Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Double Albums: See Inlay Card for Details

A very long time ago in Calcutta, a magnificent shop called The HMV Store opened. It was located in the lane right next to the Statesman House and predated the Music Worlds and the Planets M by a good decade and a half. It had rows and rows of alphabetically arranged cassette covers, along with a listening nook (manned by a rather fierce looking gentleman in a dhoti).
Our (his and mine) modus operandi was to enter this air-conditioned haven (armed with pad and pen), hang around till the salespeople got really agitated, copy out the details of all the tapes we wanted, leave, have beef kabab at the shack outside and then go to Melody to purchase whatever we could afford of our wishlist. Melody was populated by ever-smiling salesmen, willing to listen to our arbitrary demands and even amenable to discounts (unlike the pension-eligible, constipated employees of RPG).

During these visits, one of the biggest 'things to do' was to identify the 'combination cassettes'. With less disposable income but probably a greater need for the classics of Hindi film music, HMV had a huge list of cassettes, which carried the soundtrack of two films. These two films usually had a common element (director, producer, actor, composer, all of the above) but sometimes it was nothing but an imagined theme.
And one's life depended on the best value-for-money that can be extracted from choosing the most judicious combo.

My absolute favourite combo was Guide-Jewel Thief.
SD, Navketan, Dev Anand have always given music that is unforgettable, not to mention the films. One of the biggest problems of Dev Anand's recent prolific but execrable output is that people born in the 1980s would never know what brilliant films he worked in.
Anyway, Guide and Jewel Thief had a vast musical range which went from cabaret to classical and back.
My main grouse against this perfect combo was that they dropped one song each from the two soundtracks to fit them into the tape. It was Wahan kaun hain tera and Baithe hain unke pass from the two films respectively. Since I watched both the movies after I bought the tape, I was quite shattered when I found out at this breach of trust by HMV.

My second favourite was Saath Saath-Arth.
Javed Akhtar recently mentioned in an interview that this was the highest selling combination cassette ever in the history of HMV. It is quite easy to see why.
Young romantic melodies written, composed and sung by young romantic souls (of which Jagjit Singh became the biggest star then) have a way of getting into your minds and never leaving. And the fact that both the films were perfect examples of middle-of-the-road cinema and excellent platforms for the music just added to the magic.
Even a perfectly round Raj Kiran could not do anything to spoil the melody and peerless lyrics which went - Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho / Kya gham hain jo chhupa rahe ho...

The third on this list has to be Safar-Anand.
Rajesh Khanna on a death-bed did to the women of the 1970s what SRK in Aviators did to the women of 2000s! He popped it like no other, to the accompaniment of screeching violins and maudlin speeches but you have to admit that nobody carried off a kurta-pajama better than he did (except for probably Amol Palekar in Golmaal).
The best part about this cassette was that since the songs were not enough to fill the tape, they interspersed them with dialogues. Safar was slightly philosophical and opaque on this count but Anand had rockin' stuff. You just have to hear Rajesh Khanna's introduction scene to know what I mean ("Lymphocarcoma of the intestine. Wah - jaise koi Viceroy ka naam ho!"). And then there is Amitabh's tour-de-force at the last scene (which was a unique response to a tragedy - anger).
All in all, this combo (with his lesser number of, but brilliant, songs) was what Anand Sehgal said about life... Zindagi badi honi chahiye, lambi nahin!

If I liked the second half of this tape as much as the first, then Aandhi-Mausam would have topped this list of combo cassettes.
Aandhi is my favourite Hindi film soundtrack - absolute favourite. (Shaan is second.)
Even at the risk of repeating myself, I just cannot get enough of Gulzar and RD. With this one, they just went on to another plane altogether. Even the title music of Aandhi, recorded with a full-fledged orchestra going crash-bang-boom, had a rather un-subtle mix of the tunes but I even liked that!
Mausam's high point, of course, is Dil dhoondta hain but somehow that tune never grew on me.
All that is compensated by "Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa toh nahin / Tere bina zindagi bhi lekin zindagi toh nahin..." Is there anything else to say?

Apart from these masterpieces, I had quite a few 'flavours of the day' - of which we had to buy Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak-Waqt ki Awaaz due to my sister's insistence that Aamir Khan looked most handsome on this particular cover. My disappointment at not being able to explore better combinations was somewhat alleviated by playing the Waqt Ki Awaaz side of the tape very regularly. In what would be one of his last songs, Kishore Kumar sang "I want to HIT some-buddy / I want to EAT somebody" to Asha's limpid "Mujhe tod do, mujhe mod do / Meri baahon ko tum maror do...".
It was so bad that it was good! For the trivially inclined, the film starred Mithun and Sridevi.

Nowadays, this concept of combo cassette is no longer there. Even films with non-existent music have a single-soundtrack album, with the numbers being made up by music video songs, DJ Aqeel remixes and excerpts from background scores.
In fact, the last combo I bought was Murder-Paap - yet another favourite of mine!
But the sad part is that both these films had just one landmark number each (unlike the roll call of unforgettables in the earlier examples!). The only consolation was that Bheege hnot tere and Mann ki lagan were so placed that if you reversed the tape right after the first one, the second one started almost immediately. I must have worn out the tapes at exactly that spot!
Because one of thrills of listening to songs on the car stereo is that you can hum along with Kabhi mere saath koi raat guzaar / Tujhe subah tak main karoon pyaar... and then you sing loudly along with Woh oh oh, woh oh oh!

Now, I am looking for yet another combo, which I know exists but remains untraceable! If any of you see a tape of Jism-Raaz, do let me know!


nilendu said...

Among other doubles, I had a Umraao Jaan-Nikaah. BanRu, in keeping with his belief, that all good things in the world should be severely restricted in supply -- borrowed it 71 times in 5 years from me. Often, he would ride a Rs. 1.10 bus ride each way from Deshapriya Park to Jadavpur P.S., get it -- sometimes from my mother -- if I am not at home -- and go back. I calculated that he spent at least Rs 82 in transportation, about another Rs 55 or so in offering me (and, often, you tagging along) Thums Up from his next door biDi shop and an incalculable amount of pampering to a moody, and often drunk me, to get hold of that cassette the N-th time.

The cassette cost Rs 18!

Absurd. When I was leaving Calcutta for my first job, I thought to gift that cassette to BaNru. But I did not. I realized to him it was more like a Dover Lane conference. The relish was in the total package -- not just in the century old immaculate couplets or mellifluous rendition of the same from Salma Agha. I could, in no way, capture that time, that crowded bus travel, that chat associated with the process of borrowing the much coveted cassette for him. Even in an otherwise economical, contextual and compact package of double albums!

anirban said...

Kati Patang-Aradhana is another favourite from my list!

mo said...

I maybe suggesting something blasphemous here in a discussion amongst purists, but can't you guys just make any combination you want using those double deck music systems? And ofcourse, dare I suggest an MP3 CD with all your favourites in one place? :)

But yes, I do remember the times when we had those combo tapes, and when Rs. 18 for a T-series tape seemed expensive!


Indrayan said...

Brilliant, Briiliant ...absolutely brilliant post....I for one still cherish my collections of 'Hum-Dono -KalaBazar' , 'Pyaasa - Sahib Bibi aur Gulam', 'Ghar-Gharonda-Golmaal', 'House no 44 - Kala Pani', 'Trishul - Silsila', 'CID - Taxi Driver', 'Paying Guest-Tere Ghar ke Samne', 'Rajnigandha - Chhoti si Baat' and the list goes on.......
Who would have otherwise cared for a film titled House # 44 exept for the two fabulous songs like 'Hum Bekhudi mein tumko' and 'Teri Dun iya mein Jeene se' by Rafi and Hemant Kumar respectively.
A week back I had entered the Planet M in Kolkata in search of the 'Half Ticket' cassette because currently I am in love with the Kishore Kumar song 'Woh Ek Nigahen' composed by none other than the brilliant Salil Choudhury. But alas...Planet M does not keep RPG combo cassettes ....

udayan said...

My personal favourites -

Kati Patang / Aap Ki Kasam

and that absolute gem

Baton Baton Mein / Rajnigandha / Chhoti Si Baat

OrangeJammies said...

I loved Saath Saath-Arth too! Heard it in the U.S. for the first time, I must admit, because a room mate kept playing it. Just considered buying the double CD this past weekend and then decided against it. Hmm.. maybe this is a sign. I should go get it.
P.S. I see the MM on Nov. 4th. Will the three of you be around?

Tudee said...

Hi Dipta,
this is the second time I am de-lurking to comment on oneof your posts..
It is really nostalgic to read references from Kolkata- esp abt haunts that I also grew up with (Priya cinema, Deshapriya park, and now Melody..:)
Wht abt THE Umrao Jaan-Nikaah combination??..Totally necessary to complete the list..:D

The Line of Beauty said...

My fav combo was umrao jaan-bazaar..and, listening to khayaam's music was pure fact, lataji somewhere has mentioned that ' dikhayee diye yun' is one of her pesonal favorite and who can forget the pathos imbued 'Dekh lo aaj humko" by jagjit kaur and 'ye kya jagah hai doston"

Roger Rabbit said...

Absolute brilliant, Mr.Time Machine!