Sunday, May 23, 2010

Roots of Bollywood - The New Theatres Era - Filmi & Plates. [1930-1950]

Hindustan Records 78 rpm label

Filmi & Plates - Early Songs from India. [1930-1950]

Early Indian Movie songs - Roots of Bollywood
Saigal, Mullick & The New Theaters Ltd. era

I am introducing a long time passion here, namely Filmi Music, and since the beginning of the seventies, when I started collecting early film music from India, I borrowed, from a fellow student and poet from Bengal, my first LP's of Pankaj Mullick, Satchin Dev Burman and above all, Kundan Lal Saigal, I have never since stopped enjoying the wonderful soothing voices of them and their contemporaries. and have traced down a lot of those recordings. It is a great medicine and I always carry some with me for weary moments.

Calcutta in the 40's

"Filmi" is the indian common expression for songs from movies & "Plates" originally how 78 rpm shellac records were and is referred to in India.

Poster from the movie Tansen a big Saigal hit

"Early songs from India", well it includes music from stagedrama before and during the film era, and I wanted to be able to include songs that were popular but not neccesarily included in any movie or drama, but of similar genre, like light classical, contemporary popular lovesongs and comical songs and ditties.

[1930-1950] Choosing these years for he period may sound strange, and maybe extend a bit too late for my intention, but my hopes were of course not to immediately jump into modern or contemporary "Bollywood" movie songs, rather concentrate on the origins of the same! Even to the point of excluding the sixties and later, even including the fifties, much of what is considered the golden era, I felt I was stretching it a bit looking at what I really had in mind. I will begin with "The New Theatre's Era" including my absolute favourites Saigal & Mullick.
I will first supply a little background to the time by quoting an article about the Hindustani Records company, a very important National label at the time, later on succseeded by INRECO.

Early Indian Movie songs - Saigal, Mullick & The New Theaters Ltd. era

It is said that CC Saha or Chandi Charan had been introduced to Tagore in Heidelberg by Soumendranath Tagore, and the poet was among the 500 shareholders of Hindusthan Record.

Rabindranath Tagore

Chandi Charan visited Germany to buy recording equipment, and subsequently George Neumann from that country helped him trap the voices of great artistes on resin. The company had the distinction of bringing a Neumann disc-cutting machine from Germany in 1932.
This piece of antiquity has since been donated to the Birla Industrial Museum. Hindusthan was the first to transfer from optical film to disc.
At the same time, CC Saha opened a well-stocked music shop at the crossing of Madan Street and Dharamtalla. Although it is dusty, it is still a mecca for lovers of Bengali music. It may sound surprising, but the shop still sells Bengali music from its golden era down to present times.
Hindusthan Musical Products Ltd, as it was officially called, can take credit for making the first recordings of classical music stalwarts such as Ustad Faiyaz Khan and Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, besides launching a star like Kundan Lal Saigal.

The first Indian-owned music company attracted a galaxy of artistes like Pankaj Mallik and Sachin Deb Burman. After BN Sircar set up his film production company named New Theatres in Calcutta, its songs were initially released under that label. From the 1940s onwards, the company extended its repertoire to include songs popular in the Hindi-speaking belt, and numerous recording were conducted in Bhojpuri, UP folk, Chhattisgarhi folk, qawwali, bhajans and aartis. It also made forays into Oriya, Nepali and Gorkhali song markets.

The original entrance to Hindustan Records

But the mainstay of Hindusthan Records remained Bengali songs and artistes like Debabrata Biswas, Subinoy Roy, Rajeshwari Datta, Shantideb Ghosh, Purna Das Baul and Asoketaru Bandopadhyay remain its bestsellers.

The successor of Hindusthan Musical Products was the Indian Record Manufacturing Company (Inreco) set up in 1977, the third record manufacturing unit in India that was Indian-owned.
Inreco started with a wide range of artistes from Punjabi to Bhojpuri to Marathi, Tamil and Malayalam. Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Pandit Mallikarjun Mansur, Kumar Gandharva, Ustad Amir Khan and Manna Dey were among the artistes it recorded.

read the whole article here:

A whole lot of reissues have appeared over the years mostly with songs by K.L. Saigal but one collection exists that is giving a first introduction to some of the early artists on this CD.


Uma Devi, Mullick, Pahari Sanyal, Asit Baran
Songs from New Theatres' Era
Hindusthan Record - IP 6008 - P.1994

More info can be found about most of the reissues on their webpages:

For those with access to Spotify™ you can listen online here:

There is NO download link on this page, but the following posts will contain links to some LP's of reissued 78 rpm material that to listen to by some of the artists mentioned in this post.


øשlqæda said...

yes! indoluobaniyan

bolingo69 said...

More to come!

sudzy said...

Seems to be most excellently interesting. No spotify here, but hope to get a listen at some point.

gristle said...