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.