Robin Ghosh and cross-border “infiltration” in South Asia

If you are from India you may have heard of Robin Chattopadhyay and Robin Majumdar, both exceptionally talented contributors to the Golden Age of Bangla Cinema in Kolkata. I’ll wager that very few people in India have heard of a versatile music director by the name of Robin Ghosh.  I was intrigued to find out more about him because I could guess at his Bengali ethnicity from his last name.

Robin Ghosh is the music director who composed the songs for Aina, a 1977 Urdu movie which shattered all records to become the biggest box-office hit in Pakistan. Ghosh also composed the songs in Harano Din which was released in 1961 and was one of the earliest Bangla films made in Pakistan. His style of composition in Harano Din reminded me a lot of music directors across the border who were composing songs for Bangla films in Calcutta. For example, “Ae je nijhum raat” sung by Firdausi Begum in Harano Din reminded me of Hemanta Mukhopadhyay’s compositions, especially “Ae purnima raat” in Nayika Sangbad (1967) even though both tunes are distinct.

However, I am told that Robin Ghosh is best known in Pakistan for the lilting songs in Aina. The story revolves around the trite  misunderstandings in love that unnecessarily permeate South Asian cinema, but the music is brilliant. Take for example the song Mujhe dil se na bhulana featuring Mehnaaz and Alamgir:

Does it sound familiar? Think twice if it doesn’t, because if you’ve watched Bollywood movies it should.

Exactly! It is the centerpiece of Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s soundtrack for the Bollywood hit Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985) featuring Mithun Chakraborty and Padmini Kohlapure.

Maybe, like me, you were already familiar with Robin Ghosh’s compositions, but you just didn’t know it?

My point is a simple one. Even before My Name is Khan took Pakistan by storm, this sort of cultural “inflitration” had been going on from both sides. Before the age of Himesh and Pritam, before Adnan Sami and Atif Aslam, there were the likes of Nadeem-Shravan who ruled the roost and were particularly fond of Pakistani music.

I take your leave with one of my favorite songs from my childhood and the original which not only has a similar tune, but similar lyrics too! The song Tu meri zindagi hai was a bit hit in Aashiqui, a Bollywood movie featuring the expressionless visages of Rahul Roy and Anu Agarwal. That a romantic movie with a couple from matchmaking hell could do well at the box-office attests to the popularity of  the Nadeem-Shravan soundtrack. Arguably, the movie also launched the careers of singer Kumar Sanu and lyricist Sameer.

Now listen to the Pakistani counterpart by Tasavvur Khanum also called Tu meri zindagi hai.

To be completely fair to Sameer, he didn’t lift the entire lyrics. I actually prefer his version even though bandagi rhymes better with zindagi than aashiqui does. Now Kumar Sanu’s nasal twang… that I could do without.

Let us keep the discussion civil folks.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

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Worst Valentine’s Day gifts in India

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. I know there is a big fuss in India over whether anyone should be allowed to celebrate it because it is a foreign import. Me? I personally draw the line at World Toilet Day (even though it is for a good cause).

As a public service, I’ve gone out to find the worst possible Valentine’s Day gifts. A warning: don’t blame me if you find these gift ideas tasteless. I only report what I see.

Worst Valentine’s Day gift to give to your boyfriend or husband:

So what if it doesn't snore?

The “Boyfriend Pillow” was originally created for single Japanese women who wanted a pillow in the shape of a man’s torso and arm so that they could cuddle up to it. It was marketed as a substitite for a boyfriend, and I’m sure some women appreciated the fact that it didn’t snore, eat in bed, or take up more than half of the space.

But why should Japanese women be so special? A variation of the boyfriend pillow, is available from Amazon and will ship to anywhere in India.

But despite the name, it is not a gift you should give your boyfriend (or husband). Apart from the fact that it is downright creepy, it sends the wrong sort of signal to the man in your life. Yes, I know the pillow comes with a “removable microfiber shirt for easy care.” It might even be great for snuggling up to since it has extra support for the neck and upper back.

What you should be asking is this: does the man in your life really need a pillow in the shape of another man complete with arm, hand, and fingers to cuddle up to? And we are not being judgmental here: this has nothing to do with how he feels about others, and everything to do with how he feels about himself.

Worst Valentine’s Day gift to give to your girlfriend or wife:

pagla gayi ho ka?

I’ve seen a lot of weirdness in my time including the Bollywood film Khopdi – The Skull, but the title of this album of Bhojpuri music made me burst out laughing. It was the only thing I could do to keep myself from crying.  If you cannot read Devanagari script, I apologize: I will not translate out of fear of attracting the wrong sort of web-traffic!

In any case, when it comes to music, I’ll listen to anything once. After you’ve grown up around Bappi Lahiri’s Rock Dancer which had toxic songs like “launda badnam hua” and “you are my chicken fry”, you develop that sort of mental strength. As your trusted reviewer, I heard a little bit of the album from the preview site. From what I’ve heard, the music is far better than the crass title of the album. Of course, I understand that this isn’t a very useful review to you because that gives me a titanic margin of error. In any case, this should not be given to anyone (and certainly not the person you love the most)

Bottom-line: Ladies and gentlemen, if want to live a happy and prosperous life beyond February 14, remember the lessons of the Valentine’s Day Massacre.  Don’t buy these gifts if you have any dream of self-preservation. And now, that I’ve had my say, I feel so much better.

Fair-use rationale for album cover image : not-for-profit review of work using low-resolution image where no free equivalent is available. Image copyright: T-series.

Text, © 2010-2012, Anirban