Here’s wishing all the readers a very Happy Diwali!!
Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 24/10/2022
While writing the post on Songs of echo and reverberation, it occurred to me that there are many songs where onscreen action is expressed through non-musical sounds that are not masked by the song but go alongside. Such sounds make these songs special. When I say non-musical sounds, I mean sounds such as water filling, glass breaking, the oars striking the water creating ripples and so on. Obviously, all songs have on screen action but not all incorporate these sounds in the songs. Adding sounds to the recorded track would warrant more technical acumen, ingenuity and hard work. The added sound that is inserted must sound genuine, it must gel with the song and perfectly enhance the impact of the onscreen action. Therefore, such songs would need to have a master sound mixer and recordist to get the right effect.
Even at the cost of digressing a little, I feel it is important to mention the greatness of the one and only Mangesh Desai (1923-1985) who was a sound re-recordist and mixer par excellence. When the credits of many a film roll, you are sure to find his name. He was a magician with sound. He was one of those whom the entire film fraternity respected but feared too. It is said that the film release date was decided as per his diary. He would never compromise with his work. He was unabashed in his criticism if he felt that something was amiss. Despite working behind the scenes, he was a revered figure who made a mark. He was the talented music director Vasant Desai’s nephew. He participated in the Quit India Movement and even spent a few years in prison. Vasant Desai took him to V.Shantaram after he was released from prison; there was no looking back after that.
In the list that I am putting together, I have tried to identify different sounds that have been incorporated in as many songs. The sounds that I am focussing on are not the sounds of improvised musical instruments (especially those found in R.D.Burman’s songs) but the atypical ones. These are also pretty mundane sounds but to make them a part of a song requires some skill. The songs are largely of the golden era. It must also be said here that the sound in some cases is only at the beginning of the song and in others could figure anywhere in the song or even throughout the song.
1) A Punctured Tyre – Taxi Driver (1954)– Chaahe Koi Khush Ho – Sahir Ludhianvi- S.D.Burman – Kishore Kumar, Johny Walker and chorus. This is a fun song which justifies living beyond one’s means to get the best out of life. It advocates a carefree attitude to life. Dev Anand, Johny Walker and their friends get together and have a day out in a khatara. The tyre gets punctured and the sound of the air escaping from the tyre is incorporated in the song. So is the sound of the air being pumped very skilfully inserted (2:56 to 3:21 in the video clip below). Johny’s commentary, which the song is peppered with, makes it very hilarious.
2) Of the Clock Ticking – Albela (1951) – Mere Dil Ki Ghadi Kare Tik Tik Tik – Rajendra Krishan – C.Ramchandra – Lata Mangeshkar & C Ramchandra. This graceful dance number by Geeta Bali and Bhagwan is so canorous. The song begins with the sound of the clock ticking at the stroke of midnight. Bhagwan’s imagination turns wild as he imagines Geeta Bali (a famous stage actress in the movie) emerging from the clock. The sound of the clock ticking continues till Lata starts singing (0:00 to 0:27 in the video link below). This sound effect makes the lyrics sound more realistic.
3) Of water filling in the tub – Abhinetri (1970) – O Ghata Sawari Thodi Thodi Baawri -Majrooh Sultanpuri – Laxmikant Pyarelal – Lata Mangeshkar. This is a wonderful rain song with Hema Malini looking stunningly beautiful. Towards the latter half of the song, Hema Malini goes to take a bath after sweating it out. What caught my attention is the sound of the water filling the bathtub (3:06 to 3:15 in the video link below) which has been incorporated in the song. In fact, another song which speaks of bathroom singing would have sounded much better with sound effects is Thande Thande Paani Se (Pati Patni Aur Woh, 1980). There aren’t many songs which capture this sound in a song.
4) The Train Whistle – Pakeezah (1971)- Chalte Chalte Yun Hi Koi – Kaifi Azmi – Ghulam Mohammad-Lata Mangeshkar. There are umpteen songs that have the train whistle added especially those shot on or near a train. However, this song is very unique for it has nothing to do with a train journey. It is said that the train whistle towards the end of the song was added by Mangesh Desai, much against the wishes of Naushad. Naushad later understood that the whistle had by no means marred the beauty of the mujra.
Anyone who has seen the film would understand the significance of the train whistle, for Meena Kumari has met the stranger she falls in love with on a train. Thus, the whistle is a potent aural mnemonic for her unknown lover(5:22 onwards in the video clip below). This is a sound that is cherished by music lovers. Here is a screen grab from the credits featuring Mangesh Desai’s name.
5) Sound effect of the badminton shuttlecock hitting the racquet – Dhal Gaya Din – (Humjoli, 1970) – Anand Bakshi – Laxmikant Pyarelal – Md.Rafi and Asha Bhosle. This song from the movie Humjoli is a perfect example of how not to play badminton. Both Jeetendra and Leena Chandawarkar are rather pathetic. There is no finesse and the focus is on romancing. They are not appropriately dressed to play either. Yet, there is a fun element in this song, especially because the sound of the shuttlecock hitting the racquet is made an integral part of the song’s rhythm, very innovatively, by the music directors (0:27 to 1:25 in the video link below). That is perhaps the only role badminton has to play in the song.
6) Thunder and lightning effect – Dil Tera Deewaana Hain Sanam – Dil Tera Deewana (1962) – Shailendra – Shankar Jaikishan – Lata Mangeshkar & Md.Rafi. There are many rain songs which have incorporated the sound of thunder and lightning. However, I chose this because the lyrics also refer to lightning. The vocal prelude is :-
bijli giraa ke aap khud bijli se dar gaye ham saadgi pe aapki lillaah mar gaye
The sound effect introduced just for two seconds (0:10 to 0:12 in the video link below) makes the lyrics more meaningful.
7) The oars hitting the water – Nadiya Chale Chale Re Dhaara – Safar (1970) – Indeevar – Kalyanji Anandji – Manna Dey & Chorus. This is a sound that is heard throughout the song. It is almost in sync with the spirit of the song that one has to keep pushing oneself and not stop. Anandji in one of his interviews (from 14:19 to15:56 in interview below) in fact describes very interestingly how with several trial and error methods, this sound was created. The effect was finally created by using moong seeds in a cane winnowing basket.
8) Rahat and other farm sounds – Mere Desh Ki Dharti – Upkar (1967) – Gulshan Bawra – Kalyanji Anandji – Mahendra Kapoor & Chorus. If there is one song that captures the beauty and simplicity of our village life, it is this. It beautifully showcases the hardworking farmer of India who sweats it out to provide for himself and the nation at large. The sounds associated with the farm activities – the chirping of the birds, the bells of the bulls, the rahat, the water gushing – all of them feature very naturally in this song. The song took 18 hours to record because of the various effects as Anandji describes in the interview below (from 20:15 to 21:32 in the interview). The sound re-recordist of this movie is obviously Mangesh Desai!!
9) Sounds of Nature – Nindiya Se Jaagi Bahaar – Hero (1983) – Anand Bakshi- Laxmikant Pyarelal – Lata Mangeshkar. This is one of my favourite songs (apart from Suhana Safar from Madhumati) which has some wonderful sounds of nature – the birds chirping, the water gushing shot in picturesque surroundings. Featuring Meenakshi Seshadri who left a mark despite her rather short acting career, it shows how a song like this can be shot tastefully. The manner in which Meenakshi tries to match the notes of the chirping birds is interesting.
10) Rifle being readied for firing and glass breaking sound – Jab Tak Hain Jaan – Sholay (1975) – Anand Bakshi – R.D.Burman – Lata Mangeshkar. If there was one movie that was known for the genius of Mangesh Desai it was Sholay. The sound effect of the coin rolling was phenomenal. For the coin-flipping scene, Desai suggested to the director Sippy that the sound of the coin flying should reverberate in theatres. That effect was achieved by flipping a coin against a wall and letting it roll down a flight of steps during the sound mixing.
The sound design created during this dance song in Gabbar Singh’s den has the sound of bottles breaking all around her and of the rifle being readied for firing to mount pressure on Basanti.
This brings me to the end of my playlist of 10 songs. I am sure there are many more songs with discrete non musical sound effects used to bolster the sound of music. Sound effects when used in moderation and with precision can surely raise the song to a completely different level. May I also add that this post helped me to learn about the genius of Mangesh Desai which I was hitherto ignorant about. Those behind the scenes are as important as those in front for the film to become a masterpiece.
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