When Shakila’s niece Tasneem Khan graciously agreed to write a guest post to mark Shakila’s birthday yesterday, I decided I ought to show my personal appreciation for Shakila by making a double bill of it—with ten of my favourite Shakila songs. Shakila, whether she was acting the vamp (in films like Aar Paar) or the heroine, had some wonderful songs picturised on her: romantic songs, funny songs, cheeky songs, melancholic songs. Car songs, train songs. Even songs in praise of Shakila’s loveliness. Plenty to choose from.
For this post, though, I’ve stuck to songs in which Shakila has actually lip-synched, irrespective of whether the song in question is a duet or a solo. That’s why you won’t find the very popular Leke pehla-pehla pyaar here, or even the hauntingly lovely Sau baar janam lenge.
All the songs are from films that I’ve seen. Here we go, in no particular order:
1. Aankhon hi aankhon mein ishaara ho gaya (CID, 1956): This song is listed first because it is the first song I remember having watched Shakila in. CID was the first Hindi film I recall watching, in a dingy cinema hall in Gwalior, when I was about 9 years old. I didn’t understand too much of what was going on in the film, but I loved the chemistry between the hero and heroine. They were wonderful—especially in this song. A duet, though Shakila (lip-synching to the voice of the inimitable Geeta Dutt) ‘sings’ the verses, with Dev Anand having to be content with the chorus. A playfully romantic song.
2. Hoon abhi main jawaan (Aar Paar, 1954): Aar Paar featured one classic club dance and song: the superb Babuji dheere chalna, where a sultry Shakila plays the femme fatale, luring men on, yet telling them that love is ephemeral. This song, while not as popular as Babuji dheere chalna, is a fine example of a great daaru song: the dancer, drunk, worn out, and weary (of life itself?) tries to tell herself that she hasn’t given up yet. That she is still young, still desirable. An excellent song, well rendered by Geeta Dutt—and it gives Shakila the opportunity to show off her acting ability.
3. Ae mere dil-e-naadaan tu gham se na ghabraana (Tower House, 1962): Not one of my favourite works from Shakila’s filmography, though that has nothing to do with Shakila’s performance. This song, however, elevates Tower House from being just another run-of-the-mill suspense film. Its lyrics are touching and sweet, the music beautiful—and Shakila as lovely as ever.
4. Zulfon ki ghata lekar saawan ki pari aayi (Reshmi Roomaal, 1961): Even though I didn’t care for the film itself when I watched it, Reshmi Roomaal had some good songs—of which this is my favourite. It’s a simple, romantic song, and very sweet. And it showcases Shakila’s acting excellently, I think: the affection in her eyes, loving but shy, as she looks up into Manoj Kumar’s face. Plus, this is one of those songs that really highlight Shakila’s fragile beauty: the ‘surkhi hai mohabbat ki in phool-se gaalon mein’ (‘the blush of love colours these flower-like cheeks’, literally) is so apt.
5. O mister o mister (Agra Road, 1957): I have to admit that I fell in love, the very first time I heard them, with two songs from Agra Road: O mister O mister, and Unse rippy-tippy ho gayi, both utterly delightful. O mister O mister is a waltz (by Roshan) that starts off being a rather elegant battle-of-the-sexes song, though it’s obvious throughout that this “men are unfaithful”-“women are illogical” to-and-fro is all on the surface: in reality, the two people in question are pretty much in love with each other.
That is what makes it more lovable for me: Shakila’s and Vijay Anand’s characters are so comfortable with each other, such good friends, that they can pull each other’s legs without fear of being dumped.
6. Mere dil mein hai ik baat (Postbox 999, 1958): Neend na mujhko aaye is probably the more popular of the songs from Postbox 999, but this one is just as tuneful. And it showcases Shakila perfectly: shy, demure, the sort of girl a young man in the 50s would take home to meet his Ma, and Ma would instantly approve of. (It’s a different matter that Shakila’s character in the film is also an adventure-loving sort, who has no qualms about donning disguises or participating in a farce in order to spy on crooks. One spunky girl, this).
7. Humein haal-e-dil tumse kehna hai (Chaubees Ghante, 1958): Like Mere dil mein hai ik baat, this one is also a song in a garden. The hero (Premnath) and the heroine have gone on a picnic (the accoutrements of which—thermos, rug, wicker basket, etc—appear in the course of the song), and burst into a romantic song. While Premnath isn’t quite at his peak, Shakila is gorgeous as ever, and the tune is very likeable.
8. Kyon udaa jaata hai aanchal (Shriman Satyawadi, 1960): Shakila plays a rather hard-headed career woman in this film, a woman who (through much of the story) ridicules Raj Kapoor’s relatively simple soul. But, as is inevitable in most classic Hindi cinema, love conquers all—and we have even the shrew transformed into a dreamy-eyed romantic who, even when she’s on her own, is thinking of the man she loves, and singing of the effect the very thought of him has on her… one of my favourite Shakila solos.
9. Mast aankhen hain ke paimaane do (Nakli Nawab, 1962): Shakila at her graceful best, as she flits lightly through a small walled garden, a pavilion with fluttering curtains, a pool—and flirts sweetly with the man she loves. Another romantic song, with the intoxication of love brimming over on both sides, and both agreeing that (even if it isn’t exactly discreet), it will be so fulfilling to finally give in to this intoxication.
10. Ae saba unse keh zara (Ali Baba aur Chaalees Chor, 1954): Long experience has taught me not to expect too much of the fantasy-faux historical genre in old Hindi cinema; too many of the films have only good music or a pretty heroine to recommend them. Ali Baba aur Chaalees Chor is a pleasant change from the norm; the script is good and coherent, the songs mostly good, and the heroine not just lovely, but also a spunky and intelligent woman who outdoes the hero more than once. And this song—a relatively little-known romantic one addressed to the breeze, but actually meant for the beloved—is beautifully melodious.
Which are your favourite Shakila songs?