Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stellar Soundtracks: Albela

Tonight the spotlight shines on one of the most delightful (and all time beloved) soundtracks to come out of Bombay’s Hindi film studios. The film is the original version of Albela (Dandy) made in a very young independent India in 1951.

Day-dreamer and artist, Pyarelal, (Bhagwan) lives a poor lifestyle in Bombay with his retired dad, housewife mom, married brother, Mohan and his wife, Malti, and unmarried sister, Vimla. It is now time for Vimla to get married, her dad has saved a thousand rupees, while Mohan has made arrangements for six hundred more, and Pyarelal is asked to arrange for four hundred. Instead Pyarelal brings home one hundred rupees, informing his family that he has been fired from his job, and will be unable to raise any more money. An argument ensues, and Pyarelal is asked to leave. He leaves, swearing only to return when he is a famous and wealthy man. He meets with pretty actress, Asha, (Geeta Bali) both fall in love with each other, and he starts acting in the theater, and achieves quick success. He starts sending money and gifts home to his parents, and hopes that they will be pleased with his success. Then one day when he feels that he has achieved his success, he returns home - only to find out that the money and gifts he has been sending home are missing; his mom has passed away; his dad and sister are missing, believed to be begging in the streets; his sister's marriage has been canceled; his brother cannot support himself; and his sister-in-law, has a dark deep secret that she cannot tell anyone. (IMDB).

The film is what is nowadays called a romantic comedy. The lead was played, unusually, by a comedian cum wrestler with a rather grandiose name, Bhagwan Dada (Grandfather God).  He plays the ‘dandy’ Pyarelal with an infectious charisma and jollity that more than makes up for his rather unimaginative dance steps and peculiar facial features.  He directed and starred in the film which proved to be the zenith of his career; he died a miserable, forgotten man in a poor neighborhood of Mumbai in 2002. 
Bhagwan Dada

Bhagwan’s opposite number was one Geeta Bali.  Born into an intellectual Sikh family-- her maternal grandfather Takhat Singh was the founder of Sikh Kanya Mahavidyalay - boarding school for girls, the first of its kind established in 1904. Her parents encouraged their daughters Harkirtan (Geeta Bali) and Hardarshan to learn classical music and dance, horse riding and gatka fencing. Fundamentalist Sikhs socially boycotted the family as they did not like the girls performing in public and they picketed theatres.  After Independence the family moved to Bombay but lived in poverty until Geeta found her way into the film world.  She rose to be one of the most loved actresses of the 1950s and in 1955 married the stunning playboy of the screen, Shammi Kapoor, with whom she was working in the film Coffee House.
Geeta Bali

The soundtrack composed by C. Ramachandra is noteworthy for a number of reasons. Ramachandra was not averse to introducing not only Western instruments but swing jazz riffs into his music. It was rare for a ‘music director/composer’ to sing his own material, but he duets throughout this film with the still nascent Lata Mangeshkar. His duet with her,  Shola jo bhadke was one of the first truly ‘jazzy’ songs in an Indian film and became an instant hit. 
C. Ramachandra

Quickness was a big part of Ramachandra’s mystique. The lovely lori (lullaby) Dheere se Aaja was rushed into a song while he was on his way to the studio to shoot the scene! And it is a gorgeous song that is reprised in the film allowing both Bhagwan and Geeta to star as lead vocalist.

There is not a weak song among this party of twelve. There are sweet ballads, several catchy dance numbers one of which, Diwana Parwana, includes a turn by India’s greatest trumpet player Chic Chocolate, who like many of Bombay’s elite jazz band leaders, was forced to play deep in the anonymous background of countless films to make ends meet, once the roaring 30’s and 40’s had come to an end. Indeed, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear his muted horn pop through the mix in a number of songs.

I only recently discovered this soundtrack but have listened to little else all week! I am sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I (not to mention, millions of Indians) have.

            Track Listing:
            01 Bholi Soorat Dil Ke Khote
02 Dil Dhadke Nazar Sharmae
03 Balma Bada Nadan Re
04 Dheere Se Aaja
05 Diwana Parwana
06 Haseenon Se Mohabbat
07 Kismat Ki Hawa Kabhi Naram
08 Mehfil Mein Meri
09 Mere Dil Ki Ghadi Kare Tik Tik Tik
10 Sham Dhale Khidki Tale
11 Deere Se Aaja (reprise)
12 Shola Jo Bhadke


Anonymous said...

Ajnabi - I think Bhagwan's name translates here as brother for Dada :)

Thanks for the post - one of my favorite old time set of movie songs. Each one more witty and sweet than the other... And a great writeup.

ajnabi said...

Anonymous, you are right about Dada! Poetic license!~


what a grand addition to the blog...zillion thanks for this wonderful memory of the yesteryears.


ajnabi said...

Holistic Khan, nice to see you back again. Glad you are enjoying Albela!