From its inception, the Clares, later renamed as Filmfare Awards, was set up as a benchmark for the best in Hindi cinema. For a number of years, when awards were still based on merit and not on a recipient’s ability to influence the system, the Filmfare Awards were considered next best to the coveted State Awards (later renamed as the National Awards). A voting system which was extended to the buyers of Filmfare, formed the basis of shortlisting the nominations, post which a jury would select the final names from the list.

Gradually, in the face of charges that the awards had become too commercial for comfort, the sheen wore off. Further, as it is today, even then there were allegations that the awards were fixed by a select group of contenders in the most ingenious manner! Bombay’s Dadar station was supposedly the hub from where the magazine would be distributed to retailers, and there were rumours of potential candidates having people on their payroll pick up as many copies of the issue containing the nomination forms, and then have them filled and mailed to the Filmfare office. The same copies would then be resold at pavements at throwaway prices.

In the years that rolled by, one sensed a feeling of great discontent, especially in the music category of the awards. For instance, Naushad was extremely disturbed when Mughal-e-Azam (1960) had lost out to Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (1960). The jury apparently considered his compositions too classy for the medium of cinema. There were also widespread rumours of the awards being manipulated by touts.

In early 1963, the office-bearers of Filmfare decided that the awards process mandated an amendment and the 8 February 1963 issue of Filmfare carried a letter by its then editor, B.K. Karanjia:

“In response to repeated requests made by you, requests reiterated by men who matter in the industry, Filmfare has made a change in the voting system for its annual awards.

The system so far was to publish the polling form in Filmfare itself. This will not now be done. Now, to make the Readers’ Poll fool proof, you will have to fill in, sign and post to us the coupon published below. On receipt of this coupon bearing your signature, we shall mail to you the actual polling form to enable you to indicate your preferences…”

The latest results were published in the same issue, but stirred up a fresh and fierce debate yet again. Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, the winner in the category of Best Film, was not even nominated for its music. However, the film’s composer, Hemanta Mukherjee, was nominated for his score for Bees Saal Baad as was Madan Mohan for Anpadh. But the winner that year was Professor, which in retrospect must have even surprised its composers, the talented duo of Shankar and Jaikishan.

The controversy reached a flashpoint in 1965, when the awards for the previous year were announced. The nominations included, Sangam, Dosti and Woh Kaun Thi? When Dosti edged out the others, there was an avalanche of debates.

Many years later, composer Pyarelal admitted to having shelled out money to secure the award for Dosti.

Come 1967 and Guide featured in the Filmfare Awards’ nomination list along with Do Badan and Suraj, which received the coveted trophy that year. While this broke many hearts, there is a logical explanation of what could have actually happened.

Baharon Phool Barsao, Suraj (1966).

To begin with, Suraj was a more popular film than Guide. Released on 3 June 1966, precisely two months after Guide, its recall value was impressive during the readers’ voting phase, which took place in January 1967. However, one wonders if Shankar and Jaikishan would have termed Suraj’s score as one which was not only amongst their best, but also deserving of an award? Be that as it may, Suraj collected all the major awards in the music category that year—Best Music Director, Best Singer (Rafi), and Best Lyricist (Hasrat Jaipuri) for Baharon phool barsao mera mehboob aaya hai.

Going by the current trend in the film and music industry, where the success of a film or a score is dependent on clever marketing strategies, one often hears how things were above board in the good old days and so on and so forth. Although the degrees may differ, the PR machinery of respective filmmakers and composers was active even then and it was overtly manifest in 1965–66 in the way Suraj’s music was promoted on different platforms. Rafi would be called upon to sing Baharon phool barsao at several functions ad nauseum. In May 1966, when Shankar– Jaikishan held a reception at Natraj Hotel to celebrate twenty-five years of Mohammed Rafi’s career, he once again sang a few lines of Baharon phool barsao.

Yet another factor which mattered and still does to a great extent involves maintaining relationships in the fraternity. As mentioned earlier, S.D. Burman hardly ever socialised. At the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Guide at Dev Anand’s home, actor Jairaj was heard discussing loudly the forthcoming Shankar–Jaikishan Night at Ahmedabad. Although this may be construed as the personal opinion of an individual and therefore natural, it did seem out of place considering the evening was about Guide.

As was well known, Burman was reclusive by nature, and didn’t attend the Shankar–Jaikishan Night in Ahmedabad in October 1966... Rafi once again sang Baharon phool barsao at the function.

Prior to the announcement of the Filmfare Awards that year, S.D. Burman was excluded from the contingent that flew to Delhi for a charity show called, ‘An Evening with Stars’, in aid of PM’s Bihar Relief Fund at the National Stadium in April 1967... Yet again, Rafi was made to sing Baharon phool barsao, while the relatively new Sharda sang Titli udi from the same film.

Tere Mere Sapne, Guide (1966).

The jury for the Filmfare Awards in 1966 included the well-known businessman (also a member of the Bombay board of film censors) Ramnath Kapoor, Vijay Bhatt, Roshanlal Malhotra (President, IMPPA), Gajanand Jagirdar, Thrity H. Taleyarkhan (prominent social worker) and P.K. Roy. The panel was presided over by Justice K.K. Desai.

Apart from Vijay Bhatt, not a single name amongst the list had any association with music, let alone judge it for its merits.

But the worst was still to come. The 1967 edition of the Cine Music Directors’ Association (CMDA) awards to promote the best film song (and not the most popular one) handed out the award to Baharon phool barsao. On 19 May, a reception was held at the Ritz hotel to honour Shankar–Jaikishan for the song.

As it turned out, there was deep fragmentation within the CMDA—and two separate groups, the ‘Bengali CMDA’ and the ‘Non-Bengali CMDA’ groups were subsequently formed. Naushad Ali once went on record to say that when he was heading the ‘Non-Bengali CMDA’, his colleague, Salil Chowdhury was heading the Bengal wing of the association, and they did not share the best of relationships.

In Goldie Anand’s biography, Ek Hota Goldie, Anita Padhye wrote, ‘Goldie told me the story, which was unbelievable. How come Guide got seven awards and Sachinda did not get one?’

The story, as narrated by Goldie to his biographer is summarised as follows:

“One day before the announcement of the nominations, the Filmfare award committee members (names were not mentioned) met S.D. Burman, promised him the Best Music Director award for Guide and demanded a sum of Rupees 50,000 in return. An indifferent Burman refused to entertain their request, and literally drove them out of his house. The members then went to Goldie and extended the offer for the film and direction. Goldie not only refused them point blank, he took it upon himself to call all the directors, the names of whom were mentioned by the people who came to meet him. The nail had been hammered— the word spread in the industry after Goldie’s call to the other directors. The committee then thought that it would be a shame if Guide was deprived of the major awards. Fearing that this could ultimately result in great harm to their reputation, the committee acted fast and gave seven awards to Guide.”

However, Guide did not receive a single award for music. This rude fact pained the Anands no end, and Goldie hit back by referring to the music of Guide as “beyond the confines of any award”.

On 19 January 1968, Filmfare issued a disclaimer:

“It has been brought to our notice that during and after the polling, certain individuals go about claiming that they are in a position to influence the giving of Filmfare Awards. These individuals are not in any way connected with Filmfare, have no authority whatsoever to speak on its behalf and their claims are palpably absurd and false. Stars, music directors, and all other ranks of film industry are requested in their own interest to ignore them.”

This disclaimer was, however, a few years too late.

Excerpted with permission from S.D. Burman: The Prince-Musician, Anirudha Bhattacharjee & Balaji Vittal, Westland Publications.