Thursday, December 11, 2003

burmania: revisiting collections new and old

{aka penance for procastination}
This is a post dedicated in totality to R D Burman. Non-fans/uninterested folk can skip to better sections of this blog, or, failing the existence of any such, pay the people on my left sidebar a visit. Or leave a nasty note or two.
First up, the first edition in a slowly-but-steadily-growing compilation of the various flavours of the music that now forms a legacy of the genius of R D Burman (that last phrase also forms the title of a bowdlerised compilation of RDB works owned by HMV). A gift from Renu and Neeraj that was the opiate for a rather unfortunate setback.
<begin rant>
The question of piracy usually comes up at this point. I don't think this is piracy. Here's why. I have tried to get the original CDs. I have searched high and low. The people at the recording companies (who's capability is best summed in this classic nugget from Spock's Brain: Kirk - 'Is he dead?' / McCoy -'it's worse than that Jim, his brain's gone') are not (in general) music savvy. All they see is the big $$$. Which means having Madan Mohan's son Sanjeev Kohli at HMV soon swings the scale from 'hope' to 'black comedy'. The giants with the largest rotting catalogue in Hindi film music, HMV, have, in the past several years, been responsible for failed portals like (bearing the revised moniker that they sport on recent releases), a badly-marketed portal for creating customized CDs (including tracks remastered by a five-year-old) called and the despicable Revival series. The other music companies have gone through several name changes and acquisitions (Polydor/Polygram/MIL/Universal, CBS/BMG). This leaves a person like me stranded trying to grab the elusive CD or tape from the throwaway bin or the random store in a little alcove while the biggies display CDs of barely-clad nymphets pretending to sing songs for the family. And spending hours wondering why Indian recording companies are light years away from understanding both the artistic and business potential in remastering stuff. That's where the US rocks. Although that doesn't really help lost/endangered Hindi film soundtracks (except some DJ favourites, which manage to make it to limited-release CDs). I am willing to buy these CDs, if I ever see them. In the meantime, what do these music companies expect me to do: cook daal-chaawal (which I do without their blessings anyways, thank you very much).
<end rant>

On to the music. NOTE: track names in ITrans

1 dil pukaare: From Jeeva, a Raj N Sippy-directed daaku film starring Sanjay Dutt and Mandakini (lucky viewers of Sony TV may have caught this on a boring afternoon). This Gulzar-Pancham collaboration yielded timeless gems like roz roz aa.Nkho.n tale (the most famous song in the set), and aa jagamagaataa chaa.Nd hai (featuring some crisp tabalaa). And then we have this song. I can almost see what happens on screen, but I dread the prospect of actually watching it. A lot of Pancham songs have been ruined for good on screen. If reports of proud owners of the LP are to be believed, this is a serious exercise in thumping bass lines (the level of the thump being USP for the LP).

2 yeh tanahaaiyaa.N (Takkar): a nice sax solo against a heavy sliding bass line before thick tinkling electronic ivories leading in to Asha's vocal. I have come to hate Asha for her specious style and mal-pronunciations, but she's bearable in this one. And once the simple strong rhythm track kicks in, you can see the disco lights. Wouldn't be surprised to see some jerkass remix this.

3 kaaabul se aayaa hai (Palay Khan): plagiarism mavens will raise their ears as soon as this song opens. The opening samples the working hour from the famous Tears For Fears album Songs from the Working Chair. I don't think I'd mind this, even if I weren't a Pancham fan. The seamless blend into Pancham territory as the song takes off into a perfect picturisation/narrative friendly gypsy song complete with indian instruments blended with other siblings from the eastern and occidental zones. Priceless. Another song from this ill-fated film was reasonably popular.

4 tum bhii merii jaan (Salaam Memsaab): The song to knock you out of your seat if your Pancham hearing had been limited to the standards touting his western influences (Teesri Manzil) and indian traditions (Amar Prem). Right from the get go, this stands out as an exemplar of his jazz influences. Asha is admittedly a little shrieky as she tries to do a nightclub chanteuse. But excuse that and you have a nice brassy opening and a coda that makes you wonder why other music directors didn't employ the dormant jazz sessions musicians in India.

5 ye silasilaa (Zehreela Insaan): a cute Asha song tailormade for Neetu Singh (wonder if she actually ends up on screen for this one, if at all ... been a while since I saw this movie). The film itself deserved a little more attention (although the end was badly edited). The usual Pancham touches: percussion, tasty interludes.

6 jiya me.n tuufaan (Kehtey Hain Mujkho Raja): After a rushed opening with guitar strums, the song settles down as Asha vocalises the main melody complete with a nice zaagaa. And it's nice to note how little musical phrases get their share of words too. And there's this infectious melody that I keep telling myself I've heard before.

7 maar Daalegaa dard-\e\-jigar (Pati Patni): Touted as the first Hindi song based on the Brazilian bossa nova, this is a good listen (even though the volume is generally low). The soundtrack has a Jogiya-based Lata song as well, but AFAIK neither tape nor CD exists, and this Asha song features in a rare CD (the copout "revival" version is more accessible). Someone told me this plays as a seduction number featuring Shashikala.

8 chorii chorii chupake chupake (Bullet): The film itself celebrated the golden jubilee of Navketan films. Fronted by Vijay Anand and starring his starry brother Dev Anand, this film has promise in parts, but ends up being more of a cult favourite than a satisfying film. The songs are the redeeming factor. This song in particular rocks on screen (despite Dev Anand's irritating mannerisms). There's overlapping footage of Dev and dame with lots of psychedelic colours (the overlapping footage was done with better technology in Dil To Pagal Hai). At this point in the film, the two are drugged and doing the standard "i'm high" routine.

9 ##bullet bullet bullet## (Bullet): Another song from the same film. This one is a cornfield on screen. Dev cavorting with sad looking club belles dressed in tasteless disarray. Still, the gunshots and the funny sounds make for a fun aural ride.

10 maano maano yaa na maano (Zameen Aasmaan): This is one of Pancham's most neglected soundtracks. Every song is a gem. And the film, like every other film with the word Aasmaan in its title, flopped. The song opens with an electronic soundwave followed by a distorted guitar riff employing freaky bends, before moving into popsy territory.

11 dekho idhar jaan\-o\-jigar (Boxer): This was Mithun Chakraborty's first film production. The record/CD opens with an introduction from the actor/producer himself explaining the introductory sound bites preceding each song. A nice touch honestly done. This song was the first song on the album and also contains the aural component of the sequence that precedes it as it appears in the film. And the segment is a trivia-lover's treat. Shankar (Mithun) on the run from the cops enters a hotel where (if you pay close attention) you hear the opening to RD Burman's jaane jaa.N (nishaa) from Sanam Teri Kasam (with lyrics by Gulshan Bawra). He proceeds to befriend a patron (Gulshan Bawra playing himself) and does a bad job of the whole thing, insulting his dead mother, the crooner (who turns out to be the patron's wife) and then finally the song itself. The patron is now furious and challenges Shankar to do better. Shankar proceeds to belt out and dance to this song, which also happens to be written by GB himself (and set to music by R D Burman). My favourite part of the song is the dominant guitar riff that begins slowly and then soars in tempo as the song begins, and then reappears in the interludes. Priceless.

12 Kis ne dekha hai kal (Heeralal Pannalal): RDB's full throated rendition is worth every paisa invested in this song. Asha guests echoing the lyrics of the last Hindi song Hemant Kumar recorded before his death (aajaa mere pyaar aajaa).

13 raat banuu.N mai.n (Mangalsutra): Wonder how many people remember a possessed Anant Nag married to Rekha? There's a very very scary look that Anant Nag executes telling the audience that he is possessed, while Rekha is in the background waiting for him to come down for dinner(?). Buried deep in this story of unrequited love and revenge is this lovely duet.

14 diiwaaro.n kaa ja.ngal (Deewar): diiwaaro.n kaa ja.ngal to be ITrans-precise. The tune pops up briefly in the film, but the song never made it on screen. RDB reused the tune in the titular lament for Hamare Tumhare.

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