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Musical Guide for life

Musical Guide for life
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Earlier this week, I was engrossed in a deep conversation about Indian music and cinema with a non-Indian friend. He’s Croatian, brought up on a steady diet of Hollywood and European classics. Over a year in India, and he wasn’t much impressed with the local movies he’d seen. I didn’t blame him – here was a guy who read Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, and could tell Cary Grant from Clark Gable, and he’d only been shown Chennai Express and its ilk. So, I felt it was my duty (as a patriot who wants the world to see how intellectual, cultured, and gifted her country truly is, of course) to give him a crash course on real Indian cinema. I tried extolling the creative genius of Satyajit Ray for the first few minutes. My friend seemed quite eager to know more, and asked (innocently enough), “So, what sort of cinema did he dabble in? Mainstream? Were his films seen across the country…” The answer, to every question, was no. For a split second, I wanted to keep up the charade, and say yes but, couldn’t summon the heart to. And, he looked positively disappointed when I told him the truth. “So, it is true then that Indians don’t like to watch good cinema”, he exclaimed. I knew I had to come up with a quick, and solid response. After all, it was an izzat ka sawaal! And, what a response it was! 

Jaane woh kaise
Log thhe jinkePyaar ko pyaar mila
Humein toh jab
Kaliyaan maangi
Kaanton ka haar mila

There’s an extremely popular Hans Christian Anderson quote that I keep going back to, every now and then – where words fail, music speaks. That’s precisely what happened that evening. My friend was intrigued when I hummed the first few lines of the SD Burman classic. So, I played the song to him, and before long, Hemant Kumar’s velvet timbre had won him over! “Eet eez Bollywood song? Verry nice. Not crayzee, jaampeeng music like Saalmun Kahn movies”, he stressed in his unhurried, typically Slavic drawl. Flushed with success, I started telling him about Pyaasa. And, Awaara. And, Sholay. And, Guide.

I don’t remember how and when I first saw Vijay Anand’s masterpiece, although, I suspect it was one of those Friday 9 pm Doordarshan screenings, punctuated by power-cuts and Vicco Vajradanti and Nirma washing powder commercials. Because, every time I listen to Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, I have visions of Dev Anand and Waheeda Rahman smiling and then, almost immediately, cutting to a shot of an elderly gentleman in dentures saying in a nasal tone, “oho ho ho, Deepika ji, lijiye aapka sab saaman taiyyar”. Needless to say, I didn’t remember much of the film. So, when I got home that night after convincing my friend to watch Pyaasa and Guide at the soonest, I felt like a hypocrite. 

How could I ask somebody else to watch (and, expect to appreciate) something when I hadn’t?! Consumed by guilt, I quickly looked up the film on YouTube, and remained transfixed for the duration of it. And, at 183 minutes, it’s a looooong movie. Yes, I was moved. Yes, it was no less than a masterpiece. But, there was something more to it than met the eye. It had soul – one that couldn’t be seen, but could only be felt. In this case, heard. Such was the magic of SD Burman!

I’m too much of a pipsqueak to even dare to discuss the film or its music. I’m a devotee. All I can do is worship, and pray fervently that as an artiste I’m able to create something as beautiful as the makers of Guide had. Everything that could’ve been said about Burman dada’s mesmerising soundtrack has been said in the past five decades since its release. I’ll only sound like a fool if I try to add my two pennies worth. Ergo, as Guide turns 50 this year, I thought it’ll only be apt to share a few anecdotes about the making of the wonderful music that SD Burman gifted us and generations to come!

Piya Tose Naina Laage Re was a long and tough song to compose and arrange. Vijay Anand suggested SD to compose each stanza of it as a separate song, as that was the way he intended to picturise the song in the film.

SD Burman fell seriously ill during this film and even requested Dev Anand to engage some other composer for the film. But, Dev Anand was adamant and willing to wait till he recovered. Once cured, the first song recorded by SD was the evergreen Gaata Rahe Mera Dil.

Dev and Vijay Anand had first approached lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri for this film. After being disappointed by Hasrat’s offered lyrics, the brothers turned to Shailendra. Shailendra, on his part, was disappointed that he was the second choice and quoted a fee that was very high at the time. The brothers agreed and Shailendra offered them the mukhda of Gaata Rahe Mera Dil by the time they left. Wahan Kaun Hai Tera Musafir was the Hindi remake of one of Burman dada’s hit Bengali songs, Duur Kon Porobaashe. Both versions are sung by the maestro himself. SD’s genius son RD Burman assisted his father on the soundtrack.

While it is a part of Bollywood folklore that a nine year-old Rahul had composed the melody of the immensely popular Sar Jo Tera Takraaye (Pyaasa), very few know that Gaata Rahe Mera Dil was, primarily, his baby! Of course, later SD returned the favour by contributing rather heavily to RD’s Bada Natkhat Hai Yeh (Amar Prem).

Happy Birthday, Guide! And, thank you, for the music!

The author is a snotty single child, mountain junkie, playback singer, Austen addict and dreams of singing alongside Buddy Guy
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