When Karan (Johar) explained what he wanted, it seemed like an impossible dream. A song that encapsulated the theme of his family extravaganza. A song that was both for the pati (husband) and parmeshwar (God). A song about family bonding and a homecoming. A song with lots of masti (fun and frolic) and some melancholy too… A song that was Kabhi Khushi, Kabhie Gham (sometimes happy, sometimes sad),” reminisces music director Lalit Pandit, admitting that his brother Jatin and he started working on Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’s (2001) music six months after Karan’s narration and the title song was their first and biggest challenge. “I didn’t know how I was going to come up with a bhajan that sounded big, but I finally did. And Karan was excited when he heard the scratch and told me that I had cracked it.”
The icing on the cake for Jatin-Lalit was getting Lata Mangeshkar to record the song. It was late evening when they finally wrapped up, but there was still one alaap to go. “I wanted a prelude to the song, something along the lines of what Didi (Lata Mangeshkar) used to do earlier. When I’d hesitatingly suggested it in the morning, she had laughed, pehle gaana kar lete hain! (Let us finish the song first). I was touched when later in the day, she sat with me and created the opening alaap that gives the song its unique touch,” says Lalit.
For me, this Lata Mangeshkar number is what Diwali is all about… Lakshmi puja, lots of love, laddoos and a phataka entry by Shah Rukh Khan! Ask Lalit if he ever had to rush home in a helicopter, and he laughs, “No, never but I did burst a lot of phatakas (firecrackers) growing up. Once Sulakshana didi (actor Sulakshana Pandit, who’s his sister) had taken me for the climax shoot of Siyasat (1992) in which a fireworks factory is blown up. I came home with lots of high-tech phatakas that could be triggered off by pressing a switch. That year my Diwali went on for days,” he laughs. “Today, I’m all grown up and have outgrown my love for crackers, but home is still where the heart is during the festival.”
Sujoy Ghosh agrees pointing out that never mind if you’re alone through the year in India, during Durga puja and Diwali, no one is ekla (alone). The Kahaani director’s earlier film, Home Delivery (2005), revolves around a sister’s wish to have her brother home for Diwali. “In fact, we had initially thought of calling the film Happy Diwali after one of my favourite songs Mere Tumhare Sabke Liye Happy Diwali. We eventually went with Home Delivery, but kept the tagline, “Aapko ghar tak that takes a reluctant Vivek Oberoi back.”
Light and darkness…
Sujoy admits Happy Diwali was a difficult song because it incorporated two compositions of Vishal-Shekhar. “It was like a geeti nritya (song-and-dance drama), but fortunately Sunidhi Chauhan cracked it at a Chennai recording studio. We then shot it in three parts, starting at Madh island, then around town and finally wrapping it up with the entire cast at a studio in Andheri East. Would you believe, I’m just passing the same studio and its Diwali two days from now,” he says with a laugh.
Yes, the festival of lights is here. And as the city turns all bright and beautiful I’d like to spare a thought for one Kali Diwali that found expression in a song in Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat (1964). It relived the 1962 Indo-China war that resulted in many soldiers laying down their lives to save our borders from Chinese invasion, leaving several homes in darkness.
‘Aayee ab ki saal Diwali muh par apne khoon male Aayee ab ki saal Diwali, chaaron taraf hai ghor andheraa ghar mein kaise deep jale’ (this year Diwali comes with blood on its face, there’s darkness all around. So how can the lamp be lit at home?).
Jai Hind to all those unsung heroes, thanks to whom we can sing Happy Diwali today!