Not too long back, I went on a trip to Kasauli, in Himachal Pradesh. It was a brief, pleasant little jaunt, and on the way back, I suggested that we stop—since it was on the way, in any case—at Pinjore Gardens. Later, back home and settled in, I posted some photos and wrote about the Pinjore Gardens on Facebook, and the post prompted fellow blogger Ava to remind me that several songs had actually been shot in the Pinjore Gardens.
That led me to think: it’s not just the Pinjore Gardens, but several other well-known gardens, that have been the settings for various songs. Some gardens—the ones in Kashmir, notably—are almost instantly recognizable, thanks to those distinct mountains and the towering chinar trees. Others are a little less obvious, but they are, too, quite obviously not just a set, not just a well-aimed, well-timed shot of flowerbeds in spring.
Here, then, are ten songs that have been picturized in well-known gardens. To make the challenge less of a sitter for myself, I added one rule: no two songs should be shot in the same garden. As always, these are all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and are listed in no particular order.
1. Kashmir ki kali hoon main (Junglee, 1961): Shalimar Bagh, Srinagar. Laid out by the Emperor Jahangir in 1619 CE; in 1630, it was extended—on Shahjahan’s orders—by the Governor of Kashmir, Zafar Khan. Generally considered the epitome of the art of Mughal garden architecture (or art, whatever you consider it).
To begin with, a garden I’m absolutely positive about, since one of the people who starred in this song named it in an interview. Saira Banu, talking about her first scene with Shammi Kapoor, said that it was during the shooting of Kashmir ki kali hoon main, in Shalimar Bagh (Saira, debuting in the film, was so nervous because of the gawping crowds of onlookers that Shammi snapped at her, “If you can’t act in front of a crowd, wear a burqa!”) But she managed it all right, eventually, and both of them seem to be having quite a time racing about the terraces, the lawns, and the flowerbeds of Shalimar.
(Interestingly, another relatively little-known but still lovely Kashmir garden appears as the location for another song from Junglee: Mere yaar shabba khair is picturized in the gardens at Verinag).
2. Maine ek khwaab sa dekha hai (Waqt, 1965): Nishat Bagh, Srinagar. Along with Shalimar, this is the other major Mughal garden of Srinagar. It was laid out in 1633 CE by the Empress Noorjehan’s brother, Asif Khan. Unlike the larger Shalimar Bagh, which has several large pavilions straddling the central water channel, Nishat has comparatively little in the way of buildings: its twelve terraces are mostly bare.
Maine ek khwaab sa dekha hai is not picturized completely in Nishat; in their rosy-hued dreams, the two lovers played by Sunil Dutt and Sadhana wander all over the place, from a snowy yard to a misty mountainside—but they do spend a good bit of the song in Nishat Bagh, amidst the flowers and beside the chaadar (the sheet of water rippling over a bed of carved stone as it falls from one terrace to the next). Much prettiness on display.
3. Pyaar se dil bhar de (Kab? Kyon? Aur Kahaan?, 1970): Chashm-e-Shahi Bagh, Srinagar. The smallest of the three extant Mughal gardens of Srinagar (if you don’t count Pari Mahal, which is primarily an observatory), Chashm-e-Shahi is named for a supposedly sacred spring that lies at its core. The garden was laid out by the Governor of Kashmir, Ali Mardan Khan, at the orders of Shahjahan.
Unlike Shalimar or Nishat, Chashm-e-Shahi seems to have been somewhat overlooked by Hindi filmmakers, so I decided I had to include this song, even though I personally don’t like Pyaar se dil bhar de too much. Like Maine ek khwaab sa dekha hai, this one too has the couple traipsing all across Srinagar and around—on the lawns of the erstwhile Oberoi Hotel (now the Lalit Grand); by the river (the Jhelum?); in an apple orchard—and in Chashm-e-Shahi, instantly recognizable by the building that houses the much-revered spring.
4. Aapko pyaar chhupaane ki buri aadat hai (Neela Akash, 1965): Lodhi Gardens, New Delhi. Formerly known as Lady Willingdon Park, this is one of my favourite outdoor places in Delhi, because it combines nature (lots of trees, birds, even a little pond) with plenty of history: it is home to some magnificent 15th and 16th century tombs of the Sultans of the Lodhi and Sayyid dynasties, besides having several other medieval buildings (including an Akbar-era bridge known as Athpula).
This is a teasingly romantic song, and I love the fact that the tombs form such a good backdrop to the gorgeousness of Dharmendra and Mala Sinha. (They dance about mainly between the Bada Gumbad and the Sheesh Gumbad opposite it). The scene begins on the steps leading up to the Bada Gumbad Mosque, which has easily the most exquisite incised plaster I’ve seen in Delhi.
5. Sayonara sayonara vaada nibhaaoongi (Love in Tokyo, 1966): Hibiya Park, Tokyo. Japan’s oldest westernized urban-style park, Hibiya Park was opened in 1903 on the site of what once consisted of the palace grounds of a feudal lord (before it served time as military drilling ground). Flower gardens, ponds, a wisteria trellis, and several copses of trees (elms and dogwood, in particular) dot the area.
To move on, outside India. Love in Tokyo had several songs picturized in gardens and parks, and Sayonara sayonara, while the song itself may not be as melodious as the sublime O mere shahekhubaan, is at least set in a park rather more recognizable: the Hibiya Park in Tokyo. Asha Parekh dances along in her kimono down the paths, along parterres, in front of (I’m sure curious and possibly astonished) locals, and leads her besotted admirer past one of Hibiya’s most distinctive sections, the Pelican Garden.
6. Itna hai tumse pyaar mujhe (Suraj, 1966): Brindavan Gardens, Krishnaraj Sagar Dam (Near Mysore). Considering it sits right next to a river (the Kaveri, across which the Krishnaraj Sagar Dam is built), it’s hardly surprising that the Brindavan Gardens—laid out between 1927-32—has lots of water, including its famous ‘dancing fountains’, besides the more usual flowerbeds and lawns and landscaping.
I’ll admit I am not a Rajendra Kumar fan, and Suraj was not a film I liked. But this song is nice, Vyjyanthimala is beautiful, and the Brindavan Gardens look lovely, especially with those fountains playing.
7. Dekho dekhoji sochoji kuchh samjhoji (Farz, 1967): Botanical Gardens, Ooty. Long a favourite for film production houses based in South India (and rightly so, because they’re beautiful) the Botanical Gardens at Ooty—or Udhagamandalam, if you want to be politically correct—date back to 1848. The gardens spread out across several terraces, and include interesting sections like the Italian Garden (first laid out by Italian POWs of World War I).
Songs like Aaja re mere pyaar ke raahi (Oonche Log) have also been picturized in the Ooty Botanical Gardens, but I chose Dekho dekhoji sochoji kuchh samjhoji not so much because of the music or lyrics (or, for that matter, even Babita or Jeetendra, neither of whom I particularly like), but for the fact that this song showcases the gardens fairly well, going all the way from the sloping lawns to paths winding through trees, and ending in a glasshouse crammed with flowers.
(PS. I hate the patently artificial flowers that somebody with a poor aesthetic sense has insisted on inserting here and there in the outdoor shots).
8. Mujhko apne gale lagaa lo (Humraahi, 1963): Lalbagh Botanical Garden, and Cubbon Park, Bangalore. One of India’s major botanical gardens, Lalbagh was commissioned in 1760 CE by the ruler Hyder Ali, whose son and successor Tipu Sultan completed it. Under the British, the gardens were expanded considerably, with a menagerie, a glasshouse (modelled on London’s Crystal Palace), an aviary and a bandstand being added.
Cubbon Park, also in Bangalore, is of much later origin: it was created in 1870 and is a mix of trees, lawns, and historical structures, including the Attara Kacheri and the Museum.
One song, which begins in a bedroom and shifts only halfway through the song to a garden—but when it does, it goes to not one, but two gardens. Rajendra Kumar and Jamuna’s characters first prance around in the bandstand at Cubbon Park, then move indoors, into the Glass House at Lalbagh, before finally going out to the bandstand at Cubbon Park again. (I have no idea why the film crew didn’t use the bandstand at Lalbagh itself, which is decent-looking too).
9. Dil toh pehle hi se madhosh hai (Bahaarein Phir Bhi Aayengi, 1966): Botanical Gardens, Calcutta. Officially known as the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose National Botanical Garden, this massive botanical garden is arguably India’s foremost when it comes to history and botany: it dates back to 1787, and today contains a whopping 12,000 species spread over 109 hectares. The major attraction of the Calcutta Botanical Gardens—as they’re commonly known—is the Great Banyan Tree, which is 330 mt in circumference and is one of the largest banyans in the world.
Dharmendra seems to have danced around and sung in some of the major gardens of India (four in this list, and I’ve not even counted the garden in which Mala Sinha’s character romances him in Milti hai zindagi mein mohabbat kabhi-kabhi). Here, he teams up with the lovely Tanuja at the Botanical Gardens. A lovely song, and an interesting setting: they wander past the lake, along an avenue, by the bank of the Ganga. And under the Great Banyan Tree, which is where this sadly grainy screenshot has been taken from.
10. Tere paas aake mera waqt guzar jaata hai (Neela Akash, 1965): Yadavindra Gardens, Pinjore. Laid out in the 17th century during the reign of Aurangzeb, these gardens were commissioned by a nobleman named Fidai Khan with the intention of making Pinjore a summer retreat. The villagers of the area did not like the idea of these fashionable city-dwellers ruining their peace, and hit upon a way of making Fidai Khan & Co. depart: by sending to work, at the gardens and the nobleman’s quarters, only those villagers who suffered from goitre (which, thanks to an iodine deficiency in the water here, was widespread). Fidai Khan’s ladies panicked and insisted on going back to Delhi soon after.
To end, a song set in the gardens that inspired this post in the first place. Known officially as the Yadavindra Gardens, the Mughal gardens at Pinjore feature in several songs—as Ava informed me—but the only one I could ferret out for myself happens to be one from Neela Akash, also the film which features Aapko pyaar chhupaane ki buri aadat hai. I love Tere paas aake mera waqt guzar jaata hai; Dharmendra and Mala Sinha look wonderful together, and the picturization of this song is a good showcase for the gardens: you can see several of the pavilions on the seven terraces of the gardens; you can see the water channel and some of the gently bubbling fountains—you can even see some of the extensive mango and cheekoo orchards which form a large part of the garden.
Please add to the list! More songs in these gardens, and more songs from other gardens. There are hundreds—probably thousands—of songs out there; I’d love to see more.