StarringBharat Bhushan, Nimmi, Chandrashekhar
There are songs within a film and there are films within songs. The essential difference is that while the first category has songs embedded at vital points within a script, the latter category seems like a story has been created around a collection of available songs.
“Basant Bahar” belongs to the second category wherein, despite a plausible storyline, its songs are like gemstones studded on the exterior of an expensive garment; they add to elegance, price and sparkle but do not improve the comfort level of the clothing.
There is no denying that this period film about a small town singer and his ill fated romance needed a plethora of songs. But while the songs engross and entertain, the excruciatingly dull execution of the story leaves you exasperated and seething in anger.
And if the audiences do sit through the entire film, it is entirely due to the alluring charm of the film's melodies that made “Basant Bahar” one of the highest earners of 1956. None can dispute that Shanker-Jaikishen's outstanding music is the film's only note of merit, reinforcing the belief that the SJ duo was a supremely gifted musical team with an extraordinary repertoire.
With each song being a diamond chiselled in the workshop of harmony, “Basant Bahar” also proves that SJ could whet all kinds of tastes, trends and demands with equal ease. Aided by their evergreen poetic friends Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri, these memorable songs are of rare quality and timbre to soothe and enchant music lovers of all ages.
Such is the elevated worth of the musical treatise that the weakest songs of the film, Lata Mangeshkar-Asha Bhosle duet “Kar Gaya Mujh Pe Jadoo” and Lata-Manna Dey duet “Nain Mile Chain Kahan”, are eminently enjoyable! Other gems are Lata's vintage “Main Piya Teri” and “Ja Ja Re Ja Balama”, though even these pale into insignificance in comparison with the five high voltage songs that strike you with their astonishing range of vocal and instrumental intricacies. “Ketaki Gulaab Ki” is immediately arresting to a street commoner as well as a connoisseur despite its stirring classical exchanges between Manna Dey and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi.
Raising the bar further, Manna Dey renders all time favourites “Sur Na Saje” and “Bhay Bhanjana Vandana Sun Hamaree” with such fervour that our senses are struck with holy despair and devotion in equal measure.
None could be faulted if they identified these songs as divine proclamations, yet they couldn't be more wrong as there are two other compositions of equal eminence and grace to take your breath away.
Manna Dey has publicly proclaimed at several places that Mohammed Rafi was the greatest playback singer of all genders and ages and it isn't difficult to decipher why.
Transcending levels of supreme sublimation, Rafi distils human pathos and anguish with such rare humility that “Badi Der Bhayee” and “Duniya Na Bhaye Mohe” resonate within the listener's bosom forever.
Probably, Dey's magnificence inspired Rafi to move the heavens with the right blend of fragility and fragrance of a soul stirring prayer!
Obviously, the story is of little consequence as the film became a success only because of its music. Rajinder Singh Bedi's effort to salvage the translation of Telugu novel “Ta-Ra-Su” is marred by inadequate performances of Bharat Bhushan, Nimmi, Chandrashekhar and Kumkum under Raja Nawathe's direction. Like Om Prakash and Leela Chitnis' acting skills, cameraman M. Rajaram and editor P. Kochikar too couldn't retrieve the ill-scripted film that does have some worthwhile images.
If only producer R. Chandra had been vigilant enough to ensure that the direction and screenplay matched the efficiency of the sound, the film would have been a benchmark for all seasons.