Monkeys farting from the ceiling …

When a reporter visited him for an interview, he took her to his garden and introduced her to each of his friends, Janardhan, Raghunandan, Gangadhar, Jagannath, Budhuram and Jhatpatjhatpat-jhatpat. Problem was, all these ‘friends’ were trees in his garden.

And then he took her to his bedroom, to meet some more of his ‘friends’ –  a collection of human skulls.

During a hilarious interview in 1985 with Pritish Nandy for the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, he spoke about the famous interior decorator whom he had called to his home. He told the decorator to design a moat in his living room instead of a sofa, live crows hanging from the walls instead of paintings, and instead of an air-conditioner, he wanted ‘monkeys farting from the ceiling‘. The decorator ran for his life.

He hung a huge notice board outside his house that read, “This is a lunatic asylum.”

When a producer paid him only half his promised fee, he turned up for shooting with half his head and moustache shaved off, and told him, “Aadha paisa, tho aadha make-up.”

He would turn up for song recordings in an old lungi, and refuse to start singing until his secretary called him up to confirm that he had received his payment from the producer. Once, when he did not receive that call, he called up his secretary, and asked him if his payment for the movie had been received. “But Sir, it is your own movie, and you are the producer”,  the secretary told him. “So what?”, was the retort.

A film director got a court order against him, for refusing to listen to him on the sets. The next day, the director forgot to say ‘Cut’ after a car chase scene, and so he continued driving for 100 kilometers more, right upto Khandala!

Only one man could get away with behaviour like that, and still be one of the highest paid stars in Bollywood.

Wild, wacky, unpredictable and uniquely gifted, Abhas Kumar Kanjilal Ganguly, or Kishore Kumar Khandwewallah as he called himself, was quite simply one of a kind. There never was another like him, and never will be.

Today, August 4th, is his birthday.

Kishore Kumar started out to be a hero, like his elder brother Ashok Kumar. He had no intention of being a playback singer. He was a huge fan of KL Saigal. One day, he was loudly singing a Saigal song in his bathroom, and was overheard by SD Burman. Burman had come to visit Ashok Kumar and he was impressed by Kishore Kumar’s singing. He took Kishore under his wing and trained him in the art of playback singing.

Kishore Kumar was the only leading playback singer of his time who never had formal classical training. That didn’t come in the way of his becoming an all-time great in Indian cinema.

From his film debut in 1948 till his sudden death in October 1987, Kishore Kumar excelled in every sphere – he was a hero, comedian, singer, music director, composer, lyricist, film maker and producer. His versatility as a film maker was amazing.  On one hand, he made badtki naamzany movies like Chalti Naam Gaadi and Badti ka Naam Daadi, that had audiences rolling on the floors. On the other, he made serious and thought-provoking movies like Door gagan ki chaaon mein and Door ka rahi, that were acclaimed by film critics. The last movie he made, Door wadiyon mein kahin, did not have a single song in it.

As controversial as he was in his public life, he was equally unconventional in his personal life. He was unabashed about the fact that he married four times. His first wife, Ruma Ghosh, was a famous playback singer and leading actress of her time. So was his second wife, the beautiful Madhubala, who died due to a hole in her heart. Yogita Bali, his third wife, was a well-known actress too.

She left him after a brief marriage, allegedly since she could not stand his habit of sitting awake each night and counting his money! Leena Chandavarkar, another beautiful actress of the nineteen-sixties and seventies was his fourth wife, and remained his wife until his death.

 

For all his weird behaviour and eccentricity, Kishore Kumar was a political activist in his own right. He stood up against the government during the Emergency, by refusing to sing at a political function. As a result, he was banned from All India Radio and TV for two years, but Kishore Kumar didn’t bother. After the Emergency was lifted in 1977, he promptly bounced back.

His sudden death on October 13, 1987 due to a massive cardiac arrest came as a total shock to everyone. Kishore Kumar was cremated in Khandwa, his native village.

For die-hard fans like me, Kishore Kumar will never die. Along with Mohammad Rafi, he is one of the immortals of Indian cinema.

Enjoy this rare song from Half-Ticket (1961), a freaked-out comedy that was typical of Kishore Kumar. I think this is the only song of its kind in Indian cinema. This is a male-female duet in which both parts are sung by the same singer! Who else but a mad genius like Kishore Kumar could perform a duet like this?

Yoodleyoo, Kishoreda!

Cheers … Srini.

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Bakkamma bakkamma! Bollywood songs with wacky lyrics.

Trishul_1978_film_posterMan, it’s hot! The former Garden City is now officially the hottest city in south India.

Stuck indoors due to the heat, one decides to indulge in some filmi nostalgia.

The first song in my collection is one of Kishore Kumar’s wacky numbers from Half Ticket. And that motivates me to compile a list of Hindi songs with wacky lyrics. Considering that I compiled this list from largely from memory, I think I haven’t done too badly.

1) Lara lappa lara lappa layi rakhda … Ek Thi Ladki, 1949.  This timeless hit from the late 1940’s is one of the very few songs that features Mohammad Rafi with his idol, GM Durrani. You can hear Rafi in the chorus. GM Durrani was India’s first male professional playback singer. Rafi modeled his voice after him, in his early days. The female lead voice is that of Lata Mangeshkar.

manoranjan2) Goyake chunanche … Manoranjan, 1974.  Inspired by Irma La Douce, a novel and rom-com from the 1960’s, and directed by Shammi Kapoor, Manoranjan was a spicy comedy with Zeenat Aman and Sanjeev Kumar in the lead. Unlike other Indian movies, Manoranjan depicted prostitution as a fun activity, with the heroine openly enjoying herself with several men. No wonder the movie was generally panned by serious film critics. But the lay public (like me) enjoyed watching it all the same, and this wacky item song topped the charts.

The lyrics were penned by Anand Bakshi. Apparently, the phrase Goyake chunanche is from Urdu, and it roughly means ‘although therefore’. It is the wrong way to use Urdu, which explains Shammi Kapoor’s horrified expressions in the song.

3) Taka taka dum dum … Do Aankhen Barah Haath, 1957.  Widely accepted as one of Indian cinema’s all-time classics, V Shantaram’s bold movie on prisoner rehabilitation won several awards. All the songs of the film were hits, especially ‘Ae maalik tere bande hum’, at the end, rendered by Lata Mangeshkar.

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Lata Mangeshkar also sang this off-beat dance number, performed quite vigorously by Shantaram’s wife, Sandhya.

4) Bakkamma bakkama yekada pathoda … Shatranj, 1969.  Rendered by Rafi and Sharada, this wacky dance number performed by Mehmood (who else?) and Helen was the highlight of an otherwise forgettable spy thriller.

I’m not sure why Hasrat Jaipuri used Telugu words when he wrote the song, but Shankar Jaikishan did a pretty decent job of composing a dance number with such weird lyrics.

5) Ramaya vastavayya … Shree 420, 1955.  Another classic from the black-and-white era, Shree 420 dealt with the chronic issue of corruption in our society. The movie was a runaway success and each song in it was a hit.

The lyrics were by Shailendra, regarded as one of the finest song-writers of his time. He heard the Telugu phrase ‘Ramaya vastavayya’ in the folk songs of migrant laborers in his neighbourhood, and used it in this evergreen hit.

6) Gapuchi gapuchi gamgam … Trishul, 1978.  Admittedly, I remember this song because of Poonam Dhillon in a wet, tight, green monokini, rather than its lyrics! Poonam Dhillon was a Yash Chopra discovery and Trishul, directed by him, was her debut film. She made quite an impression with this one song, written by Sahir Ludhianvi. That led to her lead role in Chopra’s very next venture, Noorie, the movie that made her a big-time star.

7) Muthu kodi kavadi hara … Do Phool, 1973.  Another wacky number featuring Mehmood. Do Phool had Mehmood in a double role and at his comic best. This particular song was performed by Mehmood himself, along with Asha Bhonsle. Mehmood’s co-star in the song is Rama Prabha, a prolific Telugu character actor who appeared in more than 1400 movies. Rama Prabha acted in two Hindi movies, and Do Phool was her sole performance as female lead.

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8) Eena meena deeka … Aasha, 1957.   Without question, this is the wackiest of the wacky numbers. Only Kishore Kumar could pull off a weird number like this – although Asha Bhonsle sang a version as well.

Eena meena deeka has an interesting history. The music director for Aasha was C. Ramchandar. He was asked to create a fun song. While he was scratching his head trying to figure out a suitable tune, he was distracted by some kids outside, constantly chanting Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. That inspired him to create the song. His assistant John Gomes was a Goan, and he added a Konkani touch, with the words ‘Maka naka, maka naka’.  And Kishore Kumar performed and enacted the song in his characteristic style.

Fifty five years later, Eena meena deeka still makes people break out into a wild dance, no matter which generation they belong to.

9) My heart is beating … Julie, 1975.   It’s not a wacky song, strictly speaking. I added it to this list, because to my knowledge, ‘My heart is beating…’ is the only fully English song to feature in any Indian movie.Julie_1975_film_poster.jpg

And what a lovely song it is. Composed by Rajesh Roshan, and superbly rendered by Preeti Sagar on her debut performance, the song is one of the all-time Bollywood hits, although it is entirely in English. Preeti Sagar received a special Filmfare award for this song, and rightly so.

Did you know, that the lyrics of ‘My heart is beating…’ were written by Harindranath Chattopadhyaya? If you don’t know who he is, Google him. And shame on you.

Cheers … Srini.

Mere saamnewali khidki mein …

The weather in Bangalore is hot and miserable. And, as always in summer, power supply is down, water supply is a luxury, vegetable prices are up, and so are tempers. Furious with the elements, locked in at home due to the heat, and sick of watching re-re-re-runs of Friends on the telly, one decides to cheer oneself up by watching Padosan, the classic comedy from our youth.

I first saw Padosan at Rupam Talkies, Sion, during my MPharm days. After that, I made it a point to see it wherever it ran in Bombay. And in the 21st century, after CD’s became affordable, the first movie CD I bought was Padosan.

Padosan is one of the best comedy movies ever made. Forty years after it was first released in 1968, the movie still makes modern audiences laugh, and laugh heartily. Almost all the actors from the original cast are long dead, but they can still make you split your sides laughing.

There is a sweet innocence about the movie, a cheerful, uncomplicated niceness that takes one back to better times. Life was so much simpler then.

Except for some outdoor sequences, Padosan was shot in Mysore, on a single set with just three cameras. This low-budget movie was Mehmood’s first attempt as a film-maker and he had little money to spare. And yet, in spite of its spartan production values, in spite of its cheap sets and minimalism, and in spite of being almost half a century old, Padosan can still do what Chennai Express does not – it glues you to your chair for three hours, it respects your intelligence and it makes you happy.

That’s because, unlike Shahrukh Khan, Mehmood understood what drives a movie fan to leave his home, stand in a queue to buy a ticket and sit in a theater for three hours. It’s not ultra-tech special effects, or digitised villains, or Priyamani’s cleavage. It’s simply a good story. Movie making is nothing more than story telling and that’s what we really need – one good story.

Based on a Bengali tale called Pasher Bari, Padosan had a nice, funny story about a village simpleton who woos and wins his city-bred neighbourette. The story was complemented by shrewd casting by Mehmood and the director, Jyoti Swaroop. They assembled the best comedians of the era – Kishore Kumar, Mukhri Ali, Keshto Mukerjee, Raj Kishore, Om Prakash, Agha, Sundar and Mehmood himself. Sunil Dutt as Bhola, the village bumpkin and Saira Banu, as Bindu, the haughty neighbour were the perfect choices for the lead pair.

Although it was a hit in Bombay and other parts of India, Padosan was not well received in Tamil Nadu, and was banned in Madras. Tamilians were not amused with Mehmood’s role as Master Pillai, the bungling Madrasi music teacher who competes with Bhola for Bindu’s hand. But the movie poked gentle fun at north Indians as well, with Om Prakash in the role of Kunwar Pratap Singh, Bhola’s elderly and lusty uncle, and Kishore Kumar as Vidyapati, the wily nautanki who helps Bhola in cheating Bindu. Master Pillai was in fact portrayed as an honorable man who politely backs out at the end, to allow Bhola marry Bindu. It was all in good humor, and eventually the ban on the movie was lifted.

The humor in Padosan was clean and spontaneous. No sleaze, no below-the-belt jokes, no dangerously low necklines, no clinging wet sarees – except for a brief bathtub scene involving Saira Banu and some strategically placed foam.

Padosan has very good songs. The highlight of the movie is the singing competition between Kishore Kumar and Mehmood. Playback for Mehmood was provided by Manna De, who was unhappy that he was shown as losing to Kishore Kumar and refused to sing some verses. Those verses were sung by Mehmood.

My favorite song from Padosan is this clip. This particular song was not in the original list. The original scene had Kishore Kumar giving love advice to Sunil Dutt, in the form of humorous dialogs. In his typical spontaneous style, Kishore Kumar insisted on singing his lines and the story goes that he composed the tune on the spot and had RD Burman create the music for it.

Enjoy then, this funny sequence from Padosan, and cast your blues aside.