Bollywood Baatein: 5 greatest Bollywood musicals of all times

In Bollywood musicals, the characters would sing when they were happy, they would sing when they were sad or angry. The blockbusters of the 1950s had as many as 9 to 11 songs on the soundtrack

Bollywood Baatein: 5 greatest Bollywood musicals of all times

Subhash K Jha

In the 1950s, 60s, 70s , 80s and 90s every Bollywood film was a musical. The characters would sing when they were happy. They would sing when they were sad. They would even sing when they were angry. The big blockbusters of the 1950s had as many as 9-11 songs on the soundtrack.

The number of songs decreased in the 1960s and 1970s to 6-7. The 1980s and Amitabh Bachchan further undermined the supremacy of musical expression in Hindi films. The new millennium did usher in its own share of musical chartbusters like Kaho Na Pyar Hai, Devdas and Lagaan. But nothing compared with what the musicals of the Golden Age brought to the table. Here’s saluting the 5 biggest Bollywood musicals of all times:

Rattan (1944): Before Rattan, music in Hindi cinema was just a space-filler. In Rattan composer Naushad changed the direction and destiny of Bollywood musicals for all times. The popular songs were designed especially for this film. And yet they had a life beyond the screen. And what a life! Zohrabai Ambewali’s voice in the songs Ankhiyan Milake and Rimjhim Barse Badarwa became household favourites in the 1940s. While the film’s leading man Karan Dewan sang all his songs himself, all the female vocals were done by Zohrabai Ambewali and Amirbai Karnataki.

Barsaat (1949): The year 1949 witnessed the emergence of Lata Mangeshkar as the reigning voice of Bollywood, wiping out all the competition with her scintillating slew of songs. So which would you pick as your favourite among all the solos that Lataji sang in this Raj Kapoor starrer directed by the actor: Hawa mein udta jaye, Jiya beqaraar hai, Barsaat mein humse miley tum sajan, Mujhe kisise pyar ho gaya, Chhod gaye baalam…. Recalling the turning point for her, as well in the course of Hindi film music, Lataji tells me. “In Barsaat we were all relatively new. Raj Kapoor was just starting out. Lyricists Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri also broke through with Barsaat. And this was composing duo Shankar-Jaikishan’s first score. They poured their heart into every one of the 10 songs. I don’t know of any other soundtrack where each one of the songs was a superhit. It certainly put my career on the fast track. I sang more than 30 songs in 1949!”

Baiju Bawra (1952): A fable-like film based on the infamous rivalry between the immortal singer Tansen who sang in Emperor Akbar’s court, and Baiju a commoner with an even more exceptional voice who usurped Tansen’s courtly supremacy. Being based on Hindustani classical music, this film witnessed the initiation of classical elements into the popular Hindi film idiom.

Each one of the sons composed by Naushad was based on an Indian raga. Legendary classical vocalist Ustad Aamir Khan sang for Tansen (played by Surendra). But it was Mohammed Rafi singing for Baiju (played by Bharat Bhushan), the bawra (crazy) who blew the screen apart in monumental compositions like Oh duniya ke rakhwale and Mann tarpat hari darshan ko aaj, both bhajans written, composed and rendered by Muslim artistes.

Composer Naushad once said to me, “I never took on more than one assignment at a time and then poured my complete devotion to it, none more so than Baiju Bawra. Every song was forged out of blood sweat and tears.”

Guide (1965): The cinema of Vijay Anand was always special. Guide based on litterateur R K Narayan’s novel told the tale of rebellion, degeneration, redemption, betrayal, dance and romance. Composer Sachin Dev Burman was the natural choice for the songs. Tragically Burman fell ill just when he started composing the songs. Dev Anand who produced and acted in Guide was adamant on retaining Burman. Dev Anand told me, “Burman dada asked me to take another composer. I told him the film would have no songs if he doesn’t compose.”

Aashiqui (1990): This musical directed by Mahesh Bhatt with the film’s plot serving as a pretext for the 12 songs composed by Nadeem Shravan, came at a time when Hindi film music had hit rock- bottom, thanks to the action genre’s supremacy in Amitabh Bachchan’s era on one end, and Bappi Lahiri’s cheap disco antics on the other.

Aashiqui was like a breath of fresh ‘ear’. Every song Nazar ke saamne, Saanson ki zaroorat hai, Main duniya bhoola dunga, Dheere dheere se etc was a chartbuster. Rahul Roy who played the lead in Aashiqui says, “I remember within three days of the music release people went berserk over the music. And mind you, we didn’t have 200 television channels to promote it.”

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