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A large number of Hindi film songs were based on ‘Bhairavi raga’ in yesteryear. There is no iota of doubt that the memorable songs in the olden days, focusing on Bhairavi raga have gladdened the hearts of music lovers. It is indeed not surprising that the old singers and the songs rendered by them fabulously are still lingering in the minds of people.

It may be noted that Bhairavi raga came to the fore about 1,600 years ago. It is considered as the main raga of the ‘Bhairavi Thaat’. Various human emotions in the form of devotion, love, re-union, separation, joy, sarcasm, sorrow, satire and nostalgia are expressed time and again in a fine-tuned manner.

The reputed singerKundan Lal Saigal’s fans will be happy note that most of his songs were based on Bhairavi. For instance, ‘Babul mora naihar chhooto hi jaye…’ (Street Singer, 1938), ‘Ai katib-e-taqdeer mujhe itna bata de…’ (My Sister, 1944), and ‘Jab dil hi toot gaya, jaan bhi toot gaya…’ (Shahjehan 1946) are even now heard by the music lovers. Interestingly, these songs based on raga Bhairavi were composed by R.C. Boral, Pankaj Mullick and Naushad Ali respectively. Kishore Kumar, a die-hard fan of Saigal said in an interview to the now defunct Illustrated Weekly in April, 1985, that he refused to record the album of Saigal songs, as he did not want to create an impression that “I had sung better than Saigal Saheb”   

For Manna Dey, classical was his forte. Once the late actor and yahoo fame Shammi Kapoor said: “who can sing classical songs better than him around”. Fair enough. Manna Da had taken considerable training and efforts to attain perfection in classical music when he started his film career as a budding youth. The singer, who died recently at the age of 94, has mesmerized the music lovers with many unforgettable songs based on Bhairavi. ‘Hato kaahe ko jhoothi banao batiyan…’ (Manzil, 1960), ‘Laga chunri mein daag, chhupaaon kaise…’ (Dil Hi To Hai, 1963), ‘Sudh biser gayee aaj…’(Sangeet Samran Tansen, 1962) and ‘Phul gaindva na maro, lagat karejwa mein chot…’ (Dooj Ka Chaand). They are impeccable Bhairavi creations emanated from the voice this wonderful singer, who could sing with aplomb to the S.D. Burman(Dada) composition the Manzil song. It is also pertinent to note that Roshan was the creator of the songs in Dil Hi To Hai and Dooj Ka Chand, and S.N. Tripathi composed with elan in Sangeet Samraat Tanzen.

Mohammed Rafi with his immortal voice has sung many beautiful songs based on raga Bhairavi. The songs ‘Yeh zindagi ke mele duniyan mein kam na honge…’(Mela, 1948), ‘Insaf ka mandir hai yeh bhagwan ka ghar hai…’(Amar 1954), ‘Aana hai to aa rah mein kuchh pher nahin hai, bhagwan ka ghar der hai andher nahin hai…’ (Naya Daur 1957), and ‘Baat chalet nayi chunri rang dari re…’ (Rani Roopmati, 1959), are among his best. The last mentioned was set in a pure classical mould, which Rafi sang with the renowned classical singer, Krishanrao Chonkar. This lovely song would also enable the music lovers to Rafi’s ‘Madhubhanki Radhkhanachere’, in Dilip Kumar’s Kohinoor, composed by Naushad. Lata Mangeshkar said in an interview that she wanted to sing this particular song that emanated from the protruding neck of Dilip and Rafi.

The moment, the composers thought of raga-based songs, they did not hesitate to call Manna Dey, ahead of other singers. The music directors had categorised them as specialists for certain type of songs in those days. For example, if Saigal and Manna were looked at as experts in classical, the composers turned around to Talat Mohammad and Rafi for Ghazals. Rafi surged ahead of Manna and others in ‘Qawali’, alcohol-based and emotional songs. Mukesh had following the footsteps of Saigal. Raju Bharatan, the renowned film and sports critic of now defunct Illustrated Weekly wrote a column in his own inimitable style that how his neice mistook Mukesh’s voice as Saigal when the All India Radio relayed it while on the way to catch her school bus.   

Talat Mahmood was considered to be a peerless singer of  ghazals. However, the mercurial singer rose to the occasion in ‘Ai mere dil kahin aur chal, gham ki duniya se dil bhar gaya…’ a song based on raga Bhairavi and composed by Shankar-Jaikishan.

Mukesh has also sung many Bhairavi-based popular songs. Can any one forget ‘Sab kucch seekha hum ne na seekhi hoshiari…’ (Anari, 1959), ‘Chhalia mera naam, chhalna mera kaam…’ (Chalia, 1960), ‘Mujhko is raat ki tanhaee mein awaaz na do…’ (Dil Bhi Tera Hum Bhi Tere, 1960), ‘Duniya banana waale kya tere man mein samaee, kaahe ko duinya banaee…’ (Teesri Kasam, 1966), ‘Aaya hai mujhe phir yaad wo zalim guzra zamana bachpan ka…’ (Devar, 1966). The composers Shankar-Jaikshan, Kalyanji-Anandji, and Roshan did more than adequate justice to these songs.

Lata, too, has sung innumerable songs, based on Bhairavi. ‘Jo tum todo piya, main naahin todure…’ (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, 1955), ‘Tu pyar kare ya thukraaye hum to hain tere diwano mein…’ (Dekh Kabira Roya, 1957), ‘Do hanso ka joda bichhad gayo re…” (Ganga Jamuna 1961), and ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram…’ (Satyam Shivam Sundaram, 1978) can be cited as examples. Vasant Desai, Madan Mohan, Naushad and Laxmikant-Pyarelal respectively, are the music-directors of these songs. Lata recalled in an interview to a daily that the duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal told the Producer-Director Raj Kapoor in a crystal-clear manner that unless they are allowed to make use of Lata’s voice in Satyam, Sivam Sundaram, they would withdraw from the project. The showman had to relent, despite having a strained relationship with the melody queen on royalty issue.  

It seems the days of classical ragas are coming to an end, as the music directors now-a-days are mostly relying on western tunes. Moreover, the composers in the present-day era are expected to play a second-fiddle to the producers and directors, unlike from 1950s to 1980s when they had the last laugh in the recording of songs.


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