This blog has been in existence for nearly ten years now, and every now and then, someone suggests a theme for a song list. Some theme requests keep cropping up repeatedly (lullabies and bhajans being popular ones), because these are topics people know would have a large number of songs to choose from.
One topic which has cropped up perhaps only once or twice is that of food songs. Not even songs in praise of food, but which just mention food, in some context or the other. I remember friend and erstwhile fellow blogger Harvey remarking that while there are several songs that do mention food, the food mentioned is rarely the type that makes you salivate at the very thought of it (that’s probably changed somewhat in more recent films—chicken fry appeals to me, as do potato-filled samosas, though the songs in which they feature are appalling).
With Food and Food Movie Month on at Dustedoff, it seemed an appropriate time to finally compile a list of ten food (and drink) songs that I like. Besides my usual criteria—that the song should be from a pre-70s film that I’ve seen—I imposed another restriction on myself: the food or drink should be mentioned in the first two lines of the song and/or in the refrain. Plus, the drink in question should not be liquor (that is a separate post, the daaru songs list).
Here goes then, in no particular order:
1. Ek roz hamaari bhi daal galegi (Bandi, 1957): Ever since a blog reader introduced this song to me, it’s been one of my favourites: Kishore Kumar, as actor and singer, is an utter delight, and his antics here are a joy to both watch and listen to. In Ek roz hamaari bhi daal galegi, he doesn’t just fantasize about the daal which he hopes will cook soon—that is, the success that certainly lies in wait for his ‘MA-BA Pass’ older brother—but talks of other joys to come. This dry roti and this prosaic lime pickle will give way to ‘garam-garam kachori -puri’ (piping hot kachoris and puris, which sounds pretty good to me, though I’m not averse to lime pickle, to be honest).
2. Suraj zara paas aa (Ujala, 1959): A theme very similar to that of the preceding song, but approached in a different style. A bunch of poor children, with not even dry rotis to eat, are led by an equally impoverished Shammi Kapoor in a song that invites the sun itself to come down to a feast with them—where the star will be the rotis of their dreams. While the roti is the main motif of the song, there’s more to this dream meal: there will be ‘aloo-tamatar ka saag’ (a dish of tomatoes and potatoes), and ‘imli ki chutney’ (tamarind chutney). And, to crown it all, ‘Roti karaari sike, ghee uspe desi lage’ (the roti will be cooked to a delicious crisp, and pure ghee will be brushed all over it’). Yummy!
(Incidentally, it’s worth noting that the playback singer here is Manna Dey, who sang the song Ami sri sri Bhojohori Manna in the Bengali film Pratham Kadam Phool—a song all about food, with Bhojohori Manna being the name of a mythical chef).
3. Tu mera jo nahin (Bheegi Raat, 1965): (With Pee cola pee cola being the refrain). Bheegi Raat was best known as being a remake of Love Affair/An Affair to Remember, and for Dil jo na keh saka. This song, picturized on Shashikala and Pradeep Kumar, along with a bunch of Coca Cola-guzzling extras (and Rajendranath, inexplicably clad in a woman’s swimsuit), is however also a good one, with a nice infectious beat to it. And what an advertisement for Coca Cola! She tells him that even if he will not be hers, she will not stand him being another’s. So, even if he goes off—let him drink Cola! (Okay, I don’t see the connection, but I suppose he will need something to drown his sorrows in, if he cannot be with the woman he loves, and a woman he doesn’t want is clamouring for attention).
4. Mera naam Abdul Rehman pistawallah main hoon Pathan (Bhai-Bhai, 1956): Kishore Kumar again, and this time selling something to eat, instead of hoping for something to eat. His Abdul Rehman is a pistawallah, selling pistachios (and almonds, as he mentions in passing). Nimmi’s Abdul Rehmaniya doesn’t have anything to say about the pistachios or the almonds, but her man takes care of the sales pitch: everybody, whether Hindu or Muslim or Sikh or Christian, eats his pistas. His pistas are good, they gladden the heart.
5. Paan khaaye saiyyaan hamaaro (Teesri Kasam, 1966): I am not a huge fan of paan myself, but I am not unaware of the immense significance of paan in India: as a mouth freshener, of course, but also as a symbol. For instance, in my very first book, The Englishman’s Cameo, a courtesan’s skill at creating a paan is a symbol of her desirability and her skill at all that she does—her paan is even a tool in a seduction.
Here, Waheeda Rehman’s nautanki dancer is no courtesan (she’s too pedestrian for that), but there is a definite indication that the paan her lover eats heightens his attractiveness (hmm. Not a man for me, at any rate). There’s not very much in the song about paan, but there is all that the paan does to him: it tints his lips red, it leaves streaks of red on his muslin kurta (Ugh).
6. Chana jor garam main laaya (Naya Andaaz, 1956): An interesting battle between sellers of food stuff. Kishore Kumar and Meena Kumari here play two stars in a theatre company, and the song follows them as they go on tour. She begins the song by selling chana jor garam, spiced with garam masala; he counters by offering delicious peanuts. In the next round of their battle, she’s selling cool, refreshing ganderiyaan (pieces of sugarcane); he offers passersby his hot and fresh jalebis instead, all beautifully soaking in syrup. They go on to professions of love and the more usual ‘hum toh taarein tod laayein’ (I will fetch the stars down for you) lyrics, but the bulk of the song is all about food.
7. Maine kaha thha aana Sunday ko (Ustaadon ke Ustaad, 1963): This is a fairly obvious rip-off of Never on a Sunday and though the ‘main’ song somewhat follows the original English lyrics, technically speaking, the song begins with the names of four fruits. Helen’s coconut-selling girl appears on the scene only after various other fruit sellers have shouted out their wares: “Pineapple! Papaya! Banana!” Then Helen shimmies on and trills, “Coconut!” She even slices off the top of a couple of coconuts for a few obviously besotted admirers, before collaring her boyfriend (played by Johnny Walker) and admonishing him for having turned up on Monday after having been specifically told to come on Sunday.
8. Ichak daana bichak daana (Shree 420, 1955): Another song which begins with fruit. But this one couldn’t be further in theme and picturization than Helen’s cute shimmy in Maine kaha thha. In what is one of the classic children’s songs from Hindi cinema, Nargis—as teacher to a bunch of poor children—conducts an outdoor class, and does so by putting questions in the form of riddles to her pupils. One grain above another; one grain here, one grain there; atop the eaves, a girl dances. What’s that? A pomegranate! While the very last riddle she sets has, as its answer, a bird, the other three riddles are all about things to eat—a pomegranate, a red chilli, and an ear of corn.
9. Chanda mama door ke pooye pakaayein boor ke (Vachan, 1955): Another song being sung to children, and featuring food (some years ago, I would have said that was natural—after all, most children seem to be very fond of food. But since I’ve become mother to a very active child who thinks food is a waste of time unless she’s ravenously hungry, I’ve begun to think perhaps not).
Here, instead of a teacher setting riddles about food, there’s a nanny singing to her charge. Geeta Bali plays nanny to a little boy whose invalid mother looks fondly on as her child is entertained. The moon, up there, is making malpuas with boor (soft brown sugar). He’s eating his malpuas in a great big thali, but Munna has to make do with a bowl more suited to his relatively diminutive size. Cute, classic kiddie song, and Geeta Bali is so animated, her eyes so full of life.
10. Jaiyo jaiyo sipahiya bazaar daal meri chulhe chadhi (Nishaan, 1949): And to end, a song that ties in to the first song on this list, in having two dishes (daal and nimbu ka achaar) in common with that. Bhanumathi’s character, a wealthy girl named Ranjana, pretends to be a maidservant in an attempt to flee a lecherous zamindar. But the zamindar’s troops are in the way, and the only way Ranjana can flee is by diverting their attention. Which she does by singing a song, recruiting them, one by one, to help her with the cooking.
Bhanumathi’s acting is delightful, Shamshad Begum’s rendition is fabulous, the music is good—and there’s loads of food here. Before the song begins in earnest, a list of vegetables is rattled off, and then Ranjana begs a sipahiya (soldier) to go buy her some lime pickle; quick, because her daal is already on the fire. When other soldiers, from other parts of India, intervene, Ranjana is quick to sing in their languages, and to entice them with the names of foods they would love: for the Bengali, rasogolla; for the Punjabi, lassi; for the Gujarati, choora and bhel; and for the Madrasi, idli-dosa and sambaar.
Not just that: there’s more food here. She tells one man to attend to the tempering; another to peel cucumbers; yet another to get some turmeric… a song that’s great fun, and has loads of food running all through it.
Which other songs would you add to this list? Please share!