Greatest Dozen in Bollywood History

Twelve men and women who shaped the destiny of Bollywood
Twelve men and women who shaped the destiny of Bollywood

Greatest Personalities of Bollywood

In the first Part of this Hub, we covered six great personalities who greatly influenced the evolution of Bollywood. In this sequel, we cover another six whose contribution to Bollywood is unparalleled.

In its journey for around a hundred years, Bollywood has evolved from a popular but low key art industry to the biggest centre of glamour, art and popularity in India. As it moves closer to completing a century of its existence, it is time to look at those who carved this course by their sheer talent, genius, hard work and creativity.

In two parts, we attempt to look at a dozen most influential personalities of Bollywood's existence, their contributions which inspired many generations of stars and artistes and also salute these torch bearers of Hindi Cinema. It does not mean that others who are not in this list were not important. It is only that these dozen personalities influenced Bollywood more than many other greats, and helped in making Bollywood what it is today.

This Hub lists six such personalities. Six others have been listed in Part 1 of this Hub.

SACHIN DEV BURMAN (1906 - 1975) Music Composer - Singer

Sachin Dev Burman - The man who left his royal heritage to help a new musical dawn in Bollywood
Sachin Dev Burman - The man who left his royal heritage to help a new musical dawn in Bollywood

The Greatest Musical Master of Bollywood

This son of Prince of Tripura and Princess of Manipur, left his royal heritage for a career in music and the rest was destiny. He brought to Bollywood the bridge between folk and classical music, enriching it from both perspectives. His songs include some of the best ever heard in Bollywood and his music remains ageless. He also sang many masterpieces winning the National Award for "Safal hogi teri Aradhana ..." for the movie Aradhana in 1970. His masterpieces include Baazi (1951), Jaal (1952), Devdas (1955), Pyasa (1955), Sujata (1959), Bambai ka Babu (1960), Tere Ghar ke Saamne (1963), Bandini (1963), Guide (1965), Aradhana (1969), Sharmilee (1969), Abhiman (1973) and Mili (1975).

S D Burman learnt his craft from famous musician K C Dey, followed by training from Kahifa Badal Khan, Sarangi player, and Ustad Allauddin Khan. He used to sing for radio in Calcutta and later, began his career in Bengali films in 1936, where his association continued till the end. His first movies as Music Composer in Bollywood were Shikari and Aath Din in 1946, starring Ashok Kumar. His first success came in Do Bhai (1947), but it was his music for Dev Anand's Navketan and Guru Dutt Films that escalated him to the top. Burman's strength was semi-classical like Thumris and his grip on folk music of Bengal and Eastern India. His son and assistant, R D Burman, carried on his legacy and became one of the greatest music composers himself.

One of the best S D Burman songs - from GUIDE (1965)

LATA MANGESHKAR (b- 1929) Singer

Lata mangeshkar - The girl who literally changed the sound of music in Bollywood
Lata mangeshkar - The girl who literally changed the sound of music in Bollywood

The Nightingale of Bollywood

On her first day in school, this five year old daughter of Pt. Deenanath Mangeshkar had to be physically stopped by the teachers from making other children sing with her. No one could have realised then that the girl will make the whole nation sing with her for the next several decades. Trained initially by her father who was a classical singer and theater artiste, and later on by Ustad Amanat Ali Khan, Amanat Ali Devaswale and Pt Tulsidas Sharma, Lata Mangeshkar had humble beginnings in Bollywood with singing a bhajan for the movie Badi Maa (1945). Music director Shashadhar Mukherjee rejected her voice as 'too thin' in 1948, when Ghulam Haider recommended her to him, angering Haider who finally gave him a break in Majboor (1948).

In forties, female singing was invaribaly with a nasal tone and the styles were similar. Lata broke all those stereotypes with her song "Ayega ayega ...." in Mahal (1949), the movie that became a turning point not only in her career, but also in Bollywood music. Barsat (1949), Awara (1951) and Nagin (1954) made her among the best singers of those days. Later, with Madhumati (1959) and a string of other movies, she reached the top. Lata's voice is still unparallelled in Bollywood, and combined with her classical skills, it created an outcome others can only fantasize about. For six decades she has regaled her fans, a phenomenon that will continue for many more decades.


A song by Lata that changed Bollywood music - from MAHAL (1949)

MOHAMMAD RAFI (1924 - 1980) Singer

Mohammad Rafi - Not just the master of classical music, he brought improvisation and acting into Bollywood music
Mohammad Rafi - Not just the master of classical music, he brought improvisation and acting into Bollywood music

The Singer Who could Act with his Voice

Rafi, who polled 70% votes in a poll conducted by Stardust in 2001 to choose the 'Singer of the Millennium' has been one of the greatest influence not only on Bollywood music, but also on the movies. He was one playback singer who could do more to acting than the actor who lipsynced his voice. Whether it was classical, like Meri Surat Teri Ankhein (1963) or comedy like "Sar jo tera chakraye ..." from Pyasa (1957) or innovative "Chahe koi mujhe junglee ...." from Junglee (1961), Rafi could bring it to life with the verstality of his singing. He ruled the world of Bollywood singing from 1950 to 1970 before being taken over by Kishore Kumar, for whom too he had sang in movies like Raagini, Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat.

Rafi was trained in classical music by Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwan Lal Mattoo and Firoze Nizami. His musical journey began from Lahore, where he ran a Salon, and used to sing for Radio and musical events. His first song in Bollywood was for the movie Gaon Ki Gori (1945). Though he had given many hits including those in Mela (1948) and Dulari (1949), his ascendance to the top came with Baiju Bawra (1952) with Naushad, which not only changed his career, but also brought classical music to the forefront and heralded a great golden era of Bollywood music. Two generations of singers in India have imitated him with little success.

A Rafi song from BAIJU BAWRA (1952) - the movie that heralded the golden age of Bollywood Music

MEENA KUMARI (1932 - 1972) Actor

Meena Kumari - The actor who made acting a real life experience and elevated Bollywood to the next plane
Meena Kumari - The actor who made acting a real life experience and elevated Bollywood to the next plane

The Passion of Bollywood

Great acting skills are not uncommon, but rarely one comes across an actor who lives in a role and can make you live it too. Meen Kumari was one of the few who could do that, and better than anybody else Bollywood has seen. Sublimation is said to be the best form of psychological defence, and she perfected that art, converting her personal expeiences and feelings into creativity that brought life on the screen in a way never experienced before or after. Her role in Saheb, Bibi aur Ghulam (1962) remains unparalleled in terms of expressing passion and emotions. Her roles in Dil ek Mandir (1960) and Pakeezah (1971) also fall in the same category. It is only an irony that she is not referred to as the best female actor of Bollywood.

Born as Mahjbeen Bano, she almost missed her destiny when out of financial helplessness, her father left her at an orphange just after her birth. Thankfully for all, he brought ber back after a few hours. At the age of seven, she was pushed into acting against her wishes, as Baby Meena, which remained her idenity for the rest of her life, making her the sole bread-earner of her family. Her real break came with Baiju Bawra (1952) and she always remained a star thereafter, becoming the first Filmfare Awardee and later, the first to receive all nominations in a category (1962). Both her career and life were badly inflicted by her marital problems as she drowned her longing for love in alcohol, but before her death at the age of forty, she gave us another masterpiece in the form of Pakeezah (1972).

A song from SAHEB, BIBI AUR GHULAM (1962) - One of the greatest acting performance of Bollywood by Meena Kumari

KISHORE KUMAR (1929 - 1987) Singer - Actor - Music Composer

Kishore Kumar - The allrounder genius who introduced yodelling and inspired a full generation of singers
Kishore Kumar - The allrounder genius who introduced yodelling and inspired a full generation of singers

The Incredible Genius who could do everything

Being one of the top singers in Bollywood would be enough for most artistes, even the great ones. Kishore Kumar, could also do acting, music composition, direction, production, screenwriting and scriptwriting. This incredible allround talent was never formally trained in classical music, yet rose to a level where he could sing any raaga with an ease you can't find even in the best of the best. Songs like "Yeh jeewan hai.." from Piya ka Ghar (1971) and "O Manjhi Re...." from Khushboo (1975) just show that. He learnt yodelling by listening to Tex Morton and Jimmie Rodgers and succesfully introduced it in Bollywood. At least, half of the later singers that followed him, were inspired by him and imitated him. His acting in comic roles in movies like Padosan (1968) is the best ever witnessed in Bollywood.

Born as Abhas Kumar Ganguly, Kishore Kumar was drawn to Bollywood because of his elder brother, Ashok Kumar's assocaition with it. His first acting role was in Shikari (1946) and first song in Ziddi (1948). His talent was spotted by S D Burman, who patronized him for two decades, giving him learning tips and patronising him for Dev Anand movies. Finally, it was in late sixties that his talent begin to express itself. His song, "Mere Sapno ki Raani..." in Aradhana (1969) was the turning point of his career, and his association with R D Burman for Rajesh Khanna movies changed the whole complexion of Bollywood industry. His peak was in seventies, though he remained at the top of Bollywood music till his death in 1987.

A unique Kishore Kumar classic from movie KATI PATANG (1970)

AMITABH BACHCHAN (b - 1942) Actor

Amitabh Bachchan - The man who perfected the anger of ordinary Indian and made it a part of Bollywood
Amitabh Bachchan - The man who perfected the anger of ordinary Indian and made it a part of Bollywood

The Angry Young Man of Bollywood

Amitabh Bachchan gave Indians what they were feeling in the seventies - an expression of their angst - not against the villains of the movies, but against themselves, their society, their government, even their parents and finally their destiny. It is difficult to say what would have happended had he not landed with Zanjeer (1973), but once he did, Bollywood was never the same again. His greatest portrayal of the Angry Young Man is in Mili (1973) a social movie devoid of any violence, showing the depth of his acting skills. As the biggest superstar of the seventies and virtually a cult figure, his roles did become somewhat stereotyped, but commercially whatever he touched, used to become gold in those days. His great acting was expressed better in his comic roles like Yaraana (1980) and Namakhalal (1982).

Amitabh Bachchan will be at the centre of the Bollywood history from seventy onwards, whenever that gets written coherently. His roles did not just inspire and affect a generation of actors, he is probably the only actor whose roles inspired a full generation of Indians. His success as an artiste is best reflected in the all pervading anti-establishment that has now become a part and parcel of the nation's psyche. His rebellions on screen broke the shackles of values and inspired young Indians to break every rule, not always for the better.

The song that epitomized Amitabh Bacchan's magic in seventies - from the movie MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR (1978)

THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONALITY IN BOLLYWOOD's HUNDRED YEARS ?

Which of these in your opinion, is the most influential persoanlity in Bollywood's history ?

See results without voting

© 2012 V Kumar

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