Saturday, June 13, 2009

If Only...

In this universe there are two kinds of people - those who are music lovers and those who are not. The second lot are more or less off our radar. They are after all deprived souls who have missed being tuned into most vital frequency of all and we will let them be (after expressing our gloating sympathy ofcourse). It is the second category of homo sapiens, the music lovers, that are of interest on MPA.

Music aficionados of this world come in various sizes and packaging - from Kumar Sanu to KL Saigal, from Adnan Sami to Asha Bhosle, they all have their admirers. But in essence all music lovers can be safely categorized into two broad bands - the listener and the critic. The first is the fellow who will listen to a song, relish it and then move on. He is person who is wholly and solely satisfied by mere activity of listening to the song. The who/what/wheres of the song hold no interest for him, only the song does. Now isn't that boring? But as the old proverb cheerfully reminds us God's abode might harbour delay but no darkness (der hai andher nahin...duh!). And so to brighten up the world, he created a second category of 'sangeet premis'- the critic. The critic is a music lover who does all that the first type does but, in addition, he has a parallel track running in the mind that provides constant annotation to his basic experience. Eg..'Note Rafi took three breaths in this line whereas Asha took only one', 'Lata's voice is thins out just between 2:34 and 2:36 portions of the song', 'did you know Kishore sang this song on June 12 1952 at 2:00 AM ?' and so on and so forth. For this creature, the music experience is never complete without being tuned into every little detail and nuance of the object of his fancy. He simply has to focus in on every electron, proton and neutron that comes within his aural space.

A favourite pastime of this microscope friendly tribe is the 'If Only..' activity. The 'If Only...' activity is nothing but an exercise in fantasy, where a music lover tries to sneak in his own sense of aesthetics into any musical piece that catches his fancy. 'If Only, SJ used a modest orchestra', 'If Only Lata sang this in a lower scale', 'If only RDB used less Lata instead of Asha', 'If Only Kishore...' , 'If Only Rafi...', 'If Only.....'

The 'If Only...' activity is the Viagra for a dreamer of any hue. Nothing is more stimulating than dreaming up the most perfect... well anything - perfect vacation, perfect song, perfect relationship, perfect anything. So what if it will never happen. It has already happened in your fantasy. I indulge in this activity quite often, esp. musically. Most of the time the thought is fleeting and disappears before I am even finished with the song. But many a time it persists and becomes wishlist. Here is a collection of some of my pet 'If Onlys'.

Cick on links against the song to view it in youTube.

1. Jab naam-e-mohabbat (Kala Pani, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Asha Bhosle)
If Only : Geeta Dutt sang the mellow part.
This thought crept into my mind when we were discussing this Kala Pani beauty sometime back and now it refuses to leave my head. Asha Bhosle admittedly does a fine job at alternating between the mellow and exuberant moods of the song. But the thought of Geeta Dutt singing the melancholic part is irresistible. It is a tune composed for her voice and she has many such scintillating songs in her kitty. This would have been a prized jewel, if only she had sung it...

2. Sanjh dhali dil ki lagi (Kala Bazaar, Shailendra, Manna Dey & Asha Bhosle)
If Only : Mohd Rafi (and Geeta Dutt - optional) sang the song
Whenever I hear this song, I feel Manna Da is so not with it. Manna Dey was a great singer, but summoning flamboyance was not one of his strong points, which is the primary reason he did not get to sing for the hero that often. He was fine singing for the hero when he was mellow and romantic, but a chhed chhaad song? Nah! Whenever I hear him sing aa jaa aa jaa aa bhi jaa to Asha Bhosle, I think of the neighbourhood uncle taking a chance with the local pataka. It is impossible to imagine Dev Anand with Waheeda. Let me then suggest that Rafi be used in this song (since the composition is in that mould). I don't have a problem with Asha Bhosle. She is more than adequate. But since she is in her 'imitate Geeta' phase in this film, why not just Geeta? So a Rafi-Geeta duet it should have been...I am swooning already!

3. Teri dhoom har kahin (Kala Bazaar, Shailendra, Mohd Rafi)
If Only: Sahir Ludhianvi wrote the song
This song somehow falls through the sieve whenever one thinks of the legendary songs in this great soundtrack. A pleasant tune, smooth singing by Rafi and a deft picturization by Vijay Anand, yet it did not make it. One then realises that the lyrics in this song fall flat. The song was meant to be a witty social comment on the love humankind harbours for vitamin M, but it turned out to be regular and run of mill song. Shailendra is clearly not in regular form here. However, this is just the kind of song that Sahir could take up and sear with his characteristic straight-talk. I would have so liked to hear what Sahir had to say on the topic. If only this song was written by Sahir Ludhianvi...

4. Dil ki umangen hain jawan : (Munimji, Shailendra, Hemant Kumar, Thakur & Geeta Dutt)
If Only : Kishore Kumar & Asha Bhosle sung this song
This song brims over with the masti quotient. However, Hemantda by nature is a little sombre for the mood of the song. He makes a gallant attempt but just does not get there. I remember a music lover once slyly commenting, 'the only attempt Hemantda makes at some masti is to sing 'jeet liyaaa' in a slightly affected style'. Geeta Dutt is in far better form, but she too does notflow into the dialogues part effortlessly. Her Bengali accent is too heavy. Thakur (who gossip mills say was Pran himself incognito!) does the finest job here. A song like this begs for Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle, the emperor and empress of the whackiland. Infact if Kishore was around Dada Burman could have dispensed with Thakur's services too. It would have been a real blast. If only....

5. Chanda re chhupe rehna (Lajwanti , Majrooh Sultanpuri, Asha Bhosle)

If Only : Geeta Dutt sang the sad version.
Another song that I am convinced was created for Geeta. Asha is wonderful in the happy portion, but cannot summon enough pathos in the sad version. Also she sings it in a fake affected style that takes away from the song. Geeta was the natural choice for this lori. If only Dada gave her this song, it had a good chance to surpass the 'Nanhi kali sone chali' legend.

6. Dhalki jaaye chundariya hamari : (Nau Do Gyarah, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Asha Bhosle)
If Only : Lata Mangeshkar sang this song
At the outset let me say that this is a sparkler of a song. Asha Bhosle does a fine job with delivering it to near perfection. Yet, it is near perfection and still not perfect. Let's play with the thought of introducing Lata to this song. What would we lose by letting Asha go? The emotion with which she sings the song is it's selling point and then there us the wonderful modulation that only Asha could do. What do we gain? We let go of an Asha whose voice is still a little shrieky in higher octaves and we get a Lata in her finest form. This is 1957 and her voice is beautifully nuanced and pristine as the snow. The emotions would be restrained, delicate and fragile. I am beginning to imagine something to rival 'Phaili hui hain sapno ki baahen' or 'Saiyan kaise dharun dheer'. I wish Dada should have given Lata this song or in the least got her to do a tandem version. Who knows, we would have another 'Phaili hui hain sapno ki baahen'?

7. O mere Bairagi Bhanwara : (Ishq Par Zor Nahin, Anand Bakshi, Lata Mangeshkar)
If Only : Asha Bhosle sang this song
One has been snatching one legendary song after the other from Asha Bhosle's kitty and doling it around, it is time to give her some stuff back. This is one song that would have sprung to life in Asha's voice. Lata, even though she tries her best, does end up sounding a little like a school teacher dispensing a biology lesson on pollination. Asha would have given this song the subtle sensuality that it begs for. And some of the legendary OP Style voice modulation? Sone pe suhaaga

8. Rehte the kabhi jinke dil mein (Mamta, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Lata Mangeshkar)
If Only : Asha Bhosle sang this song.
This is one song that I love to hum and always remember it fondly. Yet everytime I listen to it I am left dissatisfied. I finally figured out that Lata's voice quality at that point in time that does not let the tune flower. I wish that a throaty singer had sung this - someone like Laxmi Shankar or Shobha Gurtu, but they might have taken away from the accessibility level of the song. I would then settle with Asha singing in a lower octave a la 'Umrao Jaan'. This song would have hit the moon if that happened.
(Note: I am not very familiar with Runa Laila's range but from a voice quality perspective, her voice could have given the song an interesting dimension)

9. Neend churaaye chain churaaye (Anuraag, Anand Bakshi, Lata Mangeshkar)
If Only: Suraiya
Anyone who has heard Dada's own Bengali version of this song, will find it near impossible to take to Lata's version. In comparison it seems sterile - too clinical and studied. This song requires a spontaneity to live up to if not rival Sachin Dev Burman. A tall order. Given the Bengali roots of this song, Geeta Dutt would be the natural choice. But, Suraiya's voice could pick this song from the realm of the humdrum and give it a flavour that would be quite exotic. Yes, we all know Suraiya was not singing at this time in history, but as if fantasy cares.

10. Loote koi man ka nagar : (Abhimaan, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Manhar & Lata Mangeshkar)
If Only : Kishore Kumar & Asha Bhosle sang this song
This song is sung with so much of disinterest that if I did not understand Hindi I would have thought they are singing about bus timetables. Manhar got his big break with this duet. But I do think he tamed it down a bit too much. It is supposed to be a song where a couple are playfully teasing each other. It requires some attitude, some pizaaz to sound real. Yes, Kishore and Asha are the candidates of choice. As a soundtrack too Abhimaan would have benefited with Asha's presence. If only Dada was not such a Lata-bhakt in his autumn years.

11. Aie mere man mein hoon magan: (Us Paar, Yogesh, Mohd. Rafi)
If Only : Majrooh wrote this
This sountrack has considerable statistical value. It was the last outing of Mohd Rafi with SD Burman, a giant association coming to an end. Alongside it also was the first outing of lyricist Yogesh with the maestro. It is a charming collection with a variety and freshness that was typical to Burmanda. The only song that stands out as a tad ill-fitted is the song in question. If you take a tune that reminds you of the zany 'Chala jaata hoon' and then put lyrics like', 'Aie mere man, main hoon magan', the end result is akin to Bharat Bhushan dancing on 'Chahe koi mujhe junglee kahe'. This song cries out for Majrooh Saab. The flamboyance of his quill could have made it the merry bouncer it was meant to be.

12. Mitwa...Piya maine kya kiya : (Us Paar, Yogesh, Manna Dey)
If Only : SD Burman
I can never resist the temptation of dreaming up a new SD Burman song. Given the drought that Hindi Film Music has for songs in his voice, I hope I be forgiven for my over zealousness. This piece is one of Mannada's finer moments. He sings this song with a lot of feeling. Folk has always been his strong point and he's in complete control. Yet, the basic structure of the song is cut in the SDB mould. If Dada had sung this song, he would have given it the heart-breaking intensity that only he could give. What a song it could become. At the risk of being mauled I do wish this song was sung by SD Burman.


For some strange reason all but one song in the list are by SD Burman. It was not by design, but just happened. This could be because I am intimately tuned into his output or it could be that it is possible to imagine Dada Burman's music with a variety of alternatives which sets the mind down the 'If Only' path. Whatever be the reason, bottomline is that may the good Lord and Old Monk in heaven forgive my transgressions..

That ends this edition of the If Only series, another day we shall have another list. Till then keep reading and keep writing!

P.S 'Old Monk' is an affectionate way that some of my music lover friends like to refer to SD Burman. Dada Burman was often mistaken for a Buddhist lama.


  1. I whole heartedly agree with 3 songs in this list 6,7 & 10.

    For others, I'm fine with the way they are and there's no overwhelming urge to think "If Only..."

  2. Ritu, some interesting choices. You should have been around to be Geeta Dutt's business manager :-)The Suraiya choice is out-of-the-box and would have worked wonderfully. And I had a laugh at your description of "luuTe koii man kaa nagar". I don't agree with "chandaa re" though. And I think "bairaagii bha.Nvaraa" works because Lata does not go all the way. In short, don't change the way SDB did things - he knew what he was doing :-)

  3. Kudos on another interesting post. It made me recall the bunch of songs I earn to hear from a different voice. Some thoughts on some of your choices-
    1. "saanjh Dhalii" - I think the Asha-to-Geeta switch would enhance the song more.

    2. dil kii umangen - Hemantda sounds just fine. A little bit of restraint helps when the others in the song are going ballistic

    3. chandaa re chup rahna - Totally agree. I have always felt this was Geeta's song.

    4. Dhaltii jaaye - If we assume compositon and orchestration to remain constant, there is no way this could have rivalled "phailii huii hai". The song is just too..Solid. Doesnt have the dreamy feel of "phailii huii". Asha does superbly here - dont think Lata could have improved much.

    Thanks again for an enjoyable read

  4. I actually disagree about Sanjh Dhali! (Even though Mohd. Rafi and Geeta Dutt are my favorites). I actually like how the solidity of Manna Dey's voice contrasts with the flightiness of the song..:)

    Dil Ki Umange- I agree with the Hemantda part (and maybe Geeta Dutt too). He sounded like ' oh listen to my voice- it is more handsome than Pran's' No- but seriously, I usually love Hemant Kumar but not in this song.

    There are some Mahendra Kapoor songs that I wish Rafi had sung. I'll come back and post when I remember.

  5. I completely agree! Well-observed, truly a winnner for you, Ritu.