WHAT makes a song last? It is almost ten years since we began composing songs for films—all kinds of songs for all kinds of films. Even this year—the year in which we have won the “Filmfare” Award for the Best Music Direction—we have composed strikingly different types of scores, ranging from “Seema” and “Chori Chori” to “Shree 420” and “Basant Bahar”.
In this long period the overall impression we have gained of the taste of picturegoers is that only an Indian song can survive on Indian soil.
We do not propagate any antagonism against the integration of Indian and foreign music. What we are opposed to is the wholesale plagiarism of foreign musical compositions.
How long does it take to compose a song ? We, on our part, take anything from a week to a year. To illustrate the labor involved we would cite the example of the musical score of the now famous dream sequence of “Awaara”.
Nobody had thought of a dream sequence for this film. The situation required two songs, “Tere bina aag ye chandni” and “Ghar aaya mera pardesi”, each of which was composed independently of the other. One day we were sitting in Raj Kapoor’s office—we had no separate music-room in those days. It was a friendly gathering. Suddenly we began making “ghost sounds” for sheer fun—shrill screams, yells and weird cries! Now an idea struck Raj.
“Why not make it a part of the music ?” Raj Kapoor exclaimed. There and then we decided to have a dream sequence, and link the two songs by a third one.
“There will be three songs,” Raj said. “A girl calling her lover, the boy caught in the grip of evil, and the final song of reunion.”
That very evening Raj brought Nargis to listen to those weird sounds we had made, and we all decided to have one full reel of musical sequence—what eventually turned out to be the longest musical sequence in Indian films.
The recording began at 9 a.m. and went on to become the most memorable one of our lives. We were all working ourselves up into a state of frenzy. Raj flitted from one end of the music-theatre to the other, inspiring one and all with his zeal. Day turned into night but all of us went on—musicians, singers, sound recordists, and Raj himself. Midnight struck—we were still at it.
From “Barsaat” to “Chori Chori” our story has been linked with the story of Indian film making. It has been an exciting time for both of us.
Once, Shanker visited the H.M.V . Gramophone Company and heard a song sung by a little-known singer. He was so impressed that he asked Raj Kapoor to get her to sing just one song of “Barsaat” instead of any of the established singers. Afterwards she sang all the songs of “Barsaat”. Her name is Lata Mangeshkar.
When we began composing tunes for “Barsaat” we used to play them to Raj Kapoor. So impressed was he with them that he was determined to use them in the film. But he said, “I cannot promise to announce your names as music directors since I have already signed up someone else.”
Still, we continued because of our love for the work. We were surprised and elated when, towards the completion of the film, Raj told us that we would after all get official billing as the music directors of “Barsaat.”
He had confidence in our work and his confidence was vindicated by the sensational success the songs achieved.
The days when we were recording the song “Ay Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal” for “Daag” also come to mind. The financier heard the song and was so disappointed that he told the distributor, “It is a most disappointing song. No one is going to like it. If I had known that the picture had such poor music, I would never have financed it!” Little did he know then that the song was going to become a best-seller.
We feel that while retaining the basic form of Indian music, one can always experiment with new instruments, Indian or foreign, to widen the scope of film music.
The use of the accordion in “Mera Juta Hai Japani” and of the trumpet in “Mur Mur Ke Na Dekh” (both from “Shree 420”) illustrate this point. However, what is essential is the basic Indian melody. Thus even in the puppet song of “Chori Chori,” there are “alaaps” and “taans.” For that matter, the entire music score of “Chori Chori” is based on familiar Indian “raags” and folk melodies.
On the day Amiya Chakrabarty died he discussed with us the songs of “Kath Putli”. The first line of a song we recorded for the film after Amiya’s death is “Manzil Wohi Hai Pyaar Ki, Rahi Badal Gaye” (“The path of love is the same, only the travelers have changed”.) Amiya Chakrabarty took a keen interest in our work.
Of the many scores composed by us, we would particularly like to refer to four songs: “Ay Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal”, “Awaara Hun”, “Mera Juta Hai Japani”, and “Ichak dana Bichak dana”. While the first became widely popular in India, the other three also won recognition abroad. We are told that “Awaara Hun” has been translated into many languages and is today sung and played in almost every part of the world. Its success has confirmed our belief that Indian film music can be appreciated abroad if we refuse to imitate foreign tunes.
We are sure that symbols of encouragement, like the “Filmfare” Award, will continue to inspire music directors to bring to the screen original and popular compositions (This interview was conducted in 1957).