Passing the musical buck

Another sub-genre of film songs that I am very fond of is – for want of a better term – the relay race song. These are songs where one singer falters somewhere in the middle for whatever reason, and someone else picks up from where he/she left off and completes it. Here’s my top three in that category:

3. Beeti na bitaye raina: Sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder, from the movie Parichay. Jaya Bhaduri starts singing, falters, and Sanjeev Kumar steps in. Beautiful number – R. D. Burman at his very best.

2. Chinnanchiru vayathil: Sung by Janaki and K. J. Yesudas, in the movie Meendum Kokila. Sreedevi plays a young woman whom Kamal Hassan has come to “see” (a concept familiar to anyone who knows about the arranged marriage system). She is asked to sing a song, picks this one and promptly forgets the lyrics halfway through. Kamal steps in and finishes it. It’s a beautiful song, and beyond just the musical qualities it possesses, Janaki manages to bring out the girl’s shyness and embarassment, and her reaction to her husband-to-be singing the rest of the song, in a manner that very few other singers can even aspire to, let alone achieve. Okay, I admit, that wasn’t a great sentence. Aw, heck, you know what I mean.

And finally, the Numero Uno in this category:

1. Dorakuna: S. P. Balasubramaniam and Vani Jayaram, from the movie Shankarabharanam. This album was one of the big reasons why I wanted to learn Carnatic classical music when I was a kid, and this song remains my all-time favourite. J. V. Somayajulu plays a great singer who has since faded into obscurity – this is supposed to be his comeback concert. Predictably, he collapses due to ill health right in the middle, and his disciple takes over his mantle, both symbolically and literally. The moment when Vani Jayaram continues where SPB left off after a coughing fit still gives me goosebumps.

ps: Giri reminded me that a similar but quieter moment occurs earlier in the movie, when the disciple is singing Manasa Sanchara Re, falters midway, and his master continues.


6 thoughts on “Passing the musical buck

  1. Giri says:

    In “Sankarabharanam”, there is another song of the same category “maanasasanchararE”. Tulasi (who plays the sishya) falters at the first charanam and Sankarasastry, though asleep, picks up from there..

    (and then later he is disturbed by a Pop music group and teaches them a good lesson in another noteworthy scene of the movie).

  2. M says:


    Another one is the song Ahista Ahista from Swades – SRK starts it, forgets a verse, which Gayatri Joshi provides, and then SRk is back to finish.


  3. Lamb(a)da! says:

    (I love how the 11th letter of the Greek alphabet — not to mention the most popular scientific symbol in the universe! — transforms into that forbidden dance from Brazil, with the mere addition of the first letter of the English alphabet. 🙂 )

    I can’t believe I actually missed reading a post with the word “Buck” in it. 😀 Maybe I just wasn’t as obsessed with it (as you are with things in hermetically sealed cans, in the name of art or the artist’s you-know-what — cue Ars Gratis Arse and Cash) back then as I am now…

  4. S says:

    Ramsu, Chinnanchiru vayadil is one of my favorite “relay” songs too. Watched Meendum Kokila earlier in the week. Isn’t it from a totally different time…when Kamal’s a totally different person? (He plays a contented young man with one (in)convenient quirk: he cannot help lusting after women)! I loved it. In that early scene when he asks his relative accompanying him to the girlseeing-gig (aka pon paarkum padalam), which of the two women walking towards him was The Girl, the one in the red sari or the one in the blue sari?, because “thappa aasa pattuda poren”, it becomes apparent that he’s this genuinely nice guy who, although addled with lustful tendencies, seeks to do the right thing (as opposed to take the all too common “all’s fair in lust” approach). And the last scene… when he asks his wife “en mela avvalo nambikaiya” and she says “Romba nambikka… avangamela”, pointing to Deepa in the distance… priceless!

    p.s. Yeah, comment #4 here is mine… Ah, that was another time! 🙂

  5. S says:

    “Okay, I admit, that wasn’t a great sentence.” Think you’re admitting to the wrong thing. That was actually the one great sentence in your piece.

    About Dorakuna, I’m not into Carnatic music but can guzzle it if siphoned thru cinema. Watching Shankarabharanam as a kid didn’t inspire me to want to learn (music) so much as to… yearn.

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