When I first began blogging about old cinema, my husband asked me, “So will you do a list of Johnny Walker’s songs sometime?” I thought about it (not long; I didn’t need to) and decided yes. Badruddin Jamaluddin Qazi, aka Johnny Walker, definitely deserves a ‘top ten’ list all his own. This, therefore, on what would have been his 83rd birthday, is a list of songs through which he frolics and flirts, teeters and tumbles—just, generally, keeps me glued to the screen. These are all from films of the 50’s and 60’s that I’ve seen, in no particular order.
1. Jungle mein mor naacha kisi ne na dekha (Madhumati, 1958): The ‘outdoor’ set may be obviously fake, but everything else about this song is delightful. Salil Choudhary’s music is bubbly (a desi champagne?), Johnny Walker’s antics, as he climbs up a tree, falls off and generally complains about people complaining he drinks—are hilarious, and the lyrics are fun.
2. Ae dil hai mushkil (CID, 1956): Unlike most of the songs picturised on Johnny Walker, this one isn’t a laugh-out-loud funny one. Instead, it’s a pessimistic commentary on the inhumanity of a large city—a city that our man ‘Master’, a petty thief, traipses through, either sauntering along by himself or by hitching a ride in a Victoria with his pragmatic girlfriend. Kumkum, in one of my favourite roles of hers, is feisty and vivacious, the perfect foil to her somewhat weak-kneed beau.
3. All line clear (Chori Chori, 1956): The only one of Raj Kapoor’s films that I find enjoyable features this amusing song in which an ambitious paterfamilias gathers up his brood and marches them off to nab an heiress for whom a reward’s been offered. Johnny Walker, Indira Bansal, and the gaggle of children all look as if they’re having loads of fun, and the music—dominated by a bagpipe—has the infectious rhythm of a marching song. Line clear hai bhai!
4. Arre na na na tauba tauba (Aar Paar, 1954): There’s lots I love about this song. Johnny Walker, of course—doggedly romancing his lady in a zoo, of all places. The music. The lyrics, so much fun (when our man asks his lady wistfully if she’s been keeping awake nights, her retort is that she isn’t ill). And, of course, the fact that this was a real-life romance being played out: Johnny Walker and Noor (who was Shakila’s sister) actually fell in love on the sets of Aar Paar and got married (or so I’ve heard).
5. Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji (Mr and Mrs 55, 1955): If he was prancing around in a zoo in Arre na na na tauba tauba, here Johnny Walker’s flirting in an office at lunchtime, watched by a bemused chowkidar. Yasmin, all dimpled and pretty as a picture, is wooed by an admiring photographer who insists he’s lost his heart somewhere—under a desk? In a filing cabinet?
One of my favourite songs ever; it’s so cute.
6. Sar jo tera chakraaye (Pyaasa, 1957): Quintessential Johnny Walker: completely loony, irreverent, but with a heart of gold. This is a brilliant tune, with delightful little twirls and twists (even the sounds of the champi are incorporated into the music!), and Johnny Walker is perfect as he goes about drumming up business, massaging heads, dispensing advice, and generally being the local clown. In a film that is otherwise cynical and gloomy, the tel-maalishwaala, Abdul Sattar, is a welcome ray of light.
7. Suno suno Miss Chatterjee (Baharein Phir Bhi Aayengi, 1966): Another of those Johnny Walker-pursues-a-reluctant-miss songs. Here, he’s a Jhansiwaala, trying to press his suit with the Calcuttewaali Miss Chatterjee. This consists of generally trying to coax and emotionally blackmail the girl, but his persistence is admirable: not everybody can sing and pedal and grin at a girl while keeping pace with a Calcutta tram!
8. Kal talak hum theek thha aaj humein (Detective, 1958): Awww, such a cute song! The peppy beat is one of the main reasons I adore this song, and I think the choreography is just bang on. Indira—in a refreshing change from the nasty vamps she often played—makes one half of a great jodi with Johnny Walker as they serenade each other at night, dancing delightfully and mooning about until they’re interrupted by the grumpy Dhumal (who also stamps about in tune).
9. Dekho ji dekho meethi ada se (Mai Baap, 1957): Youtube doesn’t yet have a video of this song as it was picturised, but you can listen to the song here. The music—and the Rafi-Geeta combination—is wonderful of course but so is the picturisation. Johnny Walker plays an unusual role as a villain (a comical villain, but a villain nevertheless) who’s out to swindle a blind man of a windfall. In this song, he’s romancing Minoo Mumtaz, the bright-eyed glamourpuss who’s his equally villainous girlfriend in the film.
10. Zulf ke phande phans gayi jaan (Mujrim, 1958): A delightful song, set in a flea-ridden police station lock-up, where a much put upon Johnny Walker complains bitterly to his fellow inmates about the trouble love’s got him into. Funny lyrics, a catchy rhythm, and great picturisation—with Johnny Walker and a chorus line of happy-go-lucky jailbirds—make this one of my favourites. The cops don’t seem to mind, either!
And before I end this, I might as well put in a footnote: where would a Johnny Walker tribute post be without it being also a tribute to Mohammad Rafi? I’ve always held that Rafi could be exceptionally versatile, and his songs for Johnny Walker are so brilliantly vocalised, I often end up forgetting that it’s Rafi singing, not Johnny Walker. RIP to a superb duo.