A poor girl singing in the daily passenger local gets spotted by a music director, accidentally travelling by train. Noticing her raw but melodious voice having an amazing tonal quality, he decides to give her a chance and takes her to the studio to record a song. He gives her a surprising make-over, encourages her to sing the fresh lyrics, and gets the recording done, resulting in a hit track. The clip of her video singing in the studio, under the expert guidance of the renowned music director, gets viral, and she becomes the talk of the town.
Reading the above, you might recall the much-publicised incident in the news in 2019 when the video of Ranu Mondal–a lady singing on a railway platform had gone viral. She was later given a dream chance of recording a Hindi film song by Himesh Reshammiya. The man who was once laughed upon for saying “Mujhe inkey ghar mein roti chahiye,” on a TV reality show proved his words, giving an unbelievable twist to the lady’s struggle in life. As a result, Ranu again became viral, but this time, wearing a new shining saree and headphones, standing in front of a mic, having a big smile on her face.
However, revealing the truth related to the description narrated above, I was not talking about Ranu, Himesh, or their recorded film song. The instance of discovering a singing sensation while travelling in a local train was stated, recalling Dev Anand and Tina Munim’s musical Man Pasand released in 1980.
One might call it coincidence, a matter of luck, or the case of real-life following the reel life; the fact remains that whatever happened with Ranu and Himesh in 2019, the same was right there in the film released four decades ago, written and directed by Basu Chatterjee.
In Man Pasand, too, Dev and Girish Karnad accidentally discover the sweet voice of a poor girl selling datun (neem branches) in a local train played by Tina. The two friends have a bet, and Dev decides to give her a chance, transforming her entire persona of a rude, outspoken girl into a graceful, talented singer in only a few months.
Ethically revealing its source of inspiration, Man Pasand begins with a slide saying, “Dedicated to the genius of George Bernard Shaw,” as it was based on his famous play Pygmalion (1913). In reality, it was more of an adaptation of the English musical classic film My Fair Lady (1964) derived from the same play. The Hindi version beautifully Indianised the entire proceedings, converting the flowers-selling girl into a girl selling datun on the local train.
The same later got followed by real-life, becoming a rare case of its kind. Produced by Amit Khanna (who also wrote the exceptional lyrics), Man Pasand had a melodious soundtrack composed by Rajesh Roshan (including a few inspired songs). But the most interesting fact related to the play and Dev is that the icon had acted in another film based on the same subject three decades before Man Pasand.
The film released in 1950 was titled Nili and featured Suraiya in the lead role of a poor street girl groomed into an impressive social lady/princess by the sculptor Dev. A Ranjeet Movietone film, it was directed by Ratibhai Punatar, with music by S. Mohinder and lyrics by Surjit Sethi. RS Chaudhary wrote the film’s story and dialogues. Not available in any format at present, Nili reportedly didn’t do any wonders at the box office but was appreciated for its music and lead performances.
Perhaps Dev had an intense liking for the play, going for its second adaptation after three decades of Nili as Man Pasand. Pygmalion later inspired quite a few Hindi films, such as Hum Tere Aashiq Hain (1979). Its traces were also there in Amitabh Bachchan’s Yaarana (1981). But among all the adaptations, it was only Basu Chatterjee’s vision that surprisingly resulted in a beautiful real-life imitation in the new millennium.
Summing up, we always assume that authors and filmmakers adapt instances taken from their personal experiences in life. But here, Ranu and Himesh’s episode was exactly like real-life adapting a film scene and that too after a long gap of almost four decades.
(The writer is a critic-columnist, an explorer of cinema and author of ‘Did You Know’ series on Hindi films also active at bobbytalkscinema.com)
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