Though he wasn’t as prolific as one would have liked, music director Vasant Desai composed some really memorable songs in both Hindi and Marathi. Two of them, ‘Ae Maalik Tere Bande Hum’ and ‘Hum Ko Man Ki Shakti Dena’, have been sung as prayers in many schools.
Desai had a tragic death on December 22 1975 when the lift he was in crashed suddenly. He was 63. To mark his 46th death anniversary, we choose 10 of his masterpieces. The last two are in Marathi, and feature the great Kumar Gandharva.
1 Nain So Nain – Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)
A landmark duet sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar, this was picturised outdoors on Sandhya and Gopi Krishna. The song was known for its simple melody, with Hasrat Jaipuri writing, “Nain so nain naahi milao, nain so nain naahi milao, dekhat surat aavat laaj saiyyan, pyaar se pyaar aake sajao, madhur milan gaavat aaj guiyaan”. The film was also known for its title track sung by Ustad Amir Khan.
2 Ae Malik Tere Bande Hum – Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957)
Sung by Lata, this song from the classic V Shantaram film was sung in many schools as a morning prayer. Bharat Vyas wrote the lines, “Ae maalik tere bande hum, aise ho hamare karam, neki par chale aur badee se taley, taake haste hue nikle dam”. The song was picturised on Sandhya with six prisoners. The film also had the rain song “Ho Umad Ghumad Kar Aayee Re Ghata”.
3 Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet – Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959)
Desai composed this masterpiece in raag Bihag, with Lata singing brilliantly, and Ustad Bismillah Khan playing shehnai. The song was filmed on Rajendra Kumar and Ameeta. Bharat Vyas wrote the simple mukhda, “Tere sur aur mere geet, donon milkar banegi preet”, thereafter using long antaras. Lata’s line “Meri mohabbat mein taseer hai” gives gooseflesh.
4 Akhiyan Bhool Gayi – Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959)
The film had other great songs like ‘Dil Ka Khilona Haay Toot Gaya’, ‘Keh Do Koi Na Kare Yahaan Pyaar’, ‘Jeevan Mein Piya’ and ‘Haule Haule Ghoonghat Pat Khole”. But ‘Akhiyan Bhool Gayee’ was unique because of the coordination between Lata and Geeta Dutt, the catchy tune and brilliant choreography. Once again Bharat Vyas wrote the lyrics. Actress Ameeta appeared with a group of dancers.
5 Kalpana Ke Ghan – Amar Jyoti (1965)
This rare classic once again featured the combination of Vasant Desai and Bharat Vyas. Lata was joined by Mahendra Kapoor in this duet. The words were “Kalpana ke ghan baraste, geet geele ho rahe, bhaav rimjhim kar rahe hain, swar rasile ho rahe”. The film starred Mahipal and Vijaylakshmi. As the movie flopped, the song went largely unheard.
6 Rail Gaadi – Aashirwad (1968)
This song reflected a completely different side of Desai’s musical personality. Ashok Kumar danced in a playgarden with children. He sang the song too, with Harindranath Chattopadhyay writing the lyrics. The song’s ‘chuk chuk’ line made it fun for kids. Many also described the song as a predecessor to rap, because of its speedy vocal style.
7 Bole Re Papihara – Guddi (1971)
This song was a huge hit for south singer Vani Jairam. Desai composed the song in raag Miyan Ki Malhar, with Gulzar writing, “Bole re papihara papihara, nit ghan barase, nit man pyaasa, nit man pyaasa, nit man tarase”. It featured sarod by Zarine Daruwala-Sharma. The song was filmed on Jaya Bhaduri and Samit Bhanja.
8 Hum Ko Man Ki Shakti Dena – Guddi (1971)
Because of Gulzar’s motivational lines, this song was used as a prayer in many schools. Desai’s composition was easy to sing along, and singer Vani Jairam was joined by a chorus. The lines were, “Humko man ki shakti dena, man vijay karein, doosro ki jay se pehle khud ko jay karein”. In the scene, Jaya Bhaduri was shown coming late to the school assembly.
9 Runanubandhachya – Dev Deenaghari Dhavaĺa (Marathi)
An iconic Desai composition sung by the legendary Kumar Gandharva and Vani Jairam, it was a huge hit on radio. The lyrics were by Bal Kolhatkar who was said to be inspired by a conversation between Krishna and Rukmini. It was used in the drama Dev Deenaghari Dhavala whose music was released on vinyl.
10 Uthi Uthi Gopala – Dev Deenaghari Dhavala (Marathi)
Once again, Desai combined with Kumar Gandharva in the drama, with Kolhatkar writing the lyrics. Ajit Kadkade also sang a popular recording. The opening lines, in Marathi, were, “Malayagiricha chandanagandhit dhup tula daawila, sweekaarawi puja ata, uthi uthi Gopala, uthi uthi Gopala”.
The above list is ample proof of Desai’s versatility, as he composed love songs, motivational numbers, fun tunes and classical pieces with equal ease. He was also known for his role in teaching students to sing ‘Jana Gana Mana’ in schools across Maharashtra. He was a genius in the truest sense.