Ten of my favourite ‘songs to myself’

The other day, listening to old Hindi film songs while I went about my housework, I realised something: a lot of my favourite songs are songs the character onscreen sings to himself/herself. Not quietly hummed to oneself, not songs merely sung when no-one else is around: but songs whose lyrics are specifically addressed to the self.
To an aching heart, for instance, either offering it comfort or encouragement—or telling it to resign itself to the sorrow that looms. Or (and these are fewer), songs of joy, doubling one’s own happiness by exulting over it in the company of oneself.

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Ten Situations, Two Heroes, Twenty Songs

Caution: Long post!

It’s been a while now, but last year this blog hosted a Classic Bollywood Quiz. The prize for the runner-up was the chance to dictate a post: a theme for a list, for example.

Our runner-up, Anu Warrier, like me, likes both Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand a lot. So, when we were discussing how both Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor had acted in some similar films, Anu submitted her request for her prize post. Ten similar situations in which these two heroes find themselves in their films, and one song, respectively, that they sing in that situation. Easy? No, it wasn’t, as you can see from the fact that it’s taken me a long time to compile this list. But fun? Oh, yes!

So, Anu: here you go. Two of our favourite leading men in ten similar situations, and twenty songs that arise out of those situations. Enjoy! All of these are from 50s and 60s films that I’ve seen. And, no two songs from the same film.

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Ten of my favourite Shammi Kapoor songs

My sister keeps a stack of CDs in her car. Often, when she gives me a lift, she puts a CD into the stereo and we listen as she drives along. The CDs are a mixed lot: Harry Belafonte, Simon and Garfunkel, 3 Idiots, Wake up, Sid!, The Best of S D Burman… and The Best of Shammi Kapoor. The others are in reasonably good condition; the Shammi Kapoor CD is battered and scratched and sadly in need of replacement.

I can understand why.

Shammi Kapoor is, for me (and I think I can speak for my sister too), one actor on whom some of the most fabulous songs in classic Hindi cinema were filmed. Funny songs, sad songs, romantic songs, madcap songs, rock-and-roll songs: he did them all, and memorably. And – somewhat unusually for an actor – he took a great interest in the music of his films. (There is an oft-repeated story of how Shammi Kapoor was so biased in favour of Shankar-Jaikishan’s music that he at first refused to let R D Burman compose the music for Teesri Manzil. But RDB, by insisting on playing a couple of the tunes he’d already composed, won Shammi over).

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Ten of my favourite Hemant songs

My maternal grandfather used to work in the Gramophone Company of India. Mummy grew up in a house full of LPs, and a lot of those—including dozens of albums from Hindi films of the 50’s and 60’s—ended up in our house. I grew up listening to music; but for a long time, I couldn’t tell one singer from another. The first singer whose voice I learnt to identify (I must have been about 11 or 12 at the time, I think) was Hemant.
Hemant Kumar Mukherjee was born on June 16, 1920, and went on to become one of Hindi cinema’s great music directors—and a singer with a very distinctive voice, rich and deep and sonorous.

So, as a birthday anniversary tribute: my ten favourite Hemant songs. These are all from the 50’s and 60’s, from films that I’ve seen, and in no particular order. Frankly, each song is a masterpiece in itself.

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