Har Ek Rasta …

Film: Ameer Aadmi Gharib Aadmi (1985)

Producer: Mrs. Shehla Khan, Vinay Sinha

Director: Amjad Khan

Lyrics: Nida Fazli

Singer: Asha Bhonsle

In the early-to-mid 80s R. D. Burman was very busy. He boasted a full workload and was a favourite of the big banners. One camp of listeners lauded his creativity while another contended that he was overworked and headed for burnout. What could not be denied was the persistent diversity in his music. He continued to be a favourite for new launches: directors and actors making their débuts (and sometimes even their shot at a second coming). Amjad Khan was one such example. The talented actor chose Pancham as the music director not just for his directorial début (Adhura Aadmi), but also for the next two films he would helm (Chor Police, Ameer Aadmi Gharib Aadmi). Reportedly, these were above-average efforts and indicated that Amjad Khan was definitely a cut above the rest in mainstream filmmaking, but alas, the 80s did not prove to be a good time for either Amjad Khan or Pancham, who, as the 90s drew near, hit his worst streak of all time (paradoxically, so close to his winning run of work). He became box office poison, people withdrew from him, and he was left to watch one great song after another go down the drainpipe of anonymity as the films bit the dust at the box office (or worse, never made it to the box office). Amjad Khan had a couple of other movies to his name too, but these died either in pre-production or on their way to the marquee. And then there was Abhi To Main Jawaan Hoon.

The Amjad Khan films aren’t very easily accessible, and I have to consider myself privileged to have been able to catch Ameer Aadmi Gharib Aadmi recently. Between the film posters, the audio release and the frames in the film that feature the title, the third word in the title gets three different spellings: Gharib, Ghareeb and Gareeb.. The film weaves a tale of love, struggle and strife set against the backdrop of the age-old conflict between factory workers and the owners. The opening sequence where Imtiaz is talking to Sharat Saxena about another person to be bumped was sufficient proof that there was something different about Amjad Khan. The opening credits reveal that Amjad Khan wrote and edited the film in addition to directing and starring in it.

Enough with the history lesson and on with the music. Pancham contributed a fine set of songs to the film. Each was situationally sound (and the situations themselves were in keeping with the trends of mainstream cinema). The wonderfully maudlin aisaa kyo.n hotaa hai (that first line portends kyo.n naye lag rahe from pyaar huA chupake se from 1942:A Love Story; then there was dhak dhak dha.Dake which reappeared as tum jo mile hamako in Gardish; there was the playful banter of sarakaarii daamaad; the nahii.n jaanaa mujaraa; Lata’s paas rahataa hai (the picturisation of which scored a few points for style); and finally, the raison d’être of this page, Asha’s har ek raasataa sajaa ke chal, picturised, appropriately enough, on Parveen Babi (apparently, Babi left for the US after finishing this song, and Amjad Khan finished the film with Zeenat Aman) and receiving, thanks to Amjad Khan, better treatment than most other directors would have afforded it

The song opens with a free-form collection of fragments played on the synthesizer (with a tone that’s so close to that of a flute) against the background of delicate shimmering chimes. The next segment in the build-up is a broken chord played out on an electric guitar, whose output is deeply flanged with heavy feedback. It literally drenches the soundscape with the feedback swirls. Asha’s voice breaks in with a series of ‘haa-haa’s while the guitar continues to provide the backing soundscape with more arpeggios. A synthesizer relay plays out next, and the guitar switches to simple chord sweeps to accompany it. As soon as the relay ends, the guitar plays the coda of the free-form section of the opening musical fragment to introduce the rhythm that follows. The rhythm exploits electronica along with a combination of the hi-hat, bass, the flanged guitar, and phased synthesizer chords with delayed fades. The coda you heard before the rhythm came in reappears as a 2-3-4/2-4 motif. Asha begins singing the muKa.Daa accompanied by the hi-hat and enough active bass playing to prove a worthy exercise. There’s a female chorus that provides a refrain to Asha’s lines along the melody of the 2-3-4/2-4 motif.

The first interlude uses more electronica, the hi-hat and the electric guitar providing subdued presence. The flute-toned synthesizer plays out a run before a couple of percussive cycles introduce the a.ntaraa. The interesting thing about the melody of the a.ntara is that it takes off from the rhythm of the motif introduced in the opening musical fragment and the refrain in the muKa.Daa. The rest of the musical accompaniment features the usual suspects: the running bounding bass, the hi-hat and the flute-toned synthesizer. Listen carefully and you can hear guitar strums along with the swirls. The chorus appears near the end as we return to the muKa.Daa.

The second interlude opens with a trilling riff from the flute-toned synthesizer (if that’s a real flute, I’d welcome a clarification). An acoustic guitar provides chord strums (with the bass providing single note complements for the chords) and there’s also a nice pattern played out on a conga. Asha steps in with a “laa laa laa” line and the conga pattern is replaced by a pattern played out on a snare drum while the bass begins bounding again. The flanged guitar plays out a connecting riff before the usual rhythm introduces the second a.ntaraa, which shares the spirit and arrangement of the first.

Asha follows up the muKa.Daa with the coda: the melody is the same, but it’s “laa”s instead of words. The chorus now provides a continuous gentle harmony instead of interjecting with the usual refrain. There’s no hi-hat now; just a synthesizer and the bass providing the rhythm, along with flanged swirls and a muted strumming pattern on the guitar as everything fades out.

A subtle yet interesting aspect of this song is the absence of the violins and strings that inundate most Bollywood songs. Another Pancham composition that shares this honour is chho.Do sanam from Kudrat.

George Thomas