Even as a teenager in the 70s, Narender Singh was in love with Bollywood music. He would collect music booklets from railways stations or bus stops and gather information about songs and singers which he diligently noted in a register. With the turn of the century came the Internet and these booklets faded into oblivion. This was a blow for Singh whose passion lay not just in Bollywood melodies but also in the details of composers, singers and lyricists. He set out to compile these details for posterity.
His search for old records lead him to Harminder Singh Hamraj from Kanpur who had a compendium of Bollywood songs from 1960 to 1980. However, there was no compendium for the period after 1980 and Singh decided to take up the task.
After six years of research, which involved travelling to different locations, watching movies on YouTube and surfing the Web, this RK Puram resident was able to produce a book titled Musical Date with a Decade (1981 to 1990).
The book has 1,000 pages with two set of indexes. One allows you to track the movies by its name and the second by songs’ name. It took Singh six years, from 2009 to 2014, to make a compendium of 1,697 movies and 8,745 songs. Singh went to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) to get a list of movies certified by the board during this period. From there he got the release dates and certification numbers of the films. He then worked to get the list of banners under which movies were released, star cast, director, singers, musicians, lyricists, producers, actors, music video company, catalogue number, year of release and awards won.
This was mammoth task as cassettes, VCDs or posters that had these details were not available. “The Internet too didn’t had much and what it had could not be trusted blindly,” said Singh, who is an assistant director with Central Water Commission.
The first step was to buy CDs or video cassettes of movies. He would watch each movie with a pen and copy in hand to note the details.
“People are confused over the release date of the movies. In many cases the censor board (CBFC) takes a lot of time in clearing the movies while the audio is released. In that case, I have given the release dates separately,” he said.
Singh travelled to different cities, including Mumbai, Giridih (Jharkhand), Meerut, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Dehradun where he met people who had the video cassettes that are now out of circulation.
“Through the Internet, I got to know about Sumit who had the video cassette of film Razia released in 1982. I wanted to verify the details personally so that I can claim accuracy in the information I have given,” he said.
In the book, he has given half a page to each movie except Gandhi to which he has dedicated two pages. He has also dedicated one page to Adi Shankaracharya which was the first Sanskrit language film in Bollywood, directed by GV Iyer and released in 1983.
Singh says the pleasure of pursuing this project was in bringing details to light. He has taken care to list the song composers and lyricists separately as a number of time these artists get reduced to margins. “I once called a popular singer and asked him the name of the lyricist of the song in Neela Ghati. The singer didn’t remember the name.” Such incidents, Singh said, made him even more determined to complete his project.
During his journeys, Singh said he was often asked what he stood to gain from this project to which he replied that not everything is done for profit. Some things are driven by passion. “I have always felt that people remember the songs but those who create them or are behind the scenes do not get due credit. Earlier, at least, they found their names on video or audio cassettes. This is my tribute to them,” he said.