Last week, we began a new series on Hindi film songs composed by Hindustani musicians. I have planned this as a short series to make a limited point that Hindustani musicians have been involved with cinema for a variety of reasons. Their roles have been diverse in this field, and they have extended their boundaries by engaging with this medium, quite in contrast to the popular notion of Hindustani musicians leading a cloistered existence.
In fact, many puritans among Hindustani musicians believe that an involvement with another medium or with another musical form other than those existing in Hindustani music is best avoided and discouraged. Some accept, howsoever grudgingly, that each musical form has its importance and individual space.
On the positive side, their apprehension about an engagement across musical forms or media has to do with a belief that it ought to be of a serious nature and not a casual dabbling for the sake of novelty. At any rate, whatever may be the motivations or apprehensions, musicians, some if not all, will participate in musical dialogues across forms and cultures.
I have deliberately avoided a musical analysis of the composers’ work, as this would call for a comprehensive study of the body of work created by them for films. Perhaps, that can be done on another occasion when all the songs are readily accessible.
In the second part of our series, we look at a few songs composed by Shankarrao Vyas, a disciple of music educationist and vocalist Vishnu Digambar Paluskar, who worked as a music director for films in the 1940s. Music lovers will remember that Vyas along with his brother Narayanrao Vyas was also a music educationist. Most of the films for which he composed music were mythological narratives and his work for them was inspired by folk, religious and art music.
We begin with the film Narsi Bhagat (1940) featuring the actor-singer Vishnupant Pagnis.
GM Durrani and chorus sing the next song in the film Bharat Milap (1942).
Ramrajya (1943) was another film that had Vyas as the music director. Here is a song from the film that was popular at the time.
The two songs that follow amply demonstrate the difference in Vyas’ approach to films that did not fall in the mythological category. The first is a song from the film Kavita (1944). This is a duet featuring Rajkumari and GM Durrani.
The last song for this episode features Muhammad Rafi in the film Ghoongat (1946).
One of India’s leading tabla players, Aneesh Pradhan is a widely recognised performer, teacher, composer and scholar of Hindustani music. Visit his website here.