Till my fourth grade I lived in Chennai with my mother and baby sister. My father was on deputation in New Delhi and our family temporarily existed as two establishments as my mother was an employed woman and wanted to keep her job till we were in a position to get back together. The earliest memories of music I have are from the Tamil movies featuring Sivaji Ganesan and the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu Dr. M.G. Ramachandran.
Of these, I remember the songs from MGR’s movies were particularly melodious. That was the era of some of the best music directors of Tamil cinema like MS Viswanathan, Ramamurthy and singers like TM Soundararajan, P.Susheela and S.Janaki. Those days it was melody that reigned supreme.
It is said that MGR always made sure that the music in his movies was par excellence. Other than film music I was exposed to Karnatic music at home as my mother was a very keen Karnatic music buff and learned music from my aunt who was a karnatic music singer and a player of Veena. I remember humming some Karnatic songs myself as a kid. In 1975 we joined my father in New Delhi and then began my exposure to Hindi music.
The earliest Hindi songs I remember were the ones I got to hear on the the music program Chitrahaar in the television. These were the great hits of those times like “Roop Tera Mastana” from the movie Aradhana, “Zindagi, Ek safar hai suhana” from Andaz, and “Khilte hain gul yahan” from the movie Sharmilee.
I became an ardent fan of Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. Who can forget Rafi’s masterpieces like “Yeh Reshmi Zulfein” and “Baharon Phool barsao” which was filmed on Rajendra Kumar? Another song that made a deep impression on me was “Likhe jo khat tujhe” from the movie Kanyadaan filmed on the dashing and handsome Shashi kapoor and the bewitching beauty Asha Parekh.
Some of the best songs I ever heard were from Asha Parekh’s movies. I still recall the lilting and evergreen tunes like “Raat Ka Sama, Jhoome Chandrama”, “Jaaiye app kahan jaayenge”, “Teri aankhon ke sivaaye duniya mein rakha kya hai” and “Parde mein rehne do”. The list is endless. Hemant kumar’s songs in the thriller “Bees Saal Baad” were simply fabulous.
Sadhna’s films also promised a bevy of melodious tunes. To this day I remember the first time I heard the song “Tera mera pyar amar” filmed on Sadhana and the dashing, flamboyant Dev Anand. Among music directors Shankar Jaikishan was my favorite. I liked Lakshmikant Pyarelal too. Then my uncle took me to watch the movie Sholay in 1975 when I was in the fifth grade and I remember rocking to the beat of the song “Mehbooba, mehbooba” sung by R.D.Burman fondly known as Pancham.
I still remember watching that song in the movie hall for the first time. It was filmed on the cabaret queen of Hindi cinema Helen, the supreme villain Amjad Khan (Gabbar singh in the movie) and the heroes Veeru and Jai who were portrayed by the he-men of those times, Dharmendra and Amitabh Bachchan.
Sadly the days of melody came to an end as time went by and in the eighties it was rock and beat that reigned supreme. Then, with the advent of the dancing diva Madhuri Dixit and some supreme movies like “Dil wale Dulhaniya Le Jayenga” in the nineties, the days of melody were back. The romantic songs filmed on Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol in breath taking locales bring out the on-screen chemistry of the couple beautifully.
The movie Veer Zaara had a brilliant music score. I was thrilled to hear Lata Mangeshkar sing in a movie in modern times to Madan Mohan’s lilting tunes.
As far as western music goes my earliest exposure was in IIT when I went there in 1984. The students in college used to form music groups and we used to have regular western music nights. I still remember the names of some of the western music groups we had in college. A group by the name of Pebbles whose members were the senior students was the most popular.
The other music groups in college were the Oasis and Hurricane. I was enraptured by rock and roll which is extremely fast paced. Some of my favorite western music groups were Prince, Pink Floyd, Eagles and Wham among others. I still remember the song “Another brick in the wall” by Pink Floyd and “Hotel California” by Eagles. The album “Moonflower” by Santana was another favorite.
After my four years in IIT I lost touch with western music. But off late I have picked the threads of western music again and among modern singers I like Christina Aguilera, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Adele to name a few. As far as western music is concerned, my ten year old nephew and teen-aged niece who live in U.K tell me what to listen to.
When I look back on my sojourn with music, the one thing I regret is that I never learned music myself. I briefly dabbled in a few musical instruments, but the interest was transitory and I did not have the perseverance to chase the whim. Fortunately my daughter is an extremely musical child with considerable natural talent and she has been learning violin for the past five years and is a competent little violinist for her age. If not a maestro I intend to see to it that she gets the opportunity to become a good violinist.