Today is the 68th birthday of one of my favourite actresses: Asha Parekh, beautiful, expressive, a fine actress and an excellent dancer.
Although she had worked in a handful of films as a child actress, Asha’s first onscreen appearance as an adult was an uncredited role in the Vyjyantimala-Kishore Kumar starrer Asha (1957). A year later, in 1958, she was billed in Dil Deke Dekho as ‘a Filmistan discovery’. And what a discovery! All through the 60’s, and into the first couple of years in the 70’s, Asha Parekh appeared in many of Bollywood’s biggest, most colourful, most entertaining films: Dil Deke Dekho, Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai, Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, Love in Tokyo, Mere Sanam, Teesri Manzil…
So, in commemoration: a list of ten of my favourite Asha Parekh songs, all from films that I’ve seen. And, to prevent myself listing all the songs of films like Love in Tokyo, I’m restricting myself to only one song per film.
Happy birthday, Ashaji!
O mere sona re sona re sona (Teesri Manzil, 1966): Teesri Manzil has several terrific songs, but I must admit to a soft spot for this one. Asha Parekh dazzles as the girl trying to cajole a huffy sweetheart whom she’s been guilty of thinking a lecher. And though she’s doing her best to woo him back, she isn’t above teasing him, manhandling (womanhandling?) him and his bag, and generally driving him up the wall—yet captivating him too, all the while. Lovely tune, great lyrics, superb picturisation, Shammi Kapoor. And Asha at her best.
Jab chali thandi hawa jab uthi kaali ghata (Do Badan, 1966): A tragic film, but with this wonderful song that I simply love. Asha Parekh plays a woman separated from the man she loves. What I especially like about this song is the subtle way in which Asha Parekh brings to life the nuances of what her character feels for the man she loves: amid the beauty and liveliness of her surroundings, she retreats into herself, missing her man so desperately that all is seemingly sorrow… but no, the thought of him brings a smile to her face and lightens her heart all over again.
Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein (Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963): Asha Parekh’s three films with Joy Mukherji—Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, Ziddi, and Love in Tokyo—had fabulous scores. Of all the songs in the three films, this is one of my favourites, with Asha playing a girl inadvertently intoxicated by some wild berries she’s eaten. I love the expression on her face: that slightly glazed look in the eyes, and that silly grin as she sings of a (as she supposes) long-lost lover, who is in fact just round the next haystack. Wonderful music, a very pretty heroine, lovely landscape—and a humorous bit of picturisation of “Andaaz woh uske aane ka” (“the style in which he arrives…”): a haystack wobbling along, trying to be discreet but failing terribly.
Daiyya yeh main kahaan aa phansi (Caravan, 1971): Pandemonium reigns in this completely lunatic stage show, where a really seedy audience watches Asha Parekh, Jeetendra, Junior Mehmood and their entourage—including a brood of hens—strut their stuff. Everybody’s funny, but Asha Parekh is the undisputed star as she pulls off impromptu magic tricks with an egg; dodges hens cackling and racing about onstage; climbs onto a pillow slung from a rope and goes swinging high over the crowd—and even wears, briefly, a tasseled lampshade in lieu of a hat. She’s a madcap: exuberant, vivacious, and so very comic. This, by the way, has been cited by Asha Bhonsle as the most difficult song she’s sung in her career.
Mujhe tum mil gaye humdum (Love in Tokyo, 1966): One of my favourite songs from a film that has several excellent songs. Asha Parekh looks exquisite and acts beautifully in this, a song that begins as a love song addressed to the man her character loves. In the course of the song, however, she is blackmailed into pretending a love for the villain—which changes the focus of her smiles and her coquetry. But her eyes, brimming with sorrow and regret, tell the truth.
Suno sajna papihe ne (Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, 1966): I hadn’t realised it earlier, but it looks like 1966 was a big year for Asha Parekh, what with films like Teesri Manzil, Do Badan, Love in Tokyo—and Aaye Din Bahaar Ke. This song from the film is one I especially like, a Lata solo serenading the halcyon days of spring, flower-filled and joyful, and with the added attraction of the singer being in love. And Dharmendra and Asha Parekh look so wonderful together!
Yeh meri zindagi ek paagal hawa (Ziddi, 1964): This song resembles the latter half of Mujhe tum mil gaye humdum, in that here too Asha Parekh’s character is putting on an act at a party. Here, though, the act is less obviously an act. She pirouettes around, flings herself at the men, plays the drums on a bald man’s pate, hauls herself up by her own plait—and shows the pain in her tear-filled eyes only in one darkened, secluded corner of the room where nobody can see her. Melodramatic, but still poignant.
Main na miloongi nazar hata lo (Pyaar ka Mausam, 1969): Asha Parekh in her element, clowning around for all she’s worth! I love her in this, all dolled up as she does a little dance on the highway (interspersing those lovely kathak steps with the twist!) and follows it up with hopscotch, some unrelenting pulling of a fed up Shashi Kapoor’s leg (not to mention his hair), and plenty of entertainment for everybody who’s passing by. A very catchy tune, and so much fun to both watch and listen to.
Chori chori tori aayi hai Radha (Hum Hindustani, 1960): What’s a collection of Asha Parekh songs without an Asha Parekh dance? There were plenty to choose from—Khat likh de saanwariya ke naam, Koi matwaala aaya mere dwaare, Chhedo na mohe Kanha, etc—but I prefer this one. Yes, the psychedelic designs of the background are jarring, and the attempt to recreate a Manipuri raas lila doesn’t quite succeed; the dancers’ skirts are all wrong, to start with. Despite all of that, this is a song I like a lot. The music is soothingly sweet, and with just a hint of Manipur in it. Asha Parekh is graceful, and there’s something almost fragile in her porcelain doll beauty. Refreshingly different from the more vigorous dances she performed in a lot of later films.
Jaaiye aap kahaan jaayenge (Mere Sanam, 1965): One of Asha Bhonsle’s best songs, from a film packed with great songs. Very romantic and very emphatic about the fact that the lover won’t be able to go a step away, even if he wants to. Even better, this song is packed with prettiness. The green hills are pretty, the pine trees are pretty, the white-blossoming tree is pretty. Asha Parekh is, of course, pretty. Even Biswajeet is pretty.