BBC Interview with Har Mandir

On July 3, 1999

This page is under construction.

An attempt at a translation from Hindi by me.

Introductory music.

LALIT MOHAN JOSHI (LMJ):

Namaskaar from Lalit Mohan Joshi to the listeners of "aap se miliye". Today I interview Mr. Har Mandir Singh Hamaraaz, a resident of Kanpur, who, in spite of limited resources, created the unique Hindi Film Giit Kosh, entirely due to his lagan (=dedication). Published in five volumes, this encyclopaedia has been praised by music directors, cine personalities and the government. Whenever you want, you can learn about the lyricist, music director and the singer of any popular Hindi film song, by consulting the encyclopaedia. Some time ago, I met Har Mandir Singh Hamaraaz in Lucknow and asked him about the background of the creation of the Giit Kosh. Were you basically fond of watching Hindi films?

HAR MANDIR SINGH (HMS):

Although I was fond of watching Hindi movies, my only purpose in going to the movies was to learn what songs they had, how suriile (=tuneful) they were, who composed the music and who sang etc. Movies were popular in those days too, when I started my work in 1969-70. Even at that time I liked old songs, and it is still true today. My affection for old songs has still not lessened and I have not been able to get attracted to new songs.

LMJ:

But what was the trigger-off point of this voluminous Hindi Film Giit Kosh that you have created and which has the complete information of Hindi Film music and how did it all begin?

HMS:

There are lots of stories to tell, but there was what you may call talab (=yearn). This talab was so deep that whenever I heard and liked a song from Radio Ceylon, or the Urdu Service of All India Radio, or Vividh Bharati, and missed the beginning announcement, I was so sad that I could not find out about the movie, the singer, the lyricist or the music director. Sometimes I liked the tune of such a song so much that I would go on humming it forever, but unaware of even the name of the film. That was very annoying. Later I tried very hard to find a book in which there would be information about Hindi films and their songs. I was sorry and disappointed to find that such a book did not exist. There was one book, Indian Filmography, by Firoz Rangoonwalla of Bombay, a book in which he had the names of movies, directors, music directors, and players, and nothing else. This book became the foundation of my work. Being a music lover, I wished to find a suitable book. In the absence of such a book, I resolved that I must create such a book.

LMJ:

Tell me frankly, how did the idea of the Giit Kosh originate really?

HMS:

It was exactly as I told you. I wanted to find out the name of the movie of one particular song so badly that I ran to Delhi but I was disappointed there too. And I could never find out. On returning to Kanpur, I realized that there must be thousands, indeed millions, music lovers like me, who must be facing the same problem of not knowing the relevant information about their favorite songs. I thought that if nobody has published a much needed book, then perhaps if I try, something may come out that everybody will find useful. So this was the talab, the cause that forced me to compile the encyclopaedia. But I do want to emphasize the following. When I started working on it, I did not realize the sheer magnitude of the work involved. Secondly, I had no idea where to get material for such a Giit Kosh. Had I known the vastness of the labor involved, I cannot say that I would have begun working on it. Of course, I listened to songs. Let us talk about 1966-67 when I was in High School. Whenever I heard a song from Radio, I used to jot down its information in a note book. In 1972, when I joined State Bank of India, and when I was no longer worried about livelihood, I thought perhaps now I can start working systematically. So I asked Rangoonwalla of Bombay where I could material for such an encyclopaedia. He said that he could not help me but I should try National Film Archives of Poona. So that is where it began. Apart from Poona, I have traveled all over India, including other cities of Gujarat, namely Rajkot, Ahmedabad and others. I visited many cities in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, to name a few. For example, I visited Indor and Jaipur. The material for the encyclopaedia was scattered all over India, in many hands. It was very difficult to find out who has the information, how to contact him and how to convince him to let me copy it. Additionally, I contacted many movie people in Bombay. But I am sorry to say that many of them could not remember anything and could not provide saTiik (=solid), authentic information that I could use. So for almost a decade from 1971 to 1980, I searched and searched. I wanted to tap any resource, no matter where, to collect information about 4500 movies and 35000 songs from movies from 1931, when the talkie era began, to 1970. With many friends, I kept at it. Then in January 1980, I published volume 3 (1951-1960).

LMJ:

It is such a great effort involving going to various places in India, meeting various people. Certainly some money is needed for all this. How did you get acquire the finances to do all this?

HMS:

Joshi saahib. I did not get money from anywhere. But the main thing is that I did not expect to obtain money from sources other than my own. If I had expected, I would probably still be waiting for the money and would not have started work on the encyclopaedia. So I thought that I must use whatever limited means I have, I must use them fully. I must thank many of many friends, among them I must mention Bishwanath Chatterji.

LMJ:

I want to ask you when you embarked upon such a difficult task, somebody's heart must have melted. You must have met many big actors, many big ministers and many big literary artists. Did not anybody encourage you? Did not anybody talk to you about granting you some financial aid?

HMS:

There are so many stories to tell. I met a music director, won't tell you the name, who expected that I should give the books as a gift to him, while the truth is that I had to spend thousands of rupees to publish them. I remember one more incident. When I went to Rajkot, an MP named Arvind Patel organized a welcome function, many people like the Commissioner came. I learnt about this later. There was one man who asked me whether I had asked the government for grant or help. I replied to the effect that first of all I do not have time to do this and even if I expected to get help from the government I would not know when the help would have come and whether I should wait for it doing nothing in the meantime. Much later I found out that this gentleman was the Minister for Culture for Gujarat. He later said that I did a smart thing by not expecting any money from the government. I was amazed by his response but he added that if I had waited for the government aid I would never had been able to do the work that I had done.

LMJ:

I remember that you told me once that if you had been born ten years earlier and if you had started working on it ten years earlier, the encyclopaedia would have been much different. Why did you say that?

HMS:

Let me explain. I was born in 1951. I still think that I wish I had been born ten years earlier because if I had started meeting film people in the sixties rather than the seventies, I would have benefited greatly. Because during that time, many people from the beginning of the talkies in 1931 were still alive and would have given me information about the songs etc. that I needed. I regret to relate the following story. I went to Calcutta to gather information about films. I could not find anything from there. There was a very old company called the East India Film Company there. I met the son of the founder of the company. He told me that his company could not help me at all. They would rather like me to find out and give them information on films produced by them.

LMJ:

Among all the people who helped you particularly the cine people, how did they treat you in general?

HMS:

It was a mixed response. I remember Madholal Damodar Master from Bombay, He lives in Shivaji Park. He retired from movies in 1952. He started giving music to talkies in 1931, the very first year. I felt very emotional when he said that I had brought him in front to the drawing room, while the Bombay film industry had thrown him in the garbage pail. In contrast, I remember another gentleman, I would not tell you his name, when he saw his name as a lyricist beside the songs in the Giit Kosh, he demanded royalty for using his name. I could not afford that having spent much money on the publication process. I had to tell him that I could not afford to pay royalty to him, but I could remove his name from Giit Kosh. He was very hurt and surprised on hearing this. I met all kinds of people in the film world. I met qamar jalalbadi. Another person I met is A. V. Damle. He is the son of one of the founders of Prabhat Film Company. He praised my work and gave me a prize.

LMJ:

What prize did he give you?

HMS:

He gave me one thousand rupees in cash. I refused to take the money saying that his aashiirvaad (=blessing) was enough, but he insisted that I accept the money in rememberance of the Prabhat Film Company, which is no more.

LMJ:

What a great story!

HMS:

Then I met a lyricist. He was sitting in an air-conditioned room while we talked. He said that it was very easy to create the encyclopaedias. Anybody could have done it by spending 4 to 6 months in Bombay. This made me laugh because I remembered that some time ago my friends had come to him for information about films. They told him that they are missing information on the singers of some of the songs of 4 or 5 movies in which he had given music. They wanted him to help find that missing information. Sad thing is that these movies were from the sixties and this guy could not remember the names of singers at all. It is easier said than done.

LMJ:

Please tell me how many volumes you have published and how have people responded?

HMS:

Talkies came in 1931 even though silent movies were made until 1934. It was a good thing that from the very first talkie Alam Ara, released on March 14, 1931 in Bombay, (and had seven songs) the tradition of having songs started. When I started my systematic work in 1970-71, I tried to gather information on movies from 1931 to 1970. So I first published Volume 3, based on the movies from 1951-60 in 1980. Then came Volume 2 in February 1984. Volume 4 having information on the movies from 1961-1970 came in July 1986. In October 1988 came volume 1 and in March 1991 came volume 5 based on movies from 1971-1980. In this way decadewise 5 volumes have been published. And now because after 1980 the number of Hindi movies made has increased greatly, it is difficult to put all the movies from a decade in one volume. So in Volume 6, we will have movies from 1981-1985 and volume 7 will have movies from 1986 to 1990. So we are trying to publish movies from 5 years in one volume now.

LMJ:

Thank you very much for talking to us.

Ending Music.

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