The other day, with a storm in full force, I could hear the crash and rumble of thunder, the pitter-patter of raindrops (and, as it grew more stormy, huge splashes of water against the windows)—and the wind, gusting and whooshing all around. It struck me then that nature, even when it’s not living nature—not birds and animals, but water and wind and clouds—makes its own music.
Wind, in my opinion, wins when it comes to ‘natural music’. From the soft swoosh of the breeze blowing through the leaves of a tree, to the howling, gooseflesh-inducing gusts that can be well mistaken for a banshee: the wind has a life all its own. Appropriate, then, that at least two types of musical instruments—wind chimes and Aeolian harps—are played by the wind.
And the wind, of course, has long been an important motif in Hindi film songs. There have been songs addressed to the wind, songs about the wind. Here are ten of my favourites, in no particular order. The only restrictions I’ve imposed on myself are:
(a) As always, the song should be from a film I’ve seen, from before the 1970s
And (b) the song should have a word synonymous with wind (hawa, saba, pawan, etc) in the first line of the song.
1. Ae saba unse keh zara (Ali Baba aur Chalees Chor, 1954): I love this song, even though it’s probably not as well-known as many of the other songs on this list. Mahipal doesn’t float my boat, but the lovely Shakila is enough to make me forget about him, and the music (by SN Tripathi) is simple but lovely, with a faintly Middle Eastern lilt to it, throbbing and thrumming like the wind. And the lyrics, of course, which (ostensibly, at least) address the wind, telling it to ask the beloved why one’s heart is all aflutter. Sweet.
2. Thandi hawaayein lehraake aayein (Naujawan, 1951): Sahir Ludhianvi’s romantic lyrics were often distinctive in that they juxtaposed romance against nature: Yeh raat yeh chaandni phir kahaan, Phaili hui hain sapnon ki baahein and Parbaton ke pedon par are examples. So is Thandi hawaayein lehraake aayein. Our heroine’s sweetheart is not present, but the cooling breezes are. And, combined with the chaand aur taare, hanste nazaare—they are enough of a reason for her to wish for him, too, to be there.
One of Sahir’s earliest works in Hindi cinema, and a beautifully melodious song, vintage SD Burman.
3. San-san-san woh chali hawa (Kaagaz ke Phool, 1959): The wind is a very important part of this song. It is, of course—as in the previous songs—an integral part of a romance (or, in this case, two romances: the proudly proclaimed-to-the-world love of the singers themselves; and the forbidden, as yet unexpressed love of the two people who sit in the car in front, listening to the song). Besides that, however, the wind is present in other ways: in the onomatopoeic ‘San-san-san’ that begins the song, and in the very visible way the wind shows up in the picturisation, blowing the women’s hair about, and sending a sheaf of papers flying all across the road.
4. Saba se yeh keh do ke kaliyaan bichhaaye (Bank Manager, 1959): Diametrically opposite to San-san-san woh chali hawa, at least as far as picturisation goes, is this song (which, coincidentally, features Minoo Mumtaz, sister of Mehmood, who appeared in San-san-san woh chali hawa). Here, the singer—a poetess reciting in a mushaira—enlists the help of the wind her in praising her beloved: by laying blossoms in his path. An exquisite song, sung flawlessly by Asha, whose voice is showcased by the relative lack of instrumentation in the accompanying music (Madan Mohan’s).
5. Dheere chal dheere chal ae bheegi hawa (Boyfriend, 1961): A complete change of pace and rhythm, but the motif of love and the breeze remains. Here, in Boyfriend (a remake of Kismet), is a song that is also an obvious reboot—as far as lyrics go—of the hit Dheere-dheere aa re baadal dheere. Shammi Kapoor’s character, instead of beseeching the clouds to be silent, asks the wind to be quiet and still, so that his beloved may not wake. [That she might wake because he’s singing louder than the wind does not seem to matter]. Very Western in its tone, romantic, and well-picturised (Madhubala? Shammi Kapoor? Can it get better?!)
6. Yeh hawa yeh fiza (Gumraah, 1963): Gumraah had an interesting trio of songs, all with the word hawa in them. Two were versions of the same song: In hawaaon mein in fizaaon mein: a happy version (which was a duet) and a sad one (a male version). Linked to these is a song I like more than In hawaaon mein: the haunting, echoing Yeh hawa yeh fiza.
Its basic premise (superficially, at least) is the same as that of In hawaaon mein: a lover calls to his beloved, begging her to come to him. Whereas the happy version of In hawaaon mein is a self-confident anticipation—he knows she will come to him—Yeh hawa yeh fiza is a cry of pain, a longing that he knows deep down is wrong (she is now married to another man; this rendezvous, if it happens, will be illicit). Yet, because the wind is so soothing (and so disturbing?) and the atmosphere so conducive to romance—he does cry out, asking her to come to him.
7. Thandi hawa kaali ghata aa hi gayi (Mr and Mrs 55, 1955): Like Thandi hawaayein lehraake aayein, this song too is about how the cool breeze makes our heroine yearn for the man she loves (actually, in this case, ‘is merely infatuated with‘; the real love of her life is waiting in the wings). Unlike Thandi hawaayein, however, this song isn’t sung wistfully in the solitude of the night; it’s made into a big song and dance, with friends joining in around a swimming pool. Vibrant and peppy.
8. Thandi hawa yeh chaandni suhaani (Jhumroo, 1961): An unusual wind song in that it isn’t about romance—in fact, it’s not even about any sort of love. Thandi hawa yeh chaandni suhaani is, instead, a song about the beauty of the night, and about walking through the night—a metaphor for the long walk through life? There’s more than a hint of philosophy here, even more pronounced in the female version of the song, which has a sad loneliness to its rendition.
9. Jhukti ghata gaati hawa (Dhool ka Phool, 1959): The looming clouds and cool breeze of Thandi hawa kaali ghata return in this song, a fine example of Sahir Ludhianvi’s penchant for setting a romantic song against a backdrop of nature. Here, the newlywed hero and his lovely young bride celebrate their love in idyllic surroundings: a lake with a boat bobbing gently on it, grassy banks, trees, the wind whipping the woman’s hair and sari about. There’s something sweetly infectious about this tune, by N Dutta, and the lyrics have an unusual—for 50s Hindi cinema—touch of the erotic about them in the last verse.
10. O basanti pawan paagal (Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960): Throughout this list, the wind seems to have been used as an accessory to romance—let there be a hint of a breeze, and someone or the other begins to wish their beloved were near. Or if the beloved is near, so much the better to enjoy the breeze. O basanti pawan paagal takes a slightly different path: that of heartbreak. The heroine Kammo’s lover, disillusioned and anguished, has left her, and she goes running after him, begging him to return.
O basanti pawan paagal is itself not about the pawan; I’m not even absolutely certain why those first few words are in the song. My guess, however, is that it draws on the poetic premise of the spring wind being a fickle, always-wandering, nomadic breeze. Kammo’s Raju is to her like the basanti pawan: come from nowhere, off again who knows where. And can she stop him with her song?
Even if the wind is only used as a metaphor here, this song fits right into this list, because the basanti pawan—rustling the leaves on the peepal outside my window—is what inspired this post in the first place.
What are your favourite songs featuring the wind?