Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal won the National Award for their biography RD Burman: The Man, The Music in 2012. Their new publication, Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, won the Book Award for Excellence in Writing on Cinema prize at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.
There is a reason for all the acclaim: the writers devote considerable energy and research to presenting little-known and insightful back stories and analyses of Hindi film music. Gaate Rahe Mera Dil presents the elements that went into the making of 50 iconic Hindi movie songs between 1938 and 1993. Each entry includes interviews with musicians and singers associated with the tracks. Here are five tunes that the Bhattacharjee-Vittal combination has convinced us to hear with new ears.
Gazab Ka Hai Din
The 1988 song is from the movie that ushered in a new era of romance. Milind Shrivastava, of the Anand-Milind composing duo, who were chosen over heavyweight RD Burman by Mansoor Khan for the music of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak, says, “Gazab ka hai din was composed during a drive... It was sweet, free-flowing, simply sung (by Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan) and had an uncluttered arrangement, full of interludes and refrains of the English flute and the soprano sax.” The tune was a marked departure from the prevalent cacophony of sounds, making the QSQT soundtrack a clutter-breaking album that still sounds fresh.
Dil Hai Chhota Sa
Singer Minmini’s thin and fluttery voice, AR Rahman’s simple arrangement, and the visual cuts to an idyllic village where a young woman prances around contribute to a song that has had a lasting impact on Hindi film music. All of these elements were stacked in such a sparse, fluid manner in Choti Si Asha from Roja (1992) that it made audiences perk up their ears.
Rahman did not want to work for films and preferred keyboard programming for advertising jingles. Roja’s director, Mani Ratnam, would not let Rahman have his way. Ratnam said, “Your music should be for the whole world.”
Jab Deep Jale Aana
Ravindra Jain was at the height of his fame and success when he composed the music for Chitchor (1976). The soundtrack stood out for its focus on the light classical form during a period when the music scene was ruled by Western influences, write the authors. Singers Yesudas and Hemlata took the Yaman raag and give it a whole new twist – “the romantic duet has the mood of a bhajan.”
Tum Jo Mil Gaye Ho
A whole bunch of songs in the book are from between 1971 and 1973 – Jaane kahan gaye woh din (Mera Naam Joker), Zindagi kaisi hai yeh paheli (Anand), Bole re papihara (Guddi), Chingari koi bhadke (Amar Prem), Dum maaro dum (Hare Rama Hare Krishna), Chalte chalte (Pakeezah), Piya Tu (Caravan), Ek pyar ka nagma hai (Shor).
One tune stands out: Tum jo mil gaye ho from Hanste Zakhm (1973), starring Navin Nischol and Priya Rajvansh canoodling in a taxi on a rain-splashed evening along the Marine Drive promenade. The authors note that music director Madan Mohan’s melody for this unusually free-flowing song orchestrated through a guitar-flute-bongo-woodwind-violin ensemble is exhilarating and as unpredictable as the squall beating on the windows when the lovers get cosy.
Mann Re Tu Kaahe Na Dheer Dhare
When Kidar Sharma remade his black and white 1941 classic Chitralekha in 1964, he didn’t think it would backfire. The new version in colour tanked, but it gave Hindi cinema one of the greatest ever songs. The authors praise the combination of singer Rafi, lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, and music composer Roshan, who collaborate on raag Yaman to flesh out a track about a melancholic hero giving voice to his inner turmoil. The composition is placid and the poetry philosophical, they write, elevating the song to a spiritual profundity.