A peep into Bollywood

Parvez Dewan
Book: Bollywood Odyssey
Author: Ajay Mankotia
Language: English
Publisher: Readomania, New Delhi
Year: 2023
Price: Rs 699
Pages: 332
In Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) there was a scene in which the Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka characters wander through the streets of Paris, listening to a Rafi song from An Evening in Paris on their headphones and acting it out as in the 1968 original.
But you and I did not see this sequence.All we got were a few snatches from that song on the film’s soundtrack. The film’s makers deleted the scene since the film had already become too long.
That is also why K Asif retained only 12 of the 20 songs that Naushad had composed for Mughal e Azam (1960). Raj Kapoor shot Mera Naam Joker as a 6-hour film. When he shortened it to 4 hours, he deleted some excellent songs, notably the majestic Mukesh- Sharda duet, Gao Gao.
Ajay Mankotia’s encyclopaedic Bollywood Odyssey not only has a chapter on all his favourite music directors and singers of the 1950s, 60s and 70s,but it also has chapters on themes like songs that had to be deleted from the final version of the film.
Before starting his own tax advisory committee, Mankotia was a top-ranking officer of the Indian Revenue Service. However, he had music in his blood and was trained in music at home. His uncle Satish Bhatia scored the music of V Shantaram’spopular Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti (1967) and his motherUsha Bhatia was a singer for All India Radio in the 1950s. As a result not only can Mankotia play music, as a child he had often sung on the stage, especially if his uncle had composed the music. When he grew up he would be on the stage in his own right and came to be known as the Singing Taxman.
This meant that Mankotia grew up amidst family friends like Jaidev, of Hum Dono fame, and singer Jagjit Kaur, who later married Khayyam. Mankotia not only had accessto famous musicians and singers but also to unique insights.
For instance, OP Nayyar once told him that though Asha Bhosle ruled his rival Rahul Dev Burman’s studio and heart, RD gave his best songs to Lata Mangeshkar. This was extremely evident and yet this conclusion occurred to very few outside the industry.
Mohammed Rafi ruled the music charts in the 1950s and 1960s. In the top rung, he had no competition at all. Mukesh was an extremely distant number two-till 1968 when the public started lending its ears to other male singers as well. Kishore Kumar, Mahendra Kapoor and Mukesh sang the no. 1, 2 and 4 most popular songs sung by male singers that year. Rafi only made it to no.3. When Kishore’s Aradhana stormed the nation in late 1969, it was Rafi’s turn to be wiped out.For almost five years nothing worked out.
Mankotia tells us that it was music director Usha Khanna who helped restore Rafi’s self-confidence in 1974 by getting him his first film award since perhaps 1967, for the song Teri galiyon mein (Hawas).
Mankotia also reminds us that the Indian Army has been a contributor of sorts to the Indian music world, giving us lyricist Anand Bakshi and music director Madan Mohan. Khayyam had been a member of the army cultural troupe during World War II, a unit headed by none other than Faiz Ahmad Faiz.
Mankotia covers artists from India as well as Pakistan. Apart from individual chapters about masters like Mehdi Hasan and Ghulam Ali, he has a chapter on songs sung for Indian films by Pakistanis and songs sung for Pakistani films by Indians.
In the process, we get to know that ghazal singer Mehdi Hasan’s father and uncle had been singers of dhrupad in Rajasthan, a pure form of Hindu devotional music sung mainly in royal courts and temples.
Naushad once caught Mukesh drinking alcohol during the daytime. He reprimanded him, saying that he had proved himself as good a singer as KL Saigal with the song, Dil jalta hai. Did he now want to prove that he could drink as well as Saigal, too? (Alcohol had famously destroyed Saigal’s life.)
Mukesh was the playback voice of Raj Kapoor for most of his career. However, Manna Dey got to sing some songs forShree 420 (1955) and all the male songs of Chori Chori (1956), because during that period Mukesh was bound under a contract to Mashuqa, a film in which he played the hero. In 1969 Raj Kapoor brought Manna Dey back for the main song of Joker.
Similarly, the films of Kapoor almost always had music by Shankar Jaikishan. However, Phir Subah Hogi went to Khayyam on the recommendation of Sahir Ludhianvi.The film was based on Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, a novel thatSahir felt Khayyam understood better.
Among the most rewarding chapters of Bollywood Odyssey are those based on themes such as popular songs being cited in court judgements of courts including the Supreme Court itself. Sahir has been one of the most cited poets. His Jinhen naaz hai Hind pe (1957) was mentioned by the SC in the case Buddhadev Karmakar vs State of West Bengal (2011). Also in 2011, a chief magistrate metropolitan magistrate quoted his Woh afsana jise anjaam tak lana na ho mumkin in his judgement discharging Ottavio Quattrocchi. Later that year this song got cited by an additional sessions judge in a dowry harassment case.
In 2016, the Delhi High Court cited Gulshan Bawra’s famous patriotic song Merey desh ki dharti in its judgment in the case of Kanhaiya Kumar versus State of NCT of Delhi.In 2018 the Supreme Court quoted Anjan’s song Rotey hue aatey hainsab from the film Muqaddar ka Sikandar.
Mankotia’s scholarship is amazing. Despite his very Dogra name and origins, he manages to spot Tamil and Malayalam songs cited by the courts.