Shining stars of Hindi film music
Music has been an integral part of Hindi films from its initial days and continues to be a key element in movies even today.
Going back to the very beginning, in the early days, the actors in the film would sing the songs in the movies, themselves. Bal Gandharv, Baburao Pendharkar, Ashok Kumar, Devika Rani, K. L. Saigal were prominent exponents of the same. The beauty of songs such as ‘Main Ban Ka Panchhi’ from ‘Achhut Kanya (1936)’ come to the mind immediately as one speaks of this era. Suraiya was an actress who sang her own songs and particularly gained higher popularity after the partition of India when singer actresses such as Noorjehan and Khurshid Bano crossed over to Pakistan. Kanan Bala also finds mention among this set. She was a singer actress who continued her career as a singer into the 1950s, and also produced many movies in between.
The 1940s ushered in the phenomenon of playback singing in Hindi movies. Music directors then started looking for good singers who could do justice to the songs lip synched by the actors projected on screen. Specialist singers emerged and subsequently gained popularity. Shamshad Begum was already a name by then. The versatile Mohammed Rafi was beginning to make a mark. The period saw the dawn of a new star who went on to become a phenomenon, possibly the best known playback in the Hindi film industry of all time, the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar slowly came to the forefront.
The music directors by and large chose classical and folk music, while only a few composed, what were then regarded as ‘modern’ songs. The most famous music director in this period was Naushad Saab, who was known for his classical style of music. His ‘Baiju Bawra’ (1952) became a super duper hit, marking landmark songs in the careers of Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. Other music directors who soon joined him in popularity in the 1950s were Roshan, Madan Mohan and Sachin Dev Burman, who created memorable scores in numerous movies. Shankar- Jaikishan were among the first duos in the field of film music. ‘Basant Bahaar’, was one of their great musical successes and included some fabulous songs by Manna Dey and Mohammed Rafi.
Classical music and songs were appreciated by the cine going audience of the time, and classical singers of the time also condescended to sing in a few films, such as Ustad Aamir Khan (Basant Bahaar), and later Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan Saab (Mughal E Azam). Besides, Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar, many other singers developed a niche for themselves such as Mukesh, who was known for his simple, sweet and poignant style of singing. Manna Dey who was the first name that came to the mind in the domain of classical playback singing. Asha Bhonsle found favour for cabaret and peppy numbers while Talat Mahmood specialised in a soft style of singing ghazals.
There were some teams that were formed under different banners. The famous showman Raj Kapoor had his own team. Shankar Jaikishan was his music director and Mukesh his singer in most of his films. Similarly Dev Anand formed a team with Sachin Dev Burman as music director and Kishore Kumar as his singer, though some of his songs were also sung by Mohammed Rafi.
O. P. Nayyar was also a popular music director who gave a number of hit musical albums and used folk tunes with great beats to advantage. Salil Choudhury was also one who had an affinity towards using folk music in his films. Hemanta Mukherjee a popular singer of Bengal went who made a niche for himself in Mumbai as well as a music director and singer. He also produced some films. The only lady music director of that era was Usha Khanna who delivered many hits.
Many of these playback singers had perfected the art of singing according to the hero or heroine on whom the song would be picturised. They even managed to pick up the mannerisms of the actors in the film.
Rahul Dev Burman, (the son of Sachin Dev Burman) brought a marked change in the whole system by using various beats and instruments in an improvised manner. He used Western instrumentation in a new and experimentative style which was hitherto unheard of, he coupled with Kishore Kumar belted out innumerous hits. By then, another duo made their entry in music direction and won the marked appreciation of the audience. They were Laxmikant Pyarelal, who used Indian folk and percussion to perfection. They also used Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar extensively.
The 1980s saw the reign of Disco under the expert guidance of Disco King, Bappi Lahiri, while the late 1980s and early 1990’s, saw the emergence of a different set of music directors such as Anand-Milind, Nadeem-Shravan, Anu Malik and JatinLalit who shot to fame with ‘Khiladi’ and went on to deliver hit after hit in the form of ‘Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander’, ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge’, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. The advent of A.R.Rahman into Hindi films brought with it new technology and sound. ‘Roja’, ‘Dil Se’ and then many many more hits were delivered under the little maestro’s guidance. Rahman chose different kinds of Sufi music and also popular folk songs to enrich the films he was assigned.
Nowadays the music CDs are released well before the release of any film and the audience get a flavour of the film beforehand through the music of the film itself. Once the music gains popularity there is a very good chance of getting the box office’s favour for the film itself.
The producers nowadays depend much on the music of the film and that is why there is a trend of talent hunting in the film world. New singers have got lucky breaks after being spotted in reality and musical talent hunt shows. Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala, Sonu Nigam or Shreya Ghosal are names which have become famous this way.
The music of Rahman has now taken the world by storm through the chant of ‘Jai Ho’, a piece in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which also won him two Oscars, this year. It marks the globalization of Indian music and this seems to be only the beginning!