One would’ve thought a blog dedicated largely to old Hindi cinema would milk Valentine’s Day for all it’s worth; after all, the number of old Hindi films that didn’t feature a romance of some sort, of some duration, can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. True, the romance may end in tragedy; it may come up against one obstacle or the other; there may be misunderstandings galore—but romance and Hindi cinema did go hand in hand (still do, to a large extent). So a Valentine’s Day-themed post is pretty much de rigueur.
This year, after having dilly-dallied and wondered whether I should try a ‘romantic songs’ list, I decided I should. And, oddly enough, all the romantic songs that kept occurring to me—the ones which immediately popped into my head and kept playing—were of Shammi Kapoor lip-synching to Rafi. Too easy. So I decided to go a different route: ten romantic duets (yes, there’s still a good bit of Shammi Kapoor here, but not completely).
My criterion for these songs (besides the fact that they should be pre-70s duets, from films that I’ve seen), was that the romance should be of the knee-weakening sort: not teasing songs like Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji; not roothna-manaana songs like Achhaji main haari; not I’ll-stalk-you-till-you-relent songs like the countless ones featured on just about every screen couple there is.
No; pure, outright romance. Nothing to adulterate the headiness of being in love, of being confident, too, that one’s love is returned. Without further ado, therefore, my favourite romantic duets. These are in no particular order.
1. Deewaana hua baadal (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964): Having started off by saying that all the romantic songs (not necessarily duets) that occurred to me ended up being picturized on Shammi Kapoor, let me go ahead and begin this post with a duet that’s picturized on him. In a film that had one great song after the other—and songs, too, that ran the gamut from fast-paced folksy to drunken despair—there were two wonderful duets. One was Ishaaron-ishaaron mein dil lene waale; the other was this. There is nothing about Deewaana hua baadal that I don’t like. OP Nayyar’s music is sublime; Rafi’s and Asha Bhonsle’s voices are perfect; and SH Bihari’s lyrics—that barson se khizaan ka mausam thha, veeraan badi duniya thhi meri always charms me—are lovely. Add to that a handsome Shammi Kapoor, a lovely and demure Sharmila Tagore, fruit trees in bloom and two shikaaras on the water… it doesn’t get more romantic than this.
2. Udhar tum haseen ho idhar dil jawaan hai (Mr & Mrs 55, 1955): When I was young, the Guru Dutt films I’d seen had always made me regard the actor as more a character actor than the quintessential hero: a man most suited to a song like Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye or Dekhi zamaane ki yaari.
And then I saw Mr & Mrs 55, and more specifically, Udhar tum haseen ho idhar dil jawaan hai. There’s so much romance in this song, not just in the lyrics and the music, but also in the quiet dreaminess of the dusk, the wind ruffling Madhubala’s hair. The very presence of the gorgeous Madhubala would go a long way in making any song romantic, but this one (unlike a lot of the more playful or frothy romantic songs picturized on her) is in a different league altogether. This is a woman who’s come to the realization that the man who married her for what she thinks are purely mercenary reasons is actually not a bad person—in fact, she has, willy-nilly, fallen in love with him. The combination of shyness and invitation in her demeanour, his increasing confidence—both make for some amazing chemistry.
3. Hum jab simatke aapki baahon mein aa gaye (Waqt, 1965): There is something about Kashmir that makes it almost synonymous with romance (or at least, did, back in the golden age of Hindi cinema). So much so that even in a film that wasn’t set in Kashmir, one song is picturized in what is obviously a Kashmir setting. And what a song! A lovely, softly romantic one about how simply entering the welcoming embrace of the beloved is enough to make all one’s dreams come true. How his love, surrounding her, fills her with joy, lights up her life. And so it is for him, too.
Again, one of those songs that ticks all the boxes: great music, lovely voices (yes, even though I’m not a Mahendra Kapoor fan, he’s not bad in this), and so much eye candy. And the lyrics: how very loving and sweet is something like Hum apni dilpasand panaahon mein aa gaye (I have [by coming into your arms] come into my favourite refuge).
4. Aap yoon hi agar humse milte rahe (Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena, 1962): When the theme for this post first occurred to me, one of the first films (not songs) that came to mind was Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena—because this film had some of the most romantic songs from the 60s: beautifully picturized, with lovely music and great lyrics. Sadly, my favourite (Mujhe dekhkar aapka muskuraana) is a solo, but this duet isn’t far behind.
On the surface of it—with the music, especially, which is rather more frothy and light than one would expect of a dreamy love song—this is a teasing song. A song in which the man challenges the woman: if you keep meeting me thus, you will fall in love with me. He knows, however—and she knows that he knows—that she is already well and truly in love with him. What it turns into, then, is an avowal of love. Thinly disguised as a playful song, but a song, really, of being in love. Joy Mukherjee and Sadhana are wonderful in this one.
5. Chupke se mile pyaase-pyaase (Manzil, 1960): Along with Shammi Kapoor, one of my favourite romantic heroes of the 50s and 60s is Dev Anand. So debonair, so charming, and with so many wonderful songs picturized on him. One of the actresses (along with Waheeda Rehman) with whom I thought Dev Anand shared an especially good onscreen chemistry was Nutan: they are amazingly convincing in all the films they’ve done together, all the way from Paying Guest to Tere Ghar ke Saamne.
And here is one, often sadly overlooked when it comes to not just Dev Anand’s films, but also Dev Anand’s songs. From the forgettable Manzil, a memorable song which begins with the recitation of a poem and then segues into a stunner of a song, in the voices—blending, separating and going their own ways, then coming together—of Rafi and Geeta Dutt. I love the music and the lyrics, and the picturization fit both perfectly: the quiet affection of these two, their level of comfort with each other, the magic of the night. Lovely.
6. Dil tadap-tadapke keh raha hai (Madhumati, 1958): Tumse meri zindagi ka yeh singaar hai, jee rahi hoon main ke mujhko tumse pyaar hai (You adorn my life; I live because I love you) she sings. And he says that without her, the spring is not the spring; because he’s waiting for her, even the flowers cannot be said to have truly blossomed. Gul nahin khile, ke tera intezaar hai.
In one of the most stellar scores of the 1950s, Salil Choudhary brought in some absolutely sublime music—all the way from one of Hindi cinema’s funniest songs to one of its most anguished. And, in between, one of its most achingly romantic. Dil tadap-tadapke is lilting and lovely, and the cinematography, the pine trees and the mountains, the lovely Vyjyanthimala as the shy Madhumati, coming to meet the ‘babu’ she has fallen in love with—romance all the way.
7. Kora kaagaz thha yeh mann mera (Aradhana, 1969): The blockbuster Aradhana, though its primary romance ends in utter tragedy, uses that romance as the basis for some memorable romantic songs, all the way from the serenade Mere sapnon ki rani kab aayegi tu to the steamily erotic Roop tera mastaana. There’s also Gunguna rahe hain bhanwre, but for me, the best of the lot is this sweet and melodious song about how an empty life, a heart as blank as a sheet of clean paper, can be brightened and changed by the appearance in it of a loved one.
SD Burman’s music is gentle and lilting, never letting the orchestration overwhelm Kishore and Lata’s voices, but act as a frame for them. And the picturization follows the same rule: the faces of an impossibly handsome Rajesh Khanna and a beautifully dimpled Sharmila Tagore remain the focus, even though the landscape against which they’re shot—lovely snowcapped peaks, deodar woods, flowers, even a herd of sheep—is equally picturesque.
8. Na jaane kahaan tum thhe na jaane kahaan hum thhe (Zindagi aur Khwaab, 1961): Zindagi aur Khwaab was one of those films that’s a long cry of pain and morbidity from beginning to end. It gives you a good idea of why Meena Kumari got dubbed the ‘tragedy queen’, and had little to redeem it—except for this song.
Na jaane kahaan tum thhe is the one highlight of this melodrama: a song that, for the few minutes it plays, makes this seem like a film worth watching. Manna Dey has always been a favourite of mine, and here he’s at his best with Suman Kalyanpur, to a wonderful tune by Dattaram—and the picturization is really quite nice too. See the shy sweetness in Meena Kumari’s eyes, or the tender way in which Rajendra Kumar looks at her. Or the fact that though it’s set in a garden, they never prance and dance or race about, hand in hand: all the movements are slow, gentle, the very embodiment of romance.
9. O nigaah-e-mastaana (Paying Guest, 1957): Along with Chupke se mile pyaase-pyaase, another Dev Anand-Nutan romantic duet which is among my favourites. My initial thought had been: should this qualify as a purely romantic song? Isn’t it more playful, more teasing? But it isn’t, really, when you look closely, listen closely. Because the lyrics are all about being so deeply in love that the absence of the beloved becomes unbearable; that the solitude of the night is utterly romantic and thrilling; and that the very sight of the sweetheart’s intoxicating eyes is enough to make one’s heart go completely haywire.
And the picturization. Dev Anand was never handsomer (though I wish he’d been wearing a shirt in this song), Nutan is radiant, and the sweetly charming way in which they move about on the rooftop is delightful.
10. Raat ke humsafar thakke ghar ko chale (An Evening in Paris, 1967): I began this post with a duet featuring Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore; I’ll end it within another. Also a Shakti Samanta film; also a song set partly on water; also a locale almost synonymous with romance: exotic Paris, rather than our own beautiful Kashmir Valley.
Raat ke humsafar, however, has a different quality of romance to it when compared to Deewaana hua baadal: there is, in the lyrics, the expressions (especially the eyes) of the two actors, and the very setting—night in Paris—a somewhat more erotic vibe (despite the fact that An Evening in Paris makes much of its heroine Deepa’s oh-so-proper ideas about what is permissible and what not). These are two lovers, heading home late at night, tired from the excitement of the day, relaxed and comfortable in their relationship—and so obviously looking forward to the future…
Which are your favourite romantic duets?
If you want to listen to all these songs, here’s the playlist I created: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL2NcsVcorK4H_CdFQ9pLHjEFX1QElW98o