SAGA OF THE COMPILER'S ODYSSEY
It all began with my passion for Hindi film songs broadcast over the radio.
As an adolescent of 16 or 17, way back in 1967-68, I found the Hindi film
songs of fifties and earlier decades more attractive than what were current
in those days. Naturally, among the broadcasting stations accessible
on an ordinary radio set, the predilection for vintage film songs made
the then Radio Ceylon (now Radio Sri Lanka) my hot favourite.
In those days, Radio Sri Lanka would broadcast its VAKYA GEETANJALI programme every Sunday night. They would announce a meaningful sentence of 7 or 8 words and would ask the listeners to send in Hindi film songsbeginning with each word. It was my desire to participate in the various programmes of Radio Sri Lanka particularly the VAKYA GEETANJALI that set me on the path of noting down in exercise books the relevant particulars of all the film songs I liked. As my record af Hindi film songs grew, so did my participation in the VAKYA GEETANJALI programme.
How the idea of Compilation struck to me ?
The next 2 to 3 years passed in uncertainty and distress as alongwith my studies, the work of collecting information about songs was progressing very slowly. A letter of mine was published in a cine fortnightly `MADHURI', the magazine that gave some information on film music and Mr.K.D.Sharma of Kota (Rajasthan) wrote back to me that he faced the same problem as I did. He also wrote that Mr.Firoze Rangoonwalla's book "Indian Filmography" had, to some extent, minimized the problem of finding out the music directors' names of Hindi films but there was no book at all giving information on ALL the songs with respective singers, lyricists, record numbers, etc. I was one of the innumerable music lovers who faced this situation, and so, I began thinking of a compilation which would give all the information. I borrowed 'Indian Filmography' from Mr.Sharma and observed that the films (both silent and talkie) were listed according to year of censorship and that the category, names of films, their directors, and artistes were given all right but what music lovers desire to viz., the songs, the lyricists, the singers, disc numbers, etc. were not there. I wanted to find a solution to this problem and it occurred to me that since there was no book giving authentic information about Hindi film songs, I should take up this challenging task on my slander shoulders so that all music lovers would benefit by it. But when I actually decided to take up the compilation work, I had no clue as to where I could get all the information about all the songs. Moreover, I also did not imagine the volume of work involved in it. Perhaps, this 'Bliss of Ignorance' proved a boon otherwise I might not have dared to begin work on this project.
of songs from 1931 to 1970 only !
I noted from `Indian Filmography' and other magazines that film making had developed towards the end the previous century. In their infancy, films were silent. In 1931, when the first "100% Talking-Dancing" film "AALAMARAA" was released on the 14th March, the tradition of including songs in films began. There were only seven songs in AALAMARAA and Wazir Mohammad Khan had the good fortune of being the first singer when he rendered "Dede khuda ke naam pe pyare...." with great feeling. Since I wanted to collect all the songs, I thought it best to start the compilation with the advent of talkie films onwards. I liked the older songs better than the ones prevailing at that time i.e. the seventies.
I learnt that Mr.B.V.Dharap of Pune who unfortunately passed away on the 21st November 1986, had planned to give all the information on Indian films and their songs produced from 1972 onwards in his yearly series INDIAN FILMS. So I decided to do my compilation from 1931 to 1970 only. Needless to say, the main source of information on films was `Indian Filmography'. Based on my suggestion, Mr.G.C.Suman (Aligarh), an experienced listener and owner of a printing press, got printed 4,500 compilation sheets with the help of a specially desigened block to enable me to collect data on films and their songs with full credits. And thus began the GEET KOSH project. At that time, I had neither thought of nor realised how much money, efforts and time would be required for the completion of the project. Meanwhile, I had to give up further studies and joined the State Bank of India in July 1972. But I continued listening to old songs over Radio Ceylon and making notes thereof. Earlier in October 1971, I had organized the publication of a monthly "RADIO NEWS" (now the quarterly LISTENERS' BULLETIN) and that became an easy mode of communicating with music lovers all over India and abroad. The announcers of Radio Ceylon like Mrs.Vijaylaxmi Desaram, Mr.Manohar Mahajan, etc. also contributed their mite by broadcasting my appeal several times for help in compilation and a little help did come my way but that was not enough to fill up all compilation sheets. Then the problem also arose as to which years' songs should be compiled first. Some compilation of non-film Hindi songs was also made but looking to the magnitude of the work on film songs, the idea tabulating non-film songs had to be dropped.
information to be compiled simultaneously !
On doing an indepth study, I gathered that from 1931 to 1970, about 4,500 Hindi films were made. If information about any particular period was recorded first, what would happen to the information about other years/decades obtained during this effort ? If information pertaining to the other years was ignored for the time being, how and when would it be possible to gather it again ? I was perplexed. So I had to take the decision to post whatsoever information was available in the relevant compilation sheets and to take stock of it only after a certain amount of concrete work had been accomplished.
As years fled by, I made repeated appeals to radio listeners/ music lovers to make available to me any information, song booklets, catalogues of the Gramophone Co. of India, etc. Some film music lovers were generous, some apeared to oblige while some were miserly in parting with information in their possession; many did not fulfil their promises despite the fact that I was doing my compilation work keeping in mind the needs of these very music lovers. I realised only much later that with this compilation, the songs which would have otherwise gone into oblivision, had been protected from that misfortune.
I got information of thousands of Hindi film songs from Mr.Vijay Singh Chandel of Agra and Mr.N.D.Prakash `Patialavi' of Patiala. I contacted Mr.Firoze Rangoonwalla of Bombay to gather more information on film songs from the booklets in his possession but he very kindly directed me to the National Film Archive of India at Pune. On just a single request of mine, Mr.Ratanlal Kataria of Kekri (Distt.Ajmer) sent me some rare song books published in thirties by Sangeet Karyalaya, Hathras which had been carefully preserved by his father, late Mr.Milap Chandji Kataria.
started; visit to NFAI, Pune !
In June 1974, accompanied by two of my friends, Mr.G.C.Sharma (Kanpur) and Mr.V.S.Mishra (Bangarmau, Dist.Unnao, U.P.), I visited a few places and Pune too. At the National film Archive of India, Pune, with the help, encouragement and co-operation of Mr.P.K.Nair, the then Asstt.Curator, we worked day and night and noted down information from about 1,500 song booklets that were available there. Among the old film magazines, were found bound volumes of the monthly "FILMINDIA" which was being published since 1935 by Mr. Baburao Patel (the paper and print of which puts even the best of present day magazines to shame). We saw "RANGBHOOMI" too. We also saw the Gujarati song booklet of "Indrasabha"(1932) which had its 69 songs (out of 71 !) printed in Gujarati and its translation into Hindi was done by Mr.Mishra.
Godfather Mr.B.V.Dharap !
In addition to working at the Archive, we also met an elderly gentleman Mr.B.V. Dharap. He was the compiler of INDIAN FILMS series and we obtained information on plenty of old film songs from him. Till his sudden demise in November 1986, he had been a guiding force to me and other compilers. Incidentally, I might add that apart from publishing the said series from 1972 onwords, he was also engaged for several years in the difficult task of gathering detailed information on all silent as well as talkie Indian films. His first book on films was published in 1940. He worked as an `Audiography Assistant' in `Vish Vaman' (Hindi/1936) and also produced a Marathi film DEVBAPPA (1953). From Pune, we went to Bombay but having no contacts there, we had no success except meeting with veteran singer-actor Surendra Nath from whom we elicited some information about songs of his films.
In 1976,during another tour, we chanced upon a priceless collection of hundreds of booklets of silent mavies as well as talkie films from 1931 to 1960 with an old book-seller (the shop had changed into a paan shop by then) at Indore.
We could get details of the songs, lyricists and artistes from song booklets but the real challenge was finding out the names of the singers and the record numbers. This information was available from some HMV disc catalogues but more had to be collected through individual efforts. Details were also noted down straight from thousands of records available at Chor Bazars in prominent cities and also in the personal collection of numerous music lovers. Many old record catalogues were also consulted at Urdu Service and Delhi Studio Record Library of the A.I.R. Still a lot of more information was needed. For this, there was establised correspondence with the Head Office of the Gramophone Co.of India at Dum Dum, Calcutta. During this time, I was introduced to Mr.S.S.Almal who evinced interest in the Geet Kosh project and on my request, obtained information from the Head office of the record company. Through a letter of mine published in the film weekly SCREEN in December 1975, I came to know about Mr.B.N.Chatterjee of Bhopal (now residing at Nagpur) who, with selfless dedication, attempted to gather the remaining information from the Archive, Pune in one final untiring effort on my behalf.
4 Volumes,Vol.III (1951-60) to be published first !
At this stage, the situation was reviewed. It transpired that in every decade of the four decades, about 1,000 to 1,200 Hindi films were made. So keeping in mind the thickness of each volume, the expenditure involved on its publication and other matters, it was decided that the compilation/information of 40 years be split up into 4 volumes. In addition, it was also felt expedient that if volumes were released in the chronological order, Vol.I (1931-40) containing the oldest songs may not sell well. This would cause financial problems in publishing the remaining volumes. So it was decided to first publish Vol.III (1951-60) which had the most popular songs amongst all the decades. Out of 1,163 Hindi films released during this decade, there were 50-60 such films about which no information whatsoever was available. From the remaining films, there were many where some songs were not available, many songs where the names of singers were not known; some lyricists and some music directors could not be identified. But how long could we wait ? So Vol.III was given shape with an idea that depending on its popularity, the publication of remaining volumes would be decided upon.
who will publish Volumes-III (1951-60) ?
Now the problem of publishing the volumes arose. For on consultations with the established publishers, I faced disappointment because they could not even imagine what this book was all about ! Finally, my respected late father took up the challenge of publishing it. My numerous music loving friends helped a great deal financially. At last, in January 1980, Volume-lll was published. Due to insufficient publicity, news of HINDI FILM GEET KOSH project and the release of Volume-lll did not reach all music lovers and therefore, the sale of the volume, consisting the songs of the golden age of film music 1951-60 was very slow indeed. It took nearly 4 years for the 800 copies to be sold out.
& release of Vol.ll (1941-50)
When the problem of publication was solved, the work on Volume ll was begun. But when the compilation sheets pertaining to Vol.ll were checked, it was found that many were still blank. So accompanied by my friends Mr.G.C.Sharma and Mr.B.N.Chtterjee (Nagpur), I proceeded to Bombay in June 1982 and met a number of film personalities viz. singers lyricists, music directors, directors, etc. and elicited information. We also met many music lovers who, if need be, even to this day are glad to collect data from film personalities on my behalf. Prominent among them are Mr.Nalin Shah, Mr.Narayan Mulani, Dr.Prakash V.Joshi, Mr.Sham Samant, Mr.Vijay Nafde, Mr.Atul Dutta Phanse, etc. who have a `live' collection of old songs on gramophone records and cassettes. I also met Mr.P.S.Jadeja at Rajkot and Mr.Suleman Kherani at Jamnagar who had hundreds of rare song booklets of films of yester-years, during the later part of the journey. Needless to add that the gleanings from these booklets were made use of in the various volumes of Geet Kosh and in February 1984,Volume ll (1941-50) was released. Due to lack of funds, song index of about 9,000 songs could not be given in Volume-III (1951-60) but in Volume-II, index of 11,000 (approx.) songs running into 104 pages, was given for the convenience of readers. This volume was released by Music Director Naushad Ali in Bombay, the film capital of India, at a specially organised function at the Jai Hind College Hall near Churchgate on the 25th February 1984. The presence of celebrities of yester-years like singers Rajkumari, Zohrabai Ambalawali, Sudha Malhotra, music directors Hans Raj Behl, Bulo C.Rani, lyricist Qamar Jalalabadi, on the stage made the function a nostalgic experience. This 3-hour programme, in which Rajkumari, after a gap of several years, rendered songs from Mahal (1949) and Baware Nain (1950) and brought back fond memories, was recorded on video.
new Era of`Geet Kosh' started !
After the release of Vol.ll and inspired by these volumes, Mr.Harish Raghuwanshi of Surat who had contributed in every possible way in the Geet Kash project, successfully released the MUKESH GEET KOSH in April 1985. It gives me great pleasure to add that a new era of GEET KOSH,after the Mukesh Geet Kosh, had startaed. Mr.Catterjee has selflessly helped me in great measure in the preparation of the manuscript, indices of songs, etc.of Geet Kosh volumes by visiting me at Kanpur several times. Compilation of songs of singers K.L.Saigal, Hemant Kumar, Mohd.Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle etc. has also been undertaken by different music lovers.
After the publication of Vol.ll, work on Volume lV (1961-70) was started according to plans decided upon earlier. I contacted film personalities again to get missing information and this went on till the last few moments before the actual printing of the book was over.
My Competitor Mr.Veerbhadrasinh
In connection with the compilation of Vol.lV, I must place on record the contribution of Mr.Veerbhadrasinh Jhala of Narwar (Distt.Ujjain, M.P.) who is a fan of Suman Kalyanpur. For the past 15-20 years, Mr.Jhala had been gathering details of the songs of films released between 1962 and 1973 on the lines of the Geet Kosh. I do not know what inspired him, for after coming to know of my Geet Kosh project and just before the publication of Volume lV got under way, he came all the way to Kanpur in May 1984 and brought with him compilation and gramophane records and handed that treasure over to me !
of Volume-lV (1961-70) by Maestro Anil Da !
The release function of volume IV was organised at the All India Fine Arts & Crafts Society Auditorium in New Delhi on the 7th July 1986, the birthday of the composer of innumerable haunting melodies Maestro Anil Biswas, who was the chief guest. This day was historic in more ways than one because it was exactly at 6.00 p.m. on the 7th July 1896 that the first ever moving picture was shown at the Wattson Hotel in Bombay. These moving picture later took the form of movies. Fifty cultural societies of Delhi showered birthday felicitations on Maestro Anil Biswas on his completing 50 years of service as music director. I had the honour of being presented with the Yuv Kala Sangam award for the work on the unique Geet Kosh project. A music programme consisting of 13 songs composed by Maestro Anil Biswas and rendered by upcoming artists was the highlight of the evening. Prominent among those present were singers Mrs.Mina Kapur (wife of Maestro Anil Wiswas), Mr.P.D.Mathur (Younger brother of late Mukesh), Mrs.Bina Chopra (Daughter of late K.L.Saigal) and the famous singer of punjabi folk songs, Mr.Asa Singh Mastana and many music loving friends who came from different cities to grace the memorable functions recorded on the video.
for Volume-I(1931-40) started !
After the successful release of the last three (out of the initially planned 4 volumes), volumes viz.Volume-II, Volume-III & Volume-IV, I took up challenging and most difficult job of Volume-I which covered the song details of the earliest decade of talkie films. I was stunned to observe that about 30% information of songs, etc. of the films of thirties was missing ! As a compiler, I felt morally bound to make thorough search for the missing information before the printing of the book could be started. I expected to obtain substantial wanted information from Mr.B.V.Dharap of Pune but his sudden demise on the 21st November 1986 made me perplexed. However, I wish to mention the co-operation rendered by Mr.& Mrs.M.V.Gondhalekar (Son-in-law & daughter of late Mr.Dharap) who very kindly made available to me xerox copies of those rare booklets which were available with him. I had to visit Pune & Ahmedabad twice to grab the missing information. Accompanied by Mr.B.N.Chatterjee (Nagpur) for a part, I made one month's longest ever journey programme in April-May 1987 and visited Bombay, Pune, Rajkot, Jamnager, Ahmedabad, Delhi, etc. with a hope to obtain as much wanted information as possible. In Bombay, while Mr.Firoze Rangoonwalla very kindly obliged me by providing photocopies (free of charge !) of some of the rare booklets of thirtieis, I tried to meet as many veterans as possible so that I could prompt them to recall the forgotten stories of the bye-gone era ! I also visited Calcutta alongwith Mr.Chatterjee in search of obtaining the missing informa- tion. Needless to add that my untiring efforts, supported by Mr.Chatterjee, bore fruits and I got plenty of information from living legends who were in their seventies/ eighties like Zubeida, Surendra Nath, P.Jairaj, Bhagwan, Ezra Mir, Ramchandra Pal, Madhulal Damodar Master, Master Chhaila, Gajanan Jagirdar, Shahu Modak, Anil Biswas, Prof. B. R. Deodhar, Master Fida Hussain, G.M.Durrani, Firoz B.Dastur, Kedar Sharma, Heerabai Barodekar, S.N.Tripathi, Suprova Sarkar,Vijay Bhatt,Vithaldas Panchotia, Rajkumari, Kanan Devi, etc. In my pursuit, the praiseworthy and valuable help of Mr.Pritam Menghani (Ulhasnagar) & Mr.Kaiyyum Abdul Aziz (Gondal, Distt.Rajkot) must be placed on record. While Mr.Menghani made available number of booklets for my perusal, Mr.Aziz sent me hundreds of monthly catalogues of gramophone companies like Megaphone, Young India, Gramophone Co.of India, etc. and has been trying for a long time now to locate material to fill up the blanks in the various volumes. Having ensured that all the known sources have exhausted, the printing of Volume-I started in February 1988 which continued upto the middle of September 1988.
[To be concluded]
- ' H A M R A A Z '