1966 was the year of Rahul Dev Burman’s breakthrough film, Teesri Manzil, produced by Nasir Hussain and directed by Vijay Anand. The first track on this list is from another film that was released the same year, a forgotten B&W melodrama titled Pati Patni and starring Nanda and Sanjeev Kumar. According to RDB biographers Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal, the composer had a soft corner for this unheralded Lata Mangeshkar solo – a companion piece of sorts to the terrific “Ghar Aaja Ghir Aaye Badra” by the same singer from his debut film Chhote Nawab (1961). This is indicated by the fact that Burman “played this number during an appearance in the long-running radio show for army men, Jaimala”, they write in RD Burman The Man The Music.
Manna Dey, unfairly stereotyped as a classical singer, got a short-lived but radical image makeover when Burman in his early films offered the bespectacled singer rock‘nrollish numbers such as “Aao Twist Karein” (Bhoot Bungla, 1966) and “Tha Tha Thiyyo” (Pati Patni, 1966). Again finding himself the voice of comic actor Mehmood, who this time plays a Bengali bhadralok in Chandan Ka Palna (1967), the singer is in great form in this next track – one that that presages the zaniness of “Bindu Re” and “Ek Chatur Naar”.
We like to believe that old Hindi movie songs have a life of their own and are independent of the fate of the film. But is that really so? Most of the songs on this list are from films that tanked at the box office. Take, for instance, this Kishore Kumar solo from the ill-fated Chala Murari Hero Banne, a film with the comic actor Asrani as the unlikely lead. (I actually recall watching this film as a kid on Doordarshan all those years ago – and liking it!)
1974 is a year in the RDB filmography that particularly fascinates me. The composer had a mammoth 19 releases that year. The Rajesh Khanna starrers Aap Ki Kasam and Ajanabee were massive hits, and their songs still rule the airwaves. But most of the other films flopped. Songs such as “Ab Toh Rahoge” (Trimurti), “Dil Toh Maane Na” (Shaitaan), “Aaye Aaye Re” (Doosri Sita), “Aye Mere Dil Bhool Ja” (Ujala Hi Ujala) and “Tumne Yeh Theek Socha Hai” (Imaan), to give just a few examples, fell through the cracks. The next track is from another forgotten 1974 film Dil Diwana, and features Randhir Kapoor and Komal (aka Poonam Sinha, Sonakshi Sinha’s mother).
There are overlooked songs. And then there are overlooked soundtracks. 1974 is also the year of the most under-rated RDB soundtrack ever – the Shashi Kapoor-Rinku Jaiswal starrer Mr Romeo. Every song in that film is worth our consideration, but I’m going for this indefatigable Kishore Kumar-Asha Bhosle number. Bhosle pulls off the awkward line “Yeh mera card hai, sochke sham tak mujhe tu telephone kardena” with aplomb. Also, keep an ear out for the brilliant Georges Fernandes on trumpet.
Given the sheer number of songs they have sung for RDB, the most difficult bit about putting together this list was making sure that I do not have more than two Kishore Kumar and two Asha Bhosle solos. I was on course, but then fate intervened in the form of this little gem penned by the late Nida Fazli for the Amjad Khan-directed turkey Ameer Aaadmi, Gareeb Aadmi (1985).
The 1983 film Kaun? Kaisey? is not listed under RDB’s filmography on Imdb. As the name suggests, the film is a thriller, featuring Mithun Chakraborty (fresh from his turn as a disco dancer) as a mustachioed cop investigating the killing of a young woman named Rosalyn.
And then there are films that never rolled or saw the light of day. The most well-known among the unreleased titles is Gulzar’s Libaas (1988). (When the film had a special screening at the International Film Festival of India in 2014, one hoped the decks had been cleared for a limited release, but that never happened). Around the same time, RDB did a movie with Jabbar Patel, a director associated more with arthouse cinema. Musafir, starring Rekha and Naseeruddin Shah, never made it to the theatres (it finally ended up on VHS) and its songs, written by Gulzar, remain sadly obscure.
The category of lost songs would also include the ones that were recorded but never made it to the final cut. There’s the qawwali from Sholay (yes!). And then there’s the excellent “Tum Meri Zindagi Mein” from Bombay to Goa. The next track is from one of my favourite RDB soundtracks of the ’80s. Sitamgar flopped but its songs, thankfully, did not go the Mr Romeo way. However, there was one casualty – a Shailendra Singh number that never made it to the film. Since I first heard it at a friend’s place three years ago, I have wondered if Kishore Kumar would have dubbed over this if the song had been included in the movie.
For the final track, we go back to the 1970s, when the group is at the top of its game. This one is a real zinger from the Vijay Anand-directed Bullet, where we get another opportunity to sample the contribution of stalwarts like Tony Vaz (bass), George Fernandes (trumpet), Manohari Singh (flute) and Kersi Lord (keyboards), essential cogs in the RDB wheel. Asha Bhosle picks it up from Fernandes and launches into the song with trademark gusto. For best results, crank up the volume. And put it on loop!