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01 October 2018

In Tandem: SD Burman – Majrooh Sultanpuri

My previous post came about because Hemant Kumar’s demise coincided with Dev Anand’s birthday. Coincidentally, nine out of ten songs in that post were composed by SD Burman. Today is SD Burman’s birth anniversary. It is also the birth date of another man, who was closely associated with him – lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri. 
SD with Majrooh and Anand Bakshi
Majrooh Sultanpuri was one of the famous quartet of lyricists that included Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni and Shailendra. While Majooh and indeed, SD himself, are worthy of posts of their own – posts for another day – I decided that a shared birthday was too good an opportunity to pass up. Especially since, following his fallout with Sahir Ludhianvi after Pyaasa, SD shared a very close and successful working relationship with Majrooh.

Here, I present a selection of favourite songs that were penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri and set to tune by SD Burman. The list has been divided into 'songs picturised on Dev Anand' and their 'songs for other actors' because it so happened that many of the songs on this list were picturised on the actor.

Paying Guest (1957) / Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Though they had earlier worked together for a few songs (Geeta Dutt’s Woh sapne wali raat milan ki from Pyar (1950) comes to mind), Paying Guest marked the beginning of a closer association, one that would last more than a decade and a half.

Chand phir nikla is one of my personal favourites as much for melody and the words as for Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition. To me, it’s one of the finest intezaar songs ever written. So sure is Shanti (Nutan) that Ramesh (Dev Anand) will not come that her heartbreak is reflected in the words –
Ye raat kehti hai woh din gaye tere
Ye jaanta hai dil ke tum nahin mere
Khadi hoon main phir bhi nighaahein bichhaye
Main kya karoon haaye, ke tum yaad aaye

The heartbreak is mixed with helplessness and yet, hope that she’s mistaken after all. His memories torture her days, and though she’s sure he’s left her for another, she cannot help herself from waiting for him.

Nau Do Gyarah (1958) /Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle
A young man (Dev Anand) is forced to share closenquarters with a young woman (Kalpana Kartik) because they are masquerading as a married couple. Of course, once safely behind closed doors, the young lady makes it clear that they are definitely not going to share the room. The man is banished to the bathroom where he tries to make himself comfortable in the bathtub. And from within its cold confines, he playfully begs her to come to him for he is alone. Trusting him to stay where he is, the young woman, also playfully, responds, ‘So ja nindiya ka bela hai’.
Bin tere kaisi andheri ye raat hai
Dil mera dhadkan meri teri saath hai
Tanha hai phir bhi dil tanha hai
Laaga sapnon ka mela hai

A playful, conversational song that segues into the romantic where he completes her sentences Aaja panchhi akela hai also has a tinge of flirtatiousness.

Kala Pani (1958) / Singer: Mohammed Rafi
A young man. A kotha. A tawaif. The rhythmic sound of ghungroos, light and shadow capturing every fleeting expression on the young man’s face as he tries to entrap the tawaif – sheehse mein aap ko bhi utaare chale gaye – who’s the keeper of a very crucial secret. Voice, words, melody combine in that magical way that makes you miss – almost – the accompanying instruments that complement all three. Majrooh’s lyrics are romantic with cynical undertones. (Or cynical – with romantic overtones?)
Dekha kiye tumhe hum banke deewane
Utra jo nasha toh hum ne ye jaana
Saare woh zindagi ke sahaare chale gaye
It’s as if SD reserved his best compositions for Navketan; or is it that the Anand brothers knew their music and demanded – and got – the best from the composer? Whichever it is, the combination of the banner and composer gave us some of the best film scores from the golden period.

Jewel Thief  (1967) / Singer: Asha Bhosle
One of my favourite Asha Bhosle solos, this song has made an appearance on my blog before. It’ beautifully sung, and I love the little riffs of melody – how nothing seems to really follow the ‘rules’; the music is ‘cut’ when least expected. I don’t know what the technical term is, but the lines are all in different metres. And Asha drops her voice from the higher registers – Muhobath ki ijaazat hai toh chup kyun rahiye job hi chaahe kahiye – to the lower Raat akeli hai – pause – buhj gaye diye, with consummate ease. SD’s music complements that, the notes soft and seductive rising to those exuberant high notes before lapsing into soft sighs.

A very young Tanuja, trying hard to seduce an older man (Dev Anand) with whom she’s infatuated, gamely exhorts him to stay back for the night for she loves him, even if he does not reciprocate.
Tum aaj mere liye ruk jao
Rut bhi hai fursat bhi hai
Tumhe na ho na sahi
Mujhe tumse muhobath hai
Muhobath ki ijaazat hai toh chup kyun rahiye
Jo bhi chaahe kahiye…

Implicit in those words is a promise of something more.

Manzil (1960) / Singer: Manna Dey
I love the play of words in this song:
Hum dum se gaye humdum ke liye
Humdum ki kasam humdum na mila
The guitar, the percussion, the slow seductive movements of a bar dancer (Sheila Vaz) who seems impelled to move to the melody, and Manna Dey’s voice, which seduces the listener, not just on screen but off it as well – Manzil had some wonderful songs, and rather strangely, three different voices for the hero. 

Hum dum se gaye begins with a conversation and snatches of the song being recited in the background in a rather sombre mood. Those words change mood when the actual song begins, turning what's a melancholy emotion into a lighter frothier creation.

Sitaron se Aage (1958) / Singer: Asha Bhosle 
It’s very unlike a SD Burman song – at least, different from songs that I normally associate with SD. With a long prelude, and interesting interludes, the sound is something I would expect from say, Madan Mohan. This is a beautiful song, nevertheless, even if the orchestration is richer than I would have expected for such a song. Majrooh's lyrics would evoke that sense of wonderment at being in love:

Dil pe nahin hai aaj qaboo
Khulti nahin zubaan
Ulfat ki mauj le chali hain
Mujhko na jaane kahaan
Chanda ki chandni ka jadoo
Ye raat ye sama... 

Tone deaf as I am, I ended up recognising the tune from one of the antaras of Dene wala jab bhi deta from Funtoosh (1956) Apna bhi ghar is jahaan mein. The film was the last film that Lata Mangeshkar and SD Burman would work on together for some time, their rift having begun with Miss India.

Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (1958) / Singer: Kishore Kumar
One of the most delightful songs on this list, I love how SD incorporated different sounds into his melody – the sound of a wrench tapping against the engine, and later against a hub cap on the work bench, or the blowing of an old horn or even just the wa-wa-wa-wa-wa sounds that Kishore makes with his mouth. A teasing song, it is sung by the mechanic (Kishore Kumar) just to irritate the rich miss (Madhubala) who orders him to repair her car. Majrooh’s words complemented that mischief in Kishore Kumar’s voice:

Tan bheega hai sar geela hai
Uska koi pench bhi dheela hai
Tanti jhukti chalti rukti
Nikli andheri raat mein
Mile ek ajnabi se
Koi aage na peeche
Tumhi toh kaho ye koyi baat hai!

According to authors Anirudha Bhattacharya and Balaji Vittal, this was inspired by Tennessee Ford’s 16 Tons, but SD Indianised it enough to make it his own. Not only that, it showed how he could do more than just compose songs; he could adapt his melodies to serve the narrative.

Sujata (1959) / Singer: Geeta Dutt
There are some loris that I absolutely love – this is one of them. Majrooh keeps his lyrics simple yet comforting, while SD intuitively composes a melody with music that’s barely there.  Geeta’s voice is soothing as she sings for a young mother who’s singing her baby to sleep, her voice carrying over to the next room where a lower-caste orphan, unwillingly ‘adopted’ by the young couple, suddenly stops wailing as the maternal affection washes over her as well.

Chand kiran si gudiya naajon ki hai pali
Aaj agar chaandaniyaa aana meri gali
Gun gun gun geet koi haule haule gaana
Neend bhare pankh liye jhoola jhula jaana
Nanhi kali sone chali hawa dheere aana

Majrooh’s words are sweetly ironical, for one of the two babies who are soothed by the lullaby is certainly not ‘naajon ki hai pali’.

Bewaqoof (1960) / Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle
Bewaqoof was an IS Johar film that he launched immediately after his BAFTA nomination for Harry Black and the Tiger. The film sounds like one of Nasir Hussain’s plots with babies interchanged at birth (or not), and the imposter laying claim to the inheritance. The film may not have been a success even with Kishore Kumar’s on-screen antics, but the songs were delightful. Tu mi piaci cara is marred only by Majrooh mistaking ‘Grazia’ (grace) for ‘Grazie’ (thank you) and Kishore’s mispronunciation of ‘Grazia’ as ‘Garcia’.

This film also includes the comical Arre haan dildaar (Manna Dey, Shamshad Begum) picturised on IS Johar and Krishnakumari. The singers’ vocal calisthenics – singing the Hindi lyrics in various accents: Bengali, Tamil and Sinhalese as the listeners keep changing radio stations - are reflected in the pair’s facial contortions.

Talaash (1969) / Singer: Manna Dey
A classical composition by SD Burman, beautifully rendered by Manna Dey lending life and emotion to Majrooh’s words. His lyrics also reflect the crux of the film – lookalike women who are not exactly what they seem:

Yahan do roop hain har ek ke
Yahan nazrein uthana zara dekh ke
Jab us ki muhobbat me gum hai tu
Wahi soorat nazar aayegi char su
Kaun kya hai haan man ke siva ye koi kya jaane
Tere naina talaash kar jise
Woh hai tujhi mein kahin deewane

Abhimaan (1973) / Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Another contextual song where the lyrics reflect both the narrative and the emotions of the character singing on screen. A young wife, encouraged by her husband to sing, is at the pinnacle of her career. Only now, her supportive husband, whose success has been eclipsed by his wife’s, is suffering from his complexes and his ego. The strain on their marriage is reflected in the lyrics as well:

Tere pyar mein badnaam door door ho gaye
Tere saath hum bhi sanam mashoor ho gaye
Dekho kahaan le jaaye bekhudi apni
Ab toh hai tumse har khushi apni
According to Bhattacharjee and Vittal, the bamboo flute has a prominent presence in the score of this film.

These, then, are my choices of the moment that showcase the creative collaboration of two talented men. What would yours be? Feel free to add them to the comments.

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