I’d been thinking, for the past few months, of doing a post on songs that a person uses to introduce himself or herself in Hindi cinema. Not the “Awaara hoon” or “Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi” type, which actually use a set of adjectives to describe the singer, but an actual introduction: this is my name, this is where I live, stuff like that. I can think of a number of songs along those lines, and it seemed like a good idea to do a list.
When I watched Love in Bombay last weekend (and saw Kishore Kumar belting out Maazaa naav ahe Ganpat Rao), I was reminded of that long-pending list. So here it is: ten of my favourite songs, mostly from pre-70s films, where the singer introduces himself/herself by name. These are, as I usually stipulate for my lists, from films I’ve seen. Not all of them are necessarily good songs, music-wise, but they invariably have something or the other—lyrics, picturisation, situation, whatever—which sets them apart for me.
In no particular order:
1. Mera naam hai Chameli (Raja aur Runk, 1968): This was the very first song that popped into my head when I thought of this post. Kumkum pretends to be the flirtatious maalan (female gardener) Chameli. And what an apt name too, for someone who makes a living out of flowers. She makes eyes at the lecherous daroga, offers him champa buds, pleads with him to open the door and let her in—and, when he obeys (most readily, too), she makes off with his prisoner. A catchy song, and plenty happening in the course of it.
I’ve no idea whether this is true or not, but I’d read somewhere that when Raja aur Runk was released, there was a furor in Bikaner, with people lodging formal protests that the song maligned the good name of the women if Bikaner. Does anybody know if that actually happened? (I can believe it did, though)
2. Mera naam Chin Chin Choo (Howrah Bridge, 1958): Another iconic “My name is—” song, picturised on the inimitable Helen, in one of her first big hit dances. Here, as she pirouettes and twirls and dances up a veritable storm, Chin Chin Choo sings of her antecedents: she’s come from China, bringing with her a “cheeni jaisa dil” (a great pun, that: a heart like sugar, or a heart that’s Chinese!)
Vintage OP Nayyar, vintage Geeta Dutt—and vintage Helen. And an immortal Chin Chin Choo.
3. Main hoon Mr Johnny (Mai Baap, 1957): Now for a change, a song in which a man introduces himself. Johnny Walker, as the unscrupulous insurance agent Parker, is asked by his girlfriend what his name actually is (since he keeps referring to himself by different names). His answer is this: he’s Johnny, bada toofaani (‘Johnny, very stormy’, literally—an indication of how smart, how cunning, and generally how clever Johnny is).
The rest of the song, devoted to recollections of Johnny’s various love affairs in different parts of the world, however seems to suggest that he has been ditched and conned and taken for a ride by just about every woman he’s met. Not quite the toofaani Johnny, but this is a chirpy, utterly infectious song nonetheless.
4. Mera naam Abdul Rehman (Bhai-Bhai, 1956): On the surface, this cheery, very trademark Kishore song—with much prancing around, a few doses of exaggerated accent, etc—is just another ‘introduction song’. Kishore, doing a street act along with Nimmi and David, proclaims himself to be the ‘Kabul ka banjaara’ (the ‘gypsy from Kabul’), who sells the best pista anywhere. He’s interrupted by Nimmi, who introduces herself—she is Abdul Rehman’s Abdul Rehmaniya.
The interesting thing about Mera naam Abdul Rehman, however, is that it has two very distinct connections to two other songs. Firstly, there’s the obvious link to Ek tha Abdul Rehman, ek thi Abdul Rehmaniya from Manmauji, which uses the same concept—an ‘Abdul Rehman’ paired with an ‘Abdul Rehmaniya’.(And which, coincidentally—or not—also stars Kishore Kumar).
Then, there’s another connection, which appears near the end of Mera naam Abdul Rehman: the last bit of the song is a Pashto song, Zama laley chinar de, which I’d featured in my list of Shamshad Begum’s songs.
I still prefer Shamshad Begum’s version, but Kishore’s rendition has a definitely Kishore touch to it!
5. Mera naam hai Shabnam (Kati Patang, 1970): A change of mood, here, even though (like the previous song), this is a ‘staged’ introduction—for the benefit of a large audience. Unlike the innocence of Abdul Rehman and his Abdul Rehmaniya, Shabnam ‘Shabbo’ (Bindu) has a very different, very nasty agenda: she uses this introduction as an excuse to let the heroine (Asha Parekh) know that she, Shabnam, knows who Asha really is. Neena? Meena? Anju? Manju? Or—Madhu? (Yes, well…)
Not much of a song, this, but Bindu sizzles and makes it all her own.
6. My name is Suzie (An Evening in Paris, 1967): Another cabaret song, and another wicked girl. Sharmila Tagore isn’t as hard core nasty (even in her avatar as the bad twin) as Shabbo, but she’s certainly no goody-two-shoes. After the introduction at the start—“My name is Suzie”—she slips into a song that’s all flirtation, begging her male audience (no doubt all slobbering over that flimsy green outfit, or the gold grass skirt) to take her heart.
Not the best song in An Evening in Paris (which had a bunch of good songs), but I think it would’ve been better if Asha, and not Sharda, had sung this one.
7. Main hoon Papa Khan (Post Box 999, 1958): If Abdul Rehman was the pistawallah Pathan from Kabul, here is Papa Khan (Sunil Dutt, wearing a terrible hat), who’s a magician from Iran. He’s travelled the world (à la Johnny, bada toofaani?)—London, Paris, Italy, Sicily, China and Japan—before washing up in Hindustan, where he’s now doing a magic show-cum-song and dance routine, aided by his pretty assistant, Madam Bilbilaan (Shakila, never shy of being a madcap). Nutty song, and some completely illogical stunts being pulled off in its course, but Sunil Dutt and Shakila are fun.
8. Mujhe kehte hain Kallu Qawwaal (Dulha Dulhan, 1964): Like Abdul Rehman or Papa Khan, the singer here doesn’t actually introduce himself by his real name (Raj Kapoor’s character in Dulha Dulhan is named Raj). But he certainly has both a pretty girl to sing along with him, as well as an audience. Despite the fact that our singer calls himself Kallu Qawwaal, the song itself doesn’t take on a qawwali-like feel till nearly the end, when the other residents of the chawl join in with clapping and hooting.
9. Maazaa naav ahe Ganpat Rao (Love in Bombay, 1971/2013): The song that provided the impetus for me to finally get this list compiled. Kishore Kumar, as the madcap madaari Ganpat Rao, introduces himself in his first scene in this film. Kishore is invariably thoroughly entertaining, and he’s in his element here too. Ganpat Rao, while singing (and shaking a mean leg) also takes time out to romance his girlfriend Motia (Sonia Sahni), beat up some baddies, play around with his dancing bear, and rub a plateful of butter in the face of a poor extra.
10. Mera naam Rita Christina (April Fool, 1964): Like Suzie, another Parisienne belle—or at least, that’s what she claims to be. Rita Christina is the alternate identity of Madhu (Saira Banu), assumed when she puts country before self and heads out to bust a traitor. Here, Madhu/Rita Christina flirts on a dance floor with the man she loves, and—with the help of assorted props including a red glove, a silk hat, and a fan—manages to convince him that she’s an outright bad girl. Peppy.
PS. Even though you can search my blog for all my ‘Ten of my favourite—’ lists by clicking the corresponding category link in the right side panel, I decided it was time to do a separate page for every single list I’ve compiled till now. Here it is (you can also find this in the buttons just below the header of this blog). Enjoy!