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10 memorable Bengali film songs by Salil Chowdhury – Birth anniversary special

The composer-lyricist, who was born on 19 November 1922 and achieved immense popularity in Hindi cinema, had several hits in his native language as well.

Roushni Sarkar

Salil Chowdhury, one of Indian cinema's great composers and lyricists, was born on this day (19 November) 96 years ago. An important figure in Hindi and Bengali cinema of the 1950s and 1960s, often referred to as the Golden Age, the multi-faceted artiste also wrote the script for Bimal Roy’s masterpiece Do Bigha Zameen (1953).

Salil Chowdhury was always keen on the growth of the medium of cinema and music on the whole. He was also known for his brave socialist stand during the days of severe political turmoil in and outside Bengal.

While Salil Chowdhury’s Hindi film compositions and Bengali non-film songs released on the occasion of Durga Puja and at significant historical moments became very popular with the masses, he has numerous Bengali film compositions as well to his credit which mark significant points in his musical journey.

On Salilda's 96th birth anniversary, we bring to you 10 such numbers.

'Shimul Shimul Shimulti' — Barjatri (1951)

Salil Chowdhury broke with tradition and composed the song 'Shimul Shimul Shimulti' for the film Barjatri (1951) using a lot of folk influences. Sung beautifully by Bharati Basu, the romantic composition has a different melody in each antara (stanza).

'Jhir Jhir Borosay' — Pasher Bari (1952)

A fast-paced number from Sudhir Mukherjee’s Pasher Bari (1952), 'Jhir Jhir Borosay' was sung by Dhananjay Bhattacharya, one of the pioneering playback singers of Bengali cinema. Salil Chowdhury not only composed the tune but also wrote the lyrics for the song and ushered in a new era in Bengali film music. The play with rhythm in the song about musings on a rainy day carved the path for Chowdhury to be recognized as a promising and original composer.

'Dukher Seema Nai' — Raat Bhore (1956)

'Dukher Seema Nai', inspired by the Bhatiali songs of Bengal, was sung by Satinath Mukerjee. Salil Chowdhury cleverly infused the inherent sadness of the song with the essence of Bhatiali, which is quite philosophical. Written by Gauriprasanna Majumdar, one of the most respected lyricists of the era, this song from Raat Bhore (1956) speaks of the illusions of happiness and sorrow in life.

'Jaago Mohan Preetam' — Akdin Ratre (1956)

One of the most memorable compositions from the earlier phase of Salil Chowdhury’s career, 'Jaago Mohan Preetam' from Akdin Ratre (1956) was sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The film was the Bengali version of Jagte Raho directed by Shambhu Mitra and Amit Maitra and produced by Raj Kapoor. Mangeshkar also sang the Hindi version of the semi-classical song based on the raga Bhairav. The song is considered a masterpiece.

'Ei Duniyay Bhai Shobi Hoy' — Akdin Ratre (1956)

Sung by Manna Dey, the song features the drunk but wealthy Chhabi Biswas and the sober but dirt-poor and thirsty Raj Kapoor. The satirical song carries the influence of Salil Chowdhury’s experiment with Western musical genres. Manna Dey does justice to the light mood of the song with his modulations. One of the most popular compositions from Akdin Ratre, 'Ei Duniyay Bhai Shobi Hoy' sarcastically comments on the importance of money and how the world revolves around it. The Hindi version, 'Zindagi Khwaab Hai', was sung by Mukesh and filmed on Motilal.

'Deko Na More Deko Na' — Lal Pathore (1964)

Shyamal Mitra and Sabita Chowdhury put their heart and soul into this rich classical composition by Salil Chowdhury. Amidst numerous other compositions from the film Lal Pathore, the song became immensely popular. Based on the raga Kalavati, the composition is considered one of the more important songs in the careers of both Mitra and Sabita Chowdhury. The film was remade in Hindi by producer FC Mehra as Lal Patthar (1972), but it had music by Shankar-Jaikishan.

'Haay Haay Pran Jay' — Marjina Abdallah (1972)

A classic composition in the cabaret genre, 'Haay Haay Pran Jaye' from Marjina Abdallah (1972) was sung by Lata Mangeshkar. She infused sensuality and mystery in the complex Arabian composition with ease even as Mithu Mukherjee did full justice to the number with her graceful performance on screen. Salil Chowdhury also established new shades of his versatility with this song.

'Baje Go Beena' — Marjina Abdallah (1972)

One of the most notable songs of Manna Dey’s long career, 'Baje Go Bina' from Marjina Abdallah (1972), was not only composed but also written by Salil Chowdhury. The song features Mithu Mukherjee and Debraj Roy indulging in romance and playfulness. Manna Dey’s melodious rendition of this semi-classical composition relates the lovers’ happiness with the resonance of the veena.

'Bujhbe Na Keu Bujhbe Na' — Kabita (1977)

The imprint of lyricist and composer Salil Chowdhury is unmistakable in this haunting sad song from Kabita (1977) picturized on Mala Sinha and Ranjit Mallick. 'Bujhbe Na Keu Bujhbe Na' is a shift from the usual optimism inherent in most of Chowdhury's compositions. Lata Mangeshkar poured her soul into the number to bring out its pathos.

'O Amar Sojoni Go' — Swarna Trishna (1989)

This passionate romantic duet sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar became popular even though the film itself, featuring Mithun Chakraborty and Yogeeta Bali, did not fare well at the box office. Salil Chowdhury created a rare combination of melody and orchestration in this song.