Day 57 :: #100HappyDays


Day 57

It gives me immense pride and pleasure to share that I am one of the 300 delegates chosen throughout the country for the first ‘International Youth Conclave’ to be held in Lucknow soon.

I will be representing the Delhi Chapter of Kalam Library, as a member. Kalam Library Project aims at turning one of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam’s dreams into reality – of making books available to every single child in this country, even in the remotest areas.

Nitin Soni, Thanks so much for bringing me into the fold, and giving me an opportunity to contribute to the unfulfilled vision of one of the most remarkable leader this country has ever had.

Day 56 :: #100HappyDays


Day 56

‪#‎LettersToMySon‬ series was planned as a promotional activity for my upcoming novel ‪#‎InTheLightOfDarkness‬.

But as I started writing these pieces, they took a life of their own. When I shared these with my writer friends for brainstorming and feedback, the response that I received further boosted my confidence in these write-ups.

The thing is, writing anything isn’t easy. But writing something that needs you to bare your soul, share with the world what you may never have had a chance to share with yourself yet, is not an easy thing to do. The letters were drafted. Trashed. Drafted again. Reviewed. Edited. Reviewed again. Until, I knew they reflected the inner functioning of my mind like a sparkling clean mirror. And that was a such a therapeutic moment.

But what has been the most uplifting in this whole process, is the way my friends have come together in helping me share these letters, make them reach places and audiences, I didn’t even imagine I ever could.

I wouldn’t tag you and create additional notification hassles for your all. But you know who you are. And please also know, that I am grateful for all your love, support and encouragement. 🙂

PS- Readers, you may catch the latest letter here…


Day 55 :: #100HappyDays


Day 55

Mj: What’s for dinner?
Me: Hmmm….
Mj: Option 1?
Me: Hmmm…. How about Option 2?
Mj: Naah… How about Option 3?
Me: Not interesting enough..

Five minutes and a dozen options later.

Mj: How about the chocolate cake we were eyeing at the shop today?
Me: There’s the man I married! 😀

So, tonight’s dinner… a 1 kg chocolate cake.

Because it was a ‘celebrate-for-no-reason’ kinda day.

And we are a ‘chocolate-cake-for-dinner’ kinda family. 🙂 🙂 🙂13754439_870951029704234_1200916212208143820_n

Sriram’s Top 30 – The Final ten!!

I realized I couldn’t… I shouldn’t leave you hanging anymore. So here are the final ten of the countdown.

Hope you enjoy them.

#10: Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar (Mohammed Rafi / Asha Bhonsle, Hum Dono, 1963, Music: Jaidev, Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Raga: Yaman)

This song captures a mood brilliantly – that of parting from a lover after a tryst. I hope none of us is so jaded as to forget that bittersweet agony of early love. Dev Anand’s entreaty (abhi abhi to aaye ho…) and Sadhana’s reply (..agar main ruk gayi abhi, to ja na paun gi kabhi…) are so beautifully expressed and rendered by Rafisaab and Asha.

‘Accha to hum chalte hain’ from Aan Milo Sajna (Rajesh Khanna-Asha Parekh) has almost exactly the same theme; the difference of course is in the lyrics.

This is Sahir at his romantic best. Hum Dono was another great soundtrack with gems such as Allah Tero Naam, Kabhi Khud Pe, Main Zindagi ka Saath Nibhata and Prabhu tero Naam. The list of classic songs in Yaman (Kalyan) is as long as my arm. We’ve already had #28: Hoton Se Chulo Tum and #18: Na Tum Hamein Jaano. Zindagi Bhar Nahi Bhoolegi woh Barsaat ki Raat, Chandan sa Badan, Saranga teri Yaad Mein, Woh Shaam kuch Ajeeb Thi, Beeti Na Bitai Raina, Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujhpar, Mausam hai Ashiqana…..and so many others.

Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar.. 

#9: Meri Neendon Mein Tum (Kishore Kumar & Shamshad Begum, Naya Andaz, 1956, Music: OP Nayyar, Lyrics: Jaan Nisar Akhtar, Raga: Pilu)

This is an amazing song, with a raw, emotional intensity and power that is hard to ever forget. There are times when I’m driving with the volume up, when I almost want Shamshad to stop singing…such is the piercing sharpness of her voice. ‘Tu mera naaz hai, meri andaaz hai….dil ki awaaz hai’!!! Kishore is brilliantly controlled in his intensity, you can feel the throb in his voice, and his deep register is a perfect counterpoint to Shamshad’s tone. The background score, the blowing curtains, the gathering clouds – it is a perfect storm. Kishore is the rumble of thunder in the distance; Shamshad is the lightning that cleaves through the darkening sky.

This song is not about context. I couldn’t care less what the movie was or where the song was placed in it. Standalone, it reverberates through your senses – give me this song, anytime, any place, any mood. Meenakumari makes her first appearance on my list, always a pleasure!

PS: Till very, very, late in this series, I was quite chuffed with the fact that NOBODY had brought this up as a candidate. That happened just 2 days back. Take a bow, Srivatsa Yajaman. Also nod to Charubala Seshadri for remembering Shamshad just a bit earlier, and wishing we could have at least one from her. Here it is, Shamshad’s finest.


Meri Neendon Mein Tum 

#8: Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye To Kya Hai (Mohammed Rafi, Pyaasa, 1957, Music: SD Burman, Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Raga: Yaman-Kalyan)

The exclamation mark in one of the greatest soundtracks in Hindi cinema (in My Top 3 soundtracks), in one of the best films ever made, by one of the all-time great teams at the height of their powers. What more can one ask for? I won’t bother listing which are the great songs in Pyaasa – the answer of course, is all of them, including the nazms!

What could be more ludicrous and surreal than a poet, who gains public appreciation only after he is given up for dead, who gatecrashes his own memorial ceremony, and denounces the world only to get kicked out? It could be straight out of a Victor Hugo novel (I was reminded of the deaf judge trying Quasimodo), with dollops of strong black Russian despair. Guru Dutt holds up a mirror to society and it doesn’t look good, does it?

It is one of the landmark moments of Indian cinema. Throughout Pyaasa, Burmandada is spot on with his minimalism. The music is filigree work around a rare precious stone, a setting that allows the beauty and power of the words to resonate. Sahir, is simply Sahir. And every singer in Pyaasa (Rafisaab in this song and in many others, Geeta Dutt, Hemant Kumar in Jaane wo kaise) is in top form.

Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye…

#7: Pyaar Kiya to Darna Kya (Lata Mangeshkar, Mughal-e-Azam, 1965, Music: Naushad, Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni, Raga: Darbari and Durga)

The exclamation mark in one of the greatest soundtracks in Hindi cinema (also in my Top 3 soundtracks), in one of the best flms ever made, by one of the all-time great teams at the height of their powers. What more can one ask for? I won’t bother listing which are the great songs in Mughal-e-Azam – the answer of course, is all of them! Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya is, of course, Defiance with a capital D. The context of the song, the expectation before the song (that Anarkali will submit), the surprise, the growing rage in Prithviraj Kapoor’s face- as he swells up, you fear he’ll have a stroke – the concern on Mrs. Akbar’s face, Salim’s quiet pride, Nigar stepping back and distancing herself from the event…and through it all, the half-smile on Madhubala’s lips– of scorn, of contempt, of ‘do what you want, I’m not afraid.’ Apparently the song was based on an Eastern UP line that Naushad had heard , which went ‘Prem kiya, kya chori kari hai…’, which Shakeel then adapted into its current form. When Madhubala pulls out the dagger from Salim’s waist, the concern on everyone’s face is palpable – will she stab Salim, or Akbar or herself? Turns out the dagger in Akbar’s heart is actually in her words, at the end of every stanza –  ‘Maut wahi jo duniya dekhe, ghut ghut kar yun marna kya,’ and ‘Purdah nahi jab koi khuda se, bandon se pardah karna kya’…the real dagger, meanwhile, is presented to Akbar with that same mocking smile. Shakeel’s genius is on full display here. It is one of the landmark moments of Indian cinema. The song begins with an opening intro dance sequence, where the camera pans across Akbar’s grand ‘sheesh mahal’. And here Naushad aptly uses the grandeur of Raga Darbari. The initial bars ‘Dhaan…titta dhaan…tarikita..titta dhaan’ are in Darbari (see my note in #13: Tu Pyar ka Saagar Hai about ‘grand’ Darbari). But then Naushad didn’t want to do the entire song in Darbari (long song, may have been a bit too much), so he switches to Raga Durga.


Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya…

#6: Mohe Bhool Gaye Saawariya (Lata Mangeshkar, Raga: Bhairav) AND

 #5: O Duniya ke Rakhwaale (Mohammed Rafi, Raga: Darbari)

Baiju Bawra, 1952, Music: Naushad, Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

Welcome to the Baiju Bawra show.

Baiju Bawra completes the trio of all-time great soundtracks, and perhaps edges Pyaasa and Mughal-e-Azam. The other 2 have more number of great songs, but Baiju Bawra has 4 songs that I would close my eyes and include in an all-time Top 10, no regrets, if I didn’t have any other considerations (those I will explain in my epilogue to this series). I don’t think even Pyaasa and Mughal-e-Azam reach quite those heights. You must have observed by now, that I have followed one rule throughout – which is, 1 song from 1 movie soundtrack. This is the only film for which I have broken that rule. Surya Manthan commented earlier that he would consider it criminal activity to pick only one song from the Madan Mohan – Lata – RMAK trio and it is obvious from my list that I agree. The same applies to this film – only in this case, even after including 2 out of 4, it still feels criminal.

In ‘O Duniya ke Rakhwale’, Rafisaab reaches heights in his singing, that nobody before or after ever has. As simple as that. The mix of ragas around Raga Darbari (every stanza is different), the impossible control in the higher register, which keeps going higher that you believe it could. Just close your eyes and shake your head in wonder at Rafisaab’s singing. ‘Man Tarpat Hari Darshan ko Aaj’ has the same incredible performance by Rafisaab, to produce the greatest bhajan ever sung in Indian cinema. ‘Mohe Bhool Gaye Saawariya’ is early Lata at her most brilliant. In fact, through this series, nobody brought up this one till Arun Srinivas did, 2 days ago as part of his carpet-bombing strategy. He’s cracked it – reasoning, if he throws the entire long list at me, something will stick eventually! The ache and longing in Lata’s voice in this song is exceptional. ‘Tu Ganga ki Mauj’ is a personal favorite. The beauty of the song and Rafi’s equally brilliant performance didn’t strike me the first time I heard it, unlike the other two. But it kept growing on me, and I now consider it fully the equal of the others. For what it’s worth, it is interesting to note that in 1953, the Filmfare best song went to ‘Tu Ganga ki Mauj’, and this was at a time when there weren’t separate male and female categories. Originally I’d planned to go with Tu Ganga ki Mauj. Over the last week, I’ve switched to Man Tarpat, then to O Duniya ke Rakhwaale, then back to Man Tarpat, took one last look at Tu Ganga ki Mauj, before finally settling on O Duniya Ke Rakhwaale.

You will appreciate that this hasn’t been an easy choice. If someone were to press for the inclusion of the others instead, it is fully understandable.



Mohe Bhool Gaye Saanwariya…

Prelude to the Final 4

All right, we’ve entered the home stretch. Just 4 more songs left, and I am going to do it differently here on. For these 4 songs, I am only going to provide the summary Singer, Movie, Year, Music, Lyrics and Raga information. I am not going to add a single line of commentary. (for one of them, I will add a line of suggestion, but that’s about it). I don’t believe any of these songs needs any explanation or justification for being where they are. In my view, it would be silly to try and add anything to the beauty of the songs themselves.

A few points about these four songs:

  1. Two are male solos; two are female solos
  2. All four songs are sung by four different singers
  3. Three different composers are involved; as are three different lyricists
  4. #4, #3 and #2 are in three different ragas; I don’t know the raga for #1!
  5. Three are in B/W, one is in colour.
  6. After trawling through the thousands of comments across the whole series and hundreds of suggested / remembered video clips posted, this is the current situation:
    • #4 was proposed by 1 person, with a video, got a few likes. Said person proposed the song in 2 different contexts, so I’ll give it to him/her.
    • #3 has been mentioned exactly once, with a video, got a few likes, then seconded by one or two others.
    • #2 was requested early on and it wasn’t by one of you Karu Pandeys who’ve been hovering over my head (and occasionally squawking into my ear), like seagulls guiding a ship into port. It was by a good friend, who evidently has a good ear. No video, no likes.
    • #1 has been mentioned exactly once, no video.

Yet I believe when I do post my #4 to #1, there will be few complaints about the quality of the songs and their true classic status. There can and will always be debate on position, though.





#4: Poocho na Kaise maine Rain Bitaayi (Manna Dey, Meri Surat Teri Aankhen, 1963, Music: SD Burman, Lyrics: Shailendra, Raga: Ahir Bhairav)

Poocho Na Kaise…

#3: Kuch Dil ne Kaha (Lata Mangeshkar, Anupama, 1966, Music: Hemant Kumar, Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi, Raga: Bhimpalasi)

Kuch Dil Ne Kaha…

#2: Man Re Tu Kahe na Dheer Dhare (Mohammad Rafi, Chitralekha, 1964, Music: Roshan, Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Raga: Yaman)

Man Re Tu Kaahe Na…

#1: Waqt ne Kiya (Geeta Dutt, Kaagaz ke Phool, 1959, Music: SD Burman, Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi, Raga: ???)

Waqt Ne Kiya…

Don’t worry, It’s not over yet.The countdown is, yes. But an EPILOGUE you can not miss is coming up soon. 🙂




Sriram’s Top 30 Songs (Contd…)

Halfway through… Now is when the choices get trickier and more complicated. Every song must justify its spot.


#15: Aap ki Nazaron ne Samjha (Lata Mangeshkar, Anpadh, 1962, Music: Madan Mohan, Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Raga: Darbari)


#14: Lag Jaa Gale (Lata Mangeshkar, Who Kaun Thi, 1964, Music: Madan Mohan, Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Raga: Pahadi)

I’m presenting this as a double-bill, and I’m sure you understand why. We’ve talked about individual brilliance several times before in this series, but this is a tribute to that rare event – the chemistry that can be created when multiple brilliant individuals combine together in perfect harmony. Considering that all these people are creative talents and geniuses, the possibility of ego-clashes leading to flare-ups always exists, so when it does work out it is something to wonder at.

They always said Lata – Madan Mohan were a match made in heaven, and when you add Raja Mehdi Ali Khan to the mix, you get a series of unforgettable classics. Just consider the quality of songs that I haven’t included, from this trio. I consider Nainon Mein Badra Chhaye (Mera Saaya) to be every bit as good as the two I have included, and it was almost impossible to decide which one to leave out. And then you have Jiya Le Gayo Ji Mora Saawariya (Anpadh), Jo Humne Dastaan Sunaayi (Woh Kaun Thi), Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Woh Kaun Thi) and Tu Jahan Jahan Chalega (Mera Saaya).

Two other truly great combinations that one can speak of in the same breath are Naushad-Shakeel Badayuni–Mohammed Rafi / SD Burman – Sahir Ludhianvi – Rafi – Guru Dutt.

Less sublime-heights but equally (if not more) successful were Shankar Jaikishan – Shailendra – Mukesh – Raj Kapoor / RD Burman – Kishore – Asha.

The hallmark of a Madan Mohan composition of course is melody, the sheer lyrical element (the parallel in Western Classical – pls note Somsekhar Bakshi – would be Schubert). At one level they are simple songs, yet there is nuance, complexity and the end effect is unforgettable.

We used to have a small music room in the ground floor of my IIM Cal hostel, which had a gramophone player and old LPs. I was once listening to “Aap Ki Nazaron ne Samjha” with my eyes closed, when a chap from the senior batch walked in, heard a few lines, looked at me, turned the LP cover over and said, ‘What is this crap you’re listening to?’.

Ab, where does one even begin…?

Lag Ja Gale is in Raga Pahadi (and we’ve seen it before here in #30: Sawan ka Mahina and #19: Suhaani Raat). Aap Ki Nazaron ne Samjha is in Raga Darbari, and it is a wonderful Raga, which I will touch on later.


Aap Ki Nazron Ne…

Lag Jaa Gale…

#13: Tu Pyaar Ka Saagar Hai (Manna Dey, Seema, 1955, Music: Shankar-Jaikishan, Lyrics: Shailendra, Raga: Darbari)

This is a school assembly song in some schools (not mine, thank goodness!), and that kind of spoils it for people. Rather like being forced to mug and expound on Shakespeare in Class IX, which puts people off for life, whereas the joy in discovering and exploring Shakespeare out of one’s own interest is indescribable.

It is an absolutely gorgeous song, with stunning lyrics. If ‘Ohre Taal Mile’ makes you wonder at the connectedness of things and the limits of knowledge and reason, Tu Pyaar ka Saagar Hai implores you to go beyond when you have reached that limit and ask for (divine) assistance. And it does with exceptional imagery. Consider these lines:

Ghaayal man tha, paagal panchi

Udne ko beqarar, udne ko beqarar

Pankh hai komal, aankh hai dhundhli,

Jaana hai saagar paar, jaana hai saagar paar

Ab tu hi ise samjha, raah bhoole the kahaan se hum…

And Manna Dey is absolutely the right man for this song. I wrote a eulogy for Rafi saab; for Manna Dey, I’ll simply use Rafi saab’s own words. To a bunch of fans and mediapersons, Rafi saab said, ‘Aap sab mere gaane sunte hain. Main to khud Manna Dey ke gaane sunna pasand karta hun.’

When Manna Dey sings this song, you can feel the depth of feeling in his heart. This is not a song to be sung on the fly, as a matter of routine professionalism. The throb in his voice is not that of the trained singer, it is that of a devotee. You sometimes feel this way in a pure classical concert, where you feel the artiste is unearthly, touched by a spot of stardust. Also in the devotional Bhakti tradition that is so strong and rich all across our country.

Raga Darbari (mentioned earlier in just the previous post) is one of my favorite ragas. As the name suggests, it evokes grandeur. You can see the link with other great Darbari songs – O Duniya Ke Rakhwaale, Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De, Hum Tujhse Mohabbat Karke Sanam. All these three songs mentioned, though, use Darbari in a mournful mood (rona-dhona, at some level!). Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hai, as an invocation, is much closer to the base ‘mood’ and gravitas of Darbari. Later on, I will show an outstanding example of the grandeur of Darbari.

Tu Pyaar Ka Saagar…

#12: Yeh Raat Ye Chaandni Phir Kahan (Hemant Kumar, Jaal, 1952, Music: SD Burman, Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi, Raga: Kafi)

From a song in praise of the Divine (#13), to a song written by a man who was a skeptic all his life, till his last defiant breath.

Enter Sahir Ludhianvi.

In my opinion, one of the two greatest lyricists in Hindi cinema (Shakeel Badayuni being the other, but while I admire and respect both equally, I feel a little closer to Sahir personally)

The man could dismiss Nehru and his statesmanship (and Nehru was a not a man to cross lightly those days) with a few strokes of his pen:

‘Chino Arab Hamara, Hindostan Hamara,

Rehne ko Ghar nahi hai, Saara Jahan Hamara’.

Bitter? He could do bitter better than anyone. And even the good Khuda couldn’t escape his censure.

‘Aasman pe hai khuda, aur zameen pe hum,

aajkal wo is taraf dekhta hai kam’

And yet this man had the sensitivity to write the following lines:

‘O saare jag ke rakhwale,

nirbal ko bal denewale,

balwaano ko de de gyaan, Allah tero naam’

Sahir on society, its warts and all, is untouchable. His question ‘Jinhe Naaz hai Hind par, woh Kahaan hai?’ was relevant then and continues to be relevant to this day.

Of course, his ultimate criticism was reserved for himself – always the sign of the greatest intellects:

‘Kal aur aayenge nagmon ki khilti kaliyan chunne waale

Mujshe bahtar kehne wale, tumse bahtar sunne wale,

Kal koi mujhko yaad kare, kyun koi mujhko yaad kare

Masruf zamaanaa mere liye, kyun waqt apnaa barbaad kare’

When Sahir turned his pen towards romance, he was as good as anyone else. This was after all the man who inspired crazy levels of devotion from sane, rational people (apparently the poetess Amrita Pritam used to pick up cigarette butts he chucked and puff them, seeking inspiration).

‘Tu abse pehle, sitaaron mein bas rahi thi kabhi?

Tujhe zameen par bulaaya gaya hai mere liye,

kabhi kabhi mere dil meir khayaal aata hai’


Mere khwaabo ke jharokho ko sajaane waali

Tere khwaabo mein kahi mera guzar hai ke nahi

Poochh kar apni nigaaho se bata de mujhko

Meri raato ke muqaddar mein saher hai ke nahi

Pyaar par bas to nahi hai…

Playful? We have:

Hum aapke khwabon mein, aa aa ke sataaeyenge

Hum aapki aankhon se neenden hi uda de to?


‘Tu abhi tak hain haseen, aur main jawaan

Tujhpe kurbaan meri jaan, meri jaan.’

Dreamy and evocative? That’s this song right here.

‘Pedo ki shaakhon pe soyi soyi chaandni,

tere khayaalon mein khoyi khoyi chaandni,

aur thodi der mein, thak ke laut jaayegi,

raat ye bahaar ki phir kabhi na aayegi

Do ek pal aur hai yeh samaa, sun jaa dil ki dastan.’

Sahir Ludhianvi could be moody, irascible, certainly he was an egotist. But the man was an utter genius. We haven’t seen his like since.

And so this wonderful, dreamy song featuring Dev Anand and the sparkling Geeta Bali, sung beautifully by Hemant Kumar, composed by Burmandada for a Guru Dutt movie, shot on a Goan beach under the palms and the moonlight, is dedicated to that poet of poets, Sahir Ludhianvi.

Ye Raat Ye Chandni…

#11: Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai (Lata Mangeshkar, Anarkali, 1953, Music: C Ramachandra, Lyrics: Rajendra Krishan, Raga: Bhimpalasi)

I’ve waxed eloquent on the last few songs, so I’ll take a breather on this one. Not that it needs much introduction or embellishment. Simply a wonderful, poignant song, sung by the early Lata with her magical voice. The ‘Alvidas’ at the end stay with you…

C Ramachandra’s other wonderful compositions include Jaag-Dard-e-Ishq-Jaag (also from Anarkali), Aadha hai Chandrama (Navrang) and Ae Mere Watan ke Logon.

Raga Bhimpalasi is another raag I am very fond of. ‘Nainon mein badra chaaye’ is another brilliant example in Bhimpalasi.

Ye Zindagi Usi Ki Hai…


PS – Sriram Subramanian is an engineer from IIT Roorkee and an MBA from IIM Calcutta. After a decade working as a management consultant and as a corporate professional, Sriram founded Mind Matters in 2006, which is today one of India’s leading corporate training firms. Sriram’s writing pursuits started at the age of six, when he faithfully wrote weekly letters to his mother (an English teacher); she marked them for grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction in red ink. Throughout his career, Sriram has juggled multiple interests including reading, writing, music, travel, sports and parenting. Sriram is married to Shilpa Gupta, his classmate from IIT Roorkee, who is also an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, ex-investment banker and the bestselling author of Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey, published by Rupa in 2015. Their sons, Aditya and Ritwik, are tennis players at the National and State levels respectively. Sriram lives in Pune.

Sriram’s Debut Novel Rain is out now. You may find out more about the book here.

Sriram’s Top 30 Songs (Contd…)

Over to the rest of the countdown…

20: Dil Dhoondta Hai, Phir Wahi, Fursat ke Raat Din (Bhupinder, Mausam, 1976, Music: Madan Mohan, Lyrics: Gulzar, Raga: Yaman Kalyan)

Madan Mohan’s swansong, and what a way to end! Mausam also had the beautiful Ruke Ruke the Kadam, but Dil Dhoondta Hai is a song for the ages. It has a dreamy quality to it, the tempo and the rhythm feel like the singer is in absolutely no hurry to get anywhere soon, and Bhupinder’s wonderful, unique voice is just perfect for the song. A sense of wistfulness permeates the song, a longing for times gone by, a bittersweet reflection on opportunities taken and opportunities missed.

To achieve all this in a song takes some doing, but Gulzar, Madan Mohan and Bhupinder combine to make it happen.

I still remember the first time I watched Mausam – I must have been about 18 or 19, and I watched it with a much older cousin and his wife (who was also mad about Hindi film music). They’d obviously seen it before, and knew what was coming. I’ll never forget the moment when Sanjeev Kumar searches the streets of Calcutta for Kajri, and Sharmila Tagore in her hooker’s outfit looks down from her window and shouts abuses. Before my jaw had finished dropping, it goes ‘Interval’!!!

Bhupinder is a personal favorite – so many lovely songs, including Ek Akela is Shahr Mein, Karoge Yaad To, Kisi Nazar ko Tera Intezaar, Beeti Na Bitai Raina Huzoor is Kadr…This one’s his best.

Raga Yaman and Raga Kalyan are like a pair of naughty twins, born to create confusion and chaos in the minds of the unwary. Somewhere you find references to Yaman, somewhere to Kalyan, then you discover that they’re both the same, only called by different names (apparently Kalyan was the old name, then it became Yaman under the Mughals). And then there is Yaman-Kalyan, which is apparently almost the same, only not quite, because 1 note in the middle is different. Then there is Shuddha Kalyan, and the only good Lord knows what that is. Anyway, this one is in Yaman-Kalyan. Make of that what you will.

Dil Dhoondhta Hai…


#19: Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki (Mohammed Rafi, Dulari, 1949, Music: Naushad, Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni, Raga: Pahadi)

This song, Rafisaab’s first really great solo, has a very special place in my heart. The magic in this song is beyond my powers of description, so I won’t try.

In my mind, Rafisaab’s musical brilliance lies in that beautiful Urdu word – Nazakat. The closest English equivalents would be a mix of delicacy, grace, elegance, sensitivity, refinement…In the 50s and 60s, that entire generation of music directors, lyricists and singers combined to produce songs that had that nazakat, and Rafisaab was at the forefront (though this was by no means exclusive to him in that era).

Things were said and left unsaid; the eyelashes dropped, the eyes spoke. The hero didn’t need to be a he-man, all fire and brimstone and bulging biceps and baritone; he could be a gentleman, serenading his lover with words that fell softly like flowers. He could mourn, he could cry, he could wear his heart on his sleeve and still be manly. The heroine could charm, she could play coy, she could seduce and she could blaze fury with her eyes alone, without dropping a stitch of clothing or raising her voice.

With the gentle fading of Rafi went an entire era and its values.  Within the short span of 10-15 years, we had gone from Madan Mohan to Bappi Lahiri. The boatmen of Bengal and the sensuousness of Urdu were now firmly in our rear-window.

My good friend (Nidhi Kumar’s) mother (Sunita Kumar) keeps saying, ‘Lovely music, but I don’t like the lyrics…’. To which, I will gently remind her of that scene from Pyaasa, where Guru Dutt starts singing a nazm, but the audience wants something more cheerful. His immortal response (Sahir’s of course) is , ‘Hum Ghamzadaa hain, kahan se laaye khushi ke geet, laaye khushi ke geet…’ The point being, if I’m presenting a song from the 70s or the 80s (even one that is amongst the greatest of that era), the chances are very high that it is not going to have that grace in the lyrics, in a way that songs from that earlier era had. Gulzarsaab is clearly the exception here – his career began as assistant lyricist in Bandini under SD Burman (he composed Mora Gora Ang Laile), and he is perhaps the last connection we have with that age.

In a way, this song’s lyrics themselves serve as a metaphor for the sentiment I’m trying to express – ‘Suhaani raat dhal chuki, na jane tum kab aaoge, hawa ki rukh badal chuki…’

Rafisaab lived his life as very, very few people live it. Tales of his generosity, his simplicity, the love and affection he inspired in everyone around him abound. The royalty controversy with Lata is suggestive – from a commercial standpoint, she was probably right, and judged in today’s commercially savvy terms, Rafi’s outlook seems quaintly old-fashioned, even naïve. But it was entirely in sync with his views, attitudes and the way he lived his life – and it is one that evokes my respect and admiration.

When Rafisaab died, the people of Bombay gave him a fitting funeral – > 10,000 people carried him to his grave, despite the pouring rain. The Indian Governement declared a 2-day public holiday. My aunt (and she was the Aunt Agatha types) cried for 2 days.

This series is a series on music, specifically Hindi film music. But I cannot write about Mohammed Rafi purely in musical terms, for he was something much, much greater. I present this song simply as a dedication and with thanks to Rafisaheb – a great singer, a symbol of a bygone age and most importantly a great human being.

Suhaani Raat Dhal Chuki…


 #18: Na Tum Hamein Jaano (Hemant Kumar & Suman Kalyanpur, Baat Ek Raat Ki, 1961, Music: SD Burman, Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Raga: Yaman)

When I think romantic duet, this is almost the first song that comes to my mind. It has a lovely melody, great lyrics and Dev Anand – Waheeda in a cool, suspense film. That there are 2 versions only adds to the fun – I like them both.

Nobody could hum like Hemantda could. There’s that carry-forward sustain in his voice after every word that’s unique to him. Here you can see it in the ‘Chale aaj do…ooonon, jaane…n kaha….aaan’, where the voice rolls over the words and the beats to fall into the spaces like a gentle, soothing mountain brook.

The list of great Hemantda songs is long – Jaane Who Kaise Log The Jinke, Ya Dil Ki Suno, Tum Pukar Lo, Jaag Dard-e-Ishq Jaag, Bekarar Karke Humein, Chupa Lo Yun Dil Mein, Leheron pe Laher (which by the way is note for note ripped off in the Baazigar song Ye Kaali Kaali Ankhen), Hai Apna Dil to Awara…

Suman Kalyanpur was a wonderful singer whom we really should have heard more of…that whole sad story is too well known to recount here. In songs like ‘Mere Mehboob Na Ja’, the classical ‘Man mohan man mein’, and the popular ‘Aajkal Tere Mere Pyaar ke Charche’ she showed how good she was.

For the record, I have 25 solos and 5 duets in my list. This is the second duet (after #30: Saawan ka Mahina)

Na Tum Humein Jaano…


#17: Ohre Taal Mile Nadi ke Jal mein (Mukesh, Anokhi Raat, 1968, Music: Roshan, Lyrics: Indeevar, Raga: Pilu)

Everybody has a ‘go to’ song for when they are feeling low. This one is mine.

Mukesh, somehow, doesn’t get the acclaim and popularity that, in my opinion, he fully deserves. Everytime I mention Mukesh, people complain that his voice is nasal, or just that there’s too much ‘rona dhona.’ I suppose that’s true to some extent – if you think peppy or uplifting songs, I doubt anyone would think of Mukesh.

My initiation into Hindi film music actually began with Mukesh. The first cassette I bought with my pocket money was a ‘Mukesh sings for Raj Kapoor’ album with the Mera Naam Joker clown on the front cover. Over the next month, I heard and then started singing all the Aag, Awara, Anadi, MNJ, Sangam songs; some really doleful like ‘Sajanwa bairi howe’ and ‘Mujhe Tumse kuch bhi na chahiye’. But there was also the delightful ‘Dil ki nazar se’, ‘Kisi ki mukurahaton’, ‘Zinda hoon is tarah’ and so many others.

Two things stand out for me about Mukesh’s singing – a) the timbre of his voice, that voice quality within a somewhat limited range which was unique and b) the emotion, the expression of sentiment. If you want soulful, look no further than Mukesh gems such as ‘Dil Jalta Hai to Jalne De,’ ‘Chandan sa badan’, ‘O Jaanewale Ho sake to’, ‘Saranga teri Yaad mein’, ‘Kahin door jab din dhal jaaye,’ ‘Dil Tadap Tadap ke keh raha’ or the late ‘Kabhi Kabhi’ and ‘Main pal do pal ka shaayar’.

This song is my go-to song because of the lyrics. I’m not a conventionally religious person, but these words transport me to a somewhat philosophical, contemplative place (though some would say I hardly need a reason to turn contemplative!).

Raga Pilu is quite a popular raga in Hindi films. Allah Megh De Paani De, Kali Ghata Chaaye Mora, Mohe Panghat Pe Nandlal, Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar, the brilliant Tere Bin Soone, the lovely Chandan ka Palna, Resham ki Dori and many others are composed in Raga Pilu.

Oh and that joker clown cassette? Turns out it wasn’t Mukesh at all – it was some character called ‘Babla’ who was singing Mukesh songs for Raj Kapoor. My cousin (Venkata Natarajan) heard one song, told me that wasn’t Mukesh (well what he actually said was – ‘you’re a dunce, no way that’s Mukesh’), showed me the fine print at the back, I went and got the real thing and never looked back. That’s how I started.

Ohre Taal Mile…

#16: Teri Bindiya Re (Mohammed Rafi / Lata Mangeshkar, Abhimaan, 1973, Music: SD Burman, Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri, Raga: Khamaj)

Abhimaan is another wonderful soundtrack, with gems like ‘Tere Mere Milan Ki ye Raina’, ‘Nadiya Kinare’, ‘Meet na Mila Re Man Ka’ and ‘Loote koi Man ka Nagar’. But this song has always been my favorite.

This is not adolescent passionate love – all sighs and tears and emotions – but mature love on display here. There is pride, understanding, companionship – Jaya and Amitabh complete each other’s sentences, take off where the other left off. In this duet, (I think it was their wedding function), there is no sign yet that the storm clouds are brewing.

The song is based on Raga Khamaj (which I’ve already described under #26: Piya Tose); here again, just like in Piya Tose, Burmandada uses the 7-beat Rupak taal. There is a beautiful rhythm and flow to the song, in consequence.

Teri Bindiya Re…

PS – Sriram Subramanian is an engineer from IIT Roorkee and an MBA from IIM Calcutta. After a decade working as a management consultant and as a corporate professional, Sriram founded Mind Matters in 2006, which is today one of India’s leading corporate training firms. Sriram’s writing pursuits started at the age of six, when he faithfully wrote weekly letters to his mother (an English teacher); she marked them for grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction in red ink. Throughout his career, Sriram has juggled multiple interests including reading, writing, music, travel, sports and parenting. Sriram is married to Shilpa Gupta, his classmate from IIT Roorkee, who is also an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, ex-investment banker and the bestselling author of Ananya: A Bittersweet Journey, published by Rupa in 2015. Their sons, Aditya and Ritwik, are tennis players at the National and State levels respectively. Sriram lives in Pune.

Sriram’s debut novel Rain is out now. You can find the book here.