17 comments on “Two Changes (Upward) in My Filmi Favorites List

  1. Great post Richard!!!! Been going through your blogs with a lot of interest. Your assessments about Suraiya is so true and valuable. Though haven’t seen many films of Suraiya, I’m an ardent fan of her voice. Her singing stood out.

    Now about Ragini- This is exactly what my mother felt. In some sequences she does match Padmini in her steps. As far as acting is concerned, in many movies she was better than her older siblings. I’m in the process of collecting as many movies of the Travancore sisters. Shall contribute more when I finish watching them.

    Keep going. Looking forward to more such posts from you!!!!!

  2. Many thanks for the nice words, Viju. Good to hear that you also are an ardent fan of Suraiya and, especially, that you are collecting many movies of the Travancore sisters and are going to tell us more about them!

    It is also interesting what you are saying re. Ragini being the much better actress in so many films… I thought at times that she was better in Kalpana (maybe because she had a more subtle role), but I can’t say for certain, because I thought Padmini was also very good.

    I’ve seen Padmini play a lot of very dramatic characters while I’ve seen Ragini play lighter roles, so it is difficult to compare. (I haven’t really seen Lalitha in films much, and I understand she did far fewer, because she just didn’t end up liking the film work as much as her sisters – so I don’t really know if I can even form a solid opinion about her. But she did do some beautiful dancing in some things that I’ve seen.) Anyway, I am very curious to hear where you found that Ragini did the finest acting, because if I haven’t seen those films already, I would like to look for them! (Though in my case, of course, it would be best to find them with English subtitles.)

    I am definitely looking forward to those future messages from you!

  3. I love Suraiya’s voice. I am no good at ranking my favourites: like them all too much, depends on my mood.
    Now I am off to try your Suraiya playlist!

  4. Yay for some Suraiya love! :D I’ve always liked her singing and she was so charming onscreen. Her voice has a certain endearing sweetness and a mellow charm that takes a while to grow on you – it’s not flamboyant like other popular singers of her times.

    her voice doesn’t come close to Lata Mangeshkar’s in terms of ability” – it also does not sound shrill in the high notes like Lata’s! (*running off to hide from the brick-bats*)

  5. Ditto on the Suraiya love! :-) I think she has such a lovely, unaffected voice. Dil-e-naadaan tujhe hua kya hai and Aah ko chaahiye ek umr are in my list of currently favourite 50’s songs.

    Oh, and bollyviewer: I agree completely on the shrillness of Lata’s voice on the high notes. That is one reason why I think Geeta Dutt was better than Lata.

  6. I am very pleased to see that all of you have caught the Suraiya love too! :)

    And I totally agree with those other descriptions of her voice – the refreshing, un-flamboymant mellowness (Bollyviewer) and the lovely unaffected quality (Dustedoff)…

    Dustedoff, I should add those two fine Mirza Ghalib songs to my playlist. (BTW, I didn’t recognize the title “Aah Ko Chaahiye…” at first because it’s listed on my DVD as “Ganga Ki Reti Pe.”)* The one song fom that film that I’ve included (so far) is the dreamy “Nukkhate Hai Game Dil.”

    Well, I definitely want to add a few things to that list – partly because I’ve already listened to all the songs at least a few times since I put it up. :) (And Bawa, seeing that you ran to try the list right away (thank you), I hope you like all those songs as much as I do!)

    Ava, that’s a good suggestion – I will keep the “at the moment idea” in mind. (Though it would kind of detract from the title “Filmi Favorites” – which, BTW, I’m thinking of changing to “Filmy Favorites” (since that seems to be the preferred spelling out there(?)…).
    *Note, a day later: Now I see what the problem in the DVD listing is… “Ganga Ki Reti Pe” is just the opening mini-song of the scene, sung by Sudha Malhorta; the listing lumps it together with “Aah Ko Chaahiye…,” which is the Suraiya song.

  7. Lovely post, eloquently written.
    I had heard Suraiya sing before I saw her for the first time on screen in Mirza Ghalib, and was utterly enchanted with the combination of voice and presence.
    I am always glad that she was there to sing contributing variety because there are too many songs by Lata.

    I must add that I love Lata’s older voice very much too.
    We should compare the two voices at similar ages. The shrill voice of Lata came much later, and as I keep saying (elsewhere) no one took the notes to levels as high as Lata did, and her voice was perfect for classical Indian music, while Suraiya sang mostly Gazals, nazams etc.

    I have to thoroughly explore your play list of Suraiya, Richard. Thanks so much for making it.

  8. Correction;
    >I love Lata’s older voice

    I meant ‘earlier’ :-).

    Must one choose between Ragini and Padmini? I wouldn’t be able to :)

  9. Pacifist, thank you for the kind words. :)

    Mirza Ghalib certainly is a nice introduction to Suraiya. I didn’t see that film or become really familiar with its songs until very recently… Since I heard and saw her for the first time in Anmol Ghadi, I think my Suraiya experience developed in chronological order, more or less. (Though I didn’t hear the young teenage Suraiya in Sanjog (1943), until very recently either – and that singing is just as charming as anything else she did.) All her singing is so good, it’s a shame that she went from being such a superstar to a “box office flop” (as it says in Wikipedia, etc.) for no other reason, it seems, than fashion (and maybe the Lata wave).

    I agree, there is a difference between Lata’s earlier voice and her voice especially after the ’70s (as a couple of other people here have pointed out too), and I still love her her earlier voice. (Never mind the ’70s, I am most delighted by Lata from the late ’40s and early ’50s!)

    But is it really true that no one could take the notes as high? I seem to recall Bawa saying that Shamshad Begum could (am I remembering correctly, Bawa?), and that makes sense to me.

    And there was a singer whose vocal reach was equal to Lata’s but who was equally good for classical music, ghazals and nazams – her name was Noor Jehan! Still #1 on my list. :)

    But, really, I only rank and compare because it’s kind of fun to do, and it’s a way for me to get a little organized in writing about my enthusiasms. Certainly, it’s not absolutely necessary.

    So, no need to choose between Ragini and Padmini. :) But since I’ve been emphasizing Padmini so much for years and Ragini was kind of hidden in her shadow (try to look for specific info on Ragini, and you’ll usually find it in some article about Padmini), it’s kind of nice to show how great Ragini could be even apart from her sister(s).

  10. I understand what you mean by Suraiya’s deepness of voice – her weighty quality (not so much – here when compared to Lata, definitely) Iam also a keen fan of hers

  11. Dera Richard,am happy that u joined hands with me in my mission.On 16th of December,2010 ,I exibitted 30 rare Photographs of Travancore Sisters.RARE MOMENTS celeberated the lifes and times of Travancore Sisters.Held at Vailopilly Hall in Trichur,my home town i could conduct it for a social cause.All the proceeds of the programme will go to Palliative Care Centre in Trichur,where women fights with Cancer.
    On the 34 th Death Annivessary of Ragini let us ensure that no women end up with a painful end due to Breast Cancer…

    with regard to Ashok Kumar’s Kalpana,i felt Ragini did well than Padmini.Ragini’s acting was much good than that of Padmini.With regard to Lalitha,u are true that she didnt have acting in cinema as a passion.But you should surely see Ponni(Tamil),Nageswarao’s Devadas(Telegu) and Nagayya’s Ezhai Paum Paadu(Tamil).Infact she was a great acrtess,than Padmini.She has done yet another few movies like Aruna Picture’s Thooku-Thooki,Kaveri,Bhim Singh’s Chenthaamarai and Meriland’s Ponkathir(Malayalam)
    Iam happy that Mrs.Lakshmi, Lalith’s daughter came for the programme and felt happy for the show.Her sister’s and Mrs.Mahalakshmi;Ragini’s daughter called me over phone and expressed their sincere gratitude for holding such a great programme.

    Indeed,i could not make nit much publisised becos,i met with an auto accident on 6-12-2010.And i have sevior back ache still.
    Okkay Ricahrd,once again sincere thanx for wiriting on Rakki.

  12. Manu, I am glad to hear that the benefit went so well and very sorry to see that you missed it(?!) because you had been in an auto accident. I hope you recover fully soon!

    It is good to see also that the money you raised in Ragini’s memory will go to help women fight cancer. This makes me think somewhat of the foundation that was built for a similar cause after Ragini’s old friend Nargis died five years later from pancreatic cancer. I hope that you will be able to have more benefits like this in the future.

    And if any of those rare Travancore Sisters photos are made available for public viewing online, I would love to be able to link to a copy. (With full credit to the source – and I won’t just “screen cap” it. :) )

    If you made up any flyers and would like to see them posted, I’d love to do that here too.

    But if not, that’s OK too, because you’ve already shared a lot of good information about the event, and I’m glad that you did that.

  13. Richard,
    sure i will b free with u about Rakki.Ask me antthing on her….i will try to gather information on that.I had shared about u withdaughters of both Lalitha and Rakki.

    You know both Lalitha and Rakki bravely faught with Breast Cancer.Hence the proceeds of RARE MOMENTS will be going to Pain and Palliative Care Centre in Trichur

  14. I too woke up late to the enchantment of Suraiya’s singing. I must say I am overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of her expression. Her singing adheres to the principle of ‘less is more’ – such simplicity in rendering and such massive impact. I feel her lack of technical skill is more than compensated by her treatment of songs. Natural ability of this order is extremely rare.

    Here’s a playlist I have compiled of some of my favourite Suraiya numbers. Hope you like it. I will keep adding.


  15. “But is it really true that no one could take the notes as high? I seem to recall Bawa saying that Shamshad Begum could (am I remembering correctly, Bawa?), and that makes sense to me.

    And there was a singer whose vocal reach was equal to Lata’s but who was equally good for classical music, ghazals and nazams – her name was Noor Jehan! Still #1 on my list. :)”

    You are obviously kidding about Shamshad’s and Noor Jahan’s vocal reach being the same as Lata’s, aren’t you? If not, could you please provide examples? Shamshad, I know, had a solid upper extension (taar Pa-ish, albeit with discernible difficulty) but to say that she could go as far as Lata would be stretching it a *bit* too far. Ditto for Noor Jahan. The only singer who came close to matching Lata’s vocal range was, well, never born. Unless you are willing to consider Asha’s head voice extension, which was remarkable.

  16. Saksham, thank you for commenting and for sharing your understandable enthusiasm about Lata. Regarding Shamshad, well this is something that Bawa pointed out, and it makes some sense to me in some songs. I never said myself that Shamshad Begum was a better singer than Lata Mangeshkar. But Noor Jehan is a different story, and I have seen others saying that Noor’s voice not only had equal range but also greater depth. (Well, certainly one can’t argue with the fact that Noor’s voice had greater depth – as Lata’s did have that thinness about it, talked about in comments on this blog as well as other places.)

    I will have to return to this post at another time to go through my own favorites or my own “examples.” But for now, I’ll let this excellent article by By Prof Abdul Khaliq Najmi speak for me…

    And for now, let me add one more point… I don’t claim to have expertise regarding the technical qualities of their voices and I probably haven’t been fully aware of these voices for nearly as long as many people reading this. But I can say that Noor Jehan’s voice, above all others, often sounds either magical or heavenly to me. :)

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