The other day, I was thinking about some of those songs that end up featuring on every other list I make. Songs that are perennial favourites of mine, because they are those rare combinations of brilliant music and equally brilliant lyrics, singing, picturisation—everything. Songs like Aage bhi jaane na tu, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai, and Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh.
Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh made a thought pop into my mind: that a fair number of Hindi songs are an invitation to be hugged. That might seem fairly innocuous, but in the good old days of nodding flowers and birds putting their beaks together onscreen, an embrace was a daring enough statement: it meant you did love someone; you weren’t being frivolous. No heroine (or hero, even) worth their salt actually hugged anybody—in a romantic way—other than the love of their life. So telling someone to come on and give you a hug meant you were serious (even if the way it was said—as it is in some of the songs in this list—in a light-hearted way).
But, to get on to this post. Ten songs where the basic sentiment expressed in the lyrics (and it must be expressed in so many words) is “Give us a hug”. From pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and in no particular order, though—since Lag jaa gale k phir yeh is the song that inspired this post, and is actually my favourite song from this list—that one features first.
1. Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh (Woh Kaun Thi?, 1964): For me, one of the loveliest songs there is. Madan Mohan’s music is beautiful; Lata Mangeshkar’s rendition is wonderful, and the picturization is spot on. A romantic song, but with an odd fatalism to it: this beautiful night may never come our way again, so come to me, embrace me. Seductive, yet doomed. Sadhana is at her most gorgeous (I have to admit: I’ve loved the combination of chiffon-ey lace sari, heavy jewellery, and exaggerated eye makeup ever since I first saw this song). And Manoj Kumar is in one of my favourite roles, as the doctor who’s intrigued and attracted by his mysterious wife, but also repelled by her, by the fact that her face is that of a dead woman.
2. Mujhko apne gale lagaa lo (Humraahi, 1963): From a song that ticks all the boxes for me, to a song which I like only because of the music. Not so much the rendition (Rafi is excellent, but I don’t much care for Mubarak Begum’s somewhat nasal voice in parts of this song). Not the picturization, not the actor and actress (neither Rajendra Kumar nor Jamuna are favourites of mine), and not even very much the lyrics. Interestingly though, Mujhko apne gale lagaa lo does have some things in common with Lag jaa gale: this too is from a film in which the hero and heroine get married fairly early in the proceedings, and without first falling in love (though in Humraahi, there is a one-sided love).
Here, the “come and embrace me” theme comes at the end of a long and tumultuous relationship: a wife who has hated her sometime-playboy husband finally realizes that she has managed to reform the rake. Happy end? But not yet.
3. Aa mere gale lag jaa (Baazi, 1968): Another woman, another man, and romantic solitude. But the tone of Aa mere gale lag jaa couldn’t be more different from that of Lag jaa gale. Waheeda Rehman, in her (only?) role as a very Westernized Christian girl (with, interestingly—and in a hearteningly progressive way—a Hindu boyfriend), asks said boyfriend (a gorgeous Dharmendra) for a hug. This isn’t seductive, or pleading, or trying too hard: she knows he’s hers. Her confidence in his love is apparent in every word, every gesture.
4. Aa lag jaa gale dilruba (Dus Lakh, 1966): PDA is something the moral police only seems to frown upon in real life. Onscreen, PDA seems to be pretty much the done thing—and since fairly early on, too. Here, Sanjay Khan serenades (pesters?) Babita—in her debut—while amidst dozens of people, all of them dancing, picnicking and more. From the gardens of Kashmir to willow groves, they’re almost constantly surrounded by other people. But Aa lag jaa gale dilruba, despite that somewhat I’ll-pester-you-until-you-submit tone of the lyrics, is a favourite of mine: Rafi’s voice strikes the right balance between romantic and teasing, and the music—vintage Ravi—is superb.
5. Aa gale lag jaa (April Fool, 1964): Like Aa lag jaa gale dilruba, another song of a man serenading his beloved. But if there was little disregard for gawping onlookers in the Dus Lakh song, there’s even less here—in fact, this one’s actually a poolside performance, band and all. While Saira Banu and her colleagues show off their moves in the pool [aside: the performers were a West German troupe, and Saira Banu was specifically trained for this sequence], Biswajeet sings to her to come and give him a hug, while Sajjan looks on and seethes. Although the tune goes off in places I don’t particularly like now and then, this is—on the whole—a decent enough song.
6. Mujhe gale se lagaa lo (Aaj aur Kal, 1963): For a change, a song that asks for a hug, but a hug that is not romantic in nature—even though it is sung to the person the singer loves. Unlike the songs that have appeared earlier in this list, Mujhe gale se lagaa lo isn’t about a sensual hug, but a hug of comfort. A hug that will console someone who is afflicted (Nanda plays a crippled princess, tired of life and in deep despair, while Sunil Dutt plays the young doctor who’s come to treat her). A hug to relieve sorrow, to take away the pain the world has inflicted. Beautifully sung (by Asha) with poignant lyrics by Sahir—and both Nanda and Sunil Dutt look wonderful.
7. Yeh tanhaayi haai re haai (Tere Ghar ke Saamne, 1962): My most vivid memory of this song is from when I was studying hotel management and had to do a six-month internship at a hotel. While an intern at the Hyatt Regency in Delhi, I worked a week at the hotel’s Indian specialty restaurant, Angaan, which had a live singer every night. One night, she sang this song. I knew I’d heard it before, I knew I loved it, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember which film it was from.
I don’t recall when I realized it was from Tere Ghar ke Saamne, but Yeh tanhaayi haai re haai is still a song I love. (In case you don’t recall the lyrics, the invitation to a hug comes in the end of the refrain: Yeh tanhaayi haai re haai jaane phir aaye na aaye, thhaam lo baahein, thhaam lo baahein). Unlike a couple of the previous songs, this one actually emphasizes the tanhaayi—the solitude that the average lover would welcome. The solitude that is so hard to find; and who knows when they will find it again? Lovely music, a chirpy Nutan and a handsome Dev Anand. And a playfully teasing picturization.
8. Ae chaand ki zebaai tu jhool jaa baahon mein (Chhoti Si Mulaqat, 1967): Another of those singing-to-a-sweetheart songs that invite the beloved to embrace the singer. Ae chaand ki zebaai is somewhat different from most of the other songs in this list because the person being sung to is neither completely averse to the suggestion, nor leaping at it: this is a woman caught in a horrible dilemma, torn between the man she loves and the childhood bridegroom she is increasingly realizing she must find and go back to.
9. Pyaare aaja chori-chori gori-gori baahon mein (Insaaf ka Mandir, 1969): This is one “Give us a hug” song that doesn’t seem to exist anywhere on Youtube or any of the other video-sharing sites. You can listen to Pyaare aaja chori-chori gori-gori baahon mein aaj ki raat by clicking this link, and then selecting the song and playing it. Insaaf ka Mandir was a little-known film (starring Sanjeev Kumar as a lawyer), and seems to have pretty much sunk without a trace, though it did have some lovely songs. This one is—as you can tell from the very peppy beat—a club song. Not really an expression of heartfelt romance, but a performance.
10. Door ke o chanda aa meri baahon mein aa (Ek Dil Sau Afsaane, 1963): And, to end this list, a song that’s very different from all the rest. While the others—even Mujhe gale se lagaa lo—are about romantic love, this one is about maternal love. A young mother plays with her baby, singing to the little tyke as she waltzes, swings it about, and generally showers him with love and affection, telling this little ‘moon that has descended’ to come into her arms. A very sweet song, and Waheeda Rehman is gorgeous.
Which songs would you add to this list? I can think of a few others, some not-so-nice ones from before the 70s, plus a couple of really good ones from the 70s. Do tell me your choices!