It’s often struck me that there are a number of Hindi film songs that could well be interpreted to refer to medical problems. The omnipresent theme of romantic love in itself has enough substance for everything from insomnia to palpitations of the heart, giddiness, and whatnot. Bung in heartbreak (hah! Another medical problem?), and you can also tag on mental illness, in the form of depression. Of course, romance isn’t the only reason for problems concerning one’s health: betrayal, fear, family troubles—everything can be cause for singing about ailments concerning one’s heart, one’s liver, and sundry other body parts.
Here we go, then, with ten songs that could be construed to indicate medical problems. As always, they’re all from pre-70s films (with one song from a film on the cusp), and are in no particular order. My favourites, though, tend to be towards the top of the list.
1. Koi bata de dil hai jahaan kyon hota hai dard wahaan (Main Chup Rahoongi, 1962): This one’s obviously addressed to a cardiologist—though I’m guessing it might even indicate a case of indigestion. There seems to be a specific complaint of a flutter here (Dil par aisi kya guzri, ghadi-ghadi yeh ghabraaye), and an irritation (a ‘khalish’ in the ‘dil’). This is one doctor who seems woefully incompetent (even dangerous in his incompetency). He blithely dismisses the khalish as being all a part of falling in love (Jab ho khalish-si pehloo mein, samjho pyaar ne kaam kiya). Worse still, he doesn’t seem to know human anatomy too well: after having given an injection—‘teer chalaake’, so to say—he wonders whether the pain and the heart are in the same place after all.
Should be blacklisted, is what I say.
2. Nainon mein badra chhaaye bijli si chamke haai (Mera Saaya, 1966): Those symptoms—the darkness looming before the eyes, the flashes of what seem like lightning—sound ominously like an epileptic seizure in the offing. Our heroine tries to do some (rather lame) self-diagnosis, by claiming that she’s love-mad. Or (and this sounds like a case of being seriously deluded) the ‘queen of dreams’. I’d suggest seeing a neurologist or a psychiatrist. Better still, both.
In any case, instead of wasting her time telling her beloved to hug her, she should be instructing him to lay her on her side before the seizure hits.
3. Chadh gayo paapi bichhua (Madhumati, 1958): No confusion here about what the complaint is. It’s a clear-cut case (even the patient knows it) of scorpion envenomation. Considering 0.27% of scorpion stings end up being fatal, the heroine is taking it all rather lightly—she goes to a quack vaid at first, who seems to believe more in mantras than in medicine. The result, of course, is—nothing. It’s then that this nutty patient remembers her boyfriend is a doctor. Thankfully, apparently a really good doctor, because one look at him, and the scorpion falls off—presumably without having even got around to stinging the lady.
4. Neend na mujhko aaye (Postbox No. 999, 1958): Sunil Dutt seems to have featured in a lot of these songs. In this one, the third in the list, for a change, he’s not the one being appealed to for medical help. Instead, he’s one of a duo of sufferers: both insomniacs, complaining of not being able to sleep and of having some sort of problem with the heart—a murmur, perhaps? The good thing is, there are two of them, so they have each other for company. And, in what is probably an indication of a desire to self-medicate (or at least to spurn any formal medication?), they seem to think that singing is going to solve their problems. Good luck to them, I say.
5. Barkhaa ki raaton mein dil jalta (Shrimatiji, 1952): I love the beat of this song, the rhythm of it, and the gorgeousness of Shyama—but one can’t get away from the fact that, like Koi bata de dil hai jahaan, this one also seems to indicate a bad case of indigestion. In fact, considering that these symptoms—the heartburn, the restlessness, etc—come on during monsoon nights, I’m guessing this one’s a straightforward case of the Indian (especially North Indian?) love for celebrating rainy days with lots of garam chai and pakoras, samosas, and other fatty, spicy foods. What do you expect if not heartburn? The streaming eyes the lady’s complaining of may indicate, though, that this isn’t a simple case of mild indigestion that’ll go away with some judicious dosing with Hajmola or Pudinhara or whatever; it might just be acid reflux. Instead of dancing about and singing, she’d better be taking herself off to a proper doctor.
6. Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji (Mr & Mrs 55, 1955): Heartburn and indigestion—even an imminent epileptic seizure—are all bearable. Even the fainting fit brought on by someone’s jaadu in another song from Mr & Mrs 55 is all right. Everything pales in comparison to this: a liver gone missing. (Yes, even I wonder how our friend is able to stay alive without medical support in such a condition, let alone go dancing all about the office with his lady friend). Said lady friend, however, should be taking him off to the daaktar sahib instead of the jamaadar, I think. Or, if one is to be more realistic, to the cemetery.
7. Chaand phir niklaa (Paying Guest, 1957): Nutan’s tearful heroine here waits for her beloved (oddly enough, a lawyer, rather than a doctor, as the lyrics seem to suggest). And cribs about the bad attack of heartburn she’s suffering from (heartburn seems to be a common ailment among the lovelorn in Hindi cinema). This one, given its severity (sulagte seene se dhuaan-sa uthata hai, not to mention that bit about dam ghutta hai) may even be acid reflux. Poor girl; instead of sitting around and moping for her boyfriend, she’d be better off digging into a tub of ice cream.
8. Gulaabi aankhen jo teri dekheen sharaabi yeh dil (The Train, 1970): For this song, I have blog reader Ashish to thank—because when I did my post on ‘colour’ songs for Holi, Ashish mentioned Gulaabi aankhen in his comment, and remarked that it was an apt song to sing to someone suffering from conjunctivitis (which, as most of you might know, is commonly referred to as ‘pink eye’). Oddly enough, conjunctivitis—which I’ve not come across for several decades now—has suddenly hit my family, what with my daughter, my husband, and my mother getting it over the past month.
So Gulaabi aankhen it is: and Rajesh Khanna’s hero, from the way he cheerily waves his fingers about near his girlfriend’s eyes and then brings them to his own, doesn’t seem to realize just how infectious this problem can be. He does go overboard about how dangerous it is (calling it qaatil and all that), but any good ophthalmologist should be able to assure him that the common or garden variety of conjunctivitis is easily gotten rid of with eye drops, cold compresses, and gentle cleansing. Not fatal at all. Unless you slip and break your neck while doing all that vigorous dancing when your vision is impaired.
9. Kahin pe nigaahein kahin pe nishaana (CID, 1954): Another ocular problem, this time strabismus, more commonly known as crossed eyes. Bir Sakhuja looks more villainous than cross-eyed, but Waheeda Rehman’s character is probably so nervous about keeping him away from the fugitive she’s sheltering—while she quickly improvises lyrics to help said fugitive escape—that she’s probably not really thinking. Despite the flirtatious looks and all, this girl is tense enough to be careless about what she’s saying: she tells him outright that his crossed eyes are enough to kill her or at least drive her crazy. A bit drastic, I think—and a dangerous thing to tell a man with no compunctions about killing people.
10. Chheenk, meri jaan chheenk (Tum Haseen Main Jawaan, 1970): And, to end, the common cold. Helen, by 1970 a veteran of ‘cabaret’ songs, here appears as the jalpari who happily goes about passing on her cold to all the people sitting around watching her dance (if this was the US, she’d have been sued left, right and centre). She’s gotten soaked, what with having come through a fountain and all, but she’s blasé about it. Instead of ducking out gracefully and going back to the green room to lie down with blankets, a hot water bottle and a hot toddy, this girl decides to use her cold as a theme for a song. Her symptoms, and a possible cause, become part of the song: yeh aankhen rang bhari is an indication of just how red her eyes have become. The ‘Main garm-garm shola, tu thandi-thandi aahein’ seems to echo the common Indian belief that colds are brought on, not by germs, but by ‘garm-sard hona’, as they say in North India. Alternating heat and cold.
Why the spectators sit around and let her sneeze all over them is anybody’s guess.
There are plenty of other songs that could fit this list (I know, in fact, of several that I’d have liked to include, except that I hadn’t watched the film in question). Which ones would you add?