Considering the ‘comic side plot’ used to be such an integral part of old Hindi cinema—and that the presence of a Johnny Walker, a Rajendranath, or a Mehmood almost invariably meant that there would be not just laughs but also a secondary (light-hearted and often outright comic) romance, and at least one song picturized on the comedian in question. Oddly enough, then, there aren’t those many songs that I find outright funny. Even an iconic ‘comic’ song (or what most people seem to refer to as a comic song—Sar jo tera chakraaye)—is actually more philosophical than comic.
So I set out to compile a list of ten songs that are actually funny. Funny because of the lyrics, the rendition, the picturization—whatever (in some stellar instances, all of the above). These may not be songs that make me laugh out loud (I am not a guffawer, anyway), but they are songs that always make me smile rather more widely than usual. As always, these are all from pre-1970s films (except one) that I’ve seen, and they’re in no particular order. Just songs that I find funny. And—I hasten to add—which are intentionally funny.
1. Aake seedhi lagi dil pe (Half Ticket, 1962): I am not one of those who finds men in drag funny. But this song, with Kishore Kumar masquerading as a village belle and Pran—the villain—as ‘her’ lover—is an utter delight. That delight derives not from the music or the lyrics (which would be a fairly straightforward love poem), but from the rendition and the picturization. Kishore sings, in what is probably a unique instance, a duet—rendering both the male part (in his regular voice) and the female (in a squeaky, high-pitched voice—which, I’ve read somewhere, was originally to have been sung by Lata).
Of particular note here are the expressions of the two actors. If you can imagine a real woman in Kishore’s place, that mischievous flirting, the coyness, the roothna—everything looks just right. Except that, because it’s Kishore, dancing in that exaggerated fashion, it suddenly becomes funny. And Pran is equally hilarious, what with that caveman-like pursuit of his lady love.
In my introduction to this post, I wrote that the song need not literally make me laugh out loud, but the end of this song actually did elicit a snort of laughter from me.
2. Jungle mein mor naacha (Madhumati, 1958): I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Johnny Walker is my favourite Hindi film comedian. He’s brilliantly funny, and always in a wholesome, never-cringeworthy way. No wonder he had such a stellar career, even acting as the comic hero in several films. There are plenty of Johnny Walker songs, some of them quite funny too (more in this post), but of all of Johnny Walker’s funny songs, this is my favourite. As the village drunk who cribs about how everybody—instead of watching the beauty of the dancing peacock, or the girls who flirt and flit, or the corruption all around—only stares goggle-eyed at him. Such injustice!
Good lyrics, but what makes this song a hit for me is Johnny Walker’s acting, Rafi’s rendition (those slurred words, that drawl: oh, so tipsy!), and Salil Choudhary’s music. Not to mention the picturization itself, in which Bimal Roy (unless there was a separate director for the songs?) does a fabulous job of fitting Johnny Walker’s antics to the music.
3. Daiyya yeh main kahaan aa phansi (Caravan, 1971): Instances of women acting the uninhibited madcap in Hindi films are few and far between—especially not women when they’re the heroine. But Daiyya yeh main kahaan aa phansi has Asha Parekh being a complete nutter. Supported by Jeetendra, Junior Mehmood, Surinder Kapoor, motley hens, and a large audience of shifty-eyed and shady-looking characters, she puts up a show. A show which involves much despairing of how on earth she’s ever going to get through this one, but she carries gamely on. Dancing about, dodging hens, wearing a lampshade on her head, swinging from a rope—all without missing a note. A delight.
4. Paanch rupaiyya baarah aana (Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958): Kishore Kumar again, and this time paired up with real-life sweetheart, Madhubala. This song’s a scream all the way through: a beautiful woman draws attention to her gorgeousness, and while her admirer concedes all of that, he keeps harping, too, on the money she owes him. Kishore’s dancing (especially in that bit about Majnu having to subsist on khoon-e-dil and lakht-e-jigar) is hilarious, the parodies are a hoot, and Kishore’s lunatic hopping about in the last verse always cracks me up. And if Kishore’s totally uninhibited tomfoolery is delightful, so is Madhubala’s somewhat more contained but still clownish partnering of him. Oh, and I love the way she clutches gamely on to her handbag, no matter if she’s dressed up as princess or whatever. A brilliant song.
(Incidentally, it’s said that Kishore—before he came to Bombay and the film industry—used to study in an Indore college, where he’d run up a credit of Rs 5 and 12 annas at the college canteen. He never got around to paying it, but when this particular song came up in his career, he suggested that sum for the amount).
5. Lipstick lagaanewaale (Shrimatiji, 1952): Although the picturization of this relatively little-known song from Shrimatiji is amusing, what really makes me grin are the situation and the lyrics of it. Shyama and her three roommates, all of them in very dire straits (financially speaking) have been reduced to doing all their housework on their own—but take it on the chin. By singing as they work—singing of how those who used to jalaao dils are now jalaaoing choolhas, and those who used to chalaao teers are now chalaaoing karchhis. A lot of witty punning, of converting all the adaas and nakhraas of the quintessential Hindi film heroine into something as prosaic as housework.
6. Jodi hamaari jamega kaise jaani (Aulad, 1968): Not a very funny picturization (that exaggerated fast-forward dancing of Mehmood’s, à la Charlie Chaplin, along with the equally Chaplinesque look, irritates me no end). But the lyrics make up for it—and beyond. Not the pretty little ‘desi is good’ stuff sung by Aruna Irani’s character, but the ‘what a bombshell you’ll be if you turn non-desi’ proclamations of Mehmood. He’s persistent, he’s ungrammatical, and he’s funny. That ‘Laao main kaat doon lambi-lambi yeh lat, tumko toh Heer se banna hai Juli-yat’, especially, always makes me grin.
7. Bade miyaan deewaane aise na bano (Shagird, 1967): Like Jodi hamaari jamega kaise jaani, another makeover song—but not ‘threatening’ a makeover, since the addressee of the song wants one. Joy Mukherjee, as the once-disciple of a misogynist, falls in love—and ends up, later, having to advise his old prof when he falls in love. This is the advice he gives: how to get spruced up and win the lady. Exercise, dress up well, straighten up the gait, sing a good song, and more.
What makes this song for me are the combination of lyrics—light-hearted and fun; the music; and—best of all—the picturization. The contrast between IS Johar and Joy Mukherjee is delightfully exaggerated, not just in the way they look, but also in the general demeanour. And IS Johar’s expression when his shagird sings ‘Mere labh par kab chhalkega tere labh ka jaam’ is priceless.
8. Arre na na na na tauba tauba tauba (Aar Paar, 1954): When you have Johnny Walker sing a romantic song, you can be pretty certain there’s going to be some element of clownishness even in it (with, perhaps, the exception of the very unusual Gareeb jaanke). Here, teamed up with real-life sweetheart and soon-to-be-wife Noor, Johnny Walker is in his element, coaxing his girlfriend into admitting that she loves him. They traipse about the zoo (while her little siblings get up to mischief and her mother—played by Tuntun—goes for a ride on an elephant). And they sing. The fun stuff here is especially in the lyrics: his promises to do anything for her—dig up the earth, climb trees and mountains—only draws derision: she wonders if these ursine and simian tendencies indicate non-human ancestry? And his hoping that she stays up at nights, her heart fluttering, only makes her retort that she’s perfectly well, thank you.
9. Meri pyaari Bindu (Padosan, 1968): Padosan is one of those films about which my opinion has changed over the years. As a child and a teenager I thought it very funny; now, I find much of it too OTT and stereotypical. It still, in parts, makes me grin, though the helpless giggles of my earlier years are a thing of the past.
This is one of the things that still makes me laugh: a song in which poor, naïve, inept but deeply in love Bhola is given some lessons in courtship by his friend, mentor and guru. Guru’s advice is simple: say it with a song (though, since Bhola can’t sing to save his life, that’s probably poor advice). But the lyrics still hold good—if Bindu, Bhola’s beloved, has a sense of humour. After all, which woman wouldn’t want to be called ‘mere maathe ki bindu, meri sindoori bindu’ (‘the dot on my forehead, my vermilion dot’)? And who wouldn’t be totally bowled over by the plea that ‘mere prem ki naiyya beech bhanwar mein gud-gud gote khaaye, jhatpat paar lagaa de’ (‘the boat that is my love bobs about, dub-dub, dub-dub, in a whirlpool; hurry up and save me’)?
The actions that accompany the crazy lyrics and the simple (very appropriate) music are equally funny: Kishore Kumar and Co. prancing about Sunil Dutt, who sits in the middle with that idiotic smile plastered on his face, dreaming of how his sweetheart will succumb to his charms…
10. Aa thha jab janam liya thha (Biwi aur Makaan, 1966): A somewhat recent entrant to my list of favourite funny songs, but one which makes it here by dint of funny lyrics coupled with a hilarious situation. Biswajeet and Keshto Mukherjee play the roles of two friends—from among a bunch of five—who are forced to act as women because their landlord refuses to rent out accommodation to single men: he only wants couples as tenants.
Bullied and cajoled by the more canny Mehmood, our heroes become heroines (and fairly convincing ones too), only to find, as time passes, that it is just too difficult a role to play day in, day out. The breaking point comes, and they crumple, complaining—in song. The lyrics are delightful: the ‘Mar gaya apna pant-coat jo dhota thha, reh gayi yeh petticoat dhoti hai’ (‘he who washed trousers and coats has died; the one left behind washes petticoats’) has a quick little pun woven in around the word dhoti, for example—and Mehmood’s reply to their song, ‘bore kare sasuri’—and his assertion that their song has driven off even the crows—is fun.
Notice that the picturization is really well done: for instance, when Keshto Mukherjee is first shown doing the laundry, he’s scrubbing the clothes absolutely in time to the music.
Which are the songs that make you grin?