I attended an interesting Conference on Crime Fiction at St Stephen’s College, Delhi University, last month (for more on that, click here). During a couple of the less-engrossing sessions, I found my mind wandering a bit – but not too far: only to crime in cinema. And from there, to songs about crime.
Also, over the past several months, I’ve been wracking my brains over what post to dedicate to friend, blog reader, fellow-blogger and participant in the Classic Bollywood Quiz, Raja. For the other prize winners, deciding a post was fairly easy: some had requested particular posts in the past; some had voiced interests in a way that made me fairly sure of what they’d like. But Raja? I was flummoxed.
Then I remembered that Raja, besides sharing my love for old Hindi cinema (and its songs), also has a fantastic sense of humour. And a strong sense of justice, of what’s right and what’s not. This post, therefore, is dedicated to you, Raja. I hope you enjoy it.
Here it is, then: a list of ten film songs – as always, mostly from pre-70s films that I’ve seen – that talk about crime. To leave no room for doubt, they’re all actions that are illegal under the Indian Penal Code (or Acts of Parliament). And yes – no crimes are repetitions.
1. Sexual harassment
Inhi logon ne le lina dupatta mera (Pakeezah, 1972): As anybody who’s familiar with Hindi cinema would know, it’s quite acceptable for the hero to harass the heroine; that, somehow, doesn’t count as sexual harassment.
But this certainly does. This woman has had her dupatta – the symbol of her modesty – snatched by a roadside Romeo. Thankfully for Indian womanhood, she’s not keeping quiet about it. In fact, she’s got her witnesses lined up: the bajaj, who sold her the dupatta (for an asharfi a yard! – daylight robbery; another crime?!); and the dyer, who coloured it. The naïve woman even cites the culprit – a sipahiyya (sipaahi, ‘soldier’) as her witness, since he was the one who snatched her dupatta in the bazaar.
This sipaahi, unless he can bribe his way through, is probably going to be in trouble under Section 354 – ‘assault with intention to outrage the modesty of a woman’. And if (since police constables were also known as ‘sipaahis’ back then) he was a cop – well, that’s even more disgraceful.
Mohe panghat pe Nandlal chhed gayo re (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960): This one’s similar to the previous case. Here, though, the accused happens to be divinity, so it’s a little tricky. However, the victim’s gone to the Emperor himself for redressal, so perhaps she has a chance.
No witnesses, unfortunately, but lots of counts on which Nandlal can be accused. He:
(a) threw a pebble at her
(b) …thus smashing her waterpot
(c) … which resulted in her clothes getting drenched
(d) twisted her wrist, spraining it
Yes, a case there, I think.
Nafrat karnewaalon ke seene mein pyaar bhar doon (Johny Mera Naam, 1970): We’ve heard tall claims about sweethearts being the sun, moon and stars, or an entire catalogue of flowers. But while that can be dismissed with an indulgent smile at the silliness of romance, this is not.
This man claims he’s a moth (?!) who can change stone into wax. Huh? So, theoretically, if I today decide to destroy the Red Fort (or the Taj Mahal, or thousands of other old monuments), all I need to do is employ him to melt it into wax? I have my doubts.
The Consumer Protection Act is here to help, thank heavens (and our lawmakers).
Incidentally, the accused also lays claim to some bizarre surgical procedures: transplanting a heart into iron, for example. Or replacing the hate in people’s chests with love. Shouldn’t the Indian Medical Association be also investigating this?
Ghaayal hiraniya main ban-ban doloon (Munimji, 1955): Or, if you want to be even more precise, the hunting of females of wild animals – which, according to the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, is an especially heinous offence.
While Nalini Jaywant puts a brave face on it all and tries to attribute her ‘scared-stiff’ness to other factors (in particular, having found true love), the sad truth keeps emerging every now and then: she’s a poor ‘ghaayal hiraniya’ (a ‘wounded deer’) who’s wandering the forests, struck by God knows whose arrows. Well, perhaps she knows too, but she isn’t telling. Or can’t.
P.S. So is it implied that Dev Anand is some sort of precursor to Salman Khan?
P.P.S. Do watch the video; at approximately 3:03, when our heroine’s singing “Jab se yeh naina balam sang laage” (“Ever since I locked gazes with my sweetheart…”), the camera focuses on a rather cute but dim-witted-looking monkey. Hmm. So is the balam equated with a bandar?
If he’s been taking pot shots at her, I’m not surprised at the angst.
5. Terrorist activities
Aji tum aur hum hon saath-saath (Marine Drive, 1955): This is one of those shockingly blatant songs where there’s crime being plotted right under the noses of dozens of cheerful innocent onlookers – and they’re not catching on. The dancer, Nilofer, is ostensibly singing and dancing to entertain the diners at this club, but anyone with eyes and ears should’ve cottoned on to the fact that all is not as pretty as it seems.
(a) The very fact that the only man she singles out to sing a verse to is K N Singh, looking his most ruthless self.
(b) The brief preview of how the accomplices will make a getaway – by changing guises. One minute the dancer’s in a long gown; then, after vanishing behind a pillar, she re-emerges in something that looks out of The Arabian Nights.
(c) The little demo of the explosion: one pinprick, and a balloon goes phut. That bomb can be dangerous in this woman’s hands, methinks…
(d) Last (but most important), the lyrics. “Aji tum aur hum hon saath-saath aur mast raat, duniya ko maar do bumb!” (“You and me, together in this intoxicating night – let’s drop a bomb on this world!”) This leaves all the terrorist outfits way behind. Dropping a bomb on the world?! That’s what I call scary.
The Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act (POTA) is called for here, definitely.
Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat kya ho gayi bhagwaan (Nastik, 1954): That actually counts as three separate and very different crimes, according to the IPC, but since this song is such a litany of complaints, I decided I might as well list them all at one place. Kavi Pradeep, who wrote and sang this song, addresses it supposedly to God, and it’s just one appeal after another against the world, which is guilty of:
(a) Obscene acts (“naach raha nar hokar nangaa” – “Man dances in the nude”).
(b) Rioting. In the same verse, there’s a reference to “kahin pe jhagda kahin pe danga” (“fighting in one place, rioting in another”). I’m guessing there’s space here to accuse someone of rioting (under Section 146 of the IPC)
(b) Cheating. In the second verse, the singer actually comes right out and accuses particular people of cheating. “Ram ke bhakt Rahim ke bande, rachte aaj fareb ke phande” (“The devotees of Ram and the followers of Rahim, today weave webs of fraud and deception”). Ah, finally a chance to book someone under a section which has become, in Hindi, a synonym for cheating: Section 420.
If I were a judge, I wouldn’t want to be faced by such a whiny litigant. He’s complaining about everything.
Baaboo samjho ishaare horan pukaare (Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958): With their fairly virtuous words in the later verses of this song, the Ganguly brothers try to project an image of being utter goody-goodies. But that’s all hogwash. All you have to do is listen to the beginning of the song, and watch the song, and you’ll know what I mean. Their car is a shambles (“tooti-phooti sahi, chal jaaye theek hai” – literally, “no matter if it’s broken, as long as it moves, it’s fine”), and you can see the result: they go swerving all over the road. No concept of lane driving, and a number of pedestrians escape by the skin of their teeth.
Then there’s the refrain: “Aadi-tirchhi chala chala ke jhoom” (“Drive it crooked, and dance all the way”). What?!
And yes, while I do know that seatbelts were pretty uncommon back then in cars – at least in India – that’s no excuse for sitting on the hood, or leaping about like a maniac in the back seat. Or, worst of all, actually leaving the car to drive itself. Which it does in circles.
These guys are breaking every rule in every book of Traffic Laws. Incidentally, all that honking (“Horan pukaare, pum-pum-pum”) is certainly a contravention of the noise pollution laws.
Where are the cops?!
Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji (Mr & Mrs 55, 1955): This one, I must confess, was a toughie, simply because there’s such a glut of Hindi film songs that talk about theft. Everybody in filmdom seems to be stealing something from others: sleep, the world, a heart – and just about everything else you can think of.
I could have chosen one of those, but picked Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji, because there’s more to this than just the crime: it has the discovery of a possible crime, dawning suspicion, and accusation. Our hero begins by talking about how his liver (literally; though jigar has poetically come to be equivalent to the heart) has gone a-missing. He describes what happened – how he’s looked everywhere for it – but all he gets for his pains is a scold for having brought it along needlessly.
Our liverless man then tries to employ a private investigator (“Le-le do-chaar aane, jigar mera pher de”). The proposed PI suggests that it would be much more useful to file an FIR with the jamadar at the thana, but the injured party doesn’t listen.
And the result of all that? He starts suspecting the might-have-been-PI of being the culprit herself (“Tune toh nahin hai churaaya mera maal re?”). She’s not letting on, which seems to point to guilt.
Main sitaaron ka taraana (Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958): For a film that is largely remembered as a comedy (though it did have an element of crime), Chalti ka Naam Gaadi had at least two songs that indicate violations of law. This one, for instance, is a clear violation of Section 70 of the Indian Contract Act:
“Where a person lawfully does anything for another person, or delivers anything to him, not intending to do so gratuitously, and such another person enjoys the benefit thereof, the latter is bound to make compensation to the former in respect of, or to restore, the thing so done or delivered.”
Well, our lady here has definitely enjoyed the benefits provided by the poor mechanic who’s now having to chase her for his 5 rupees and 12 annas. He not only repaired her car, he even gave her shelter in his nice cosy garage – out of the pouring rain – and he entertained her with a good song. She was certainly obliged to pay up. And not just out of decency, but out of the implied contract between the buyer and the seller.
But what does this ingrate do? When he comes asking for payment, she fobs him off. By trying to distract him with how beautiful she is, and why he should devote himself to loving her. Or to his art – this, after he demonstrates what a great singer he is – or how this money-minded world is but an illusion.
It just so happens that our hero is too besotted to take his erring debtor to court, but still: this is just not done, even if you’re Madhubala.
Kajra mohabbat waala akhiyon mein aisa daala (Kismat, 1968): Murder is rampant in Hindi film songs –especially the romantic ones, in which people are constantly killing each other with everything from eyes to hair. (And the victims are extremely happy to be killed off).
This one’s also one of those ‘thank you for killing me’ songs, but the great thing about it here is that the murderer (murderess? Biswajit in drag) seems to carry around an entire arsenal of weapons with which s/he’s been merrily murdering the ardent lover, Babita dressed as a man.
(a) There’s kajra (kohl) for a start. (Actually, if the kajra, put in the lover’s eyes, had killed him/her off – which is what the first two lines of the song of the song could indicate – I’d have probably said this was a case of adulteration of the kajra. It would’ve then been a case under the Consumer Protection Act, I believe).
(b) The Bareilly-waala jhumka (do they really make such murderous jhumkas in Bareilly?)
(c) The jaali-waala (net) kurta
This case is actually really rather confusing, because midway the accused starts accusing the victim of having killed her/him off. Some poor judge is going to have a very hard time deciding this one.