Basu Chatterjee made eminently likeable cinema. But, it is his penchant for timeless music that puts him on a par with all-time great filmmakers of Hindi cinema like Raj Kapoor, Raj Khosla and Manoj Kumar.
His first feature film Sara Akaash had no songs. But, from his second film Piya Ka Ghar, it was one musical milestone after another for Basu. Piya Ka Ghar with music by Laxmikant-Pyarelal had Kishore Kumar’s imperishable ‘Yeh Jeevan Hai’ in its soundtrack. Many years later the prolific Basu was to collaborate again with Laxmikant-Pyarelal in Prem Vivah and Chakravyuha.
Basuda’s third film Rajnigadha saw him collaborating with Salil Chowdhary. They came together for two more films Chotisi Baat and the little-seen Jeena Yahan which has the lata Mangeshkar gem ‘Woh Sham Aayee’. In 1974, Basu got the rare opportunity to collaborate with Sachin Dev Burnan in Uss Paar which contained exquisite songs like Lataji’s ‘Tumne Piya Diya’ , ‘Yeh Jab Se Hui’ and Manna Dey’s ‘Piya Maine Kya Kiya’. Later in Ratna Dee, Shaukeen and Manzil, Basu Chatterjee partnered with Sachin’s son RD who came up with gems like ‘Kabhi Kabhi Sapna Lagta Hai’ and ‘Rimjhim Gire Sawan’ for him.
Just once, he worked with the underrated and underused Jaidev in Tumhare Liye (1978). And what a rewarding collaboration it proved to be with one of Lataj Mangeshkar’s gems ‘Tumhe Dekhti Hoon’ beautifully composed but badly recorded occupying pride of place.
But, it was Rajesh Roshan with whom Basu did the maximum films. Starting with Swami in 1977, the two went to collaborate for as many as 6 other films - Priyatama, Khatta MeethaDillagi, Baaton Baaton Mein, Man Pasand, Hamari Bahu Alka. Interestingly, Man Pasand, an unofficial remake of My Fair Lady, also ‘borrowed’ the song ‘I Could’ve Danced All Night’ which became Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Hothon Pe Geet Jaage’.
Curiously, most of these lovely songs were placed in the background. Basu hated to see his characters lip-syncing the songs.
He said, “Have you seen people singing songs in real life? Somehow, I couldn’t come to terms with my characters bursting into songs in my films. No one does that in real life. You don’t see people singing on the roads or even in the parks. Songs are a commercial compromise. I had to invent tricks to fit songs into my film. In Chit Chor, I made Amol Palekar’s character a singer. But, I never believed that songs could be hits only if they were lip-synced on screen by the lead actors. In my films, songs like ‘Rajnigandha Phool Tumhare’,’Yeh Din Kya Aaye’ and ‘Aaye Na Balam’ were hits in spite of being in the background.”
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