Film: Padosan (1968)
Producer: N.C. Sippy & Mehmood
Director: Jyoti Swaroop
Lyricist: Rajendra Krishna
Singer: Kishore Kumar & Manna Dey
If I have to select one composition that – to me – defines Pancham’s undisputed Genius, his unquestioned supremacy over his art, it has got to be “Ek Chatur Naar” from PADOSAN.
While it still seems remotely feasible that some composers may have had the ability to compose some of Pancham’s other celebrated compositions (minus the RD touch, of course), no other MD … repeat, no one else … would have the talent, imagination, audacity or the keeda to compose anything like “Ek Chatur Naar”.
The song is a hilarious set piece of imaginative storytelling. But though the underlying situation is rip roaring comic, Pancham’s treatment of the tune is anything but flippant. The composition is drenched in Indian Classical music, both Hindustani and Carnatic. The hallmark of Pancham’s genius is in the fact that the classical music element, though pure, does not overwhelm and the song amuses as much as it amazes. In fact, it is such an engaging tale of fun and frolic, that it almost takes our attention away from Pancham’s musical prowess.
This is not the first time Pancham is fusing comedy with classical. The Rafi-Manna duet “Nir ta ta dhang” from CHANDAN KA PALNA  is a precursor– Pancham’s net practice session – to “Ek Chatur Naar”. While the former was a tentative, somewhat guarded experiment, the latter is a no-holds-barred masterpiece, where Pancham gets all the musical elements to align in perfect unison.
The premise of “Ek Chatur Naar” is very interesting. It is a show of musical “one-upmanship“, where the objective is to win the affections of THE GIRL (Saira Banu), by winning the musical duel. The setup: THE TEACHER (Mahmood-Manna Dey) vs. THE BUMBLING SUITOR (Sunil Dutt) with HIS MASTER VOICE (Kishore Kumar).
The bout (song) begins with the carnatic-styled taraana by Mannada, establishing the firm ‘pakad’ of The Teacher on his art (could there have been a better choice of singer for this part??). He immediately launches into the mukhada ‘Ek chatur naar, karkey singaar’ with the arrogance of a ‘superior’ performer taking on a novice. Mannada (in contrast to his training and upbringing) is superb in his rendition of a South Indian classical singer. His pronunciation and inflection is spot on (‘myere mann ke dwaar, yeyy gusat jaat’). Also spot on is Pancham’s choice of instrumentation for percussion – the mridangam & the nattuvangam – that highlight the carnatic mood. Mannababu ends the mukhada in a brilliant taan that has The Suitor shifting in his seat – as much in under-confidence, as in admiration.
Round 1: The Teacher.
Time now, for the Suitor to strike back. Strategically choosing not to engage The Teacher on his home turf, classical singing, the Suitor-Master duo resort to musical guerilla tactics. Using live playback (hilarious !!) they cut The Teacher short with an emphatic ‘arre thaamb thaamb thaamb ruk’ followed by inanities ranging from indescribable sounds (‘humm bruum hum bruum’, ‘numm a numm a numma’) to the hilariously used varnmala (“a aa ee uu ae aie oo au am ahaa“). Again, Pancham’s attention to detail surfaces, the Dholak-Ghungroo percussion replaces the carnatic Mridangam-Nattuvangam
Round 2: The Suitor.
In true Burmanese tradition for songs-situations that have comical undertones, the first interlude is a brief medley of synth-based fun sounds punctuated by the energetic dholak & lively percussion.
Next Round then: egged on by The Girl & appearing unfazed by the first attack, the Teacher stages a comeback with a reassuring ‘Tu kyon gori dyaan karey’ and a confidence boosting ‘chutti kar doona main usaki abkey jooo aawaaz lagaayi’. Mannada once again nails it with the south-indian accent … ‘dyaan’ (dhyaan), ‘laak laak’ (laakh laakh), ‘chutti’ (chhuti), ‘usaki’(uski) et al. He further asserts musical ‘superiority’ with an extended aalaap at ‘chutti kar doonga’, followed by effortless singing of those difficult taal ke bol. The Suitor, now visibly nervous, shifts back in his seat offering to retreat. So, is it Round 3: The Teacher??
No, The Master intervenes with ‘badh ke bodhan….’, ‘chitaagud chitingud’ and other Kishoreda inanity staples. Much to the chagrin of the opponents, it is followed by taunts (‘uss nari ka das na ban …’) and insults (‘ka ka ka kyon shor machaye’, ‘..khare naale mein jaake tu mooh dhoke aa…’). Pancham changes scales delectably at ‘kala re ja re ja re’ and The Teacher starts losing his ‘pakad’ (‘ye gadabad jee’ … ‘ye sur badal jee’, ‘ ye humko bhatka diya’ … ‘ye sur kidhar jee’). But not the one to give up easily, he makes an attempt at a spirited final comeback with (‘hum chhowdega nai ji’ … ‘um pakkad ke rakheja ji’).
Round 3: Even steven …
The second brief interlude also serves the purpose of extending the laughs through a series of electronic fun sounds, and ends in the most amusing Keshto mouche-twitch.
The Teacher begins the next round by taking digs at The Suitor’s apparent lack of skills – both at singing and at understanding the fairer sex (“Naach na jaane aangan teydha … tu kya jaane kya hai naari”). Angry and ruffled, he goes berserk, both on-screen & classically, on the many versions of “teydha”. Pouncing on the opportunity, The Master launches a stunning counter attack with a volley of insults (‘o teedhe … seedhe ho ja re’), put downs (‘tujhe sur ki samajh nahi aayi’) & straight abuses (‘o ghode, o nigode’). Another scale change at ‘arre dekhi teri chaturayi‘ (‘yeh phir gadabad’…..’phir bhatakaya’)… and the rattled Teacher is now on his knees, almost.
Round 4: The Suitor. The Teacher has taken a standing count …
In a final act of desperation, The Teacher tries to get back into the fight. And Pancham’s masterstroke, the mother of all comical battles, is unleashed. Over a hilarious ‘ghoda-chatur’ rapid exchange, totally bamboozled, The Teacher seeks, but finds no relief (‘ye kya re ghwwoda-chaturr, ghwwoda-chaturr, yek pe reh na’). The Teacher progressively loses his composure, his scale/sur & finally, his voice … the Suitor proclaiming victory while, ironically, belting aloud the sargam. As for The Teacher, his confidence has gone out of the window and so does he, literally plummeting to the depths, with his ego for company.
It’s a KNOCK OUT!!
A complete Knock Out – that is exactly what this song is. Riding on the madcap, collective brilliance of four crazy geniuses – Pancham, Kishore, Manna & Mahmood – ‘Ek Chatur Naar’ is an impossible-to-replicate, once-in-a-lifetime event. Pancham fans will most readily part with all of their physical possessions just to hear the transcripts of the musical sittings/studio recording. Before the song was recorded, Mannada – as a singer – had reservations with the ‘script’. That he, the trained classical singer, had to lose out to Kishore, his classically untrained colleague was a concern. However, all the reservations evaporated when he heard the final song.
Though the Teacher lost onscreen, all musical participants behind it – Mannababu leading the pack – came out victors. Like always, Pancham’s composition had delivered full justice. It could only have been achieved by a genius, and so it was.
The song is probably the funniest song ever … from one of the most loved comedies of all times. But behind the fun and the laughs, is one of Pancham’s most chatur creations. Fans can only rejoice in its wake, and repeat … hum chhodega nahi jee, hum pakkad ke rakhega jee !!