After seeing the same old boring covers on Rahul Mahajan, reservations et al in all magazines, it was a refreshing change to see Outlook devote its June 26 issue to a special on Hindi film music. Bollywood songs are our nation’s lifeline, the one factor that unites us as much as the ubiquitous stink of our railway stations. Chandan Mitra’s piece It’s Bombay, My Jaan was an excellent trip down memory lane, but with a few errors. O.P. Nayyar is Omkar Prasad, not Omkar Prakash Nayyar. Mere Sanam did not have any song with hoofbeats. Dharamputra had N. Dutta, not Ravi as music director; the song Beqarar dil is not from Door Ka Raahi. Gulzar’s interview ‘Lyrics today aren’t poetry, just bad prose’ was fantastic, at the same time Pt Shiv Kumar Sharma disappointed.
R.B. Siddhanti, Gurgaon
A CD of Bollywood’s top 10 songs cradled in the magazine! What a gift for a 50-year-old woman drawn endlessly to nostalgia! Beginning with Kaifi Azmi’s lyrical ode to romance—Waqt Ne Kiya—from Kaagaz ke Phool to Manna De’s Puchho Na Kaise, it was a melodious invocation of the yesteryear. Play the song again Outlook, it’s always good to relive the soundtrack of the past. The maw of nostalgia, why it can draw even the likes of Vinod Mehta!
Uma Nair, New Delhi
I am sure the Outlook jury had good reason to judge these as the best 20. For me, they are just 20 among the best Hindi film songs.
P. Silhi, Kartarpur
Wonder how Outlook arrived at Man re as the greatest Hindi song. Great, yes, but greatest? Highly debatable. More so, as you ignore two mind-blowing numbers, Kaun aaya mere man ke dware (Dekh Kabira Roya, Manna De, Madan Mohan, set in Rageshri) and Allah Tero Naam (Hum Dono, Lata, Jaidev, Gour Sarang). The modulations in both are far greater and subtler than Rafi’s in Man re (Kalyan). You also give a go-by to Tu chanda main chandni (Reshma aur Shera, Lata, Jaidev, Mand), one of the most difficult songs ever, yet rendered beautifully, far superior to Pyar kiya to darna kya, which may be more popular because of Madhubala’s presence.
Devdan Mitra, Calcutta
Your project is futile. It is like a beauty contest: change the jury and you’ll get a new list. And a beauty pageant has only 20 contestants! Here we have probably one lakh songs, a 70-year history. Consider even 0.1% to be great, you’ll have 100 songs.
T.R. Ramaswami, Mumbai
For mid-’40s film music buffs like me, your jury seemed a little wet behind the ears. Else, how do you justifiably leave out Anil Biswas’ Kismet (1943), Naushad’s Rattan (1949)? Or C. Ramachandra’s polished gems in silver jubilee hit Bhakta Raj (’43)? How can Chandan Mitra say Barsaat and Awaara mark the first revolution in Hindi film music? They did not, the above films did. And RD did not assist his unwell father in Jewel Thief or Aradhana. He did that for Chupke Chupke and Mili—I have it on the impeccable authority of my friend Hrishikesh Mukherji. As for foreign exchange, it did not start with the examples cited by Nasreen Munni Kabir, but way back in ’43 with Snehaprabha Pradhan’s Main kyun na nachun from Ladai ke Baad, based on Carmen Miranda’s Mama eu quiero. And to talk of South Indian films with not even a nod at C.R. Subburaman is pure sacrilege. It was left to Farah Khan to make the most heartening comment about Jhanak Jhanak. .. and Navrang. Only a dance-composer could ferret out the outstanding in lyric, music and choreography (by Shantaram himself, in the latter, for which the choreographers’ association awarded him a prize that year).
V.A.K. Ranga Rao, Chennai
S.D. Burman was born in 1906, not 1921. He was older than Anil Biswas and Naushad. In fact, this is his birth centenary.
Dr C.S. Srinivasan, Mysore
Surprising that the very backbone of Hindi film music—the Mangeshkar sisters—were not on your jury. And classics like Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki or Chalte Chalte (Pakeezah) did not even feature. Composers like Vasant Desai found passing mention. One also expected more on Naushad, especially after his recent demise, perhaps a whole tribute!
Arjun Narayanan, Thrissur
Chandan Mitra’s piece was engaging, but for a few oversights. For Bahaaren Phir Bhi Aayengi, O.P. Nayyar composed the silky Rafi song, Aap ke haseen rukh pe. And Tu mere saamne hai, though a Rafi classic, was composed by Madan Mohan for the 1964 Guru Dutt-starrer, Suhaagan. Again, RD’s first independent composition was for Chote Nawab, Ghar aaja ghir aaye badra, not Chandan Ka Palna. That was another 1967 RD film.
V. Upendra, Bangalore
Your issue on music was an interesting read, but weird. How can you pick out just 20 from a countless number of beautiful Hindi songs?
Ima Sarkar, Calcutta
Your June 26 issue revived memories of all those vintage classics I grew up hearing. Having read it, these words from Mere Mehboob returned to haunt me: Mera khoya hua rangeen nazara de de.
J. Jagannath, on e-mail
Your Top Twenty was all right but it could do with one or two relocations. Man re is good but isn’t as creative as some others. A few songs by C. Ramachandra should have been there.
Your poll results stun me. How could an average song like Har ghadi badal rahi hai possibly find a mention? And will Asha Bhonsle ever acknowledge the role of O.P. Nayyar in her career (‘Now duets are sung alone’)? If opn hadn’t got her to sing for Vyjanthimala in Naya Daur, she’d have forever wallowed in her sister’s shadow, talent notwithstanding. RD came into her life much later, when she was already established.
Prasad, on e-mail
Why did the jury not find any Mukesh number worthwhile? He has sung some great songs through the ages: from Suhana safar in the ’50s to Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye 20 years later. And nary a mention of Noorjehan’s Awaaz de kahan hai. Was it a conscious thought not to consider her contribution to Indian film music?
T.K. Dattaroy, Bangalore
A few things. Anhonee had music by Anil Biswas. Devendra Goel (not B.R. Chopra) was the godfather of Ravi. Khayyam and Jaidev can’t be categorised among ‘the also ran’.
Gopal Ashrit, on e-mail
Film duets being "pure surrogate sex", as Sunil Menon says in his piece Song of Amnesia, is, I assume, in the eyes of the beholder. But how does one categorise song picturisation, or explain why it never evolved into a more profound element? For all their ‘Indianness’, the songs unto themselves do define an alternate India, all its own. Classicalism, if it enters, is sporadic, and often confined to ‘art’ films (‘excuse for A rating’). The folk element too is translated into an exaggerated, grotesque, comedic entity. No surprise, then, that some great playback singing came in low-budget movies (Mai ri in Dastak, for instance). Even ghazals aren’t spared an irredeemable fate, with syrupy, dull, predictable film renditions. Form apart, what makes for a good song? A ‘natural’ melody, hearing which you feel the very sequence of notes must have always existed (as in Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam, or Garjat, Barsat from Barsaat ki Raat). Layers of instrumentation can’t conceal a poor melodic basis: harmony is peripheral in India. Lyrics too call you back, for that turn of phrase, that ‘nazaakat’. Anyway, our films were always meant as escapism. Naturally, the sound world they inhabit is also confined to them, one which can’t be found in the flesh and blood, messy reality of India. But music superimposing a false sense of order on the temporal world is not exclusively an Indian habit. It also extends to all ‘art’ music. Real life, unlike musical notes, does not arrange itself mathematically into measures, with dynamics and rules of harmony marked, or cadenza/alap and coda/drut rigorously applied. The best music can do is to provide respite, consolation, or a profound acceptance of one’s lot—from within the confines of its artificiality.
Raveesh Varma, Michigan
Menon’s hatchet job is interesting—deliberately provocative in parts, full of bon mots and displays of pedantry (I had to look up ‘bobbysoxers’ on Wikipedia). He makes some good points, but the case against film songs (if there is one outside of the fevered imaginations of deadline-bound journos) is of systematic excess. The sheer quantity of tripe is mind-numbing, but all discriminating listeners pick their favourites, don’t they? I offer some exhibits in defence of the much-maligned genre: Man tarpat, Waqt ne kiya, Chalo ik baar phir se, Jaane woh kaise, or Jaaiye aap kahan jayenge.
Vijay, San Francisco
Benegal is right (Streaming Sound). Ray had a great feel for music. Jalsaghar is easily one of the best compilations of classical music: Vilayat Khan, Imrat Khan, Bismillah Khan, Salamat Ali Khan, Akhtari Bai. In fact, I’ve grown to appreciate his movies primarily because of the soundtracks.
Adi, on e-mail
How come Theodore Baskaran missed out on M.S. Viswanathan or T.K. Ramamurthi’s contribution to Tamil film music (Jnana to Gana)? The songs T.M. Soundarajan sung for MGR and Sivaji are immortal, with memorable lyrics from Kannadasan. They’re still sung in the villages of Tamil Nadu. TMS’s songs in fact became a political platform for MGR, especially Naan Anaiittal and Aado Anda Paravai Pola. His songs for Sivaji like Thazhayam Pu Mudithu and Madhavi Ponmagalal Thoghai Virathal are also matchless, in lyric or lilt. He’s missed out on a whole era.
Baskaran’s piece disappointed. He didn’t even talk about M.S. Viswanathan, who inspired Ilayaraja and A.R. Rahman.
P.R. Viswanathan, Bangalore
Your cover was a colossal waste for us in the South. As I feared, the much-italicised Hindi was a drag. You should’ve reserved this for your Hindi edition. Or, since your group has its fingers in many pies, why not a film rag? Spare this newsweekly.
P. Verghese, Secunderabad
How come jury ne Abhi na jao ko chhod diya?
Shabari Shetty, Pune
Outlook deserves praise for its tenacity to unravel the truth and unmask the guilty in the Scorpene deal (Man Out Of Periscope, June 26). There’s been a string of stories you’ve published on the submarine scam but the defence ministry’s response has been strange. It makes conscious citizens anxious whether facts would be suppressed and the guilty come clean. Hope you’ll ensure that it won’t happen.
A.S. Mishra, Bhubaneshwar
It’s now obvious that people take advantage of relationships even in the army—ethics, integrity, fairness and consistency are just ideas to give lip service to. Ravi Shankaran may not be caught until the naval chief retires in November. The cbi probe is just a hogwash.
Amit B.C., Delhi
You mean to say the navy can afford to file a wrong affidavit! That would amount to contempt of court, no military organisation can afford to do it. What’s your proof that shows the navy has been furnishing wrong information all along? Are you trying to sensationalise the matter?
Rameshwar Dayal, on e-mail
You might consider it a Laloo achievement (U-Turn on a Train, Jun 26) but it’s extremely alarming that the carrying capacity of wagons has been raised from 81 MT to 90 without any study on the matter. There seems to have been no realisation that this 11.11 per cent increase is entirely by eroding the safety margin usually provided in such cases. It is not a question of mere cubic capacity. The hike affected by a stroke of the pen is not a matter of credit but of playing with safety. It’s not known whether the ministry’s action is based on any random detection of overload—if so it may be due to the malpractice of under-invoicing in collusion with railway staff. No action has been reported at curbing it. So, let the upgrading orders be kept in abeyance until the technical experts’ panel examines the matter. What prevents overloading beyond the increased capacity of wagons?
Rajendra Dev, Mumbai
The measures R.K. Pachauri suggests in his column Respond, But Intelligently (Jun 26) are all very fine, but the elephant in the room no one wants to talk about is why the government is running the retail side of the business as well? A PM, or in other words, a centralised relic from the licence raj era, is but one small step in the efficiency procedures required, one of which is surely the exit of government from selling fuels. Along with rising prices, the Indian consumer is also burdened with the ration shop mentality of the lpg and petrol dealers. Let’s break this monopoly—along with a few others—that the government is just feeding of to fill its coffers.
Sunil I., Ponnani, Kerala
Amitabh Bachchan is playing the victim so Outlook can go to any extent to defend Sonia Gandhi (Big B Reassessed, Newsbag, Jun 26). I am sure this statement would please Vinod Mehta as he likes being targeted as pro-Congress.
Murali Nair, Mumbai
Extremely soft-spoken and erudite, Ravi Dayal never flaunted his pedigree or status (Blue Pencil Divinator, Jun 19). Locals of my hill town used to be amused to see an immaculately dressed man with a beedi on his lips. Talking to him was always a pleasure.
Dr Anil K. Joshi, Ranikhet
Apropos to Fali Nariman’s column The Custodian of Conscience (Jun 19), sad that the Prevention of Corruption Act virtually becomes the Protection of Corruption Act in the hands of our politicians.
G.B. Srikantaiah, Bangalore
It’s unfair you should resort to idle gossip to fill Polscape. The item A ‘Slit’ Landing (Jun 26) says the Deve Gowda family owns 46 acres of land on the path of the bmic project. CM H.D. Kumaraswamy has maintained he owned this plot in 1984, long before the project was envisaged.
C.S. Krishna, Bangalore
Give the Kiss a Miss (Jun 26)? A kiss is a peculiar proposition—of no use to one but absolute bliss to two. A child gets it for nothing, a boy has to wait for it. A young man has to steal it. A fond husband has to gift it, and an old man has to distribute it. A girl dreams of it. A young woman has to conceal it. A loving wife has to greet it and an old woman showers it. Midway in life a married man tenders it as an assurance and an unsuspecting wife receives it as a renewal. It is the last in the saga of life. The kiss of Judas Iscariot hauled Jesus Christ on to the crucifix.
Prof N. Nanjunda Sastri, Bangalore
Your article was mmmmuuuuaahhh!
S. Swapna, Ahmedabad
Thank God, Prem Shankar Jha at least accepts that Dalits and obcs are socially and educationally backward (Remove the Weeds, Till the Soil, Jun 26). Yet he wants them to wait? Haven’t they waited 59 years? Now it’s time to act. You can’t endlessly suppress people in a democracy like India.