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Bimal Roy was born on 12, July 1909 in Swapur village (Dhaka) of the then East Bengal, now in Bangladesh in a zamindar family. After his father passed away, the estate manager deprived the family of their estate, forcing the entire family to move to Calcutta. During his time in the village, young Bimal was fascinated by the pleasant boat journey across rivers, enjoyed nature and landscapes. These sounds and images, remained in his mind and later found their way into his films, when he turned to filmmaking.



From young age, Bimal took keen interest in photography. This interest drew him to studios at Tollyganj in Calcutta. In New Theatre, he got an opportunity to assist famous cinematographer Nitin Bose. In a short span of time, he developed command over lighting and composition. Soon he became an independent cameraman. As a cinematographer he worked in 10 films before turning to direction with his first film, Udayer Pothe (Bengali) in 1944 under the banner of New Theatre.

After New Theatre Production was shut down, Bimal Roy, on the invitation of Bombay Talkies, moved to Bombay (now Mumbai) with his team. Under Bombay Talkies Limited, he made the film Maa. After Maa, he started his own banner, The Bimal Roy Productions. Under his own banner, he directed films like Do Bigha Zamin (1953), Naukri (1954), Devdas (1955), Madhumati (1958), Sujata (1959), Parakh (1960), Prem Patra (1962), Bandini (1963).

From the very beginning, talkie films in India had great many songs. Regarding the requirement for a song in cinema, every film maker has his own views. Bimal Roy believed that a song was not only a song, and also not a mere pause in a story. For him, a song was a means to carry the story forward; to express emotions that words and dialogues cannot. He believed that the nuances of a song could reach the heart faster than a scene with mere dialogues.The above-mentioned films are a testimony to his belief.

To pay tribute to Bimal Roy, on his birth anniversary, I would like to discuss Madhumati (1958), a musical hit. The screen play of the film was written by eminent film maker Ritwik Ghatak. Music was composed by Salil Chowdhury and songs were written by Shailendra.

Before discussing each song, let us peep into the background of music director Salil Chowdhury. He as a young boy grew up in Assam tea gardens, where his father was a doctor. He got the exposure to nature and folk songs. In Assam his father had a collection of records of eminent western composers like Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Chopin and several others. Exposed to western music, Salil, encouraged to train himself in western music. Beside western music, he also learnt folk traditional music of North East, and Indian classical music. This amalgamation of both Western and Indian music, made him well equipped to blend these music forms to creating tunes for film music.

The songs of Madhumati were instant hit. Radio Ceylon played seven songs from Madhumati in its list of top 10 songs. In 1959, Salil Chowdhury got Filmfare award for best music for Madhumati. Each song of Madhumati, reaches far beyond and not being just a listener’s delight, but ranks very high in the music history of Hindi cinema. Each song, reflects the characters and their evolution in the film. Let us, take the song ‘Suhana Safar aur yeh mausam haseen’, sung by the protagonist when the film opens and he is fascinated by the beauty of the hillscapes. Playback singer was Mukesh and I think, this number is one of his best. Along with the composition of the song and its picturisation; the lyrics were unique. Describing the movement of rivers, Shailendra has used words like ‘Alhar’, which is seldom used in film songs and it is north Indian rooted word, generally used by village and small town folks.

As the story progresses, we come across, a duet ‘Dil tadap tadap ke keh raha hai aa bhi jaa’ a romantic song depicting the core of the story. The tune was inspired by a polish song which was also popular in Hungary. Three solo songs rendered by Lata Mangeshkar, were picturised on film’s heroine, Vyjayanthimala. They were, ‘Aajaa re main to kab se khadi is paar’, ‘Zulmi sang aankh ladi’ and ‘Ghadi ghadi mora dil dhake’. These songs reflected the romantic mood of Vyjayanthimala. In these songs, the choice of pure Hindi words like ‘Pantha Nihar’, ‘Sar se chunariya’ etc. add flavour to these songs. ‘Aaja Re’ won Lata Mangeshkar her first Filmfare Award (1958).

Salil Chowdhury, made an interesting experiment with the song ‘Aaja re’. The spoken words, express the eternal wait for a ‘Pardesi’ at the other end also; at the same time to convey the internal feeling Salil Chowdhury used the tune of ‘Ghadi ghadi’ in the song as an interlude music. There was a beautiful duet song, ‘Papi bicchua’ rendered by Lata and Manna Dey. The song ‘Jungle mein mor nacha’ rendered by Mohd. Rafi for Johnny Walker, seemed incongruous for a Bimal Roy film but was a big hit. The film also includes a Mujra rendered by Mubarak Begum “Hum haal-e-dil sunayenge…”. Rafi sings a memorable song towards the end “Toote hue Khawaabon ne’ for Dilip Kumar which conveys end of Suhana Safar (pleasant journey) in the life of the protagonist.

The selection of sites, picturization of songs were a treat to watch for Indian cinema lovers. Such audio-visual combination is rare in Hindi cinema. It was the commanding genius of Bimal Roy in respect of the composition and the selection of outdoor sites, which made ‘Madhumati’ a unique film. It is no wonder the film won Filmfare Award in nine categories including best direction, music and film.

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