Why not begin, I thought, where I left off in my last post? The last song I listed in my post on my ten favourite Waheeda Rehman songs was Jaane kya tune kahi, from Pyaasa. Interestingly, this was also the first song in the film. It’s a film I’ve seen a few times – always with increasing appreciation, as I begin to see more nuances, more things to admire about it. But do I really have anything new to say about Pyaasa that hasn’t been said before?
So, no review of this film – but some random thoughts that came to mind as I rewatched Pyaasa, especially its songs, all over again. I’d initially thought I’d call this post ‘Some thoughts on the music of Pyaasa’, but that isn’t what it is, actually. Because though S D Burman’s music is sublime, it is the songs in their entirety – Sahir’s earth-shattering lyrics, the voices of Rafi and Hemant and Geeta Dutt – and, very importantly, the picturisation of those songs – that make them memorable.
In chronological order, as they appear in the film, with a little bit of background in each case:
1. Jaane kya tune kahi: The poet Vijay – scorned and rejected (outright by his brothers, less so by his friend, who nevertheless makes fun of Vijay’s ‘innocence’ at not having a whore to bed) – goes searching for some of his lost poems (sold off by his brothers), and ends up on a park bench. He disturbs a woman who’s been sitting there, and she gets up – her face hidden by her sari pallu – and recites a line from his poem. This is (though Vijay still doesn’t know it), the prostitute Gulabo, the woman who has bought his poems.
She doesn’t know him either; all she sees is a prospective client, a man attracted by her beauty and her song. So she lures him on, through the tall-pillared, ‘respectable’ locales of the smart part of town, away into her area, small, squalid and narrow-laned.
Her voice and her words beckon him on, as does her worldly-wise gaze, her eyelids heavy with a calculated seduction. And Vijay follows. But why? Is he – as she imagines – intoxicated by her beauty and her song? Or is he merely trying to track down his lost poems?
A beautiful song, sung as a practised tool to charm and seduce. The close-ups of Waheeda Rehman’s face, heavy-lidded eyes and all, add to that effect.
2. Ho laakh musibat raste mein par saath na apna chhoote: The chorus – “peechhe-peechhe duniya hai, aage-aage hum” (“the world is behind us, we’re far ahead”) – is the literal essence of this song: of flying high and leaving the world behind; of being so happy together in one’s newfound mutual love, that nothing else matters.
Where Jaane kya tune kahi or the more bitter songs of Pyaasa have connotations that go far beyond the obvious, this less-popular song is probably more obscure because it’s a pretty much run-of-the-mill romantic song. It’s also, at just over 2 minutes long, quite short, and brought on as a flashback, caused by Vijay’s fleeting glimpse of Meena, the girl he once loved.
3. Sar jo tera chakraaye: What can a Guru Dutt film be without Johnny Walker? And here too, Johnny Walker makes his almost mandatory appearance, as our downtrodden hero’s friend, the always-cheerful, always-supportive maalish-wallah (masseur), Abdul Sattar. The way he’s introduced is very appropriate too: in the midst (literally, and figuratively) of gloom, Sattar bhai makes a joyful entry.
In a dreary, deserted eatery, Gulabo has been telling Vijay how she’s always known only ridicule.
Vijay, she has already discovered, is as badly off as her, without even the money to buy himself a meal. From this despair and unhappiness, the scene shifts to one of an uncrowded, misty lane – equally dark? Equally dim and dreary? But no; Abdul Sattar shines through – a ray of light in an otherwise dark world, tripping along happily as he sings of relieving those whose woes are dragging them down.
4. Hum aapki aankhon mein: This song comes about in a roundabout way. On his way out of the publisher Mr Ghosh’s office, Vijay accidentally runs into Meena, Mr Ghosh’s wife and once Vijay’s sweetheart. As they descend in the lift, the reflection of her face in the glass takes Vijay back in time to a college party, where he and Meena wandered off by themselves while their classmates waltzed and twirled – and the two lovers ended up dreaming of what it would be like to be forever in love, forever carefree and without anything to keep them apart. This is a waltz too, but in dreamland – with balloons, lamps, clouds of billowing mist, floating wisps of curtain – and the two lovers, all by themselves. Cocooned from the harsh reality of real life, in a world that is so obviously make-believe.
Prophetically, the song ends with Meena going, rushing back through the hanging curtains, up the staircase down which she had first come… leaving Vijay puzzled and bereft. A woman who knows she belongs in the heights, and had descended only for those few moments to fill his life with joy, before she goes back to those heights.
5. Jaane woh kaise log thhe jinke: In a party hosted by Meena’s jealous husband, Mr Ghosh, Vijay is told, as Mr Ghosh’s ‘servant’, to help serve. The mediocre poets at the party – talking only of love, beauty and other ‘popular things’ – are overheard by Vijay, who recites a line of his own bitter, cynical poetry, and is immediately egged on by the guests to sing the entire song.
Jaane woh kaise log thhe jinke is a harsh commentary on the faithlessness of Meena, who – like his own shadow that has deserted Vijay – has also left him so that she can have an easy life with a wealthy man as her husband. The images are interesting. Ghosh, seething and simmering, not knowing fully but suspecting – realises that Meena has a shared past with Vijay.
Meena, who has given in to her selfishness but has not forgiven herself for it, battles with her conscience while servants in the background carry on with their work of laying out dinner.
And, tellingly, the people in the room divide themselves into two: Vijay is on one side, bitter and disillusioned as he sings; the others sit or stand, wealthy and lolling on sofas, smoking and drinking as they half- listen to his song, which for them is mere entertainment.
This is one of my favourite songs from Pyaasa. The camera work is superb, and the combination of the lyrics (I always think Sahir’s cynicism was his forte), Burman’s music and Hemant’s voice is haunting.
6. Aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa lo: This is a lovely bhajan which acts as an unvoiced hymn for Gulabo’s own feelings towards Vijay. She has not met him in person very often yet; but he has bared his heart and his feelings, his joys and his sorrows to her through his poems which she unwittingly bought. And now, after being chased by a police constable who would have arrested her for streetwalking, she’s been saved by Vijay, who has told the cop that she’s his wife. Even as the cop retreats and Vijay goes his way, Gulabo – the ‘fallen woman’ – suddenly sees salvation. You see her drape her sari pallu over her head, in the traditional way of a wife covering her head in the presence of her husband. And then a jogan nearby begins singing a hymn of praise – a hymn that we can hear Gulabo sing in her heart to her saviour, Vijay.
There is something particularly lovely about the fact that this tawdry whore, with her hair artfully curled to fall about her face, her earrings and necklace cheap and shiny, her eyelids so heavily painted – is so affected by this song. Deeply enough to stumble, teary-eyed and with her heart brimming with love, up to the roof where Vijay, smoking and looking out over the railing at the jogan below, seems completely unmoved by the song. And Gulabo backs away, still silent.
7. Jinhe naaz hai Hind par: This song is brought on by the sudden realisation of the cruelty that surrounds Vijay. It’s fuelled by a bottle of liquor and a scene that’s disgusting and heartrending, all at once: a whore at a brothel to which Vijay’s ‘friends’ have dragged him is forced to dance, even though her ill baby is wailing in a cradle and the distraught mother is begging to be allowed to look after the baby… the laughing men pull at her, telling her “they need looking after too.”
The main bulwark of this song is its lyrics – Sahir is brilliant here, brutally honest and pulling no punches in his condemnation of the exploitation of women. And S D Burman lets the words shine, by providing music that is barely there. Of course, Rafi’s brilliant rendition of this song – the slurring voice of the drunk, the bitterness and the angst – come pouring forth.
Otherwise, as far as picturisation goes, this is not one of my favourite songs from Pyaasa. It’s too blatantly obvious, I think. A little inept, when you compare it to the brilliance of a song like the next (and the last) one in Pyaasa:
8. Yeh mahalon ye takhton yeh taajon ki duniya: How many times have I listed this song on this blog? It is one of S D Burman’s most stupendous compositions, the music swirling and whirling and burgeoning up into a desperately angry crescendo. It is one of Sahir’s best ever poems, in its rejection of all that a materialistic world holds dear – and it flings, in its grand finale, that same very world back in the teeth of the world: “Jalaa do ise, phoonk daalo yeh duniya! Mere saamne se hata lo yeh duniya! Tumhaari hai tum hi sambhaalo yeh duniya!” And Rafi? Rafi is sublime.
The song itself comprises, for me, one of the most unforgettable scenes in classic Hindi cinema. The pompous speechifying of Mr Ghosh; the sudden disbelief – followed by overwhelming joy and peace, for Gulabo; the disbelief – and guilt – of Meena; and the changing emotions of a fickle crowd… all make this a song in a million. If I had to pick one song out of all of Pyaasa’s to list as my favourite, this would be it. I can never fail to be awestruck by its sheer power.
(Incidentally, it took over a hundred takes to shoot Yeh mahalon yeh takhton yeh taajon ki duniya. It shows, doesn’t it?)
And lastly: what I admire the most about the songs of Pyaasa: the sheer versatility that S D Burman, Sahir Ludhianvi, Rafi, Hemant and Geeta Dutt bring to the songs.
It is the work of actors to act, to portray the despairing poet as well as the romantic college-goer, the hardened whore as well as the woman who considers herself purified by the love of a man. That’s what acting is all about.
But a singer who sings Yeh mahalon yeh takhton yeh taajon ki duniya with as much brooding intensity as he brings joie de vivre to Sar jo tera chakraaye? Or a poet who writes fun stuff like Jiske sar par haath phiraa doon chamke kismet uski as seemingly effortlessly as he writes about the heartlessness of the money-grubbing millions of this world? Or a music director who composes a bhajan as beautifully as he writes a tune so intensely powerful that it can sweep you away by the anger it embodies? Geniuses, all.
This timing is remarkable! Just a few hours ago, someone on a bollywood forum posted that “Most Indian films are more like movies with music video breaks rather than films with songs truly integrated into the narrative ” and instantly, the very FIRST thing that popped into my head in refutation was Jaane kya tune kahi. The image of Waheeda as the song starts is so deeply imprinted that I think of it in this context even before a song ABOUT her, like Chaudhvin ka Chand
I guess somebody who wasn’t too well aware of a broad spectrum of Hindi films would probably agree with what that person on the forum said – but yes, looking back at some of my favourite films which are also classics (I’m not talking mass entertainment stuff that I also adore!! – I mean films like Pyaasa, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Khamoshi, Do Bigha Zameen and so on)… that’s not quite correct. All of these films, though they had songs, had the songs so wonderfully integrated into the narrative that they weren’t intrusions. Not by a long shot.
Also, re ” If I had to pick one song out of all of Pyaasa’s to list as my favourite, this would be it. I can never fail to be awestruck by its sheer power.” AMEN! I never thought I’d ever be able to pick one “Nr 1” Hindi song, but I know that this is it – the best, AND my favourite. Said without any pretence of objectivity or musical judgment. :)
I don’t know if I’d pick Yeh mahalon yeh takhton yeh taajon ki duniya as my No.1 Hindi film song ever – there are too many competing favourites (Woh subaah kabhi toh aayegi, Yehi woh jagah hai, Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai, Tum pukaar lo, Ae mere pyaare watan, Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam etc, etc. But as the best song in Pyaasa? Certainly. That song always affects me very deeply. And yes, I’m not pretending to any sort of objectivity or musical judgment either. Just pure “what I like and what I don’t” ;-)
Wow, I just came here after answering to your comment at my blog. There I wrote “Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo, as you might have noticed is turning more and more to my favourite song. It is so multi-layered. I think I’m going to write a separate post on it”
And lo, I come here and read this!
Wow, A great post, entertaining and informative!
“But do I really have anything new to say about Pyaasa that hasn’t been said before?”
I think there are more layers to Pyaasa, than one can write about. It is so sublimely beautiful, though also extremely painful at times, but the beauty of the story and the film is that it rises above the pain and sorrow.
In fact I was thinking of doing a third post on Pyaasa in May, but I thought, I don’t want to bore everybody again with Pyaasa.
“And Vijay follows. But why?”
I have also been intrigued by that. He could have easily interrupted her, but he doesn’t even make an attempt. Is she singing one of his poems?
You know, harvey, when I was putting in links for bhajans in my comment on your post, I wondered if I should add Aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa lo – since I was anyway going to be publishing this post! But then I thought, “Come on! This song deserves to be praised all around!”
Oh, please – do write another post on Pyaasa! I would love to read it. In fact, I was reminded of your interesting comment on the significance of pillars in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam when I was watching Pyaasa this time around – they’re there, very literally, when Gulabo lures Vijay on with that first song, and they appear – in different forms (the bars of the mental asylum cell, the staircase leading up to Gulabo’s room, the ‘cage’ of that old lift going up to Mr Ghosh’s office, in which Vijay meets Meena again…) And that reminds me: another thing I hadn’t noticed before. When Vijay and Meena meet in the lift, they talk a little before the lift reaches the ground floor. Everybody gets out and Meena is left all alone. She blinks and says, “Oh! I forgot. I had to go up.” Such a telling – yet indirect – reflection on the woman herself, who gave up her love for Vijay because she was hell-bent on being ‘comfortably off’.
I think Jaane kya tune kahi is supposed to be one of Vijay’s poems. Gulabo obviously knows them deeply; when she looks at the page he’s dropped, she recognises the handwriting almost instantly, and when her friend Juhi (Kum Kum) arrives, Gulabo is very distressed about how she has inadvertently treated Vijay.
Yes, ‘Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo’ needs to be praised everywhere!
Thank you for including it in your comment. Although I will be including it in my mendicant list (who knows when and if at all), it hurts a lot to leave it (and ‘Aan milo, aan milo shyam saanware’) out. That is why I’m glad you took it in!
The pillars are very much there in Pyaasa!
Go to the scene when Mr.Ghosh and Vijay meet for the first time. The pillar(s) not only gives the scene a depth but also a dramatic tension! And also the scene in the lift, which I have mentioned in my post ‘musings on pyaasa’. You have described it in a much better way then I ever can. Good that you brought it up here!
But even after we know that she is a gold-digger, the viewer never loses sympathy with her, such is the mastery of Guru Dutt’s direction.
Thank you, harvey, both for your praise, and for that insightful comment on how, even though we know Meena is a gold-digger, we never lose sympathy with her. You’re so right – on the one hand, I felt annoyed at how callous this woman was; on the other, I couldn’t help but feel that she has a point when she tells Vijay (much later, when she’s already Mrs Ghosh): “You were unemployed, poor, unable to even provide a meal for yourself. How would you have looked after me?!”
Then, of course, there is the fact that she so obviously still feels deeply for Vijay – her actions at the party, in the lift, or when Vijay ‘comes back from the dead’ – all indicate that she does still love him, even if she’s married Ghosh for totally mercenary reasons.
The genius of Sahir, though visible in some of his grand poetry with such depth in meaning, also lay in very subtle lines. His outstanding ability to inject philosophy into any theme is what makes me his devout fan.
Consider Sar Jo tera chakraye, a seemingly light song picturized on Johny Walker. He comes up with a stunner
Naukar Ho ya malik, leader ho ya public
apne aage sabhi jhuke hain, kya raja kya sainik.
I believe Sahir has touched upon dignity of labour through these lines. Any thoughts?.
Of course he has! After all he was a communist! And as a full-blooded poet he knew how to communicate his ideas and beliefs!
Have you read Ms. Kabir’s book Javed Akhtar’s lyrics. There is a detailed interview with Javed Akhtar and his appreciation of the yester years lyrics. He has some flowery words of appreciation for Sahir.
Haven’t read Ms Kabir’s book on Javed Akhtar, but I am all for praise and appreciation for Sahir! Definitely the best. :-)
Javed Akhtar and Sahir were friends (though the latter was a friend of his father’s). JA had a very angry relationship with his father Jan Nisar Akhtar and their fights would apparently result in Javed spending time at Sahir’s house. I picked up this story in a short story (describing real life) by Gulzar in his book “Half a Rupee Stories”. The story talks about Javed’s reaction when Sahir died.
Yes, Karthik – that had struck me too. It’s a good pun – literally and figuratively, on the phrase “kisi ke aage sar jhukaana”. That’s what I like especially about Sahir’s lyrics in Pyaasa – he gets to write lyrics which have so many layers. For instance, I was just thinking last night (long after this post had been published) that even Hum aapki aankhon mein can have different connotations to it. On the surface, this is just another man-wooing-a-woman song; below that, there’s more. If you listen closely, you can see that at every turn, she is more or less telling him that she will reject him (“In zulfon mein goontheinge hum phool mohabbat ke” – “In zulfon ko jhatakkar hum yeh phool gira dein toh?”).
Of course, that could just be considered a teasing song, but I think there’s more to it.
Jaane woh kaise log the and Yeh mahalon ye takhton yeh taajon ki duniya have been my favourites ever since I heard them. On a romantic note, I really like Hum aap ki aankhon mein . But it’s only of late that I actually noticed the sheer beauty of Jaane kya tune kahi and Aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa lo .
Loved every bit of what you’ve written about Aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa lo .
I really have to watch this movie again. I had first heard it’s story on Vividh Bharati. Then saw the jist of it on some show on classic movies that used to be aired on Sony way back in 2001-2002. Vinay Pathak used to host it. Then I finally saw the movie and I was in awestruck by it. It’s one of those movies that has left such indelible impression in my memory. Be it performance, music, songs, story, direction….everything is so beautiful about Pyasa.
Like Harvey said, this movie has so many layers to it. And yes, please please do the post on it. It’s always a pleasure reading about this movie and even more so when it comes from you guys :-)
Now Harvey, you really have to do another post on this! Please, please! :-)
Yes, Sunehriyaadein: you’re so right about this being one of those movies that leaves an indelible impression. Everything about it – down to a simple dialogue, one expression, one little detail… is perfect. One can see why Guru Dutt is considered one of India’s greatest directors, ever. This and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam are two films I can see over and over again, and find something ‘new’ to admire about them.
Okay, I’ll do it, but surely not this year!
*I’m so easy to convince!* ;-)
I’m glad you’re easy to convince! ;-)
(Why the ‘mlechha’, by the way?)
Very profound and well analysed DO.
I have to repeat similar sentiments. What more can I say, you have expressed all that I saw (and didn’t).
One has to see the film more than once to really get the subtleties, and especially the use of the songs, the way the lyrics mould the situation into something more communicative and impressive.
It’s so good to be discussing the songs of pyaasa.
Thank you, pacifist! I agree with you about watching the film more than once to really get the subtleties.
Oddly enough, after I’d finished watching the film this time (and I kept writing about the songs each time a song would end, so I took a lot of breaks in between)… well, when I finished, I just went over to see what reviews it had got on IMDB. And whereas people like Stuart echoed my sentiments, there were others (at least one) who said it wasn’t that great, because the hero wallowed in self-pity and didn’t get around to doing anything about his situation. I wanted to scream: “You know, just because he’s the protagonist, doesn’t mean he has to be the hero!! Stop imagining that just because you’re used to seeing Hindi film heroes always come out on top of the world, Vijay must, too!”
There’s something refreshing about seeing a film about a character who may be in the right, but is not exactly the heroic kind – by no means.
>there were others (at least one) who said it wasn’t that great, because the hero wallowed in self-pity and didn’t get around to doing anything about his situation.
I guess these are those very smug, self satisfied, and judgemental people unable to put themselves into the shoes of others or for that matter into the shoes of people of a bygone era when times were indeed tough.
They would rather bury their head in sand and pretend all the unfairness/unhappiness/tragedies don’t exist to spoil their fun, or if it exists then it is just self pity.
I guess one should stop appreciating the Shakespearen and Greek tragedies. One isn’t allowed to feel sad with unfulfilled love, or the situation around you in the world that makes you sad, anymore, because it is self pity.
*end of rant* :-D
But I like your answer;
>“You know, just because he’s the protagonist, doesn’t mean he has to be the hero!! Stop imagining that just because you’re used to seeing Hindi film heroes always come out on top of the world, Vijay must, too!”
I agree completely with your assessment of people like these, who are so smug. Just because they themselves live satisfied and comfortable lives, they think that is how the world lives – and that is how the world should live. I remember working at a small ad agency years ago, where my boss once asked me, “So? What is your goal in life?” This in a very serious one-to-one meeting, not a joke over coffee. And he was genuinely horrified when I told him I wasn’t really ambitious – that I was quite happy the way I was, doing work I liked and so on. He couldn’t imagine why anybody would not be ambitious.
Come on, if all of us were ambitious go-getters who were intent on getting ahead at all costs, what would happen to the dreamers? We’d become extinct!
And in any case, I do agree that when one is talking about art – theatre, literature, cinema, whatever – to arouse emotion (in whatever form) is an important aspect. As in the case of Pyaasa, that emotion could be sympathy, disgust, anger, whatever – even if it’s dirceted at the progatonist. I don’t see what’s wrong with that.
Whew. End of my rant! :-D
Ranting is very good for cathartic release, unlike poets who wrote exqusite poetry instead (as in pyaasa) to express their suppressed rage/hurt/disappointments etc.
Guru Dutt’s poet in pyaasa was one such, and no self pitier (is that a word? :-D)
Now that you point it out, yes – I agree. Vijay does not indulge in self-pity. Never. he may not make any attempt to really pull up his socks and make a success out of his life, but that has more to do with his disillusionment and disgust for the world around him. Never does he say that the world is to blame for his current circumstances.
Well said, pacifist.
Thank you for a great post on a wonderful soundtrack from a beautiful film. I cannot get enough of the soundtrack. Each song is marked with such lyrical, musical, and vocal precision! The one part in the film that I wish were made into a song was at the very beginning, with Guru Dutt in a garden. But I guess the focus on the sequence of events might not have been as intense, in that case.
I’d tend to agree that were I to pick one and only one song from the soundtrack, the one at the very end would be it. Epic in the true sense of the word, and as time has told, relevant through the generations to sustain its position among the very best ever. Simply brilliant.
Thank you, theBollywoodfan! Yes, Pyaasa‘s soundtrack is simply fabulous. So is the film, of course, but what makes each song stand out is the fact that it blends so brilliantly into the film. Never is it a jarring interlude. And I’m glad you agree that Yeh mahalon yeh takhton… is a superb song. ‘Epic’ is the word you used, and I couldn’t describe it better.
Another situation that I think might have lent itself to a brief but bitter song is when Pushpa (TunTun) forces Vijay up onto the stage at their college alumni festival and makes him recite his poetry. But that might have been too reminiscent of Jaane woh kaise log thhe jinke…
There is nothing much I can add, you have said it all. The tune of song Aaj sajan mujhe ang laga lo is based on the Bengali kirtan tunes. S.D. Burman got his inspiration from, kirtan Bengali folk music and Rabindra Sangeet, for instance the tune of Tere mere milan ki yeh raina from Abhimaan is entirely based on Rabindra Sangeet.
Thank you for that tidbit of information, Shilpi! incidentally, Raunak and I had a brief discussion recently on how much SD Burman was influenced by traditional Bengali folk tunes and so on (Raunak giving me all the information, I lapping it up eagerly!) on my post on Sujata. Have a look at his comments towards the bottom of the post.
Guys, please can you say something about Hum aapki aankho mein. What kind, raaga etc it is based on?
Sublime is the one word to describe Pyaasa. I love the songs. The movie is intense. I have seen it maybe once. Will have to see it again to appreciate all the nuances you mention. Jane kya tune kahi is one of my favorites but lyrically and picturization-wise. Waheeda’s heavily seductive eyelids is testament to her superb n subtle acting. And it’s so difficult to think of her as a “fallen woman” – whether it’s Pyaasa, Teesri Kasam, Guide …. there is such purity and innocence about her! Perhaps that’s what the directors wanted to portray by picking her for those roles – someone who could carry off fallen-ness with the kind of aura that Waheeda adds to the character.
But interestingly, the one face that has arrested me completely is the screencap of suspicious Rehman!!! WOW – what a phenomenal face he had! And I absolutely adore that perfect nose, those intense eyes! I recently watched Yeh Raaste hain pyar ke with him as the suave, seductive casanova who seduces Lila Naidu and is the central subject of the really well done courtroom drama. He is seduction personified. Just beauty in a man is rare to find today.
Ok btw, that should say “Such beauty” not “Just beauty” – typo
Simplegal, if you’ve seen Pyaasa once and liked it, I’d certainly recommend a re-watch: this film is one of those (very few, unfortunately) which just seem to get better each time you see it. And you’re so right about Waheeda Rehman – despite her carrying off the role of the ‘fallen woman’ in so many films – especially the ones you’ve named (I’d also add CID to that list) – she has a purity and a dignity that makes one respect and like her, no matter what. She never strikes one as being undignified, even when – for instance, in Pyaasa she yells abuse at Vijay when she discovers that he isn’t a potential customer, after all. How does she manage it? A consummate actress!
Back in the 80s, there was this Hindi songs programme called Chitrahaar, and they used to often show the songs of Pyaasa on it. I recall recording both Jaane woh kaise log thhe jinke and Yeh mahalon yeh takhton… on a VHS tape, and watching that tape so often after that, that I knew almost every camera frame, every expression and note in those two songs. And that expression of Rehman’s has stayed with me all these years! He’s amazing.
BTW, have you seen Maghroor? An early Rehman – he starred in it with Nigar Sultana. Memsaab reviewed it too, as far as I remember. He was fantastic in that.
I saw Pyaasa when I was much younger and didn’t quite like the pace of the movie. Songs I loved. I’ve noticed that we experience movies/books differently at different stages of life and perhaps now that I’ve known/appreciated the sublime music, I’ll perhaps see Pyaasa with different eyes/mind.
Waheeda is, well, Waheeda. Diminutive in size but a towering talent and such an expressive face. No wonder she is Big B’s favorite lady and according to him the embodiment of a perfect Indian woman.
Maghroor I haven’t seen. But I remember well Rehman’s handsome presence in movies like Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, Chhoti Bahen, Dulhan ek raat ki, etc.I adore his nose most of all :-) and his voice is great too. Different.
Yes, I often find that some films I’d seen and loved in my childhood now don’t hold the same fascination for me, and vice-versa: films that I didn’t really like now make sense and I can appreciate them.
Another film that I can recommend just in order to watch Rehman looking awesome is Chhalia (with Nutan and Raj Kapoor). He acts the part of Nutan’s husband and is a rather suspicious, not very nice character (though not a villain!), but he looks fabulous. :-)
A wonderful post. However, my favourites are Sahir’s nazms sung by Mohammad Rafi, lip-synched by Guru Dutt at several places in the film. I find them the pinnacle of Sahir’s poetry, and Rafi without accompaniment of any musical instrument is divine. I find the same quality in Rafi’s recitation in some other films, such as Unhe kissa-e-gham jo likhne ko baithe to dekhe qalam ki rawaani mein ansoo from the film Naya Kanoon. I would place these very much in any discussion on Pyasa‘s songs, or am I in minority of one! Here are Pyasa‘s some superb nazms:
ये हंसते हुए फूल ये महका हुआ गुलशन
ये रंग में और नूर में डूबी हुई राहें
ये फूलों का रस पीने को मचलते हुए भौंरें
मैं दूं भी तो क्या दूं तुझे ऐ शोख नज़ारो
ले दे के मेरे पास कुछ आंसू हैं कुछ आहें
तंग आ चुके हैं कशमकश- ए- ज़िंदगी से हम
ठुकरा ना दें जहां को कहीं बेदिली से हम
हम ग़मज़दा हैं लायें कहां से खुशी के गीत
देंगे वही जो पायेंगे इस ज़िंदगी से हम
उभरेंगे एक बार अभी दिल के वलवले
माना के दब गये हैं ग़म-ए-ज़िंदगी से हम
लो आज हमने तोड़ दिया रिश्ता-ए-उम्मीद
लो अब कभी गिला ना करेंगे किसी से हम
ग़म इस कदर बढ़े कि मैं घबरा के पी गया
इस दिल की बेबसी पे तरस खा के पी गया
ठुकरा रहा था मुझको बड़ी देर से जहां
मैं आज सब जहां को ठुकरा के पी गया
Here is its video link:
And here is the link to Unhe kissa-egham jo likhne ko baithe
Yes, well… I suppose all of us have our own preferences on what we’d classify as songs, and what we’d classify as recitation. I personally think there’s a difference, though very minute – but I am perfectly at ease with accepting that another person might want to consider them the same thing. And I wanted to restrict this post to only ‘songs’ in the strict sense of what most Indians would regard as ‘film songs’. In any case, Pyaasa has so many superb recitations, that this post would’ve become just too long if I’d included them as well.
But I do agree that Rafi’s rendition of the nazms in Pyaasa is simply superb. His voice is so utterly beautiful, it doesn’t actually need instruments to provide music. My personal favourite from Pyaasa is the second one you’ve listed, the awesome Tang aa chuke hain:
On a related note, another lovely recitation in Rafi’s voice is from the poetry of Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’, in this scene in Mirza Ghalib:
Come on, AK: why don’t you do a post on Rafi’s fabulous recitations in films? Would love to see that!
Pyaasa!!! What an absolutely amazing film this was! I’ve seen it only twice – I really need to see it again.
I absolutely love this movie. It lingers on in your mind for a long time after you finish seeing it, it asks you troubling questions. I remember when I first saw it many years ago (I was 14 or 15 then), the question I came away with was “Does one have to die to be recognised for his work? Why can’t somebody get credit during his lifetime for what he’s done?”. I remember also being depressed by the brothel scenes in “jinhe naaz hai”.
I will always remember “Jaane wo kaise”. I was introduced to it by a friend of mine when a situation arose in high school when a classmate (yes, I swear it was a classmate ;-)) had a crush on a certain girl and she did not reciprocate. Another classmate consoled him, saying “jaane wo kaise log the jinke pyar ko pyar mila. Hum ne to jab kaliyaan maangin kaanton ka haar mila”. It became a huge hit in our class. :-) I’ve always had a special place in my heart for this song. The lyrics are lovely – as are the lyrics for practically every song of Pyaasa.
Sar jo tera chakraaye is close to the top, if not right at the top, of my Johnny Walker songs. Absolutely love everything about the song.
Rafi saab is indeed outstanding in this movie. I must give a lot of credit to S D Burman too. His music for Jinhe naaz and ye mehlon is just perfect – it allows Rafi saab’s voice and the lyrics to take over.
And well, you know what I think of Sahir. I was listening to “wo subah kabhi to aayegi” today (Phir Subah Hogi) – it is one of my favourites. And I was thinking “How many people, especially amongst today’s younger generation, know about Sahir? Many may not even have heard of him!” *sigh*
I think the first time I saw this film must have been when I was 11 or 12 – the elections were on, and I remember at that time, all schools would shut for the duration of those 2-3 days of voting (at least in Srinagar, where my father was posted), and Doordarshan would show old Hindi films all day! We kids loved elections just for that. :-) They did a Guru Dutt showcase once, and aired Pyaasa as part of that. I guess I was too small to really appreciate the beauty of the film, though I loved the songs even then, and was glad the film had at least a part-happy end!
But subsequent viewings, at more mature stages of my life, have convinced me that this is indeed a film in a million. It’s remarkable in so many ways, and each of those fits in seamlessly with the others. I’ve come across countless films with great stories and awful acting (Humraaz – Vimmy!), great songs but terrible stories (oh, so many), lovely music but indifferent lyrics… in Pyaasa, nothing is below the standards of the rest of the film.
Woh subaah kabhi toh aayegi is one of my favourite songs too. I don’t much care for Mukesh, but that’s one song where he can make me weep, he’s so good. Another superb example of awesome music and wonderful lyrics, sung with deep feeling.
“Otherwise, as far as picturisation goes, this is not one of my favourite songs from Pyaasa. It’s too blatantly obvious, I think.”
I find it apt. I was really glad it was blatant. There was no hiding of the horrors of the flesh trade behind the ‘respectability’ of a mujra or something equivalent.
It is a song that hits hard and the scene for that had to be equally hard. It makes me very uncomfortable, but I think that is it’s purpose; to shake me from my sofa/armchair and make me take notice of it.
The same way, he also could have made Gulabo a dancer, but no, she is a street-walker, to drive in the fact, she is no virgin.
Virginity which is held up high as a synonym for innocence, knowledge and purity. And exactly these values he wanted to be embodied by Gulabo. The very opposite of Meena.
I think I didn’t put my point forward too clearly there. Actually, the fact that it is blatant didn’t rankle with me; what irritated me more was that ‘what was being said was the same as what was being shown’. (Not my line – an advertising guru here in India – Dennis Joseph, DJ, used to do consultancy for an ad agency I once worked for. He told us once that a good ad never repeats, in its text, what it’s showing in the accompanying graphic. That is why some ads stick with you. Have a look at this fantastic Tabasco ad….it has no text, just an image which says it all). What I thought jarring about Jinhe naaz hai Hind par… was that its words said exactly what was going on onscreen. It slightly insults the viewer’s intelligence. On the other hand, songs like Jaane woh kaise log or Hum aapki aankhon mein have a more subtle way of getting the message across, leaving the viewer to make some deductions.
But, that’s just my view!
It is quite an education reading this post & the comments, the passion that you & others feel for this movie does come through. I do not have anything to contribute at this high level (except of course a general and oft-repeated “the songs are great”).
Continuing from your earlier post, I do see & agree with you that Guru Dutt is on par with Dev Anand as Waheeda’s best co-star.
Since this is the one Bollywood movie included in TIME magazine’s ALL TIME 100 movies,(http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/completelist/0,29569,1953094,00.html)
the questions I have are :-
1) Does it deserve to be included if there exists only one slot for a BWood movie.
2) If you had to make this list, how many & which Indian movies would you choose (The list already has Ray’s Apu Trilogy & Mani Ratnam/KamalHaasan’s Nayakan)
3) Any other thought’s on the list
(You may certainly choose to ignore all these questions, and that is OK)
Samir, these are very hard questions to answer. And any answer one gives, one is bound to repent it or at least withdraw it.
Listing according to me are true only for the given moment. for e.g., in the last list I did, I changed two songs in the last moment and the moment I published it, I again wanted to change it. That is why nearly all my lists have rules! :-) And still they are controversial.
Thus my conclusion is that lists (even with rules) reflect the truth only partially.
I agree these questions are very hard to answer, and any answer one gives is likely to be repented & changed. That is why I made the stipulation that it is OK not to answer these questions.
However, I feel that amongst the many people I know, you & Dustedoff are probably some of the most qualified to tackle these questions. Hence anything you two would have to say on this issue would be welcome.
Again to re-iterate, a “No Comment” would be fine as well :)))
Well, then I have answered the questions with my comment above! ;-)
tum to khud samajhdhar ho, samajh jaawoge! ;-)
That’s an interesting (and as Raja said for my Waheeda post, somewhat eerie) comment – you’ll see why, when my next post rolls around. For now, I’d like to concentrate on your questions… hmm. As harvey says above, it’s hard to answer, and my list would probably undergo changes from one year to the next.
I haven’t seen most of the films on the list, even though I do recall some that I have noticed on the list and have seen – they’re a very eclectic collection, and not necessarily films that are ‘high brow’. So even an LOTR features in it… or an 8 1/2. But also a Battleship Potemkin. Commercial success, critical acclaim, or both (or none, I guess) are not considered criteria. What, then, are the criteria for the list? That they had all been seen by the people who compiled the list? How did they do that? By watching all films ever made, anywhere? Impossible. So I’d not even say that the Time list is infallible.
But, coming back to whether I would say Pyaasa deserved its slot as Bollywood’s only entry (if one said that was possible – just one slot): then I’d probably be stuck. I can think of some other films that I truly love, often for a variety of reasons, and which deserve to be better known. Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, for example. Or Haqeeqat. Or Malamaal Weekly. But then, I can’t give up thinking Pyaasa is in a class of its own… so maybe I’d say that it is, as far as I am concerned, the best choice.
So I’ve ended up agreeing to the proposition inherent in Q#1. Q#2: the answer would include the other films I’ve listed above. I haven’t seen many films in other Indian languages, so can’t comment, but other Hindi films I’d definitely include would be Waqt and CID – they are both very commercial, but with a certain elegant finesse to their mass market appeal that makes them stand apart.
Great post, I enjoyed reading it. I just ordered a number of old movies one of which is a Best of Guru Dutt DVD. I was keen to re-watch all the films which I havent seen for 25 years or so, and now I am even more keen after reading your post!
Thank you, Suja! I’ve seen the Guru Dutt DVD collection you mean – my sister gifted it to my parents when they bought a new DVD player, and I was the first to borrow the set from them! Some great films there, though I must profess a particular love for Pyaasa and Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam – both are so beautifully nuanced.
I recently bought a DVD of Guru Dutt’s movies, but as fate would have it, my new DVD player does not recognize this format! So I will have to re-watch Pyaasa on my computer, a little at a time, but only on days when I am ready to deal with all the powerful emotions it evokes. It just gives you a one-two punch in the gut, and defies you to get up and walk away without any feelings, especially after you watch and listen to the song Yeh mahalon yeh takhton …. In fact, on most days, I just listen to the songs, esp Jaane kya tune kahi … and Sar jo tera chakraye … and turn off the computer (I have been watching on Youtube).
I think India just wasn’t ready for such introspection when this movie was released, and it is only now that we are prepared to face reality, reality being the greed and corruption everywhere while we still pretend to be lofty minded and ignore the suffering and misery around us, so it is only now that Guru Dutt is getting the recognition that he so richly deserved. Thank you for a perceptive look at this movie’s songs.
“It just gives you a one-two punch in the gut, and defies you to get up and walk away without any feelings”
You are so, so right.
But I’m not sure about how ready (or not) India was to face introspection on the realities films like Pyaasa portrayed. After all, a lot of films back then – including nearly all the films that Raj Kapoor or Bimal Roy made – did focus, to some extent or the other, on the ills that plagued society back then, and still do. Look at Do Bigha Zameen, for example. It’s a fairly hard-hitting take on how grinding poverty can be, and how a poor man can almost kill himself because of the rich. Or Sujata, against untouchability. Or Parakh, against the faux ‘respectability’ of the wealthy and/or powerful. or Sadhana, again a blow to the exclusion from ‘respectable’ society of a woman forced into prostitution by that same unfeeling society.
Perhaps Guru Dutt was just too radical? Looking back at the films I’ve listed here, I see that all have a happy end (except Do Bigha Zameen – but even that has an indication of what is perhaps hope). So, possibly they were more accepted. Guru Dutt was hell-bent on not yielding an inch. From what I recall reading somewhere, the original ending for Pyaasa was much bleaker – the current end is a ‘happier’ one that he was forced to adopt because distributors refused to take on the possibly hazardous task of releasing a film that didn’t hold out even a glimpse of hope for a man’s future in a scheming and corrupt world!
It’s great to see the songs in Pyaasa described and discussed one by one in such detail! Though I realize that the subs I got in my Sky DVD of the film were probably not perfect, I could still see that there was much truth in Sahir’s lyrics and, unfortunately, I could relate all too well to Vijay’s perspectives and experiences through much of the film. :-( I think it’s been close to three years since my last full viewing of this movie, and I really should watch it again…
Oh, the dialogue and the lyrics of Pyaasa are what make this film the gem it is – well, they’re two of the important facets, at least. So if the subs were substandard, it takes away from the beauty of the film.
And yes, I can understand – all too well – why a writer would say that he could relate ‘all too well to Vijay’s perspectives and experiences through much of the film’. I do, too, especially when a lot of people around me seem to think books write themselves, and that being a writer means a fat bank account, no work to do, and page 3 lifestyles. I have had it said to my face: “Ah, but the money you get isn’t for work! We who work in offices do work. Yours is a hobby.”.
Sore topic. Let’s escape, back to the world of films.
(P.S. My husband treated me – in his own voice – to a fairly good rendition of Afsaana likh rahi hoon, yesterday. ;-). He couldn’t quite manage most of the lyrics – he’d forgotten them – but the tune was bang on target!).
I’m so darn caught in my work that I can’t seem to make time to write anything in my blog. That’s why your posts are such a savior. I still feel i’m connected to this world of old films through your posts. This is a lovely writeup. Sharp, subtle yet very attractive. Thanks a bunch :)
Poor you! Yes, I thought you must be busy, because though I visit your blog everyday, I always find only drool-worthy Dev Anand as the Taxi Driver there! I am honoured that you think my posts are a saviour. :-) Thank you!
One of my favourite films, its huge strength does lie in its songs, and song picturizations. I can never make up my mind about my favourite song in ‘Pyaasa’, whether it is ‘Hum aap ki aankho mein’ or ‘Aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa le’ or ‘Yeh mahlon, yeh takhton, yeh taajon ki duniya’ or ‘Jaane woh kaise’, so this is a good post. It brings all the goodies together. But you are right, sheer geniuses, all of them.
Was just discussing with someone yesterday, how we have lost the poetry in our songs, in our films. There is so little that will remain as moving after 50 odd years, as ‘Pyaasa’ still is.
I thought that comment about the poetry having gone out of Hindi film songs so true! Perhaps, to a large extent, it is also the fault of producers who dictate what they want or don’t want. For example, I recall watching (years ago – maybe 15?) some song from a new (back then) film. I don’t recall the song or which film it was from, but the chorus went “Shut up! Shut up!” and the rest of the song – one of those ostensibly ‘teasing/flirtatious’ songs – was pretty much in the same vein. My parents and I were horrified by the sheer idiocy of the lyrics and thought it was by one of these new so-called ‘lyricists’ – until we discovered the ‘poet’ was Indeevar.
Sad to find that the man who wrote gems like Oh re taal mile nadi ke jal mein and Kasme vaade pyaar wafa should have been reduced to Shut up, shut up.
That’s really, really sad. Of course, it’s the producers and the marketing gurus.
yet another classic I’m yet to see, i’m like that with a lot of them, but I love your idea for this post, I love it when films embed the narratives into the song and it does indeed discard that horrible stereotype of Hindi films just being song and dance affairs, the first film i noticed that this in a away i really liked was 1973’s daag, perhaps i might use this format if i do get round to watching it again sometime
Bollywoodeewana, with your very wide horizons regarding what you watch (everything from Mala Sinha in her prime to Rekha past her prime!), I’d certainly suggest giving Pyaasa at least one viewing. It’s a wonderful film – I gifted it to a Brazilian writer who’d visited India for the first time a couple of years ago, and he later sent me a mail to tell me how he watched it back in Sau Paulo along with some friends… and it exploded a lot of myths they harboured about Hindi cinema. I know you don’t have those perceptions, considering you know Hindi films pretty much in and out, but still… this is worth a watch.
Catching up on your posts, just 3 comments to add to all that has been said – I might have mentioned it before.
1) Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hain is based on a poem “Chakley” by Sahir, the original being much more Persianised.
2) This song was banned from the AIR for many years for being “unpatritotic”.
3) I seem to have read that Guru Dutt was told his films didn’t have enough commercial songs, that is why they weren’t financially successful. And as a response he threw in “the works” in filming “Hum aap ki ankhon mein” – can do “commercial song” better than anyone too!
When I read your comment, I seemed to recall having read that bit about Chakley – and then, of course, when I clicked the link and began reading the poem, I did remember having read it before. I think you may have posted it when we were discussing Sahir’s poetry back in March when I did my top 10 Sahir poems list. I read Chakley all over again, and realised that though the ‘chorus’ is different (I guess it would’ve been too Persianised for most people), the bulk of the poem is pretty much the same. Somehow, I do think that verse which begins with the “Bhooki nigaahein haseenon ki jaanib…” is very effective – I wish it had been left in.
I love the fact that Hum aapki aankhon mein manages to be commercial and yet have so much depth to it. Yes, it’s romantic; yes, it’s a dream sequence – but there’s so much more, too.
Which shows Guru Dutt could make commercial with substance, a combination we should have more of….
YES, bawa, exactly – ‘commercial with substance’. That’s what we don’t get enough of these days. The films that try often don’t too well, which I guess was true back then, too, if films like Teesri Kasam are any indication.
Too true. ‘Commercial with substance’ seems to be an unfortunate rarity, both then and now.
I finally took the plunge and accepted an invitation to write about Pyaasa and its songs, and what they mean to me.
Thanks for the inspiration, dustedoff!
I tried to post this on your blog, Stuart, but couldn’t, so I am posting it here (Sorry, Madhu) in the hope that you will see it.
Stuartnz, I came to your blog from dustedoff’s via thebollywoodfan’s – where you had written about Pyaasa. I like the way you write (and the fact that you are a Gunner’s fan helps too :) ), though I agree with the others that fandom is basically the same everywhere (See Gunners vs ManU, for instance). And also, as another poster pointed out, there is the star image that is at work in India.
I hope you write more… about India, and about hindi films, and anything else for that matter.
I feel bad intruding on dustedoff’s hospitality, but, thank you! I have no idea why Live Journal is behaving so badly, and will be switching to WordPress when I’ve finally got something else worth saying – hopefully a week or two before the end of Kali Yuga. Victoria Concordia Crescit!
Both of you are more than welcome to exchange comments here! (And yes, Stuart – I echo Anu’s remark about “I hope you write more… about India, and about hindi films, and anything else for that matter.”)
Thanks – the topic of my next piece is set, just need to watch a few films for homework – Teesri Kasam, CID, 1947:Earth and Ramchand Pakistani most likely. :)
Hmm. Now I’m curious. I haven’t watched Ramchand Pakistani, though I’ve watched the others – and CID multiple times. Am looking forward to reading your post!
Thanks, Madhu. :)
Stuart, I am curious too about your choice of movies for your next post – though Ramchand Pakistani and 1947 Earth have something in common – one is about the partition, and the other about living in its aftermath even today (this explanation is for Madhu, by the way), what do the other two have in common with the others? You have whetted my appetite, so, since the end of the world as we know it seems to be 2012 (What? you didn’t see the movie?), maybe I won’t have to wait too long for the post. :)
Thank you for sharing that with me, Stuart! Am off to read it right now. :-)
“Ye Mahalon” always brings a tear to my eye. The scene is just breathtaking and heartbreaking. :'(
Haunting. Just the very recollection of that song gives me gooseflesh – it’s superb.
Wow ! dustedoff, You made my day, ‘PYAASA’, This movie left such a lasting impact on me that I brought few books written just in praise of this masterpiece of 50-60 golden era. My favorite book written on the eternity of PYAASA was “PYAASA: Chir Atripta Guru Dutt”. That book shook me so hard in philosophical & spiritual interpretation of the epic. It also described beautifully how Guru Dutt personal life turmoil & his unending quest for completeness and excellence made this movie what it is today.
I was reading some interesting blogs about 50-60s classics, and through the web of those blogs,I found your blog. With each blog, my wish of reviewing the classics grew substantially. And your this post was the last hammer on the nail. I’ve been known in my college & friend circle as a person with deep cinematic knowledge(slightly outspoken), But I think it’s high time, I start sharing my views with people with similar taste like you. And in the process I’ll learn from you too. Will look forward to more insightful post of yours.
Thank you, Gaurav, for leaving that message on my blog – it made my day! Yes, Pyaasa is a film all in its own league. There’s nothing quite like it, I think, in Hindi cinema – at least when it comes to cinema that is meaningful, not merely entertaining and escapist. Will be looking forward to reading more comments from you – and your own blog? I hope so!
love your blog! been reading for some time. wanted to say that aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa lo is a specific type of radha-krishna devotional song called the kirtan, the tune,meter,khol in background and composition are deep rooted in the bengali nabadweep style keertan. dont know if someone has already pointed this out since there are too many comments already, but since keertans,bhaatiyali,bauls i mean the folk of bengal isnt that widely used in hindi film music except by a handful of music directors, wanted to highlight that.
keep up the good work.
Thank you, Priyanka! Yes, I have a couple of other readers (most notably, Raunak) who are pretty well up on Bengali influences on Hindi film music, especially on the music of SD Burman and to some extent Salil Choudhary… so I knew this was a kirtan style song, but I hadn’t known about the nabadweep subgenre. Thank you for telling me about that. It’s such a gorgeous song.
A question about [i]jinhe naaz[/i] – who is the Zuleikha of
पयम्बर की उम्मत ज़ुलेखा की बेटी ? The temptress from Yusuf & Zuleikha doesn’t seem to fit with the other references in the verse?
I just listened to the song again, Stuart. Yes, the temptress from Yusuf u Zulekha – Potiphar’s wife, from the Bible – doesn’t seem to fit, but I was wondering if that’s deliberate, in a way. While the other women mentioned – Eve (Hawwa), Yashoda, and Radha – are generally considered the epitomes of ‘purity’ and ‘virtue’ (well, Eve to some extent), Zulekha is not…. so perhaps Sahir was trying to say that even Zulekha, no matter how ‘fallen’ she may have been, still deserved help – perhaps there was a reason for the way she behaved?
No idea. This is all a wild guess for me.
Wow, I have just realised how superficial my listenings of this song have been. This moves me to listen to it again.
Thanks – someone else made a very similar suggestion on another forum, so I think I’ll go with that. :)
Great! So I’m not the only one making these totally wild guesses. ;-)
It is indeed sad that this was the last film for which Sahir and SDB worked together.
Yes, most unfortunate for all of us. They were simply magical together – and Pyaasa was perhaps the absolute zenith of their individual genius. And the sum of that genius was more than its parts.
In the process of revisiting your posts, I was compelled to write in this one. There is little I can add about how I feel about “Pyaasa” that has not already been said by you or the other people that have commented on this page. So I thought I would focus on just one song that I find extremely unusual. Hum aapki aaNkhoN me is dil ko basa leN to. At first blush, it is a love song, a duet, beautifully sung, subtlely orchestrated and a nice tune. But the lyrics are most unusual for the occasion. The heroine “playfully” rejects every attempt by the hero to express his love for her while continuing to flirt with him. Given the later circumstances in the film, this is obviously perfect, but I have never encountered a song like this one in Hindi cinema after this. ChheD chhaaD in lyrics is commonplace, but nothing that is a foreshadowing of the character’s (who is the heroine) eventual actions like in this case. Not sure if I am saying it well, but the song always gets me thinking in a way that I would never have imagined a love duet could and chills me.
That’s an interesting observation. I actually began really paying attention to the nuances of the lyrics and picturisation of this song only when I was writing this post, but it doesn’t really give me the chills – just makes me realise how sadly prophetic it is, and how mercenary this lady’s going to turn out to be.
I think what I found chilling was that her rejections are not really as playful as they are almost sadistic. And yet, the playful attitude and demeanor belie that reality and the hero falls for it. That is how I interpreted the combination of Sahir’s lyrics and SDB’s composition.
But when I saw the film, Mala Sinha’s character was played up sympathetically in a sense – as somebody who felt that she had to be realistic and not hitch her wagon to an idealistic poet who probably has nothing to bring to the relationship.
I agree that Mala Sinha’s character is shown in a sympathetic light – more grey than black, really (and it’s apparent in some shots of her, especially in Jaane woh kaise log thhe jinke and Yeh mahalon yeh takhton…). Somehow, though, over the past few years, with multiple viewings of the film, I’ve come to the conclusion that she made a fairly realistic progression in life – from being a starry-eyed college girl in love with a poet (how appropriate to the dreaminess of youth!) to a young woman who realises that love is not enough. Mercenary, but believable, too. I don’t like her, but I can understand her.
That seems like a fair summary, DO. It was smart of Dutt not to villainise her excessively for her choice, but she is shown in the pangs of what might be wistful second thoughts in “Yeh Duniya Agar mil”
True, Stuart. She may not be as obviously joyful when she realises Vijay is not dead, but there’s a definite “What if -” there. Also that particular shot in Jaane woh kaise log thhe jinko“, where she’s sitting in the rocking chair…
This is the stuff classics are made of – superb direction, lilting music which enhances the substance of the lyrics, poetry which leaves the viewer shaken and stirred, scintillating photography……….!
It is. An unforgettable film.
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I remember the song picturization of Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein from my viewing of the film as a child. I didn’t really remember the film well but that song is really magical. In recent years I’ve always been amused by the lines ‘Hum aapko khaabon mein la la ke satayein ge’, the retort to which is ‘Hum Aapki Aankhon se needein hi churale to?’ So much wit in the exchange and as many here have pointed out such a lot of subtext and foreshadowing of the relationship.