A couple of weeks back, I saw a tweet announcing an upcoming book that piqued my curiosity. I wanted to get my hands on it right then. The book was titled Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, a compilation of 50 classic Hindi film songs from the period 1935 to 1993. And it had a still of Nutan and Dev Anand on the cover! Considering the time I have spent making song lists on this blog, I remember thinking – Wow, only 50 songs over a period of 70 years? What a task for the authors!
Also, the names of the authors sounded familiar but I could not place it then. Anirudha Bhattacharjee and Balaji Vittal had written a much acclaimed book on R.D. Burman years back – a book I had read and enjoyed at that point in time. (Note to self – Read the book again now.)
Earlier this week, it landed in my mail box and I finally got my hands on it. I do not skim through books in general, instead take my time and savour each page – especially if it is a much awaited and wanted book. However, in this case, the first thing I did was to see which were the chosen 50 songs. Once that was done, I started reading and re-reading the book.
And what a book it is! No, it is not just a subjective compilation of 50 classic songs. Yes the choice is subjective but what gives this book that extra edge is the authors’ deep knowledge of musical traditions (Hindustani, Western) and their meticulous research. Detailed interviews with musical personalities who would have been associated with these legends have been conducted and their reading list at the end of the book is fairly exhaustive.
Peppered with interesting anecdotes, many back stories and trivia, this book is an incisive analysis of how these chosen songs contributed to the overall development of Hindi film music.
One of the opening chapters is an interesting excerpt from Pankaj Kumar Mallick’s autobiography, Amar Jug Amar Gaan (translated from Bengali by the authors specially for this book). It recounts a not so well known anecdote which was to lead to the birth of playback singing in cinema. With this, the authors then launch into their selection of 50 songs from the period of 1935-1993.
No, I am not going to mention the songs chosen – do buy and read the book for that – but I will say that some of the usual suspects are very much there!
Do I agree with all their choices? No. In particular, I would have picked a different song from the legendary classic movie Pyaasa than the one picked by the authors. Similarly, the song from Khamoshi which makes the cut for this book would not have a found mention if I were to have made such a list. The song I would have picked would have been another one from Khamoshi. Also, Aage bhi Jaane na tu (Waqt), one of my all-time personal favourites, would have been in my top 50 songs list. It is not listed in this book. (And yes that was a disappointment! ) In fact, Ravi is conspicuously missing from the book and the authors acknowledge this in their introductory note.
Each song listed is accompanied by a back story sometimes related to how it was composed, a tidbit and an in-depth analysis of its music. The song is also placed in the context of the movie and special attention is paid to its picturisation.
One thing that made this book even more engrossing was that there was a parallel dialogue going on (in my head) about my own list of Top 50 songs. (Yes, I plan to have this in one of my upcoming posts – though the choice selection will not be based on this much erudition!) And then there were the interesting back stories and little tidbits of trivia – some known and some new. I did not know that Aradhana had been first named Subah pyar ki (Taken from a lovely song from Shakti Samanta’s previous movie!). Or for that matter, Hum Dono had been titled Full Boots. One little bit of info that was new to me was how S.D. Burman had been inspired by the tune of a single line of our national anthem and had used it in a song so delicately! The whole book is splattered by such little bits of trivia like this, making it a quizzer’s delight. Not surprising because one of the authors is an avid quizzer!
This book is a minefield of information – meticulously researched and engagingly scripted. I read it in spurts as I commuted from Gurgaon to Delhi. One thing that I plan to do over the next few days, if time permits, would be to read the book while playing the songs in the background. That would help me understand the underlying the musical technicalities detailed in the book.
Reading this book was indeed a pleasurable experience, not marred by either the fact that one’s own favourites are missing from the book or by a couple of bloopers that have been missed during the proofreading stage. What would have enhanced this book is the use of a suitable referencing style. Many sources have been quoted and referred to, so had a referencing style been used, the book would be a reference point for students of cultural and film studies.
In short, if you love Hindi film songs, this book is highly recommended and a must-buy!