This year is the birth centenary of Bimal Roy — one of the pioneers of middle cinema in India. But Roy was also a pathbreaker when it came to music, and song picturisation.
Of course, Salil Chowdhury’s name is the first to come to mind in this connection. Chowdhury composed for the maximum number of Roy films. “Salil Chowdhury is my musical soul,” Roy is supposed to have said once.
Roy’s sense of music can be said to have ushered in a new era in Hindi films after V. Shantaram and Mehboob Khan. As meticulous with his music as he was with his scripts, Roy did not interfere with his music director but had the rare ability to guide and control them. “Roy was not a connoisseur of music but had good knowledge about notation and stressed harmony and melody more than beats,” Choudhury said of him.
Roy’s aristocratic Bengali upbringing helped him move away from the typical commercial Hindi film genre and innovate in a way that was commercially viable, yet sensible. Says director Madhur Bhandarkar, “I still marvel at his ability to speak through his songs just as smoothly as dialogues do. The songs meant so much for each of the films.” Roy preferred Chowdhury, but he did opt for S.D. Burman in
Devdas, Bandini and Sujata. Each of the films is remembered for its melodious music.
Lyricist Gulzar, a frequent visitor on Bimal Roy sets, reminisces: “Nabendu Ghosh (script-writer), who was an integral member of Bimalda’s team, requested him to give me a chance. He agreed and I recited a lyric to Burmandada. He was deeply touched — that’s how I came to write Mora Gora Rang Lei Le.”
Bimal Roy did experiment with the highly commercial Shanker Jaikishan for Yahudi, a costume drama. Shammi Kapoor recollects, “What a lilting melody the duo created for Bimalda — Meri Jaan Meri Jaan which was effectively picturised on Meena Kumari. It was far moved from Bimalda’s usual static song sequences.” Dilip Kumar considers Yeh Mera Diwanapan Hai (Yahudi) one of the best songs he has lip-synced.
Yet Roy always got the best from Chowdhury. Apne Nishani Chod Ja (Do Bigha Zamin) is incidentally the first song with a
socialist theme in Hindi films.
Roy died in 1966, before the release of Do Dooni Chaar. Hemant Kumar scored music for the film, that had Kishore Kumar singing Hawaon Pe Likh Do, a song he considered so sacred, he never sang it on stage.