There was a snippet in the newspaper the other day about a Britisher who was fined by the police for laughing while driving. He’d been using a handsfree on his mobile to chat with a friend, but it wasn’t, apparently, the mobile that irked the police; it was the laughing.
That got me thinking: what would they make of characters in Hindi cinema who sing, play musical instruments, and sometimes even dance, while driving? That thought, of course, led to this post: ten of my favourite 50’s and 60’s songs, picturised on modes of transport. They’re all from films I’ve seen, and haven’t been included in any of my earlier posts (or, as one of my readers pointed out, not in one of my earlier Ten of my favourite… lists). Just to make it a little more interesting, no two songs are filmed on the same type of vehicle—and a song qualifies only if (a) the singer is on the vehicle (people sung to could be elsewhere) and (b) the singer stays on the vehicle through at least 80% of the song. And yes, a song figures on this list only if it’s good to look at and listen to.
Let’s get started. This isn’t, by the way, in any sequence.
1. Car: Babu samjho ishaare horn pukaare (Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958): Car songs deserve a separate post (I promise I’ll do one sometime!) but this one, in my opinion, is the quintessential car song. Real-life and reel-life siblings Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Anoop Kumar romp about Bombay in their battered but dependable gaadi, named Champion (a 1928 Ford model `A’ roadster, just in case you like trivia). I love the madcap antics of the trio, and of course the superb duet by Kishore and Manna Dey. What tops it all is that this is actually a paean to the car!
2. Jeep: Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu (Aradhana, 1969): Jeeps don’t figure in as many songs as cars, though there are a handful. But this one, with a very handsome Rajesh Khanna serenading a lovely (though perhaps a little too giggly) Sharmila Tagore, wins. The Darjeeling Toy Train chugging along is a delight, and Sujit Kumar not just drives our hero but also accompanies him on the harmonica—at one point using both hands.
3. Train: Hai apna dil toh awara na jaane kispe aayega (Solvaan Saal, 1958): I am a confirmed Dev Anand fan; I adore Waheeda Rehman; and I think Hemant’s voice was so awesome. This song brings all of them together in a Bombay `local’, with a host of other occupants—a foursome of indulgent, smiling Anglo-Indians; another of card players; the hero’s sidekick (playing a harmonica) and the slimy boyfriend who’s eloping with the heroine. A fabulous song, very well picturised.
4. Bullock cart: Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein (Anokhi Raat, 1968): This is, frankly, the only bullock cart song I know of. And it’s lovely, a beautiful melody picturised on a slowly moving cart making its way along a river, with boatmen in the background bringing a boat in. Mukesh’s voice is haunting, filmed on Sanjeev Kumar as the simple villager who’s bringing his shy bride to her new home. I love the sweeping horns of the bullocks, and the smug look on Mukri’s face—almost as if he were the one who’d been married!
5. Bicycle: Main chali main chali dekho pyaar ki gali (Padosan, 1968): I can think of a few bicycle songs, but this one, with Saira Banu and a bevy of very participative extras, gets my vote. It’s got a marvellously lilting tune (by R D Burman), and the girls, as the pedal along beautifully traffic-free roads past flowering trees, look as if they’re having loads of fun. And though the girls all have the same voices (Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle), I don’t mind: it’s a great song in an equally great, hilarious film.
6. Boat: Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964): Shammi Kapoor must hold some record for having had most songs filmed while on some mode of transport—Kashmir ki Kali itself has a bunch of them. This one’s on a shikara on the Dal Lake, with a demure (and increasingly distressed) Sharmila Tagore on her flower-laden shikara, while the extras are all on their own shikaras. Eye candy all the way, and Shammi Kapoor proves you can dance on a narrow boat. You may fall into the water at the end of it all, but you can dance.
7. Scooter: Hoga tumse kal bhi saamna (An Evening in Paris, 1967): Shammi Kapoor again. An Evening in Paris probably beats Kashmir ki Kali when it comes to songs filmed on the move—it has songs filmed in cable cars, Paris’s Bateau Mouche, a car, and even a helicopter. None of those, however, are sung completely in transit and on one mode of transport; this one is. Shammi Kapoor and Rajendranath, along with a bunch of equally daring extras, swing their scooters in a hair-raisingly reckless way as they careen through the countryside. Total lunacy, but delightful!
8. Chariot: Mera salaam le jaa (Udan Khatola, 1955): Songs on horse-drawn vehicles (mainly tongas and Victorias) are a dime a dozen onscreen, and—like cars—merit a post all their own. So even though there are loads of tonga songs, I’m going to skip a tonga in favour of another horse-drawn vehicle: a chariot. This song has the `tonga beats’ popularised by O P Nayyar, but here used by Naushad. And there are three different modes of transport here: the heroine (Nimmi, looking gorgeous) is driving the chariot; her friends are on horseback; and the hero (Dilip Kumar, though he isn’t shown here) is in an aeroplane that looks like a paper cutout. Not a very convincing picturisation, but the song’s wonderful.
9. Truck: Subhaan Allah haseen chehra (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964): Shammi Kapoor again, and from Kashmir ki Kali too. This time, disguised as a pregnant Pathan woman (!), he woos Sharmila Tagore in the back of a truck, accompanied by a bunch of supportive girls. Pran, as the suspicious driver (and the heroine’s unwanted suitor) gets a verse devoted to him as he’s lifted off the ground and then unceremoniously dropped by the surprisingly muscular `woman’, whose `husband’, Anoop Kumar, assures Pran that she is, after all, a Pathan. A fun song, lilting and cheerful, and with a very pretty Sharmila Tagore.
10. Lorry: Hum hain raahi pyaar ke (Nau Do Gyarah, 1957): This film had one of the best scores ever, by S D Burman. The lorry Dev Anand drives through a large part of the film had an appropriate number plate (DLH 9211) and featured in two great songs (Kali ke roop mein was the other one). This song, a celebration of journeying, and of being one with all mankind, is a classic. Lovely whistling at the beginning; some great photography of Fatehpur Sikri and the Taj Mahal, along with some fine roadside views—and Dev Anand, minus the mannerisms. Perfect.
P.S. There will be a sequel to this post, sometime. I promise!