This post is dedicated not just to music directors like O P Nayyar and Naushad (who made ‘tonga beats’ an important musical style), but also to friend and blog reader pacifist, who came up with the idea. Writing to me some weeks back, pacifist made a request: that I do a list of horse-drawn vehicle songs.
So: here’s the list, pacifist. Ten of my favourite ghoda-gaadi songs, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Other than that, my requisites for the selected songs were:
1. That the person singing (on screen, that is) remains in the ghoda-gaadi through at least 80% of the song (which is why Ae dil hai mushkil doesn’t feature in this list).
2. Horse-drawn vehicles of all types qualify: tongas, Victorias, phaetons, even chariots. Horseback is out.
3. And, no two songs from the same film are allowed.
1. Yoon toh humne laakh haseen (Tumsa Nahin Dekha, 1957): My favourite actor, in his first superhit film. Shammi Kapoor is his quintessential flirtatious and attractive self here, getting on the nerves of a huffy Ameeta – and charming her, too. And if you thought a horse cart was a fairly restrictive setting, this song is proof that it isn’t: a lot of action takes place within those few square feet. Photographs are displayed, much flinging around of self takes place, and the cart driver – a cheery Sundar – is kept thoroughly entertained by the goings-on of his passengers.
2. Yeh kya kar daala tune (Howrah Bridge, 1958): Even though it’s Madhubala (in Asha Bhonsle’s voice) who serenades Ashok Kumar in this song, you can see that he is the one completely bewitched. She’s gorgeous, the whistling is a great addition to the music, and Calcutta by night is worth a jaunt. As tommydan1 says in his description of the song on Youtube, this is one of the ‘great clip-clop tonga songs’. I agree totally.
Interestingly, Howrah Bridge is one of the few films to have not one, but two great tonga songs: the other is Eent ki dukki, paan ka ikka. Instead of being romantic, this one offers a delightfully panoramic view of Calcutta as Om Prakash’s tonga makes its way past Ballygunge, the Victoria Memorial, Chowringhee, and – of course – the Howrah Bridge.
3. Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi (Chhoti Bahen, 1959): This is one pair of lovers in a ghoda-gaadi who don’t care to have an audience for their coochie-cooing. So they dispense with the driver, and while our hero holds the reins, his girlfriend grabs the quirt. One of the best comic jodis of the 60s – Mehmood and Shubha Khote – with Lata Mangeshkar and the much underrated Subir Sen providing the vocals. There’s another, shorter version of the song in the film too, but in a rickshaw, not a ghoda-gaadi.
4. Haule-haule saajna dheere-dheere baalma (Saawan ki Ghata, 1966): By the late 60s, ghoda-gaadi songs had become far less common than they had been a decade earlier. But this one, with Sharmila Tagore doing her best to woo back a shirty Manoj Kumar – while he’s driving a cartload of hay – is a gem. The lyrics are sweet, O P Nayyar’s music is perfect, and Asha’s singing is wonderful.
Note: Compare the music of this to that of Banda parvar thhaam lo jigar from Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, also composed by O P Nayyar, three years before he created this song. There’s a lot of similarity in the music of the two songs – not just in the ‘tonga beats’, but also in the interludes, in particular.
5. Maang ke saath tumhaara (Naya Daur, 1957): One of O P Nayyar’s best scores had his trademark tonga song. I love everything about Maang ke saath tumhaara: the lively rhythm of the music, Asha and Rafi’s voices, the chemistry between Dilip Kumar and Vyjyantimala, the way their hair get whipped about by the breeze, the way the shadows play across their faces in the first verse of the song… sigh. Beautiful.
6. Ek toh soorat pyaari aur upar se yeh naaz (Vallah Kya Baat Hai, 1962): Shammi Kapoor again (this man must have a record for the largest number of songs picturised in a moving vehicle!). This time, he’s with the lovely Bina Rai, and unlike the petulant Ameeta in Tumsa Nahin Dekha, she doesn’t need to be wooed – she’s pretty much in love with our man anyway. A cute, playful song, with the rain coming down midway, distracting the hero so much that he leaves the horse to its own devices.
7. Banda parvar thhaam lo jigar (Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963): In the grand tradition of songs like Maang ke saath tumhaara and Ek toh soorat pyaari, this song too has a beautiful heroine, a handsome hero – and a thankfully independent horse. This song’s a step ahead of the others, because it also includes a bevy of very athletic extras, who spend most of their time clinging midway up the trunks of the poplars lining the road.
But, jokes apart: such a sweet song, romantic and fun.
By the way, doesn’t this song from (the much later) Andaz Apna Apna have definite shades of Banda parvar thhaam lo jigar? Even the lyrics are very similar.
8. Piya, piya, piya mora jiya pukaare (Baap re Baap, 1955): If Maang ke saath tumhaara put a premium on privacy, this one doesn’t. Though Piya piya piya mora jiya pukaare is a romantic song, the lovey-dovey couple (Kishore Kumar and Chand Usmani) are only half the population on the ghoda-gaadi. There’s a gaadivaan (a driver) and a chaperone (in the form of a cheery S N Bannerjee) too.
There’s a delightful little behind-the-scenes story here. Asha Bhonsle, while singing, accidentally started off one verse before she was supposed to. She was terribly embarrassed and wanted the song to be re-recorded, but Kishore Kumar said it wasn’t needed, since he was the actor too, and would improvise – which he did by clapping a hand over Chand Usmani’s mouth at the relevant point in the picturisation of the song. (See approximately 1:52 in this clip).
9. Dil mein chhupaake pyaar ka toofaan (Aan, 1953): Except for Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi (which was composed by Shankar-Jaikishan) and Ek toh soorat pyaari (which was composed by Roshan), all the ghoda-gaadi songs in this list so far were composed by O P Nayyar. But long before O P Nayyar made hooves his preferred musical accompaniment, Naushad had already used them. Here, for instance, in a fabulous solo by Rafi. Dilip Kumar is handsome, Nadira (in her debut film) is suitably annoyed at having been abducted, and if you watch carefully, you’ll see that the hoofbeats of the horses onscreen are perfectly matched with the hoofbeats in the music.
10. Mera salaam le jaa (Udan Khatola, 1955): Naushad again, in what is one of my favourite songs of his. Nimmi, in her chariot, followed by a group of girls on horseback, sings to an aviator flying high up above in his udan khatola (plane). The music, though peppy, is gentle and forms a fine background for Lata’s voice and the chorus.
The ghoda-gaadi and udan khatola combo appears in another Naushad song too: Udan khatole pe ud jaaoon, from Anmol Ghadi. There, a little girl sitting in a ghoda-gaadi and a boy running alongside (whew – what stamina!) sing it to each other. Another superb song.
Do you have any favourite ghoda-gaadi songs? Please share!