Film: Amar Prem (1970)
Producer and Director: Shakti Samanta
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
If I’m threatened at gunpoint with a condition of listening to only one RDB song for the rest of my life, I will pull the trigger myself (claps…). On a more rational thought, I will say, give me “Raina beeti jaaye” and my ears can survive till I die, hopefully a natural death.
Circa 1972, Amar Prem…
A drunken man is trying to walk to the horse cart. The dilruba and sarangi play the notes of Raag Todi… he continues to walk toward the cart…he is about to board…the alaap of Lata Mangeshkar in Todi…so mesmerizing…he cannot put a step forward.
He is drawn to the voice…the santoor plays the beautiful notes and the guitar picks up and starts the rhythm. The man starts to walk toward the magical kotha.
Put yourself in the situation (without drinking “as much”). Forget if you are an RDB fan or not, but after listening to the amazing opening bars of music and the alaap, if you have some musical sensibilities, you cannot get away from the song. Just cannot. Don’t laugh at that character in the film. You also get pulled to the song – “Main aaya nahi, inki aawaz ka jadoo mujhe kheench laaya.”
After starting with the fragrance of Raag Todi, the prelude music and mukhda beautifully present Nishaad‘s magnetism.
“Raina beeti jaaye shaam na aaye“… the first part of the mukhda hints at the magic in the offing. The second part of the mukhda (“Nindiya naa aaye“) gets connected with the first line by the tiniest, tantalizing filler of flute. However, the notes of that filler are completely different from the standard progression.
One of my musically trained friends tried to explain: “First line uses the komal (flat) rishab, komal gandhar and komal dhaiwat but the second line has the notes from the same family (rishab and gandhar) in shuddh (normal) form. But this is done without any musical jerk.”
I could marvel at it without fully understanding it. What can be perfectly understood is RDB had an extraordinary gift as a composer. Here he is experimenting, and experimenting for good. And how seamless! He knows no boundaries because he knows how to give a feel of breaking them.
He is always in the “is mode,” that is the mode of refusing accepted norms and structures. My friend also explained: “This is a genius composer. He has composed the antara roughly in Mishra Khamaj, thumri style. And how! Komal (flat) notes based on Raag Todi and thumari-styled shuddh (normal) notes using Mishra Khamaj . It depicts separation and longing.”
I half understand, half-nod.
I was never a bright student.
And how can you not talk about orchestration? Panchamda and his associates knew the use of instruments in terms of what to use, how to use, and where to use. And like Kumar Gandharva, the creative genius in Hindustani vocal classical, even RDB gave a lot of emphasis on weightage, volume and length of beauty sequence in a musical expression.
Understandably, being classical-based, the use of dilruba, sarangi, santoor, flute and tabla in “Raina beeti jaaye” is quite understandable. But Panchamda “arrives” with the use of the haunting guitar. It provides the rhythm in the intro music and the jhum of the chords on the sum (alongwith tabla), which provides a totally different flavor to the song.
The flute played by Hariprasad Chaurasia underlines the magic of soulful recital, the latter treatment always more moving than the “in you ears” approach. Results: the flute remains with you all along the song.
Same with the rhythm section. Extraordinary! You feel it is something different and it is different.
I am told the rhythm for the song is composed in Taal Keherwa (eight beats). Though the antara clearly uses the well-rounded Keherwa, Marutirao Keer and RDB show their touches of brilliance by having a different rhythmic pattern for the mukhda. In the mukhda, between the third and fourth beat is a lovely little sound of the maadal and the guitar’s jhum accompanying the tabla to the sum! It’s no ordinary variation.
Could RDB and Co have planned this? Instinctive seems more likely. For, geniuses work with a different flashbulb.
“Raina beeti jaaye” is not just a brilliant composition or varied instruments and rhythmic patterns used with imagination. It’s more than that. The latter is in sync with the melody. It’s a case of experimentation draped in tradition. No wonder it is enjoyed for decades. It appeals to the less-educated listeners, like me, and also to the more knowledgeable. It amazes the trained musicians and has managed to draw high praise from the “hard to satisfy,” great composer of yesteryear, Sajjad Hussain, who was not known to sugarcoat his reactions.
Gulzaar saab worked extensively with RDB. Which would be one additional film for which he would have liked to work with Pancham? Amar Prem, pat came the reply before we could barely finish our query. I am convinced “Raina beeti jaaye” must have contributed a lot toward this feeling of Gulzaarsaab.
However, Amar Prem did not won awards back then. But for me, Amar Prem did not miss any awards. Awards missed Amar Prem‘s songs.
My parents and my extended maternal family had an HMV Fiesta and as a 10-year-old child, I clearly remember listening to a lot of rich, diverse and almost round-the-clock music . I had my EPs of Marathi children songs but was exposed to the records played by my parents and mamaji (perhaps, my early introduction to DJs!). They had their favorites in Shankar Jaikishan, C. Ramchandra and Madan Mohan. And they also had Amar Prem, Parichay and Aandhi. My listening career started with such RDB gems − blessed I feel now and forever!
It has been about four decades since “Raina beeti jaaye” put her baby steps into our ears. But the luring power of the song seizes to die.
I never get tired of it. Every time it presents something new to my ear and soul.
It’ fresh, ageless, timeless…
Aha… and now some free advice!
Don’t waste time reading this. Go listen to “Raina beeti jaaye.” Again, and again and again. For, even as it touches you deep down, still you yearn for more due to its beautiful, moving experience. They do not create anything like this anymore…