Teesri Manzil: The Soundtrack
Just as apple pie is incomplete without that generous dollop of ice-cream, as Laurel is without Hardy, as Butt is without Bhatti, so too the soundtrack of our lives would be incomplete without the sonorous sounds of the late, great Panchamda a.k.a. Rahul Dev (R.D.) Burman, scion of maestro Sachin Dev (S.D.) Burman, and Bollywood music man extraordinaire. Where would we be without ‘Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi’, or ‘Piya Tu Ab To Aaja’, or, ‘Raina Beeti Jaaey’, or ‘Ek Larki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga’? Certainly poorer, soul-wise.
A musical prodigy from an early age, R.D. started his stint in the industry by assisting his illustrious father, who had already acknowledged his son’s genius by ‘borrowing’ the latter’s tune for one of his film assignments, which would become ‘Ae Meri Topi Palat Ke Aa’. Teesri Manzil was his first big budget, starry opus, with superstars Shammi Kapoor and Asha Parekh in the lead roles, as well as Helen, there for the seetees. After its resounding success, R.D. would become ensconced as the composer for Nasir Husain Films’ colourful extravaganzas, including Caravan, Hum Kissise Kum Nahin, Yaadon Ki Baraat, and Zamaane Ko Dihkana Hai.
The soundtrack for Teesri Manzil was another example of R.D.’s affinity for Western grooves and instrumentation. Where earlier he had urged people ‘Aao Twist Karein’ in Bhoot Bangla, here he doffs his feather-infested cap to rock ‘n roll. And he has at his disposal the inimitable vocal expertise of Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle, as well as Majrooh Sultanpuri to pen the lyrics.
Rafi’s association with Panchamda would go a long way in establishing him as a playback singer of great versatility. Since the beginning of his career, Rafi’s mastery over all elements of shastriya sangeet made him the choice for the predominant musical stylings of the 50s i.e. ballads, ghazals, and light classical numbers in the vein of those worked by Naushad and company for films like Baiju Bawra, Basant Bahar etc. It was first O.P. Nayyar and then, more significantly, S.D. and son R.D. who experimented with him in a more modern mode. Teesri Manzil and beyond saw Rafi also gaining incredible command over boisterous, contemporary, jazz-inspired numbers, thereby ensuring that his vocal elegance did not go the way of the dodo when Bollywood musicals tastes started to veer away from the classical era in the 60s and 70s, towards a more ‘Western’ tempo and melody. Where Rafi had crooned the astonishing ‘Madhuban Mein Radhika Naache Re’, in Raag Hameer, for Kohinoor, he graduated to the infectious rebel yell of ‘Yahoo! Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe’ for Junglee, to the breathtaking middle-ground of ‘Chura Liya Hai Tum Ne Jo Dil Ko’ for Yaadon Ki Baraat. And the second half of his journey started right here with Teesri Manzil.
And Rafi is matched note-for-note by Asha Bhosle, finally emerging tentatively from under her didi Lata Mangeshkar’s looming shadow. Championed earlier by O.P. Nayyar, Asha was nevertheless mostly called upon to sing for vamps of the Kitty-Suzie variety rather than for the heroines. Here though, she gets to sing for both and does a darn fine job of it. Although she does not get a solo here, she is never overshadowed by her more experienced cohort, and more than holds her own in their duets.
Take, for instance, the wonder that is ‘O Haseena Zulfon Wali’, a locomotive of a number which bears all the trademark jazzed up instrumentation that we associate with the big Nasir Hussain musical epics, with trumpets, saxophones and electric guitars embroiled in a fiery pas de deux with the driving rock ‘n roll drum line. Listen in particular to the drum solo that launches the tune, at par with any Western percussion you may have heard. Rafi is in great, flamboyant form, clearly relishing his lot. And then Asha makes her entry, all sultry and dripping with seductive panache: “Woh anjana dhoondti hoon, woh deewana dhoondti hoon, jala kar jo chup gaya hai, woh parwana dhoondti hoon.” Her vocals charms are matched onscreen by a never-better Helen, encased in lycra and silk and giving as good as she gets. And later, at the end of the antara, the pace quickens and she exclaims “Main bhi hoon galiyon ki parchai, Kabhi yahan kabhi wahan, Shaam hi se kuch ho jaata hai, Mera bhi jaadu jawaan!”, to be met with a bevy of trumpet blasts that leads us back to the mukhra. And what eye candy the visuals are, with dynamic camera movement and an amazing psychedelic set with a giant Dali-esque eye that’ll make your head spin.
The second great dance number from the film is the musical adrenaline shot of ‘Aaja Aaja Mein Hoon Pyaar Tera’. In the same tradition as Shankar-Jaikishen’s composition ‘Jaan Pehchaan Ho’ from Gumnaam, made a year earlier (and immortalized further as Thora Birch’s getting-down song of choice in Ghost World), this is one rock ‘n roll smorgasbord that has and will never need a jhankar-ification, so potent is its boogie pedigree. With its irresistible guitar riff, thumping bass line, cunning brass section, breathtaking rhythm, and the infectious Asha-Rafi vocal interplay, it is pretty much guaranteed to knock your socks off. I challenge you to hear the suggestive ‘A-a-aaja A-a-aaja’ section, combined with sly notes on the trombone, and not be compelled to bop along.
Probably the least well-known song on the soundtrack is the underrated ‘Dekhiye Saahibo Woh Koi Aur Thi’, which, admittedly is a very situational number and not as easy to appreciate as a standalone piece, but there is still much to recommend it. Rafi’s vocal, for instance, is quite experimental here, with the opening verse playing like a kind of staccato singing style that is highly unusual and works beautifully with the stop-and-start rhythm of the song. Special mention must also be made of the picturisation, which takes place at a mela, and boasts some awesome camerawork.
Rafi’s breezy ‘Deewana Mujhsa Nahin Is Ambar Ke Neeche’ is a lovely medium-tempo number that epitomises hill-station romance circa the 60s. With minimalist orchestration that also uses a subtle jaltarang, this one is an immortal classic for the aashiq in all of us.
In many ways, the strongest track on the record is ‘Tumne Mujhe Dekha’. Employing one of R.D’s favourite secret weapons (used to wonderful effect in ‘Yeh Larka Hai Allah’ from Hum Kissi Se Kum Nahin) i.e. an instrumental intro that contrasts sharply with the main body of the song, it starts off with a rocking intro but then segues into a torch song of amazing intensity, which is at once dark and luminous. Rafi’s searing rendition scorches, emphasizing the depth of Majrooh’s lyrics: “O kahin dard ke sehra main, Rukte chalte hote, In hothon ki hasrat main, Tapte jalte hote, Meherbaan hogayi zulf ki badliyan… Jaan-e-man, Jaan-e-jaan…” Matchless!
It is really no wonder that ‘O Mere Sona’ is a perennial favourite with remix ‘musicians’; the melody is so alluring, so full of masala, that the song refuses to age in the slightest. Although it is not technically a solo – Rafi sings a few lines at the end – this is Asha’s song all the way. To use a cliché, her voice is like a finely tuned instrument that scales the highs and lows of the tune with remarkable élan. The vocal exuberance is complemented by some elegant sections on the accordion, which are a highlight.
Among all of R.D. Burman’s Bollywood projects, Teesri Manzil surely belongs in the top ten at the very least, and considering that his oeuvre consists of the likes of Amar Prem, Aandhi, Masoom, and Ijaazat, that is saying something.