I got to know VAK Ranga Rao, the eminent collector of 78 rpm gramophone records and film historian sometime in the late 1990s, when the internet was still in its infancy and YouTube was practically unheard of (maybe it was not there). VAK, who remains a very dear friend, was my personal Google on movies and I had to just call him on the phone or ask him a question when we met to have him come out with some great nuggets of information. One such occasion had to do with a series of AM Raja-Jikki songs, all of which were faithful copies of Mukesh-Lata Mangeshkar numbers from the Raj Kapoor-Nargis starrer, Aah (1953). Pat came the answer, faster than the click of a mouse – these were all from the Tamil Avan, which was nothing but the dubbed version of Aah. Now that practically the entire set of songs is up on YouTube, I have had several moments of happiness listening to both versions. I know now that Aah was also simultaneously dubbed in Telugu as Prema Lekhalu. Wikipedia also informs me that the screenplay for Avan was by SD Sundaram.

It is a pretty ghastly film by the way, one of the many horrors that Raj Kapoor acted in, produced and directed. In fact looking back I cannot think of a single black and white good film from RK Films except for Shri 420 where you really have something. What a movie! And Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh – what a song. But let us keep that for a future post.

Coming back to Aah/Avan, the movie came into my thoughts last week when I began reading Bioscope, a book compiling various Tamil articles written on cinema by Asokamitran. There he states that in the early 1950s it was quite the rage among Hindi film producers to have their offerings dubbed in South Indian languages. The task of the lyricist is of course quite tricky for he has to use the existing tunes and write meaningful lines for them (these days they would get by writing absolute drivel). According to Asokamitran, the lyricist Kambadasan was the absolute pro at this task and he ‘practically shifted to Bombay’ for sometime to handle contracts from there. In Aah for instance, he has penned the equivalents for what Hasrat Jaipuri and Shailendra wrote. The music is by Shankar-Jaikishen. Alas, for Kambadasan, none of these dubbed films did well and the experiment ended quite soon.

But the songs are really enjoyable. And here is a partial list

Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat. Kalyana Urvalam Varum

Jaane Na Nazar. Kann Kaanaadadum

Aja Re Ab Mera Dil Pukara Anbe Vaa – can’t find this.

Yeh Shaam Ki Tanhayiyaan Ekaanthamaam Immaalayil

Choti Si Yeh Zindagani. Minnal Pol Aanade

Sunte The Naam Hum. Un Perai Kettaal

Jhanan Jhanan Jhalaku Jhalaku

Jo Main Jaanti Ahaa Naan Inru

Raja and Jikki have sung the songs very well. This was to result in Raj Kapoor and Nargis coming to attend their wedding, which took place in 1954 at Satyagraha, now Hema Malini Kalyana Mandapam, on Lloyd Road.

This article is part of a series where I look at old film songs, chiefly in Hindi and Tamil. The other parts can be read here