Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs
"Balam Aan Baso Mere Man Main" (Devdas - 1935)
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".
"Birha Ki Aag Lagi More Man Mein"(Deccan Queen - 1935)
Surendra: Bombay, although the movie capital of India, was left behind at the Box Office by Calcutta film makers because the former had no singer to match Saigal's mass appeal. The directors here were desparately looking for a singer to play a lead in their movies when Surendranath, B.A.LL.B, landed in Bombay to start his practice in law-courts, but, as destiny would have it, was picked up by producer-director Mehboob Khan from a party where he was singing some of Saigal's songs . Surendra, as he was credited by Mehboob in his movies, 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.
"Tu Kaun Si Badli Mei Mere Chand Hei Aaja" (Khandaan – 1942)
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. In fact, Lata Mungeshkar's early singing style was inspired by Noorjehan. 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".
"O Door Janewale" (Pyar Ki Jeet - 1942)
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.
"Mohabbat Mei Sara Jahan Jal Raha Hei"(Shahashah Babar - 1944))
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.
“Naina Bhar Aaye Neer” (Humanyun - 1944)
Shamshad Begum: The legendary classical and playback singer of yester years, Shamshad was born in Amritsar. Making her debut in AIR Lahore in 1937, the singer captivated the hearts of listeners with the enchanting depth of her voice. Lahore based composer Ghulam Haider used her voice skillfully in some of his earlier hits like Khazanchi (1941) and Khandan (1942). When he shifted to Mumbai in 1944, Shamshad went with him as member of his team. In 1944 Ghulam Haider used her voice in Mehboob’s Humayun. The song ‘Naina Bhar Aaye Neer’ captured the imagination of the audiences.
“Mera Sunder Sapna Beet Gaya” (o Bhai - 1945)
Geeta Dutt: Geeta Roy came to Mumbai with her parents from East Bengal in 1942 when she was 12-year old. 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. Disc sales of the song rocketed to new heights. This gave Geeta loads of offers and she became the top most playback singer of the Hindi film industry.
“Aayega Aayega Aaega Aanewala” (Mahal - 1949)
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. With established singers like Amirbai Karnataki and Shamshad Begum around, Lata’s thin voice strained. However, leading composer Ghulam Haider reposed faith in Lata and gave her break in Majboor that brought her some attention. But 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.
“Ude Jab Jab Zulfein Teri (Naya Daur - 1957)
Asha Bhosle: The most versatile singer of Hindi films, Asha Bhosle can boast of having worked extensively with trend setting composers across three generations, from O. P. Nayyar’s breezy, foot-taping ditties of the 1950s to R. D. Burman’s pop blitzkrieg in the 1970s to A. R. Rahman’s sensational contemporary rhythms. She sang one of Hindi cinema’s first rock and roll numbers, ‘Eina Meen Deeka’ way back in 50s. Asha made her playback debut in 1948 with the film Chunaria, but it took her long time to make it to the top. 1957 was her real breakthrough year when O. P. Nayyar used her voice to sing in Tumsa Nahin Dekha and Naya Daur, both movies turning blockbuster musicals. Music director O. P. Nayyar's association with Asha is part of Bollywood lore. He was the composer who first gave Asha her own identity. He first called her for a film called Mangu (1954), and gave her a big break in CID (1956). However, it was the success of Naya Daur (1957), that made the duo very popular. O.P. Nayyar used the Asha Bhosle-Mohammad Rafi duo for his most popular duets such as Ude jab jab zulfein teri (Naya Daur), which gave Asha the biggest break in her career.
“Kaun Aaya Mere Man Ke Dware” (Dekh Kabira Roya - 1957)
Manna Dey: A legendary singer whose singing career spanned over five decades, Manna Dey is a versatile genius. Manna Dey was initially groomed to be a music director under the mesmeric spell of his illustrious uncle K. C. Dey and composer Anil Biswas. But a song that Dey sang for the film Ram Rajya changed everybody’s opinion about his vocation. They all said he was better off as a singer. There was no looking back after that. Although he never quite got the success that contemporaries Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh and later Kishore Kumar achieved, Manna Dey went on to record several unforgettable numbers. Notable among them are: ‘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?
“Ae Dil Mujhe Aisi Jagah Le Chal” (Arzoo - 1950)
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). Every music director including Shanker-Jaikishan, C. Ramchandra, Roshan, Ghulam Mohammed and Madan Mohan sought him after. Both Naushad and Anil Biswas claimed credit for discovering Talat in the 1950-releases, Babul and Arzoo. The next five to seven years found Talat zooming 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.
“Dil Jalta Hai To Jalne De” (Pehli Nazar - 1945)
Mukesh: Bitten by the Bombay bug, Mukesh arrived in Bombay with the hope of becoming a movie star. He stayed with his relative, the famous actor Motilal. With Motilal’s help he got a role as an actor. His debut as a singer, however, came in the film Nirdosh with the song, ‘Dil Hei Bujha Hua’. He later went on to sing the song ‘Badariya Baras Gayee Us Paar’ with Khursheed in the film Moorti. Then came an important milestone in his life. 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 in the streets of Moscow you could hear people singing ‘Awara Hoon’ and ‘Mera Joota Hei Japani’.
“Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki” (Dulari - 1949)
Mohammed Rafi: Born in Amritsar, Mohammed Rafi moved to Mumbai in 1944 after taking lessons in music from Ustad Wahid Khan in Lahore. Naushad gave him his first break in Pehle Aap (1944). 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.
“Roop Tera Mastana” (Aradhna - 1970)
Kishore Kumar: The versatile genius, Kishore Kumar nurtured dreams of becoming a singer following the footsteps of his idol, the legendary singer K. L. Saigal. He frequently visited his famous star brother Ashok Kumar in Mumbai from Khandwa, his birthplace, in the hope that he would introduce him to K. L. Saigal. But destiny willed otherwise. He was forced into acting – a hero who was as much a comedian. But Kishore Kumar’s real ambition was to become a playback singer, which became true when music director Khemchand Prakash called him to lend his voice for Dev Anand in Ziddi (1948). However, Kishore gave credit for his popularity to Burmans – father and son. 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.
Paying tribute to singing stars and the superstar playback singers cannot be complete without applauding other melodious voices of the Hindi cinema who also sang some immortal songs in the early era: Amirbai Karnatki - “Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mera” (Kismet), Zohrabai - “Ankhia Mila Ke Jiya Bharma Ke” (Rattan) , Raj Kumari - "Ghabra Kai Jou Hum Sar Kou Takrayien” (Mahal), G.M.Durrani - “ Neend Hamaari Khwab Tumhaare” (Nai Kahani), Hemant Kumar - “Ye Raat Ye Chandni Phir Kahan” (Jaa), Mubarak Begum - “Kabhi Tanhaayon Mein Yun Hamari Yaad Ayegi” (Hamari Yaad Aayegi), Bhupinder - “Beeti Naa Bitai Raina (Parichay), C. H. Atma - “Roun Mein Sagar Ke Kinare” (Nagina), Bhappi Lehri - "Yaar Bina Chain Kahan Re" (Saaheb) and the gazal king Jagjit Singh - "Hontho Se Chhoo Lo Tum" (Prem Geet). They too deserve more details on their melodies, which I hope to post soon as Part-2 of this blog.
The new millennium playback singers are no less praiseworthy for their continuing contribution to the treasure of the most beautiful Bollywood melodies. It is because of them that the era of musicals is here again: Kumar Shanu, Udit Narayan, Shan, Sonu Nigam, Sukhvindar, Sunidhi Chowhan, Alka Yagnik, Shreya Ghoshal, Alisha Chenoy and many more amazing discoveries by the day, who continue to give Midas touch to movies with their haunting melodies. Since they have been in news right from the day they rendered their first super hit songs to till date rise to fame, I have skipped their songs in this blog of Bollywood's Breakthrough Songs.