My school days went with the Vividh Bharathi timings. 7.30 in the morning meant ‘Sangeeth Saritha’ by which time my mother would already have left for Mylapore tank to board the PTC bus to her school. In fact walking her up, my father would have returned home by the time the olden goldies based on Hindustani raags would start blaring from All India Radio. A half an hour of Rang Birangi or something would follow, essentially Hindi oldies but tuned to Hindustani mostly. 8.30 would be the time I would leave for school, and when my father would leave for his office.
Afternoons on holidays would always be with ‘Man chahe geet’ between 1 and 2. Would never miss that precious one hour for anything. Evenings there was ‘Chaya geet’ between 5 and 6 that I would miss mostly. However there were times I would take the transistor to my terrace and let it play my fave hindi songs. Bed time or dinner, if I would have finished studying and if awake, ‘Aap ki farmaish’ between 8.30 and 9.30 would be allowed. Rest of the hours, our radio would be mostly tuned into Sri Lankan Tamil broadcast.
I have to say, my parents and grandparents shared my love for hindi oldies. Or probably I acquired my taste for Hindi from my family. My mother loved Rafi and Lata as much as she loved Tamil filmi. In fact she was one step ahead of her peers, being a huge fan of Runa Leila and Nazia and Zohen Hasan towards her last days. May be the year was 1981.
Memories of watching hindi flicks with my family stay afresh in my memory. From Bobby and Sholay to Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, we left nothing screened in good old Madras. Sholay I and my sister watched with my mother and chithi before my cousins were born, at old Satyam theatre.
Although in India we get exposed to a variety of music including authentic ‘agmark’ classical to Bollywood and regional to folksy, I have always felt that the Hindi music is by far exceptional. Or at least it used to be. It had a soothing effect on our soul. Tamil typical classical and Sangam, i have found to be not that very relaxing. You need to be alert to listen to Tamil. Not so with Hindi which is much more mellow and soft on your ears. Aesthetically probably Hindi language has an edge as it’s kind of culmination of cultures.
Rafi s’ab, Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar were the quintessential trio who brought in so much of popular hindi music and happiness to our lives among others. It may be only filmi ghana yet it mattered. Even today their romances remain timeless classics. I am listening to them some 50-60 years later. Lata in particular has sung some desh-bhakth songs as well. There have been criticisms against her for blocking younger talent and those from the south like Vani Jayaram, but after listening to her voice in ‘Valaiyosai’ in Tamil, a duet with SPB, I concluded that Lata was indeed the uncrowned queen of playback singing in India. Others were leagues behind her. I don’t deny today we have Alka Yagniks to Shreya Ghoshals who are good and special in their own ways. Yet Lataji is a legend, a saga. I wouldn’t say we would miss Mangeshkar as we already have the younger lot trying to fit in in her shoes. What I would say is, it feels like a grand old tree uprooting and giving away, that’s all. The shade where we rested and had taken for granted, will be there no more.