Ab Dawa Ki Jaroorat Nahin

A doctor uses medical charting software to plot trends in classic Hindi film songs.

Originally published on VICE India.

He’s a Classics man. Images: Anupam Kumar Singh

Anupam Kumar Singh, 35, works in the cardiology department of Hindu Rao Hospital in Delhi. Originally from Bihar, Singh told me he didn’t always plan on being a doctor. “I wanted to grow up to watch movies,” he said. Growing up in a village, with a theatre some distance away, “I associated movies with freedom.”

Singh would overhear his parents listen to Binaca Geetmala, the iconic weekly countdown show, which ran on Radio Ceylon and All India Radio from 1952 to 1994. Hosted by Ameen Sayani and named for a toothpaste brand, the show “reflected popular taste”—as Singh mentioned in a tweet yesterday.

Singh followed this up with a thread of charts—created the same way he usually plots medical data—of Hindi music trends as recorded by the Geetmala countdowns.

“The data from the Geetmala charts is all over the internet,” Singh told me over the phone. Besides Hindi music, his hobbies include coding, and “about one year back I scrubbed the data from the internet in about one or two hours,” he said. “At first I just made it into a fun chart to impress my parents.”

The other day, finding himself with a little downtime, Singh started graphing the data and posting it on Twitter, which he mainly uses for more academic purposes.

Singh made interactive charts, tracing the career arcs of singers Lata MangeshkarAsha BhosleMohammed Rafi, and Kishore Kumar. Check out his comparative chart of singers:

Singh’s favourite composer is RD Burman, whose songs he fell in love with while in medical college. “I was born in the 80s, so I used to listen to really loud shouting stuff, ‘Jumma Chumma De De’, Amitabh Bachchan… But when you grow up, your tastes change,” Singh said. He charted RD Burman’s career as well:

“A rank on the chart doesn’t always predict the longevity of a composer or singer,” Singh said. “But you can see some, like RD Burman have grown over time. Javed Akhtar once said, ‘Time is kind to great people’ and I really believe that.”

Singh plotted lyricists:

Music directors:

And even collaborations, to discover facts like RD Burman songs fared better with Lata Mangeshkar than with Asha Bhosle:

There are some more poetic charts, like this wordcloud on common words in songs:

And some truly nerdy ones, like these slopegraphs:

There’s are network analyses pre- and post-RD Burman:

Actors with the highest number of hit songs, the most successful Hindi movie albums by year, and successful combos: of successful directors and lyrcists and actors and singers also feature.

You can see the whole thread here.

The entire Geetmala show now has a new lease of life on Saregama’s Carvaan music player. “There are big Google groups of oldies, settled in the US and other places who get really into these fights about music,” Singh told me. “It’s not that these trends are unknown, but to see them visually—the data and visual aspect is what I’m bringing in.”

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