Bollywood Music from the 50s

I had the wonderful chance to catch Albela on television last weekend. The clean scrubbed sets of the 1950s clearly warm the heart. The songs of Albela are a real treasure. My friend didn’t seem to think too much of Bhagwan. He asked me (in all probability to annoy me) why all the men in the film were so “ugly”. He then theorized that it was probably because they couldn’t afford to have a support cast that was more good looking than the hero. I give up! Personally, I think it’s impossible to look bad on black and white film. There’s a reason people from our grandparents’ generation look so good – it’s the Black and White film. Seriously.

Anyhow, I think this song is delicately romantic, even if in a slightly comic, lighthearted way. The audio quality of the video is just fantastic.

For some reason, very frothy and appropriate for a mildly warm afternoon. One wonders though, how the music of the 50s, like the fabulous Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu from Howrah Bridge is so filled with influence of ragtime revival, Boogie Woogie and Honky Tonk! And the equally wonderful Ina Meena Deeka from Aasha, also from the late 50s. Where did all that disappear?

Oh, and the lovely lyrics. For instance from Mera Naam Chin Chin Chu

Baabuji main chin se aayi, chini jaisa dil laayi
Singaapur ka yauvan mera, shanghai ki angdaayi

Sometimes when you tune into these numbers from the 50s, you can almost imagine Bombay in that era. Art Deco and the crawling trams. If films are any indicator, Bombay became insular in the late 70s. And sometimes, it’s that pre-70s Bombay that I really yearn to see.

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14 Responses to Bollywood Music from the 50s

  1. Kavi says:

    The times. They are changing arent they. And then, those were the times. A very different time !


  2. Grasshopper says:

    I totally agree about black and white guys being angelic. Did you know that Pather Panchali, is going to go color! I find this sacrilegious. Let us do something, march, or at least blog it.


  3. Manjappa says:

    Personally, I think it’s impossible to look bad on black and white film.

    :-). I hold the same view.


  4. Shefaly says:


    I think it was a time when society’s mores and norms themselves were different. The trend can be seen gradually shifting in the films as they go through the 1950s, 60s and then 70s. This post is right up Harini’s street πŸ™‚

    Yes, we all look good in black and white. My nicest photo on the piano is from age 7 in b/w and the rest pale in comparison.. 😦


  5. Kavi: It does seem incredibly distant. But things do look prettier from afar. πŸ™‚

    Grasshopper: Ha! Well, to be fair if they want to colour it up – it’s their right to I guess. But I have to wonder if it might make the work more accessible to the younger ‘uns? But Pather Panchali is indelible in its BW imagery. You can present that starkness in colour I think.

    Manjappa: πŸ™‚

    Shefaly: So true. In the late 70s there’s this U-turn, and revival of this notion of “cultural patriotism”. Take the rise of Manoj Kumar for instance. His films are not just about “Bharat”, but in the context of the value-less, morbidly morality-free “West”. *shudder*. And you play the piano?!


  6. km says:

    Ah, my favorite era for Hindi film music. And Albela is a terrific film.

    (Not that all music back then was good, but the good stuff REALLY is outstanding.)

    //B&W FTW!


  7. Ojas says:

    Isn’t it Mera Naam Chin-chin-chu and not Mera naam hai… ?

    Where did all that disappear?
    It’s there in the memories of a few : )


  8. Nilu says:

    In other words, Bombay became part of North India in the 70s.


  9. Banno says:

    ‘Albela’ is a favourite. Gorgeous Geeta Bali. Bhagwan Dada is ugly but very, very cute.


  10. Rada says:

    Talking about Bombay of the ’50s, part of a song sequence in “Chalti ka naam gaadi”, I think it’s “Babu, samcho isharen”, is shot around the Flora Fountain. So lovely the place looks! Just compare it with the Flora Fountain of today!

    Sigh! 😦


  11. Divya says:

    Have you heard the song “Song of India” by Tommy Dorsey? It so reminds me of 50s bollywood – the jazzy shiny era of black and white when everything was okay and the future was bright!


  12. Shefaly says:


    Ah, yes the original Bharat Kumar. Whose idea of emoting was to tilt his head at an angle and look pouty.. πŸ™‚

    “And you play the piano?!”

    Er, yes. I am an eternal student :-/


  13. km: True, some of the music doesn’t leave a dent at all. Albela is fantastic! Brilliant music – Shola jo Bhadke, Oh Beta Ji and the best – Haseeno se Muhabbat Ka!

    Ojas: Corrected. Don’t what I was thinking…

    Nilu: LOL. Actually, Bombay had a lot of North Indians back then – but the 80s saw an influx of people from other parts of Maharashtra as well. In fact, Bollywood was dominated by “outsiders” throughout.

    Banno: I agree. Sri refuses to call Bhagwan cute.

    Rada: Another favourite. That one always gets me shouting POM PUM PUM! Bombay feels so “clean” and sparkling in those films. Less crowded.

    Divya: Nope – will go look for that!

    Shefaly: All this lead me to posting on our Bharat Kumar’s hammiest pieces ever!


  14. Rada says:

    Shola jo Bhadke…

    Did you know the male voice is that of the music director himself? C. Ramchandra singing as Chitalkar? πŸ™‚


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