There are songs we love. And then there are songs that impact. And then there are songs that stay on as an integral part of life and memories that we love to revisit time and again to relive those cherished moments. Rachna Rajesh writes about one such song, Jewel Thief’s Yeh dil na hota bechara.
Nostalgia is, almost always, laced with a sense of loss. An inexorable realization dawns on me. Time is snatching and carrying away parts of me even as I stand with outstretched hands, a helpless bystander. But is it time passing me by? Or, is it me passing time by? Who is really the bystander here?
I shake myself out of this morose stupor.
Nostalgia doesn’t always overwhelm. It can also warm the cockles of your heart and provide you with succour in the cold wintry nights of life.
I submit to my memories and embark on a musical journey back in time; a journey that traces fragments of my life through songs. I go back as far as my conscious musical memory takes me when I was probably 7 and my brother, 9.
Two things fashioned my taste in music, as a child.
First, I was tomboyish and a huge Bachchan fan. And I always operated in tandem with my brother. So all solo songs of AB made the top cut for me. Most of Kishore songs measured up. Peppy duets were fine. Slow and romantic songs were too cloying. As regards the coy and helpless female solos, I wouldn’t be caught dead with them. Well, you get the general drift of my preferences.
Second, I was deeply impressionable and idealistic. I was the Bachchan alter ego, the messiah who would deliver the world from pain and injustice. You could see the purposeful glint in my eye; after I had finished my glass of milk. Hence, songs of idealism and humanism made a deep impression on me.
The vignettes get vivid, and I pick the first song of my life.
Yeh dil na hota bechara (Jewel Thief, 1967) SD Burman / Majrooh Sultanpuri / Kishore Kumar
The year was 1977. We had just moved from Titlagarh to the steel township of Rourkela, Odisha. My brother and I were admitted to DeSouza’s School, I to the second and he to the fifth standard. This was the first formal school of my life, complete with an expansive building, chic uniforms, and a school bag bursting with books. It was overwhelming. I was perpetually forlorn and unable to understand the purpose of it all. The first time my mom tried to teach me the alphabet and showed me an ‘A’ for apple, I had looked at her askance wondering what she was up to. I was doing just fine. “I don’t need no education” I sang to myself in protest. Well, I would have, had I known the song.
I was intimidated by it all – the school, the uniform, the classroom, my classmates, everything. I had to forego my tomboyishness and wear a skirt and girl’s shoes. The classroom was, well, ominous. My class monitor, Amaya (name changed), “minded” the class in the absence of a teacher and wrote down the names of talkative students on the righthand corner of the blackboard. The teacher would then assiduously go through the names and rap the knuckles of the errant kids. It hurt. I know because I got caned every single day. No, I wasn’t talkative. Far from it. I would often sit with my head down on the desk and doze off. I woke up to almost always find my name on the board. I have no idea why Amaya did it. Maybe I was Harry Potter and she, Voldemort. Or maybe I was the newest kid in class. I don’t know.
I would wait for the last bell to ring to rush out of class, and get back home with my brother. That is the first time I would smile in the day. The afternoons at home were idyllic freedom. Dad would still be at work. If mom, who taught at a college adjacent to our school, didn’t return with us, the time and home was ours to potter around.
We had a turntable music player called Fiesta with a small collection of Hindi movie songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Over time it had been entrusted to us. We had developed our own favourites from the collection. One of them was Yeh dil na hota bechara from Jewel Thief. It was on a 45-rpm disc that had two songs on either side. We never cared much for the other songs. It was just this one. We played it on a loop for hours and days. We filled our glasses with puffed rice and some water and settled down around the Fiesta. It was our most favourite snack. Sometimes, it would be a bowl of ice cubes to suck on meditatively.
My bro was always faster in reaching the Fiesta to play the song. I would be finicky about fixing my glass to measure up to my bro’s level. “WAIT!” I would bellow as I heard the magical ‘khhrrch’ sound of the needle placed on the rotating record. I would come racing down, spilling some of the water and puffed rice on the way. We could not miss the beginning of the song, ever!
The song would start. Tuk tuk tuk tuk, tuk tuk tuk tuk, tuk tuka tung tung, tuk tuka tung tung – I could mouth the whole opening piece. The rhythm picked into a breathtaking crescendo. The sound riveted us. And when Kishore’s baritone broke out in a drawl and yodel – Hmmmmm, zu zu zu zu zu– our capitulation was complete. We looked at each other with glee and pride, our eyes shining, as if we had composed the song. Much later, when we saw Jewel Thief on Doordarshan and watched Dev Anand bobbing his head in a hat, dangling a fishing rod, and waylaying Tanuja‘s car, my brother and I nodded at each other in approval.
I appreciate the song even more today. SD Burman’s music is iconic in the movie. This song, in particular, stands out for its sheer effervescence. The story goes that SDB was returning from a show of The Bridge on the River Kwai and his son and assistant R D Burman kept drumming versions of the Colonel Bogey march theme on the car’s dashboard. And Yeh dil na hota bechara was born. The sounds of the bongo, drums, saxophone, and guitar create a frenetic madness in the opening and the interludes. If the mukhda rivets you right away, the antaras take you to a higher zone with the melody. Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics are nothing short of delightful.
Soona jabse zamane hain bahar ke
Hum bhi aaye hain rahi banke pyar ke
Koyi na koyi bulayega
Khade hain hum bhi raaho mein
Simple and beautiful lines! Kishore, of course, goes in for the kill and delivers a song for a lifetime. And yes, I can spot from a distance, the RDB stamp on this song. This is one heady concoction that endures in its potency.
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