Monday, 1 March 2021

HOW THE UNLUCKY SNEEZE BECAME LUCKY FOR JAMES BOND !

 Ian Fleming remains a known literary name for his creation of British secret agent named James Bond to this day. But popularity of his creation outgrew that of the creator itself over the years like in case of Mickey Mouse, Harry Potter or few others! By now more than half of the population of the world is estimated to have watched at least one Bond movie!

23 official movies of the Bond have grossed over $ 6 billion world wide at the box office- a figure I have not adjusted for inflation or TV rights etc. Though Ian Fleming introduced his character Bond to the world in 1953,the first movie 'Dr.No' was released in 1962 which is still popular in TV as it was only the other day that I had watched it last! And along with the Bond movies, surprisingly the title theme song also started getting popular to the extent that the theme song alone can identify with James Bond! It was tuned by  Monty Norman, a British composer whose popularity also rose with the song!

Now I will come to the catch of this all famous theme song of James Bond! It has very strong Indian connections. In fact only few know that this theme song is actually based-more than inspired- on the song sung by an Indian composed by the same music director Monty Norman. It was an abandoned song created for the story written by VS Naipal  titled 'A house for Mr.Biswas'!

Mohan Biswas, the main character of the novel is Naipal's father himself!
VS Naipal is a Nobel Prize laureate for literature. He is  from Trinidad and Tobago and his grand parents were from India. He won the Booker prize in 1971,Nobel prize in 2001 and has received a Knighthood in Britain in 1990.He has written a number of books while 'A House for Mr.Biswas' was published in 1961.This book had received world recognition and was included notably in the 'All time 100 novels by Time magazine' and '100 Most inspiring works by BBC Arts'.

Mohan Biswas, the main character of the novel is a creation based on Naipal's father himself. His birth was considered inauspicious as he was born with an extra finger. The novel revolves around superstitions prevalent in the Hindu and other  societies of Trinidad.

By late 1950s Monty Norman was contracted for his role to compose to  make a musical based on the novel 'A House for Mr.Biswas'. He composed the tune 'Good sign Bad sign', a song sung by an Indian with lyrics done by    .But later the whole idea of the musical was abandoned but Monty kept the tune with him. "I liked a number in it very much which I put in my bottom drawer" to quote his words.

                    "I was born with this unlucky sneeze,
               And what is worse I came into this world,
               the wrong way round...
               Pandits all agree that I am the reason why 
               father fell into the village pond and drowned."

it was basically an Indian tune with Indian musical instruments like tabla and sitar  in the back ground!
               
Enter Albert Broccoli and Dr.No with the theme song.....
Albert R Broccoli, an American along with a Canadian Harry Saltzman were the producers of the first James Bond movie titled Dr.No. By the time Broccoli was interested in production of the movie Saltzman had acquired the required rights who was not ready to sell off the rights to Broccoli. But he was ready to co produce the movie. As they decided to produce the first Bond movie under Eon productions, Sean Connery was selected to be first James Bond.

By that time Monty Norman had already celebrated five successful stage musicals in a row. In 1961 while he was working on a musical named 'Belle', Monty had close interactions with Broccoli. Finally composing the theme song and other music of the movie was offered to Monty Norman along with a visit to Jamaica with his wife, the location of the shoot of the movie, all expenses paid.

From sitar and tabla to guitar...
As Monty settled at Jamaica, the tune he had put in his bottom drawer for 'A House for Mr.Biswas' came out again to his mind. The song which was tuned in a typically Indian background had to be be totally westernized. He split the notes and switched initial riff from sitar to guitar! John Barry was his orchestrator who also did his job very well. Finally when the product was ready Monty played to the producers who liked it very much! So also Sean Connery !! I am loading up another video of Monty explaining what had happened....courtesy BBC.


Dr.No was an instant hit as released in 1962. Sean Connery with his style and grace no doubt gave life to the secret agent in action. So also the theme song was a hit including UK charts.  The rest is history!!!The signature theme remains catchy to this day.

Later there was a dispute over the tune between Monty and Barry over the ownership of the tune. But Monty won the case all the times. He was completely vindicated and awarded the damages....

Courtesy: BBC/utube/google