While growing up and reading Illustrated Weekly of India, I had known about Raju Bharatan who was a pillar of strength for the magazine. But like any other fan of Hindi films staying out of Bombay, film related personalities were only to be seen on screen or to be read about in magazines/newspapers. In 2001, my dear friend late Satish Kalra gave me a book Lata Mangeshkar A Biography by Raju Bharatan. It was my first book on Hindi film music – till then my film related reading had been limited to reading articles in various magazines. It was a very fascinating book with so much inside information not only about Lata but also about inner workings of the film industry. One thing was obvious that the book could have used more editing. It later turned out that 385 page book was written in merely 26 days. In the interview, Rajuji talks in detail about the genesis of the book.
By 2004, I had started a radio show on Hindi film music and later I came across an ardent music lover named Rupa Dore. She mentioned that she was related to Raju Bharatan. I communicated a few times with him and wanted to meet him during my visit to India in 2008. She had described him as a very frank person who used to turn off many people in the industry. His emails were also very short and frank. I wondered how with that kind of attitude could he not only survive for so long but succeed as a respected journalist in that cut throat industry where people are full of egos. When I met him, I found him to be such a gentleman and nice without pretentions and was a pleasure to talk to. He had so many things to share and I felt awed by it all. I asked him about his success in the industry and reasons he cited were that he was always true to his profession, remain objective, did not socialize (with drinks) and did not do any chamchagiri. In my opinion, his hard work, knowledge about Hindi music ragas (which he learned after writing on film music), enthusiasm and sharp memory (even now at the age of 80+!) and support of his wonderful journalist wife late Girija had a big hand to play in his success.
I had started doing interviews of film music personalities after 2008 but the thought had never crossed my mind to interview Raju Bharatan. His second book, A Journey Down the Melody Lane had been published in 2009 and the thought of talking to him came to my mind. I asked Rupaji if he would be willing to talk to me and she said she would inquire. He readily agreed. The interview had to be on phone just like my other interviews. My problem was what topic do I cover with him. I decided to just ask him about his career and things he has covered in his book and some topics which were discussed on online newsgroup RMIM and talk casually. Interview was unrehearsed and spontaneous. He freely shared his thoughts on various people and many other topics. Since he has such a lot of wealth of information to share, his memory is so sharp and has an interesting perspective on everything under the sun, one difficulty was to keep him focused on the question. But I have no complaints because in this way so many new things came out. We talked in two session for about three and half hours and it took quite a bit of editing to fit interview for two hour broadcast. Some of the highlights of the interview:
More about Lata OPN
Groups of MDs against Rafi
Lata and Madan Mohan
Lata and C Ramchandra
Some insight on Aye Watan Ke Logon
Details on practice of dubbing
Pancham and SDB. Role of Pancham in Aradhana and Guide.
Asha seeking help from Lata for songs
First song of Uma Devi
Lyrics first or tune first
Discussion with Guru Dutt on his last day alive
Recordings by Shamshad and Geeta during Night Shifts
You can listen to the interview (originally broadcast on Sept 6, 2012) here:
After Raju Bharatan listened to the broadcast on internet, he sent the following comment “It turned out to be an imaginatively provocative interview from your side -- with a variety of questions posed that evoked answers detailing vintage music made through the years".
We are thankful to him, Rupa Dore, Hemant and team at Radio Dil for this great opportunity that will be cherished for ever. We hope you will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed doing it.
Abhay's weekly radio program, "Geet Ganga" can be heard on internet as follows
http://radiodil.com (click on Listen Live)
Thursdays: 8-10 PM EST (USA)
Sunday: 12:30-2:30 afternoon IST (India)