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BOLLYWOOD & PUNJAB : A friendly creative relationship of seven decades. (An overview by Bobby Sing) - Part One.
21 May, 2012 | Articles on Cinema

The idea of this write-up struck me as we entered the 100th year of Indian Cinema which made me think about the creative relationship between the rich culture of Punjab and the Hindi Film Industry popularly known as Bollywood. It can also be referred to as a humble reminder from the community presenting their valuable but unacknowledged contribution to the Hindi Film Industry since the early 40s of the last century. Here I would like to add that the article isn’t about the Punjabi origin of many veterans of the Industry but its more about the featured elements of Punjab and the portrayal of Sikhs in Hindi Films during the last 7 decades. 

Though it’s a vast subject that needs to be discussed with all its relevant details and credits in the form of a book, yet I would try to give you a basic idea of this mixed bag of relationship here at a glance. So cutting the introduction short, let’s start from the years when the Hindi Film Industry came into its full force with all the three elements - motion, sound and music in the early 40s.
1940s
Right from these initial years, the traditional folk tales from Punjab were used as the basic themes by the film-makers such as Heer Ranjha and Mirza Sahiba. Along with various versions of these folk tales, Punjabi traditional music and rhythm also got introduced in the Film songs through music directors, namely Pandit Amarnath (Mirza Sahiban), Vinod (Ek Thi Ladki), Aziz Khan, Sharma Ji-Verma Ji (Heer Ranjha), Shankar Jaikishan (Barsaat), Naushad (Anmol Ghadi) and Husnlal-Bhagatram (Badi Bahen).

Pyar Ki Jeet - Bobby Talks Cinema.comIn fact, Husnlal-Bhagatram are considered to be the first music director duo of Indian Film Industry, starting in the early 40s, who also introduced & popularized Punjabi Folk Music or Rhythm in their film songs such as “Ek Dil Ke Tukde Hazaar Hue” (1948) and “Chup Chup Khade Ho” (1949).
The talented duo also gave the first break to the one and only Nightingale of Punjabi Folk Music, Surinder Kaur, in 'Pyar Ki Jeet' (1948). At that time the singers who were called to sing these Punjabi songs were mainly Shamshad Begum, Noor Jehan, Geeta Dutt, Mohd. Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar who sang the famous “Laara Lappa” in Ek Thi Ladki and “Hawa Mein Udta Jaaye” in Barsaat.
1950s
In this period post the Indian Independence, though films on the same folklores continued to be made at one end, like Mirza Sahiban (1957) & Sohni Mahiwal (1958), other genres also came into existence, ranging from social dramas, thrillers and mysteries. However, Devotional Films remained one of the prominent features of Indian film-making in this decade, talking about the famous mythological heroes in an amusing way. And that’s where our first Macho Punjabi Hero came in, popularly known as Rustam-e-Hind Dara Singh.

Dara Singh - Bobby Talks Cinema.comTo encash his huge popularity in those years, Dara Singh was first roped in as a world famous wrestler itself in a few films. But later on he got featured in many solo hero projects such as Jagga Daku (1959), King Kong (1962), Samson (1964), Hercules (1964), Sikander-e Azam (1965) and many more. Still what remains the most exciting and memorable part of Dara Singh’s film career is the way he superbly re-lived two gigantic mythological deities on the screen, namely Hanuman and Shiva. Such was the innocence and truth in Dara’s portrayal of these two Gods that till date people from that era fondly remember him with the names of Hanuman and Shiva only. Interestingly, due to this inseparable association with the characters, Dara Singh once again played Hanuman in two epic TV serials “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata” later in the 80s.
The decade of 50s also witnessed the emergence of another musical phenomenon called O. P. Nayyar who is widely known as one of the pioneer music directors who extensively used Punjabi music and its flavor in his hit film scores. But Nayyar was not alone as there were other music directors too who willfully used the Punjabi Component in their songs such as Salil Choudhary in Raj Kapoor’s “Jaagte Raho”. In fact, Raj Kapoor had “Hawa Mein Udta Jaye” in his ‘Barsaat’ (1949) and then beautifully incorporated the phrase “Ki Main Jhoot Boleya – Koi Na” in his experimental project “Jaagte Raho”. Later he again used more Punjabi songs in his new age films like “Bobby” and “Heena”.
But undoubtedly post O. P. Nayyar’s “Leke Pehla Pehla Pyar” (CID) (1956), “Ek Pardesi Mera Dil Le Gaya” (Phagun) (1958) and “Naya Daur” (1957) with its cult song “Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawano Ka”, the up-tempo Bhangra beats and dancing rhythm got noticed in a big way which forced almost every music director to use them in their individual projects.
So in the late 50s the composers who readily incorporated Punjabi touch in their songs were mainly C. Ramchandra (Azad), Salil Chaudhary (Jaagte Raho), Shankar Jaikishan (Kathputli, Kanhaiya), Sardul Kwatra (Mirza Sahiban), Nausad (Sohni Mahiwal), Madan Mohan (Adalat), Hansraj Behl (Sawan) and O. P. Nayyar (CID, Phagun, Naya Daur, Tumsa Nahin Dekha). However Mohd. Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhosle continued to be the specialized voices for such songs in this decade too, with lyricists including Qamar Jalalabadi, Shailendra, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Sahir Ludhianvi & more.
Apart from the music, Punjab also entered film writing in this decade through Rajinder Singh Bedi, on whose short story and script a thoughtful film called “Garam Coat” was made in 1955, featuring Balraj Sahni in the lead. The legendary writer further contributed in some great films, working with directors ranging from Sohrab Modi, Bimal Roy to Hrishikesh Mukherjee.
Shaheed - Bobby Talks Cinema.com1960s
The 60s had many major films strengthening the musical chord between Punjab and Hindi Films. In 1964 it was “Kashmir Ki Kali” with O. P. Nayyar and Mohd. Rafi in their full Punjabi form. Then there was Manoj Kumar coming up with his three important films, one of which was Shaheed (1965), made on the life of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his companions. The film brought back the memories of the contribution made by Punjab in the freedom fight of the nation with fabulously composed songs by Prem Dhawan. The next was “Upkaar” (1967), through which Kalyanji Anandji gave a new anthem to the nation “Mere Desh Ki Dharti”. And the third was “Purab Aur Paschim” (1970) in which Kalyanji Anandji used the Punjabi music, its rhythm and Dhol in a remarkable manner as never heard before in Hindi Film Music. Along with his influential songs, Manoj Kumar also brought a new Punjabi gem Mahendra Kapoor into limelight, who sang almost all the songs in the three movies mentioned above.
Towards the end of the decade, Chetan Anand & Madan Mohan came with their epic movie “Heer Ranjha” (1970), once again made on the famous folk tale from Punjab, with a melodious soundtrack and complete dialogues rendered in verses for the first time. Personally I really loved and still cherish the way Madan Mohan conceived all its songs, particularly “Naache Ang Ve” with a great chorus and also how Guru Dutt danced on the Dhol beats in “Bharosa” (1963).
The 60s also saw many more legendary music directors making their presence felt, who prominently used Punjab in their Hit numbers, such as Salil Chaudhary (Sapne Suhane),  Roshan (Vallah Kya Baat Hai), Ravi (Aadmi Aur Insaan, Bharosa), Prem Dhawan (Pavitra Paapi), Laxmikant Pyarelal (Do Raaste) and Sonik Omi (Sawan Bhadon). But even in this decade, the same voices rendered the Punjabi songs with an occasional addition of new entrants such as Balbir in “Mausam Hai Baharon Ka” (Mere Humsafar) & “Dil Karta O Yaara Dildaara” (Aadmi Aur Insaan).
Another important aspect of the 60s was that after “Garam Coat” (1955),  more stories and content from Punjabi Literature were being adapted for film scripts. Rajinder Singh Bedi made his debut in direction with a path-breaking film called “Dastak” (1970) on his own story with a haunting musical score by Madan Mohan, while Rajendra Bhatia made “Pavitra Paapi” (1970) based on the novel by Nanak Singh.
1970s
The 70s were full of entertaining masala films wherein many music directors heavily used the Punjabi theme in their film soundtracks. Laxmikant and Pyarelal were the ones who gave several Hits based on Punjabi Folk, like in Loafer, Daag, Bobby, Roti Kapda Aur Makaan, Pratigya, Suhaag and more. But other than the duo, there were many other renowned composers who came with some memorable numbers, like Kalyanji Anandji (Kathputili), Ravindra Jain (Chor Machaye Shor), Rajesh Roshan (Vishwanath, Kala Patthar) and Usha Khanna (Dada).
Utpal Dutt in Imaan Dharam - Bobby Talks Cinema.comThe unexpected additions in this decade were Khayyam (Kabhi Kabhie), R. D. Burman (Bundal Baaz, Chalta Purza, Benaam) and even S. D. Burman composing “Tera Peecha Na Chhorhunga Sohniye” for Dharmendra in Jugnu. Among the singers, now everyone wanted to sing a Hit Punjabi number looking at their huge popularity or instant success and the names included all the big stalwarts like Mohd. Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor, Shailendra and also Manna Dey (Hai Jindri). Supporting these entertaining and catchy Punjabi songs were veterans such as Dharmendra (Partigya), Rajesh Khanna (Daag), Raj Kapoor (Bobby), Manoj Kumar (Roti Kapda Aur Makaan), Shashi Kapoor (Chor Machaaye Shor), Dev Anand (Jaaneman, Des Pardes), Sanjeev Kumar & Utpal Dutt (Imaan Dharam), Pran (Vishwanath) & Amitabh Bachchan (Suhaag).
But actually in this decade the Punjabi content in the movies got a new dimension through the works of two visionary directors who were well aware of the power & passion in the notes of Punjabi music. And they were Subhash Ghai and Yash Chopra who redefined the way music was used in films through their impressive styles. Where Subhash Ghai came up with ‘Ja Re Ja O Harjai” (Kalicharan) and “Hai Jindri” (Vishwanath), Yash Chopra brought back Punjabi Folk with his “Ni Main Yaar Manana Ni” (Daag), Tera Phoolon Jaisa Rang, Sada Chirhian Da Chamba (Kabhie Kabhie) and “Jaggya Jaggya” (Kala Pathhar).
However, there was one significant entry in this decade with a Punjabi background, discovered by the greatest showman Raj Kapoor. And he was Narender Chanchal who rendered three hugely popular tracks “Beshak Mandir Masjid Todo” (Bobby), “Mehngayi Maar Gayi” (Roti Kapda Aur Makaan) and “Main Benaam Ho Gaya” (Benaam) surprising even the maestros of the field with this high-scale voice.
(To be continued in Part 2)

Tags : BOLLYWOOD & PUNJAB, Punjabi content in Hindi Films, Punjab's friendly creative relationship of seven decades with Bollywood, An overview by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Articles On Cinema by Bobby Sing, Sikhs in Hindi Films, The Depiction of Sikh characters in Hindi Films, Punjabis in Bollywood, Researched articles on Bollywood.
21 May 2012 / Comment ( 0 )
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