Article Hindi

40 years of Sargam: When Laxmikant-Pyarelal celebrated the romance between the dafli and the ghungroo


On the 40th anniversary of Sargam's release (8 January 1979), we analyze how the compositions, picturization, singing and dance in the film made director K Vishwanath's ordinary story special.

Suparna Thombare

In 1979, Jaya Prada made her Hindi film debut with K Vishwanath's Sargam, a remake of their Telugu film Siri Siri Muvva (1976). The music was an instant hit and so was the film. Jaya Prada danced her way into the hearts of Hindi cinema audiences. 

Jaya Prada played a mute young woman Hema, often troubled by the stereotypical stepmother, who finds solace in dance. Her musical union with dafli (tambourine) player Raju (Rishi Kapoor) takes her life in a new direction.

With Sargam as the film's title and dance as the subject, the music had to be the film's strongest element. Music director duo Laxmikant-Pyarelal and lyricist Anand Bakshi came up with one of their most melodious and complete albums which brought the composer jodi their sixth Filmfare award for Best Music.

All seven songs were sung by Mohammed Rafi, with three of them being duets with Lata Mangeshkar. Every song from the film was popular in varying degrees, a rarity. 

Interestingly, Sargam belonged to Laxmikant, who composed and worked on all the songs, with Pyarelal assisting him only when required. "I must tell you that Sargam was completely a Laxmikant affair. Except for a few arrangements, I did nothing," the younger man confessed in an interview in 2001.

L-P, as the musical duo were popularly called, were known for their likeable, melodious tunes. Sargam, while not one of their most critically acclaimed albums, was a resounding success, marking a good end to the 1970s which had seen them come up with soundtracks like Shor (1972), Bobby (1973), Amar Akbar Anthony (1977) and Satyam Shivam Sundaram (1978), among many others. 

While L-P delivered with the score, director Vishwanath made sure the songs were shot beautifully in scenic locations. While he shot the film's most popuar song, 'Dafliwale, Dafli Baja' in Kashmir, 'Koyal Boli' was shot on the banks of the Godavari in Rajahmundry and 'Parbat Ke Uss Par' in Ooty.

Sargam's story followed the regular trope of the times — girl meets boy, a stereotypical evil stepmother, a hapless father, and a token villain in the form of Shakti Kapoor. Vishwanath realized that the mute leading lady, her dancing skills and the songs would distinguish his film from the others, and that is just what happened. 

On the film's fortieth anniversary, we look at what made each of the songs special.

1. 'Ramji Ki Nikli Sawari'

Rishi Kapoor makes his grand entry in the film, playing the dafli and dancing to 'Ramji Ki Nikli Sawari' on Ram Navami. The easy tune and relaxed tempo made the dance-worthy song a popular one for religious processions. 

Anand Bakshi's lyrics, like 'ek taraf Laxman, ek taraf Sita, beech me jagat ke palanhaari' are simple and catchy, one reason why the song is still a popular choice when mandals celebrate Ram Navami.

The highlight of the song, though, is the high-tempo dafli portion at the end. Multiple daflis were used to create the sound. While tuning the daflis used in this song (and the others) wasn't a big problem, there was a trick that the duo used. "We needed to heat them sometimes to restore tone whenever studio air-conditioning brought it down," Pyarelal explained. 

2. 'Parbat Ke Uss Paar'

'Parbat Ke Uss Paar' is the first song in the film where we see Jaya Prada displaying her splendid dancing skills. Her Bharatnatyam moves against the backdrop of Ooty's beautiful lake and her chemistry with Rishi Kapoor are the big highlights. There is a certain feeling in the composition, the dafli and the lyrics lending themselves perfectly to the passion Jaya Prada's character has for dance.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal's biggest challenge must have been incorporating the dafli organically into the songs. This song is proof of how effectively the simple percussion instrument can be used.

3. 'Dafliwale, Dafli Baja'

Shot in the scenic valley of Kashmir, 'Dafliwale', sung beautifully by the greats Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar, was the film's biggest hit. Such was the popularity of the song that it debuted at the number 1 spot on Binaca Geetmala's annual list in 1980 and stayed at number 1 for the next 25 weeks.

Song recordist Robin Chatterjee quite skilfully incorporated the sound of the ghungroo, complementing the dafli, signifying and celebrating the love between the two characters. Pyarelal's younger brother, Gorakh, was roped in to play the guitar portions.

Jaya Prada's classic beauty and dancing skills were obviously the biggest highlight, apart from dafliwala Kapoor, who would go on to essay the role of a guitar player in Karz (1980).

4. 'Koyal Boli Duniya Doli'

'Koyal Boli', the film's love song, is perhaps the best composition of the album, with softer notes and relatively less percussion.

K Vishwanath's decision to shoot most of his songs outdoor, amidst nature, added a whole new freshness to the videos. This song was shot on the banks of the Godavari in Rajahmundry, making for a great romantic backdrop.

The video showcases the beautiful communication and emotional exchange between Rishi Kapoor and a mute Jaya Prada, and a lovely chemistry between Rafi and Mangeshkar too.

5. 'Kahaan Tera Insaaf Hai'

Kapoor's character addressed god asking for justice and Mohd Rafi poured anger and angst into his rendition. While the song is high on energy, this is perhaps a slightly more uni-dimensional composition. The extensive use of the dafli and Kapoor's enactment of a dafli player are its mainstay. 

The melodrama unfolding on screen, with Jaya Prada being forced to marry Shakti Kapoor, creeps into the song as well. The highlight once again is the fast-paced relentless dafli portion in the end, causing Kapoor's palm to bleed, though only on screen.

6. 'Hum Toh Chale Pardes'

When you think of a list of Anand Bakshi's iconic lyrics or of Rafi's best sad songs, this one has to feature in both. 'Yeh galiyan, path panghat, yeh mandir, barson purana, kal tak yeh sab apna tha, ab lagta hai begana, badla jag ne bhes, hum pardesi hogaye,' the lyricist wrote. 

The song appears in the film when Jaya Prada, after the death of her father, is forced to leave home with Rishi Kapoor. So etched in music lovers' memory is 'Hum Toh Chale Pardes' that decades later it is still the go-to song when talking about someone leaving home, town or country behind.

7. 'Mujhe Mat Roko Mujhe Gaane Do'

Considering that Sargam was a film centred on dance, what distinguishes 'Mujhe Mat Roko Mujhe Gaane Do' is that it was the only song in the film shot on a stage.

Rishi Kapoor, with his dafli and singing, and Jaya Prada with her dance moves, occupy the entire stage as a couple. With no backup dancers as fillers or even distraction, all attention is on the lead pair as they embrace the pathos and passion in the composition. 

Choreographer PL Raj, who worked on umpteen dance numbers in Hindi cinema in the 1970s and 1980s, cleverly merged the Bharatnatyam and Kathak dance forms with the contemporary dance of the times. In fact, he did so quite effectively throughout the film.