What makes the Bollywood title song eternal

The title song is amongst the many subgenres that exist in the delightful world of Hindi film music, especially till the mid-70s. Though not extinct yet, they are certainly on their way out.

 |  9-minute read |   24-06-2020
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Songs you hear while growing up stay loyal to you forever. One such song, which I heard when I was nine years old, was Love in Tokyo from the film of the same name (1966). The song was a feel-good, bubbly, and energetic song. But the icing on the cake was Mohammad Rafi belting out “Jaaapaaaan, Love in Tokyo”. The accent was Indian, Japan pronounced as it is in Hindi, but it did not matter. The song went on to describe Tokyo and its denizens – “Dekho woh gori gori raahen, humko ishaaron se bulaayen, kitni rangeen hai fizayen, Jaapani pariyan muskaraayen...”

As a title song, it was doing its job: that of giving a preview of what could be expected in the next three hours. The song encapsulated the essence of the film and introduced its theme – a sort of a preamble to the storyline. The viewer would have no doubt, after listening to the song, that the film dealt with love, with Tokyo as a setting, with all its attendant formulaic accoutrements.

The title song is amongst the many subgenres that exist in the delightful world of Hindi film music – especially till the mid-70s. Not that they are extinct now, but it is a breed that is on its way out like the other sub-genres such as the Club Song, Break-up Song, Tandem (or Twin) Song.

Till the mid-70s, its fecundity was remarkable – many Hindi films had it. It was de rigueur. How was a film possible without it? How else would the name of the film, embedded in the title song, live endlessly? The film could remain forever in national consciousness if its title song remained so. And most did and do!

Remember An Evening in Paris (1967) with its title song An Evening in Paris? Shammi Kapoor introduced the audience to Paris in his inimitable style – “Aji aisa mauka phir kahan milega, hamare jaisa dil kahan milega. Aao tumko dikhlata hoon Paris ki ek rangeen sham, dekho dekho dekho dekho dekho, an evening in Paris”.

Shankar Jaikishan specialised in the sub-genre. Raj Kapoor gave them the green signal to go for it from the very first film the duo did for him – Barsaat (1949) – “Barsaat mein humse mile tum sajan, tumse mile hum, barsaat mein”. Then came others: Awara (1951) – “Awara Hoon”Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960) – “Hoton pe sachai rehti hai”; Sangam (1964) – “Bol Radha bol”; Mera Naam Joker (1970) – “Kehta hai joker saara zamaana”. And it was not just in films made by Raj Kapoor. Other films of his too had title songs: Anari (1959) – “Sub kuchh seekha humne na seekhi hoshiyari”; Main Nashe Mein Hoon (1959) – “Mujhko yaaron muaff karna main nashe mein hoon”; Deewana (1967) – “Deewana mujhko log kahein”; Around the World (1967) – “Duniya ki sair kar lo” and many others.

Shankar Jaikishan did title songs for other actors too. Consider this: For Shammi Kapoor in Junglee (1961), Dil Tera Deewana (1962), Rajkumar (1964), Tumse Acchha Kaun Hai (1969), Pagla Kahin Ka (1970), Jaane Anjaane (1971). For Biswajeet in April Fool (1964), Manoj Kumar in Hariyali aur Raasta (1962), Shashi Kapoor in Jahan Pyar Mile (1969), Rajendra Kumar in Aas Ka Panchhi (1961), Dil Ek Mandir (1963), Aayi Milan Ki Bela (1964), Aman (1967), Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan (1968) and Dharmendra in Yakeen (1969) and Pyar Hi Pyar (1969).

The other music directors, though not as prolific as Shankar Jaikishan, also composed title songs. For instance, Kalyanji Anandji for Chhalia (1960), Don (1978), Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978); Naushad for Mere Mehboob (1963), Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966), Palki (1967); OP Nayyar for Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963); SD Burman for Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963), Talash (1969), Ishq Par Zor Nahin (1970), Naya Zamana (1971); Roshan for Barsaat Ki Raat (1960), Dil Hi to Hai (1963); Madan Mohan for Ek Kali Muskai (1968), Hindustan ki Kasam (1973); Laxmikant Pyarelal for Dosti (1964), Anjaana (1969), Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke  (1969), Aan Milo Sajana (1970), Satyam Shivam Sunderam (1978); Ravi for Chirag Kahaan Roshni Kahaan (1959), Waqt (1965), Dus Lakh (1966), Dhund (1973); and many others.

I had mentioned earlier that the title song carries out the role of previewer. Not entirely correct. In the majority of the cases, it does that by being embedded in the opening credits. Say “Shatranj ki chaal hai hamari” from Shatranj (1969) and “Jo bhi kiya humne kiya shaan se” from Shaan (1980), or in the initial part of the film. But in some instances, it can make an appearance in the middle of the film too, like “Dil apna aur preet parai” from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai (1960) as if to reiterate the theme of the film already discerned by the audience by then. Or at the very end like “Ek jagah jab jama hon teenon, Amar Akbar Anthony” from Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977), or “Aman ka farishta” from Aman (1967). In these instances, it plays the role of the summariser and encapsulator.

The film need not have one title song. Haryali aur Raasta had two – “Yeh haryali aur yeh raasta” and “Jeevan ke do pehlu hain, haryali aur raasta”. The film Shaan had, other than the title song, the word “shaan” appearing in other songs in the film too. This was perhaps to ensure that there was no doubt whatsoever about the film’s thematic offering. Sometimes, besides the title song appearing more than once, in a different avatar its instrumental music also appears in the film repeatedly. Case in point – Kal Ho Na Ho (2003). The film’s title song is not only rehashed in a sad version later, but its central melody is played out over several scenes to evoke a distinct set of emotions.

From the late 70s, the concept of the title song began waning. There were much fewer instances in the next decades, some of them being Shaan (1980), Hero (1983), Mard (1985), Saagar (1985), Ram Teri Ganga Maili (1985), Roja (1992), Baazigar (1993), Dil To Pagal Hai (1997), Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai (1998), Dil Se (1998), Taal (1999), Baadshah (1999) and others.

The numbers came down in the new century — Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001), Salaam Namaste (2005), Bunty Aur Babli (2005), Wake Up Sid (2009), Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015), and Kesari (2019).

One interesting incident involves the title song of Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955). Vasant Desai composed the tune in Raag Darbari to suit the singer Ustad Amir Khan’s voice and temperament. But V Shantaram, the filmmaker, was not satisfied. Desai could not believe that Shantaram would be unhappy with such a beautiful composition. He changed the raag to Adana. The two raags have the same scale but Adana accentuates the upper half of the octave whereas Darbari, the lower half. The shift to the new raag did the trick; the song sounded more sparkling and more appropriate for the credit titles.

Many of Shantaram’s films had title songs such as Geet Gaya Patharon Ne (1964), Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli (1971). The music for Boond Jo Ban Gayee Moti (1967) - which had a title song - was composed by my mother’s brother Satish Bhatia, then working in AIR, Delhi. It featured Manna De and Asha Bhosle.

main_recording-of-ti_062420031651.jpgRecording of the title song of Boond Jo Ban Gayee Moti (1967) composed by Satish Bhatia — the author’s maternal uncle. (Photo: Author)

Sometimes, the title song is a twin or a tandem song sung by two singers, such “Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi woh barsaat ki raat”. In this song, Roshan, while using the sarangi and sitar for the Rafi version, kept the stanza almost bare of instrumentation, only focusing on Rafi’s singing genius and not filling in instrumental ornamentation.

Sometimes the title song faces a challenge. If the song is solely situational and does not convey the theme in the audio, then it does not convey the sense of the film effectively, like “Dil To Paagal Hai”. On the airwaves, it appears to be a duet because it involves only two singers. But the song involves four characters in a situation fraught with emotion and taking place simultaneously. Would the song have been better if four singers were singing it? Perhaps not. However, the song, with two singers, makes it more acceptable, never mind that it may not completely and appropriately convey the film’s motif.

The style in which the title song is composed needs to follow the script and characters. Khayyam composed the title song of Kabhie Kabhie (1976) in the traditional style because it involved the love story of an older generation, whereas another love song – “Pyar Kar Liya To Kya” was more modern in its approach because it involved the younger generation.

Title songs may sometimes be altered for the audio. The Kabhie Kabhie song ends abruptly in the film to convey the ending of Amitabh-Rakhee romance when Rakhee is getting married to Shashi Kapoor. However, in the audio, such a thing would have spoilt a perfectly good song. So the entire song is retained.

Sometimes the title song goes beyond the film to do things its makers could not have possibly imagined. “Kal Ho Na Ho” was used in 2015 by the German Embassy in India, which produced an eight-minute video Lebe Jetzt (‘Kal Ho Naa Ho’ in German). The video features the German Ambassador to India, his wife and Salman Khurshid in the roles played by Shah Rukh Khan, Zinta and Saif Ali Khan respectively.

These days an odd film here and there may have a title song. The reason is probably that the film titles these days do not lend themselves to a title song. Earlier the film titles were rather straightforward. Now with films such as Once Upon A Time in Mumbai (2010), Tanu Weds Manu (2011), Welcome Back (2015), Black (2005), Shamitabh (2015), Ab Tak Chhappan (2004), Kapoor & Sons (2016), Raman Raghav 2.0 (2016) and many such, where the title song makes a rare appearance.

Now, the trend has reversed. Instead of the movie’s title spawning the title song, the song inspires the movie title – Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas (2019), Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (2013), Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016), Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008), Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi (2008), Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (2002), Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost (2003), Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012) and others. The role has reversed, and popularity of songs released earlier is being harnessed by filmmakers to name their films after these songs. The son has become the father of the man!

Also read: Why there cannot be another Talat Mahmood


Ajay Mankotia Ajay Mankotia @ajaymankotia

The writer is an author, former revenue official, former NDTV executive and a music aficionado.

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