Film songs perhaps have been the best vehicle of conveying romance and passion in a society where on-screen permissiveness was taboo till recently.
Indian cinema without songs (I didn’t say music) is perhaps unthinkable. Indians love their films with hummable songs, much to the amusement of the western audience, and this tradition (some critics consider it as a carry-over influence of the folk theatres such as “nautanki” or “jatra”) has continued ever since the advent of the talkies.
Film songs perhaps have been the best vehicle of conveying romance and passion in a society where on-screen permissiveness was taboo till recently.
Despite all criticism about the “illogical” methods of song “picturisation” in Indian cinema, the good old love song has stood the test of time.
Although all films coming out of the mainstream Indian cinema have had a minimum of a couple of love songs as part of their steady average of six songs (one peppy romantic number or “prem geet” when the lovers run around trees or declare their love atop mountain peaks and one “sad song” or “virah geet” when they pine for their lost love), there have been some love songs that touch a chord every time you see or hear them.
Those are the songs that keep miles away from moth-eaten formula, which portray love in all its beauty and splendour without going overboard, which are innocuously understated yet intensely passionate.
For, these songs are the creations of love themselves – they are a result of the filmmaker’s passion for his craft, the lyricist’s depth of emotion poured behind every word, the composer’s intensity to weave the mood of the situation in poignant notes, and of course, the singers’ “give-my-all” rendition.
Not to forget, the actors’ faith in the sincerity of the song that brings forth such convincing and true-to-life performance from them, that not for a moment do they look to be, well… “Acting”! The result? An exquisitely crafted moment of tenderness and yearning immortalised on celluloid and cherished by generations of cine lovers.
In the first part of a two-part series, here is my list of five best picturised love songs in Hindi cinema – songs that linger in memory and portray love in all its different facets. The numbers do not signify ratings because frankly, these songs can’t be ranked on any scale, nor can they be compared with any other. They are just well, for lack of a better expression – “one-of-a-kind”. The second part can be read here: 10 Most Romantic Songs in Hindi Cinema – Part II
Prem Jogan Ban Ke (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960) – Naushad / Shakeel Badayuni / Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali
Perhaps no other song has been able to capture eroticism in the way this haunting semi-classical gem from K. Asif’s Mughal-e-Azam has been able to.
Anarkali (Madhubala), drawn by the irresistible notes of Tansen walks through the corridors of the royal palace to find Salim (Dilip Kumar) waiting for her. Just as she nears him, her anklets jingling in rhythm with the song, she pulls away too, shyly, a bit hesitant.
As Salim caresses her impassioned face with a feather, her eyes ardent with desire look at him, and then lower, coyly as she covers her face with her veil. The camera zooms back quietly behind the tree, leaving them alone in their moment of togetherness.
The shot dissolves to Salim slowly uncovering her face as the two of them share a few final moments together on a raised platform in the garden, covered with flowers that have dropped from the trees.
Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan’s heartfelt rendition (Mughal-e-Azam was the only foray of the great master in film songs) is used masterfully in the background and heightens the undercurrent of passion without any overt gestures. Awesome!
Ore majhi, mere saajan hain us paar (Bandini, 1963) – SD Burman / Shailendra / SD Burman
Bimal Roy uses a folk song sung by a tea-seller in the climax of Bandini to make two estranged lovers meet in a wonderfully sensitive depiction of unrequited love finally finding fulfillment.
The unassuming tea-seller making tea in his “Good Luck Tea House” by the harbour is blissfully unaware of how his ‘Bhatiali’ song (sung with immense pathos by S D Burman) that talks of how a woman is pleading to a majhi (boatman) to help her cross the river to meet her beloved, is crumbling the last shreds of grievances and doubts in Kalyani (Nutan) as she finds her lost love Bikash (Ashok Kumar) after many years, now broken and plagued with TB.
As the song reaches its crescendo, Kalyani is unable to stop herself from rushing to be with the true love of her life, turning her back on a promising future with a young doctor. Her companion desperately tries to call her back but Kalyani is unstoppable, barely managing to jump across on to the steamer as it lifts anchor.
This classic ending could have been very different had the distributors of the film won their way. Two different endings had been shot for Bandini. As Ratnottama Sengupta, the daughter of script and screenplay writer Nabendu Ghosh told this writer, “Well, lots of people were against the Bandini ending. In fact, some of the exhibitors and distributors said, ‘Kya Bimal Da, Nutan heroine hai aur usko aise khadi ke kapde pehnaaye.’ They didn’t understand that she is a Bandini, a prisoner who have to wear coarse clothes. Another thing was that Dharmendra was young, Ashok Kumar was aged, ailing, suffering from TB and about to die and he had he left her and all that. So they wanted her to be sent off with Dharmendra. My father and Sachin Karta supported Bimal Roy saying that how can someone who has poisoned a woman because of her love go away with another person just because he is young? ‘Main Bandini piya ki’ – she is a Bandini of her love. She is not a prisoner behind the bars. She has not come out of that love. In those days, village girls were not allowed to mix so freely and freedom fighters were idolized. Bikash (Ashok Kumar) is portrayed as an internee, a nazarbandi who has to report to the police station twice daily and cannot go into every house. People could not understand that revolutionary flavour. How could she leave him?”
The lyrics aptly capture the inner turmoil tearing Kalyani apart from within. One on hand Kalyani knows she is “playing with fire” by choosing the ailing Bikash over the young and promising doctor who is waiting for her. But she has no choice.
Mat khel mat khel jal jaayegi, kahati hai aag mere man ki
Main bandini piyaa ki main sangini hoon saajan ki
Mera kheenchati hai aanchal, man meet teri har pukaar
The closing shot of the film is of the steamer chugging off into the horizon, bellowing its whistle, leaving behind a long trail of smoke as the lines “Mera kheenchti hai aanchal, man meet teri har pukar, O re maajhi…” linger in the background. Can you think of a better symbol?
With Bimal Roy, Sachin Dev Burman and Nabendu Ghosh together putting their foot down on the ending, the distributors had to relent and the ending that made the film a classic stayed. Kalyani returned to her true love Bikash, and the rest is history.
Tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahin (Aandhi, 1963) – RD Burman / Gulzar / Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
This is a song that went on to become almost proverbial – a song with which every person who has experienced love’s many shades will identify with.
Although Gulzar’s Aandhi became more known for its so-called controversies, it is a pity that it is seldom counted as one of the most mature love stories in cinema.
This song is easily the high-point of the film, a song that weighs what life offered, what one gained and what one lost and perhaps all that one had gained and then lost.
Used deftly in the background and interspersed with a few dialogues, the song brings forth the turmoil raging within the estranged couple Arati (Suchitra Sen) and JK (Sanjeev Kumar) who meet by chance after 9 years and yearn to recover the precious time they lost.
The song begins as JK lovingly drapes his coat to help Arati beat the evening chill as they take a stroll amidst the ruins of an old palace. It moves through a few evenings of tender togetherness spent in those ruins that are reminiscent of a time gone past and lost forever.
kaash aisa ho tere kadamon se
chun ke manzil chale, aur kahin door kahin
tum gar saath ho, manzilon ki kami to nahin
The raw intensity in JK’s eyes when he clenches his fist to contain his emotions and the quiet suffering in Arati’s eyes as she fights to hold back her tears and rests her head in silent surrender on her husband’s shoulder as Lata Mangeshkar’s lilting voice climbs the octaves with “Jee mein aata hai, tere daaman mein, sar chhupa ke hum, rotey rahe…Tere bhi aankhon mein, aansuon ki nami to nahi”, says volumes more than words could ever have.
If you want a perfect example of expressing one’s innermost emotions without the help of words, watch Suchitra Sen and Sanjeev Kumar in this classic.
Teri bindiya re (Abhimaan, 1973) – SD Burman / Majrooh Sultanpuri / Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi
How would two newlyweds convey their longing for each other in the midst of their reception party? If the new films are to have it, they will lead their respective song and dance troupes and make a huge public spectacle of their affection.
Not so with Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan, where all that the newlywed couple does is exchange a few loving glances and tender signs amid a crowd of people without anyone noticing, and nothing can be more intimate than those seemingly innocuous gestures.
The song itself is a beautiful conversation between the newlywed couple. Subir (Amitabh Bachchan), the star singer, describes how each piece of Uma’s (Jaya Bhaduri) bridal finery (her bindiya, trinkets and bangles) is having a telling effect on his consciousness to his wife Uma, a small town girl.
Uma (Jaya Bhaduri) responds mischievously in equal measure through the song, assuring him they will surely take his sleep away
Sajan bindiya le legi,
le legi, le legi,
The words are a premonition to the turmoil thats truly going to snatch Subir’s sleep away as his wife catapults into the limelight, but you won’t know about this ego trap till you further get into the story. Teri bindya re, on the face of it, is a tender tête-à-tête. Looking a beautiful picture of grace and dignity, Uma hardly ever looks straight back at her husband and instantly lowers her eyes with a shy smile when he signals a kiss.
In a wonderful gesture of sobriety, befitting a newlywed Indian bride, she sits with her back to Subir, and yet the undercurrent of passion between the two is palpable. Talk of how romance can be understated yet is intensely apparent, and this song in the god-gifted voices of Lata Mangeshkar and Mohd Rafi comes to mind.
Sun sun sun zaalima (Aar Paar, 1954) – OP Nayyar / Majrooh Sultanpuri / Geeta Dutt and Mohd Rafi
The gardens and fountains and the cliffs and the mountains can take a break. You don’t need them to proclaim your love. How about choosing a garage with cars and tyres and tubes and asbestos sheds and corrugated partitions! And actually make it look so much fun and romantic that you almost end up deciding that the garage is quite the best place for wooing your girl with a love song!
With a cocked Kashmiri cap, a scarf round his neck, grease on his cheek and a lopsided smile, Guru Dutt flirtatiously chases Shyama all around the packed garage. Climb every car, crawl up its bonnet, sit on its roof and sing… The camera follows them peeping through the windows of the parked cars as Guru Dutt ambles after Shyama, winking, dodging, professing love. To depict the clustered space of a garage, the camera uses more closeups, literally following the two lovers on their heels because there is hardly any space for long shots. The effect is perfect.
Sun sun sun sun jalima, pyar humko tumse ho gaya
dil se mila le dil mera, tujhko mere pyar ki kasam
Shyama with two long pigtails tied with ribbons (when was the last time we used ribbons on pigtails I can’t even remember) and clad in overalls sort of a long skirt is all fire and brimstone as she turns around and puts Guru Dutt right on the backfoot, dismissing all his ‘kasam’ and ‘pyar’ as a bunch of lies.
ja ja ja ja bewafa, kaisa pyar kaisi preet re
tu na kisi ka meet re, jhuthe tere pyar ki kasam
It is not a mushaira, nor is it a college function. You don’t need tapori language, either. Majrooh Sultanpuri brings the song right to the level of the common, ordinary layman. Grammatically, there might be a twist as Majrooh Sahab had pointed out about this song – as “sun sun” cannot go with “hum” and then “tum… Its got to be suno suno.
Well, all is fair in love and war. Try and beat this one in pure romance in Guru Dutt’s Aar Paar with OP Nayyar’s foot-tapping ever-lasting music.
You can almost visualize Rafi and Geeta Dutt smiling as they enjoy the song thoroughly. Geeta’s inimitable masti oozes in every word… mimicking and mocking Rafi with all candour with “jaah, jaah, jaah, jaah bewafaaa.” The way she pulls on the “kaisa pyar, kaisi preet re-e-e-e”…. and finishing it with an emphatic “kasammm!” …. Unparalleled!! Rafi’s boisterous style matches Geeta’s dismissals word for word with the little embellishments “arre waah” or “gayaaaaah” adding to the magic.
If Guru Dutt winks, Shyama topples his cap. If he pokes her, she pokes him right back. Mars and Venus are evenly matched.
If Guru Dutt declares:
dur kab talak rahu, phul tu hai rang main
main toh hoon tere liye, dor tu patang main
Pat comes the answer:
kat gayi patang ji, dor abb na daliye
aur kisi ke saamne jaa ke dil uchhaaliye
Well, finally you can see the ice melting as the girl relents and the shy, blushing smile comes on. Well, she never had another option. You just can’t help falling in love with such wooing.
A perfect romantic song in the most unlikely setting! Love can blossom anywhere and this song is all about romance between the ordinary people amid their ordinary world and yet it is so astonishingly sweet.
Its not that the garage cannot be a place for romance. Four years later we get ‘Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si’ in Chalti Ka Naam Gadi (1958). With cars and tyres as witnesses and tools and screwdrivers and spanners for musical instruments, Kishore Kumar declares his fascination for the rain-drenched, shivering and fuming Madhubala, while repairing her car. Aha …! But that’s another story!
Continue reading…10 Most Romantic Songs in Hindi Cinema – Part II
This article was first published in Dearcinema.com.
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