Jewel Thief (1967), Ragini MMS (2011) and Raghav Sachar-Sophie Choudry’s recent hit remix have one element in common: the song “Raat Akeli Hai”. The original had S. D. Burman, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Asha Bhosle behind it, while on screen the tantalizing Tanujaji allured the suave Dev Saab. The character she plays may not have succeeded in her designs the film, but the song became a hit, and lives even today, nearly half a century later, when most of the people associated with the song have already passed away. Ragini MMS plays the same soundtrack, albeit with some sounds added to make the song a fit prelude to the eerie atmosphere essential for the film.
Raghav and Sophie (or, shall I say Sophie and Raghav?) have re-created their very own “Raat Akeli Hai”, by changing both the music and the way the song is sung, and, of course, the voice of of the lead singer, and with the addition of the parts in which Raghav sings/raps. The original song has become a classic of sorts in the genre of “siren songs” in Hindi films. Asha Bhosle’s voice was the one most suited for the song, as she was nearly the second name of that genre in the sixties and, specially, seventies. Her elder sister got to lend her voice to the heroine, and Ashaji became the voice of the other girl. No, it’s not the full blown Helen type cabaret song, not with S D in charge. This song and the Pancham-Asha-Helen siren songs, although similar in some ways, are essentially different.
I am a big fan of R. D. Burman, but I am a bigger fan of his father (not because of Pyasaa, but more about that in some other post). Between the two sisters, and the two all time great female singers of Hindi film industry, I have always been biased in favour of Lataji, and still am. Still, even I must admit that with the mood and demand of this song Ashaji’s voice is a one hundred per cent match. The lyrics, music, voice and on-screen presentation are flawless. How can that be improved upon?
I like very few songs of Raghav, the music composer, viz. “Gulaabi Aankhein”, “Ye Ladka Hai Allah”, “Raat Akeli Hai” etc. Many of Sophie’s songs in the past have been more about the visual than vocal, so there is no question of judging the corpus of her songs on the parameters of music. It’s the second or third time for Raghav and the very first time for Sophie that their song has struck a chord somewhere deep. Raghav, who plays thirty-three musical instruments at present according to his website raghavsachar.com (the number is not up to date even then, as he keeps on adding instruments to the list as time goes by), is a magician. He tries it every time, but his magic does not always work, e.g. his “Dekhne Mein Bhola Hai”.
Like his “Gulabi Aankhein”, the music of the newer song too has his touches: touches Panchamda would be proud of. So, Raghav’s a la “Chura Liya” ceramic/glass clinking replacing the metallic touches of the senior Burman, or his jazz replacing other instruments before “Tum Aaj Mere Liye” stanza begins, or his merging his own voice with the track in the background all work as magic. The song is shorter than the four and half minutes original, much shorter. Sophie’s voice has a texture that goes a long way in establishing the song independently from the original one sung by a younger and mellifluous Ashaji [I have this liking for the voice of the younger Hemantada, Rafi Saab, Kishoreda, Lataji, and, Ashaji]. It’s not better. It’s simply different, and good in its own manner. But the one factor that makes it possible for this song to stand beside its predecessor is Raghav’s support.
The same support, with the same techniques applied on another hit song of another Burman, yielded Raghav-Neeti Mohan’s “Yeh Ladka Hai Allah”. Neeti Mohan has a beautiful voice and there’s no doubt in that. Raghav’s voice is not bad either. What went wrong than? Why did the new “Yeh Ladka” not click? Rafi Saab, wikipedia informs, had got his only National Film Award for “Kya Hua Tera Waada” of the same film (Hum Kisise Kum Naheen ) in 1977. He had song for a short stretch in the original. Raghav replaced him, just as Neeti had replaced Ashaji. He gave the right touches at right places too but the new version lacks the X factor, unlike the other newer song.
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