RMIM Archive Article "47".
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
# RMIM Archives..
# Subject: The golden age of mediocrity
# Posted by: firstname.lastname@example.org (Ajay P Nerurkar)]
# Source: Times of India (TOI), Bombay. Author: Raju Bharatan
From the RMIM Article Archive maintained by Satish Subramanian
The golden age of mediocrity
Was it not the irrepressible I.S. Johar who labelled
Vividh Bharati as Vidhva Bharati ? When he did so, all ears were
turned to Radio Ceylon. Later, Radio Ceylon became Radio Sri Lan-
ka, but still Vividh Bharati did not change. But then came the
cassette revolution in India and accessibility to popular music
became that much easier and cheaper. Even Vividh Bharati had to
get in tune with a more demanding listenership. Its reach was al-
ways phenomenal and as it added to its repertoire, the best of
the music heard in the '50s and the '60s, it picked up momentum.
Today, with Radio Sri Lanka easily available only to the southern
part of India and with radio back in the music business with a
vengeance, it is to Vividh Bharati that we turn for Lata and
Talat, Geeta and Rafi, Asha and Kishore, Suman and Mukesh - for
"Seene mein sulagte hain armaan" (with Madhubala-Dilip Kumar in
Tarana), for "Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishara ho gaya" (with
Shakila-Dev Anand in C.I.D.), for "Aankhon mein kya ji" (with
Kalpana Kartik-Dev Anand in Nau Do Gyarah), for "Yeh kis ne geet
chheda" (with Asha Parekh-Pradeep Kumar in Meri Soorat Teri Aan-
These are numbers that listeners, young and old, lap up. And
only the vintage listener is able to identify these songs as the
creations of Anil Biswas, O.P.Nayyar and S.D. Burman. The young
listener could not really care about who the music director is,
he loves the sound of the '50s and '60s and that is it.
But why does he love it so much ? Why is even this young
listener critical of the neo-music we get on those endless satel-
lite channels ?
The number of mistakes Doordarshan makes in identifying the films
from which songs are played in its Old Melodies programme is as-
tonishing. Yet, no one at DD really bothers. The older listener
does protest. For the young listener, what appears on screen is
This is the saddest aspect of the '50s-'60s whirl we are witness-
ing today. Nobody really cares for authenticity. The music has
to sound good, as the '50s-'60s music ear-rivettingly does. And
that is all that seems to matter.
The '60s belonged to Shanker-Jaikishan. This duo won its first
Filmfare award for the Lata Mangeshkar-Manna De music of Chori
Chori in 1956. SJ charged just Rs. 20,000 for producing ever-
greens like "Yeh raat bhigi bhigi", "Aa jaa sanam", "Jahaan main
jaati hoon", "Panchchi banun udti phirun", "Manbhavan ke ghar
jaaye gori" and "O tamka timba timba". Not to mention Jaikishan's
Shuddha Kalyan exposition of "Rasik Balma" picturised on Nargis.
SJ doubled their price overnight to Rs.40,000 after that maiden
Filmfare award. And, by the '60s and Ramanand Sagar's Arzoo, SJ
were one only in name. Jaikishan asked for, and got, Rs. 5 lakh
for Arzoo for scoring "Aji rooth kar ab", "Bedardi baalama
tujhko", "Ai phoolon ki raani", "Ai nargis-e-mastaana", and
"Chhalke teri aankhon se". These were songs shot with Sadhana and
Rajendra Kumar and with which the '60s generation vibed.
But when there was one song left to be completed for Arzoo, Jaik-
ishan was away in the States. The film's makers turned to Shankar
- who said :"Put down another Rs. 25,000 !" Having said that,
Shankar produced a qawwali tune to match anything scored by Jaik-
ishan in Arzoo : "Jab ishq kahin ho jaata hai"
The point is that SJ genuinely composed songs and sold them
through the '60s because, even though the hyphen had been knocked
out of their name by the stake their label had acquired with the
movie trade, Shanker and Jaikishen were competing with each other
now. Every SJ tune that Ameen Sayani played in the Binaca Geetma-
la was viewed and valued by insiders in the cine world now as ei-
ther a Shanker or a Jaikishan composition.
Why is the same quality of music not being produced in the '90s ?
It is not as though the music directors we have today are not in-
spired by SJ. In fact, Anu Malik came into films wanting to be
another SJ. But he was upstaged by Nadeem-Shravan, another duo
addicted to SJ. Anand-Milind made the big time after being assis-
tants to Laxmikant-Pyarelal. But LP themselves had been inspired
How then have things changed today ? Why has film composition in
the it ? Why is there no other R.D. Burman to create a "Naam gum
jaayega" ? What would Madan Mohan have done were he alive today ?
He would not have dared enter the highly computerised music room
of today - not even with Lata.
So mechanical has music composition become today that a Madan
Mohan would not be able to create for another Akeli Mat Jaiyo
something like "Woh jo milte the kabhi" for Lata. You had to see
the way Madan Mohan drove the musicians and the recordist.
Today's musicians, today's recordist would ask Madan Mohan to get
lost. This is the point Lata herself unfailingly stresses when
asked why the music of the '50s and Madan Mohan composition in
Bhimpalasi like "Nainon mein badra chhaye (Mera Saaya), a Naushad
creation in Bhairavi like "Mere pas aao" (Sunghursh), a Shanker
sparkler in Shankara like "Jhanana jhan jhana ke apni paaya"
(Aashiq), an S.D.Burman evergreen in Barva like "Khayi hai re hum
ne kasam" (Talash), an R.D.Burman heart-stealer in Khamaj like
"Bada natkhat hai re" (Amar Prem), would need unending rehearsals
by Lata before the music director ventured into the recording
room with her.
It is this atmosphere of diligence and repeated rehearsal that
has been destroyed. A Mukesh laboured for hours to produce some-
thing as long-lasting in Yaman as "Saranga teri yaad mein". Even
if the Saranga music director was someone obscure like Anu
Malik's father Sardar Malik.
It was when singers slogged that perennial hits were born. Not
for nothing did Mukesh make, at his own expense, 23 trips by
train, in a third-class compartment, to Naushad's home to
rehearse "Toote na dil toote na toote na" for Andaz. This Mukesh
number in Bhairavi, Lata's "Uthaye jaa unke sitam" in Kedar and
"Tod diya dil mere" in Pahadi, were rehearsed and recorded by
Naushad for Andaz 45 years ago. The key word here is 'rehearsed'.
Shanker made a vital point when he said: "To go there into the
recording room, rehearse for an hour and belt out a tune is not
my idea of music. My idea of composition is that Mukesh has to
sit me and absorb, first Shailendra's words, like "Yeh mera
diwanapan hai" and then my tune for it in Yahudi. Only after that
was Mukesh fit to record for someone like Dilip Kumar."
Today, everything is done on the spot. That is why a cassette
stays in the kiosk only until the next cassette arrives. The
music of the '50s and '60s lives because that was the golden age
of melody. Music of the golden age of mediocrity.