Musical Amar Prem
|Rajesh Khanna and RD Burman during the making of Kaka’s home production Jai Shiv Shankar (1990). (Author’s collection)|
What made Rajesh Khanna “the phenomenon”? Was it those crinkling eyes? The charismatic, warm smile? Was it that nod? Who knows?
And then, who knows why his superstardom, anointed by the film industry after delivering 15 blockbusters in 18 successive super-duper hits, went on a downslide from the mid-70s?
His disarming screen presence, freshness and simplicity began to wane, when the star overcame the artiste in him, bringing in its place a sense of complacency and smugness. The same (hand and head) gestures and mannerisms that had the audiences swooning earlier now appeared “puppet-like”, mechanical and calculated.
Even directors whose films Kaka had scored in at the box office, including bigwigs like Yash Chopra, did not want to repeat casting him because of his unpredictable manners and indiscipline. Though Yash had paid Rajesh the signing amount, Salim-Javed refused to part with the script of Deewar unless the “pig-headed phenomenon” was chucked out. Yash, embittered during the making of Daag, decided to go with Salim-Javed. And Amitabh walked in — the rest, as they say, is history.
Analysts can argue ad nauseam as to what could be the reason behind the rise and fall of the superstar. What one can’t take away, after all these years, are the immortal, lilting, romantic and melodious numbers, picturised on Kaka, most of which were sung by Kishore Kumar, composed by RD Burman (Pancham) and written by Anand Bakshi.
Incidentally, both Pancham and Kaka rose to superstardom with a common film in 1970. That was Kati Patang, and as if by providence, with the birth of these two superstars the resurrection of Kishore Kumar was also enabled.
It was during the making of Aradhana (1969), however, that the trio of Kishore, Pancham and Khanna would mould a bond of friendship and professional camaraderie. While Aradhana’s fresh and melodious music was composed by the legendary Sachin Dev Burman, there is a little story behind the composition of Roop Tera Mastana. Originally inspired by a Bengali ‘bhatiyali’ tune and scored by SD, it was on Pancham’s insistence that Kishore suggested an alteration in the number to Sachinda. Kishore sang a rhyme from his childhood days — “Ektu porey soshur baadi...deeye debo ghoda gadi”. With the changes incorporated, the result was an upbeat, contemporary, jazzy and erotic number, which fetched Kishore the Filmfare award for best male playback singer.
When Shakti Samanta selected Rajesh Khanna for Aradhana, Kishore insisted on meeting him, and observing the actor’s voice, mannerisms and gestures. He wanted to make sure that his voice and singing style would fit Rajesh’s persona to the hilt.
|Author’s sketches of the legends Amitabh Bachchan, RD Burman and Rajesh Khanna|
Rajesh once mentioned in an interview that, during the Aradhana days, Pancham had told him about a tune that he had composed, keeping him in mind and that he would use it if given a chance to compose. And finally he did. The song was Ye Jo Mohabbat Hai in Kati Patang (1970), which was the turning point in Pancham’s life. Samanta decided to give Pancham a break after seeing his dedication and contribution during Aradhana. Kati Patang became a landmark in Hindi cinema. The trio — Kishore, Kaka and Pancham — seemed tailor-made for each other. Pyar Diwana Hota Hai, Ye Jo Mohabbat Hai and Ye Shaam Mastani were all sung by Kishore, and were spectacular hits.
Amar Prem (1971) was a real showcase for Pancham’s musical genius, especially his flair at Indian music, effectively quashing his detractors who felt Pancham was more Westernised in his musical outlook. Kishore’s rendition of Chingari Koi Bhadke (hailed by purists and commoners alike), Kuch Toh Log Kahenge and Ye Kya Hua was superlative.
Pancham in an interview in Movie (published in February 1994, a month after his death) says: “Amar Prem has been my most inspired film. It was a challenge in more ways than one. The film was a hit in Bengali. So I had to make it even better with the Hindi version. I hit the bullseye with this film. Of course, there was a combination of several factors. Rajesh Khanna was magic in those days. He looked so good singing those songs, perhaps if Amitabh Bachchan had to sing all those songs then, they may not have been appreciated. His image was different. Those songs fitted Rajesh Khanna like a glove. Its songs were superhits and they remain my personal favourites.”
Incidentally, the maximum number of hit songs composed by Pancham and sung by Kishore (Kati Patang, Amar Prem, Namak Haraam etc) were also written by Anand Bakshi, an ex-army officer. Bakshi was destined to become a lyricist and carve for himself a special place in the history of Hindi film music.
Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972) was the first film that exposed the chinks in the armour. The first song that Pancham composed was rejected by both Rajesh Khanna and the director, Ravikant Nagaich. A disturbed Pancham came back with an alternative tune within 15 minutes. And O Mere Dil Ke Chain was born; penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri, Kishore added the sparkle. The film also featured the melancholic Deewana Leke Aaya Hai, and Kishore was at his yodelling best with Chala Jaata Hoon, a peppy and racy number that seemed tailor-made for Kaka. Pancham had delivered some of his best creations for Mere Jeevan Saathi, but a poor screenplay couldn’t salvage the film.
Namak Haraam (1973) witnessed the resurgence of the Pancham-Kishore-Anand Bakshi lucky charm. Diye Jalte Hain was a hummable ode to friendship, with simple lyrics, but it was Main Shayar Badnaam which took the laurels. It ranks among Pancham’s best scores and among Anand Bakshi’s most evocative lyrics.
|Made for each other: Kishore Kumar and Rajesh Khanna|
Raja Rani (1973), Humshakal (1974), Aap Ki Kasam (1974) had little to offer. The only exception being Aap Ki Kasam’s music. Pancham delivered a sparkling gem in the form of Zindagi Ke Safar Mein Guzar Jaate Hain. Anand Bakshi’s superlative lyrics and Kishore Kumar’s amazing rendition made this song an all-time classic. The music was simply magical with different sound patterns signifying changing seasons and time shift. It was sheer innovation by Pancham.
The most popular number from Aap Ki Kasam was Jai Jai Shiv Shankar. Rajesh Khanna had once mentioned in an interview that he had gone to a temple with Pancham. The clanging bells had a distinct sound and a peculiar rhythmic beat which caught Pancham’s attention. The result was Jai Jai Shiv Shankar — an all-time hit with revellers.
On the other hand, there were limited Kishore Kumar gems from other composers for Rajesh Khanna. Such as Laxmikant Pyarelal’s Mere Deewanepan Ki Bhi (Mehboob Ki Mehndi), Mere Naseeb Mein Ae Dost (Do Raaste), Mere Dil Mein Aaj Kya Hai (Daag), Aap Ke Anurodh Pe (Anurodh) etc. Also, Kalyanji Anandji’s Zindagi Ka Safar (Safar), Jeevan Se Bhari (Safar), Hemant Kumar’s Woh Shaam Kuchh Ajeeb Thi (Khamoshi) or Shankar Jaikishan’s Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana (Andaz).
Interestingly, Rajesh wasn’t able to avail much of the creative partnership of the Gulzar-Pancham duo. The closest he could get was when Gulzar penned lyrics for Anand (music by Salil Chowdhury), Khamoshi (Hemant Kumar), Thodisi Bewafai (Khayyam) and Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein (Laxmikant Pyarelal). For Namak Haraam, Gulzar wrote the screenplay but no songs.
Ajanabee (1974) was a moderate success at the box office, but Pancham’s score was a chart-buster. Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se was an out-and-out romantic song, which Kishore excelled at. In Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein Pancham used asbestos sheets to create the effect of thunder in the beginning of the song. Hum Dono Do Premi had pre-recorded interludes as the musicians were on strike. Pancham even chipped in between the song — Hey Babu Kahan Jaibo Re.
Incidentally, the only song Pancham ever sang for Kaka was Duniya mein logon ko in Apna Desh (1972). A high-octane number with Pancham singing with amazing breathing patterns, this is a party favourite even today.
The ambitious Mehbooba (1976) by Shakti Samanta banked heavily on classical music, with masterpieces by Manna Dey, Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore. The piece-de-resistance however was Mere Naina Sawan Bhadon based on Raag Shivranjani. Kishore was reluctant to sing the number, saying it was beyond his capability. After a lot of persuasion by Pancham, Kishore agreed to hear Lata’s version first. After listening to it for a week, he finally recorded the song; the result was sheer magic. Kishore ranked it among his 10 favourites. Mehbooba though failed to strike gold, given an overweight Rajesh. Kaka’s tantrums also led to a rift between him and Pancham. This standoff forced Shakti Samanta to sign Laxmikant-Pyarelal for his next Rajesh venture — Anurodh. But despite a rich score, Anurodh failed to weave magic.
|Music maestros: RD Burman and Kishore Kumar|
It was finally in 1983 that Kishore Kumar received yet another Filmfare award for the Best Male Playback Singer for the song Agar Tum Na Hote, composed by Pancham for Agar Tum Na Hote. The film did just about okay.
In 1985, Kaka and Pancham came together again in the actor’s home production Alag Alag, directed by Samanta. At that time, Pakistani music had a strong influence on Hindi films, post Nikaah (1982). Ghulam Ali’s Chupke Chupke Raat Din was a big hit and set a trend compelling film producers to include Pakistani ghazals in their films. Pancham couldn’t help but comply with the producer’s wishes. The songs turned out mediocre with the exception of Kabhi Bekasi Ne Maara which was a direct take-off on Kabhi Khwaishon Ne from the Pakistani movie Mehrbani, sung by Ikhlaq Ahmad.
The other films that had the magical combo of Kishore-Rajesh-Pancham were Awaaz, Hum Dono (both 1984), Awara Baap (1985), Anokha Rishta (1986) and finally Shatru (1986). Sadly enough, none could come anywhere close to their predecessors. Kishore Kumar passed away on October 13, 1987, Pancham on January 4, 1994, and India lost her first superstar on July 18, 2012.
To quote from Anand Bakshi,
Phool khilte hain, log milte hain,
patjhad mein jo phool
murjhaa jaate hain,
wo bahaaron ke aane se khilte nahin.
kuchh log ik roz jo bichad jaate hain,
wo hazaaron ke aane se milte nahin.
umar bhar chahe koi
pukaara kare unka naam,
wo phir nahin aate...wo phir
Debasish Mahapatra picks his 25 favourite Kishore-Pancham-Kaka songs
1. Kati Patang (1970):Ye Jo Mohabat Hai
2. Kati Patang (1970):Ye Shaam Mastani
3. Kati Patang (1970): Pyar Diwana Hota Hai
4. Kati Patang (1970): Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar
5. The Train (1970): Gulabi Aankhen
Jo Teri Dekhi
6. Amar Prem (1971): Chingari Koi Bhadke
7. Amar Prem (1971): Kuch Toh Log Kahenge
8. Amar Prem (1971): Ye Kya Hua
9. Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972): Deewana
Leke Aaya Hai
10. Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972): O Mere
Dil Ke Chain
11. Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972): Chala Jaata Hoon
12. Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972): Kitne Sapne
13. Namak Haraam (1973): Diye Jalte Hain
14. Namak Haraam (1973): Main Shaayar
15. Aap Ki Kasam (1974): Karwatein Badalte Rahe
16. Aap Ki Kasam (1974): Zindagi Ke Safar Mein
17. Ajnabee (1974): Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se
18. Humshakal (1974): Rasta Dekhe Tera
19. Bundalbaaz (1976): Nagma Hamara
20. Mehbooba (1976): Mere Naina Saawan Bhadon
21. Karm (1977): Samay Too Dheere Dheere Chal
22. Bhola bhala (1978): Jhuk Gayi Aankhein
23. Red rose (1980): Kiski Sadayein
24. Kudrat (1981): Hamen Tumse Pyar Kitna
25. Agar tum na hote (1983):Agar Tum Na Hote
The writer is a Bhubaneswar-based professional painter who holds a Masters degree in design from IIT Bombay and is a recipient of the CEDAR (UK) award for noise cleaning and sound mastering. He is also the managing director of Pancham Studios in Bhubaneswar.