Ah, well, the Valentine’s Day bandwagon and all that.
Seriously, I’ve blogged through five Valentine’s Days, and steered clear of the temptation to post something even vaguely romantic (largely because my idea of what constitutes ‘romantic’ is more often than not at odds with what old Hindi cinema, or even a lot of Hollywood, thought of as romantic). This year, however, I’ve decided to throw in the towel. Romance is in the air. And Hindi cinema, as any Hindi film buff will know, has always loved romance (especially in the 50s and 60s, when any self-respecting film had at least one romance in it, if not more).
But, since I’m a bit of a non-conformist, I’m doing this with a twist: not necessarily a serenade to a loved one, and not necessarily two lovers billing and cooing to each other. Instead, romantic love in its different forms and shapes and tones and hues. All of these songs are about romantic love (not maternal/fraternal/patriotic/devotional or other forms of the sentiment), and they’re all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. And they’re each in a distinct mood that shows some aspect of romantic love. Enjoy!
Playful: Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji (Mr and Mrs 55, 1955): I adore this song, simply and utterly adore it. Johnny Walker is hilarious, his onscreen girlfriend (played by the very prettily dimpled Yasmin, aka Veena Butt) is a delight, and together they sing one of the cutest love songs of Hindi cinema. As they dance around an office deserted for lunch, past a bemused chowkidar—and end up crawling along the floor under the desks—I can’t help but grin at the antics of these two. No wishy-washy lovebirds these, but a couple that’s probably going to continue to tease each other and play pranks even when they’re grandparents.
Defiant: Jurm-e-ulfat pe humein log sazaa dete hain (Taj Mahal, 1963): Another song that I can never have quite enough of. While most people seem to associate Taj Mahal with ‘traditional’ love songs like Jo vaada kiya woh nibhaana padega and Paaon chhoo lene do, my favourite from the film is this one: a quiet, controlled expression of defiance.
Arjumand Bano enters a royal mehfil, uninvited, and sings of her love: a love that cannot be controlled by power, cannot be cowed by thrones or bought with all the jewels in the world. This isn’t merely a song in praise of love, either; it’s an obvious challenge to Arjumand Bano’s imperious aunt Noorjehan—and it’s an affirmation of her love, too, for Noorjehan’s stepson, the heir to the throne, Khurram (later Shahjahan). As brave as Pyaar kiya toh darna kya, but less flamboyant.
Desperate: Ruk jaa raat thehar jaa re chanda (Dil ek Mandir, 1963): I have a confession to make: Dil ek Mandir is a film that’s never appealed to me, not from the first time I saw it as a child. It’s too melodramatic, too weepy and just not my type.
On the other hand, though, when I first watched this song, it moved me to tears. It still does, sometimes. Because Ruk jaa raat thehar jaa re chanda, sung by a wife for a husband who is to be operated upon the next day (and is very likely to not emerge alive from the operation), is so poignant. Meena Kumari’s character, a reluctant bride married off to a stranger while in love with another, has come to love her husband so much over the years that she now knows that if he were to die—as he almost certainly will—she will not be able to live without him. A moving and very desperate song of a love once unexpected, undesired; but now very real and very true. And facing a tragic end.
Grateful: Tumne mujhe dekha hokar meherbaan (Teesri Manzil, 1966): There is, I suppose (unless you’re extremely confident of your own likeability) an element of surprise in discovering that someone loves you. And there’s gratitude, too: not just for the other person’s love for you, but for the companionship, the joy, the support the beloved offers through their love.
There are other songs that are about gratitude being one of the aspects of love. Bahut shukriya badi meherbaani, for example, and the melodious and beautifully sung but irritatingly obsequious Aap ki nazron ne samjhaa. Tumne mujhe dekha won hands down for me, on several counts: this is one of Rafi’s best; the music is superb; and Shammi Kapoor is, as always, excellent.
And the lyrics are good, beginning with talking about how welcome and soothing it has been to meet a companion down the hot, wearying road of life—and going on to asserting how fortuitous that meeting has been. A song of gratitude that also becomes an affirmation of a mutual love. (Ironic, then, that the storyline should have come to the point where this love has developed a huge crack on one side).
Seductive: Aa je aa zara aa (Love in Tokyo, 1966): Also released in the same year as Teesri Manzil, and also featuring Asha Parekh, a song with a big difference from the ones that’ve come before in this post. This one’s a seductive song (and sensuality, even if Hindi cinema tended to usually cloak it discreetly with nodding flowers and birds, is an integral part of romantic love). Also, unusually, this is a come-hither song in which (a) it’s the man, not the more usual woman, who’s doing the seduction; and (b) it’s being done at a party, in full public view.
A sizzling song, and one I’ve always considered among Joy Mukherji’s best.
Despairing: Sambhal ae dil (Sadhna, 1958): Love, as anyone who’s seen Hindi films knows, is rarely a bed of roses. There are invariably obstacles galore: disapproving parents, lecherous villains, uncomfortable pasts and uncertain futures. The uncertain future and the uncomfortable past come together in this song—because Vyjyantimala plays a dancing girl who, having taken on (for completely mercenary reasons) the task of passing herself off as the bride-to-be of a respectable young teacher, falls in love with the man. She knows she’s a fallen woman; her past (not to mention her present) are ‘soiled’; how can she ever hope for their love to be accepted by society?
So she sings, telling her heart to beware and not be swept away by this love (useless, because she is already in love, and she knows it, or she would not be singing this). And the man she loves—who loves her in return and is oblivious of the truth—sings too, of the love that he knows is his.
Comforting: Dukh aur sukh ke raaste (Hum Dono, 1961): More often than not, romance in Hindi cinema tends to bring suffering to star-crossed lovers; suffering that they end up usually having to bear all by themselves, with perhaps some relief by way of bewailing their fate in sad songs. Occasionally, though, there’s a refreshing change: when the relationship between the lovers is so deep and sincere that the sorrow can be shared—and comfort both offered and accepted.
The song that first came to my mind in this context was Hain sabse madhur woh geet, but I’ve put that in so many lists, I decided it was time for a change. This lovely (and oft-overlooked) song from Hum Dono, therefore, with Dev Anand being at the receiving end of the comfort. His character has lost his mother, and is embroiled in a horribly uncomfortable situation, not of his making—and his sweetheart is there to tell him that she is always by his side, that she will share his pain.
Coaxing: Ehsaan tera hoga mujhpar (Junglee, 1961): The roothna-manaana motif is a very familiar one in Hindi cinema. If you fall in love, you will have fights, and if you have fights, it will be up to the guilty party (more often than not the man) to say (or sing) sorry.
While there are a loads of roothna-manaana songs in Hindi cinema (and most of them, though not all, with the men doing the manaana), this is my favourite. Not merely because Shammi Kapoor looks so wonderful or the music (and Rafi’s voice) is so good, but because of the entire way the song plays out. She’s angry with him not because of anything he’s done, but because a misunderstanding—and the humiliation she has been subjected to by his mother—has been hurtful. And so, even though he sings of his love and begs her to forgive him, he doesn’t really need to—because, anger and all, she still loves him.
Unrequited: Tum apna ranj-o-gham (Shagoon, 1964): That romantic love must be mutual is not necessary. And the love triangle is another of those staples of cinema—including, of course, Hindi cinema—that has been eternal. In Hindi films, love triangles lead to many opportunities for songs: one-upmanship songs to show off one’s lovability versus the rival; sad songs to mourn the love that can never be; self-sacrificing songs… and, more unusual, songs like this one, where the singer, though unloved, still offers her love, unconditional and surprisingly fierce. A love that, even though it’s one-sided, is not just willing to stand up for the beloved, but wants to fight for him, defies the world to crush him.
Quite a love, actually. And more impressive for the fact that it does not ask for love in return.
Romantic: Gum-sum sa yeh jahaan (Duniya Jhukti Hai, 1960): I began this list with a duet—and I’ll end it with one (interesting, isn’t it, that so many of the good romantic songs seem to be solos?) And this one is really the mood of romantic songs: a romantic mood. Two lovers, by themselves, in the serene beauty of the night, happy to be with each other, dreaming of the future, and rejoicing in the very fact of their love.
Yes, this last one was a difficult song to pick, because there are so many other lovely romantic duets out there—but this is what I chose, because it’s so melodious, and sung so beautifully (Geeta Dutt and Hemant are, individually, among my top favourites; together, they’re hard to beat). And because Shyama and Sunil Dutt combine, in their acting, everything that conveys the sweetness, the affection, and the romance of love.