22 July 2014

The Masters: Sajjad Hussain

15.06.1917 - 21.07.1995
I had heard Sajjad Hussain's compositions in my childhood without knowing anything about the man behind the lovely songs of Sangdil and Hulchul. My father's favourite composers were Shankar-Jaikishen, SD Burman and Madan Mohan. So these were the names I knew. As I grew older, other composers impinged on my consciousness - Salil Choudhary, Khayyam, OP Nayyar, Anil Biswas, Jaidev, RD Burman... though I cannot say that even then I was very conscious of who composed a song. Sajjad, of course, remained relatively unknown to me. And mostly, songs were remembered by which film they were in, and who sang them. Music directors and lyricists remained in the shadowy darkness of my brain, not having much of an impact on how I listened to Hindi film music.

20 June 2014

Twin Songs

Some time back, fellow-blogger AK of Songs of Yore emailed a comment that one of his readers, Harishchandra M. Salian, had made on his blog. Mr Salian had mentioned his fascination with what he called 'twin songs' - songs which follow one after the other in a film. AK suggested that perhaps I could do a post on the theme. *

My initial introduction to these type of songs was of course the dream sequence in Awara (more about that later). My father called it a 'double header' - the industry term for two separate songs that are picturised back-to-back, but which do not fit on one side of a 78 rpm record, so Song 1 would be on Side A while Song 1A would be on Side B. My next tryst with the same scenario was Megha re from Dil Deke Dekho. Then I watched Bobby and was caught by a similar sequence of songs. As I continued to watch Hindi films, I found that songs coming one immediately after the other was not as uncommon an occurrence as I'd initially thought. But that was as far as it remained - a thought filed away in some dark corner of my brain for no real purpose that I could fathom at the time.

15 June 2014

My Father's Daughter

To me, 'Mother's Day' and 'Father's Day have always been made-up holidays. (I feel the same way about Valentine's Day, by the way.) It's difficult not to mentally roll my eyes when I see the hoopla surrounding them these days, and here in the US, there are enough people who call them 'Hallmark Holidays', as in, 'a genius of a marketing idea by a company that makes greeting cards'. I'm sure it is. But I seem to have become more tolerant of these specific days as years go by. If people feel the need to have specially marked days to celebrate their parents, who am I to quibble? It is not for me, and neither my husband or I feel that way about it, but let people who enjoy it, celebrate it - to each his own, and all that.  

So when R, my colleague from office, asked me to also write a personal piece for Father's Day for the office intranet magazine, I was flabbergasted. Me? Write about my father? Really? And she thought that was a good idea? After having heard me on the subject? But she was insistent I do it. And dashed persistent as well. So I sat down and muttering under my breath, decided to write one of my patently tongue-in-cheek articles spoofing Elizabeth Barrett Browning's How do I love thee? (Sonnet 43: Sonnets from the Portuguese) And I did. Only, when I finished writing, I realised it wasn't that much of a spoof after all. Quirky, maybe. Definitely different from the outpourings of love I read from my other colleagues, some of which really touched me by their emotional content. But somewhere in between spoofing the whole idea, and actually writing it down, my article had morphed into something that had a heart.  

29 April 2014


Directed by: George Cukor
Starring: Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Doris Nolan, 
Lew Ayres, Edward Horton, Henry Kolker, Jean Dixon
Week before last, my older son came home for Spring Break, coughing his lungs out. By the time, the week came to a close, he was down with a raging fever, bronchitis and asthma. He returned to college last week, still coughing and feverish. Only, he left a loving gift behind. By Thursday night, my throat was itching, By Friday morning, I was beginning to cough. By the time the weekend rolled in, I was running a temperature. Today, my husband helpfully told me that I looked like I had been hit by two trains. I thanked him for his concern, my voice something a frog would love to emulate. But in the interim period, I watched many movies - Ek Saal again, thanks to Bollyviewer (not!), and a surfeit of Katherine Hepburn - Adam's Rib (what did people see in this film?), Woman of the Year (a more regressive film I haven't watched in ages!), The Philadelphia Story (I didn't know James Stewart could be so amusing!) and this one here, Holiday.

20 April 2014

My Favourites: Ghoda-Gaadi Songs

I've been mulling over this list for some time now. In today's fast-paced world of cars and buses and motorbikes, the poor tonga is fast becoming an anachronism even in villages. And in cities such as Bombay, where the Victoria still holds a nostalgic hold on your heart, the phaetons have been phased out by a 2011 court order. (Or at least they were supposed to have been.) You definitely wouldn't find one of today's heroes or heroines in a ghoda-gaadi. But there was a time when the clippety-clop of the tonga meant there was a rollicking song(s) in store for us. OP Nayyar almost made that his signature tune, and Naushad (who probably introduced it) was not too far behind. Here is a post in the memory of an animal-drawn vehicle that gave us some wonderful melodies. But with some caveats. (Yes, Subodh, my 'arbitary rules' are going to come out in full force.) 

15 April 2014

The Masters: VK Murthy

26.11.1923 - 07.04.2014
This was not the post I intended to publish next. Amidst feverish work deadlines, I'd been polishing a review of a film adapted from Shakespeare. Last week, on 7th April, when I was putting the final touches to that post, news came in through my feeds - VK Murthy was dead. I had been planning a post on the veteran cinematographer for the past year and a half. It required more research than I had the time for, and I kept putting it off, only pausing to file away the articles I found for reference. Then, my laptop crashed and I lost not just my reference articles, but many drafts, lists, photographs and other important documents. VK Murthy, and my idea of a post on him, slipped into the recesses of my memory. 

10 April 2014

The Man For All Seasons

My father loved the movies. His father, my grandfather, had loved the movies. I do not know if my great-grandfather had loved the movies, but I feel sure he would have done so if there had been movies back then! I grew up hearing tales of how my father and his elder brother , the two eldest of my grandfather's six children, were often taken to the cinema by their father. Of how, while growing up in Madras, they had once gone out to see one film, found that the show was sold out, and were promptly taken to the theatre nearby and shown another new release. Of how, when they came out of that screening, my grandfather had turned to the boys and asked, 'Do you want to see ---  film (that they originally came for)?' And upon my father and uncle nodding in excited agreement, had promptly taken them both to watch that film as well. 

It was a feat that my father would repeat, many, many years later, with me. We went to watch Zanjeer on its re-release,  found out that the matinee was actually Caravan and that Zanjeer was the evening show, watched Caravan, came out, had a snack at a nearby hotel and went right back in to watch Zanjeer. (My mother was, well, not pleased, to put it mildly.) 

4 April 2014

The Mystery of the Missing Songs

A long time ago, on one of Dustedoff's posts, fellow-blogger Harvey said he had heard about a missing Hemant Kumar solo from Guru Dutt's Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, and wondered whether anyone knew anything about it. Having read about it before, and filed it away in the trivia-loving part of my brain, I commented that it was Sahil ki taraf kashti le chal. In the ensuing discussion (I have forgotten which post it was on) of other such songs, Dustedoff commented that I should write a post about them. Well, I agreed, and there the matter stood. I did venture to make a list of the songs I knew were filmed and deleted for one reason or the other. But there it stood and as is always the case with me, I completely forgot about it.

Cut to I-don't-know-how-many-months-later, when Dustedoff put up her post for Valentine's Day. In the comments, I put in Zara si aahat hoti hai from Haqeeqat; it's a song I like very much, and I rued that it was deleted from the film. She said it was there in her copy of the film. I realised I had mixed up two songs - the one missing was another beautiful and haunting Lata solo.  Just that weekend, I had been mourning my lack of ideas for a song list. This just made me dig out my list, and decide how to make a post out of it. 'My Favourites' was out as a tag, because how do you have a list of favourite deleted songs anyway? But the songs were too good not to post, so I decided to make a stand-alone post of them. 

31 March 2014

The Reed Man

Manohari Singh
Photo source: YouTube

It was writing the post on Van Shipley that piqued my interest in writing about other background musicians.  And so, I had made a list - Manohari Singh, Sebastian D'Souza, et al. Before I got around to it,  a reader, Ashwin Panemangalore chanced upon the Van Shipley post. In the comments, he said he had interviewed some of the musicians and wondered if I would like to read his articles. I jumped at the offer, since having an interview would enhance the post I planned on these personalities who enhanced our film music. So he very generously sent me a few of his articles, without any expectations about them whatsoever other than that I read them. After I did, I wrote to him to ask if I could use the articles as a complement to my articles and he, even more generously, agreed to that as well. 

Then, I went back and re-read his articles, wondering how to use them best. I first thought I could add this interview under my article as a sort of complement to it. Then, I thought perhaps I should write a post about Manohari Singh first, and then put up this interview as the second part; again, that would have made Ashwin's article just an add-on to mine. While I still intend to write a comprehensive article on Manohari Singh to add to my The Masters category, I decided to let Ashwin's article stand as its own exclusive post. 

Without much further ado, let me present guest writer Ashwin Panemangalore to my readers. 

26 March 2014


Directed by: Amol Palekar
Music: MM Kreem
Lyrics: Gulzar
Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Juhi Chawla, 
Suniel Shetty, Amitabh Bachchan, 
Dilip Prabhavalkar, Rajpal Yadav, Anupam Kher, 
Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah
Just before Paheli was released, there was a great deal of interest in the project. It was the ultimate melting pot of the purely commercial, as represented by Shah Rukh Khan (incidentally, anyone remember a time when he was Shahrukh Khan?), Rani Mukherjee, and Amitabh Bachchan, and a very different type of cinema that was personified by Amol Palekar. Reactions verged from 'Amol Palekar has sold out' and 'SRK wants a National Award in his kitty' to a genuine interest in how the project would take shape. Post-release reactions were equally polarised. In fact, I have rarely seen a mainstream commercial film that garnered as many negative reactions as it did positive ones. I hadn't seen it yet, then, and I remember my younger cousin who was visiting from India telling me he hated it - 'A woman falling in love with a ghost!' were the exact words he used, in the most disparaging tones ever. I was slightly taken aback. He and I usually shared similar tastes when it came to music and movies. 
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