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Sanchari – Bengal’s invaluable contribution to Hindi Film Music

Posted by Trivia- The Spice of Life on 09/10/2021

The contribution of Bengal to Hindi film music is unparalleled. Ace music directors hailing from Bengal were pioneers in many senses. Their names and innovations are so many that it would be difficult to list all of them. When they started to compose music for Hindi films, it was but natural that the Bengali flavour was added to the melting pot in generous proportion. In today’s post, I shall dwell on one particular innovation that the music directors of Bengal – largely Salil Chowdhury, S.D.Burman and Hemant Kumar – introduced into Hindi film music. This is called Sanchari (संचारी).

Sanchari in Hindustani classical music has to do with the Dhrupad genre. A Dhrupad composition usually consists of four sections (or Dhatu): Sthayi (the initial or the opening section of the composition), Antara (follows immediately after the Sthayi and explores the Raga more extensively), Sanchari (follows Antara and allows free movement to explore the Raga) and Abhoga (the concluding variation of the Raga which gives a sense of completion to the elaboration).

However, Bengal composers used the term Sanchari in a somewhat different connotation. Simply put, the Sanchari is a piece of different tune inserted between two Antaras; the use of the Sanchari made these songs unique. Tagore perhaps first introduced the concept of Sanchari into Bengali folk (or Baul) music. The Bengal composers used Sanchari very prominently in their film songs and the Adhunik or non-film songs. Most Bengali songs composed during the golden era had a Sanchari that added a new dimension to the song. When Bengali music composers reused their Bengali chartbusters in Hindi film music, the Sanchari also made an entry. Thus, many of these songs have a Bengali version which usually predates the Hindi one. One can gauge the importance Salil Chowdhury in particular attached to Sanchari by the fact that he named one of his daughters Sanchari.

In order to spot the Sanchari, you must listen to a substantial part of the song and appreciate how the tune changes before the second Antara. It must be noted that the Sanchari is immediately followed by the Antara without the Mukhda being sung. It is interesting to note how the tune changes for the Sanchari; the notes are taken pretty low when compared to the Antara. The tune of the Antara resumes, once the Sanchari is over. All these variations are made without any disjoint.

Here is a list of ten songs which use the Sanchari.

1) Chale Pawan Ki Chaal (Doctor, 1941) Lyricist : A.H.Shor ; Music Director : Pankaj Mullick ; Singer: Pankaj Mullick. The movie was simultaneously made in Hindi and Bengali. This is a song sung on screen by Pankaj Mullick himself. He is the music director too. It goes to show how multifaceted he was. This is a song which is a joy to watch as well as listen. There’s Pankaj Mullick riding a horse carriage and enjoying the countryside, but at the same time not forgetting his duty of social service as a doctor serving in a rural area, which is what the lyrics indicate. The railway track running parallel to the road also makes a subtle statement. The Sanchari (from 01:57 to 02:18) is at a lower pitch. I am also providing a link to the Bengali version of the song.

Dukh kaa naash ho sukh kaa paalan
donon bojh sambhaal
chubhhte kaante pis pis jaawe
phool na ho paamaal

2) Mere Man Bhula Bhula Kahe Dole (Biraj Bahu, 1954) Lyricist : Prem Dhawan ; Music Director : Salil Chowdhury ; Playback Singer: Hemant Kumar. Biraj Bahu, based on a Bengali novel written by Saratchandra Chhatopadhyay is a Bimal Roy movie. The music of the movie, composed by Salil Chowdhury, has a very strong tinge of Benagli folk tradition. Sung by Hemant Kumar with the typical Bengali flavour, this devotional song mesmerizes the listener. The Sanchari (from 1:30 to 1:52) in the song is :-

 Yeh suraj chaand taare
ye rang rangile pankh pakheru pyaare pyaare
 rangile pankh pakheru bole sare pyaare pyaare
yeh suraj chaand taare

3) Chhota Sa Ghar Hoga, (Naukri, 1954) Lyricist: Shailendra; Music Director: Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singers : Kishore Kumar and  Shaila Belle / Usha Mangeshkar(?) This is a song from one of Kishore Kumar’s early movies; it reflects both childlike innocence and hope, as he dreams of owning a small abode located in the village of stars with overhanging clouds. What idyllic bliss! There is, however a lack of clarity about the female playback singer, who has a very small part in the song. The Sanchari in the song (02:29 to 02:45) is :-

 Kahegi ma dulhan laa betaa  
ghar soonaa soonaa hain 
man mein jhoom kahongaa main 
 ma itni jaldi kyaa hain

This is one song where the Bengali version, recorded as a children’s song came later. It was sung by Salil Chowdhury’s daughter – Antara Chowdhury.

4) Rimjhim Jhim Jhim Badarwa Barse (Tangawali, 1955) Lyricist: Prem Dhawan ; Music Director: Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This lilting tune from the 1955 movie Tangawali had already been used by Salil Chowdhury in the Bengali movie Pasher Bari (1952). Interestingly, this Bengali movie was the precursor of the Hindi blockbuster Padosan (1968). This song in Bengali goes as Jhir Jhir Jhir Baroshay and is sung by Dhananjay Bhattacharya. The Sanchari in the song (from 01:30 to 01:52) is :-

Aao ji ghar more piya 
kaano me kuchh samajhaau
mann me hain baat kuchh aisi
 kehte hue sharamaau

5) Rut Phire Par Din Hamaare (Pyaasa, 1957) Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi ; Music Director: S.D.Burman; Playback Singer: Geeta Dutt. This poignant melody rendered by Geeta Dutt was unfortunately omitted from the movie. It is said that it was initially included in the film. However, when Guru Dutt went to watch the film in the theatre, he found many in the audience taking a short break when this song was featuring on screen. He thus, is said to have edited it sometime during the second week of its run. The tune of this song is similar to Chaand Phir Nikla from Paying Guest (1957) also composed by S.D.Burman. Coming to the Sanchari (01:54 to 2:20), again it begins on a lower note when compared to the ensuing Antara.

Pahunchi na apni naiya 
ab tak kisi kinare
koi nahin jo humko 
apni taraf pukaare

6) Kaise Koi Jiye (Baadbaan, 1954) Lyricist: Indeevar ; Music Director: Timir Baran-S K Pal Playback Singer: Geeta Dutt/ Hemant Kumar. The music directors for this movie were again two illustrious Bengalis. This song has two versions – the male sung by Hemant Kumar and the female one by Geeta Dutt. The lyrics of both are more or less the same. Both have the same Sanchari (01:57 to 02:18 in the male version, 01:43 to 02:08 in the female version).

Taare naa jaanen
oonchaayi gagan ki
aankhen naa samjhen
gahraayi man ki
taare naa jaanen

7) O Sajna Barkha Bahaar Aayi (Parakh, 1960) Lyricist: Shailendra ; Music Director: Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This enchanting song features Sadhana who is simplicity and beauty personified. This is by far one of the most popular songs composed by Salil Chowdhury both in Hindi and Bengali. Perhaps that is the reason why this is the first song that comes to mind when one thinks of the Sanchari in Salil Chowdhury’s compositions. This is one of the best Sancharis composed by him. The Sanchari (01:49 to 02:15) in this song is:-

Aisi rimajhim mein o sajan 
pyaase pyaase mere nayan
tere hi khaab mein kho gayee

8) O Beqaraar Dil (Kohra, 1964) Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi; Music Director : Hemant Kumar; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. Kohraa is fraught with suspense; some supernatural elements are also thrown in. Kohraa’s music composed by Hemant Kumar is haunting but canorous. Yet again a tune composed for a Bengali film, Neel Akasher Neechey (1959) (O Nadi Re Ekti Kothai) is used in this song. The Sanchari (02:55 to 03:15) as usual starts on a lower octave.

Aaye ghataa ghir ke ghataa chhaaye
aur pyaasi kali gham ki jali 
taras taras jaaye

9) Na Jiya Laage Na (Anand, 1971) Lyricist: Gulzar/Yogesh (?); Music Director : Hemant Kumar; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This gem of a film by Hrishikesh Mukherjee has immortal compositions. Featuring Sumita Sanyal, this song set to Raag Malgunji, is so simply worded and it still conveys the loneliness experienced when the beloved is not around. Salil Chowdhury yet again uses the tune of a Bengali composition (Na Mono Lage Na) sung by Lata Mangeshkar, for this song. The Bengali version is more fast paced; I find it more appealing than the Hindi one. The Sanchari (01:50 to 02:21) is as below:-

 jiyaa laage naa
piyaa teri baawri se 
rahaa jaaye naa

10) Har Haseen Cheez Ka Main (Saudagar, 1973) Lyricist: Ravindra Jain; Music Director : Ravindra Jain; Playback Singer: Kishore Kumar. Saudagar was a Rajshri Productions with a relatively new music director – Ravindra Jain. Ravindra Jain was a multifaceted personality who penned lyrics, composed music and even sang. This movie was one of his initial ones. It has lovely songs of different kinds capturing the Bengali essence with great ease. All the songs till now were by music directors of Bengali origin. Here is a song by Ravindra Jain (who was not of Bengali origin) where he uses the Sanchari (01:57 to 2:20) impeccably.

Koi kahe bhanwra mujhe 
koi deewaana
bhed mere man ka magar 
kisi se na jaana

This brings me to the end of my list and post. This post has enriched me in many ways. I have managed to get a few insights into Bengali cinema and the rich musical tradition of Bengal. This post also goes to further bolster the fact that music has no language. The seven notes are extremely malleable. Pure magic can be created with them if one has the talent and vision. That is precisely what the music directors mentioned in the post had – talent and creativity. I have drawn from various online sources which I shall duly acknowledge below. If there are more Hindi film songs with the Sanchari, please feel free to add them.

References:- (this very well researched article is a treasure trove; it traces the contribution of Bengali music directors to Hindi film music right from the beginning) (this post had an interesting and enlightening exchange of comments on the use of Sanchari)

Disclaimer, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audio-visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

7 thoughts on “Sanchari – Bengal’s invaluable contribution to Hindi Film Music

    1. Anupji, most of the songs listed are very popular. Though the subject appears very technical, it is not. Once you hear a song or two of the list, you are sure to understand what I am talking about. As they say jargon is something that makes simple things sound complicated. The concept ‘Sanchari’ falls in that category.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Anita,
    This is a highly informative post for me. I had heard of ‘sanchari’ in the context of classic Sanskrit dramaturgy – sanchari bhav, which was ancillary to the main mood of the play. This is the first time I am hearing the term in the context of film songs. As I read your post, I was wondering if it has something to do with countermelody. You have made great efforts to identify the specific location where sanchari occurs. Though I am not sure if I have mastered all you have explained. Congratulations for the excellent post.


    1. Thanks for reading and appreciating, AKji! Sanchari seems to be a concept cutting across all performing arts. It is an ancillary bhava as you have pointed out; it is also transient and emerges from improvisation. Counter melody as I understand it is through out the song and is not restricted to any one segment. In the case of Sanchari, it is between the first and the second Antara.
      I have tried to indicate the exact segment of the song where the Sanchari figures to make it easy for readers to identify it. I am not sure how successful I have been. The problem with using jargon is that not many readers get interested. But then, there was no other way I could have explained it,


  2. Indeed very, very, enlightening article.

    That reminds me use of another song as an orchestration piece in the interlude music., though I do not what is called in the music terminology. The song that we seem to listen in that interlude may actually have been germinated from that tune too.

    One easily remembered example is a song by Salil Chowdhury

    Baag Mein Kali Khili – Chand Aur Suraj (1965)

    Of course, as can be expected Salil Chowdhury has used that tune in Bengali as well as a Malayalam film, Chemeen (1965)


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