Rai Chand Boral: A Composer Extraordinaire
The national award winning composer, known at the Father of Indian film music, also received the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1979 for his enormous contribution to film music, writes Sharad Dutt.
"Rai Chand Boral is Baba, the father of film music; and I am Kaka, the uncle." Music maestro Anil Biswas would invariably make this statement in mehfils, concerts and in private conversations. It was an ultimate tribute to the great master Rai Chand Boral by another genius.
Born in 1903, in an affluent and cultured family, Rai Chand's father Lal Chand Boral was an accomplished Pakhawaj player and a classical singer. Regular musical concerts were held at the mansion of the Borals, and Rai Chand was the youngest child, who took a keen interest in these soirees. Having observed his son's keen ear for music, Boral senior arranged for tutors from Rampur and Gwalior. Rai Chand was, indeed, fortunate to have mentors like Ustad Mushtaq Husain Khan, renowned classical singer of Rampur Gharana; Ustad Hafiz Ali Khan, the noted Sarod player from Gwalior; and Masit Khan, the tabla wizard also from Rampur. Learning the intricacies from these Ustads, he could play piano and tabla deftly.
Rai Chand was in his twenties when in 1927 Indian Broadcasting Company started its second station in Calcutta after Bombay. He was approached by the Company to join Calcutta station as its head of music department. This was the time when cinema was also gaining popularity. JF Madan, a Parsi Theatre enthusiast was filming his Parsi plays on celluloid. BN Sircar, an England-returned civil engineer, too, was fascinated by cinema. He produced two silent films, 'Chasher Meye' and 'Chor Kanta', and approached Rai Chand to compose for these films. He conducted live orchestra from a pit dug in front of the screen and rose to fame as a musical wizard.
When Sircar started his own company, New Theatres, on February 10, 1931, Rai Chand was the first choice to head its music department. Sircar had a repertoire of best available talented directors, Debki Kumar Bose, Pramthesh Barua, Preamankur, Atorthy and Ham Chander; cameramen Nitin Bose and Bimal Roy; sound recordists Mukul Bose, Bani Dutt and Loken Bose; artistes KL Saigal, Pahari Sanyal, Prithviraj Kapoor, Nemo, Uma Shashi, Kanan Devi, Jamuna, Kamlesh Kumari, Chandra Prabha Devi and Bharati Devi; music directors Rai Chand Boral, Pankaj Mullick and Timir Baran, on the staff.
In 1931, Alam Ara produced and directed by Ardeshir Irani, became the first talkies of Indian cinema. New Theatres also shifted from silent movies to talkies, with Dena Paona and Palli Samaj being the first talkies in Bangla. Rai Chand got a major break in 1932 with three films of KL Saigal for New Theatres. Saigal recorded his first song under the baton of Rai Chand, 'Nawazish chahiye itni'. But all these films were rejected by the audience.
Rai Chand proved his magic with Pooran Bhagat (1933), directed by Debki Kumar Bose, starring Mijjan Kumar, Anwari and blind singer-actor KC Dey (uncle of singer Manna Dey). Rai Chand stormed the nation and box office with Saigal's bhajans, 'Radha Rani de daro na bansuri meri,' 'Din neeke beete jaat hain,' 'Avsar beeto jaaye' and 'Bhajoon main bahv se Girdhari', which became the favourite of every household country wide. Other bhajans by KC Dey, 'Jao jao o mere sadho raho guru ke sang' and 'Kya kaaran hai ab roney ka,' also became popular. Same year RC Boral composed nineteen songs in Raj Rani Meera. Besides Meera's bhajans, two songs were sung by Indubala 'Piya Milan ki aas' and 'Chandralekha se shwet raat'.
After the success of super hit Chandidas (1932), directed by Debki Kumar Bose in Bangla, New Theatres produced its Hindi version in 1934, with KL Saigal, Uma Shashi and Pahari Sanyal in the cast. Nitin Bose, who handled the camera for the Bengali version, was trusted to direct his debut film, Chandidas. Rai Chand's music and Saigal's songs created a stir. 'Tadpat beete din rain;' 'Dekhat baako hi roop prem ka pujari' (Saigal); 'Basant ritu aaye aali, phool khiley daali daali' and 'Chhayee basant aayee basant karke solah shringar' (Pahari Sanyal); and a chartbuster duet, 'Prem nagar mein basaungi ghar main' (Uma Shashi- Saigal), had a fresh aroma in these musical compositions by Rai Chand. The songs of Chandidas were penned by the famed Urdu dramatist Agha Hashr Kashmiri.
Nitin Bose's favourite film, Daku Mansoor, was released in 1934, starring Prithviraj Kapoor and Husn Bano. Rai Chand composed a dozen songs including 'Shikwa nahin hai mujhko, Ishtrat kya hai kucch bhi nahin;' and 'Wo mujhse door bhi nahin hai,' in the poetry-rendering style, were highly appreciated. Then came Roop Lekha, based on Emperor Ashoka's life, directed by PC Barua. Saigal played the protagonist Ashoka and sang his immortal number, 'Sab din na hot ek samaan,' composed by Rai Chand.
In 1935, New Theatres produced a film, After the Earthquake or Inqalab, based on this natural calamity in Bihar. Raj Kapoor faced the camera for the first time in this film as a child Artist. Rai Chand asked Kidar Sharma to write a special song for Inqalab, 'Aao re chameli ek baat batayen.' The original Bangla version of Debdas in 1935 was PC Barua's classic, wherein he played the lead. Songs composed by Rai Chand, ie 'Golap hoye uthuk phute,' sung by Saigal became so popular that music lovers were seen humming this number in the streets of Calcutta. Karwan-e-Hayat (1935), directed by Pramankur Atorthy with Saigal-Ratan Bai in the lead, Rai Chand jointly composed music with Mihir Kiron Bhattacharya. This film had a popular rendition, 'Koi preet ki reet bata de hamein' (Saigal-Pahari Sanyal) and Saigal's ghazals, 'Dil se teri nigah jigar taq utar gayee' and 'Hairat-e-nazara aakhir ban gai rannaiyan,' were other soulful numbers.
Kidar Sharma in an interview with an author had narrated many anecdotes about his days in New Theatres. One hilarious incident was Rai Chand recording a live song for a film. The tabla player while shooting started playing 'dhrut' instead of 'vilambit'. Rai Chand lost his temper and shouted at the percussionist (about his faux pas), who was playing with other instrumentalists standing in a pond, and a fish had slipped into his dhoti that kept tickling him. Rai Chand, too, burst into laughter and his anger evaporated.
Dhoop Chhaon or Bhagya Chakra (1935) in Hindi and Bangla directed by Nitin Bose had created history as playback singing started with this film. It was an important event in Rai Chand's career, as he recorded the first playback song, 'Main khush hona chahun, khush ho na sakun,' in the voices of Parul Ghosh, Suprova Sircar and Hiramati. These songs were penned by Pandit Sudarshan. Pankaj Mullick had given a detailed account in his autobiography, 'Amar jeeban Amar Gaan': "Putul Da (Nitin Bose) came to pick me up. I was having a shower and singing a popular English song, 'Come with me, come with me,' by Ramon Novarro. The same song was being played in my neighbourhood and I was lip-synching at my end. Putul Da got an idea of playback singing from this incident."
In 1936, Rai Chand gave music in two films of PC Barua, Maya and Manzil. The songs of Maya, 'Gaye jaa gaaye jaa bekarar dil gaaye jaa' and in Manzil 'Sunder nari Pritam pyari' (Pankaj Mullick) were great hits. The same year a light-hearted comedy, Crorepati, came with catchy tunes by Rai Chand: 'Jo Naukri dila de' (Saigal-Pahari Sanyal); 'Jagat mein prem hi prem' (Saigal) and 'Ghir ghir aye badariya kari' (Raj Kumari).
In the year 1937, Rai Chand's music became a rage, as he composed 14 songs for Anaath Ashram, and an organ was played beautifully in 'Man prem ki jyot jala'. In Mukti he jointly gave music with Pankaj Mullick. The hallmark was that for the first time Rabindra Sangeet was used in the film. Rai Chand's compositions, 'Jeevan kya hai dil ka raag' and 'Kaise ujada chaman', became immensely popular. Pankaj Mullick's 'Diner sheshe, ghoomer deshe' almost became a national song.
The greatest success came in Rai Chand's career with director Debaki Bose's Vidyapati. And songs like 'Doley hirday ki naiya' (Kanan Devi); 'Gokul se gaye Girdhari' and Panghat pe Kanhiya aata hai' among other compositions were precious pearls of Rai Chand's treasury.
In Nitin Bose's President, Rai Chand and Pankaj Mullick were once again together. And the compositions of Rai Chand, 'Ek raje ka beta lekar udne wala ghoda' and 'Ek bangla bane nayara' became instant hits. But some films 'couldn't create the same magic of Vidyapati. Yet some of his compositions in Abhagin, 'Tumse maangne me laaj aaye' and 'Jigar ke ghaav ko'; in Jawani Ki Reet, 'Loot liyo maan dheer,' 'Kaun man lubhaya' and 'Man mein hi jo bah ke;' and in Haar-Jeet, 'Mast pawan shakhein lehyrein', 'Tum Manmohan, tum sakhiyan sang' and 'Kaise sunder phoolen ke haar,' had Rai Chand's distinct signature in these songs. In Wapas, 'Albela mastana ek hanso ka joda and 'Hum coachwan hain pyare' had the same cadence expected of Rai Chand.
Again, he came with a bang in Street Singer (1938), directed by Phani Majumdar, in his debut film starring Saigal, Kanan Devi and Jagdish Sethi. Rai Chand-Saigal duo won the hearts of millions. Although, playback came in the films, Saigal sang 'Babul mora' with live musicians while picturising the song, to give a thrust to the words with complete feeling.
Rai Chand and Saigal made history in Lagan (1941), starring Saigal-Kanan Devi. The solos of Kanan Devi, and Saigal's 'Kaahe ko raad machayee,' 'Ye kaisa annaya data,' and 'Main sotey bhaag jaga doonga,' and 'Hat gayi lo kari ghata,' were primarily instrumental in the stupendous success of the film.
After a fire mishap in New Theatres in 1941, the studio was hard pressed. New Theatres was unable to cope up with the changing trends of filmmaking and music. Bimal Roy, cameraman turned director, did three films for New Theatres: Udayer Pathe (Humrahi in Hindi), Anjangarh and Pehla Aadmi. Rai Chand composed for all these films. In Humrahi, Rai Chand used Rabindra Nath Tagore's 'Madhu gandhe bhar madhu' and used the complete 'Jana gana mana adhiyanak' in the title track. In Anjangarh (1948), Rai Chand composed a melody, 'Sansar ke aadhar par daya hum pe dikhao' (Pankaj Mullick-Utpala Sen) in Pehla Aadmi (1950) 'Taron ki roshni mein duniya nayi basayein' (Sandhya-Opresh Lahiri) and 'Ashiqon mein chhupee ulfat ki kahani hai' (Sandhya). With these songs Rai Chand remained constant in his musical journey and also composed for Hindi films in Bombay. In Shri Chaitanya Maha Prabhu he displayed his old magic again. 'Kya ho gaya, mujhe kya ho gaya' was a lyrical creation. In interludes he used the Hawaiin guitar. There were some poignant compositions in traditional Ramlila style, 'Gokul kadam ki chhaon'; 'Kajrare naina chhup chhup ghaat karein,' 'Teri preet samajh na aaye'; 'Wo gokul ka gwala tha'; and 'Nimai chand o gorey chand', were poignant compositions of Rai Chand. In 1953, for 'Dard-e-Dil' Nitin Bose's film, Boral got Lata to sing a beautiful ghazal, 'Na to din hi din wo tute mere, na wo raat meri rahi,' and in a modern style, Asha rendered 'Pyaar ho gaya mujhe.'
In Amar Mullick's 'Swami Vivekanand' (1955) Rai Chand once again used a Bengali idiom, 'Pathik akela badta jaa' (Hemant Kumar), and Mohammad Rafi's 'Hey Shiv Shambhu, hey Tripurari,' getting the best out of these singers. The song which really stood out was in Talat's voice, 'Choor karo abhiman ko merey'. This song was included in HMV's 'Talat's Rare Melodies'. His last film was 'Notun Fasal' in 1960, while his prior Bangla Film, 'Sagar Sangamey' (1959) was awarded the National Film Award for best music. His other awards included the ones bestowed by Bengal Film Critics and Sangeet Natak Akademi.
Rai Chand was conferred the prestigious Dada Saheb Phalke Award in 1979 for his enormous contribution to film music.
Two years later, he left for heavenly abode on November 28 at 78, leaving behind his immortal creations.