Thank You for the Music

It is depressing to see that this, my third consecutive blog piece, deals with my memories of meeting a stalwart of the Hindi Film Industry who is now no more – Music Director, Ravi. And to be honest, I didn’t even hope to get too much from that interview speaking to him mainly about his association with Guru Dutt when the two worked together on Chaudhvin ka Chand. Though musically as strong as ever, Chaudhvin ka Chand has always been treated as a lightweight Guru Dutt Muslim Social and the film he made primarily to recover the huge losses incurred on Kaagaz ke Phool. Also, musically Guru Dutt’s associations with SD Burman, OP Nayyar and even Hemanta Mukherjee (Hemant Kumar) are legendary and much talked about, much written about. Somewhere, even though the music of Chaudhvin ka Chand was supremely popular, not much is spoken or written about the Guru Dutt-Ravi combo.

Actually, that is rather the sad case with Ravi as well. When one talks about the golden age of Indian cinema – the 1950s and 60s – and its music, names like Naushad, Shanker-Jaikishen, C Ramchandra, OP Nayyar, Madan Mohan, Salil Chowdhury, Roshan, Hemant Kumar etc crop up instinctively and then as an afterthought Ravi’s name comes up. It is blatantly unfair and I too have been guilty of this many, many times. This, for a man who had his share of struggle in Bombay before ultimately joining Hemant Kumar as his assistant, who went on to independently compose for films beginning with Vachan (1955) and who after reaching the top with films like Ek Saal (1957), Dilli ka Thug (1958) and Chaudhvin ka Chand (1960), would rule in the 1960s, his success perhaps only second to Shanker-Jaikishen during this decade. For a man who joked that he had just six basic tunes, Ravi composed a variety of masterpieces in films like Ghunghat (1960), Gharana (1961), Bharosa (1963), Kajal (1965), Khandaan (1965), Dus Lakh (1966), Do Badan (1966), Neel Kamal (1968), Do Kaliyan (1968), Ek Phool Do Mali (1969) and Doli (1969) amongst others in addition to his phenomenal music for BR Films in movies like Gumrah (1963), Waqt (1965), Humraaz (1967), Aadmi aur Insaan (1969), Dhund (1973) and Nikaah (1982). While giving Asha Bhosle (his favourite singer) and Mahendra Kapoor some of their best ever songs, Ravi also made a formidable team with lyricists Rajinder Krishan, Sahir Ludhianvi and Shakeel Badayuni, in particular. He won the Filmfare Award for Best Music for Gharana and Khandaan and in the 1980s, made quite a name for himself composing for Malayalam cinema where he was known as ‘Bombay’ Ravi! Add to all this, probably the song played most often in Indian weddings is his composition – Aaj Mere Yaar ki Shaadi Hai from Aadmi Sadak Ka (1977).

Contrary to expectations, I have to say Ravi’s was one of the best interviews that Shivi, Arwa and me got. His memory was razor sharp, he recalled interesting anecdotes around composing and recording each of the songs of Chaudhvin ka Chand and Guru Dutt’s way of working. Ravi recalled that after the initial meeting, Shakeel Badayuni, who till then had mostly worked only with Naushad and Ghulam Mohammed took him aside and requested that Ravi take care of him as he’d never worked ‘outside’ before. He remembered that though he was warned how fussy and particular Guru Dutt was about approving the music for his films, most of the songs in Chaudhvin ka Chand were passed without any issues and even the title song, Chaudhvin ka Chand Ho Ya Aftab Ho, actually came to him quite easily. Talking of the song, he said he was a little unhappy with the final product as Rafi had sung it with an intoxicated feel and wanted to re-record it. But something or the other came in the way and he could not re-record it. Finally, the discs came out in the market and the song was a huge hit. Guru Dutt told him he could still re-record the song if he thought it could be an even bigger hit than it already was. Ravi conceded it couldn’t. And so it stayed the way it was! He mentioned how initially Geeta Dutt was to render Bedardi Mere Saiyan and Dil Ki Kahani Rang Layi Hai and even offered to rehearse with her but she was unsure of her voice suiting such songs and she herself declined paving the way for Asha Bhosle to do so. And that they had recorded already a sombre song with Lata Mangeshkar when Guru Dutt’s character goes to the kotha but replaced it with Asha’s Allah Duhai Hai Duhai Hai as they felt the earlier song did not go well with the situation. Ravi also added that he incorporated Balam se Milan Hoga into the film as he suddenly realised that the film was a Guru Dutt production without a Geeta Dutt song. So Guru Dutt-Waheeda Rehman’s wedding had two back to back songs – one on the boy’s side and one on the girl’s side! He told us that after the success of Chaudhvin ka Chand, Guru Dutt offered him Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) as well but looking at the Bengali feel and ambiance, he recommended mentor Hemant Kumar for the film. And he just couldn’t stop talking about Guru Dutt’s smile!

Ravi spoke a little outside his association with Guru Dutt as well. He told us he insisted on making the tune only after he got the lyrics. This makes the tune suited for the words come out that much better rather than vice-versa where the lyricist is bound by a tune and a fixed meter. Besides, giving the lyricist full liberty also ensured the depth of poetry and feeling in the songs. And Ravi, while composing, always saw to it that the music went with the lyrics and that the words always got their due.

RIP – Ravi Saab. And thank you for the music.

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  1. Ah lovely….I am so envious that you got to meet these people. Ravi is one of my top favorite music directors…so many of the tunes that get stuck in my head (and not in a bad way) belong to him. Thanks for this 🙂

  2. Thanks memsaab. Yes, one has been fortunate, no doubt, to meet all these luminaries but as I said, having to recall the memories of the meeting at the time of their death makes me feel a bit guilty as well as to why didn’t I do this sooner. Maybe this is a wake up call to write about my other meetings – Sitara Devi, Waheeda Rehman, Shakila, Tanuja and Kum Kum while they are very much alive. There’s a treasure trove of memories and anecdotes in all these interviews that Shivi, Arwa and me have taken!

  3. Nice blog and tribute to one of the great music directors of the era. Looking forward to your pieces on the other luminaries of the same period with whom you had the privilege to meet and interview.

  4. Very nice tribute to a true master. In my little knowledge of popular Hindi film music, Bombay Ravi is among the greats. First visit to your blog, hence perhaps missing some of the contexts. Like what I see, will be back for more.

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