Mehekti Khushboo
Ideally, a musical biography will send you back to familiar recordings, to rehear them with fresh knowledge and insight. Such was definitely the case with me after I read Bollywood Melodies – A History of the Hindi Film Song by Ganesh Anantharaman. As a connoisseur of Hindi music I thought I had heard and read it all, over the years, as far as Bollywood music was concerned – right from listening to recordings of Mortal Men, Immortal Memories and reading of Yesterday’s Melodies, Today’s Memories. But this book was a revelation. The author has delved deep into the very evolution of the Hindi film song. His knowledge of Indian classical ragas has positioned him better to relate many of the songs to the correct raga, which was of great interest to me.
There are many fascinating details on quite a few of the great personalities that made interesting reading. Like Madan Mohan’s addiction to sophistication making him lose track of the appropriateness of the score he was composing for the film. This made his songs seem out-of-sync with the film’s storyline, though for sheer melody, they were a class apart. For instance, the song ‘Dil Jalta Hai’, sung by Mukesh, was not approved by the producer of the film Pehli Nazar. It was the singer who pleaded that if the audience rejected the song, he (the producer) could scrap it. The song created history and Mukesh emerged the winner after four years of struggle. Or for that matter Gulzar’s unusual lines that raised many a literary eyebrow when he wrote the song ‘Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehekti khushboo’ in Khamoshi, a film that launched him as a lyricist. Dekhi hai…khushboo made little sense. Many more of such anecdotes are scattered in the book which make very interesting reading.
The author is in awe of most of his subjects and it shows. There are some interesting interviews with Dev Anand, Pyarelal, Gulzar, Lata and Manna Dey; the last named is characteristically blunt when he says that RD Burman was a more versatile and original composer and that many songs credited to SD were actually composed by RD. At most points, I was so elated reading it that I had a smile on my face. Overall, a must read and an extremely useful book as a reference. – Anand Desai
(The author is an investment banker who learnt the tabla for many years and is a great aficionado of Hindi film music.)
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