Music and Bollywood: The Parsi Way!

Here is an inspiring quote for when a job seems difficult, and you feel too insignificant to change things: “Whoever thinks he is too small to make a difference has never been to bed with a mosquito!” Indeed. Tiny mosquitoes are known to get a great deal of attention from creatures a million times bigger, even dispatching some of them permanently out of this world!

By Manek Premchand

Our smallness may be physical, financial, or cultural. It may even have to do with the smallness of the group we represent. Take a look at the Parsi community, for example. Globally, fewer than a hundred thousand of them are around. Plus their numbers are rapidly diminishing, thanks to their strict religious dogmas. Strange too, because paradoxically they are among the most adjusting people you may ever meet. But in spite of this ridiculously small count, consider that they have sparkled in virtually every field of endeavour, in statistically astonishing numbers. In Hindi films and music too, sure. Here are some of the better names in the last area: The brothers Jamshed and Homi Wadia who wrote, produced and directed films; cinematographers Faredoon Irani, Jal Mistry, and Fali Mistry; actor and filmmaker Sohrab Modi; filmmaker JF Madon; costume designer Mani Rabadi and her actress sister Nargis (Shammi); Ardeshir Irani, who made the first talkie, Alam Ara, and many more, right up to now.

In music, the very first woman composer, Saraswati Devi (real name Khorshed Mehr-Homji), gave us many early hits in Bombay Talkies’ films. Do you remember Main ban ki chidiya banke ban-ban boloon re from Achhut Kanya (1936)? That was her tune. So were Chal chal re naujawaan (Bandhan, 1940), and Na jaane kidhar aaj meri nao chali re (Jhoola, 1941). She made many more hummable tunes.

More recently, there have been artists like Goody Servai, V. Balsara, Bahadur Nanji, Homi Mullan, and the amazing Lord family—father Cawas and sons Kersi and Burjor. Let’s see just a tiny bit of their musical opus, in and out of films.

Goody Servai played his magic Accordion in the following songs:

Ta ra ri aa ra ri (Dastaan, 1950)

Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum (Chori Chori, 1956)

Wo baat jispe ke dhadke jiya (Hum Sab Chor Hain, 1956)

Dheere-dheere chal chaand gagan mein (Love Marriage, 1959)

V. Balsara:

Music composition for the non-film song Nazaaron mein ho tum (Manna Dey, chorus)

Music composition for the non-film song Mera pyaar mujhe lauta do (Talat)

Accordion in Ai gham-e-dil kya karoon (Talat or Asha/Thokar, 1953)

Accordion in Awaara hoon (Mukesh/Awaara, 1951)

Bahadur Nanji:

Church Organ in Tu pyaar ka saagar hai (Seema, 1955)

Harmonium in Chalat musafir moh liya re (Teesri Kasam, 1966)

Homi Mullan:

Duggi in Hey maine qasam li (Tere Mere Sapne, 1971)

Triangle in Gum hain kisike pyaar mein (Rampur Ka Laxman, 1972)

Maadal in Ai dil-e-naadaan (Razia Sultan, 1982)

Cawas Lord:

Cabasa (Rattle) in Gore-gore, o baanke chhore (Samadhi, 1950)

Castanets in Aelo main haari piya (Aar Paar, 1954)

Bongos in Gaata rahe mera dil (Guide, 1965)

Coconut Shells (for ghoda-gaadi sounds) in Bachpan ke din bhula na dena (Deedar, 1951)

Kersi Lord:

Accordion in Roop tera mastaana (Aradhana, 1969)

Glockenspiel in Main zindagi ka saath (Hum Dono, 1961)

Electric Organ in Duniya mein logon ko (Apna Desh, 1972)

Burjor Lord:

Vibraphone in Meri jaan, mujhe jaan na kaho (Anubhav, 1971)

Ghunghrus in Dil cheez kya hai (Umrao Jaan, 1981)

Drums in Kya hua tera waada (Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, 1977)

Smallness has not come in the way of the Parsis. Khorshed Mehr-Homji followed her passion by learning at Bhatkhande, Lucknow, and then making melodies, as we saw above. On the wider canvas Ratan Tata, who retired as Chairman of Tata Sons in December 2012, ran a conglomerate that accounted for 7% of the stock market, and yet he is not on the Forbes list of Indian Billionaires. That’s because Tata Sons is owned largely by various charitable trusts. That’s also why the group has earned so much goodwill over the decades. The stories of Godrej, Shapoorji Pallonji, Ronnie Screwaala, Soli Sorabjee and Dadi Balsara inspire us with so much hope.

Maybe we should look closely at how the tiny mosquito operates to achieve results. Better still, we should look closely at the Parsi way, which doesn’t use stings. Their modus operandi is not taught at Harvard Business School. It’s time the idea gained traction.

Article sent to us via email by good friend of Parsi Khabar, Mickie Sorabjee