That Charlie Chaplin also composed music for many of his films is a lesser known fact. He was musically untrained but had a superb sense of rhythm and melody, something that helped him compose some incredible musical pieces in his films.
One of his finest compositions happens to be in the 1952 film Limelight. Here’s the original score:
The piece called Terry’s Theme (or simply Theme from Limelight) was also converted into a popular song titled ‘Eternally’ with words by Geoff Parsons and John Turner (and has been covered by many singers like Petula Clark, Engelbert Humperdinck and Plácido Domingo, among others).
My favourite version of the melody is an instrumental, by Gheorghe Zamfir, the Romanian pan flute musician.
There’s even a delightful Lebanese cover of the tune, by the Lebanese soprano Majida El Roumi.
The score won Chaplin his only competitive Academy Award, in 1973 (he has been nominated thrice and won two Honorary Academy Awards). It’s not just a well-covered song internationally. Going by the number of times the tune has been used, it seems like Indian composers adore this melody too! Here’s a list of 7 of them!
The first recreation of the tune was by Salil Chowdhury, in 1961, for the Dev Anand-starrer, Maya. The song, ‘Zindagi Hai Kya Sun Meri Jaan’ was sung by Mohammed Rafi and was a fairly straightforward adaptation of Chaplin’s melody. For a song featuring Dev Anand as an ice cream seller and soliciting customers, the tune seems like an unlikely idea, but in Rafi’s voice, it sounds fantastic!
The second known version of the song is from Tamil cinema, in 1962! Composed by Viswanathan–Ramamoorthy, the song ‘Pandhal Irundhaal Kodi Padarum’ was sung by T. M. Soundararajan, S. Janaki, and picturized on Sivaji Ganesan and Devika. The composing duo extend the melody’s scope with 2 extra lines in the mukhda/pallavi, but the original tune is obvious.
For the third version of the song, we go all the way to West Bengal and the year is 1963. The song, ‘Pallobini Go Sancharini’, composed by Salil Chowdhury, is the Bengali version of his own Hindi song from Maya! It was sung by Dwijen Mukherjee. This is a considerably racier version of the tune than the Hindi version, and Salil da changes the antara too.
The fourth version of this song was in 1972, by none other than R.D.Burman. It has been rumored that Pancham first used Chaplin’s original to score a song in his debut, the unreleased/unfinished Guru Dutt film Raaz. But, considering that film was unfinished and the songs composed by Pancham are not available, his first recreation of Chaplin’s tune is in Bombay To Goa. Ironically, this song was not part of the film, but was available only in the audio version! The song, ‘Tum Meri Zindagi Mein Kuch’, sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar, is incredibly Pancham-ish, but you could easily identify Terry’s Theme!
The fifth version of the song is by R.D.Burman again! In 1977, for the film Mukti, he composed the song ‘Main Jo Chala Peekar’ that starts off on a very different note with Asha Bhonsle singing ‘Tauba Tauba Pyaar Mein’. But when Kishore Kumar enters the song with ‘Main Jo Chala Peekar’, you know which tune you are hearing! From a song by an ice cream vendor, in Maya, to a ‘spirited’ song, the tune sure has come a long way!
The sixth version of the song is by R.D.Burman too – his 3rd attempt (or 4th, if you include his unreleased debut in Raaz!). Pancham used the source melody in a 1990 Bengali film, Debota, for the song ‘Ki Kore Janle Tumi’. The song is identical to his Bombay To Goa song, with a similar chorus, and also sung by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.
The final version of the song is in the 90s. Rajesh Roshan composed ‘Yeh Raat Yeh Tanhaiyan’ for the 1993 Mahesh Bhatt film, Gunaah. Sung by Amit Kumar and Sadhana Sargam, Rajesh’s version of Chaplin’s original melody is very 90s, but is also a mighty impressive recreation!