The other day, looking at the stats page for this blog, I saw that somebody had arrived at Dustedoff as a result of searching for spring songs. I don’t know which post they ended up at, but it reminded me: spring is here in Delhi, and I’ve never yet done a post on songs about spring.
Spring means many things to me. I had never really paid attention to spring as a child, but when I was nearly ten years old, my father got transferred to Srinagar, and spring in Kashmir was glorious. After four months of cold, snowy, slushy weather, the snowdrops would start poking their way up through the snow, heralding the thaw. And then, succeeding them, would come the other flowers: dozens of varieties of daffodils and narcissi, hyacinths, irises, tulips… and the fruit trees would burst into flower. A pale froth of pink and white, the occasional tree covered in blossoms of deep pink.
I saw three springs in Srinagar, and they have lived with me all these years. Spring is Delhi is not quite so beautiful, but it’s still my favourite season. The gardens are full of flowers, the red silk cotton is blooming, and there are—paradoxically enough, unless you realize that the trees are preparing for the summer ahead—leaves being shed. There’s birdsong in the air; Delhi’s signature bird, the noisy barbet, is calling.
So, ten songs about spring. Basant, or bahaar, as it is known in Hindustani. For this list, I imposed some restrictions on myself. Firstly, the synonym for spring—basant, bahaar, etc—should actually be present in the lyrics. Secondly, the word (especially in the case of bahaar, which can also refer to scenery or enchanting environs) should specifically refer to spring itself. (Accordingly to Platt’s Urdu dictionary, bahaar can refer to two closely related terms: either spring, or a ‘flourishing’. In the course of my research for this post, I’ve realized that when used in the plural—bahaaron, bahaarein, and so on—the term generally implies ‘flourishing’, rather than spring.) This is why songs like In bahaaron mein akele na phiro or Rangeen bahaaron se hai gulzar China Town don’t make the cut in this list: they’re not about spring, per se. Also, the word should be used in the literal, not the metaphorical, sense: so Aaye bahaar banke lubhaakar chale gaye doesn’t fit, because the word ‘bahaar’ is being applied to an individual, not to the season.
Here goes, then, with ten songs from pre-1970s films that I’ve seen:
1. Saanwle salone aaye din bahaar ke (Ek Hi Raasta, 1956): For me, this is the quintessential spring song. Everything about it is so completely evokes the essence of spring: the music is frothy and light, the picturisation—a little family off for a picnic, cycling through pretty countryside—and, most importantly, the lyrics. Lyrics which talk of buds blooming, of a koel calling by the riverside. Of a papiha, of clouds. Or flower-filled gardens. Of spring and joy and love.
2. Suno sajna papihe ne (Aaye Din Bahaar Ke, 1966): One of the usual symbols of spring (and of the monsoon, interestingly) is birdsong, and the song of the papiha (the hawk cuckoo) is—like the song of the koel, both mentioned in the previous song—is a sign of spring. A film whose title includes the word ‘bahaar’ had better have at least one song about the spring, and this one—which includes all the usual spring motifs: the papiha, the wind, the flowers, the gardens—ticks all the boxes. Not to mention that Asha Parekh and Dharmendra look gorgeous. I just wish that the flowering fruit trees and obviously Himalayan views of the first couple of frames had been sustained through the rest of the song (which seems to have been picturised in the Deccan, if I’m not mistaken).
3. Dekho ji bahaar aayi (Azaad, 1955): Like the monsoon, the spring also appears to be a season that’s conducive to romance: all those flowers, the cool breeze, the fact that the chill of winter is gone yet the heat of summer is still a while away means that the weather’s at its best and the land is at its most beautiful. What better than spring, and to enjoy it with one’s beloved? So here’s the first of a few songs that will follow this theme: it’s spring, the gardens are full of flowers. Come, my beloved; come to me. The picturisation of this song isn’t great—you can’t see too much evidence of spring, since this is obviously an indoor set rather than the outdoors—but Meena Kumari is her radiant best, and the song is lovely.
4. Aaja aayi bahaar dil hai beqaraar (Rajkumar, 1964): Following in the footsteps of Dekho ji bahaar aayi is this one. It’s a very different song, though, from the Azaad one: instead of the lovelorn heroine being all by herself, here she (a beautiful Sadhana) is surrounded by lots of sahelis, the entire jing-bang floating along on circular rafts adorned with fake flowers. The choreography is atrocious, the costumes rather gaudy, the music getting a bit shrill at times—but it’s still not a bad song. (Frankly, for me just about anything with Shammi Kapoor and Sadhana is fine).
5. Din hain bahaar ke tere-mere ikraar ke (Waqt, 1965): Yet another song which emphasizes the link between spring and romance: the beauty of spring, the wonderful weather, is the perfect time to fall in love. In this case, the song is all about a dilemma: the young couple (played by a very handsome Shashi Kapoor and a lovely Sharmila Tagore) are in love, but while the rich girl is urging her beloved on to romance, he’s pulling back: there are too many burdens on him, too many worries and too much adversity, to let him succumb.
As far as picturisation goes, you wouldn’t think this song has anything to do with spring—the lake and its shore, while scenic, doesn’t look especially spring-ey—but the music and the eye candy makes up for it.
6. Deewaaana mastaana hua dil (Bombai ka Babu, 1960): I’m taking a bit of a liberty with Deewaana mastaana hua dil, because the last verse of this song refers to the saawan, the monsoon, with its lowering clouds—and there’s a mention earlier, too, of dark clouds dipping to touch the singer’s body… but the picturisation is so very spring, what with the flowering trees and the new leaves and the lambs: I can’t help but think of this as a spring song. (The fact that it does mention “Jaane kahaan hoke bahaar aayi” does seem to vindicate my stance on this). A beautifully picturised and rendered song, and with lovely music. Plus, there’s the interesting background to the lyrics: the heroine is rejoicing in that her long-lost brother has finally returned home (like the spring, coming once again)—only, she doesn’t know that this stranger isn’t her brother at all, but the man who killed him. And who is now falling in love with her.
7. Chham-chham naachat aayi bahaar (Chhaaya, 1961): While Chham-chham naachat aayi bahaar is a stage performance and therefore can only show spring through a profusion of artificial flowers, that’s about the only drawback I can see to this song when it comes to its suitability for a post on spring songs. The music (by one of my favourites, the brilliant Salil Choudhary) is matched by Lata’s excellent rendition; Asha Parekh’s dancing is excellent (and she’s particularly beautiful here, in what was one of her earliest films). And the lyrics, about spring arriving, dancing; branches bursting into bloom; leaves waking up and appearing—so very much a paean to spring.
8. Aayi jhoomke basant (Upkaar, 1967): And, for a change, a song not just about spring, but about the North Indian festival that is a celebration of spring: a song about Basant Panchami. Focusing on the yellow that is symbolic of Basant Panchami and spring—the yellow of flowering mustard, of rippling dupattas and cheery turbans—Aayi jhoomke basant is about love, but not just romantic love (though that, inevitably, does find expression), but also love for the land and for one’s people.
9. Baaghon mein bahaar hai (Aradhana, 1969): Oddly enough, the song in Aradhana that describes spring—Gunguna rahein hain bhanwre, khil rahi hai kali-kali—does not actually mention bahaar or basant. This one, a much more light-hearted, teasing love song, does mention spring: it’s spring in the gardens, the buds are bursting into flower. No, there’s not a sign of spring anywhere in the picturisation, but a cute Farida Jalal and a handsome Rajesh Khanna make this a delightfully frothy little song.
10. Aaiye bahaar ko hum baant lein (Taqdeer, 1967): And, to end this list, another spring song with Farida Jalal in it—a younger, even prettier Farida Jalal who, along with her family and friends (including Jalal Agha), sings of love—but love, not for a special person, but for humanity. Spring, she sings, should be shared: this bounty, this beauty, should not be hoarded. A metaphor for wealth in itself, and happiness: share it with those less fortunate, and you will be blessed.
Interestingly, Taqdeer had two songs with the word bahaar in them: this one, and the much better-known Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye (which appears in three versions: a male solo, a female solo, and a duet). Jab-jab bahaar aayi, however, has only a passing reference to spring, and in none of the picturisations is there even the tiniest hint of spring. Which is why Aaiye bahaar ko hum baant lein gets that slight edge over the other song when it comes to inclusion in this list.
Which spring songs do you like?