The May 12 release Meri Pyaari Bindu, starring Parineeti Chopra and Ayushmann Khurrana, borrows its title from one of Kishore’s Kumar’s most cherished songs. Kumar’s rendition of Meri Pyari Bindu in Padosan (1968) is spoofy in nature and mixes traditional Baul music with elements of the qawwali and the love ballad. RD Burman’s tune is comical but also has a fascinating back story.
In Padosan, simpleton Bhola (Sunil Dutt) falls for his perky neighbour Bindu (Saira Banu). She prefers the company of her music teacher Pillai (Mehmood). Bhola seeks the help of his friend and singer Vidyapati (Kishore Kumar) to win her affections.
Directed by Jyoti Swaroop, Padosan was adapted from Arun Chowdhury’s short story Pasher-Bari (Next-door Neighbour). It had been previously filmed in Bengali as Pasher Bari (1952), in Telugu as Pakkinti Ammayi (1953) and in Tamil as Adutha Veettu Penn (1960).
The actor and producer of Padosan, Mehmood, initially offered the role of Bhola to RD Burman. Burman had made a cameo appearance in Mehmood’s 1965 horror comedy Bhoot Bangla.
Burman’s comic timing had impressed Mehmood, but Burman preferred to compose songs instead. He came up with eight melodious numbers in Padosan and incorporated elements of romance, comedy and melancholy in the tunes. Burman balanced the mellow Kehna Hain with the boisterous Ek Chatur Naar and tested Lata Mangeshkar’s vocal range in her two solos, the chirpy Bhai Battur and the Khamaj raag-based Sharm Aati Hai.
In Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein, a parody on lip-synching in films, Kishore Kumar conveys the humour visually through the actions of his character. Chatur Naar plays out like a vocal challenge between two singing heavyweights, pitting the autodidact Kishore Kumar against the classically trained Manna Dey.
The tune is set to traditional Baul music. Rajendra Krishnan’s lyrics begin with the nonsense words “Hing la lain, jhing la lain”, giving it an impromptu quality synonymous with Kumar’s style. Midway through his performance, Kumar calls out to Anuradha, and is interrupted by Banarasi (Mukri): who is Anuradha?
Anuradha was a character played by Kanan Devi in the 1937 biopic Vidyapati. It was based on the life of 14th-century poet Vidyapati, also the name of Kumar’s character in Padosan. By confusing Bindu with Anuradha, Kumar was drawing attention to actor-composer KC Dey, who featured in Vidyapati as Madhusudan, a saint looking for Anuradha, in the song Gokul Se Gaye Girdhari.
Kumar was referencing Dey’s vaishnav kirtan within the structure of a parody without caricaturing the singer. KC Dey taught music to RD Burman’s composer-father Sachin Dev Burman, and was Manna Dey’s uncle. Meri Pyaari Bindu isn’t just a fun song about unrequited love, but also a heartfelt tribute to a musical tradition that produced Manna Dey as well as Kishore Kumar.