R.D. Burman was an excellent composer but it is often mistakenly assumed that he was the first person to introduce a western influence into Hindi film songs. His senior colleagues in the industry were experimenting with western sounds years before he came onto the scene. This is because of the rock ‘n’ roll revolution that took place in America in the late 1950’s and the 1960’s due to a certain person named Elvis Presley. Shammi Kapoor cultivated a similar image and his popularity pushed music directors like
O.P Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishen into creating the western type of music that suited him. “Gumnaam” does not star the Indian Elvis but the soundtrack displays the knack that S-J had of turning out a foot-tapping rock ‘n’ roll track.
And that track is “Jaan Pehchaan Ho, Jeena Aasaan Ho!”. Mohammad Rafi is so passionately charged… it sounds like he is breathing fire. Dance to it and you may also find your shoes on fire. The high-powered music reaches your bones making you want to move them to the funky rhythm! Rafi is just absolutely positively amazing. This classic has experienced a rebirth of sorts because of its use in a scene in the funny American film, “Ghost World” (2000).
Don’t go to a shrink to receive advice on what to do with your life. Instead, listen to what Lata Mangeshkar has to say. “Is Duniya Main Jeena Ho To Sunlo Meri Baat, Gham Chhodke Manao Rang Reli” Says she. Sound advice, I say! The music has a western undertone to it mixed with a traditional Indian sound (which explains why many people could not resist the temptation to make remix versions). With Lata’s boisterous rendition, Hasrat Jaipuri’s logical lyrics and Helen to drool over, this one is a knockout!
By the mid-1960’s, it became a standard convention for any thriller or supernatural movie to have a slow theme tune rendered by Lata. Here, she whispers, “Gumnaam Hai Koi, Badnaam Hai Koi…”. If you are a person who is well-versed in Hollywood films then listen carefully to this song, you may realize that it is a tad inspired by the theme tune of the classic movie, “Charade” (1963). That does not really spoil the enjoyment as S-J have added their own unmistakable touch to the composition. It is an exquisite number that has mysterious lyrics, which make you ponder.
Sharda is one of those singers who made a good but very brief impact during Lata and Asha’s reign as the queens of playback singing. But, then all of a sudden, poof! She disappeared. Her “Aayega Kaun Yahan” carries on in the same vein as the last number. This one makes a more dramatic use of the piano, which combines wonderfully with Sharda’s bewitching rendition. The rift between Lata and Rafi (due to a misunderstanding) meant that they did not work together for a short while. As a result, Rafi did more duets with other female singers. Hence the following Rafi-Sharda duet, “Jaane Chaman Shola Badan”. This unusual pairing of singers makes a nice refreshing change. It is an intoxicating song that is a treat on the ears.
There are two more solo Rafi songs on the album and both are different in style yet similar in theme. “Khayalon Main (Hum Kaale Hain To Kya Hua Dilwale Hain…)” has become a classic thanks to Rafi’s spot-on impersonation of comedian Mehmood. Mehmood is attempting to woo Helen but she is ignoring him. He assumes that it has something to do with his dark skin and argues that that should not matter as he is a romantic at heart. In today’s times, the humor has dated badly and could be conveyed as being racist. In my opinion, it is the opposite… the song has a tongue-in-cheek message about how skin color is irrelevant when it comes to love. “Ek Ladki Hai Jisne Jeena Mushkil Kardiya” is a more conventional approach to the similar scenario of a hero talking about his crush on a girl. This is amiable enough but, needless to say, the team of S-J/Rafi have given us better songs on this type of situation.
What could have been nothing more than a routine drunk song is surprisingly catchy and endearing.
Asha Bhosle and Usha Mangeshkar are clearly enjoying themselves in “Peeke Hum Tum Jo Chale Aaye Hain Is Mehfil Main”. Even the regular interruptions of “hic!” can be forgiven as the track is so loveable. Asha and Usha obviously make a great team. I feel that the chemistry in this duo had a lot of potential that has gone unexplored by music directors, which is a shame.
“Gumnaam” is sometimes unfairly overlooked but I believe that it is one of Shankar-Jaikishen’s best albums. Give it a listen today.