Some tunes are timeless. They are like hangovers unwilling to end. As the Mediaeval legends had given us, Beethoven or Mozart or Chopin for example, with their symphonies; some compositions in the Twentieth Century have also grown like addictive drugs to the next generations.
Hindi Film Music has always borrowed from the West, sometimes aping, sometimes bettering. Here is a tune, which has influenced generations of music directors, enlightened many musical wizards and rose a tickling inside their creative soul to adapt, improvise and reproduce it in Hindi. A tune of highest magnitude, a tune of the genius –Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin, the tune called “The Limelight Theme”- has been one of my all-time favourite symphonies.
Limelight was an American film, directed by Charlie Chaplin and released in 1952. It was withdrawn from theatres just after its release due to US Governments tussles with Chaplin that time regarding the latter’s Communist connections. It is termed as the best achievement of Chaplin, a musical saga of a performer- from the limelight to hibernation of oblivion to again fame. The movie itself had inspired some Indian movie makers, although I can’t recall any direct copies, shades of inspiration can be seen in Raj Kapoor's "Mera Naam Joker" and Mahesh Bhatt's "Daddy". The theme music of Limelight was created by Sir Charlie only; fetching him his only competitive Academy Award in 1972- after the movie was allowed a re-release in America. Ironical, isn’t it that the amazing actor never got any competitive Oscar for his acting or direction? But then, this is how the Awards are. Ivan Bunin gets the Nobel but Tolstoy does not.
The first adaptation of Limelight was done in Hindi movies in 1957 by a newcomer music director Rahul Dev Burman, for a movie called "Raaz" from the production house of Guru Dutt. The movie was shelved and the song never released. As per the book- RD, The Man, The Music by Anirudha Bhattacharya and Balaji Vitthal, the song was a duet of Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt. The details of the song is, however, not available with me, except for the fact that the tune was inspired from Chaplin’s Limelight.
Four years after, another musical wizard- Salil Chowdhury, recreated the Chaplin Limelight theme in Hindi in the movie “Maya”(1961). The song was “Zindagi hai kya sun meri jaan, Pyar bhara dil meethi zubaan” sung by Mohammed Rafi. The tempo of the tune was adjusted a bit by Salil, and after the second line, gradually the tune shifts from Limelight influences. With the people’s voice- Rafi, the song establishes a solid Indian feel on a tune from the West. The song was picturized on Dev Anand, who plays the role of an Ice cream vendor while singing this song.
In 1972, when officially Limelight was again released in the US, Rahul Dev Burman created his second Hindi version of Limelight in India. The song “Tum meri zindagi mein kuchh is tarah se aaye” was recorded for Mehmood’s “Bombay to Goa” but was not included in the film. Considered by many as the best adaptation of Limelight, this mesmerizing duet of Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar was sung with extreme delicacy by the two singing legends. The tempo was kept the same as that of the original in Mukhda, Pancham used a different set of notes altogether in the Antaras of this song. The song was not known to many in those days, for obvious reasons, but RD fans nowadays are quite aware of this song.
With Raaz being shelved of, and “Tum meri zindagi mein” omitted from the movie, Pancham’s wish of Limelight adaptation was not getting fulfilled “officially”. So, he adapted it again, in Mukti(1977), but in an altogether different rhythm, different mood and different format. “Main jo chala peekar” was recreated from Limelight so subtly that a first listening to it might not even make the listener aware of its origin. With Indian arrangement, a boozy feel in the lyrics and change in rhythm, Limelight theme was converted to an Indian, rustic, country liquor number by R D Burman. The song was sung by Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle.
Years after in 1993, Rajesh Roshan recreated Limelight theme in the movie Gunaah with Amit Kumar and Sadhna Sargam. The song was “Yeh raat yeh tanhaiyan” , with some clever note changes here and there, it was a reproduction of Limelight again.
Of course, all these adaptations cannot give you the genuine Goosebumps that the original Chaplin theme would give you! And those who have not yet watched the movie, dont take this as a recommendation but a prescription!