The comic sequence and classical music

I had been thinking about an off-beat theme for my next post, and I found one which turned out to be quite interesting.

The 50’s and 60’s saw a lot of black and white movies where comic sequences were picturised on tunes which had their base in pure classical music. The recurring pattern was that of the hero/comedian trying to woo his lady love by disguising himself. Or it would be a dance teacher, music teacher, a music competition- any situation contrived to fit in a classical music based song, What is unclear is, was this something akin to the item numbers that we have today, as a selling point for the movie? I dont know, since I am of a later generation. Perhaps readers of the blog who have lived through that time could shed more light on this.

The songs themselves were big hits, highly melodious tunes, but extremely entertaining to watch as well. It shall be my endeavour to bring such songs to light, and focus on the picturisation and musical aspects of those.

1. Kanha Ja Re –  Tel Maalish Boot Polish-(1961) –Raag Kedar

Chandrashekhar and Agha have a gala time. Although Agha appears briefly in the mukhda, he makes a big impact to the comical aspect of the song. The carelessly stitched-in moustache and Chandrashekhar’s facial expressions contribute to the comic element.

As for the music, this is an exceptional composition  by Chitragupta, oozing with the flavour of Kedar – his initial training under S.N.Tripathi standing him in good stead. As usual, Lata’s voice has the characteristic Chitragupta sweetness, and Manna Dey-well no words to describe him.

2.Ajahuna Aaye – Saanjh Aur Savera(1964) – Raag Kalyanavasantha (Shyam Kauns)

This song epitomises the antithetic concept of a comic sequence wrapped in a classical tune. There is so much fun in the picturisation of the song, Mehmood and Shubha Khote do a great job, but a lot of credit must go to Hrishikesh Mukherjee, who is the director ,who gave us such great comedies later.

This is a composition in Raag Shyam Kauns, close to Chandrakauns, but has a sampoorna structure in the avaroh (Keerawani scale), which differentiates it from Chandrakauns. (If the jargon is too heavy for the readers, then please stay tuned, I shall be covering these aspects in later posts).

3. Phool Gendwa Na Maaro  Dooj Ka Chand(1964) – Raag Bhairavi

Agha at his comic best, in this filmy adaptation of the traditional thumri in Bhairavi. Music by Roshan, lyrics by Sahir. Manna Da in full flow.

Few people are aware of this priceless rendering by Rasoolan Bai in the year 1935, where she has sung this thumri. I rate it as one of the altime best renderings in Bhairavi.

4.Akhiyan Sang Akhiyan – Bada Admi(1961) – Raag Malkauns

Picturised on a handsome Subbiraj, this gem of a song deserved a better picturisation, surely. I am not sure what Subbiraj is doing here, I can only assume he is trying to be comic. The dance is terrible, the lip-sync , the body moments of the dancer and the singer are terrible. What stands out is a brilliant composition by Chitragupta and Rafi Saab’s golden voice.

5. Ja Re Be-Imaan  Private Sectratary(q962) – Raag Bageswari

It is Ashok Kumar’s turn to go in disguise, the makeup suits him well, and he gives a credible performance-it is clear that he has understanding of music. The comic aspect is well retained, in keeping with the lyrics, the visual is highly entertaining. Nice to see Dadamoni in a light role.

Dileep Dholakia, a very talented music director, has composed this immortal composition in Bageswari, which serves as a benchmark for the raga in Hindi cinema.  A keen ear would notice the beautiful use of the sarangi and sarod in the interludes. As usual, Manna Da’s rendering is flawless.

6. Laga Chunari Me Daag  Dil Hi to Hai(1963) – Raag Bhairavi

Raj Kapoor in a different role here, the buildup to the song is clear from the video. He has a done a great job, especially in the tarana at 4:55.  I am sure there is nothing much to be said about the musical aspects of this hugely popular composition. There is talk that the dancer is Saroj Khan, but I am not sure.

Roshan’s supreme musical abilities are on display here. He was trained under Pandit Ratanjankar, and hence had a strong foundation in Hindustani music.

7. Hatho Kahe Ko  Manzil(1960) – Raag Bhairavi

Mehmood comic abilities and musical sense come to the fore here. Lots of close-ups, great abhinay. Not sure if this is the right handling of a famous traditional thumri musically though.

8.Mein Tere Pyar   Love in Tokyo(1966) – Raag Yaman

A typical comedy song, Mehmood trying manaao-fy a roothi Shubha Khote. My word-the two made such a wonderful pair. Lovely picturisation.

This is a favourite of mine from Love in Tokyo, this song has been overshadowed by other hits in this movie. When I heard it for the first time on tape, I could tell that this must have been picturised on a comedian. Thats because there is a strong element of comedy in the music itself, and Manna Dey has done a wonderful job.

One of the rare occasions where Yaman has been used in such a light mode, and it is a delight. Shankar Jaikishen are the music directors.

Thats it then-this is my list. It has been a Manna Da festival of sorts; it had to be, for he had the best training in classical music and hence most of the difficult songs which required that knowledge were recorded by him.

It would be interesting to see if there were any songs recorded with a female voice picturised on a comedy sequence featuring an actress.

Whats on your list?

18 Comments

  1. ASHOK M VAISHNAV said,

    December 25, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Well done, on indeed an interesting genre of hindi film music.

    50s and 60s was the period when [so-called] beggar songs – Tumhare Hain Tum Se Daya Maangte Hain – Boot Polish and the like, songs on horse carriage [तांगेवाले] were being used with great elan and melody.

    Would suggest to do research on these topics.

    • December 25, 2011 at 9:45 am

      Glad that you liked my post🙂.
      The 50’s and 60’s were rich with beggar songs, and some of them went on to become big hits. I do intend to write a post on beggar songs in the future. Music director Ravi is jokingly referred to as the king of beggar songs, for he teamed up with Sahir(given Sahir’s communist ideal) to produce compositions that were rich in musical and lyrical content.
      The beggar community is known to carry with them a rich legacy of folk tunes of the last 3-4 centuries, tunes that were a part of the folk music of the time. I need to do research on this subject.

  2. December 25, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Karthik ji,
    This really is a novel combination and very intersting too.
    keep it up.
    -Arunkumar Deshmukh

  3. dustedoff said,

    December 26, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Such an unusual theme for a post, Karthik! Liked it a lot, though I must admit I all that jargon did go right over my head.😉

    Does Ek chatur naar count?

    • dustedoff said,

      December 26, 2011 at 6:19 am

      P.S. And there’s Manna Dey again in Ek chatur naar!

  4. December 26, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Thanks DO!🙂
    It could, but since the blog focuses on the 50’s and the 60’s (and earlier) like yours does, I omitted it. The other good one in the early 70’s was “Aayo Kahaan se Ghanshyam” picturised on Om Prakash🙂

  5. December 27, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Oh, I have always been under the impression that Padosan is a 1970’s movie!! Of course it counts🙂, apologies DO!!

  6. harvey said,

    December 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Wow, what a list and lots of new discoveries for me.
    My fav Laga chunari me daag is also there!
    Absolutely loved this post. Will be coming here often to listen to the songs!

    Would Sa Sa Sa Sa Re from Naughty Boy (1962) qualify?

    Does zara man ki kiwadiya khol from Kohinoor count? It has the situation.

    • December 29, 2011 at 12:04 am

      Glad that you liked the post, I was sure you would🙂 Ah yes, Zara Man ki Kewadiya would surely count, and even though there is a fair mix of ragas, the mukhda is based on Tilak Kamod.

  7. Anu Warrier said,

    December 31, 2011 at 5:28 am

    This does not have anyone disguising themselves, but the situation is comic because of the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the visuals.
    Kali ghodi dwar khadi from Chashme Buddoor

    The raga is Kafi.

    My husband has disappeared to sleep, so I can’t ask him for more examples.🙂

  8. December 31, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Welcome Anu🙂
    Thats a lovely Kafi! I was focusing on the 50s and 60’s in my blog and had to omit out several works of RajKamal with a heavy heart.😦 . He had some great numbers like “Dekho Kanha Nahin Maanat” in Gaud Sarang (Payal Ki Jhankaar), “Bole to Bansuri” (savan Ko Aane do) in Kedar etc.

  9. harvey said,

    January 21, 2012 at 8:48 am

    Somehow this songs fits in here as well. I don’t know if it is a comic scene, but Shammi’s disguise and facial contortions are meant to bee comic, I think, but I can’t laugh. The song though is good!

    cham cham baje re payaliya from Jane Anjaane. The film was released in 1971, but it does have that 60s touch.😉

  10. Bhuvanesh said,

    February 26, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    Nice selection!

  11. Kritika said,

    May 13, 2012 at 8:50 am

    Hi, I am new to this blog, and a lover of old hindi music. I think this song deserves to be on the list, and I think it is in Adana maybe? (total amateur in the classical music scene) Manna Dey was surely the most versatile singer!


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