Today, Dattaram Wadkar may not be a familiar name to many but this unassuming musician-cum-composer once played an important role in Hindi film music’s Golden Era. His own music in films like Ab Dilli Door Nahi, Parvarish, Kala Aadmi, Santaan and Qaidi No. 911 was quite popular in the 60s. As Shankar- Jaikishan’s long-time assistant and as an excellent dholak- player, Dattram participated in creation of many timeless melodies. On June 8, 2007 he breathed his last leaving behind a treasure of musical memories.
Writer-director Ashok Rane’s 1- hour documentary ‘Masti Bhara Hai Sama’ serves as a good primer to introduce Dattram’s impressive musical credentials to new generation. The only hitch being that it discusses more about his musicianship and his association with Shankar- Jaikishan, rather than focusing on his work as an independent composer. Whatever may be the technical and subject-material flaws of this documentary, it still manages to portray a neat sketch of a forgotten talent and that itself is its biggest achievement. The documentary’s main strength lies in Dattram’s crystal-clear recollections from the glorious past! Even in his dispassionate style, he manages to evoke nostalgia for that era when music-making was a labour of love!
Thanks to Pavan Jha, who so kindly presented the documentary’s DVD to me, I was able to note down some important excepts from the maestro’s recollections. I am sure that movie- music lovers would find them interesting!
So over to Dattaram.
“My family came from Goa to Sawantwadi and then in 1942 we moved to Mumbai’s Thakurdwar area. I was not too good in studies and my mother took me to Pandhari Nageshkar. On a Thursday, he tied ganda (black thread) to my wrist and started teaching me tabla. Latar Yashwant Kerkar also taught me tabla. It was he who first introduced me in film industry. He took me to music director Sajjad with whom I worked for a few months but then I lost the job.”
“I used to go to a gym where Shankar (of Shankar- Jaikishan- fame) also used to come. Once I was taking a bath after exercise, when I heard Shankar playing on the tabla that was lying unused in that gym. He was playing a ghazal- theka and I was really impressed. Immediately I came out of the bathroom and complimented him with ‘Wah! Kya baat hai’. Shankarji asked me if I was from a musical background. I said yes and then I played tabla for him. He was very pleased and told me to come and meet him at Opera House Theatre next day. Prithviraj Kapoor’s Prithvi Theatres used to perform there and I joined them as a musician.”
Prthivi Theatre Days:
“In those days, during the drama- intervals there used to be live instrumental performances. In them, Ram Ganguly used to play sitar and Ramlal used to play shehnai. I started accompanying them on tabla. Earlier Shankar used to do that but later he delegated that responsibility to me.”
When Rajsaab gave Barsaat to Shankar- Jiakishan, I also became part of their team. I used to conduct rehearsals with the musicians before the recording. I used to wonder when I would get a chance to play in the actual recording. That chance came accidentally in Awara. Punyawan, who used to play dholak and who was also my Guru in that instrument, did not come for a recording. The musicians were ready, Lataji was ready but the dholak player was missing. At 12 Noon, Shankarji suddenly said, “Arre Dattu also plays dholak. Let him play today!” I was so happy to get an opportunity. The recording was okay in the first take and Shankarji and Lataji both praised me for my dholak- playing. That song was ‘Ik Bewafa Se Pyaar Kiya’. Then I started playing dholak regularly in songs like ‘Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat’, ‘Ichak Daana Beechak Daana’ and ‘Pyaar Hua Iqraar Hua’.
Making of classics:
While working on the music of Awara, once Raj Kapoor decided to take all his team to Khandala. There he explained a dance situation and asked Shankar- Jaikishan if they had a suitable tune. Jaikishan said that he did not have one ready but Shankarji said that he had one tune in mind. He started singing ‘Ramailya Vastavaiya, Ramaiya Vastavaiya’ Immediately Rajsaab asked – “Is there anything in this song after this repetitive line?” and Shailendra came up with the next line – “Maine dil tujhko diya, maine dil tujhko diya”!
Once Jaikishan was driving a car and I was sitting on the front seat. We were going through Chembur area and lots of new buildings were coming up. Repeatedly I was looking behind at those new constructions. Shailendra was sitting behind in the car and he asked me: “Arre Dattu, yeh baar baar mud mud ke kya dekh rahe ho?” Then an idea struck him and he wrote the famous song ‘Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh Mud Mud Ke’.
‘Ghar Aaja Mera Pardesi’ was recorded in different parts. The recording went on from 9 a.m. to next day’s 6 a.m.! There were almost 150 musicians and 40-50 choir singers in that recording. The actual song’s recording started at midnight but Raj-saab was not happy with the rhythm. He wanted something different. Then our flute-player Suman suggested him the name of Lala Bhau. He said that Lala Bhau had come from Pune and plays excellent dholki. I told Rajsaab that dholki is very effectively used in Tamasha. Raj saab then sent Suman to bring Lala Bhau. When that large, dark, sweaty man walked in, I was taken aback. But as he played his first hand on dholki, I instantly said- ‘Wah! Lala Bhau, kya baat hai!” He smiled and everybody was happy. After a rehearsal, Lataji was called and the song was recorded at 2.30 a.m.!
Shankarji had composed a tune for ‘Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal’ but Shailendra was not ready with the words. Shailendraji asked Shankarji: “May I borrow Dattaram for a while? He can hum the tune and I can write.” Shankarji agreed.
Shailendra took me to Hanging Garden, where we sat in shade working on that song. Smoking one cigarette after another, Shailendra kept playing with the words. When he finally got his inspiration, his pen was empty! So he picked up the cigarette stubs and wrote the words with them!
My films as composer:
“Raj Kapoor once told Shankar- Jiakishan that he was making a film on a small child, where he won’t be acting. They suggested my name as a composer for that film Ab Dilli Door Nahi, which was my first film as composer. Lataji sang the first song- a birthday song- ‘Jiyo Laal Mere Tum Laakho Baras’ and Ashaji sang the next song – ‘Yeh Chaman Hamara Apna Hai’. Then I had to compose a tune for a situation where Yaqoob is taking the child to Delhi. When I was playing that tune on harmonium, Rajsaab made me stop and said, “It is a hit song!” That was ‘Chun Chun Karti Aayi Chidiya, which was sung by Rafi-saab.
As soon as producer Mahipat Shah finished narrating the story of Parvarish to me, I suggested him to take Raj saab as the hero. Luckily Rajsaab also liked the story and suggested to take Mala Sinha as the heroine. Every song in this film was written by Hasrat. It had songs like Masti Bhara Hai Sama, Mama O Mama and Beliya Beliya. Each song had to be first approved by Raj-saab. When I composed a sad song- Aansoo Bhari Hai, he first made me present another tune but finally approved the first tune! Then he asked, “Who will be singing it?” I replied- “Of course, Mukeshji!”
Years later when I was working for Laxmikant- Pyarelal, Lataji met me in the corridor. She told me- “Dattu, do you know that I have recently recorded your song?” I was surprised. Because I had not done a recording in years! Then she told me that she had sung ‘Aansoo bhari hai’ (for her album ‘Shraddhanjali’).
*(Pyarelal says: This song is based on jhaptaal. At that time, there was an ongoing musicians’ strike and the song was recorded with hardly 7- 8 musicians who played out of friendship. Despite that it turned out to be a masterpiece!)
Qaidi No. 911 was Aspi Irani’s film. Here Nanda is playing a teacher, who sings the song- ‘Meethi Meethi Baaton Se Bachna Zara’ for Shaikh Mukhtar’s daughter Honey Irani. The small girl always tells her to sing a song but the teacher always refuses. The child gets angry and just as she is walking away the Aalap begins, making her stop in her stride and smile!
Dattu Theka- the magic on dholak:
I created a special rhythm on dholak, which came to be known in the film-industry as Dattaram- theka (Dattu-theka). I had used it songs like ‘Chunchun Karti’, ‘Masti Bhara Yeh Sama’ and ‘Mera Joota Hai Japani’. Kalyanji-Anandji specially called me to play that rhythm in ‘Mere Dil Mein Hai Ik Baat.’
I played dholak in Salil Choudhary’s Madhumati- songs ‘Ghadi Ghadi Mera Dil Dhadke’, ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ and ‘Suhana Safar Aur Yeh Mausam Haseen’. Salilda just said- “I don’t need to tell you anything. You listen to the tune and play what you feel right!”
Once Roshanji called me for a recording as his dholak-player did not turn up at the last moment. I was sitting with a wrier when someone came to call me. He said that even Lataji was waiting. I immediately went there in a taxi and played for that song- ‘Saari Saari Raat Teri Yaad Sataaye.’ That song also proved very popular. Once I was admitted in a hospital at Dhobi Talaav and I heard a marriage band playing that song, I was so happy that half my illness was over there and then!
In ‘Mera Naam Raju Gharana Anaam’ we (Lalabhau and I) played Dafli with fingers. Today, they play such rhythm with sticks! In ‘O Maine Pyaar Kiya’, I used a folk rhythm. Rajsaab was so happy with that experiment!
The Shankar- Jaiksihan equation:
Shankar and Jaikishan were equally good. There is no use of saying one was better than the other. They both understood the situation and mood and composed tunes accordingly. Shankar liked Bhairavai and Jaikishan liked Shivranjani. Shankar liked to compose for a dance-music oriented songs like ‘Jahan Main Jaati Hoon Wahin Chale Aate Ho’ and Jaikishan liked to compose romantic numbers like ‘Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mein Hum’.
For Basant Bahar, director Raja Nawathe had suggested their names to Bhushan- brothers. Bharat Bhushan’s elder brother had first asked Shankar- Jaikishan whether they would be able to compose music for such classical music- oriented film. Shankarji said – ‘Why Not?’ They accepted that challenge and composed all semi-classical tunes, which became very popular, even before the film’s release!
I used to look after their rhythm-section and Sebastian used to conduct their orchestra or Melody-section.
Past Versus Present:
In yesteryear music, there was melody, that’s why old songs like ‘Baharo Phool Barsaao’ and ‘Aayega Aanewala’ are still popular. Today’s music is good for youngsters but it is too fast. You don’t even remember the song after ten minutes!