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Why Vijay Anand was the master of song picturisations 


Back when songs were an essential part of a feature's storytelling process, the filmmaker set the bar high for song picturisations in Hindi cinema. For his 83rd birth anniversary on 22 January, Cinestaan.com looks at how he changed the way songs were filmed.

Sonal Pandya

In one of the early Navketan films directed by Chetan Anand, Funtoosh (1956), younger brother Vijay was the assistant director who ended up taking responsibility of some of the film's song picturisations, something that remained with him as he eventually turned director. It was around this time that the directing baton got handed over from Chetan to Vijay, as Chetan never made another film for Navketan again. Dev played the title character Funtoosh, a longtime resident of the International Mental Asylum who is discharged in grand style. As he enters the real world, Funtoosh quickly loses his parting gifts and Vijay cleverly incorporated a song on an errant hat with an SD Burman composition 'Aye Meri Topi' written by Sahir Ludhianvi and sung by Kishore Kumar.

The hat is always shown a little out of his reach throughout the song, until it meets with its crushing fate, literally. Vijay was also in charge of another song from the Funtoosh, ‘Dene Wala Jab Bhi Deta’, in which Dev changes his look several times. Examined now, the picturisation has some troubling racist undertones with its portrayal of the Chinese and African guests at the party.

In the lovely, imaginative title song from Vijay Anand's Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963), Dev Anand's character Rakesh sees the girl he loves, Sulekha, played by Nutan in a whiskey glass while sitting at a bar. Drowning his sorrows in the drink, the young architect is plotting a grand scheme to win over his father and future father-in-law with adjoining identical houses. The befuddled bartender has no idea who Rakesh is singing to, and when he adds an ice cube to his drink, the Nutan in the glass shivers to effect.

In the song, Sulekha works as great motivation for Rakesh to finish his work. With lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri and music splendidly composed by Navketan staple SD Burman, the duet was sung by Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. The film was the last time Dev and Nutan acted onscreen together. Till today, this comedic film is also remembered for its timeless songs 'Tu Kahan' and 'Dil Ka Bhanwar' set in Shimla and Delhi with its charming lead pair.

Vijay's next after Tere Ghar Ke Samne was the epic adaptation of RK Narayan's novel, The Guide. Navketan's first colour film showed off Vijay Anand's talent like never before. Once again, he stepped in after brother Chetan left the project due to creative differences. Showcasing the dancing skills of Waheeda Rehman as Rosie, the song 'Piya Tose Naina Laage Re' is an explosion of colour, as Rosie becomes Miss Nalini and rises up to stardom, from small arenas to the big league.

Rehman effortlessly moves through several looks designed by Bhanu Athaiya and choreography led by B Hiralal. She was not the first choice for the character, but actor-producer Dev Anand stuck by his pick. Guide remains a landmark film both for Navketan Films and Hindi cinema and Vijay Anand's vision for the film's songs are still lauded today as he brought alive the words by Shailendra and the music of SD Burman.

Vijay Anand followed up Guide with Teesri Manzil, a film he directed for Nasir Hussain's banner. This was a rare Hussain production which he did not direct. The crowd-pleasing whodunit featured the hit pair of Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh. In the film's most popular song, 'O Haseena Zhulfonwali', Kapoor is a well-liked performer at a hotel when he runs into Parekh's Sunita. She is looking for clues that led to her sister's untimely death.

Besides an elaborate stage setting headlining Kapoor's stage name 'Rocky', both Shammi and Helen performed for the crowd, especially for the gruff Sunita seated at a table. Helen even transitions into a Spanish flamenco dancer alongside a giant eye. Teesri Manzil was RD Burman's first big success as a music composer and Hindi movie audiences hadn't heard a sound like his before. With lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri, this duet was sung into infamy by Mohammad Rafi and Asha Bhonsle. Anand did double duty on this film as the editor, helping shape many of Teesri Manzil's songs and sequences.

Out of all the songs Vijay Anand picturised for the screen, 'Hothon Mein Aisi Baat' from Jewel Thief (1967) was by far his most complex, both in scope and story. In this classic thriller by Navketan, Vijay Anand handles the actors, their words and work onscreen deftly as an editor and dialogue writer too. Dev played Vinay who impersonates a famed jewel thief Amar. Along the way, he channels James Bond with sophisticated lair and encounters several beautiful women. A key section of the film's action took place in the kingdom of Sikkim and the music and sets incorporate it brilliantly in this final song before the end of the film.

Navketan relied on SD Burman once more and he delivered yet again. Vyjayanthimala's Shalini is keeping close to heart a dangerous secret, brought home with Majrooh Sultanpuri's lyrics in 'Hothon Mein Aisi Baat'. Her dance, like Rehman's in Guide, is a crucial part of the film's success. Anand ramped up the tension in the song with fast cuts and interesting camera angles, ably assisted by Burman's score.

Watch Cinestaan's video tribute to Vijay Anand's masterful song picturisations:

Video edited by Ankit Tripathi