Lollywood Flashback

Sound of Lollywood: Anything goes and that’s the point of ‘Akh Ladti Hai Jab Dildar Se’

‘Dil Nasheen’ scored by the inimitable M Ashraf, has a dance number that sounds like a wedding band hard at work.

Dil Nasheen (1975) starred Nadeem and Shabnam, the undisputed dynamic duo of Urdu films whose antics and sexual frisson lit up screens throughout the 1970s and ’80s. Like Nadeem, who was the most decorated male actor in Pakistan, Shabnam garnered more best actress awards (13) than any of her female peers.

Dil Nasheen performed moderately well but given the stars was a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps this was due to writer Agha Hassan Imsital re-running one of his earlier successful scripts. Imsital wrote the script for Anjuman (1970) a tawaif story that was a huge success. Here he adds a twist or two but essentially pens the same tale of a spoiled nawab who falls in love with a dancing girl with a heart of gold in Pakistan and creates all sorts of friction and complications within respectable society. The final scene, in particular, is an almost exact replica of the earlier film.

But thankfully, the movie’s music was composed by the prolific M Ashraf. After an initial successful partnership with composer/arranger Manzoor, Ashraf was getting a reputation as a brilliant ideas man on his own by the early ’70s. He loved playing around with western instruments, beats, phrases and melodies. Many of his compositions have found a second life in recent years as collectors and curators in the West have likened his fast-paced, rockin’ and rollin’ compositions to those created by RD Burman.

Akh Ladti Hai Jab Dildar Se (When Eyes Fight With My Beloved is the first song of the film. A voluptuous dancing girl hurls herself around the dance floor and onto tables in front of a drunken Nawabzada Salim (Nadeem) and his two equally inebriated companions.

The song opens with a perfect Ashraf sound confection. Within 30 seconds he has tipped his hat (probably unconsciously, but maybe not) to the rockabilly/early rock sound of the legendary American Sun Studios, where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and a host of American musical giants got their start. The jangling piano introduction is followed by a typical South Asian accordion solo followed by some rumbling Johnny Cash/Carl Perkins-like guitar playing.

After one of the Moona Sisters – a ’60s-’70s sibling act most famous for singing fluffy patriotic songs – sings the first phrase, our ears are tickled by some quick electric organ runs and a blazing guitar that would be at home in a Ventures show. A few more lines – all pretty innocuous stuff about making eyes with your boyfriend– and still more instruments are brought in: trumpets, flutes and electronic keyboards. It sounds as if a wedding band has wandered into the studio and each player is determined to outdo the other.

As the song progresses, one gets the feeling that Ashraf doesn’t give a damn. Throw anything in there. Any beat, any sort of sound, any instrument will do. (Harmonica? Sure. Accordion? Why not.) It’s all a huge romper room of fun. The singer and the lyrics are for the most part irritations, though near the end she does manage to throw in a few heavy sighs that mix nicely into the whirlpool of sound.

Finally (and very sadly), the end is nigh and the trumpets and the electric guitar are in a dash to the finish line. Who can go faster and have the final say? Of course, it is the guitar, Ashraf’s favourite child, which wins.

Nate Rabe’s novel, The Shah of Chicago, is out now from Speaking Tiger.

A version of this story appeared on the blog and has been reproduced here with permission.

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