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Playback singers embellish romanticism thru duets in Indian cinema

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By  Manju Ghosh

Via e-mail

The Indian cinema has come a long way in the past 65 years in promoting and popularizing music and songs of all genres. India makes over 400 films a year and every film has at least eight songs and among them are at least one or two duets.

No other country in the world churns out so many movies and so many songs. A film’s box-office success depends on how good are its songs. No wonder the producers spend almost half the budget of making the entire film in picturizing songs. Stars are flown from one country to another just to shoot one or two lines. No wonder, non-filmy songs have become things of the past and non-playback singers hardly get   by.

In the days of K.L. Saigal and Pankaj Mullick, there were no duets because the singers’ ego prevented them cooperating with co-singers. In the early days Naushad, Anil Bishwas and S.D. Burman were reluctant to include duets in their compositions. For example Jaaye to jaaye kahan (Taxi Driver) and Na ye chand hoga (Shart) could have been made duets. But Raj Kapoor changed the singers’ attitude with the film Barsat. This musical film was a trendsetter. Chhod gaye balam was the first romantic duet in the voices of Lata and Mukesh and was the first film for composer  duo Shankar-Jaikishan. Subse-quent films of Raj Kapoor such as Aah, Awara, Shri 420 and Sangam broke box-office records because of their romantic duet songs.

Shankar-Jaikishan and O.P. Nayyar were the most prolific composers, who popularized duets more than any other composers and gave us evergreen songs that are sung even today. R.D. Burman and Laxmikant-Pyarelal followed the suit and gave some nice duets too. Composers’ use of Raag Bhairavi extensively in many of the duets is the main reason why duets are so popular. Lata and her sister Asha were then reigning queens in the playback singing. Had it not for them, singers like Mukesh, Rafi, Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar would not have become great singers. Their duets made them household names around the world.

In the middle of 1980s and continuing throughout 1990s Alka Yagnik displaced Lata as the undisputed queen of the romantic songs. There were other female singers like Anuradha Paudwal and Sadhna Sargam (Lata clones) and Kavita Krishnamurthy, but they were no competition to Alka. Her duets with Kumar Sanu, Udit Narayan, Abhijeet and Sonu Nigam are not only chart busters but most melodious and romantic songs ever created by maestros Nadeem-Shravan, Anand-Milind and Anu Malik, who also have won many awards. They have composed all kinds of music, be it fast-track, sentimental or dance numbers. But their forte was always melody. Most of their compositions were inspired from old time ghazals, westerns and other charts. Lyricists Anand Bakshi and Sameer have penned almost all of these songs.

I find sweetness and sexiness in Alka’s voice more mesmerizing because she does not sing in high pitch (sharp) like Lata. Her voice matches and compliments voices of male singers of her time more than even Lata’s and Asha’s. Hence, it is no miracle that Alka Yagnik has captured harts of millions of music-lovers and was nominated 35 times and won seven coveted Filmfare awards for best female singer, while Kumar Sanu was nominated as many times and won five consecutive awards in a short span of 10 years. Alka Yagnik holds the record of getting nominated for consecutively 14 years from 1992 till 2005. Khalnayak L-P made Alka lead singer instead of Lata or Asha for the first time and win the Filmfare award. These singers had become so popular that Lata and Asha were begging to sing duets with Kumar Sanu and Udit Narayan, so that they can stay in business. I went through discography of Anu Malik, Nadeem-Shravan and Anand-Milind and found only one duet of Lata-Kumar Sanu Tujhe dekha to jaana (Dilwale Dulhaniya…), and  one duet of Asha-Kumar Sanu Chehra kya dekhte ho (Salami).

Even though I grew up listening to songs of 1950s and 1960s, I had never enjoyed them as much as I had enjoyed songs of 1980s and 1990s. Kumar Sanu-Alka Yagnik duets like Bazigar-o-bazigar (Bazigar), Yeh dua hai meri (Sapne Sajan ke), Aisi deewangi (Deewana), Mehfil mein bar bar (Soldier), Chura ke dil mera (Main Khiladi Tu Anadi), Pyar mein dil diya (Anari), Mujhse mohabbat ka izhaar (Hum Hai Rahi Pyar ke) are only a handful of songs that come to mind that blow away your senses. I can list similar Alka’s duets with Udit and Sonu too.

These songs are preppy, lively and full of romance in every word and every note. They fill your heart with joy and love that keep you younger for many years to come. This era is truly a diamond era in Indian film music and duets embellish romanticism.