Man dole mera tan dole from the 1954 film Nagin remains one of the most popular songs in Hindi cinema. What adds to the charm of the song is the been music played in the song. This caught the imagination of people so much that there were so many myths that got created around this—the most popular being that snakes “were attracted” by it and entered the film theatres when the song was playing!
Myths apart, the popularity of the song is proven by the fact that it ranked at No 2 in annual Binaca Geetmala Hit Parade in 1954, the ultimate barometer of popularity of Hindi film songs at that time. In fact, when HMV (now Saregama) released a special album on the occasion of 25 years of the program, Ameen Sayani, who presented the program actually included this song as the top ranked song of 1954, albeit by mistake. But that shows how much Man dole was etched in memory that even someone like Sayani could get confused!
Much of the long-term popularity of the song was, of course, because of the beautiful sound of been. There has been a lot of discussion on who created that piece. The cover of the record released by HMV gives credit to Ravi and Kalyanji, who were part of Hemant Kumar’s team but later went on to became successful music composers themselves. Nagin, in fact, was one of the last films Ravi did as an assistant to Hemantda, for he started scoring music independently soon afterwards, tasting success early. A few tunes of his first film Vachan (O babu babu, jaanewale babu and Chanda mama door ke) went on to become all-ime hits. Kalyanji, of course, paired with his brother Anandji to emerge as a popular duo, and they were active right upto the 80s
There has been a lot of debate on who between Ravi and Kalyanji should get more credit for the piece? Kalyanji fans believe that he created the been sound on Clavioline, an electronic keyboard instrument, a predecessor to today’s synthesizers, which he introduced to the Indian audience in that film, though now, it is known that the sound was actually created on Harmonium by Ravi, while Kalyanji indeed supported on the Clavoline.
Nevertheless, I could not resist asking the question to the maestro himself when I met him in November 2011, just a few months before his death. (I actually did a post, Ravi: The Master of Situational Songs, based on some interesting perspective that I got from that interview). He, of course, vehemently denied any major contribution from Kalyanji and reiterated that the music was played on Harmonium by him, while acknowledging that Kalyanji did accompany on Clavoline.
But then he added something that caught my attention. “Actually, it was created by Lucila. But it sounded a little Western, so I changed it like this,” he said demonstrating it immediately on the Harmonium which accompanied him right through the entire interview, “to make it sound more Indian.”
Lucila? I had never heard that name. While I do not consider myself to be an authority on Hindi film music, I do follow it and can say with some pride that my knowledge is better than average. But this name was completely new to me. I did not even dare to ask him who she was, because of the way he was moving from one topic to another with a lot of zeal and I thought this would have been an interruption. I, however, ensured that I got the name right: Lucila. I was pretty sure that I would find it out on Google.
But that was a miscalculation—probably a little over-confidence—on my part. I started googling on my phone the moment I came out and followed it up with vigorous search on Google using all my techniques. Without success. I must have tried at least 20-30 times over a period of 3-4 months to find the elusive Lucila.
I could guess, though, that she could have been one of the Goan musicians. I knew that a lot of Goan musicians worked with composers but beyond Chic Chocolate and Anthony Gonsalves, I did not know anyone’s name.
And finally, I found this name, Lucila Pacheco, a Goa born Pianist, who played with different bands and worked for many composers in Hindi film industry at that time, in the book, Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age, a very informative and engaging book about the story of Bombay’s Jazz culture, written by Naresh Fernandes. In fact, I found quite a bit of info spread across the book, with 3-4 nice pictures, one in which she was seen playing Saxophone, though she was primarily a Pianist.
But the question was: was this the same Lucila that Ravi was referring to?
While the book carried quite some information about her, it was still not enough to ascertain whether she was the same person. What helped me finally is this post on her—A Woman in a Man’s World—in author Fernandes’ blog, also called Taj Mahal Foxtrot. From there, I gathered that she came to Bombay in 1948 and by 1955 she was quite popular. Nagin was released in 1954. And the music must have been composed by 1953-54. So, there was every possibility of her working with Hemant Kumar. Just to clarify, I had a quick conversation with Fernandes on Twitter, reconfirming that she was active during that time. That removed any doubt that I had.
And there you are. It was Lucila Pacheco, the Pianist, who according to the assistant music director of the movie, Nagin, first created the been music piece—one of the all time hits in Hindi film music history.
The very fact that the assistant music director of the movie—and someone actually credited with creation of the piece—mentioned her name, without being prompted, after close to seven decades means her contribution was important enough.
Who was she? Here I reproduce from the above-mentioned post.
Lucilla Pacheco moved to Bombay in 1948, the year after she married George Pacheco, who hailed from the village of Piedade, on the other side of Divar island. He’d been sent to Colombo to apprentice at her father’s shop. In their early years, the couple lived in Sargent House in Colaba. She had passed the classical examinations conducted by both the Trinity College of London and the Royal College of Music and started her professional life in Bombay giving piano lessons. Soon, she was accompanying films at the Metro theatre and, between shows, worked as a music demonstrator at the Furtado’s music store opposite. In an era when many people bought sheet music to play at home, Pacheco would perform the scores they contemplated purchasing, to show them how good the tunes could sound.
It wasn’t long before she was invited to join Mickey Correa’s band, a legendary dance band that proved to be the nursery of the city’s best swing musicians over the next two decades. She then worked under the baton of such top-flight leaders as Ken Mac and Chic Chocolate.
Fernandes’ book may have been hailed by critics as the first well-researched book on Jazz scenario in Bombay of 40s and 50s. But in a way, this label also restricts its potential audience. For example, I myself am not a keen follower of Jazz. But I found the book extremely engaging. The book is equally informative for those seriously interested in Hindi film music as a genre, as it covers one of the most important and less discussed conponents of Hindi film music, as it has evolved. [I am contemplating adding it to the list of Hindi film music books in my post on the topic: Not Well Recorded, but Now Well Recognized]
The role played by Goan musicians is more than just bringing in yet another regional flavor to the melting pot called Hindustani Cine Sangeet. While the Hindi film music has been richer by the regional contributions brought in by many composers (an interesting topic by itself), the contribution of Goan musicians is much more than that. They gave the Indian film music harmony, which by and large, is not there in Indian music. As Fernandes’ book reveals there were many like Chic Chocolate and Frank Fernand, designated as assistant music directors, who helped music directors “arrange” musicians’ roles.
Ravi’s referrence to Lucila Pacheco just shows that many of them may have actually composed/heavily influenced creation of tunes, for which they never got the credit.
Returning to Man Dole Mera Tan Dole, the song, for the record, also included, among others, Laxmikant (of Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo) as part of the ensemble.
How many songs can claim the involvement of so many star composers? Hemant Kumar as music director, Ravi as assistant music director playing Harmonium, Kalyanji as the Clavoline player, Laxmikant as the Tabla player (though I am not too sure about his role) and Lucila Pacheco as the Pianist, who actually created the tune first. But while all others are household names, Hindi film music lovers would not even recognize Pacheco’s name today. That is a pity.