In the late seventies, All India Radio’s Urdu Service would repeatedly play the song ‘Dil mein tujhe bithake, kar loongi mein band aankhen’ on popular demand. With no television at home and the transistor being the only medium of entertainment, I developed an ear for music.
It was much later that I came to know about the man behind the melody from the film ‘Fakira’ and his colossus contribution to film music.
Lyricist and composer Ravindra Jain, who came from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh, was born blind and took to music from childhood. After the initial struggle, he found his footing in the Hindi film industry with his soothing compositions.
His association with Rajshri Productions gave the film industry some of its best music. Who can forget ‘Geet gata chal o saathi gungunata chal’ in Jaspal Singh’s voice? With ‘Jab deep jale aana’ from ‘Chitchor’, Jain gave enough glimpses of his phenomenal talent. And the title song of ‘Akhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se’ captured the imagination of an entire nation.
He launched many new singers as Yesudas and Hemlata became regulars at his recording studios. Under his baton, the talented Yesudas sang some of his best Hindi film songs. With ‘Aaj se pehle aaj se zyada, khushi aajtak nahin mili’ from ‘Chitchor’, ‘Ae mere udaas mann, chal dono kahin door chalen’ from ‘Maan Abimaan’ and ‘O goriya re, tere aane se saj gayi hamri yeh tooti-phooti naav’ from ‘Naiyya’, the singer-composer duo stamped their authority on the Bollywood film scene. It was mutual admiration at work, as the music director once remarked that were he ever to get his sight, he would like to see Yesudas first.
Jain also scored music for regional films, including ‘Chadi Jawani Buddhe Nu’ in Punjabi. His compositions for the Bhojpuri film ‘Nadiya Ke Paar’, which set a record of sorts in the UP-Bihar belt, were top-drawer stuff. Raj Kapoor’s ‘Ram Teri Ganga Maili’ in 1985 brought the Padma Shri composer his only Filmfare Award. And the number ‘Sun sahiba sun, pyar ki dhun’ from that film became the virtual national anthem that year. Ramanand Sagar brought him on board for his mythological TV serials ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Shri Krishna’, where the singer in him came into full play.
His composition ‘Purvaiyaa leke chali meri naiyya, jane kahan re’ sung by Shailendra Singh and Lata Mangeshkar in the lesser-known movie ‘Do Jasoos’ gives me goose pimples to this day. The way he used maverick Kishore Kumar’s voice to bring out different moods in the songs ‘Ghoonghru ki tarah bajta hi raha hoon main’ and ‘Le jayenge, le jayenge, dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge’ in ‘Chor Machaye Shor’ shows a genius at work.
If one still doubts the greatness of Jain, who in the 1970s and 1980s held his own among such stalwarts as Laxmikant-Pyarelal, RD Burman and Rajesh Roshan, just two compositions from ‘Saudagar’ — ‘Sajna hai mujhe sajna ke liye’ and ‘Tera mera saath rahe’ — will clinch it for him.
After his passing away last week, as I listen to Mahendra Kapoor sing ‘Chal chala chal, Fakira chal chala chal’, I admit unabashedly that his is the only Ravindra sangeet I understood. I marvel at his immense body of work and that too without the faculty of sight! But, then maybe he could see music. If only he had sight, what he would have made of music and what music would have made of him can only be conjectured.
The writer is assistant news editor, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh