Whether they were birthday songs or lullabies or stories in verse, some of the finest songs in Urdu/Hindi movies were written, composed and sung for tiny tots. Contrary to what some people may think, writing and composing such numbers is most challenging — the words have to be simple and the tunes should be quick-on-the-lips.
The first birthday song that one can recall is ‘Meri ladli ri bani hai taron ki tu rani’ from Mehboob’s Andaz (1949). There were scores of others.
Compared to them there were not many riddles set to tune for movies. The first was ‘Aichak dana pechak dana’ from Shri 420 (1955). The number clicked but one can’t think of any that followed. In the Pakistani movie Andaleeb (1969) ‘Nannhi munni gudya rani eik paheli boojho’, rendered by Runa Laila, made interesting listening. It was composed by Nisar Bazmi and penned by Kaleem Usmani.
Two memorable numbers featuring grandmothers were the duet ‘Dadi amma, dadi amma, maan jao’ from Gharana (1961) composed by Ravi and sung by Asha Bhosle and Kamal Barot, and ‘Nani teri morni ko mor le gaye’ (1960). The latter was set to tune by Hemant Kumar and rendered by his daughter Ranu Mukherjee, when she was in her early teens. While the ‘Dadi Amma’ song was imaginatively picturised, the maternal grandmother number was poorly filmed. Both the numbers are available on YouTube, one would recommend watching their cartoon versions.
In the latest installment on the series on film music, Asif Noorani looks at the genre of songs for children, which were once often a part of many films but seem to have fallen out of vogue in recent times
The largest number of children’s songs fall into the categories of lullabies (lori in Urdu and Hindi). The first to hit the jackpot was ‘So ja rajkumari so ja’ sung soulfully by K.L. Saigal in Manzil (1940). It was penned by Kidar Sharma and set to tune by singer-composer Pankaj Malik.
Then came a spate of lullabies. ‘Dheere se aaja ri ankhion mein’ from Albela (1951) was melodious. It was sung by Lata Mangeshkar, written by Rajendra Krishn and set to tune by C. Ramchandra (who sang a part of it under his pseudonym Chitalkar). But it is disappointing that the filmmaker used it for the hero’s sister trying to put the hero to sleep and later the hero sang a part of it while driving his lady love in an open-hooded car. One shouldn’t see the sequence on YouTube or one would lose interest in the track.
The same year in Tarana, the lullaby ‘Beiman tere nainwa nindya na aye’ beautifully rendered by the same singer, showed the Venus of the Indian screen Madhubala singing it for an insomniac Dilip Kumar. The song composed by Anil Biswas and written by D.N. Madhok was imaginatively filmed and would merit a second look on YouTube.
Then in 1955 Vachan arrived on the scene with the very memorable ‘Chanda mama door ke’ sung by Asha Bhosle and music by Ravi Shankar Sharma.
The largest number of children’s songs fall into the categories of lullabies. The first to hit the jackpot was ‘So ja rajkumari so ja’ sung soulfully by K.L. Saigal in Manzil (1940).
On our side of the border, the first lullaby to make what seemed to be incessant appearances on farmaishi programmes on the radio was Noor Jehan’s immortal lullaby ‘Chanda ki nagri se aaja ri nindya, taron ki dunya se aaja’ from Lakht-e-Jigar (1956). It was soulfully orchestrated by Chishti and equally lovingly penned by Nazim Panipati. Incidentally, two years before she shifted back to Lahore in the wake of Partition, Noor Jehan had recorded another sonorous lullaby. That was ‘Aaja ri nindya too aake na ja’
which was written by Mahirul Qadri and composed by Hafeez Khan for the hit movie Zeenat. The lullaby was eclipsed by the immense popularity of the qawwali ‘Aahein na bhari shikway na kiye kuch bhi na zuban se kaam liya’ from the same movie.
Eminent poet Himayat Ali Shair produced a movie titled Lori (1966) — the film, if I remember correctly, didn’t carry his name as a filmmaker — which had a lullaby with the lilting ‘Chanda ke hindoley mein urran khatole mein’. It was recorded as a tandem in the voices of Noorjehan and Suraiya Hyderabadi, whom we didn’t get to hear later. But the song from the same movie ‘Taali baje bhai taali baje’ turned out to be a bigger hit. It was a birthday song though, surprisingly, one couldn’t see a cake in the scene when viewing it on YouTube.
One more song which featured for a long time on the hit parade was ‘Ek mera chand ek mera tara, ammi ki ladli abba ka pyara’ from Shukriya (1964). It featured parents with two kids, a boy and a girl. Musheer Kazmi’s lyrics were set to tune by M. Ashraf and rendered by Naseem Begum.
While on children’s songs, one cannot ignore the contribution of Radio Pakistan and PTV. Every week, a children’s programme broadcast under the title Naunehal featured a new song. Numbers such as ‘Ho baby Seema bhaiyya se kutti kyun hogai’ and ‘Bunder Road se Keamari chali re meri ghorra gaarri’, both rendered by the versatile Ahmed Rushdi, got him a break as a film singer. At one time he occupied the highest rung of success, sharing space with Mehdi Hasan. They had their separate domains — Rushdi unfortunately died an early death, when he was still a force to reckon with.
Singer Ferdausi Begum, who was conducting a successful programme for kids on the Dacca (which was how Dhaka was spelt in those days) station of PTV, inspired composer Moslehuddin and Nahid Niazi to present similar fare from PTV Lahore. It was titled Padma ki mauj. Padma is, as most people know, the main river of what is now Bangladesh. It was a sort of music school programme. When the couple moved to the UK, maestro Khaleel Ahmed took charge and the programme, then renamed, featured the likes of Nayyara Noor and Hadiqa Kayani.
But the music programme in this genre that was conducted by film composer Sohail Rana, under different names, was a much greater success. The songs were on the lips of not just kids but also their parents. EMI issued an album comprising two audio cassettes and they were just as big sellers as was the long play record titled ‘Bachchon eik tha raja’. It featured some of the most lilting Pakistani film songs featuring kids.
I had the LP and lent it to someone — I can’t recall who? I didn’t realise it then that it was a final parting. It reminds me of the saying (in the context of books) ‘A person who lends a book is a fool but the one who returns it is a bigger fool’. The borrower in this case was certainly not a bigger fool.
Published in Dawn, ICON, July 8th, 2018