Changing Face Of Hindi Film Music- 1930s to 50s

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

What distinguishes Hollywood from Bollywood? No- please don't go into the lengthy discussions about quality and quantity. The answer is simple - film songs! For Hollywood- a musical film with songs is more of an exception. For Bollywood - every film is a musical as a rule unless proved otherwise.

Film songs are the life and soul of Hindi movies or for that matter for most of the movies made in the sub-continent. For almost seventy years this tradition is going on. A tradition which began with a song picturised on a fakir in the first ever 'talkie' film in India - Ardeshir Irani's Alam Aara (1931). When Wazir Mohammed Khan sang De de khuda ke naam pyare in this movie, he could never have imagined that he was pioneering the most revered and at the same time most reviled music forms in India.


The 1930s were the formative years for Hindi film music but not without some shining milestones. Jaddanbai (Nargis's mother) and Saraswatidevi were the first two music directors on the world movie scene. The film Indrasabha made in 1932 still holds the world record for the number of songs in a single movie. Can you imagine how many songs it had? Seventy-one!

The two foremost singers- composers from that era hailed from Bengal - Pankaj Mullick and K.C.Dey. The soft Bangla- school of music was the most preferred one then. The singing sensation of that era was Kundanlal Saigal. This type-writer salesman earning eighty rupees a month was hired as a singing actor at a princely sum of two hundred rupees per month by the 'New Theatres' composer R. C. Boral. This proved to be the most profitable decision for the film company. Saigal's songs became a rage all over the country and inspired many a future stalwarts.


The 1940s were the years of flux. A new order came into existence. More robust Punjabi style of music pushed back the soft Bangla style. Playback singers replaced the genre of singing stars. Though singers like Noorjahan and composers like Ghulam Haider were taken away by the Partition, the future of the Hindi film music was in safe hands by then. The entry of exceptional singers like Geeta Roy-Dutt, Suraiya, Shamshad Begum, Rajkumari, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Mohd. Rafi, Mukesh,Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey, Hemant Kumar and Kishore Kumar had ensured that. Superlative composers like Anil Biswas, Naushad, C.Ramchandra, S.D.Burman and Vasant Desai were there now to compose masterly tunes for these golden voices.


The 1950s coincided with the 'Golden Age' of Hindi film music. Sweet melodious tunes and poetic lyrics made almost all the songs memorable and a joy to listen to. Music directors like Shankar-Jaikishan, Madan Mohan, O.P.Nayyar and Salil Chaudhury along with the earlier masters created magic through their music. They were creative and innovative in their compositions. Their tunes had a superb blend of the Indian regional folk music, Indian Classical music and the Western music.

No wonder so many soundtracks of that era have retained their popularity to this day. How could one forget the beauty of ' Barsaat ' and ' Baiju -Baawra '? How could one afford to miss the mystique of ' Madhumati ' and ' Mughal-e- Azam '? How could one avoid feeling the affinity for 'Anarkali ' and ' Albela '?

Ban On Radio

Still the acceptance of Hindi film music was not universal – at least not according to the official government policy. It was deemed impure and immature. So strong was this notion of the corrupting influence of Hindi film music that in 1952 the then Information and Broadcasting Minister Dr. B. V. Keskar ordered it to be off t


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