Posts tagged ‘Dream Sequence’

Shankar Jaikishan – Interview (1957)

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A Decade of Hits

WHAT makes a song last? It is almost ten years since we began composing songs for films—all kinds of songs for all kinds of films. Even this year—the year in which we have won the “Filmfare” Award for the Best Music Direction—we have composed strikingly different types of scores, ranging from “Seema” and “Chori Chori” to “Shree 420” and “Basant Bahar”.

In this long period the overall impression we have gained of the taste of picturegoers is that only an Indian song can survive on Indian soil.

We do not propagate any antagonism against the integration of Indian and foreign music. What we are opposed to is the wholesale plagiarism of foreign musical compositions.

How long does it take to compose a song ? We, on our part, take anything from a week to a year. To illustrate the labor involved we would cite the example of the musical score of the now famous dream sequence of “Awaara”.

Nobody had thought of a dream sequence for this film. The situation required two songs, “Tere bina aag ye chandni” and “Ghar aaya mera pardesi”, each of which was composed independently of the other. One day we were sitting in Raj Kapoor’s office—we had no separate music-room in those days. It was a friendly gathering. Suddenly we began making “ghost sounds” for sheer fun—shrill screams, yells and weird cries! Now an idea struck Raj.

“Why not make it a part of the music ?” Raj Kapoor exclaimed. There and then we decided to have a dream sequence, and link the two songs by a third one.

“There will be three songs,” Raj said. “A girl calling her lover, the boy caught in the grip of evil, and the final song of reunion.”

That very evening Raj brought Nargis to listen to those weird sounds we had made, and we all decided to have one full reel of musical sequence—what eventually turned out to be the longest musical sequence in Indian films.

The recording began at 9 a.m. and went on to become the most memorable one of our lives. We were all working ourselves up into a state of frenzy. Raj flitted from one end of the music-theatre to the other, inspiring one and all with his zeal. Day turned into night but all of us went on—musicians, singers, sound recordists, and Raj himself. Midnight struck—we were still at it.

From “Barsaat” to “Chori Chori” our story has been linked with the story of Indian film making. It has been an exciting time for both of us.

Once, Shanker visited the H.M.V . Gramophone Company and heard a song sung by a little-known singer. He was so impressed that he asked Raj Kapoor to get her to sing just one song of “Barsaat” instead of any of the established singers. Afterwards she sang all the songs of “Barsaat”. Her name is Lata Mangeshkar.

When we began composing tunes for “Barsaat” we used to play them to Raj Kapoor. So impressed was he with them that he was determined to use them in the film. But he said, “I cannot promise to announce your names as music directors since I have already signed up someone else.”

Still, we continued because of our love for the work. We were surprised and elated when, towards the completion of the film, Raj told us that we would after all get official billing as the music directors of “Barsaat.”

He had confidence in our work and his confidence was vindicated by the sensational success the songs achieved.

The days when we were recording the song “Ay Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal” for “Daag” also come to mind. The financier heard the song and was so disappointed that he told the distributor, “It is a most disappointing song. No one is going to like it. If I had known that the picture had such poor music, I would never have financed it!” Little did he know then that the song was going to become a best-seller.

We feel that while retaining the basic form of Indian music, one can always experiment with new instruments, Indian or foreign, to widen the scope of film music.

The use of the accordion in “Mera Juta Hai Japani” and of the trumpet in “Mur Mur Ke Na Dekh” (both from “Shree 420”) illustrate this point. However, what is essential is the basic Indian melody. Thus even in the puppet song of “Chori Chori,” there are “alaaps” and “taans.” For that matter, the entire music score of “Chori Chori” is based on familiar Indian “raags” and folk melodies.

On the day Amiya Chakrabarty died he discussed with us the songs of “Kath Putli”. The first line of a song we recorded for the film after Amiya’s death is “Manzil Wohi Hai Pyaar Ki, Rahi Badal Gaye” (“The path of love is the same, only the travelers have changed”.) Amiya Chakrabarty took a keen interest in our work.

Of the many scores composed by us, we would particularly like to refer to four songs: “Ay Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal”, “Awaara Hun”, “Mera Juta Hai Japani”, and “Ichak dana Bichak dana”. While the first became widely popular in India, the other three also won recognition abroad. We are told that “Awaara Hun” has been translated into many languages and is today sung and played in almost every part of the world. Its success has confirmed our belief that Indian film music can be appreciated abroad if we refuse to imitate foreign tunes.

We are sure that symbols of encouragement, like the “Filmfare” Award, will continue to inspire music directors to bring to the screen original and popular compositions (This interview was conducted in 1957).


Simkie’s Choreography in the Awara Dream Sequence (Hindi, 1951)



Simkie’s Choreography in the Awara Dream Sequence (Hindi, 1951)

When I first heard that Uday Shankar’s early dance partner Simkie choreographed the famous dream sequence in Awara (Hindi, 1951), I was quite surprised!  That song and dance sequence is one of the most iconic and well-known from the “golden era” of Hindi cinema.  But the real eye-opener was seeing that Simkie’s choreography is taken straight from the Uday Shankar playbook as evidenced by the dances in his 1948 dance film Kalpana (which we can now watch in full thanks to!).  A few sources had mentioned the influence of Kalpana on Awara‘s dream sequence before, but now we can see the evidence for our own eyes.  And what an influence; it’s direct and unmistakable!

Awara‘s dream sequence is comprised of three segments filmed in three different spaces which Gayatri Chatterjee in her National Award-winning book Awara sees as representing the “Earth-Hell-Heaven triptych.”  “Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni” is the name of the song for the first two segments (earth and hell) though some have listed the second hell segment as a separate song “Mujhko Chahiye Bahar.” “Ghar Aya Mera Pardesi” is the song for the last segment (heaven).

The “Earth” and “Heaven” Segments

In the first and last segments, the dancers’ graceful side-to-side movements, arm postures and trajectories, and hand gestures are clearly directly inspired by Shankar’s choreographies especially Kartikeya and Rasa Leela (click on the links to watch them inKalpana), and these movements are echoed in the “dancing” by lead Nargis as well.  The arm movements the dancers are performing at the beginning of the clip below be seen in Amala Shankar’s Manipuri dance, and the spins at 6:24 are also seen identically in Kalpanain a few places.

Left: Awara   Right: Kalpana     Could it be any more obvious!

Instead of doing a comparison video, I’ve displayed the dream sequence videos below and linked to or described the inspirations in this post.  The first segment runs til 1:07, and the last segment starts at 2:46.  Note: The official clip below leaves out the two-minute introduction featuring some imaginative set design and the introduction of the dancers; the whole dream sequence in its entirety can be viewed here.

Isn’t the “South Indian” vibe of Nargis’ dance posing and costume starting at 5:32 interesting!  I wish more footage had been included since the Bharatanatyam/Kuchipudi inspiration is obvious and would have added a third “style” of choreography to the dream sequence.  The giant Nataraja statue provided the perfect background!

“Hell” Segment

The middle segment in which Raj Kapoor’s character descends into “Hell” dramatically shifts the style of choreography from slow-paced grace to aggressive, forceful movements, but they are still taken straight from Shankar’s creative style and are a testament to his ability to express varied emotions and ideas.  The wide half-seated posture, back and forth movements, and finger-spread hand shimmies all have direct parallels in movements seen in Kalpana particularly the Naga tribal dance and Astra Puja/Sword Dance.

While I had shown in my last post that the “finger-spread hand shimmies” as I’m calling them had inspiration from Kathakali dance from southern India, another blogger made a very interesting connection to another likely source of inspiration: Kecak dance from Bali, Indonesia. The similarities are obvious in not only the individual dance movements but also the way the group is spatially arranged.  I became convinced of this connection after reading that Uday Shankar had visited Indonesia to observe its indigenous dance forms in 1935.  In excerpts from Shankar’s diary about the trip, “Ketchok” is among the dances he notes watching in addition to “kabbiyar, “lagon,” “krish,” and “Wayang Koolit” shadow-puppet play (Abrahams).  Intriguingly, Shankar mentions having dinner with Mr. Spiers.  I wonder if “Mr. Spiers” is a mispelled reference to “Walter Spies” who supposedly was instrumental in popularizing Kecak dance in the 1930s!

Here is a cinematic view of the Kecak dance in the film Baraka.  Shankar’s inspiration is obvious!

The Making and Themes

Awara‘s dream sequence reportedly took three months to shoot and was not formally planned until mid-shooting.  The sets were designed by M.R. Achredkar and a chemist was hired to create the “cloud effect” with dry ice.  Some sources note the sequence’s ideas were inspired from some Hollywood musicals of the time (the dream sequence in An American in Paris was allegedly one), but Kalpana gives plenty of set design inspiration all on its own with the grandiose objects, flames, and smoke columns.  And by the way–there are a few sources, including The Hindu, who incorrectly cite Zohra Segal as the choreographer for the dream sequence!

Thematically, the book Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance gives an interesting perspective on the meaning behind the sequence:

“Integrating narrative and lush spectacle, this scene condenses the themes of the film and prefigures the ending. At the same time, it functions as a metacomment on popular filmmaking with its amalgam of”art” and “kitsch” and marks a transition in narrative modes–from romantic realism to melodrama.  Through visual icons and “universal” signifiers, such as a staircase that leads in one direction to an idyllic world represented by a tower set amid fluffy clouds and in another to a hell represented by flames and grotesque statues, the sequence captures in shorthand the social gap that separates the principals and the various conflicts encountered by the hero. Its innovative use of space, perspective, and the movement of bodies visually realizes Awaara’s critique of the existing social order as the hero plaintively cries, “Mujhko yeh narak na chahiye; mujhko phool, mujhko geet, mujhko preet chahiye” [I don’t want this hell; I want flowers, I want music, and I want love], even while it relocates this critique in the individual.”

Dancers – The Little Ballet Troupe, and Helen!
I was very surprised to read in Chatterjee’s book that the dancers in the dream sequence were from Shanti Bardhan’s Little Ballet Troupe!  Shanti Bardhan was part of Uday Shankar’s Center in Almora for a few years before striking out on his own, performing with the Indian People’s Theater Association (IPTA), and then forming his own Little Ballet Troupe in 1952.  Another surprise find about the dream sequence: famous Cabaret film dancer Helen was supposedly among the background dancers in what would be her first screen appearance!  Can anyone spot her?
Uday Shankar’s Influence on Film Dance
While it has been thrilling to see the impact Uday Shankar had on one of the most well-known songs in Hindi cinema, his influence was not restricted to Awaraalone.  V.A.K Ranga Rao in his article “Dance in Indian Cinema” reveals that Shakar’s influence on 1950s and 60s film dance was “immeasurable.”  While Shankar’s only film Kalpana was an unsuccessful flop, his influence on film dance spread through the students and dancers that worked with him during the making ofKalpana and earlier at his novel training Center in Almora.  These dancers “received the kind of allround training that was unthought of in [the] Indian dance world” until then and many of them became “independent choreographers” and worked in cinema spreading “the Uday Shankar turn of limb, taste of aesthetics around” not only in choreography but also visual presentation.  Among them, Narendra Sharma, Sachin Shankar, Zohra Segal, Guru Dutt, and more all choreographed for films.  Researching their work in films seems to have proven Ranga Rao’s assertion true which I’ll be highlighting in future posts. It seems Shankar’s influence on cinema through his trainees is a subject that hasn’t received much attention…making it an ideal research project for yours truly!  I’m also happy to be covering Hindi cinema which doesn’t get much exposure on this blog. 🙂


Abrahams, Ruth Karen.  The Life and Art of Uday Shankar.  PhD Dissertation.
Bardhan, Gul.  Rhythm Incarnate: Tribute to Shanti Bardhan.
Chatterjee, Gayatri.  “The Hero’s Fears and Nightmares.”  Awara.
Encyclopaedia Brittanica. Encyclopaedia of Hindi Cinema.
Gopal, Sangita and Sujata Moorti.  Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance.
Ranga Rao, V.A.K.  “Dance in Indian Cinema.”   Rasa: The Indian Performing Arts in the Last Twenty-five Years.

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