Some weeks back, a friend who follows my (occasional) travel writing approached me with a question: where was the place closest to Delhi where one could see snow? Over a weekend? I thought fleetingly of Shimla, of Kasauli, and of Lansdowne—though I’m not certain Lansdowne receives much snow—and eventually had to tell her, regretfully, that it may not be easy to take a weekend trip from Delhi to enjoy the snow.
That brief discussion made me a little nostalgic for the snow. When I was 9 years old, my father (who was in the IPS, and then on deputation to the ITBP) was transferred to Srinagar. We stayed there for the next three years, and in that time, we experienced a lot of snow. Not just during our travels across Ladakh (and through mountain passes like Zoji la, Chang la, and Khardung la, all of them surrounded by snow even in summer), but even while living in Srinagar.
And, one thing I realized was that while snow may look very pretty (when it’s fresh, that is: old snow, with soot piling up on it, or snow that’s melted, got churned into underlying mud and then refrozen, is not pretty at all), it’s tough to live with. It piles up. On driveways and paths, choking them. On roofs, where it slowly slides down until it hangs, in great piles, along the eaves until it suddenly slides down and falls in one great solid slab that can be potentially fatal, if you happen to be standing under it. It collects on electricity and telephone wires, turning them into fat white cables (and sometimes snapping them, which means you end up without electricity or a telephone line—though I suppose things must be easier now that everybody has cell phones).
Back then, in the early 1980s, we had yet another problem: when it snowed a lot, there was also the added danger of water freezing in the water pipes—and because ice expands, that could make the pipes burst; so the local water department of the Srinagar municipality would shut down the water supply. On more than one occasion, we ended up scooping snow from our lawn and boiling it to obtain water (not a pleasant experience—a lot of snow yields comparatively little water, and it takes ages to melt, especially when the ambient temperature is below 0).
Ah, well. This is a song list, so let’s get down to the songs. Ten songs, from pre-1970s Hindi cinema, which features snow. Very few songs, as far as I could tell, are shot completely in the snow, so I’ve given myself some leeway: the song should feature some amount of snow; it need not necessarily be all against a backdrop of snow. And the snow, even if it’s not real (I recall an interview with Manoj Kumar where he talked of drifting soap flakes getting in his mouth while filming a ‘snow scene’ in Hariyali aur Raasta), should at least not look patently fake.
As always, these songs are all from films I’ve watched, and no two songs are from the same film. Here goes, in no particular order:
1. Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim (Woh Kaun Thi?, 1964): I must confess that my initial choice for a ‘snow song’ from Woh Kaun Thi? was Shokh nazar ki bijliyaan—a song I love a lot. Technically, that’s on ice rather than snow, but that’s a minor quibble. But Shokh nazar ki bijliyaan is a song that’s already featured several times on song lists here on Dustedoff recently, so I decided to give it a break. Instead, here’s one of the more popular songs from the film. Naina barse rimjhim-rimjhim occurs, in snatches, at different points of the film, but plays out in its entirety only near the end. Dr Anand (Manoj Kumar), in Simla, finds himself lured by what is apparently the ghost of his wife. Her song is melodious, enticing—and somewhat creepy.
This was shot in Shimla, and there’s an interesting anecdote behind it: Lata Mangeshkar couldn’t find time to record Naina barse before the shoot, so Sadhana ended up lip-syncing to music director Madan Mohan singing the song—which, of course, took the crowds of eager spectators by surprise!
Lots of snow to be seen, and some nice views of the mountains around as well.
2. Chaahe koi mujhe jungle kahe (Junglee, 1961): Though this song stars my favourite Hindi film actor (Shammi Kapoor), and it is from one of my favourite films starring him, Chaahe koi mujhe jungle kahe is not a song I particularly like. It’s over the top, it’s silly, and far too many people who don’t know Shammi Kapoor’s filmography well seem to take it as being representative of his work.
That said, there are few songs that get more deeply into the snow than this one. From start to end, Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu (both not at all adequately clad for so much snow) gambol about in the snow, rolling down the slopes, landing in great drifts of snow, and generally behaving as if this isn’t cold, wet snow but warm, fluffy hay. Utterly madcap, what with the snowballs whizzing around and the couple half-sunk in snow through most of the song.
3. Meri mohabbat jawaan rahegi (Jaanwar, 1965): Shaami Kapoor again, playing another wealthy young man romancing a girl in gorgeous Kashmir. When I think of Jaanwar, the first song that comes to mind is Tumse achha kaun hai, but that’s an autumn song, so absolutely and vividly autumn that it has nothing to do with snow. But there’s this one, too, and it has plenty of snow around.
Like Chaahe koi mujhe jungle kahe, Meri mohabbat jawaan rahegi is also a romantic song played out against the snow. Despite a brief stumbling in the snow, followed by rolling downhill and landing in a suggestive heap together, this is relatively sedate. And, what I like: there’s some attempt at warmth. Both Shammi Kapoor and Rajshree look fairly well-clad, and there’s even a little fire going (though it ties in conveniently with the lyrics, indicating the flames of passion).
4. Tujhe dekha tujhe chaaha (Choti si Mulaqat, 1967): The first of several songs in this list that aren’t completely played out in the snow. Tujhe dekha tujhe chaaha begins indoors, when Vyjyanthimala’s character comes to return a borrowed coat to the mysterious Ashok (Uttam Kumar) and, having found that he has—by means unknown—got a photo of hers in his room, also ends up listening to him confess that he’s spent many months watching her in Bombay. Such stalkerish behaviour would have made any sane woman run for her life, but this one (obviously not completely in possession of her wits, and thoroughly regressive on top of it) accepts this as proof positive of his love for her.
Their romantic song begins next to an appropriate fireplace, then shifts out to the snow-laden slopes. Though skis are in evidence, neither of them is actually shown skiing in the song. Not a splendid song, but not a bad one either—and, in a praiseworthy bit of practical thinking, both of them wear gloves in addition to all the woollies!
5. Humdum mere khel na jaano (Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963): The 1960s saw a spate of films—Junglee, Kashmir ki Kali, Jaanwar, Mere Sanam, Aarzoo, Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena and Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon among them—set largely in Kashmir. One of those which ticked all the boxes for me was Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, vintage Nasir Husain: a dashing hero separated in infancy from his father, now grown up and in love with his father’s ward—and with a criminally-inclined impostor trying to pass himself off as the rightful son and heir. It had lots of eye candy and some great music, and this is one of its peppiest songs.
I love the variations in the tune of this song: it starts off slow and gentle, then builds up into a fast-paced, infectious beat. The picturization I find a little odd, because these two people are proclaiming their love for each other amidst dozens of extras (though, considering most of the other romantic songs of the film—like Banda parvar thhaam lo jigar and Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein and Laakhon hain nigaah mein—it’s not any different). The second half of the song is set on a boat, but the first half is all snow, with the poor extras trudging along most uncomfortably (and one falling amidst the sudden running).
6. Gunguna rahe hain bhanwre (Aradhana, 1969): Every time I watch this song, I am reminded of the countless songs in Hindi films of the 90s onwards (was it? Or did they begin earlier?) with heroines dressed in flimsy sarees, singing and dancing against backdrops of the Swiss Alps. As if all that snow, the icy winds and all, affected them not a jot. And I always think that Gunguna rahe hain bhanwre is the precursor to those—unless, of course, there were other, earlier songs where an actress cavorted around in flimsy clothing on what was obviously real snow.
Gunguna rahe hain bhanwre begins, appropriately enough, in a garden where bumble bees are dutifully buzzing away. But from there to the woods, where patches of snow still lie aplenty on the ground, is a hop, skip and a jump. Sharmila Tagore, dressed in a very light saree—not even a heavy brocade, which might have blocked out some of the cold—doesn’t bat a heavily-painted eyelid as she wriggles about on the snow. Rajesh Khanna looks more warmly dressed (and there’s plenty of potential for other layers under that full-sleeved jacket), but just looking at Sharmila makes me go brrr.
7. Yeh khaamoshiyaan yeh tanhaaiyaan (Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke, 1963): Snow is silent. I would never have believed how silent a snowfall can be, and how very muffling the mounds of snow wrapped around a house can be. Which is why Yeh khaamoshiyaan yeh tanhaiyaan is unique: it isn’t merely a romantic song set against a beautiful snowy backdrop, but a song which actually makes an attempt to convey something of the nature of that snow. The silence, the sense of solitude of these two lovers, surrounded only by the snow. And “jahaan paanv rakh dein, hai phislan hi phislan”—wherever one sets a foot down, it’s slippery.
Oh, yes. That’s snow for you. And also love, I suppose. A slippery slope, as is proven in Yeh Raaste Hain Pyaar Ke.
8. Maine ek khwaab sa dekha hai (Waqt, 1965): Sunil Dutt again, and this time with Sadhana. Two lovers, chatting on the phone at night, about to drift into sleep in their respective beds, meet in a supposed dream. A dream that takes them, alone and very, very close to each other, through flower-bedecked gardens, beside rippling streams, through mists rising along a mountain and to a snowy ground, where they lie on the snow, her ‘stiff with cold’ body melting into softness under the heat of his body.
Though the snow appears in this song for all of one verse, it’s a memorable verse—one of the rare instances of fairly bold lyrics, played out against an apt setting. Snow and heat, passion and warmth: quite a combination.
9. I love you (Sangam, 1964): Raj Kapoor’s Sangam is often touted as the first Hindi film to have major sections filmed abroad (incorrectly, since there were other films—like Singapore—that had already been filmed overseas). But Sangam did have a major section of it filmed in Europe, and in full colour too, so that probably contributed to a more lasting memory of overseas locales. In this short song, which often gets overlooked—especially in comparison with the more popular songs of the film—just one phrase is repeated, over and over again, in five different languages (German, English, French, Russian and Urdu). There’s a very short verse too, about inviting the other to love, but that’s it.
Even though it’s a short song, this one sticks in my mind because it’s unusual (there aren’t too many mostly-English songs in Hindi cinema). Also because the singer—Vivian Lobo, who used to sing at a restaurant (Bombili, at Gaylord) frequented by Shankar-Jaikishan, who spotted him there—seems to have only recorded this one Hindi song. (Do read this brilliant piece on the song, and on Vivian Lobo, over at Atul’s blog).
But look at the snow: lots and lots of it, and RK and Vyjyanthimala don’t shrink from sinking into it. I like that they’re well-equipped for it, all gloves and scarves and dark glasses as well.
10. Palkon ke peechhe se kya tumne keh daala (Talaash, 1969): Sharmila Tagore again, and (as in Gunguna rahe hain bhanwre) very inadequately dressed for the snow. Yes, given that she’s playing a pahadi, I guess she would be used to the cold, but I have never seen a pahadi who would also be so heedless of the dangers of the cold. This girl, with her part-backless choli, her ghagra swishing prettily just below her knees, and her bare feet (why?! Why does Hindi cinema seem to think that village girls, even if otherwise dressed to the nines, will go about barefoot, even in the snow?)—no, she’s not real at all.
But the snow, which looks pretty much fresh and pillowy, is really lovely, as is Sharmila. And the song, one of my favourites from SD Burman’s late 60s period, is a wonderful one. If only the hero had been someone (Dharmendra, perhaps?) other than an ageing Rajendra Kumar.
Which other songs would you add to the list?