Or, to put that better: Hindi film songs that begin with the word “Aaja”.
Let me give the background for this. My daughter, ever since she was a baby, has always had an ear for music. All you had to do was turn on the music (or start singing) and she’d start wiggling her shoulders. When she began walking, the dancing became rather more vigorous—and the first song she totally fell in love with was Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera. The very first time she heard it (and she hadn’t even started talking coherently yet), she joined in at the end: “Aaja, aaja!” After that, every time she’d do a little wriggle and say “Aaja, aaja!” we knew she wanted to listen to some dance music.
So, Aaja. Literally, ‘Come!’ Though I’ve always puzzled over why aaja—which combines aa and jaa, and should create a paradox—and not simply aa? Does the imperativeness, the urgency (which is invariably a part of Hindi love songs that use aaja in the lyrics) come through more when the word is aaja and not aa?
Whatever. Just thinking over it the other day, I realized that there are several that don’t just include aaja in the lyrics; they begin with aaja. So, here we go: ten of my favourite ‘Aaja’ songs, from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. Importantly, all of them begin with the word Aaja. No Oh, no Ah, nothing; simply Aaja. These are in no particular order.
1. Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera (Teesri Manzil, 1966): Considering the reason for this post, Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera deserves to be the first song on the list. Not that that should be the only reason—this song, even otherwise, is a favourite of mine. The music’s pep at its best (RD Burman really, really shone in Teesri Manzil), and while Shammi Kapoor does look a little pudgy, he shows he can still shake a mean leg. Asha Parekh’s lovely, Edwina & Co. provide (despite none too great costumes for the girls) superb backup dancing, and Rafi and Asha are oomph and pizzazz and playfulness. My only real crib with this one is that Laxmi Chhaya’s wasted. But still: the quintessential dance floor song.
2. Aaja aayi bahaar (Rajkumar, 1964): While on the topic of Shammi Kapoor, another song which features him, and begins with Aaja. This one couldn’t be more different from Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera, despite the presence of Shammi Kapoor, some very hectic dancing, and a lovely leading lady. Sadhana’s Princess Sangeeta hasn’t the slightest idea that the love of her life is waiting around the corner (or, rather, deep in the water, with a reed sticking up as a makeshift snorkel): all she’s doing is having a swimming picnic with a bunch of friends. And spending her time calling to the man whom she’s certain awaits her. Sadhana is lovely, Shammi Kapoor is fun and the landscape (especially the cascades) is impressive but I personally don’t care for the costumes or the choreography.
3. Aaja ke intezaar mein (Halaku, 1956): Now for a complete change of pace, scene and tone. Both Aaja aayi bahaar and Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera are upbeat, fast-paced songs, very modern and set firmly in the Technicolor (or Eastman Color, whatever) world of 1960s Hindi cinema. Aaja ke intezaar mein, from a decade earlier (not that the 50s lacked peppy music) is a world apart. A song of longing, of waiting for the beloved to come. This song teeters on the brink of despair: the hero waits for his sweetheart, but will she come before his hope finally gives out?
Lovely music, and both Meena Kumari and Ajit (well before his days as a screen villain) look dishy. And suitably soulful.
4. Aaja ab toh aaja (Anarkali, 1953): The somewhat Arab-West Asian melody of Aaja ke intezaar mein finds an echo in Aaja ab toh aaja, not surprisingly, since Anarkali was a period film set during Akbar’s reign. The beautiful Bina Rai was perhaps not really suited (despite her beauty) to play the part of a dancer—she is pretty graceless through much of this song—but it’s worth a listen, anyway. Mostly because the music is lovely, and Lata’s control over her voice is admirable: what could have been a wail becomes something melodious yet yearning and desperate.
5. Aaja re main toh kabse khadi is paar (Madhumati, 1958): An absolutely gorgeous song, from a film chockfull of brilliant songs, one of Salil Choudhary’s best scores. Everything about Main toh kabse khadi is paar impresses me. The music and the words are lovely; Lata’s rendition gives me gooseflesh—and the way the song progresses, beginning slow, soft, at a distance, and then gathering speed—is perfect. Plus, the picturization. Dilip Kumar, curious, his eyes alight. Vyjyanthimala, lovely and carefree as she gazes up into the trees or trips lightly along beside the river. The mist, the pine trees, the waterfall, the rocks. All fitting in brilliantly together.
6. Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum (Chori Chori, 1956): One of the few songs in this list that actually has both people—the person ‘waiting’ and the person they’re waiting for—almost together from the start of the song, and singing along. The ‘aaja’ here is not a question of physically coming; it’s more a question of opening up to the other, of accepting and giving love. On a lovely night, amidst flowering trees (so what if the flowers are patently artificial), love blooms. Gently, sweetly, believably. I love the music and lyrics of Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum, and this is one of the few films in which I liked Raj Kapoor.
7. Aaja re aa zara aa (Love in Tokyo, 1966): Going a step further from Aaja sanam madhur chaandni mein hum, this one doesn’t just have the singer and the ‘sung to’ together, it has them in fairly close proximity. The singer (a very attractive Joy Mukherji, lip-synching to the deliciously seductive voice of Rafi) would however like to get rid even of the distances that remain. Aaja re aa zara aa, I have always maintained, is one of the few male solos that manage to be overtly come-hither without being cheesy, stalkerish, or trying to beat the object of the affections over the head with the ‘come on and give us some love’ stuff. This man’s just being oh, so romantic. And so uninhibited.
8. Aaja meri barbaad mohabbat ke sahaare (Anmol Ghadi, 1946): And, in a complete change of pace, tone, ethos, just about everything (the only thing that seems to be common between this song and the previous is that the “aaja” it begins with is addressed to a beloved). Noorjehan sings a song of despair, a woman in love but separated from the man she loves, and certain that her love is never going to find its happy ending. Anmol Ghadi had Naushad composing one great song after the other, and this one is a gem when it comes to songs of despairing love, of a dying hope and a desperation for the company of the beloved. Do also watch Noorjehan’s face: her eyes, in particular, are so expressive, so full of pain.
9. Aaja tujhko pukaare mera pyaar (Neelkamal, 1968): I must admit Neelkamal isn’t one of my favourite films, and for various reasons—I don’t generally care for reincarnation stories (and this one wasn’t particularly well-made); Raj Kumar is not an actor I like; and even the songs weren’t that great. This one, however, I do like. The sculptor, who has loved well but unwisely, is being bricked up alive (bang in the middle of a large hall) for this romantic transgression—and sings to his beloved, begging her to come to him one last time before he dies. I like the music in this one, and the echo effect—both at the beginning and the end (the latter also fading out slowly as he’s walled up)—is good.
10. Aaja re ab mera dil pukaara (Aah, 1953): Yes, another song from a Raj Kapoor film, and that too not one of the RK films I like (Aah went completely off the rails when it came to morbidity and utterly unnecessary depressiveness in the second half). One thing Aah did have in its favour was an excellent score, and even this song—reflecting the gloom of the second half—is good. The hero, ill and seemingly fatally so, has cut himself off from the woman he loves, but he cannot contain his plea for her company. Even if she cannot really hear him, far away as she is, in her own home—and also singing (how do they manage this?) exactly the same song, begging for him to come to her. If only to uphold the honour of the love they have for each other.
Which songs would you add to this list?