It’s wedding season in Delhi (has been, in fact, for the past couple of months). Almost every night, there’s a large shamiana at our local municipal park. There are traffic jams because of huge baaraats, all the women laden with jewellery and tinsel. We see white mares (or, in some cases, a pair of mares pulling a flower-bedecked ‘chariot’) trotting along on roads. We hear a lot of music—or what passes for music.
In fact, every time I hear the sort of music that’s played at many Delhi weddings, I’m tempted to go up to whoever’s acting the DJ, and ask them to play some good shaadi songs.
Since I can’t actually do that, I decided to create my own list: ten Hindi film songs that are directly related to weddings. (Which is why Ab ke baras bhej bhaiyya ko baabul or Laali-laali doliya mein laali re dulhaniya don’t qualify; the words relate to a wedding, but the context is completely different).
Ten wedding songs, therefore, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Enjoy!
1. Meri saheliyaan byaahi gayeen saari (Teesra Kaun, 1965): The ‘sangeet’ (also now known quite commonly as ‘ladies sangeet’) started off, from what I can gather, as a typically North Indian tradition, with the bride being feted by friends and relatives—mostly female—before the wedding. The fact that it is marked by much singing and dancing means that it’s the perfect setting for a song if a Hindi film features a wedding in its story.
In this song, at a sangeet for the heroine’s friend, the heroine takes the opportunity to mourn—jokingly, of course—about her own chances of getting married soon. Each one of her friends is now married, and the girl fears she’s soon going to be left all alone on the shelf. While Kalpana isn’t a huge favourite of mine, she’s pleasant enough here, and the song has a nice tune. Incidentally, the tone and lyrics of this song are very similar to those of a later song, Asha gayi Usha gayi, from Paraya Dhan (1971).
2. Gori sasuraal chali (Shagoon, 1964): While this one isn’t strictly a sangeet song—sangeet parties are typically held a day or so before the wedding, and this one happens just before the wedding—Gori sasuraal chali is a far more traditional sangeet song than Meri saheliyaan byaahi gayeen saari. The dholak (with a spoon or similar metallic everyday thing being rhythmically tapped on it by someone other than the player) is a quintessential sangeet musical instrument, and the folksy beat of this song is very traditional. Plus, the lyrics—affectionately teasing the bride, yet wishing her much happiness in her married life—are true to tradition too.
3. Choori dheere pehna chooriwaali (Dahej, 1950): “Suhaagan ki hain yeh nishaani chooriyaan” (“These bangles are the mark of a married woman”) goes a line in this song, emphasizing the significance of this particular scene—the bride’s arms are bedecked with bangles, while her friends and female relatives rejoice and sing. Unlike in the Shagoon song, however, this particular bride isn’t all coy and demure. She isn’t decked up in her bridal finery as yet, and she laughs merrily along with her buddies, even leading them in an unusually-choreographed dance which uses garlands as props.
4. Sakhi re tori doliya uthaayenge kahaar (Railway Platform, 1955): In a departure from the festive and excited cheeriness of the previous sangeet and dressing-up-the-bride songs, this is a sad one. And with good reason, too; Nalini Jaywant’s character, a poor village girl deeply in love with the young man who rescued her—and who she had been pretty certain loved her in return—has dumped her and is marrying, instead, the rich young woman whom he’s met.
Our heroine is too kind and noble a soul to blame him (or the other woman, who, to her credit, doesn’t realise what she’s done). Instead, the village girl offers to dress the bride—and sings this song, telling her of the bridegroom who is waiting for her, and of the kahaars who will bear her palanquin to her new home… a heart-wrenching but brave song, and one that actually follows the bride out into the mandap.
5. Mera yaar bana hai dulha/Baalam se milan hoga (Chaudhvin ka Chaand, 1961): I’m listing these together, because that’s how they appear in the film—Mera yaar bana hai dulha is sung with much gusto, wit and liveliness by an ever-watchable Johnny Walker as part of the pre-wedding celebrations…
An unusual duo of songs in that they cover not just one aspect or period of the wedding (as most of the other songs do), but a sizeable chunk of it, all the way from before the wedding to the suhaag raat. Also worth noticing is the difference in tone—the teasingly joyful one of the groom’s pals, and the rather more subdued, poignant, yet affectionate tone of the bride’s friends and family, whom she’s leaving behind.
(For me, the mere fact that the first song here is one of those rare groom-centric songs makes this even more of a must on this list).
6. Manbhaavan ke ghar jaaye gori (Chori Chori, 1956): The lyrics of this song seem to slot it as a typical sangeet song, with the bride’s friends telling her how much they’ll miss her when she’s married and gone away to her husband’s home. The truth, in this case, is rather more mundane: Sai and Subbu here are professional dancers performing at a wedding.
While the reluctant bride—having got herself into a nasty situation, of having to marry a man she has long fallen out of love with—is being dressed up, the guests form an audience for this performance. An unusual setting, at least for Hindi cinema, since cinematic wedding songs are traditionally participative ones, with friends and family of the happy—or unhappy, as in this case—couple doing the singing and dancing. Is this song perhaps a reflection of the fact that the heroine’s wealthy father can afford performers?
7. Chal ri sajni ab kya soche (Bombai ka Babu, 1960): The wedding over and done with, the happiness and celebration give way to the sorrow of departure: the bidaai. The bride must bid farewell to all that is familiar and much-loved: the father, who wonders why he has given away his jigar ka tukda (a fragment of his heart); the mother; the friends; the house, the courtyard, the very lane in which the bride has grown up… and, in this very touching song, the man whom the world knows as her brother, but whom the bride knows as her brother’s killer, the saviour of her parents, and the man who loves her.
I love the music of this song, and Mukesh’s rendition of it. For me, the fact that it’s a ‘background song’ (nobody onscreen is singing it), makes it even more poignant, because it reduces the melodrama yet enables the viewer to empathise with the bride and those she loves but is being separated from.
8. Baabul ki duaayein leti jaa (Neel Kamal, 1968): I have a confession to make: this is my least favourite of all the songs on this list, mostly because I find it a little too weepy for my taste. Another reason for my relative lack of empathy for Baabul ki duaayein leti jaa is that a long-ago school friend had parodied this as Baabul ki duaayein leti jaa, jaa tujkho pati kangaal mile (Take your father’s prayers with you; may you get a pauper for a husband), which does tend to dilute the emotion of it.
Even then, the lyrics are sweet and full of paternal love for the daughter who’s going away. Interestingly, Mohammad Rafi said he recorded this song the day after his own daughter’s wedding—he literally sang from the heart, because he sang of what he felt when his daughter went away.
9. Gori ghoonghat mein mukhda chhupao na (Ghoonghat, 1960): So what if a bride has been ditched at the mandap by her intended because she didn’t bring a substantial dowry? So what if the man she has ended up marrying is a complete stranger, whose face even she hasn’t seen yet? As long as she’s married, a wife, a happy suhaagan—that’s reason enough to rejoice.
And here, Parvati (Beena Rai), being readied for the wedding night by a friend (Minoo Mumtaz) is teased endlessly for her shyness. This isn’t a night to hide that lovely face in her ghoonghat, she’s told; this is a night to look into her beloved’s face. (Which, as the story plays out, would have been very sound advice indeed, if they’d all had a chance to follow it). A sweet song, mildly naughty, and with much prettiness on the part of both singer and sung-to.
10. Aaj ki raat nahin (Dharmputra, 1961): While sangeet songs seem to be a dime a dozen and there are definitely more than the two bidaai songs I’ve mentioned in this list, actual suhaag raat (wedding night) songs seem to be far fewer in number. (Ahem. Maybe because people have other things to occupy themselves with? Like discovering—à la Manoj Kumar in Woh Kaun Thi?—that the bride is a previously-encountered spectre? Or—like Guru Dutt in Chaudhvin ka Chaand—teasing the bride into thinking he’s butt ugly, so that she’s startled into lifting her ghoonghat to look up at him, thus giving them both a chance to appreciate each other’s looks).
But, I digress. Other than Kabhi-kabhi mere dil mein and the short version of Udhar se tum, there aren’t too many other suhaag raat songs I can think of—with the exception of Aaj ki raat nahin. This is a suhaag raat of a slightly different kind (from the run-of-the-mill Hindi film), because the couple here aren’t merely in love, they’ve been lovers, and have even a child born out of wedlock. What makes Aaj ki raat nahin especially lovely for me is the slow, soothing music (barely even there, thus showcasing Mahendra Kapoor’s voice) and the romantic sensuousness of the scene.