MUMBAI—A living legend has turned 75. A huge debate from the time Amitabh Bachchan emerged a huge star is on whether he became so big that music lost its importance or was relegated to a distant second in his films’ initial draw. This was a natural outcome born of the fact that biggest names who preceded him were considered musical stars, like his immediate predecessor sensation Rajesh Khanna.
This debate had two damning proofs against this wild theory: one, that after Bachchan reached his commercial peak with “Amar Akbar Anthony” and became a one-man entertainer, part of his magic persona WAS about songs and dance. Most of his songs that followed were hits, and the films, regardless of genre, were like musicals.
Two, and more graphic, composers as varied as Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, Shiv-Hari, Rajesh Roshan, Anu Malik and Bappi Lahiri went separately ballistic over how Bachchan inspired them to come out with their creative best. The same was true of lyricists, and the scriptwriters and filmmakers who devised ingenious songs, audio-visually, for the man with “limitless splendor” – the meaning of “Amitabh,” his first name!
The Bachchan song was no longer just about excellent lyrics and music sung impeccably for a situation: beginning with the situation itself, it was extraordinary in concept and execution!
However, while the chartbusters he enacted with inimitable style, again limitless splendor and complete variety are a cult by now (see list), we prefer to focus on some gems that may not be known or popular then or /and now, but remain in a league of their own.
1 “Koi Aur Duniya Mein Tumsa Haseen Hai” (“Pyar Ki Kahani” /1971)
Amitabh Bachchan’s third film, “Pyar Ki Kahani,” was the first in which two songs were lip-synched by the future mega-star. Mohammed Rafi’s silken vocals, Anand Bakshi’s supple lyrics, and R.D. Burman’s soulful composition enriched both these songs, but this song was way ahead of the other track, “Ek Pate Ki Baat Sunaaoon.” Speaking of Bachchan, as the lovelorn young man in starched kurta and dhoti, he was so expressive, especially when he futilely attempts to write a love letter to his ladylove.
2 “Arey Hansnewalo Zaraa Yeh Bhi Socho” (“Parwana”/1971)
The director interspersed this soulful litany on lost love within the flamboyant Kishore Kumar number “Yun Na Sharma Phaila De Apni Gori Gori Baahen”) in the film. The contrast increased the pregnancy of the loser (Bachchan) who sings his heart out even as his beloved chooses the other man and they dance at a party in front of him. Madan Mohan and Kaifi Azmi provided the necessary punch for Mohammed Rafi’s essay of sorrow.
3 “Ae Gham-E-Yaar Bataa” (“Ek Nazar”/1972)
Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote a complete score of ghazals and ghazal-like songs for this B.R. Ishara film that was the first-ever Bachchan film to co-star his future wife, Jaya Bhaduri. A pensive song of separation, this Laxmikant-Pyarelal creation was the only song Mahendra Kapoor ever sang for the actor. Though the voice was a shade incongruous, Bachchan did his best, just like Kapoor!
4 “Raaste ka Patthar” (“Raaste Kaa Patthar”/1972)
This party song was the title-track of this adult-themed film rehashed by Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment.” Pensive and philosophical, this Mukesh-Anand Bakshi-L-P composition was a winner despite the debacle the film was but has been forgotten in the deluge of better-filmed Bachchan songs in more popular films that came after stardom inundated Bachchan the following year.
5 “Aa Raat Jaati Hai” (“Benaam”/1974)
R.D. Burman and Majrooh excelled in the three songs of this whodunit. While the title-track led the charts, Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle regaled us with this wonderful waltz filmed on Amitabh Bachchan and Helen. The situation was tangy: a middle-class executive makes his wife jealous at an office party!
6 “Luk Chhip Luk Chhip Jaao Na” (“Do Anjaane”/1976)
Kalyanji-Anandji and Kishore Kumar were at their intensely melodious best in this song that was very popular when the film released. The Anjaan-written song about a father singing for his son had a very poignant reprise version later when they reunite on screen. It remains one of the finest songs ever filmed on the actor.
7 “Rote Rote Hansna Seekho” (“Andhaa Kaanoon”/1983)
Amitabh Bachchan tugged at our heartstrings in many a song, but like the song above, this was in a class of its own, again sung to a child, again given voice by Kishore Kumar. This time, it was L-P and Bakshi again, and the song, being so completely situational, was a rage at the time but lost the race as it was not filmed in a fashion the classic Bachchan hit was.
8 “Aaj Ka Yeh Din Kal Ban Jayega Kal” (“Nastik”/1983)
Only Anand Bakshi could write such in-depth truisms so fluidly. The K-A-Kishore number from a flop potboiler is a perennial delight. Bachchan’s spirited rendition helped make this song the only redeeming (and recall-worthy) factor of this film.
9 “Tu Na Jaa Mere Badshah” (“Khuda Gawah”/1992)
Mohammed Aziz gave his all to this Alka Yagnik duet in Bachchan’s home production action extravaganza in which Bachchan was a robust yet intensely romantic Pathan. The music was by L-P with lyrics by Anand Bakshi.
10 “Jeena Hai Kis Liye” (“Aetbaar”/2004)
In our humble opinion, this is simply the best rendition ever of Bachchan as a singer, aided by great lyrics (Dr. Chandrashekhar Rajit) and an oh-so-soothing and smooth composition (Rajesh Roshan). And considering that the mega-star must have given his voice for at least 30 songs in Hindi films alone, this is a song to be visited by those who never heard about it until now.
AMITABH BACHCHAN CHARTBUSTERS
1. “Patta Patta Boota Boota”/“Ek Nazar”
2. “Tere Mere Milan Ki Yeh Raina”/“Abhimaan”
3. “Dekha Phoolon Ko Kaaton Pe”/“Majboor”
4. “Yeh Dosti Hum Nahin Todenge”/“Sholay”
5. “Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein”/“Kabhi Kabhie”
6. “My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves” ? “Amar Akbar Anthony”
7. “Khaike Paan Banaraswala”/“Don”
8. “Salaam-e-ishq”/“Muqaddar Ka Sikander”
9. “Pardesiya”/“Mr. Natwarlal”
10. “Toone Abhi Dekha Nahin”/“Do Aur Do Paanch”
11. “John Jani Janardhan”/“Naseeb”
12. “Mere Angne Mein”/“Laawaris”
13. “Chhookar Mere Man Ko”/“Yaarana”
14. “Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum”/“Silsila”
15. “Jahaan Teri Yeh Nazar Hai”/“Kaalia”
16. “Pag Ghunghroo”/“Namak Halaal”
17. “Angrezi Mein Kehte Hai”/“Khud-Daar”
18. “Saari Duniya Ka Bojh”/“Coolie”
19. “Gori Hai Kalaiyan”/“Aaj Ka Arjun”
20. “Jumma Chumma De De”/“Hum”