Friday, September 6, 2013

The Music Director Project: Post 1 - Salil Choudhary

Salil Chaudhary, or Salil-da as we like to call him, was known for his different style of tunes. He was said to be far ahead of his time. A talent which is unmatched. His skills as music director are legendary. But he was also an accomplished writer and poet, with strong socialistic messages. How many know that he wrote the story and screenplay for the celebrated Bimal Roy film "Do Bigha Jameen"?
We somehow managed to filter down his song list to 17. But going from 17 to 10 was a tricky affair. Each of the 7 songs we eliminated, would have made it in the most comprehensive lists of the best songs. We agreed on a compromise to give honourable mention to the eliminated songs.

The Top 10

1. O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayee 
Film: Parakh (1960)           Lyricist: Shailendra          Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Use of sitar in this song is amazing.  Salil-da originally composed it as a bengali song "ne jeo na". It has been said that the only non-classical record found in the collection of renowned Hindustani vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan after his death was an LP of “na jeo na.” What an honor!
Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshkar once mentioned that he was very young when he accompanied Lata didi for rehearsal of this song and he complained to Lata didi that the tune seemed like unnecessarily complicated jugglery of notes. Lata didi simply told him "you are too young to appreciate the tune. No one else can think of this tune, only Salil-da can."

2. Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai 
Film: Rajanigandha (1974)           Lyricist: Yogesh          Singer: Mukesh
Mukesh received National Film Award for Best Male Playback Singer for the song. But thats not the main thing. The line to line variations is what makes the song stand out. After a forceful line, the next one is sung very softly and then back to full force. We had been listening to this song for ages. But saw the video recently. The completely expressionless bearded male actor is a funny aside, which makes it worth watching.

3. Na jiya lage na
Film: Anand (1970)           Lyricist: Gulzar          Singer: Lata Mangeshkar  

This was also composed in bengali earlier, and sung by Lata didi. Even the wordings in the two versions have similar meaning. In second stanza, there is a two line 'sher',
'na jiya lage na..
piya teri bawri se raha jaye na'
makes you feel there is a pitch shift.. brilliant composition.

4. Guzar jaaye din
 Film: Annadaata (1972)           Lyricist: Yogesh          Singer: Kishore Kumar 

One of my constant complaint has been how rarely Salil-da has used another fellow bengali, Kishore Kumar. But the few songs he has sung for him are truly memorable. This one is another brilliantly deceptive tune. Unfortunately, the youtube video including the video track has missed a small initial part of the prelude. So we are including an audio only version.

5. Ae mere pyare watan
Film: Kaabuliwalaa (1961)        Lyricist: Prem Dhawan          Singer: Manna Dey 

There couldn't be a more soulful song for someone craving to go back to his motherland. Brilliantly rendered by Manna Dey. The choice of instruments in this song takes you to Afghan valleys.

6. Woh ik nigaah kya mili
Film: Half Ticket (1962)        Lyricist: Shailendra      
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar & Kishore Kumar

Movie half ticket was undoubtedly made for Kishore Kumar who does everything he is expected to do on screen from travelling on a half-ticket to high-jacking someone's dance show. This song is of particular importance because of the high notes Lataji has sung. These outright western style vocal notes were extremely rare in bollywood till 1990s and yet Lata didi gives full justice to the song, which was like home turf for Kishore-da. Further, you will note that although the tune is western, there is Indian rhythm accompanying the vocal parts, and for the interludes, Salil-da has used western drums. Amazing, wonderful. This would have been at number 1 in the list, except for a fact that the basic tune appears too similar to traditional European folk music.

7. Na jane kyon hota hai
Film: Choti Si Baat (1975)        Lyricist: Yogesh        Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

When you are missing someone, this song is what you want to sing. The way antara is composed, one cannot guess the progression of the tune.

8. Zulmi sang aankh ladi
Film: Madhumati (1958)        Lyricist: Shailendra         Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

This is a timeless folk song. With Vaijayanti mala on screen, it just couldn't be better. In fact, this song is like the brightest star in a majestic constellation that was the score of "Madhumati".

9. Tasveer teri dil mein
Film: Maya (1961)        Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri      
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd. Rafi

In this song, the varying pace gives it a feel of roller coaster. It starts off slower and then without any warning, you are hurtling ahead. No words.

10. Aansoo samajh ke kyon mujhe
Film: Chaya (1975)        Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan       Singer: Talat Mehmood

Chaya was another masterpiece by Salil-da. Talat was really in his elements during this period. This song has everything just perfect. Lyrics couldn't be better. The tune is exactly tailormade to convey all the layers of the lyrics and there are no words to describe Talat saab's voice in this song.

Honourable Mentions

Jaaneman Jaaneman Tere Do Nayan
Film: Choti Si Baat (1975)        Lyricist: Yogesh    
Singer: Asha Bhosle & Yesudas
Dil Tadap Tadap ke keh raha hai
Film: Madhumati (1958)          Lyricist: Shailendra    
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd. Rafi
Yeh Din kya aaye
Film: Choti Si Baat (1975)        Lyricist: Yogesh        Singer: Mukesh 
Aha rimjhim ke ye pyaare pyaare geet liye
Film: Ussne Kaha Tha (1960)        Lyricist: Shailendra       
Singer: Talat Mehmoon & Lata Mangeshkar
Chil Chil Chillake Kajari Sunaye
Film: Half Ticket (1962)        Lyricist: Shailendra      
Singer: Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar
Itna na muzse to pyaar badha
Film: Chaya (1975)        Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan  
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar & Talat Mehmood / Talat Mehmood
Aankhon mein tum
Film: Half Ticket (1962)        Lyricist: Shailendra      
Singer: Geeta Dutt & Kishore Kumar
Zindagi Khwab Hai
Film: Jaagte Raho (1956)        Lyricist: Shailendra        Singer: Mukesh


  1. Surprised to see that Manna Dey's "Zindagi, kaisi hai paheli hai..." (Anand) didn't make the list.

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