A One-off Collaboration to Remember: On Khayyam, Part 10



The history of Hindi cinema is replete with instances of enduring collaborations between different people. Several directors were known to repeatedly pick from the same set of scriptwriters, cinematographers, editors and music composers for their films. Take, directors & cinematographers, for instance. When it came to giving form, shape and light to their directorial vision, many directors relied only on certain “wizards of the lens”. Which is how Guru Dutt-VK Murthy, Raj Kapoor-Radhu Karmakar and Hrishikesh Mukherjee-Jaywant Pathare became celebrated combinations. For that matter, Hrishikesh Mukherjee himself was Bimal Roy’s favoured editor, before he (Hrishida) branched off as a filmmaker.

This habit of enduring collaborations was most noticeable in the music-making aspect of films. Music composers would swear by certain lyricists, in many cases insisting that the producer/director hire only a certain person to write the songs. Most music composers would work with only a small set of lyricists in their entire career. You just have to study the films line-up of composers to realise this. In fact, there have even been extreme cases of a composer working with only one lyricist for most of his films! Inevitably, Naushad and Shakeel Badayuni immediately come to mind as an example of such rare creative fidelity. To a lesser extent, OP Nayyar and SH Bihari too were “wedded” to each other for much of their respective careers. C Ramachandra-Rajendra Krishna, Kalyanji-Anandji-Indeevar, Shankar-Jaikishan-Hasrat-Shailendra and SD Burman-Majrooh are a few other enduring teams that come to mind.

The main reason for such great affinity, and the resulting long partnerships, is simple. In a field like film-making, creative empathy, respect and freedom are vital for team members; what is known, to aptly borrow a musical metaphor from the film world, as tuning. And this logic has been proven right time and again, going by the stellar body of work these partnerships have delivered.

It is perhaps because of this tradition of enduring partnerships that their opposite acquires a certain mystique. Think about it: a one-off collaboration between two legends, never to be repeated.

Shailendra wrote the lyrics for Pancham’s first film as composer – Chote Nawab – in 1961. And never worked with him again in the few more years he lived after that. Let nobody tell you that SD Burman never worked with Shakeel. Because he did. In a lone film called Benazir, which released in 1964. And, while much is made of the fact that “mora gora ang lailo, mohe sham rang daido” was Gulzar’s first independent song for a Hindi film, it is astonishing that he never got to write another song for SD Burman! In each of the cases I have mentioned, the musical output has been excellent – perhaps, even outstanding.

I think the mystique of such one-offs comes from the fact that we, the listeners, are forced to wonder, first “why not?” and then, “what if?” If the songs produced by such a collaboration in just one film are so beautiful, what if they had worked in more films, produced more songs? These questions will haunt us forever, and lead us into the realm of conjecture. The answers are like shapes seen in smoke: there, but not really there. Naturally, we tend to believe that they would have produced more wondrous stuff. We are left feeling wistful, sighing – and occasionally even cursing fate – at this unfortunate turn of events.

Imagine how I would have felt then, when I heard the songs of Thodi Si Bewafai for the first time, learnt that Khayyam and Gulzar had spun that magic together, and realised that this is the only film they worked together in! It is all the more astonishing because the music left a deep impact on listeners, and was feted all round. But such are the vagaries of life, especially in the film world.

Esmayeel Shroff’s Thodi Si Bewafai highlights the fissures appearing in the marital life of the lead couple, played by Shabana Azmi and Rajesh Khanna. A story spanning two generations, the mood of the film is mostly sombre. The songs have been intricately woven into the narrative, helping take the story forward.

“Aaj bichde hain” doesn’t find place in most of the “Bhupinder’s best” song lists, but it is one of his finest songs ever. His voice – deep and heavy – achingly brings out the heaviness of the heart, and the introspective mood of the moment. This song sets the tone for the film by providing an apt backdrop to the opening credits.

In my book, “hazaar rahein mud ke dekheen” ranks as one of the best Hindi film songs on human relationships. In this and the earlier song, Gulzar is in top form, conjuring up imagery in his own way. Take this antara:
“Tumhein yeh zid thi ki hum bulaayen, humey ye hummed woh pukaare,
Hai naam honthon pe ab bhi lekin, awaaz mey pad gayi daraarein.”

Gulzar voices the man’s and the woman’s points of view – which happen to be diametrically opposite to each other – of what went wrong between them. But his nuanced wordplay ensures that it doesn’t end up being a maudlin blame-game.

This song fetched Kishore Kumar and Gulzar Filmfare awards.

The romantic “aankhon mein humn aapke sapne sajaaye hain” beautifully captures happier times between man and wife.

“Mausam mausam, lovely mausam” epitomises the euphoric mist-drenched romance between the youngsters (Padmini Kolhapuri and Sushant Ray). In its mood, music and framing, it echoes Khayyam’s “gapuchi gapuchi gam gam” from Trishul.

And then, there is the rarely-heard “barse puhar”, a light-hearted beauty, set to a ghazal-like metre.

Like in all his other films, Khayyam’s greatest contributions to Thodi Si Bewafai’s songs are the beautiful tunes & the minimal yet finely-etched music. The sitar, the flute, the violins and the soft rhythms more than do the job. A composer’s greatness lies in creating evocative tunes that don’t need elaborate orchestration. Tunes that project the lyrics clearly, and allow the singers to fully immerse themselves in. Tunes that cocoon the listener in their folds. Which is why, in this piece about Khayyam, I have overtly said very little about him.

Thodi Si Bewafai was another in the string of Khayyam’s jubilee hits which started with Kabhi Kabhie, nearly 28 years after he debuted as a composer.

But in the end, we are left wondering, “What if he and Gulzar had worked together in more films?”

Aaj bichdey hain



Hazaar raahein



Barse puhar


Mausam mausam, lovely mausam





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