A collection of thoughts on discovering Binaca Geetmala listings on the web

Imagine spending an afternoon falling through the Internet rabbit hole and finding, of all things, lists of songs that featured on Binaca Geetmala — from 1970 to 1980. Why just these years? Did the people who made these Wiki-pages not have the time to put up lists for all the years the show was on, from 1953 (top song: ‘Yeh Zindagi Usi Ki Hai’) to 1993 (top song: ‘Choli Ke Peechhe’)? Take those two numbers as bookends of an era, and you have a sociological treatise right there.

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There’s something about listening to songs on the radio, with no visuals to “corrupt” the music. It’s music as music should be heard. There’s a reason that that Al Stewart song went ‘You’re On My Mind, Like A Song On The Radio...’ The inability to control what’s being played. The what-next anticipation. And yet, the looping inevitability of the hit parade, over and over and over. No one today is going to write a song that goes “You’re On My Mind, Like YouTube Video...”

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The show wasn’t about the quality of the music, which is a pretty personal thing in any case. My meat, your poison, et cetera. This was about popularity, which can be measured far more objectively. As the site says, the yearly lists were compiled on the basis of record sales (records — remember them?), listener votes, the verdicts of record store owners, and so forth. So I can insist all I want that, from 1970, ‘Na Koi Umang Hai’ (Kati Patang) or ‘Mai Ri’ (Dastak) are far better songs than the Binaca Geetmala topper, ‘Bindiya Chamkegi’ (Do Raaste) — but the people have had their say, the music industry’s answer to the box-office has spoken. You cannot argue with cold numbers.

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Still, it’s hard not to wince on seeing that, in 1971, ‘Chal Chal Chal Mere Haathi’ (Haathi Mere Saathi) occupied the slot above ‘Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli’ (Anand).

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As I wrote the lines earlier, I remembered how long it’s been since I heard ‘Mai Ri’, so I went over to YouTube and did the needful. I kiss the feet of the person who thought this up — YouTube, I mean, though I’d happily kiss Madan Mohan’s feet as well.

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It’s not as if the Do Raaste number is a total loss. The point about film songs, after all, isn’t always to wipe away a tear after listening to sublime music but also to recall how wonderful Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz were together on screen. That pout of hers, that nose-crinkling. That close-lidded come-hither look of his, that acute-angle nodding. This is what pop culture is about, really.

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And just as you’re congratulating yourself on your superior taste and issuing pitiful looks at listeners from long ago for picking songs on the sole criterion of being easily hummable, you’ll get a splash of cold water — courtesy No. 32 of 1976, ‘Koi Aaya Aane Bhi De’, from Kala Sona. This is one of those acrobatic RD Burman-Asha Bhosle collaborations (with overlapping voices yet) that, if plotted on a stock market graph, would suggest a crash and a boom every other second. Perhaps the listener votes came from memories of Helen and Parveen Babi gyrating in Egyptian costumes, with bejewelled belly buttons, which were all the rage then.

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The 1980 list is topped by a song that I hate, hate, hate: ‘Dafli Waale Dafli Baja’.

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I’m looking at the 1974 list and wondering if any other music director had the success and the longevity of SD Burman — in the sense of big banners, big-name directors, hit films, and (still-popular) hit songs, from the 1940s till the mid-1970s. A year before he died, he had ‘Yeh Laal Rang’, ‘Meet Na Mila Re Man Ka’ and ‘Saala Main To Sahib Ban Gaya’ on the charts.

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It’s amazing how you haven’t heard a song in years, maybe decades, but when you see it listed, the tune comes back to you as if you heard it yesterday. I’m talking about ‘Kaali Ghata Chhaayi Prem Rut Aayi’, the Number 34 of 1980.

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Does anyone else subscribe to this theory that the songs that are “home” to you are basically those that you hear till, say, your mid-Twenties? So the songs that your grandfather listened to are “home” to you, because you’ve listened to them while growing up, but the songs that today’s kids are listening to can never be “home”. Agree?

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I was so pleased to see that the top number of 1978 was the title song of Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se. One, it’s a sweet, sweet melody; proof that all you need, really, is a good tune and a tabla. Two, it’s by Ravindra Jain, who had a lovely little run in the 1970s. It’s nice to see him up there.

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I’m looking at Song No. 19 from 1975 — ‘My Heart Is Beating’, from Julie — and thinking how cool this song must have sounded to college kids back then, as they swept the streets with their bell-bottoms.

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You can string together the words of the top 5 hits of 1973 and make a song that sounds kinda naughty and sad at the same time: ‘Yaari Hai Imaan Mera Yaar...’ ‘Hum Tum Ek Kamre Mein...’ ‘Do Bechaare Bina Sahaare...’ ‘Meri Bheegi Bheegi Si Palkon Pe...’ ‘Samjhauta Ghamon Se Kar Lo’.

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Why do our film songs sound so much better during long rides in foreign countries? Is it the same nostalgia tugging at us that brought about this post as well?