HIGH NOTES | Missing Maestros
21 Feb 2009, Ranjan Das Gupta
When Shankar-Jaikishan recorded an English song for an Indian film in Sangam in 1964, it created a musical revolution. The song 'I Love You', and Vyjayantimala on the snow-capped Alps, was melodious and effectively used. In 1965, R D Burman recorded four English songs penned by Harindranath Chatterjee for the English version of Teen Deviyan. Unfortunately, the album was never released but the selected few who heard the numbers were all praise for RD's creativity. This proves, of course, that Indian music composers of the past were apt at western numbers too, but ironically, few great Indian composers have ever been heard or respected in the West. In the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were no efforts to promote Indian film music the West, though 'Awara Hoon' and 'Mera Joota Hai Japani' were on the lips of countless Russians and Chinese, thanks to Raj Kapoor's efforts to show his films in Moscow and Peking.
With A R Rahman winning the Golden Globe, amongst other awards, for his original score in Slumdog Millionaire, the scenario has changed. American critics and jury members who had little idea about Hindi film music have started appreciating and recognising Indian talent. However, it is to be noted that Slumdog Millionaire was directed by Danny Boyle, who is a westerner. Many may develop an opinion that if an Indian composer or performer works for western directors, he is surer to hit the bullseye with a Golden Globe or an Oscar. Earlier compositions by Naushad, the first Indian to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra in 1949, S D Burman, Salil Chowdhury and Shankar-Jaikishan prove their command over western melodies. Even Bobby Darwin, the iconic composer of 'Come September', appreciated some of S D Burman's and Salil Chowdhury's compositions from Sujata, Guide and Parakh. He became aware of them through a British music critic, James Stewart, who was well informed about Hindi melodies. Classical maestros like Pt Ravi Shanker, Ustad Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Vilayat Khan were very knowledgeable about western melodies, though they rarely got the chance to exhibit this side of their talents. It is time that Hollywood directors recognise and accept the abilities of Indian composers and use them more for their creations. Who knows? Even not so well-known names like Debajyoti Mishra and Abhishek Ray, who belong to the current crop of talented composers, may yield magic with their works if they receive a Martin Scorcese or a Steven Spielberg.
(The Times of India, 21:02:2009)
Labels: Cinema/ Hindi