When I posted my ‘Khwaab/Sapna’ songs list, Anu commented that, by reading the title of the post, she thought it was about dream sequences. It wasn’t, of course—it was a list of songs which literally contained the word ‘dream’ in the first couple of lines of its lyrics. And while I did write in that post about the different links between songs and dreams in Hindi cinema, I didn’t mention that I had another post lined up to follow the ‘Khwaab/Sapna’ songs list: the dream sequence songs list.
A ‘dream sequence’ is part of a cinematic production that is separated from the rest of the story—by devices such as graphics (think spiraling), fogging, music, etc—to depict an event that does not really happen but which a character may imagine. Dream sequences allow, in Hindi cinema, all sorts of interesting possibilities: grand spectacles, enormously enlarged sets, things that aren’t possible in real (or reel) life. Lovers who are forbidden, relationships that cannot be.
There are dream sequences aplenty all through Hindi cinema, ranging from the very opulent one in Aan, where Nadira’s character sees herself switching places with her rival, played by Nimmi—to the many songs that take the form of a dream sequence.
In this list, besides my usual self-imposed restriction of the song being from a pre-70s film that I’ve seen, I’ve added one more criterion: the song should not be something linked to a person actually sleeping and dreaming (that would be an altogether different list). Yes, I agree this is what most people would call an arbitrary rule (since it rules out possibly the most iconic dream sequence in Hindi cinema, Ghar aaya mera pardesi), but hey, this is my blog. In other words, what I’m listing here are people day-dreaming.
And yes, only one song per film.
Here goes, then, in no particular order, though some of my favourite songs are at the top of the list:
1. Hum aapki aankhon mein (Pyaasa, 1957): To begin, a song from one of Hindi cinema’s most acclaimed films, and one which had a stellar score as well, with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi and music by SD Burman. The general cynicism and despair that characterizes the bulk of the songs of Pyaasa is briefly put aside in Sar jo tera chakraaye and in Hum aapki aankhon mein, a teasing, playfully romantic song which, however, has more depth and more irony in its lyrics and its picturization than is evident at first glance.
Guru Dutt’s character keeps trying to entice his sweetheart (who has literally ‘descended’ to him down a sweeping set of steps) but to each of his enticements, she has some excuse to offer. Playful, but in hindsight—which is the vantage point from which this song is seen, long after she has left him and married a wealthy, successful man—prophetic. As is the way she leaves him, at the end of the song, and goes back up the stairs to her own dream world.
2. Ek ghar banaaoonga (Tere Ghar ke Saamne, 1963): Drunks imagining things is one of the most interesting examples of dream sequences in Hindi cinema, and Dev Anand’s here is an absolutely delightful turn as a tipsy architect caught between his sweetheart (whose father has appointed him to design his house) and his own father (who has also appointed him to design a house). Driven nuts by the subterfuge he’s had to resort to, and unable to figure out how to juggle the two assignments—as the men in question are arch rivals—and woo his girl at the same time, he takes to drink.
Not in a big way, fortunately, but just to the extent of being happy. Of imagining that he’s singing to his girl about building a home in front of hers. Great lyrics, great music, and fabulous picturization. The fun thing here, of course, is that it’s only our hero who sees this as a dream sequence: for everybody else, it’s just a drunk singing to a glassful of whatever tipple he’s got.
3. Paraayi hoon paraayi (Kanyadaan, 1968): Another drunk, another woman, but the situation couldn’t be more different. Instead of the upbeat playfulness of Ek ghar banaaoonga, there is here despair and anguish and complete despondency. Asha Parekh plays a village girl who was married to someone in her childhood and hasn’t seen him in all these years; grown up, she falls in love with Shashi Kapoor’s character, and—oh, well: complications ensue, since this Sati Savitri pativrata will not accept another man in marriage, even if her childhood ‘husband’ is actually married to someone else now. So she insists on telling the man who loves her that she isn’t his. Never can be his. Even when he’s in his cups, drunk to the gills and smoking like a chimney, she wanders into his imagination and dances about the ash tray, through an Arabian Nights-ish setting, a tableau of her wedding, and finally, in multiple images of herself, all urging him to forget her.
4. Phir aane laga yaad wohi pyaar ka aalam (Yeh Dil Kisko Doon, 1963): Like Paraayi hoon paraayi, this song too features Shashi Kapoor, and (like the ash tray in the previous song) among super-big versions of everyday objects. And, as in both Paraayi hoon paraayi and Ek ghar banaaoonga, this is the imagination of a drunk at work. Shashi Kapoor’s character, tipsy on ‘English liquor’ (obviously stuff too heady for him) imagines his girl dancing about between an outsized ash tray, goblet, decanter and more, with him joining in for a duet celebrating their love. A beautiful song, and I love the unusual and interesting way in which Usha Khanna sings only that very brief refrain—“pyaar ka aalam”—while Rafi sings the rest of the song.
5. Kya jaanoon sajan hoti hai kya (Bahaaron ke Sapne, 1967): Another common element behind dream sequences is that of someone poor imagining how life would be if—well, whatever. If life were easier, if they were rich, if their enemies were gone, etc. As in Kya jaanoon sajan, where two poor lovers (so poor that even going on the Ferris wheel at a small mela is a big treat) have a respite. Imagining a world in which they are no longer in rags, but stylishly attired. Where there are glittering trees and giant diyas, where nothing is like the biting poverty and harsh reality of everyday life.
6. Hum kaale hain toh kya hua dilwaale hain (Gumnaam, 1967): I will admit that this song is on this list because it’s a fairly iconic example of the dream sequence; I personally don’t like it that much. But yes, it is popular enough: I remember once, years ago when VCDs had first started to take the place of VHS tapes, I happily bought the VCD of Gumnaam, mostly because I like the songs of the film so much: Jaan-pehchaan ho, Gumnaam hai koi, Jaan-e-chaman shola badan… to my horror, it turned out that somebody at the video production company had gone berserk chopping off chunks of songs, leaving—in almost all the songs—only one verse. The one song that was there in its entirety was Hum kaale hain toh kya hua dilwaale hain. Mehmood, flirting—in his imagination—with a gorgeous Helen and telling her how much he loves her. Helen is lovely and Mehmood is over the top.
7. Tere khayaalon mein hum (Geet Gaaya Pattharon Ne, 1964): An unusual example of a dream sequence that meshes in with something very practical. A sculptor, played by Jeetendra, is inspired so suddenly—by the face of a woman, played by Rajshree—that he rushes out into the middle of the night, carrying his tools and setting to work on a boulder. As he carves a monolith, labouring into the night, his work is overseen by the dancing, singing figure of his muse. She eggs him on through the night; she wakes him from an exhausted sleep at dawn, and it is her song that sees him finish his work even as the sun sets. A beautiful song.
8. Mehbooba teri tasveer kis tarah (Ishq Par Zor Nahin, 1970): Dharmendra and Sadhana, I’d thought, would have made for a good lead pair for a film. But Ishq Par Zor Nahin was a very forgettable film, marked only by a few good songs, in particular the very popular Yeh dil deewaana hai. It also had this other Rafi hit, in which Dharmendra’s character (who, nonsensically enough, is able to paint a portrait of his dream woman, in such a way that she is the spitting image of Sadhana’s character—all without ever having seen her). Here, sitting out in a fake-looking garden, he serenades his unseen, yet-unmet love, and imagines that she’s arrived, that she’s dancing before him, in a fake-looking palace.
9. Tu chhupi hai kahaan (Navrang, 1959): Navrang, by its very theme, was ripe for dream sequences. A poet, very much in love with the wife who is also (unknown to her) his muse, finds himself separated from her because she believes him to be in love with another woman. But the husband, pining for his wife, imagines her as the heroine filling his every dream, dancing to every verse of his songs.
Even here, when he’s a broken wreck, taken to the king’s court, he begins to sing of her—and imagines her pining, too, for him. Singing, first in a desolate landscape, then in a wide space, with tall pillars (each surmounted by a dancer) and then under a collection of outsize bells. While Sandhya, in bronze wig and bad makeup, looks none too great, the set—especially with the dancers on the bells—is very impressive. And the song itself, the music and rendition and lyrics, is excellent.
10. Mera dil ab tera o saajna (Dil Apna Aur Preet Paraayi, 1960): In what was possibly the most popular nurse-and-doctor romance ever made in Hindi cinema, Raj Kumar plays the doctor who, despite being attracted to the nurse played by Meena Kumari, gets married to another, convinced that she is the right woman for him, that this is going to be the right marriage, and basically trying to please everybody other than himself and the woman he really loves.
With, naturally, disastrous consequences, since it doesn’t take the new wife much to realize that her husband doesn’t love her, and that they are nothing alike. As the marriage goes rapidly downhill, our hero, who is professionally still beside his true love, finds himself imagining—as he watches one of those village dance troupes that so suddenly break into dance around a campfire—what it would be like to be actually with the one he loves. Meena Kumari is lovely, Raj Kumar’s dancing is cringe-worthy, but the song is a good song.
Which songs would you suggest for this list (remember, not songs where somebody’s who’s sleeping dreams of the song)?