Raga 2 Rock

Posted on April 3, 2022


A plug for Madan Mohan’s book.

You can buy the book from the notionpress store:https://notionpress.com/read/raga-2-rock

As well as from Amazon:  https://www.amazon.in/dp/B09WYSNBBZ

Ever wondered why millennials listen to old film songs from the ‘60s
and the ‘70s? How did they get into the habit in the first place? Were there composers other than R D Burman operating in the golden era, and who were they? Was there any film music produced in the south of the Vindhyas? This book attempts to answer those and other questions… from the point-of-view of an inveterate film music junkie now exiled to the world of rock! So, how does one go from Mohammed Rafi to Mick Jagger?

Read on to find out.

Following is a short excerpt from the book:

I was born in Chennai and spent my infancy in Kolkata. But I grew up in Kalyan – from the age of 5 to 15. It was in a relatively sheltered part of Kalyan – a large residential complex in Kalyan (East) with shops and parks (as well as the school that I attended for most of my primary and secondary education). It was the first of its kind in a place so far away from Mumbai. So it attracted people with some aspirations – not necessarily an aspiration to live life king size (for that was yet unthinkable for most of us in 90s India), but an aspiration perhaps to provide their children a life they could not enjoy.

You could see the makings of nuclear family India here. Families lived in one or two BHK flats (none bigger than two BHK were offered) and were usually no bigger than six or seven people per family. Only a few of the families depended on a business for income; most had one or more parent working in government or in private sector enterprises. Most of the women who worked were teachers; at least, that’s how I remember it.

Thus, the environment I grew up in was relatively ‘posh’ by Kalyan standards but it was nevertheless a place that was over 50 km away from Mumbai CSMT. We were all here because we couldn’t afford to live in Thane or Borivali, let alone somewhere in the heart of Mumbai. Albeit, at this stage, it was the parents of me and my schoolmates and other friends in the complex who understood this. We were in a bubble of our own, far away from Mumbai but still connected to its culture. Not only because most of our parents, particularly the fathers, worked in Mumbai, but also because Bollywood was all over the TV stations.

It’s funny to think that reminiscences of film music usually involve the author discussing memories of listening to songs on the radio. Funny for me, that is, because radio was almost absent in my formative years and certainly didn’t influence my musical experiences.

And the reason is not what you may think. No, it wasn’t because TV had rendered radio obsolete. It was more because the AM signal was feeble and you didn’t yet have private FM stations like Radio City, Radio Mirchi and others. But TV channels filled up the primetime hours with film music jukeboxes, playing the most ‘in demand’ songs of the week one after the other.

dilip kumar

And so, like any 90s kid growing up in Western or Northern India, Main Mila Tu Mili (the rap bit in the song Yeh Kaali Kaali Aankhein from the film Baazigar) was very much a part of my childhood. Yessir, I watched the film a bunch of times, including once when I was under medication after an asthmatic attack. Many of my teachers lived in the same complex and one of them paid a visit home to check on me and found me watching said film. No, I didn’t have to do a detention assignment!

I kept hearing the latest hit songs of the time on TV and knew most of them well (this, when I was about 8 or 9). But events would conspire to take me down the rabbit hole of old Hindi film music.

It started with my father’s own listening habits. As someone who had grown up in the 60s and who would have been well into his teens when Aradhana came along, he had already seen it all. He had lived through the Urdu-laced ghazal sensibilities of film music in the 60s, particularly the songs Rafi sang for Dilip Kumar or Rajendra Kumar. He had watched Kishore Kumar steal the show in the 70s under R D Burman’s baton. He had then seen things go very much down the drain in the 80s. By the 90s, he generally found contemporary film music disappointing at best and disgusting at worst. He was capable of making exceptions for the odd gem like the Majrooh-penned, Jatin Lalit composition Ae Kash Ke Hum. But by and large, he hated it. He took a particular dislike to Kumar Sanu’s style of singing.

I cannot say today if I was simply imitating him or if I was influenced by his choices and by the old songs he played on the cassette deck.

However it may have been, I found myself beginning to notice what he was saying about Kumar Sanu. I began to dislike his singing on songs like Churake Dil Mera.  I began to find tunes like Jaanam I love you you love me irritating.

In the meantime, my aunt who lived in the US had gifted me a video cassette of Jungle Book and I had watched and enjoyed it very much. I noticed the lush, orchestral instrumentation in the background score as well as the songs in the film and couldn’t help compare the tacky production values of reigning Bollywood numbers unfavourably with them.

I knew this – this being the latest Nadeem Shravan/Jatin Lalit/Anu Malik hit – was what I was supposed to listen to. I knew this because this is what my classmates/schoolmates listened to and this is what they wanted me to listen to. But I began to believe that this wasn’t where I would find beauty in music and the greener pastures of yesteryear music were more promising in that regard. Colour me biased but had I not held that rather strong opinion, I would have never headed down the rabbit hole. Should I have been ‘open minded’ about 90s Hindi music and thus not invested energy in tracking down the old gems? I don’t know.