When I posted my list of ‘background songs’ (songs that form part of the film, but to which nobody lip-synchs), I made one stipulation: that they wouldn’t include ‘credits songs’, or songs that play while the credits roll. Not all of these, as you’ll see from my list below, are necessarily ‘background songs’ as well: some of them are ‘sung’ by people onscreen. And they run the gamut from songs that introduce the film’s ethos or primary theme, to—well, just another song to add to a list of songs the film already boasts of. And they are all sorts, from romantic to philosophical to patriotic.
Without further ado, then, the list. Ten of my favourite ‘credits songs’, all (barring one) from pre-70s films that I’ve seen.
1. Wahaan kaun hai tera (Guide, 1965): When I published my ‘background songs’ post, several people remarked that SD Burman sang quite a few of the best background songs out there. Some commenters specifically mentioned this one—and I had to tell them that yes, Wahaan kaun hai tera was on my long list for that post, until I rewatched it again, and realized that it’s really (as per my criteria), a credits song, not just a background song.
I am not much of a Guide fan, but I admit freely to an immense love for the music of this film. Every single song—composed by SD Burman, written by Shailendra—is a classic, and the film pretty much begins with this philosophical song, sung in SD Burman’s hauntingly beautiful voice. What I especially like about the picturization of it is that the credits are spaced out in such a way that they do not really interfere with the progression of the story even as the song proceeds and the credits roll: we see Raju, the ex-guide, as he journeys through the hills and away, going from dapper and confident to tired, scruffy—and finally ending up bearded and revered at a little village temple. A journey that’s well reflected in the lyrics of the song.
2. Garjat barsat saawan aayo re (Barsaat ki Raat, 1960): Rather like Guide, Barsaat ki Raat had one fabulous song after another—and it is, in my opinion, the film with the best-ever qawwalis in Hindi cinema. But even before the stunning qawwalis of Barsaat ki Raat begin, there is the song that accompanies the credits. Roshan had originally composed this tune—sung by Lata to the lyrics (by Indeevar) Garjat barsat bheejat aayi lo for the 1951 film Malhar (which, coincidentally, also used the song as a credits song). In 1960, Roshan reused the tune for the start of Barsaat ki Raat. This version is a duet (sung by Suman Kalyanpur and Kamal Barot), and to me sounds faster, more full, more evocative of the joy of the monsoon’s arrival.
The picturization and the credits here take the easy way out: while the credits start rolling as the camera moves from the musicians accompanying the two sisters (played by Shyama and Ratna) as they do their riyaaz, we barely even get a glimpse of them before the camera moves up to a chik-shaded window through which one can see the rain pouring down. A fine (if boring) backdrop for the rest of the credits. But, oh, what a brilliant monsoon song.
3. Rangeen bahaaron se hai gulzaar China Town (China Town, 1962): Vastly different from Garjat barsat saawan aayo re is the song which introduces this thoroughly entertaining Shammi Kapoor (in a double role!) starrer suspense film, with music by Ravi. This one’s a performance: Helen, as the Chinese club dancer Suzie (whose boyfriend, the suave gangster Mike, is a bigwig in the China Town crime scene), performs at a nightclub. Seductive, playful, the quintessential club song.
I like the way the credits and the picturization of this song are stitched together: the credits occupy only the first half of the song, about two minutes. During that time, the background is of Calcutta at dusk, seen from a moving vehicle: traffic, illuminated buildings, passersby. And then, as the camera moves into the heart of China Town and the credits end with the director Shakti Samanta’s name, the scene shifts into the nightclub where Suzie’s performing.
4. Aji aisa mauka phir kahaan milega (An Evening in Paris, 1967): From one Shammi Kapoor-Shakti Samanta collaboration to another, and from one credits song that introduces a place to another. As the words themselves make it amply clear, this song—Aao tumko dikhlaata hoon Paris ki ek rangeen shaam (Come, let me show you a colourful evening in Paris)—is all about Paris. Shammi Kapoor swings and dances and flirts his way through Paris in the nighttime, surrounded by a bevy of beautiful (if often bemused-looking) Frenchwomen.
What I especially like about this song is the clever way Shakti Samanta uses it as a credits song: he doesn’t let the credits come in the way of his very popular leading man: Shammi holds centrestage all through the stanzas; it’s only during the interludes—when the background is relatively boring, showing scenes from the city, that the credits roll.
5. Yeh Lucknow ki sarzameen (Chaudhvin ka Chaand, 1960): This song has a couple of things in common with Aji aisa mauka phir kahaan milega. Both have been sung by Mohammad Rafi (and what a brilliant contrast, a fine example of the man’s versatility as a singer!); both are about a specific city; and both are about, too, the people of that city, their love for romance, their open, generous hearts.
But they couldn’t be further apart—because this one, from one of Guru Dutt’s more self-sacrificingly melodramatic films—is a gentle, fitting paean to the tehzeeb and the nazaaqat of Lucknow. Nothing very much happens in the background as the song plays and the credits roll: a long burqa-clad woman wanders against a backdrop of various sights of Lucknow, her black figure often the only moving thing against those tall, impressive imambaras and gates and riverside pavilions. Like Rangeen bahaaron se hai gulzaar China Town, here too the credits end midway and the song continues.
6. Basti-basti parbat-parbat gaata jaaye banjara (Railway Platform, 1955): Like several of the other songs in this list, this one too doesn’t end as soon as the credits are over and done with: it goes on, the last verse of a philosophical song being shown after the director’s name has gone past. Manmohan Krishna, as the sometimes benevolent, sometimes oddly cynical mendicant, sings of how detachment from the world is essential—because the world is so pre-occupied with material things, it cannot go beyond them. Excellent lyrics (by the inimitable Sahir Ludhianvi); good but often underrated music by Madan Mohan; and a song that is repeated again and again through the film.
The picturization of Basti-basti parbat-parbat isn’t any great shakes, though: director Ramesh Saigal simply uses the railway track, shot from the last carriage of a train as it chugs along the track. Against that rather boring backdrop of rails and a flat, uninspiring countryside, the song plays on until, once the credits are over, it shifts into the carriage where the ‘singer’ is sitting.
7. Doli mein bithaaike kahaar (Amar Prem, 1972): When I put in that caveat about one song in this list not being from before the 70s, this was the one I meant—and how could I leave this one out? SD Burman’s hauntingly beautiful voice sings plaintively of a new bride being carried in her palanquin to her new husband’s home—while a forlorn Sharmila Tagore, as the woman thrown out of her home by her husband, who has remarried, looks on. And moves on, aware that she has nowhere to go and no-one to turn to.
Shakti Samanta seems to have had a penchant for credits songs, and he seems to have generally done a good job of doing justice to both the song and the visuals: here, too, the bulk of the credits roll while distant objects—the kahaars carrying the doli, or Sharmila Tagore walking past a pond—are in focus. The camera only zooms in on her face when there’s a pause in the credits.
8. Saare jahaan se achcha Hindostan hamaara (Dharmputra, 1961): I admit I don’t much care for the ‘usual’ version (as far as music goes) of Iqbal’s Saare jahaan se achha—the tune we were taught in school and which is generally heard doesn’t appeal to me. But this particular tune, composed originally by N Dutta for Bhai-Bahen (1959), is a lovely one. N Dutta reused it two years later in BR Chopra’s excellent Dharmputra, this time though with Iqbal’s original words instead of Sahir’s (who, by the way, was lyricist both for Bhai-Bahen as well as Dharmputra).
Nothing fancy as far as visuals are concerned, here: the credits appear in the form of a common device used in Hindi cinema: as pages in a photo album which a beringed hand flips through. The concession made to the context is in that each page has, as a backdrop to the names on it, a painting highlighting some aspect of India’s beauty: natural scenes, historical monuments, and so on.
9. O ji saawan mein hoon beqaraar (Kalpana, 1960): Director RK Rakhan takes a leaf out of Shakti Samanta’s book by doing a fairly decent job of a credits song. O ji sawaan mein hoon beqaraar (the lyrics of which, by the way, never fail to make me smile at the irony of the words, since the Kashmir Valley—where this is set—does not actually have a monsoon!) introduces both the film and the heroine, as Padmini dances and sings her way through a Kashmir landscape. The credits maintain a discreet distance from our heroine: when the camera closes in on her, the credits stop, and recommence only when she’s away in the distance, or when the camera moves briefly to show the river or the mountains. A song that screams “OP Nayyar!” in every note.
10. Main hoon jhum-jhum-jhum-jhum-Jhumroo (Jhumroo, 1961): And, while the rest of this list may not be in any particular order, I’ll end with a particular favourite of mine. Because the music is so good, and because Kishore Kumar’s singing (not to mention his yodeling) is fantastic. Because the picturization—that pretty little train chugging away against a backdrop of snowy peaks—is so pretty. And because Madhubala is so (as she always is) gorgeous, and because Shanker Mukherji has the good taste to keep the credits out of the way when his camera zooms in on the heroine. A wonderful song, and one that always brings a smile to my lips.
Which songs would you add to this list?