favourite song or that MS Subbulakshmi was originally slated to sing Hum Dono’s Allah tero naam or that Upkar could have been Rajesh Khanna’s first negative role since Manoj Kumar had initially offered him the role of Puran (he refused)?
The writers have chosen songs that are representative of nearly 60 decades, from 1935 to 1993, a wide arc spanning music composed by KL Saigal to AR Rahman. The selection of songs is sometimes contentious — for the cabaret fix, for instance, they have chosen Piya tu ab to aaja from Caravan instead of O haseena zulfonwaali (Teesri Manzil) or my eternal favourite, the hauntingly sexy Aa jaane jaan (Lata Mangeshkar’s “only cabaret” number from the film Inteqam). From Guide, they chose Moh se chal/Kya se kya ho gaya instead of Din dhal jaaye, Mohd Rafi’s soul-touching ballad. But if these are the dampners, there are some excellent surprises too in the form of Jaag dil e deewana from Oonche Log or Chain se humko kabhi (Pran Jaaye Par Vachan Na Jaaye).
Each song is technically analysed, explained and treated like a star. The writers tell us about the ragas used in the song and find commonalities between tunes. It’s wonderful to read how Rabindrasangeet has been re-engineered in so many Hindi film songs from Mera sundar sapna beet gaya (Do Bhai) to Tere mere milan ki yeh raina (Abhimaan) to Pyar hua chupke Se (1942 A Love Story).
After reading their excellent book on RD Burman and now this, there is no doubt that these writers have a deep affection for Bollywood film music. The writers adopt an easy conversational style, almost like friends at an adda session. They mention songs and share anecdotes. Would you have otherwise known that for Nazia Hassan’s Qurbani chartbuster, Aap iaisa koi meri zindagi mein aaye, composer Biddu had to take hour-long Hindi classes at Bishop Cotton School, Bangalore to be equipped enough to read Indivar’s lyrics?