Guest article by Piyush M Pandya (Gujarati) and Ashok M Vaishnav (English translation)
(Our guest authors Piyush M Pandya and Ashok M Vaishnav have been writing an excellent series on the Arrangers and Musicians for the last few months in which they have already covered three of the most celebrated names: Sebastian D’Souza, Anthony Gonsalves and Enoch Daniels. Continuing the series, now they put the spotlight on Kishore Desai who was proficient with at least two instruments: mandolin and sarod.
The guest authors describe how these arrangers and musicians were instrumental in embellishing the melodies. They remained in behind the curtains, generally unsung and anonymous. With the series we now realise how they were so integral to some of our most favourite songs. You would be surprised to now how Kishore Desai was associated with some immortal songs with his mandolin or sarod. Besides, he was also the composer of some of the most famous non-film songs, Thank you Piyushji and Ashokji for another enlightening article in the series. – AK)
Tum bin jaaun kahan ke duniya mein aakar kuchh na phir chaha sanam (Pyar Ka Mausam, 1969 – Music: R D Burman) is one song which perhaps remains an unbridgeable divide between Kishore Kumar and Mohammad Rafi fans. For more knowledgeable ones, initially it was also a hotly debated issue as to who has played the mandolin in the two versions. However, many subsequent interviews by the two instrumentalists who have played the mandolin, Manohari Singh and Kishore Desai, have it well-settled that Manohari Singh has played mandolin for Kishore Kumar version and Kishore Desai, on the very specific invitation by Manohari Singh himself as the arranger, has played the mandolin for Mohammad Rafi version.
The happy Mohammad Rafi version opens with distinct mandolin notes which then remains noticeable in counter melody as well as interludes orchestrations.
Kishore Desai’s personal and professional profile is so well narrated in the additional references quoted at the end of the article that repeating it here would distract our attention form the core subject of Kishore Desai – his proficiency with mandolin, sarod and music direction.
Kishore Desai had initial training under different classical exponents. Under Ustad Khadim Hussain Khan, he learnt raagdari and nuances of classical music. Then, under Ali Akbar Khan and Ustad Bahadur Khan, Kishore Desai learnt sarod. In one of the interviews, he has stated that his basic style of playing the mandolin was more like playing the sarod. It was only when he got into the HFM world, he switched to ‘playing from up to down’ style for mandolin because that would make the mandolin sound softer.
Here are some of the songs wherein Kishore Desai has played the sarod:
2. Tu chuupi hai kahan main tadapata yahan – Navrang (1959) – Manna Dey, Asha Bhosle, chorus – Lyrics: Bharat Vyas – Music: C Ramchandra
The song has creatively composed pieces of sarod, @ 4.04 – 4.14, 4.19-4.31, 4.52 to 5.01.
Kishore Desai enjoyed a very special relationship with C Ramchandra. Not only he assisted C Ramchandra for over 18 films, starting with Bahurani (1963), he also played a major role in arranging the orchestration and rehearsal of that famous composition Aye mere watan ke logo. Of course, the soft mandolin notes heard in the background countermelody were played by Kishore Desai
3. Saranga teri yaad mein nain hue bechain – Saranga (1961) – Mukesh – Lyrics: Bharat Vyas – Music: Sardar Malik
Sarod comes up dominantly at the interlude @ 1.01 to 1.12, It is said that Sardar Malik preferred mandolin supported by flute here. It was Kishore Desai, as his assistant, who suggested use of sarod instead. During the recording Mukesh was so overwhelmed by the notes of sarod that he immediately gifted Rs. 1001/ to Kishore Desai.
Kishore Desai’s association with Sardar Malik as his assistant lasted for over 15 films, starting with Ma Ke Aansoo (1959).
4. Sakhi re mera man uljhe tan dole – Chitralekha (1964) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Sahir Ludhiyanvi – Music: Roshan
We can listen to intricate sarod pieces @ 0.28-0.30, 1.14 – 1.19, 1.22 -1.24, 2.16 -2.18, 2.13 – 3.17 and the like.
It seems Kishore Desai’s playing the sarod was ordained by providence. On that day, he quickly wrote down the notations. This laid the foundation of a vital bond between Roshan and Kishore Desai that resulted in Kishore Desai to assist Roshan in arranging music for about a dozen films starting from Soorat Aur Seerat.
However, mandolin was the first love of Kishore Desai. He had learnt playing the harmonium and mandolin early, at the age of 9. Later, his mandolin journey was shaped by his association with his close friend Kalyanji Veerji Shah (of Kalyanji Anandji duo). As a young boy, Kishore Desai had been playing in the Kalayanjibhai’s orchestra group.
In a competition during his adolescent days, Anil Biswas was one of the judges. He liked the ‘classical’ style of Kishore Desai’s mandolin playing so much that he got a special cup made for him. Anil Biswas also invited Kishore Desai to play mandolin, along with his HFM guru, Isaac David, for a Hemant Kumar song (Heer, 1954).
The film song that is credited as the maiden break for Kishore Desai as mandolin player is Chhumak chhumak mora baaje ghungharava (Bahu Beti, 1952 – Geeta Dutt – Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi – Music S D Batish). However, it needs to be noted that Kishore Desai had got an opportunity earlier for a film Subah Ki Manzil (Music: Shivram Krishna). However, that film got shelved and the records, if at all they were made, are not traceable.
It was also one of the Kalyanjibhai’s orchestra program where Shankar (of Shankar-Jaikishan duo) heard Kishore Desai play Aawara hun on mandolin. Shankar Immediately liked Kishore Desai’s style of playing the mandolin and invited him to join their orchestra group. Their association first came up in the form of Kishore Desai playing mandolin for songs and background pieces for Basant Bahar (1956).
5. Nain mile chain kahan sajan saanware – Basant Bahar (1956) – Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar Jaikishan
The seamless fusion of mandolin in the opening notes of string instrument ensemble is Kishore Desai’s baptism with intricate orchestration of Shankar-Jaikishan songs.
6. Dil ka na karana aitbaar koi – Halaku (1956) – Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
The intro composition is ensemble of different string instruments, But @ 0.49 the mandolin comes in as solo. The clip shows an instrumentalist playing some local Arabian instrument, which is replicated so stunningly on the mandolin for the song. The solo play goes on till 1.18, when Mohammad Rafi takes over the aalap. (An ensemble play of) mandolins then comes during the interludes too.
7. Aye gulbadan – Professor (1962) – Mohammad Rafi – Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri – Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Mandolin comes in @ 0.13, but it seems to be a fusion of more than one mandolin being played simultaneously with slightly different scales. The notes of mandolin have a magical effect as the interlude softly starts stringing (1.09 to 1.24). The same arrangement repeats at the third interlude.
We have had a glimpse of three different moods being expressed by the play of the same instrument.
Kishore Desai has played mandolin for almost all the music directors of the Hindi film world, except two – Sajjad Hussain, himself a wizard of classical mode of playing mandolin, and O P Nayyar, who has been highly innovative in using the instruments with dramatic effect. The reason perhaps lies in totally different nature of these two music directors in comparison to that of Kishore Desai.
We will skim through a few representative songs wherein Kishore Desai has played mandolin for different music directors.
8. Jadugar saiyan chhod mori bainya – Nagin (1954) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Rajendra Krishna – Music: Hemant Kumar
The intro itself opens with mandolin strokes, ready to fuse with subsequent clay violin. However, when it comes up at the beginning of interlude @ 0.44 to 0.51 it is ready to be synchronous with the flute.
9. Bechain nazar betaab zigar ye dil hai kisi ka diwana – Yasmeen (1955) – Talat Mahmood – Lyrics: Jan Nissar Akhtar – Music: C Ramchandra
Mandolin is THE instrument here, as is evident by the hero stringing it continuously. Most of the times when an instrument is shown in the hands of the actor on the screen, the playing style literally murders the beauty of the way instrument ought to be played.
10. Ghadi ghadi mera dil dhadake – Madhumati (1958) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: Salil Chowdhury.
Salil Chowdhury has used mandolin to create the mood of unhindered joy in the setting of the abundantly free nature.
Aside Trivia: Kishore Desai was to play the mandolin during the intro of the song Julmi sang aankh ladi for a programme in Calcutta. However, during the rehearsals, he came late, so there was no seat arrangement made for him. He straightaway sat down on the floor and readied to play his part of the mandolin. Lata Mangeshkar noticed this, and she too came and sat down beside Kishore Desai. Salil Chowdhury too noticed this, and he too joined. This was the level of respect Kishore Desai enjoyed.
Unfortunately, he was away when the final take was performed, so could not play the mandolin for the song.
(As narrated to Shri Piyush Pandya when he had had the occasion to meet Kishore Desai at Ahmedabad in 2019.)
11. Chhodo kal ki baatein kal baat purani – Hum Hindustani (1960) – Mukesh, chorus – Lyrics: Prem Dhawan – Music” Usha Khanna
After a soft opening intro (0.06-0.07), mandolin continues to accompany countermelody music of the mukhada and then intermittently the countermelody support across the whole song.
12. Khoya khoya chand – Kala Baazar (1960) – Mohammad Rafi – Lyrics: Shailendra – Music: S D Burman
The presence of mandolin for just flitting seconds @ 2.44 and, similarly, during the countermelody support is just enough to make its presence being noted. During the interlude (3.23 to 3.31) it gets a solo play.
13. Dam dam diga diga – Chhalia (1960) – Mukesh – Lyrics: Qamar Jalalabadi – Music: Kalyanji-Anandji
In a composition wherein accordion and violins have a strong presence the mandolin marks its presence distinctly felt (@ intro till 0.09).
14. Lag ja gale ki phir ye haseen raat ho na ho – Woh Kaun Thi (1964) – Lata Mangeshkar – Lyrics: Raja Mahendi Ali Khan – Music: Madan Mohan
The notes of mandolin @ 0.32-0.35 or in the interlude @1.24-1.37 etc. or in the countermelody have been created by using two mandolins at slightly different scales.
The technicalities and practical demonstration of this experiment is very well explained in the mandolin episode of Saaz Tarang. Incidentally, Laxmikant Kudalkar (of Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo) and Kishore Desai have played the synchronous mandolins in both the songs.
15. Aye meri zohra jabeen – Waqt (1965) – Manna Dey – Lyrics: Sahir Ludhiyanvi – Music: Ravi
Mandolin creates the atmosphere of Afghan instrument Rabab in interludes @0.51 to 1.16 etc.
16. Achha to hum chalte hai – Aan Milo Sajana (1970) – Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar – Lyrics: Anand Bakshi – Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal
Mandolin has been used for very soft counter melody support (0.21-0.22 or interlude 0.51-0.55 or 2.40 to 2.48).
17. O mere dil ke chain – Mere Jeevan Saathi (1972) – Kishore Kumar – Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri – Music: R D Burman
Here, too, it can be seen that whether mandolin is played in short soft bars in countermelody support (0.47-0.51 etc.) or in conjunction with violins in interludes (2.16 – 2.21), the instrument distinctly gives a different dimension to the composition.
Kishore Desai has gone on to play mandolin with the second generation music directors too. But it was his sheer bad luck that three Hindi films – ‘Abdulla-e-Bagdad’, ‘Zindagi Ki Raahen’ and ‘Omar Khayyam’- he signed as music director in the early 60s were either shelved halfway or did not take off. The last one was to be made under the banner of Guru Dutt Films.
He has made good that lost opportunity by creating some of the most memorable non-film songs with singers like Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Kavi Pradeep, Kamal Barot and Mohammed Rafi (Gujarati NFS). Here are a few well-known NFS with Mukesh.
18. Mil na saka dil to – Mukesh (NFS) – Lyrics; Indeewar – Music: Kishore Desai
Kishore Desai has used Mukesh’s base note voice to create the effect of deep pathos of lost love, apparently while trying to wish away that feeling.
19. Bahaaron se kah do mere ghar na aayein – Mukesh (NFS) – Lyrics: Shiv Kuamr Saroj – Music: Kishore Desai
This still stands as one of the all-time most outstanding NFS compositions.
20. Tere labon ke muqabil gulab kya hoga – Mukesh – (NFS) – Lyrics: Shiv Kuamr Saroj – Music: Kishore Desai
Kishore Desai’s dexterity of creating melody even while handling a complex subject and the matching composition is self-evident here.
Kishore Desai’s association with mandolin continued well into 90s in the form of public performances where he ably demonstrated that his magic over the instrument has not aged. Many such recitals are available on the YT, which the interested readers may explore.
Kishore Desai’s contribution to Hindu film music, through his mandolin and sarod, has been recognised with a 2005 Dadasaheb Phalke National Award. We will conclude our reminiscences of Kishore Desai with a selfie that Piyushji had with Kishore Desai during his visit to Ahmedabad during 2019.
Credits and Disclaimers:
1. The song links have been embedded from the YouTube only for the listening pleasure of music lovers. This blog claims no copyright over these songs, which vests with the respective copyright holders.
2. The photographs are taken from the internet, duly recognising the full copyrights for the same to the either the original creator or the site where they were originally displayed.