Cinema

Master of melody

Music director Bombay Ravi during an interaction in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S.Gopakumar.   | Photo Credit: S. Gopakumar

O.N.V. Kurup's lyrics in pristine Malayalam unnerved this veteran music director from Bollywood. With the help of the film's director he managed to understand the context and mood of the film song he was supposed to compose, and also got a glimpse into the layered meaning of the poetic lines. “I composed a couple of tunes for the lyrics. I decided that if they did not like the tunes, I would go home to Bombay [Mumbai],” recalls the veteran. The song won him a permanent place in the hearts of all Malayalis. It also went on to win him the State film award for music direction, and its the playback singer, the National award for the best singer (female). The music director was none other than Bombay Ravi, the song was ‘Manjal Prasadavum…,' the film was Hariharan's ‘Nakashatangal,' and the singer was K.S. Chitra.

Providence

Singing snatches of the song and humming the tune without a single wrong note, Bombay Ravi walked down music lane during a chat with Friday Review. “I have no idea why director Hariharan approached me to score the music for his film ‘Panchagni.' Malayalam was alien to me. What gave me courage was a Gujarati film I had done that had won me a Gujarat state film award. So I agreed to work on ‘Panchagni' and since I was already in Kerala, Hariharan requested me to work on ‘Nakashatangal' as well. It was all providence,” insists the octogenarian, as his weathered face breaks into a wide smile.

Soon Bombay Ravi, as he was christened by his fans in Kerala, was the rage in Malayalam cinema. As he had worked his magic in Bollywood, he soon had music buffs in Kerala enshrining him as one of the best in the music industry. Evergreen compositions from his baton adorned films such as ‘Vyshali,' ‘Parinayam,' ‘Oru Vadakkan Veergatha,' ‘Sargam,' ‘Sukrutham,' ‘Ghazal,' and ‘Mayookham.'

For Bombay Ravi, it was merely another high in a career, which began with him reaching Mumbai to become a singer although he knew no classical music of any kind. “I was forever singing and composing, right from the time memory begins. Seeing my deep interest in music, my father encouraged me to sing in bhajan mandalis and satsangs,” he reminisces.

However, in the Mumbai of yore, his first job was as an assistant to Hemant Kumar. With a smile, he remembers how during his stint with Hemant da, he played the been for the iconic number ‘Man dole mere tan dole' from ‘Nagin.' From there on it was a short step to becoming his own master and gifting one hit after the other. Along with classic hits like ‘Chaudvin ka Chand,' what has immortalised him are the songs ‘Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai, ‘Babul ki duyaen leti ja,' and ‘Doli chadh ke dulhan sasural chali,' without which no barat is complete.

But today, the master musician says his heart is not in composing music for the Hindi film industry. “There is little melody,” he laments. The music director avers that he prefers working in Malayalam cinema to working in Hindi as the music has become “too influenced by Western music. If you listen to 20 songs, only one might stay in your mind.”

Racy numbers

Agreeing that he had also composed swinging, racy numbers, he points out that the problem begins when one is forced to compose only such songs. “I had scored the music for Kishore Kumar's ‘C.a.t. cat, cat mane billi,' ‘Baar Baar dekho…,' and so on. But then my repertoire did not stop there. I also scored songs like ‘Chaudvin ka chand' and ‘Neela Gagan Ke tale,'” he explains. In 1982, after a break of more than a decade, his comeback of sorts, ‘Nikah,' saw actor and playback singer Salma Agah win an award with the song ‘Dil ke armaan aansooyon main beh gaye.'

He credits his success to the excellent coordination among the director, lyricist, music director and singers. He remembers how the late Bharathan was keen that he use only Indian instruments while working on the songs of ‘Vaishali.’ “That proscribed instruments like the saxophone, the western drums, and so on. It was a creative challenge and I was able to rise to the occasion,” he says.

“I never create a tune first. I prefer to get the lyrics and then tune the song to suit the lyrics and the mood,” he says.

If things work out, three of Bombay Ravi's compositions will be heard in Malayalam. “K. Jayakumar had send me the lyrics of three songs that he is doing for a film. I have already scored the music for those,” he says.

Bombay Ravi was in Thiruvananthapuram as the chief guest of Sreeragam, a family music club that was celebrating its tenth anniversary.

Hit list

‘Sagarangale…,' ‘Aa rathri maanju poyi…' – ‘Panchagni'

‘Aareyum…,' ‘Kevalum…,' ‘Manjal Prasadavum…,' ‘Neeraduvan…,' – ‘Nakashathangal'

‘Indraneelimayolam…' ‘Indupushpam…' – ‘Vaishali'

‘Paarvendu Mukhii…' – ‘Parinayam'

‘Chandanalepa…,' ‘Kalarivilakku…' – ‘Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha'

‘Aandholanam…' – ‘Sargam'

‘Isal thenkanam…’ – ‘Ghazal’

‘Poovarambin thaze…,’ ‘Uthralikavile…’ – ‘Vidyarambham’

‘Ithra Madhurikkumo…,’ ‘Maranno nee nilavil…’ – ‘Five Star Hospital’

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Printable version | Apr 10, 2021 6:28:18 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/master-of-melody/article2593974.ece

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