Remember ‘Maine Poochha Chand Se’, the romance-imbued, tribute-to-beauty song from Abdullah (1980)? This was one of Rafi’s bright and dazzling luminescent displays before he bade a final goodbye to his countless fans. RD Burman, who had more Kishore Kumar than Rafi in his repertoire, did a stellar job with Rafi in this song. The tune was bewitching, innovative in its conversational approach, penned very evocatively by Anand Bakshi. The song was nominated for Filmfare Best Male Playback Singer.

But the tune was not unique. It was a re-hash of RD Burman’s tune, note for note, from another song in an earlier film Pyar Ki Kahani (1971) – ‘Koi Aur Duniya Mein Tumsa Haseen’. The song was again a paean of praise to beauty and written by Anand Bakshi. The only minor difference was the faster beat. – Maine poochha chand se – Koi aur duniya mein

As if one song being lifted lock, stock and barrel was not enough, RD Burman used the melody of ‘Jaane Jaana, Jao Kal Phir Aana’ from Samadhi (1972) in ‘Lalla, Allah Tera Nigehbaan’, in a slower beat, in the same film – Abdullah. Great way of reducing workload!

But RD Burman was not the only composer who used his old tune, dusted and polished it, and used it again.

The film Cha Cha Cha (1964) had outstanding songs by Iqbal Qureshi. One was a Rafi-Asha Bhosle duet ‘Ek Chameli Ke Mandve Tale’, written by Makhdoom Mohiuddin, which became very popular.  However, this was based on the melody of an earlier song of his ‘Aaj Mausam Ki Masti Mein Gaaye Pawan’ from Banarasi Thug (1962), sung by Rafi – Lata, and written by Hasrat Romani.

SN Tripathi did that with ‘Janam Janam Ka Swath Hamara’ from Been Ka Jadoo (1963) sung by Mahendra Kapoor and Suman Kalyanpur, written by BD Mishra. It was a copy of his ‘Phul Bagiya Mein Bulbul Bole’ by Rafi-Lata, written by Bharat Vyas, from Rani Roopmati (1957).

Ravi used the tune of ‘Woh Dil Kahan Se Laaoon’ from Bharosa (1963) in ‘Dil Mein Kisi Ke Pyaar Ka’ in Ek Mahal Ho Sapnon Ka (1975).

Roshan did that with ‘Rahein Na Rahein Hum’ (Mamta, 1966). It was an exact replica of the earlier ‘Tera Dil Kahan Hai ‘from Chandni Chowk (1954) – both songs written by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal used the same melody in ‘Ki Gal Hai Koi Nahin’ (Jaaneman, 1976) and ‘Bhoot Raja Bahar Aaja’ (Chacha Bhatija, 1977). Since both the films were released within a year, it’s difficult to establish which was the original, and which the copied song. They were probably recorded not far apart in time, when the tune was still fresh. Hema Malini, who figured in both songs, must have wondered why the tune appeared familiar.

Jaidev repeated the tune of his evergreen ‘Kabhi Khud Pe Kabhi Haalaat Pe’ (Hum Dono, 1961) in ‘Ajeeb Saneha Mujh Par Guzar Gaya Yaaron’ (Gaman, 1972). It is rather strange he did that; he didn’t do too many films and couldn’t have run out of tunes, making him re-use this iconic song eleven years later. Probably, the film maker had his way.

Film composers copying / getting ‘inspired’ by foreign songs, including Pakistani songs, is a known fact. No one has been immune from it. Some did/do it once in a while; some more often.

But why on earth should they use their own tunes again? Is it because the first-time round, the tune didn’t succeed, and the composer felt it deserved a second chance? Maybe, in some instances. Or they thought they had a good product and why not use it again; perhaps the public wouldn’t notice (which is what has happened in most of the above examples cited)? Could be. Or did the filmmaker force them to do it? Your guess is as good as mine.

In some cases, it was understandable. A composer composed a song, it as for some reason not included in the film, he then refurbished it, and used it later in another film. Why waste a perfectly good melody!

Guru Dutt’s film Sahib, Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962) had a song ‘Sahil Ki Taraf Kashti Le Chal’ sung by Hemant Kumar (who was also the music director) and written by Shakeel Badayuni. The song had a shot which showed Meena Kumari (playing Chhoti Bahu) resting her head on Guru Dutt’s (playing Bhoothnath) lap in the carriage. Audiences resented the filmmaker showing a married woman behaving intimately with a man, who was not her husband. Guru Dutt removed the song and the offending shot. Hemant Kumar re-used the tune for the song ‘Ya Dil Ki Suno’ in Anupama (1966) four years later, this time penned by Kaifi Azmi. That was the advantage of being the music director; the tune never went waste. But we will never know what the original song sounded like. 

But we do know what the original song sounded like in another instance. Guru Dutt approached SD Burman to compose the music for Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi (1966). According to Raju Bharatan, Guru Dutt did not like the title tune composed by SD Burman and sung by Rafi and opted for OP Nayyar instead. SD Burman later used this tune for ‘Yeh Dil Na Hota Bechara’ (Jewel Thief, 1967), sung by Kishore Kumar. It was alternatively reported that Guru Dutt opted for OP Nayyar due to SD Burman’s prolonged illness. SD Burman requested that RD Burman be made the music director, with SD Burman supporting him. But Guru Dutt was in a hurry.

The original song – ‘Koi Na Tera Saathi Ho’ has recently been released in public domain after almost sixty years in cold storage. Hearing a familiar tune sung by a different singer, with different lyrics, can be disconcerting for some, fascinating for others. Comparisons will certainly be made, as also conjecturing whether the original song would have attained the same level of popularity as its successor.

It’s not only the whole tune being re-used in another song by the same music director in another film. There have been many instances of composers using excerpts of songs as interludes in other songs, and vice versa.

Consider for example Salil Chowdhury’s ‘Aaja Re Pardesi’ (Madhumati, 1958). The first interlude would sound immediately familiar – it would since it’s a copy of the mukhra of ‘Ghadi Ghadi Mora Dil Dhadke’ from the same film. This could be explained by two songs in a film being linked to each other through musical unity. But the songs needed not to be necessarily in the same film. In Salil Chowdhury’s ‘Saathi Re, Tujh Bin Jiya Udaas Re’ (Poonam Ki Raat,1965), the interlude was Salil’s ‘Baagh Mein Kali Khili’ (Chanda Aur Suraj, 1965). Here perhaps, the music director, besides using a tune which, used as an interlude, thematically enhanced the song’s appeal, also left his imprint to show both proprietorship and continuity.   -aaja re pardesi

It happened the other way round too – interludes turning into songs.

Anu Malik used the prelude and the first interlude of ‘Aa Zara Mere Humnashin’ from Poonam (1981) as the melody of ‘Chori Chori Jab Nazrein Milin’ in Kareeb (1998). Not content, he used another interlude from the same song as main melody of ‘Tu Hawa Hai Fiza Hia’ in Fiza (2000).

Rajesh Roshan used the prelude of ‘Frenny O Frenny’ in Khatta Meetha (1981) as the melody for ‘Tanhai Tanhai Tanhai’ in Koyla (1997).

Then there were songs made from the background music of earlier films, usually of the same music director. This was particularly true of Raj Kapoor films.

The background score of Awara (1951) spawned at least three songs- ‘O Basanti Pawan Paawan’ in Jis Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai (1960); Duniya Banane Waley Kya Tere Man Mein Samayi’ in Teesri Kasam (1967); and ‘Na Maangu Sona Chandi’ in Bobby (1973). The musical notes played in the backdrop of Shri 420 (1955) were adapted to make ‘Jeena Isi Ka Naam Hai’ in Anari (1959).

Except for Bobby (Laxmikant-Pyarelal), all the above films had music by Shankar-Jaikishan, with Raj Kapoor being the common factor.

‘Mora Nadaan Balma’ from Ujaala(1959) was derived from the opening titles music of Mayurpankh(1954) – both composed by Shankar-Jaikishan.

The song ‘Koi Hota Jisko Apna’ from Mere Apne (1971) could be heard in the background score of Anand (1971) in the final scene of the film, both composed by Salil Chowdhury. Which song inspired which is difficult to determine, the year being the same.

The list of songs is not exhaustive. Its indicative of the fascinating fact that not only did/do composers find ‘inspiration’ from outside sources but were/are also not averse to regurgitating their own creation, adding a fresh coat of paint, and presenting a new package to the world.  

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Film composers copying / getting ‘inspired’ by foreign songs, including Pakistani songs, is a known fact. but why should they steal from their own tunes/
Bollywood dilemma: What do you call those music composers that steal from their own ?