I started this blog with a post, titled Not So Well Recorded: The Journey of the Hindi Film Song, in February 2011. I pointed out to the lack of adequate books on Hindi film music in English and listed all such books that I knew of. The post, till date, has consistently remained one of the top three posts on this blog. A year later, in March 2012, when a book on Hind film music, won the National award for the best book on cinema, I took the opportunity to update the list, by creating another post, Not So Well Recorded: But Now, Well Recognized.
But 2013 saw a welcome deviation from the past. It saw publication of a record five books on the subject. That is when I realized that rather than creating a new post every time or updating an older post, it is probably a better idea to create a page on the subject, which can be accessed directly through a tab on the home page and which I could update every time a new book is published.
For the time being, I am keeping the same format as those posts. The sequence is chronologically in terms of the book’s first publication date. The format is serial no, Title of the Book, Author, Publishers. Wherever I could find, I have given a link to an Indian shopping site where you could buy the book.
1. K L Saigal: Piligrim of the Swara, Raghava R Menon, Hind Pocket Book. One of the earliest books on a singer to be published in English, way back in 1978, the virtuosity of author Raghava Menon is evident, as it captures the evolution of Saigal as a singer. But strictly speaking, this is more around Saigal it is about film music. I could not find it in any shopping site.
2. In Search Of Lata Mangeshkar, Harish Bhimani, South Asia Books. I haven’t read the book. I could not find it in any shopping site.
3. Lata Mangeshkar: A Biography, Raju Bharatan, UBS Publishers & Distributor. According to his 2013 book, Naushadnama, when Raju Bharatan presented this book on Lata to Naushad, the latter did not like it. The master composer could not understand, according to Bharatan, why a performer and not the creator (composer) should get that kind of attention. But when he read the book, he congratulated Bharatan for very accurately capturing his role/relationship with Naushad. You may accuse Bharatan of overplaying his own theories, or even a little showing-off some time, but no other writer has the kind of insight the way he has not only to the day to day working of these musical greats but also the relationships among them. Having been not only to innumerable recording sessions but also to the sessions in the composers’ homes, while they created the tunes, he has the rare first-hand reporter’s perspective. A researcher, no matter how good he is, can never match a reporter when it comes to the on-ground realities.
The book, though it goes off as a Lata biography, is a great history of the Hindi film music of 50s to 70s, with the queen of melodies at the centre. All his pet topics—Kishore/Rafi choice of Dada Burman, Lata-Rafi rift and the likes—find place in it. The book also gives a great portrait of Lata as a person, with both her positives and negatives adequately discussed. I would rate it as one of the best books listed here, though it can be a little heavy read for those who want a bedside reading. Unfortunately, I could not find it in any shopping site.
4. Kishore Kumar: The Definitive Biography, Kishore Valicha, Penguin Books. I haven’t read the book. I could not find it in any shopping site.
5. Mohd. Rafi: The Great Immortal Singer, Mohd. Saleem-ul-Haq. Published by the author himself, this book is actually a list of all the Hindi film songs of Rafi Saab, with a small biography. Comes with a CD of some rare songs including Rafi’s English songs, Although we hail from different lands and the She I Love. It was never available in the market. I had gone to the author’s house in Hyderabad to get it, some six years back. Buy: Author’s Website
6. The One and Lonely Kidar Sharma: An Anecdotal Autobiography, Kidar Sharma, Srishti Publishers. Kidar Sharma was a filmmaker, but he was also a lyricist par excellence. In fact, he was first a writer/poet. The song that he wrote for his wife, Raj Dulari, was liked by K L Saigal so much that he asked his permission to sing it. Kidar actually had to take permission from his wife to allow Saigal Saab to sing it, albeit with a small change. And what a beautiful song it became, So jaa rajkumari so jaa. The book is more about his struggle as a film maker but the lyricist in him also gets its due share. A very good read. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
7. Yesterday’s Melodies, Today’s Memories, Manek Premchand, Jharna Books. It is more of a compilation, without neither serious analysis nor any great new anecdotal info. It is nevertheless a good short encyclopedia of music personalities. I had procured it from the author directly when it was published around 2003. You can order from the publishers through this FB Group
8. Kishore Kumar: The Method in Madness, Derek Bose, Rupa & Co. This is not a book on music. This is a book on Kishore Kumar, the man. For all kind of readers from school children to connoisseurs of film music, anyone who wants to understand Kishore’s personality (which shaped his attitude to singing), this is the book. The biggest point that the author proves is that Kishore was always a performer. Unlike most other singers of the golden era, he always gave far more importance to how the song would be performed than the tune, music, lyrics and even the situation. That made him not just sing but perform even in recording studios. I could not find the hard copy, but could find an e-book in Google Play.
9. Light of the Universe: Essays on Hindustani Film Music, Ashraf Aziz, Three Essays Collective. Though published in 2004, I came to know about the book only now. It is one of the best collection of original analyses written on the subject by someone, who though of Indian origin, had never been to India, at least till the time he wrote these essays. The first essay of the book, The Long Life of Hindustani Film Music is arguably one of the best essays written on Hindi film music. It argues why Hindi film sangeet should be treated as a genre by itself. A 2012 version is available in Amazon India.
10. Notes Of Naushad, Shashikant Kinikar, English Edition Publishers and Distributors. Kinkar has not just written a book on Naushad, Dastaan-e-Naushad, in Marathi, he has also translated a Hindi biography of Naushad. This book is a great source of information on the ace composer but is more of a fan’s take. Buy: Flipkart
11. K L Saigal: Immortal Singer & Superstar, Pran Nevile, Nevile Books. This is a coffee table book launched during the centenary celebration of K L Saigal in 2004. The book, K L Saigal: Immortal Singer and Superstar, listed in this list is actually a paperback edition of this book, with some added chapters and info. I could not find it in any bookstore.
12. Hindi Film Song: Music Beyond Boundaries, Ashok Da Ranade, Promila & Company. A serious analysis of Hindi film music and its doyens, it is a great book for those who want to seriously learn the subject. Not really for light reading. Ranade is a well-known writer on music and has written extensively on Indian classical music, instruments and musical traditions. Buy: Landmark, Amazon India
14. Memories Come Alive: An autobiography of Manna Dey, Sarbani Putatunda (translator), Penguin Books India. A great book for Manna Dey fans and those who want to learn how the music happened in 40s. The chapters on K C Dey, with whom the young Manna worked as an assistant are a rare treat. No other published source can give that information. This, I think, is the most underrated book in this list. Buy: Flipkart, Amazon India
15. Musical Moments from Hindi Films, Manek Premchand, Jharna Books. I haven’t read the book. I could not find it in any shopping site. This is different from all other books in the list in the sense that it is a list of 435 selected songs from Hindi film music, from 1931 (when the first talkie was released) to 2006, with both essential info and trivia about those songs listed alongside. If you want to create a wishlist for your listening, this is the book to start with. However, one caution. As the name suggests, the book is about “musical moments” in films and not songs. So, one assumes that the author has given some weightage to the importance of the song in the movie sequence and story line. But for a pure listener, these may not be important at all. And of course, when you select 435 songs from some 70,000 odd songs, it is easy to find omissions/question inclusions. I had my small disagreements but surely the best work of its kind, in this scale. You can order from the publishers through this FB Group
16. Talking Songs: Javed Akhtar in Conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir, Nasreen Munni Kabir, Oxford Uinversity Press India. Of course, Javed Akhtar is Javed Akhtar. And when he starts to speak, the most disinterested person gets interested. But the conversations could have been handled much better. Worth a flip-through. Buy: Amazon India
17. Behind the Curtain: Making Music in Mumbai’s Film Studios, Gregory D. Booth, Oxford University Press One of the most well-researched books on the musicians and instrumentalists behind the songs, this is one of the few good ethnomusicological studies of Hindi film music. Though the research is academic, though “10 years too late”, as the author admits, the text is extremely readable. It was the only serious book on musicians, till Naresh Fernandes’ Taj Mahal Foxtrot was published. Buy: Flipkart, Amazon India
18. Bollywood Melodies: A History of the Hindi Film Song, Ganesh Anantharaman, Penguin Books India. Again devoid of any original research, but very smoothly written, a good read for the flight, if you want to learn about Hindi film music’s journey without getting heavily into lots of information. Published in 2008, it is widely available, thanks to its publishers, Penguin. Winner of 2009 National Award for Best Book on Cinema. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark, Amazon India
19. Global Bollywood: Travels of Hindi Song and Dance, Sangita Gopal & Sujata Moorti (Editors), Orient Blackswan. The book, originally published by University of Minnesota Press, in 2008, is a collection of independent articles and is fairly academic. A good one for the collection but not exactly very readable. Buy (Orient Blackswan edition): Flipkart, Amazon India
20. A R Rahman: The Musical Storm, Kamini Mathai, Penguin Books India. I haven’t read the book. Buy: Amazon India
22. The History of Indian Film Music: A Showcaseof the Very Best in Hindi Cinema, Rajiv Vijaykar, Times Group Books. Yet another book on Hindi film music in a semi coffee table format, this is, again, widely available. Buy: Flipkart
23. A Journey Down Melody Lane, Raju Bharatan, Hay House. This is the latest (2010) from Raju Bharatan and is far lighter to read than his earlier book. If his biography of Lata was meant for more serious readers, this is for everyone. If you want to pick up a first book on Hindi film music that is smooth reading and still want to be delighted with great pieces of information, then this is it. Just beware of one thing: some of the anecdotes are a little overplayed. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark
24. Mallika-e-Tarannum Noorjehan: The Melody Queen, Aijaj Gul, Vitasta Publishing. Though the name somehow creates an expectation that the book is on her melodies, it is actually too much into her personal life, esp early life and how she became what she became. I have included it here because it gives glimpses into the music. However, by the subcontinent standard, it is too bold a biography. A fairly good read if you are interested in Noor Jehan and what it meant those days to become a singer. Buy: Flipkart. Landmark
26. K L Saigal: Immortal Singer and Superstar, Nevile Pran, Nevile Books. This is a book that I bought after I wrote my first post. It is a very smooth read with all the information and some lesser known aspects. For example, two whole chapters are dedicated to Saigal as a poet and Saigal and the Kotha culture. For fans of music of that era, a must buy for esp as Raghava Menon’s book is now not available. Buy: Landmark, Amazon India
27. R.D. Burman – The Man, The Music, Anirudha Bhattacharjee & Balaji Vittal, Harper Collins India. The winner of the National Award for Best Book on Cinema in 2012, this book is a little more balanced in terms of serious analysis and anecdotes, and like many others in this list, is fans’ perspective. Nevertheless a good book if you want to learn about RD and the then music scene. Buy: Flipkart, Landmark, Amazon India
28. Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age, Naresh Fernandes, Roli Books. This is not exactly a book on Hindi film music. But the subject that it deals with, Bombay’s Jazz scene in particular and the Goan musicians and their lives in general, is so interwoven with the story of Hindi film music of the 50s and 60s that they, at times, become quite inseparable. The book, one of the best Indian examples of creative non-fiction, is clearly the best book in this list, if you go by the quality of narrative. The only other book on music that is comparable to this in terms of narrative is Namita Devidayal’s The Music Room. A lot of information that is there in Gregory Booth’s book is found in this one too, with a more human touch. Buy: Flipkart, Amazon India
29. Incomprable Sachin Dev Burman, H Q Choudhury, Toitomboor (Bangladesh). I came to know about this book from Lata Jagtiani, the author of the book on OP Nayyar, listed in this page. Published in Bangladesh, where the young Sachin Dev grew up, this book is not available readily in India. The author himself sent this book to me in early 2015 and here is a review of the book.
30. Lata: Voice of Golden Era, Dr Mandar Bichu, Popular Prakashan. I have not read the book. Buy: Flipkart
31. Mohammed Rafi My Abba – A Memoir, Yasmin Khalid Rafi, Tranquebar Press (An imprint of Westland) Written by Rafi Saab’s daughter-in-law, and translated from Hindi by Rupa Srikumar and A K Srikumar, this gives the private side of this great singer, essentially a very family person. Though there are chapters dedicated to his music, with an analytical tone, that is at best amateurish. Also, there are full chapters about the authors childhood and her life in London, with large number of pages with no reference to Rafi Saab. However, this is probably the only book in this list, which tells you so much and so well about the private side of a person, that too someone who was such a family person. Buy: Amazon India
32. O P Nayyar: King of Melody, Lata Jagtiani, Jharna Books. The book carries a sketch of the melodious composer’s personal life as well as articles by various people on O P Nayyar. It has a wealth of information and some good discussion, but at the end, is still a fan’s perspective. Use this FB page to procure the book from the author
33. Romancing the Song: Hindi Cinema’s Lyrical Journey, Manek Premchand, Jharna Books. The voluminous book on Hindi film lyrics is one of a kind. Though the analysis is not extraordinarily incisive, it is a great source of information, arranged neatly and quite interestingly. In terms of both content and language, this is far better than the author’s first book, Yesterday’s Melodies, Today’s Memories. What I like about the book is that it captures how cinema’s themes moved with the times, captured from the lyrics of their songs. Of course, there is the usual examples of all lyrical genres and sub-genres and how they changed over time. You can order from the publishers through this FB Group
34. SD Burman: The World of His Music, Khagesh Dev Burman, Rupa & Co. Hindi cinema music, now considered a genre by itself, has seen amalgamation and fusion of music from various parts of India: Punjab to Bihar, Maharashtra to Bengal. But very little has been written about how the composers acquired their musical learning and influences. This book does a great job of that as far as S D Burman is considered.
Originally written in Bengali, the book provides an extraordinary insight into the early life of Dada Burman and how he picked up his life’s music from the folk music of East Bengal. However, the name is a little misleading. The book, while providing great information on the making of S D Burman, offers not too much of original knowledge on his music making in Bombay, though a number of chapters and pages are dedicated to this phase of his life. The only thing that becomes jarring at times is the author’s excessive tendency to relate most of his music to Bengali songs/roots. But that might be because it was originally written for the audience in Bengal. Nevertheless, a great addition to the collection of books on the subject.
35. Naushadnama, Raju Bharatan, Hay House. There is no one like Raju Bharatan when it comes to writing on Hindi film music. Yes, despite his overemphasis on personal relationships between music personalities, overplaying of his own hypotheses, and as some critics point out, highlighting his own importance, what makes his writing stand out, is one simple thing: his real mastery over the subject. His insights are not based on research and literature review; they are derived from personal experience. This book is not exactly a biography of Naushad; there is just a 4 page write-up on his early life and one chapter about his family. In fact, it is a collection of some superb essays on Naushad’s music, deep insights into his professional self, and his relationships with his singers and lyricist, Shakeel. Yes, the book has fair share of his own dialogues with Naushad and other composers, but they are in a context and are extremely readable. In terms of content, it is far weightier than his last book, Down The Melody Lane; in terms of language, it is far smoother than his biography of Lata Mangeshkar. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
36. Reflections, A R Rehman andT Selva Kumar, Audio Media. It is a coffee table book and is supposed to be Rahman’s tribute to many known and unknown singers who have influenced him. I have not read the book yet. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
37. Story of A Bollywood Song,Vijay Ranchan, Abhinav Publications. A hard cover, a price tag of Rs 550 and references at the end of each chapter give it the look of an academic book. But far from it, the Story of A Bollywood Song, should actually have been marketed as a good trivia book on Hindustani film music and targeted at everyone. It contains so much of great unknown information, especially about the early age (30s and 40s) of Hindustani film music, some really good recordings in an accompanying CD and above all, is extremely readable, thanks to its format: a series of small 2-3 page articles, all independent from each other.
But you will get disappointed if you are looking at any perspective or understanding. There is hardly any storytelling, any analysis, or opinion. The interweaving text is just to connect discreet pieces of information. In short, if you do not raise your expectation, it is a good book to flip through while traveling or as a bedside reading.
38. Sahir Ludhianvi: The People’s Poet, Akshay Manwani, Harper Collins India. The first full biography of a lyricist/poet, it is a very good book, to say the least. Not only is it well researched, it is well analyzed and well-written as well. Sahir’s early life, his evolution as a poet, all his love stories/alleged love stories, his beliefs and isms, his relationships with composers and directors/producers, and of course, the themes and content of his lyrics and poetry, all get their adequate share of treatment in this extremely well-balanced book. My nomination for this year’s Best book on Cinema. Buy: Flipkart, Amazon India
39. The Magic of the Music of Hind Films, Vijay Prakash Singha, Purushottam Bookstore (Distributors). If you are a researcher or are looking for every bit of new information that you can get from a book, go ahead and read this book; and any new book, for that matter, as every book will surely add something to your knowledge. If you are not in that mode, the book offers little. One is not sure who the target reader is; what is it that the author wants to tell through the book, and what an average reader will gain from the book. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
40. Sun Mere Bandhu Re: The Musical World of S D Burman, Sathya Saran, Harper Collins India. Three books in English—never mind the other two are translations—on him makes S D Burman the only music composer of Hindi cinema to achieve this distinction. Between the two that I have read—this one and that by Khagesh Dev Burman (No 32 in this list), the former is clearly better. The primary source of this book’s content is research, unlike the other where personal familiarity gives the author a lot of information. Research is an excellent tool to critically examine someone’s work or even his professional life. But trying to get into the persona of someone requires extensive research, virtually living with the subject. Few in India, in any field, have done that. In this list, there is just one good book that stands out on this account: Akshay Manwani’s book on Sahir. Partly because of his great 360 degree research and partly because far less is known about Sahir as compared to Dada Burman to the English reading audience. Do not get me wrong: the research on Dada Burman is extensive, if you are looking for trivia. But that is not enough to understand a person. To compensate for that, the author turns to flowery language, which adds to the negative. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
41. Bollywood Sounds: The Cosmopolitan Mediations of Hindi Film Song, Jayson Beaster-Jones, Oxford University Press USA. The only book other than Gregory Booth’s Behind the Curtain, that goes into researching the enthnomusicological aspects of Bollywood music as a genre. Unlike Booth’s book, it is not a smooth read but valuable as a research book. Buy: Amazon India
42. On the Wings of Music: A Book of Journeys, Shantanu Moitra & Aruna Chakravarti, HarperCollins India. It is more of a memoir of Shantanu Moitra in general, not necessarily all related to music. So, I do not know whether this book should be there in the list at all. But since some of it provides a great understanding of how the trending composer thinks, I decided to include it here. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
43. Talat Mehmood: The Velvet Voice, Manek Premchand, Manipal University Press. Manek Premchand is the master of trivia and trends and is a fairly good writer. So, you will not be disappointed if you are looking for new info and a new perspective. But a good non-fiction is more than that. It must tell a story and engage with the reader. That is missing in the book. For me, after the brilliant Romancing the Song, this came as a slight disappointment. But if you are seriously into Hindi film music, it is a buy. Buy: Amazon India, Flipkart
44. Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen, Sujata Dev, Om Books International.
45. Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, Anirudha Bhattacharjee & Balaji Vittal, Harper Collins India
I do not have much info regarding the next five books. Not much is known about these books. They are not available or even listed in any book selling site. They are available in http://www.bookganga.com
46. Vasant Desai: Composer Par Excellence, Vishwanath Chatterjee & Viswas Nerurkar (Edited), Swaryog & Gayatri Publications.
47. Madan Mohan: Ultimate Melodies, Vishwanath Chatterjee & Viswas Nerurkar (Edited), Gayatri Publications
48. Khayam: The Man, His Music, Vishwanath Chatterjee & Viswas Nerurkar (Edited), Gayatri Publications
49. Sameer: A Way with Words, Derek Bose, Gayatri Publications
50. Kishore Kumar: The Many Faces of A Genius, Viswas Nerurkar (Edited), Gayatri Publications