Movie: Rang Birangi (1983)
Producer: Rajiv Pandya
Director: Hrishikesh Mukherjee
Singers: Anuradha Paudwal, Aarti Mukherjee
Rang Birangi was a significant movie in Hindi cinema − it perhaps heralded the end of the Hindi movie maker’s formula for small-budgeted movie dramas. If the 1970s ushered in the commercially viable formula of multistarrers, the 1980s was replete with loud, violent, crime-laden masala movies. In such an environment,t it became extremely difficult for movie makers like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee, Gulzar and Basu Bhattacharya to produce movies that they believed in. It was perhaps the end of an era due to changes in commercial considerations and expectations.
Rang Birangi was a venture produced by Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s assistants under the banner of Rajvi Movies. Hrishikesh Mukherjee was still deemed as a commercially successful movie maker, given the success of his earlier ventures that were a blend of small (Gol Maal, Naram Garam) and big (Jurmana, Bemisaal) movies.
For the plot, Hrishida selected to focus on marital (dis)harmony and continued the style of comedy elicited from confusion and confused identities. Amol Palekar starred yet again − his third in a row after Gol Maal and Naram Garam. The confusion his character creates this time around is by seeking his wife (played by Parveen Babi) in the younger and sprightly character played by Deepti Naval. Interestingly in the 1980s, Hrishida employed two of the fashionable divas of Hindi cinema − Parveen Babi and Zeenat Aman (in Naa-mumkin) − in stereotype-defying roles.
For the soundtrack, Hrishida went with his favorite Rahul Dev Burman, who was perhaps experiencing his most successful commercial era. For Rang Birangi, Pancham provides one of his most versatile soundtrack, which perhaps borders on the experimental. He consciously avoids the vocals of any of his regular and the commercially popular singers (Kishore, Rafi, Lata and Asha). The soundtrack employs newcomers and the seasoned − from Anuradha Paudwal and Aarti Mukherjee to Manna Dey − and a diverse range of talents − from veteran exponents of Indian classical music Dr Vasantrao Deshpande and Faiyyaz to casual singers Sapan Chakravorty and Deven Varma. Even the composition style varies from the traditional tappa to modern romantic to jazzish swing to folk-based thekhas.
And finally the soundtrack even has a rang-birangi array of lyricists − from the seasoned wordsmiths like Yogesh and Maya Govind to the master of Hindi humor and poetry, Kaka Hathrasi.
Penned by Yogesh, “Kabhi kuchh pal jeevan ke” is set to depict the most important aspect of the movie’s storyline. The one where the character of Amol Palekar attempts to re-kindle the romance and novelty of his marriage by indulging in a romance with the younger Deepti Naval. Hrishida handles this borderline aspect of infidelity and extra-marital affair by painting it with comic tones and innocence. Amol Palekar is still shown as deeply in love and committed to his wife Parveen Babi and does not cross the line nor take advantage of his romance with Deepti Naval.
Yogesh paints the landscape to reflect the normal routine life of working men and women in a busy city like Mumbai − where they manage to sneak in a few moments of romance. True to his lifestyle, Yogesh pens very down-to-earth feelings and observations of the fanciful mind that takes its share of happiness living in the city and its changing aspects. The mukhda “Kabhi kuchh pal jeevan ke, lagta hai ke chalte chalte kuch der tehar jaate hain” (There are some moments of life one feels like taking a break from the journey) aptly describes the desires of the working class in a busy city like Mumbai where one wishes to take a small break from the day-to-day routine.
Even in the antara’s of the song, Yogesh highlights the joys of urban life − lines like “Har din ki hulchul se aaj mili khamoshi” (From the daily humdrum of life today I found silence/respite), “Badle badle mausam ke mujhe rang nazar aate hain” (I can see the changing colors of the season). These are the typical joyful experiences aired in daily life. And then the lines like “Kitna bhala lagta hai sooraj ka yeh dhalna” (How pleasant is this setting of the sun) and “Duniya se door chupke ke yahan tera mera yun milna” (Away from the world to meet secretly like this) transports one to those romantic moments one can (or has) experience in the busy city of Mumbai − Gorai/Juhu/Chowpatty beach or Bandra Bandstand/Nariman Point. These are the observations that can only be brought forth by someone who had lived and experienced life in a city like Mumbai to its fullest.
Interestingly Yogesh authors two separate meters (verses of differing length) for the antaras in this song. In Hindi film music, it is very common for words to be written to tune. Not sure if HMV’s editing is at play, the song has differing antaras. The first (antara) is rendered one line each by Anuradha Paudwal and Aarti Mukherjee − with music break in between. The second (antara) has the lines rendered by each singer with no music break in between. In any case it makes for interesting listening.
The song is a two-female-singers duet − given the situation where Amol Palekar indulges in “asking out” Deepti Naval to various romantic spots only to follow it with romantic dalliance with his wife Parveen Babi at the same spot (and mildly creepily in the same dress). Pancham surprises by not employing the expected vocals of the Mangeshkar sisters for this song. One can almost imagine Lata Mangeshkar (for Parveen) and Asha Bhosle (for Deepti). Pancham experiments by employing newcomers Anuradha Paudwal (for Parveen) and Aarti Mukherjee (for Deepti) – however, the picturization by Hrishikesh Mukherjee does not bother of this distinction and uses the vocals interchangeably in the movie.
For the music arrangement, Pancham yet again employs his pacy and breezy style − perhaps to keep up with the busy hubbub of urban frenzy. The start of the song begins on those shiny notes of the 7-string guitar. In fact the prelude instantly reminds one of those romantic solos by Lata Mangeshkar in Adhura Aadmi (“Tumse hi to shuroo hai”) and Chor Police (“Tumse milke zindagi ko”). The rhythm follows the familiar dhin-chak dhin-chak pattern where the hi-hats (drums) and guitars play in tandem. Of course the madals provides that perfect crowning accompaniment completing the typical Pancham dhin-chak sound that one has come to identify in many of his songs. In fact the dhin-chak rhythm is maintained throughout the song with the hi-hats accentuating it in the main body and the madals carrying it forth in the interludes.
Speaking of interludes, the arrangement is typical of Basu Chakravorty − where the soaring violin section provides the dramatic body to the entire arrangement. For the first interlude, Pancham narrates the busy urban life employing the pace of the guitars to painting the evening slowdown with flutes and violins that lead into the first antara. The second interlude matches the words and depicts the changing of seasons. And what better instrument to narrate the changing seasons than the santoor!
The song and the soundtrack were well received when released. Even the movie found success (albeit small compared to the other commercial mammoths that ruled the box office). However, this movie also marks the last successful outing of many stalwarts − Amol Palekar, Parveen Babi, Farooque Shaikh, Deepti Naval and Hrishikesh Mukherjee − in a comic family drama. Most veterans of the pre-1980s era found it difficult to sustain into the 1990s − either commercially or because of their unwillingness to “compromise” their craft. Their works, however, continue to enjoy repeated views and hearings even today − and some have gathered a larger cult following than one would have envisioned during their release. But then isn’t that what makes/defines a classic?