In the Naushad-C Ramchandra duel I have presented through the year, both seem to be evenly matched so far in spite of my known partiality towards Naushad. But as Chitalkar, the singer, CR has no competition from Naushad. As the year draws to a close, continuing the series on the Year of Naushad (with C Ramchandra in tandem), I present the songs of CR as a singer. He sang most of his songs as Chitalkar, mostly composed by himself, but he has also sung for other music directors, such as Mir Saheb (Lal Haveli, 1944), Anil Biswas (Jwar Bhata, 1944; Veena, 1948), Husnlal-Bhagatram (Apni Chhaya, 1950), Hemant Kumar (Samrat, 1954; Lagan, 1955), Roshan (Baraati, 1954), Usha Khanna (Faisla, 1965), Laxmikant-Pyarelal (Chhaila, 1967) etc.
Many of his songs, especially duets have achieved enormous popularity. Some have acquired iconic status such as Ana meri jaan meri jaan Sunday ke Saunday, Mere piya gaye Rangoon, Shola jo bhadke etc. He had a special flair for composing for romantic comedies, and he would sing many of the fun songs himself. The style of these songs, such as Ana meri jaan meri jaan, shows an irreverence, which seemed to be a part of his personality. There was an opposite side, too, of C Ramchandra, which was deeply soulful, which created immortal soft and poignant melodies in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar.
Some of his own songs, too, are very soulful. Even his light-hearted, fun songs were intrinsically melodious. He combined his mastery over rhythm with melody which was a result of his thorough grounding in classical music, having learnt music from Shankarrao Sapre of Nagpur. His assistantship to the doyens like Anil Biswas and Mir Sahib gave him invaluable training in the intricacies of film music. He learnt the use of Western instruments in orchestra from BS Hoogan. He had an eclectic taste in music. He combined elements of Western, Arabic, Middle Eastern music with Hindustani classical ragas. He drew from folk from all parts. His use of Western instruments, such as the congo, bongo, trumpet, guitar, clarinet, saxophone with the traditional Indian instruments such as the flute, sarangi, tabla and sitar created an enthralling effect. He used Goan musicians in a big way in his orchestra. With all that innovation, the enduring popularity of his songs was because his tunes remained simple and hummable. His singing generally remained in the middle octave, but he was endowed with a pleasant voice and enormous talent to understand the pulse of the listeners.
He may not count among the major playback singers, but a number of his songs are now regarded as landmarks in the history of Hindi film music. I am excluding his duets, because his fame primarily rests on the duets which are very well known. I am presenting here a selection of his solos which are of no mean merit, as my tribute to the great genius.
1. Kahte hain pyar kisko panchhi zara bata de from Baarish (1957), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
Baarish should be considered a major milestone in the career of C Ramchandra as the singer Chitalkar. This film had a very soulful, romantic, melodious duet, Phir wohi chaand wohi hum wohi tanhaai hai, by him with Lata Mangeshkar. Rajendra Krishna tweaked this mukhada slightly to write another melodious ghazal for Talat Mahmood in Jahanara (1964), composed by Madan Mohan. Incidentally, CR has some interesting Talat connection. Besides composing some of the career best songs of Talat, CR decided to fill in for Talat himself when the latter was not available to sing for Dilip Kumar in Azaad. The result was Kitna haseen hai mausam, in which his voice is indistinguishable from Talat. Baarish had a number of other memorable songs, including a double version Kahte hain pyar kisko panchh zara bata de – the happy version duet with Lata Mangeshkar. The sad solo version he does not give to Lata, but sings himself which is a proper serious song for the hero. We have already seen his songs for Raj Kapoor (Sargam etc.) and Dilip Kumar. With Dev Anand in Baarish, he completes playback for the great trinity.
2. Daane daane pe likha hai khanewale ka naam from Baarish (1957), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
From soft, sad and romantic, Chitalkar displays his real métier in this light-hearted song from the same film. But notice, the song always sounds melodious.
3. Chali bhi aa ke tera intezaar kab se hai from Shatranj (1956), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
Back to a soulful romantic Cihitalkar. This film had one of the best Hemant Kumar-Lata Mangeshkar duets, Badli mein chhupe chaand ne kuchh mujhse kaha hai. Chitalkar decides to display his prowess as a playback singer in this wonderful solo.
4. Haseeno se mohabbat ka bura anjaam hota hai from Albela (1951), lyrics Rajendra Krishna
I am switching back and forth between serious and light-hearted to showcase Chitalkar’s talent. Albelaa was an enormously successful musical comedy, where CR displays his huge range from the deeply soulful and soft Dhreere se aa ja ri ankhiyan mein and Balma bada nadaan re to the rip-roaring, light-hearted duets Shola jo bhadke and Bholi surat dil ke khote. The hazards of being trapped by an enchantress, which can only lead to misfortune to the guy, is a familiar theme in Hindi film songs. Haseeno se mohabbat ka is a qawwali-style street song forewarning of the dangers of sliding into charms of a beautiful damsel.
5. Tu bhool ke haseeno ke phande mein na ana from Lal Haveli (1944), lyrics Shams Lakhanvi, music Mir Saheb
We find this warning of the danger of haseenas in one of his earliest songs, picturised on the comedian Yaqub, composed by his mentor Mir Sahib. CR would have a number of successful comedy films and light-hearted songs with Yaqub.
6. Aankhein ladaana chhod do from Sipahiya (1949), lyrics Ram Moorti Chaturvedi
This warning song is somewhat constructive and gives a sage advice not to have a roving eye and to get married instead.
7. Koi Shyam rang koi gori from Veena (1948), lyrics Narendra Sharma, music Anil Biswas
Here is a wonderful song Chitalkar sang for his another mentor Anil Biswas. He starts with a perfect light classical recital in Kafi, switching to a comic style.
8. Haan main hun ek khalasi mera naam hai Bhimpalasi from Sargam (1950), lyrics PL Santoshi
In this irreverent song CR seems to be making fun of the classical Raga Bhimpalasi. If you think about it he composed an iconic Ye zindagi usi ki hai in this raga. His Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag and Radha na bole na bole are regarded as the best examples of Bageshree in film songs. Obviously he believed you don’t have to wear your knowledge or love of classical music on your sleeve. “Who is Naushad to preach us on classical music” was one of his piques against his rival. His irreverence concealed a great insight into classical music and his capacity to use it effortlessly without making much song and dance about it.
9. Kar khushamad to har ek…Khushamad ka hai bolbala from Nausherwaan-e-Adil (1957), lyrics Parvez Shamsi
It is clear Aga and Shammi provided parallel comic track in this movie, which was the practice then in our films, until our heroes became all-in-one – romantic, action, comedy in the same film.
10. Tum paschim ho hum poorab hain from Navrang (1959), lyrics Bharat Vyas
But CR can be preachy if the situation demands. Navrang was a major landmark for Shantaram and C Ramchandra, eulogizing the superiority of our music and arts. Mahipal brazenly tells the British Regent how lowly and vicious his culture is. Since the Regent does not know the language, the courtiers are able to convince him that the song is about the union of East with West which would write a golden chapter in history. Many years later, the Bharat Manoj Kumar would give some pep-talk on Purab and Paschim to the goras in their own country.