Moon Songs, Part 1: Ten songs addressed to the moon

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the momentous occasion of the first moon landing: on July 20, 1969, two American astronauts—Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin—set foot on the moon, the first human beings to do so. “One small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind”, Armstrong’s words about his epic first step on Earth’s natural satellite, became the stuff of legend, quoted and misquoted thousands of times in as many contexts.

In the fifty years since then, only a further ten astronauts—in all, twelve people—have set foot on the moon. An interesting reflection of just how much effort goes into putting a human being on the moon (or perhaps how unnecessary it is, in today’s age of AI, to actually put a human being through all this trouble? I don’t know).

But, to come to the point. To celebrate 50 years of this landmark event, a post. I had initially toyed with the idea of reviewing the Dara Singh-starrer Trip to Moon, but the memory of my last attempt at watching that film (I gave up after five minutes) made me abandon that idea. Instead, I thought of a song list. A moon songs list.

The moon, far more than the sun, appears in lots of songs, simply because it is the companion of the night. And the night, as we all know (thanks to Hindi cinema, but thanks also to a long and almost universal tradition of love poems) is synonymous with romance. The moon is beauty itself; it wanders the sky, and is awaara; it is the beacon of hope, it is the destination of those in love.

There are many, many songs—from some of my absolute favourites, like Chaand bhi koi deewaana hai to Chalo dildaar chalo chaand k paar chalo—which are about the moon. There are (I think) a smaller number that are addressed to the moon itself. Pleas, favours requested, or simply using the moon as a stand-in for someone to whom the song is actually addressed.

As always, these are all songs from pre-70s Hindi films that I’ve seen, and they’re in no particular order. To make it more challenging for myself, I’ve added the stipulation that each song must be explicitly addressed to the moon, and that that ‘naming’ must happen in the first two lines of the song. Also, songs in which the ‘moon’ is used as a metaphor for something or someone else (like Door ke o chanda, where the moon actually refers to a baby) don’t count.

Here we go, then:

1. Ae chaand zara chhup jaa (Laat Sahib, 1967): Laat Sahib, one of those very few films that featured Shammi Kapoor as a villager (and he didn’t make for a convincing one), had little to recommend it, except for a couple of songs. This one is my favourite.

A moonlit night, and two people who are in love but have been shying away from admitting it. She is the one who begins, taking the first tentative step—by begging the moon to hide itself briefly: perhaps the dark will give her the courage she needs to say what she must? Of course the moon does no such thing, but her song emboldens her admirer to echo her feelings too, in more ways than one.

2. Dum bhar jo udhar moonh phere (Awara, 1951): From Shammi Kapoor to elder brother Raj Kapoor, and a song which has a somewhat similar tone to it when it comes to the female singer. Nargis’s character sings to the moon, asking it—as does Nutan’s character in Ae chaand zara chhup jaa—to hide its face, so that she may make love to her man. She is far bolder than was Nutan’s rather more demure miss: this one has no qualms about admitting her love for the man, but she’s not brash enough to do so in broad moonlight, so to say. She’d rather some privacy. But her lover, instead of seconding her request, counters it with an opposite request: he begs the moon to show its face, because then he’ll be able to see her in the moonlight. Their gazes will meet, and the moon will be witness to their love.

Erotic, and yet playful at the same time, a classic moon song.

3. Ruk jaa raat thehar jaa re chanda (Dil Ek Mandir, 1963): In the association of the moon with love, here’s a different take on the theme—a song of tragedy, of the impending blow to a love. Instead of petitioning the moon to hide itself, Meena Kumari’s character begs it to stop. If only the night would halt, if only the moon would stop: tomorrow would not come. Time would freeze, and she would not lose her husband, who is almost certain to die in the critical operation he must undergo the next day.

I am not usually affected by much weeping and wailing, but Ruk jaa raat always touches me: Meena Kumari’s acting as the desperate wife is very convincing, and Lata’s voice is full of emotion.

4. Taaron ki zubaan par hai mohabbat ki kahaani ae chaand (Nausherwaan-e-Aadil, 1957): From a somewhat unusual historical film from Sohrab Modi comes this lovely moon song. Two lovers, out in a boat on a moonlit night, sing to the moon, congratulating it on the beauty of the night. The youthfulness of the moon, its reflection of their own love, is echoed by the stars themselves. Whether or not the lovers themselves will endure, their love will. The moon is witness to their love.

5. Mere bhaiya ko sandesa pahunchaana (Didi, 1959): In a change from the usual association between the moon and romance, here’s a song that is about love of a different type: the love between a brother and a sister. The eponymous didi (Jayshree) of this film finds herself, on the festival of Bhai Dooj, far away from her brother (Sunil Dutt). She gets everything ready for the pooja, and ropes in the moon to send her message of love to her bhaiya. She wishes the moon well: prays that its light may increase—if only it will carry her love to her brother. And then, because her brother looks like the moon, and because he is not here, she offers to hug the moon as proxy for her bhaiya.

Sweet song, and possibly the only song about Bhai Dooj (unlike Rakshabandhan, for which there are songs aplenty)?

6. O raat ke musaafir chanda zara bataa de (Miss Mary, 1957): The moon may be messenger, the moon may be silent onlooker. The sentinel of the night—or an arbitrator, a magistrate sitting in judgement. In this song from a delightful little comedy about a pretend marriage, Gemini Ganesan, acting as the very frustrated ‘husband’, fed up with the seemingly baseless ravings and rantings of his ‘wife’, appeals to the moon. What is his crime? What has he done that he’s being subjected to such treatment? Of course, his song isn’t really addressed to the moon; it’s addressed to the woman in question, and she responds. What started off as a mock lament ends up as a somewhat light-hearted mutual pulling of legs.

7. Chanda re jaa re jaa re (Ziddi, 1948): While aficionados of 1940s Hindi film music may recognize this song without any added references, for the rest of us this might recall a much later song. In Ek chatur naar from Padosan (1968), the musical duel between Kishore Kumar/Sunil Dutt and Mehmood (lip-syncing to Manna Dey’s singing) plummets to some fairly racist name-calling, with Kishore singing Kaala re jaa re jaa re, khaare naale mein jaake tu moonh dhoke aa re. To the tune of Chanda re jaa re jaa re. Which, coincidentally (or not?), was from the film that marked Kishore Kumar’s debut, twenty years earlier.

But, on to the real song, the moon song. This is a lovely little song, begging the moon to tell the lost lover to come. Kamini Kaushal’s heroine has written to the ‘secret husband’ from she’s been separated by accident, but while she waits for a reply, she decides she may as well put the moon on the job as well. I love the gentle, slow way this song starts, and the way it picks up subsequently.

8. Ae chaand kal jo aana (Devta, 1956): What do you do when the man you’re in love with doesn’t show up? What if you don’t even know where he is, and so can’t tell him to come on over? What if you actually don’t even really know him, since you’ve met him only briefly a couple of times? (But yes, this being Hindi cinema, that doesn’t deter you from being passionately in love with him). You pass the buck on, to the moon. You sing and dance, and tell the moon that when it turns up the next night, it should bring your beloved along. You exhort it to reveal your beloved’s whereabouts, and basically pull the moon into something that isn’t really its business at all.

But that’s par for the course for this list, isn’t it?

9. Chanda re chhupe rehna (Lajwanti, 1958): Interestingly, Lajwanti had not one but two songs addressed to the moon. The second one, picturized on Baby Naaz, is a school performance: Chanda mama mere dwaar. The first one, picturized on Nargis and a baby, is this sweet little lullaby that is in some ways reminiscent of Nanhi kali sone chali: the devoted and protective mother exhorts nature—the chameli flower, the moon itself—to not disturb her sleeping child (Yes. I can understand that: once my baby went to sleep, I would happily skin alive anybody who came along and woke her up!) Nargis’s character is more gracious than I am, and simply pleads with the moon: please, stay hidden within the clouds, lest your bright light wake up my little darling.

10. Jaa jaa re chanda jaa re (Private Secretary, 1962): And, to end, a song that is a little different from all the others, in that it has nothing to do with love (of any kind, romantic or other). The moon here is not a stand-in for anyone; the singer is not thinking of someone else and using the moon as a convenient but passive listener. No; this song is actually addressed to the moon, and nothing but the moon. Jayshree Gadkar plays a woman who finds herself utterly friendless and miserable. She has escaped a wedding to a brute, and in her mad scramble for freedom, ends up completely without anybody to turn to. The moon is her only friend—or not, because even its moonlight burns her.

Dilip Dholakia, who composed this lovely song, probably realized how good it was, since it appears several times in Private Secretary, with the repeated verses appearing as vocals without instrumentation to support them.

And, because there are so many ways in which the moon motif is used in Hindi film songs, this isn’t the only moon songs post (as you might have guessed from the title). Watch this space.

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68 thoughts on “Moon Songs, Part 1: Ten songs addressed to the moon

  1. Madhu ji,
    Very timely post.
    One small step for a man and one giant step for mankind! I vividly remember listening to the radio commentary that historic day in my school.

    MANMAUJI, 1962.

    Chanda jaa Chanda jaa re has
    Kaahe aaya hai akela
    Tujhe manoon albela
    Mere Piya ki bhi sang le as..

    Lata Mangeshkar, Rajinder Krishen,Madan Mohan.

    • Glad you mentioned the Manmauji song. That had been, till this morning itself, part of this list. Then, at the last minute, I decided to replace it with Taaron ki zubaan par hai. So I’m especially glad to see you mention it here. Thanks!

  2. SHARDA, 1957.

    O Chand Jahan woh jaaye
    Tum bhi saath mein jaana…

    Lata, Asha; Rajinder Krishen, C Ramchandra.

    • Thank you! Chanda o chanda definitely fits this theme, since it is addressed to the moon. The other two songs, while nice (I especially love Chaand phir niklaa), don’t fit, because they aren’t addressed to the moon.

  3. ‘ chanda re meri pattiyaan le jaa ‘ from BANJARIN ( Mukesh-Lata ) is a beautiful duet on the subject.
    It can also fit into a future series on Chiththi-patra-letters !

    • Oh, nice! (and thank you for adding to my very brief list of ‘letter songs’). I did hear Chanda re meri pattiyaan le jaa while researching this post, and loved it.

  4. Delightful post and intrigued by the next one’s…

    It reminded me of a delightful Punjabi song I used to sing addressed not only to the moon but also to a /the? star. The moon with its moonlight and the star with its starlight (lou) . difficult to transcribe

  5. I always liked the songs of Lajwanti, including this , Chanda Maama mere dwaar aana.. another aspect of the our relationship to the moon….that of a maama.
    Interestingly in this song , Chanda Maama also sings :)

  6. Another song set to a catchy tune that comes to mind was composed by OP Nayyar for Mujrim “Chanda chandni men jab chamke …” sung by Geeta Dutt .

  7. Another song of a sister using Chanda as emissary to her bhaiya …Chanda re mere bhaiya se kehna from Chambal ki Kasam. Whatever may the movie have been about…the lyrics are Sahir and the music Khayyam !!

    • Beautiful. :-) And while I don’t like Raj Kumar, I have a very soft spot for Farida Jalal. I have heard this song umpteen times, but had never watched it before. Thanks for this one. The lyrics are very similar to those of Mere bhaiya ko sandesa pahunchaana (which was also written by Sahir, so perhaps that’s not surprising…).

  8. Interesting songs Madhuji.
    A similar list under the title of ‘different shades of the moon’ is under process. It is supposed to highlight different roles the moon plays in different songs. Like, a postman in ‘Chanda re meri patiya leja’.
    A companion, in ‘o chand jahan woh jaye’s.
    A listener, in ‘ae chand sun meri dastan’
    A witness in ‘o Chanda Aaj Ki Raat na dhalna’
    And so on……
    Now let me see, if I can modify it in some other form. Though the concept is different, the songs would overlap.

    :-)

    • That’s a fabulous idea, Anupji! Please carry on with it and don’t modify it. Why should you? Even if the songs overlap, that doesn’t matter. It’s a different theme, really.

      Am looking forward to your post. :-)

  9. How interesting. I did not know few songs, like those from “Devta” or “Didi”.

    The interesting thing, I think, about moon is, it’s so versatile:
    “Chanda Saiyan bhi hain aur Bhaiya bhi”. It’s important on Karva Chauth and Bhai Dooj too.
    Plus one can always compare a face to it. And the stories in our scriptures are abundant as well. May be that’s why it’s so inspiring to writers.
    Waiting for second part.

    • Thank you for that insightful comment. Yes, the moon is so very much a part of a lot of literature, ritual and more. I wonder why? Because it’s so far, so remote, yet close enough to seem somehow near us? Nearer than the stars, and therefore somehow attainable?

  10. I can’t help but feel rather dismayed and saddened that your first choice to commemorate this groundbreaking occasion was something like Trip to Moon. You know you can email me anytime and ask, I am always ready with recommendations. There are a number of moon mission films from before 1970. Destination Moon, First Men in the Moon, Moon Zero Two are a few titles off the top of my mind and I am sure I will find more if I search. True, none of them are on the technically proficient level of today’s films, but for their time, they are certainly very creatively mounted. Infinitely more preferable than some low-budget, no-brains trash like Trip to Moon. In fact, I will be able to send a good copy of either Destination Moon or First Men in the Moon to you in the next week at the earliest, if you want me to.

    http://1000misspenthours.com/reviews/reviewsa-d/destinationmoon.htm

    Apologies if this sounds like a complaint-filled rant. Actual feelings tend to get distorted in writing sometimes. I assure you that I am not trying to put you down or disparage your efforts, but merely trying to steer you in a more worthwhile direction.

  11. Dear Madhuji,

    As most of us know, the forerunner to the Moon Launch was Jules Verne’s Story FROM EARTH TO MOON (published in 1865) and the launch site mentioned by him is just 100 miles from CAPE CANAVERAL. It is as if NASA wanted to play it “by the Book”.

    There is that iconic lorie from VACHAN (1955) , “Chandamama Door ke…”

    (The song is addressed to Chandamama).

    And you might think of me as a relic if I suggest this song from the 1942 Film JAWAB, sung by Kanan Devi, which too meets your criterion of being addressed to the Moon :

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

    • Ae chaand chhup na jaana definitely qualifies (incidentally, I did come across this song while doing research for this post). But Chanda mama door ke… I am familiar with the film and the song, but have never thought it was addressed to the moon. I interpret it as Geeta Bali’s character singing that the moon has made puas. It’s all in the third person. I could be mistaken.

  12. How about “Dheere dheere chal chand gagan mein” from Love Marriage? The first stanza is definitely addressed to the moon. Or did it not make the cut because Dev Anand and Mala Sinha forget all about the poor chand and address each other in the subsequent lines?

  13. Madhu,
    Moon is one of the most common objects featuring in our film songs. You have made a nice connection between ‘Ek chatur naar’ and ‘Ziddi’. There is a stronger and more obvious connection. Kishore Kumar’s elder Ashok Kumar had sung ‘Ek chatur naar kar kar singaar’ (actually hummed in the shower) in the same tune in ‘Jhoola’ (1941), composed by Saraswati Devi.

    AK

    • Jaa jaa re chanda jaa re came my way while I was researching this post. But since I confine my lists to Hindi films, I didn’t include it. But it’s a beautiful song. Another of those relatively rare (I think) songs where the sister is using the moon as a means of getting a message to her brother.

  14. I hope you are not going to forget immortal songs like:

    Chanda o Chanda kisine churayi Teri Meri neendiya.

    Aaj ko junali raat maa….Chanda re tu Jan jaa.

    Chaand fir nikla magar tum na aaye….

  15. Interesting twist to the ‘moon songs’ list. Which is why, perhaps for the first time, our lists didn’t overlap at all.
    So here’s one that addresses the moon – from Bhabhi ki Chudiyan

    • Chaand tu yahaan hai was on my shortlist, but I ended up not going any further with it because I’ve still not got around to watching this film! Thank you for this song, Anu. :-)

  16. Would your ‘Hindi only’ parameter extend to the Bhojpuri dialect? I find this song simply enchanting. Cannot ever get tired of it. Couldn’t locate a video clip from the film, unfortunately:

    Lata – E Chanda Mama, aare aawaa paare aawaa (Bhauji, 1965).

    • Dear Abhik ji,

      I would hesitate to label Bhojpuri as a Dialect. It is a National Language in two Countries and Official Language in 5 others. Further the United Nations has recognised it as a Language and important UN Publications are printed in Bhojpuri. The GOI is toying with the idea of including it as a Language in the 8th Schedule, despite stiff opposition from the Hindi Lobby. Till then, Bhojpuri will remain a dialect, but only in India.

      Sorry for digressing from the main topic.

      With warm regards

      PARTHA CHANDA

    • What a cute song! Thank you for this, Abhik! And in the comments, people are welcome to add songs in any language, Hindi, its dialects, stand-alone other languages, whatever. So don’t feel constrained. :-)

  17. JAWAB, 1942.
    Kanan Devi, Pandit Madhur, Kamaldas Gupta.

    Aye Chand chup na jaana
    Jab tak main geet gaaoon…
    ( Same film where Kanan Devi has rendered the breezy Duniya toofan mail.
    Lata Mangeshkar sang this song as her Shradhanjali to Tt Devi.)

    KHANDAN, 1942.
    Noor Jehan, ?, Ghulam Haider.

    Tu kaun si badli mein
    Mere Chand hai aa jaa re..
    ( Noor Jehan’s first movie as a heroine and also the directorial debut of Shaukat Hussain Rizvi whom she later married.)

  18. Interesting theme and a nice set of songs. I though all “addressed to the moon” songs had been covered, but I remembered one more. Nice one.

    Gagan ke chanda na pooche humse – Apne Huye Paraye/Shanker-Jaikishen/Shailendra/Lata Mangeshkar-Subir Sen

    • Thank you for this one! I had forgotten about it (though I’ve seen most of the film, a long time ago), and came across the song again after I’d compiled my list. Glad to see you posting it, because I do like it.

  19. Madhu ji , Namaste .
    A sweet song addressed to the moon nd asking to act as a messenger !!!
    It is from the movie ” भरत मिलाप ” sung by Lata nd Mahendra Kapoor , picturised on Kanan Kaushal nd Anant Marathe .
    “चंद्रमा जा उनसे कह दे ना बनो इतने कठोर ”

  20. Sorry for the late comment but this is a lovely list of songs as usual. I’m glad “Dum bhar jo…” made the cut since it’s a personal favourite. The only song addressed to the moon I could think of was this one – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFohINZgMwY – though it’s way beyond your timeline. A large chunk of “Chand chhupa badal mein” (from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) is also addressed to the moon but not in the first two lines.

    • Ae chaand teri chaandni ki kasam, I must admit, I had forgotten all about! (Actually, I don’t remember the music at all, but that bit about the moon in the sky being flawed, but his ‘moon’ being flawless… those lyrics I seem to have heard before. Unless that’s an echo of the lyrics of an earlier song. I don’t know.)

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