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Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Xmas In Bollywood Movies

The Christian community has remained largely marginalized in Bollywood movies. Of course, there were several eminently memorable Christian characters in the films gone by -- for instance, Lalita Pawar's Mrs D'Sa in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's "Anari" and, of course, Amitabh Bachchan's Anthony in Manmohan Desai's "Amar Akbar Anthony". But these Christian characters didn't really translate into genuine insights probing the psyche and workings of a community until Aparna Sen's "36 Chowringhee Lane" focused on the desolation of a Catholic spinster. The film's fabulous authentic detailing of the inner and outer lives of Jennifer Kapoor's character served to mirror the entire community's ethos with unparalleled integrity. Bengali filmmaker Anjan Dutta attempted to probe the community in "Bada Din" (where Shabana Azmi played a cantankerous Christian landlady), but with limited success. Similarly Josh is setup with a Hindu-Christian angle in two gangs fighting for their existence.

Initially, Christian characters in Bollywood have appeared in two broad types of roles:

Priest – Usually a solemn person hovering in the background usually presiding over marriages and the occasional confessional, his dialogues have a profusion of ‘my son’ and ‘Lord tumko shanti de’. Made famous by Sujit Kumar in a French beard, they have also been seen enough number of times as Principals of prestigious colleges. Nasirudeen Shah also has a very good role of a Christian priest in Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. There are some very nice scenes between Shah Rukh Khan and Nasirudeen. This stereotype got smashed so badly with Vinod Pande’s Sins (in which Shiney Ahuja plays a psychopathic sex-crazed priest in love with a nurse) that Christians erupted in protests!

Drunkard – Generally seen in a street corner, slurring over dialogue and slobbering over life. Pran’s part in Majboor is probably the longest example of this character as he even got to sing a song – “Daaru ke bottle mein tum kaiku pani dalta hain / Phir na kehna Michael daaru pee kar danga karta hain.”
Otherwise they are restricted to borrowing money (Naseeruddin Shah in Ardh Satya) or giving tips to police (Om Prakash in Zanjeer).

The most important signpost of the Christian is a suitably bombastic name. Anthony Gonsalves is undoubtedly the most famous Christian name in India and even overshadows Vijay Verma occasionally. Actually, it is probably Amitabh’s only screen name, which came close to overwhelming his actual name. Post the stupendous success of Amar Akbar Anthony, people actually started calling AB Anthony-bhai on the streets! A story goes that a girl in coma was mumbling ‘Anthony-bhai’ in her unconscious state and AB went and met her after she came about. The second most popular name is probably Bobby Braganza, who spoke like an Indian teenager though her father (Prem Nath) managed to live up to every single stereotype of the filmi Christian!

There were very few successful attempts to look at the Christian community with anything more than a cursory curiosity. Hiren Nag's "Anhkiyon Ke Jharonkhon Se" and Bharathi Raja's "Lovers" tried to pin down a Hindu-Christian romance into a formulastic pattern. But now one notices a sudden resurgence of the Christian community in Hindi films. In quick succession we have Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Black" and Vinod Pande's "Sins" set entirely in the Christian community. And Bengali director Anjan Dutta, who had set his Hindi film "Bada Din" in the Anglo-Indian community, has completed his English "Bow Barrack" which is again set in the Christian community. In debutant director Sanjay Gupta's stylishly assembled "Karam", John Abraham's character John is again a Catholic. Another new release, "Socha Na Tha", is partly located in a Catholic home. Debutante Apoorva Jha, who plays Abhay Deol's fiancee, is Karen. And much of the humor stems from the Hindu hero mock-warning his Catholic girlfriend's parents about the pitfalls of cultural and religious conversion. Like the heroine's grandfather in Raj Kapoor's "Bobby" 30 years ago, the girl's father in "Socha Na Tha" spends most of his time drinking.

Parental opposition to teenybopper romance is more commonly based on affluence than religion in Hindi cinema. Saagar is a typical example, where the rich Hindu boy falls in love with the poor Christian girl but the grand-parental opposition invoked only the girl’s poor background and not her religion. Julie is probably the most famous film on the subject, but the social divide shown between a ‘cultured’ Hindu family and a ‘crass’ Christian family was rather exaggerated. And of course, because it was a Christian family, they sang their family song in English! Thank God for that cliché and we have Preeti Sagar’s wonderful ‘My Heart is Beating’.

Basically, all of the above devices are caricatures of real life people and mainstream Hindi cinema has never done too much to get any tinge of reality. Very few films have done it right. Prahaar is one of those films that have depicted Christians realistically – with their language, milieu and motivations clearly etched out. Madhuri Dixit gave a stellar performance as Shirley Pinto of Bandra village . Baaton Baaton Mein was set in an authentic Christian domain and that was part of the novelty of the film but there was nothing in the story that was exclusive to the community.

It is a good change that films and filmmakers have started looking at setting their films in the Christian community. Sanjay Bhansali who pegged two of his films, his debut-making venture "Khamoshi: The Musical" and now "Black" in the Christian community, feels the ambience afforded by such a setting renders itself effectively to cinema.

"The church, the organ music, candles and candle-lit interiors, the whole discipline and etiquette of the Christian community makes very aesthetic cinema," says Bhansali.

Indeed, a very good reason why more and more directors should follow suit, and we have the joy of watching Xmas in Bollywood Movies.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Spiritual Voices Of India

As the global community becomes increasingly capitalistic, the quest for spirituality grows in urgency. India, its people, its infrastructure, and indeed its very soil, encourage and breed spiritualism, allowing religions to thrive, flourish and prosper.

India is the cradle for spiritualism and religious growth from time immemorial. One will find all religions co-existing harmoniously and contributing to ones evolution since ages. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism have roots in India and have spread worldwide. Islam & Christianity have deep rooted influence on our lives under the influence of various dynasties and rulers of bygone eras. In the present day modern India, all the religions grow and exist harmoniously and contribute meaningfully towards the evolution of a mature society. This maturity, understanding, belief and practices has resulted in the composite growth of culture, history and architecture here. These practices are all too visible in the poetry, literature, publications, artwork, customs, paintings, jewelry, cuisine and mindset of people as well. The spiritualism and religion of India adds meaning to ones desire for peace, inner evolution and quest for excellence towards God and mankind.

The blessed land of gods and saints is seeing a new surge of spiritualism. The gurus market is catching up. In this fast paced life, people are turning to spirituality for solace. Foreigners too are flocking to the land of Buddha and Gandhi. Many foreigners associate India with yoga, tantra, meditation and spiritualism. If one talks of spiritual channels alone, the market is huge in India. Everybody is looking for redemption in this fast paced life in some form or other. The highly esteemed spiritual gurus and ashrams have become the need of the hour. Never before was spiritualism such a sought after industry in India. People are seeking divine intervention in all spheres of life today. Contemporary lifestyle and accelerated stress levels are inviting people to participate in yoga and meditation camps organized for over all health benefits. More and more people are drifting towards spiritualism and related studies. Spiritualism is the latest craze these days. Being spiritual is considered to be sophisticated and elite. It has become a fashion statement with people these days. Yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic healing have become a style quotient.

Anyone interested in the spirituality and mediation looks for a Guru or a teacher who can guide him in the right direction. The land of India is full of Gurus, spiritual as well as religious. These are some of the people who have promoted spirituality, meditation, love, peace, brotherhood, serving others and other such humanitarian values to people in India and the rest of the world in recent times:

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is the creator of the transcendental form of meditation, along with being the leader of the Transcendental Meditation Movement. He is one of the most renowned spiritual Gurus of India.

Swami Chinmayananda is counted amongst the most notable spiritual leaders in India. He was considered as an authority on the ancient Indian scriptures, especially the sacred Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishads.

Mata Amritanandamayi
Mata Amritanandamayi Devi is one of the most loved and most respected spiritual leaders in India. Fondly known as Amma, she has only one aim in life, which is to provide people with her supreme guidance

Ramdev Baba
Baba Ramdev is a renowned Yoga teacher. Through the medium of television, he has taken the art of yoga to each and every household far and wide. He is the host of a program named 'Divya Yog' that airs on Aastha TV everyday

Sathya Sai Baba
A great spiritual leader, Sri Sathya Sai Baba preaches the path of spirituality to one and all. His main aim in life is to serve the mankind and provide them with proper guidance.

Osho Rajneesh
Osho was one of the most renowned as well as most controversial spiritual leaders of his times. During the 1970s and 1980s, he was known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.

Paramahansa Yogananda
Guru Paramahansa Yogananda was one of the distinguished yogis of India. He was the one responsible for taking the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga to the western countries.

Swami Muktananda
Disciple of Bhagavan Nityananda. Swami Muktananda was the founder of Siddha Yoga. In the 1970s, on behalf of his guru Bhagavan Nityananda, Muktananda brought the tradition of Siddha Yoga to the West, giving shaktipat initiation to thousands of spiritual seekers. He wrote a number of books on the subjects of Kundalini Shakti, Vedanta, and Kashmir Shaivism.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a famous spiritual leader of India. His teachings are universal and focussed on something as ubiquitous as breath, away from any dogmatic beliefs. Already, he presides over a spiritual empire that’s spread over 140 countries and travels to nearly 40 countries each year. He has been welcomed into mosques, he has addressed churches and he has touched hearts.

Asaram Bapu
A self-realized Hindu spiritual guru, Bapu is also known as Sant Sri Asaramji Bapu. Traveling extensively in India and abroad, he preaches the message of Vedanta, Yoga, divine love, Bhakti (devotion), and Mukti (salvation) through his teachings and Satsangs.

Bharat Thakur
Bharat Thakur is one of the spiritual masters of India who have received international recognition. The founder of Artistic Yoga, he has numerous meditation workshops to his credit.

Bikram Choudhary
Bikram Choudhury, the founder of Bikram Yoga, is one of the most popular fitness gurus in Hollywood. He is also the founder of the worldwide Yoga College of India.

BKS Iyengar
The full name of BKS Iyengar, one of the most renowned yoga gurus in the whole world, is Belur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar. Popularly known as Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar, he is man who founded the Iyengar Yoga.

Sri Aurobindo
Sri Aurobindo was one of the most talented as well as prolific spiritual leaders of India. Along with that, he was a brilliant writer, who published 68 volumes of sophisticated literary knowledge.

Deepak Chopra
A gift for oratory and flair for words, coupled with a thorough grounding in the Indian tradition has helped him reach where he has in USA. His success can be attributed to his single-minded focus on spreading ancient Vedantic wisdom in a contemporary idiom and style.

Sant Morari Bapu
Sant Morari Bapu was a child prodigy who started learning the great epic Ramayana at the early age of five from his grandfather. By the age of 12 he mastered the entire Ramacharit manas and was able to recite it by heart. He performed Ramayan recitals in many countries and such places as Manasarovar in the Himalayas.

Shree Maa
Shree Maa, a Hindu Mystic, teaches that every home is an ashram, a place of worship, every resident is a priest or priestess, and that all acts of life can be service to God and expressions of devotion. Life itself is worship. It was in the early eighties that Shree Maa, in communion with her guru Ramakrishna Patramahamsa, moved to America to share divine love and to teach the meaning of dharma.

Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi
The founder of Sahaja Yoga, she is worshipped as the incarnation of the Adi Shakti. In 1980 Nirmala Devi first toured Europe spreading Sahaja Yoga and in 1981 she toured Malaysia, Australia and North America. Until 2004, during her travels, Nirmala Srivastava gave numerous public lectures, pujas, and interviews to newspapers, television and radio.

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
An Indian yogi and mystic, he is the founder of Isha Foundation which administers yoga centers around the world, including India and the United States. Project GreenHands and initiative to plant 114 million saplings in Tamil Nadu State is spearheaded by Jaggi Vasudev. The project entered the Guinness Book of World Records for planting the maximum number of tree saplings on a single day. Vasudev was a key participant in the 2006 documentary film ONE: The Movie.

The list of such spiritual gurus keeps growing.

As India turns 60, an open invitation to shape a new global order is awaiting India’s affirmative response. One only has to go by reports of how the world is lapping up Indian spirituality to find that elusive magic formula for peace. The popularity abroad of the formula of yoga, pranayama and meditation confirms that paranoia about Indian spirituality is gradually giving way to a sense of appreciation and acceptance. The credit for this shift in the global perception must go to New Age gurus with mass followings who travel across the globe to articulate ancient Indian wisdom in simple and pragmatic style. Their approach makes spirituality looks more acceptable and appealing. The spiritual ambassadors have proved that spirituality transcends all barriers of race, creed, nationality and religion. The red carpet welcome Indian spiritual gurus are receiving proves that the global demand for Indian spirituality is picking up by the day, and more and more people across the world are attracted towards the spiritual voices of India.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Craziest Christmas Shopping Day

Yes, it is the craziest and it is right here in USA on what they call Black Friday, the Friday following Thanksgiving Day, which is the beginning of the traditional Christmas shopping season. Many retailers open extremely early, with most of the retailers typically opening at 5AM or even earlier. Some of the larger retailers open as early as midnight on the start of Black Friday in localized areas and remain open for 24 hours throughout the day until midnight the following Saturday. Upon opening, retailers offer door-buster deals to draw people to their stores. In many cities it is not uncommon to see shoppers lined up for hours before stores with big sales open. As soon as the store gates are opened, the shoppers often rush in and grab, as some stores have only a few of the big-draw items. On occasion, injuries and even fatalities are reported. A stampede of shoppers in a Valley Stream Wal-Mart on a Black Friday morning left one worker dead and at least three patrons injured after an impatient crowd broke down the store doors and trampled the seasonal employee, who was pushed to the ground by the 2,000-plus crowd just before 5 a.m. as management was preparing to open the store; a pregnant mother was hospitalized from injuries in the same human "stampede", resulting in a reported miscarriage; on that same day, two people in Palm Desert, California were shot and killed in a store during an argument.

The term "Black Friday" originated in Philadelphia in the 1960s in reference to the heavy traffic on that day. Store aisles are jammed. Escalators are nonstop. People are on a buying spree. Traffic cop tries to control a crowd of jaywalkers. The bus drivers and cab drivers call it 'Black Friday, as they think in terms of headaches it gives them. However, many merchants objected to the use of a negative term to refer to one of the most important shopping days in the year. By the early 1980s, an alternative theory began to be circulated: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss for most of the year (January through November) and made their profit during the holiday season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday, under this theory, is the beginning of the period where retailers would no longer have losses (the red) and instead take in the year's profits (the black).

Despite its historic popularity, many recommend staying away from Black Friday shopping. They fear that you may end up camping out in front of Best Buy on Black Friday, only to find the five rock-bottom-priced laptops advertised in the Thanksgiving newspaper were picked off by employees before the doors opened. They would also warn of health risks, including parking space standoffs, sleep deprivation, catching a cold, getting trampled, sticker shock, fighting in stores, muscle cramps, and more. Other reasons that can lead consumers astray: the deals are over-hyped, all deals go quickly and most of the in-store deals are now available on internet. They also try to follow the tips given by TV hosts that help them make it through the day more or less unscathed :

1. It's OK to do nothing. Many people shun most forms of shopping for the entire weekend, either because they can’t stand crowds or they’re turned off by the notion of people shopping from pre-dawn ‘til after dark.

2. You can always shop on the Internet. Stop and think of the myriad benefits: no crowds, no lines, many online retailers offer sales and special discounts on the Black Friday.

3. If you must brave the crowds, be prepared. Get the Thanksgiving Day newspaper in your area and flip through all of those ads. You might be surprised to notice how many of the ads are time-sensitive — as in, deeper discounts may apply if you shop before 10 or 11 a.m. or noon.

4. Be a savvy shopper. You can rise above the Friday fray by doing some homework in advance about products that really interest you – especially if they’re big-ticket items.

5. Distinguish between deals and duds. To ensure you’ll be getting an actual bargain rather than a ho-hum or too-high price, do your research to get a sense of how much items should cost.

6. Decide how early you’ll arrive, and plan accordingly. Can’t resist the urge to stand in line in the dark before your favorite store opens at 5 a.m.? Then remember to dress comfortably — warmly enough for the time you’ll spend outside.

7. Make friends with people in line. A spirit of camaraderie will not only make the long, dark wait more pleasant — it also could prove to be a godsend if you must give up your place in line so you can run to the bathroom. You could offer to hold a place in line for your newfound friend in return.

8.Pick the right shopping buddy. Unless you want to bicker and feel frustrated all day, think hard about who would get into the spirit of a shopping day like this.

9.Shop with a list. You’ll feel more in control and focused if you head out with a list of the people you’re shopping for, the gift ideas you have in mind for them and the target price range for each item.

10.Bring the ads you found. If you saw an advertised special that really impressed you, bring the ad along to avoid any disputes over how much an item is supposed to cost on Friday.

For some, the shopping frenzy that ensues on the Black Friday is an obnoxious and distasteful display of unrestrained consumption. For others, the day represents a fun annual tradition of bonding with like-minded friends and family members who love to hunt for bargains. Howsoever one may perceive it, no one can deny that Black Friday remains the craziest Christmas shopping day.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Melodious Voice Of India

From Kashmir to Kanya Kumari and Maharashtra to Meghalaya, we are a nation of music lovers who can drown all our differences of cast and creed, political and provincial, communal and cultural, and live together as one people, playing or listening to the same music. Whether it was the verse of sufis and saints, or the melody of Lata Mungeshkar or the folk-lore of Ila Arun, or Indi-pop of Daler Mehndi, music has been the biggest binding force for all times. Music is something that is essential to our living. Not something ornamental, not only something enjoyable, not only something exciting, but something essential as a unifying force in the terrible conflicts that we live in and to live daily with so many horrific events that happen. No speeches or sermons have ever been so effective to unify the nation in diversity as the musical masterpiece, “Mile sur mera tumhara”.

The birth of the Hindi film songs may be traced to the advent of India’s first ‘talkie’, Alam Ara, in 1931,which ushered in the era of singing stars. Their memory may have faded out of many a minds, and even their existance may not be known to the new generations, but what no one can take away is their contribution to Hindi cinema's melodious magic of the 30s and 40s.

K. L. Saigal: Recognized as the greatest singer-actor of the last century, the musical genius became the first to bring music to the masses with his God-gifted voice. His unforgettable melodies continue to enthrall millions of listeners and have become a part of our heritage. Saigal became an overnight super star with the release of the first Devdas in 1935, not so much for his histrionics as for his soulful singing of "Balam Aan Baso Mere Man Main" and "Dukh Ke Din Ab Bitat Nahin". Saigal, who started his career in Calcutta, became a house-hold name in all corners of the country. The entire nation was spellbound by the haunting melodies: "Main Kya Janu Kya Jadoo Hai", "So Jaa Raajkumari, So Jaa"(Zindagi), "Dunia Rang Rangili Baba", "Main Man Ki Baat Bataun"(Dharti Mata), "Karun Kya Aas Niras Bhai"(Dushman), "Babul Mera Nayahar Chhooto Jaye"(Street Singer), "Ek Bangla Bane Nyara", "Ek Raaja Ka Beta Leke"(Badi Behen), "Prem Nagar Mein Rahane Wala"(Chandidas), "Aye Katibe Taqdir Mujhe Itna Batade"(My Sister) and so on.

Surendra: Surendra became a part and parcel of Mehboob's Sagar Movietone, after his very first song, "Birha Ki Aag Lagi More Man Mein"(Deccan Queen) became an instant hit. When "Tumhi Ne Mujh Ko Prem Sikhaya"(Manmohan), from his second movie with Mehboob, became hugely popular with the masses, Surendra made his place for himself as a very talented singer-actor. Then followed Surendra's hit musicals, Jagirdar, Gramophone Singer, Jiwan Sathi, Alibaba, Aurat, Gharib, Jawani etc. Surendra's peak time of a popular singing star continued into the 40s when two of his movies became the greatest musicals of that time. "Bhartrihari", a mythological with music by Khemchandra Prakash, and Mehboob's alltime musical hit, "Anmol Ghadi", with music by the maestro Naushad. The duet from "Anmol Ghadi", "Aawaz De Kahan Hei" has immortalized both Surendra and Noorjehan as the most popular singing pair in movies.

Noorjehan: The musical diva of the 1940s, she was given the title of the Melody Queen much before Lata Mungeshkar came to be known by the same title. Starting the career in Lahore, she mesmerized the masses with her very first film Khandaan and the instant hit, "Tu Kaun Si Badli Mei Mere Chand Hei Aaja". Producers in Bombay raced to capture the prize catch, and soon the singing star conquered India's film capital with her vibrant voice. Hit followed hit: Dharti, Nauker, Nadaan, Dost, Badi Maa, Village Girl. With the Zeenat quawali, "Aanhien Na Bhari, Shikwe Na Kiye" she reached her peak popularity. Then followed her two greatest hits, Lal Haveli and Anmol Ghadi, both co-starring Surendra, with whom she delivered the all time hit duet, "Aawaz De Kahan Hai".

Suraiya: As Noorjehan was the queen of melody, Suraiya was the peoples' choice as the most popular singing star. She generated hysteria amongst the masses that no other singing star, not even Saigal, could generate. The young and the old, the man in the street or at work, they all enjoyed singing to Suraiya's tunes, so captivating and easy to copy. "O Door Janewale", "Woh Pas Rahen Ya Door Rahen", "O Likhnewale Ne Likh Di", "Bigdi Banane Wale", "Murliwale Murli Baja", "Tu Mera Chand Mein Teri Chandni" and many more were hummed in every nook and corner of the country. She retired from films after giving her greatest hit "Mirza Ghalib" and the great hits "Dile Nadan Tujhe Hua Kya Hei" and "Yeh Na Thi Hamari Kismat".

Khursheed: The first of the singing stars, she started her career in 1931, the year when India's first talkie film Alamara was released. She was the only singing actress in the 30s, who captivated the hearts of million with her melodious singing of the immortal songs: "Mohabbat Mei Sara Jahan Jal Raha Hei"(Shahashah Babar), Pahle Jo Mohabbat Mei Inkar Kiya Hota"(Pardesi), "Mori Ataria Hei Sooni"(Beti), "Ghir Ghir Aye Bidaria"(Shaadi), "Jo Ham Pe Guzarti Hei"(Mumtaz Mahal) and many more. Her best period came in the 40s when she was selected to play steller role with the legendary K.L.Saigal in Bhakt Surdas and Tansen. Matching her melodious voice to the one and only one, Saigal, she sang some of her greatest hits in these two movies: "Panchi Bawra Chand Se Preet Lagai", "Madhur Madhur Ga Re Manwa", "Chandni Raat Aur Tare Khile Hein", Ghata Ghanghor Ghor", "Mere Bachpan Ke Saathi" and "Barso Re".

It was in the 1940s that the playback singing was introduced. Whereas the earlier artistes acted and sang their songs on the screen, movies of this period introduced the custom of having actors who did not sing but had other singers do this for them. Many notable playback singers came to prominence in the 40s and thereafter. These playback singers, because of their immortal melodies, became legends in their lifetime.

Amirbai Karnataki: Famous as ‘Kannad Kokila’, her big success as playback singer came with the release of Bombay Talkies’ Kismet (1943). Her songs, ‘Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera’, ‘Dheere Dheere Aa Re Badal’ and “Door Hato Ae Duniawalo’ became a rage. She reached her peak in 1940s through musical hits like Bharathari, Caarwan, Aamarpali, Shikari, Eight Days, Leela, Sindoor and many others. Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent fan of her song ‘Vaishnav Janto’, which he made a part of his daily prayer meetings.

Shamshad Begum: The legendary classical and playback singer, making her debut in AIR Lahore in 1937, captivated the hearts of listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. Composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skillfully in some of his hits like Khazanchi (1941), Khandan (1942) andMehboob’s Humayun (1944). Most of her songs were memorable hits – ‘Dunia Mein Ghribon Ko Aaram Nahin Milta’ (Zamindar), Armano Ki Basti Mein Hum Aag Laga Baithe (Shirin Farhad), ‘Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon’ (Patanga), ‘Milte Hi Aankhen’ (Babul), Sayyan Dil Mein Aana Re’ (Bahar), ‘Boojh Mera Kya Naam Re’ (C.I.D.), ‘Kabhi Aar Kabhi Paar’ (Aar Paar) and many more all-time hits.

Geeta Dutt: When she was only 15, music director S. D. Burman offered her a solo in Do Bhai. The music of that film clicked in a big way. The biggest hit of the film was ‘Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya’, sung by Geeta Roy. This gave Geeta loads of offers and she became the top most playback singer of the Hindi film industry. Her collaboration with composer S. D. Burman proved very fruitful for Geeta Roy, later famous as Geeta Dutt after her marriage to Guru Dutt. With Aar Paar, both composer O. P. Nayyar and the singer Geeta Dutt scaled new heights. ‘Babuji Dheere Chalna’ and ‘Yeh Lo Mein Hari Piya’ became super hits.

Lata Mangeshkar: The most famous name in the history of Hindi film music, Lata Mangeshkar has always been a unique combination of a God-gifted voice and an unbelievable ability to easily pick up and inherit whatever was taught to her by her father, Dinanath Mangeshkar, a reputed classical singer. The true efflorescence of Lata’s talent was witnessed in 1949 when she sang super hit songs in back to back three blockbusters: composers Naushad’s Andaz, Shanker-Jaikishan’s Barsaat and Khemchand Prakash’s Mahal. By 1950 the Lata wave had changed the industry. Her phenomenal success made Lata the most powerful woman in the Indian film industry.

Asha Bhosle: The most versatile singer of Hindi films, her real breakthrough year was 1957, when O. P. Nayyar used her voice to sing in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur, both movies turning blockbuster musicals. The following year Asha made it right to the top spot with hit songs in films like Howra Bridge, Chalti Ka Naam Gadhi and Lajwanti. The 1970s brought her close with R. D. Burman (whom she later married), who gave her a new hip and happening sound altogether – Caravan, Teesri Manzil, Hare Rama Hare Krishna and many more hit movies. 1980 proved a lucky and prosperous year for Asha as she rocked the show with evergreen ghazals of Umrao Jaan.

Manna Dey: A legendary singer whose singing career spanned over five decades, Manna Dey is a versatile genius. Manna Dey went on to record several unforgettable numbers: ‘Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dware’, Tu Pyar Ka Sagar Hei’, ‘Upar Gagan Vishal’, ‘Yeh Ishq Ishq Hei Ishq’, Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua’, Ae Bhai Zara Dekh Ke chal’, ‘Aaja Sanam’, ‘Ae Meri Zohra Zabin and ‘Aye Mere Pyare Watan’. And who could forget the ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ duet with Kishore Kumar in Padosan? Manna Dey is a flawless singer who could sing any type of song.

Talat Mehmood: When melody ruled the roost in the Hindi film world, Talat remained the number one singer in the 1950s. He was totally identified with Dilip Kumar (Babul, Daag, Tarana, Footpath, Sangdil, Shikast), sang for Raj Kapoor (Ashiana, Anhonee), Dev Anand (Taxi Driver) and V. Shantaram (Parchain, Subah Ka Tara). This period also produced some of the most wonderful duets, pairing Talat with Lata Mungeshkar, Asha Bhosle and Geeta Dutt. Talat zoomed to the top with an enviable score of hits – ‘Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal’(Arzoo), ‘Mera Jeevan Sathi Bichad Gaya (Babul), ‘Meri Yaad Mein Tum Na Aansoo Bahana’ (Anhonee), ‘Mein Pagal Mera Manua Pagal’ (Ashiana), ‘Ae Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal’ (Daag), ‘Tera Khayal Dil Se’ (Do Raha), ‘Andhe Jahan Ke Andhe Raaste’ (Patita), ‘Jayen To Jayen Kahan’ (Taxi Driver), ‘Jalte Hein Jis Ke Liye’ (Sujata) and several more super hit songs.

Mukesh: The year was 1945 and Anil Biswas asked him to record the song ‘Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De’ for the film Pehli Nazar. That song brought a still relatively unknown Mukesh to the altar of fame. A legend was born and in the coming decades his golden voice would be heard in songs from musical hits like Aag, Andaaz, Barsaat, Mela across the nation. In 1949 came another milestone in his life – his association with Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishan. The chart-bursting success of the music in films like Awaara and Shri 420 spread Mukesh’s popularity all the way to Russia where you could hear people singing ‘Awara Hoon’ and ‘Mera Joota Hei Japani’. Mukesh thereafter flourished right through the 1960s and mid 1970s with soulful hits like, ‘Main To Ik Khwab Hoon’ (Himalaya Ki God Mein), ‘Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan’ (Mera Naam Joker), ‘Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke Sapne Chune’ (Anand) and many more hits.

Mohammed Rafi: He made his mark with Naushad-composed ‘Tera Khilona Toota Balak’ in Anmol Ghadi (1946). Rafi’s first big hit was in Jugnu (1947) in which he sang the duet ‘Yahan Badla Wafa Ka Bewafai Ke Siva Kya Hai’ with Noorjehan. His career took off with the all-time hit ‘Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki’ (Dulari-1949). There was no looking back after that and Rafi ruled as the undisputed king of playback singing till the early 70s. The one who recognized and exploited his immense talent was Naushad. The duo worked together to give several super hits such as Baiju Bawra and Mere Mehboob, to name a few.

Kishore Kumar: It was S. D. Burman who made Kishore Kumar, the superstar singer of the 70s when he chose him to sing ‘Roop Tera Mastana’ for Rajesh Khanna in Aradhna. Earlier Sachinda had made Kishore the voice of Dev Anand in hit films Baazi, Paying Guest, Munimji, Guide, Teen Devian, and Jewel Theif. Another composer who placed implacable faith in Kishore Kumar was Sachnda’s son, R. D. Burman. Kishore’s ability to modulate his voice to suit the personality of the hero he sang for was what made him a star singer. He was as much the voice of dapper Dev Anand, the adorable Rajesh Khanna as well as the angry youngman Amitabh Bachchan.

Paying tribute to superstar playback singers cannot be complete without applauding other melodious voices of the Hindi cinema who at one time or the other sang immortal songs – Hemant Kumar, Bhupinder, Yesudas, C. H. Atma, G. M. Durrani, Bhappi Lehri, Zohrabai, Mubarak Begum, Raj Kumari, Uma Devi, Suman Kalyanpur, Sudha Malhotra and Sandhya Mukherjee. The present generation of playback singers is no less praiseworthy for their continuing contribution to the treasure of beautiful Bollywood melodies: Alka Yagnik, Kavita Krishnamurthy, Sunidhi Chouhan, Shreya Ghosal, Alisha Chenoi, Sadhna Sargam, Sonu Nigam, Udit Narayan, Kumar Shanu, Hariharan, Abhijeet, Balasubramanyam and Sukhwinder.

Lately the magic of Bollywood music has cast its spell crossing all boundaries and nationalities. In U.K., USA , Middle East and South Africa especially, some of the biggest chart-busters include Indi-pop and hit songs from Bollywood movies. Unimaginable at one time, some of the most successful movies from Hollywood, released in recent years, seem inspired by Bollywood musicals. Internet radio has changed daily life of Indians settled across seven seas, as they say. Their subjective experience is magically transformed--the space around them is light and incandescent, the air sings melodies you never imagined . . . you hear olden goldies as well as current hits. When the older songs come on, you're transported to another time and place in India that you thought you had lost in your memory forever. Other times, recent tunes from current Bollywood movies will sound, and you're spontaneously reconnected to your beloved country that you left behind long back. It makes life richer, full of sensory riches as the atmosphere vibrates with the melodious voice of India.