Some context, first, for this post.
I had recently been on a hiatus for a while because I shifted home. I’ve lived in Delhi for 32 years now, and for various reasons, my husband and I realized it would make more sense to move to Noida.
Shifting house is something I simply hate doing. I should’ve gotten used to it over the years: my father, after all, was in the IPS, and frequent transfers (once every year, when times were good) meant that we moved around a lot. Even after I grew up and got married, we’ve had to shift several times: because a relative offered us their flat at a nominal rent; because—one year down the line—they decided they wanted to sell it; because a landlady wanted to renovate a house; and so on. I have some idea of what to expect now when we hire packers and movers.
But there are always glitches, always another bunch of thoroughly unprofessional professionals. This time was no different. On top of that, I fell ill—first with a viral infection, and then with an infection of the eyes. Till a few days back, I was going around with two red eyes, a hacking cough, and a runny nose (I looked like something out of a Ramsay Brothers flick).
The silver lining, though, is that this made me think of just how important homes are to us. Not mere buildings, but places that we call our own. Places that shelter not just ourselves and our families, but which represent, too, our aspirations, our emotions, ourselves. Hindi cinema has done ample justice to the concept of ‘home’ and ‘house’, from songs like Ek bangla bane nyaara to films like Dastak, Biwi aur Makaan, Hamaara Ghar, Gharaunda and Tere Ghar ke Saamne.
Why not, I thought, a song list featuring songs that are about homes? Homes that are envisioned, homes that are hoped for. Homes that light up with joy because of the coming of a festival or the arrival of a loved one. Homes destroyed.
As always, these songs are all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and are in no particular order (though my favourites tend to be towards the top of the list).
1. Chhota sa ghar hoga (Naukri, 1954): This is the very first song that came to mind, and it is also, to my mind, a fine example of what a ‘ghar’ embodies. Kishore Kumar’s character, a poor young man with a consumptive sister who is close to despair, tries to cheer her up with a song of what a rosy future awaits them. He will get a job (he is, after all, soon to be a graduate), and they will have a small, sweet house in the shade of the clouds. It will be idyllic and perfect, the epitome of a peaceful and happy life.
A later, shorter, and melancholy version of the song—though with the same lyrics—is a sad reflection on the way dreams are shattered, but this upbeat version is the better-known one.
2. Ek ghar banaaoonga tere ghar ke saamne (Tere Ghar ke Saamne, 1963): This film didn’t merely feature the word ‘ghar’ in its title, it centred round the design and construction of two houses—and its male protagonist (played by Dev Anand) was an architect, entrusted with the building of the aforementioned houses, one of which is his own father’s, while the other is that of his father’s arch enemy, so to say. As if things weren’t complicated enough, our hero falls in love with the enemy’s daughter. Here, tipsy and befuddled by the quandary he finds himself in, he sings his woes to his (illusory) beloved. He’ll build a house in front of hers, he says. He’ll create a world, he’ll lay down his everything in front of her house. She is quick to dampen his enthusiasm: building a house, setting up a home, is no easy task. It takes a lot of effort, and then some more.
3. Najar laagi raja tore bangle par (Kaala Paani, 1958): A house need not always be referred to as ‘ghar’. A dwelling, after all, can take many forms, all the way from a humble hut to a grand haveli. Here, since she’s aiming to flatter an obviously wealthy prospective client, Nalini Jaywant’s tawaif is careful to refer to his home as a ‘bangla’. A bungalow, immediately conjuring up visions of many rooms, sprawling lawns, and verandahs. The house of a man of consequence. With the lyrics of her song, she weaves her own existence into the fabric of the bungalow: as a creeper on its wall, as a bird alighting on it, as a demure bride sitting in it. The imagined bungalow becomes a symbol of the man himself: she will cling to him, she will sing to him, she will be his bride.
4. Jis gali mein tera ghar na ho baalma (Kati Patang, 1970): A film on the cusp of the decade, but with more of a 60s feel to it than a 70s one—and with excellent music. While Kishore sang all the other songs for Rajesh Khanna, Mukesh got to sing this soulful love song, of a lover vowing to be faithful to his beloved. A fidelity that begins with his not even venturing down a lane in which her house doesn’t stand (thoroughly impractical, if you ask me, but still). I like the thought of equating, first, the sweetheart’s presence with her home—not in the ‘ghar ki shobha hai gharwaali’ type of regressiveness, but a simple assertion that anything that doesn’t connect to her in a good way is taboo for him.
5. Saamne gali mein mera ghar hai (Mirza Sahibaan, 1947): Another connect between a woman and her house: a dancing girl, performing at a wedding, tells her lover/the leering members of the all-male audience where she lives. Right there, in front: in the gali is her house. Don’t forget my address, she says, and goes on to give a hint of just what joy will await him/them in her house. There’s innuendo here, even if veiled: none of the innocence of Jis gali mein tera ghar na ho baalma, despite the similar motif of a house inside a gali.
6. Ghar tera apna ghar laage (Waaris, 195): The Talat Mahmood-Suraiya starrer Waaris was known primarily for a song (in several versions) about travellers: Raahi matwaale. But it also featured this song about a traveller finally finding a home. Talat Mahmood’s character, having brought home a destitute and lonely girl who was masquerading as a man, soon falls in love with her—and when he comes home at the end of a long day, finds that she has turned his shabby and neglected bachelor den into something downright comfortable. Why, he asks, and she tells him shyly: because his home feels like home to her, too. Naina dhoondein rain basera, keh do ji haan, yahi dwaar hai tera (My eyes search for a shelter for the night; say, “Yes, this is the door for you”) she explains—a sweet way of equating love with making a home with someone.
7. O sajna mere ghar angna (Saanjh aur Savera, 1964): I will admit I do not like Saanjh aur Savera. It had an unlikely premise, but more than that, it cast Meena Kumari in a clichéd weepy role akin to her Main Chup Rahoongi, Chandan ka Palna and Main Bhi Ladki Hoon roles. What it did have, though, was some nice music, including this song about a home being incomplete without the presence of a loved one. Meena Kumari, as the new bride who has ‘married’ a man under false pretenses (no fault of her own, of course) and is now head over heels in love with him, waits for him to come home. And while she moons over his photo and performs a more useful chore—watering the plants—she sings of how her home is empty without him.
8. Ghar aaya mera pardesi (Awara, 1951): And when talking of the home and its connection with love, this iconic song deserves a place on this list. Ghar aaya mera pardesi is full of symbolism: the ethereal, misty environs of a dreamworld presided over by a benign deity, where the heroine welcomes home the long-lost lover who has strayed so far but has finally returned. My foreigner has come home, she sings. Home, which has come to life, is suddenly rosy and joyful, because her heart is joyful—another instance of self being equated with home. This couple’s happy reunion is short-lived, because doom hangs over them, waiting to destroy them, but for a brief two stanzas, at least, there is bliss at the thought of a home lit up by love.
9. Rehne ko ghar do (Biwi aur Makaan, 1966): From the symbolic to the absolutely real, from the sublime to the prosaic. From a film which was all about the accommodation problem (specifically, that faced by bachelors in a world which only wants to rent out homes to married couples) comes this delightful song about begging for a place to live in. Any house will do, anything will do. A well will do, even a jail will do, sings Manna Dey for Mehmood. It doesn’t matter if the floor is above, or the ceiling. A window, a doorbell: all those frills, those bells and whistles, aren’t necessary. No sir, all that’s needed is something to call a ghar.
10. Woh dekho jalaa ghar kisika (Anpadh, 1962): And to end, another song that uses the concept of home as a symbol of everything secure and safe and happy. A young woman, newly widowed, finds herself thrown out and left all alone. A home has ‘caught fire’, and—paradoxically—all is darkness. The sun and the moon, combined, will not be able to illuminate the gloom left behind by the burning of this house. All is destroyed, as was echoed too in Jaaoon kahaan bata ae dil, where the words ‘Chaandni aayi ghar jalaane’ suggest a house ruined, if only metaphorically.
Which songs would you add to this list?