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More than just songs October 18, 2006

Posted by Sharath Rao in india, life, littlerockers, reminisces-1990s.

I have been spending sometime on Youtube offlate – doesnt have anything to do with Google’s latest acquisition ofcourse, I am talking about in the past month or so. I am scrounging around for Old Hindi movie songs and building lists for myself and others who care – people I know and others I never will. A few things of note :

Old songs to me means those before 1980, mostly concentrated in 1960s with a whole lot in 1950s and the 70s. Very few from the 80s – except for a few from Ek Duje Ke Liye, Bazaar, Masoom and a few others. Okay, nearly none from the 1990s – if Bollywood for no particularly reason ( or perhaps because they ran out of new storylines/plots ) stopped making movies since 1985, it would make no difference to my Bollywood experience. Yeah, I wouldnt feel a thing !

So here they are, few playlists sorted by decade –

Songs from 1950-59

Songs from 1960-69

Songs from 1970-79

Songs from 1980-89

The graph shows the number of songs by decades for the Youtube favorites and laptop collection ( local machine ).

Its rather inconvenient for most I know – for how often do we associate a song with a time period. We possibly associate them with the singers, name of the movie, actors its been picturized on, perhaps even the movie theatre/channel you watched it, who you had for company, maybe even the music director but unlikely the decade in which the movie was made. Infact I would love to see a poll of which are the most closely associated attributes with a song.

I see three reasons for this preference which I put on record here in order of their decreasing influence.

The mental map :

Somehow I find it rather trivial to store dates and numbers – its strange that it took over 125 posts for this strange trait to come up. Although I havent sat down to count, its likely that there is currently in storage over 2000 dates – not just birthdays or anniversaries but trivial things, stupid things, unimaginable patterns of what happened today last year or the year before or 6 years back. For example, a memory of what happened on 27th of June in 1997, 98, 99, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2004. Or state where I was on any particular day in say, the last 10 years. Or write down the dates of, if you give me 5 minutes, every single overnight bus journey I have ever taken since March 1998. Or just world events from history.

They arent already noted anywhere, no diary nothing, no conscious effort to try and remember, these are just there, present, stored somewhere in the mind and they come out in images when I seek to retrieve them. I have no idea how its happens, but I know beyond a point, it can annoy the hell out of peopl e around you. If I cant explain and havent worked hard for it, so its hard to take credit for it. Nevertheless you mostly feel good and never really regret it because its quite an extraordinary gift.

Actually, my own song collection on my machine follows this pattern – of sorting by decades. And I guess Rajaram is the perhaps the only other person who can manage this collection. Think about it – its not easy – if you want to locate a song and dont have a search facility, you have to know which decade the movie was made. If you know the movie, you can locate it faster than typing your query and searching for it !

Dad and Vividh Bharathi :

I am clubbing the other two reasons into just one because they are closely related. Most of these songs that I have listened to, I havent watched. I have just listened – either on CD/cassette or on radio. So if you play a video from the 60s or the 70s on mute mode, its unlikely I can identify most of these songs. But if you play the song on the radio, I could possibly tell you the movie, the decade, the music director and the lyricist with reasonable accuracy. ( Dad gets it right over 90% of the time )

Much of this is heriditary – whatever I could do, dad could do better and be more accurate at it. His database is far vaster than mine is. Infact, many a time when the prelude music starts playing on Vividh Bharathi, he would rattle the song name, movie, director, when and where he watched it, producer and some trivia related to the song. Often even the actor and the actress. And since many of these songs repeated or atleast movies repeated, I would listen to many of his predictions and pronouncements over and over again. Now listening to a song, I can do much the same myself, almost as I were just repeating his words.

The fact that it was Vividh Bharathi, an obsession from 1996 to 2004 when I left India, and not TV meant that I was left with the knowledge of the song and the decade ( but not often the movie name/actors etc. ) simply because the numbers were easier to remember. Somehow though music director and lyricist were easier.

The above factors have conspired to ensure that my memory of Old Hindi songs has a rather idiosyncratic representation. Hopefully, Youtube and the great guys who put up these videos up there will do something to rectify the situation !!

P. S: A lasting memory from the recent years brings together these songs, the radio, dad’s pronouncements and Rajaram’s visit home. That is worth an entire separate post. And very soon.



1. Harini - December 23, 2009

What is that memorial event?

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