To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first time humans set foot on the moon, I compiled this list of moon songs. Then I followed it up with this, very different, list—also of moon songs. One list of songs addressed to the moon; another list of songs describing the moon. There are lots of other songs about the moon—from Chalo dildaar chalo chaand ke paar chalo to Chanda chaandni mein jab chamke, songs which mention the moon in all sorts of situations and contexts (more often than not romantic). There are songs drawing people’s attention to the moon (Dekho ji chaand nikla peechhe khajoor ke), songs about the rising of the moon and the absence—or obliviousness—of a beloved (Chaand phir nikla, magar tumna aaye, Woh chaand khila woh tare hanse), songs that use the moon and its proverbial beauty as a metaphor or simile.
It’s the last of these types of songs that I’m looking at here today. Songs where the singer compares someone to the moon.
As always, these songs are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen. Also, to make it less easy, the comparison should occur in the first two lines of the song.
These are in no particular order, though my favourite songs are at the top of the list.
1. Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964): I heard this song on radio long, long before I saw it on television. I never thought of asking my father, back then, whom this was picturized upon, and taking the lyrics of the song for gospel truth, wondered which Hindi film actress it could be about whom it was said that ‘zulfon ka rang sunehra, yeh jheel se neeli aankhein…’ Blue-eyed blonde? Indian? (Yes, I hadn’t seen Saira Banu’s faux ‘Brit’ look in Purab aur Paschim yet either). The rest of that line may be all wonky, but the first simile used could fit any pretty lady (and therefore fits a blushing and sweet Sharmila Tagore well enough): her face is like a moon. Flawless and beautiful.
2. Chaudhvin ka chaand ho (Chaudhvin ka Chaand, 1960): A classic song of ‘comparing a face to the moon’. The awe in Rafi’s voice, in Guru Dutt’s face, and Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics, the almost holding-my-breath quality of this man’s praise for his gorgeous wife… beautiful. If there is a fitting tribute to the beauty of Waheeda Rehman, it is this song: it captures her loveliness so well. And the comparison to the ‘moon of the fourteenth day’—that is, the full moon—is spot on.
3. Chaand sa mukhda kyon sharmaaya (Insaan Jaag Utha, 1959): Madhubala’s famed beauty is played down a bit in Insaan Jaag Utha by giving her a rather prominent mole and a deglamourized look, but how you can hide beauty like that? And Sunil Dutt’s character, a thief on the run who falls in love with this illiterate village girl working at a dam construction site, ends up singing not one but two songs where he compares his sweetheart to the moon. One is the more boisterous Yeh chanda Rus ka na yeh Jaapaan ka; the other is this one, sweeter and gentler and more intimate. A lover quietly teasing his beloved, and she responding. Wonderfully romantic.
4. Mere saamnewaali khidki mein (Padosan, 1968): Sunil Dutt again (though a very different-looking Sunil Dutt, not at all the debonair hero of Insaan Jaag Utha, but the silly-looking Bhola with his far-from-stylish haircut). And serenading a lady by comparing her to the moon, too. Except that this time, in keeping with his character’s general un-hero-like character, he’s not even doing the singing himself. In this light-hearted song where Bhola makes known his feelings to the unimpressed Bindu (Saira Banu) who lives next door, it’s his ustad, Kishore Kumar, who’s actually doing the singing. It’s all romantic: oh, this piece of the moon that lodges in the opposite window—but the lyrics are too flirtatious, the singing too teasing, to really win the lady’s heart, never mind if he’s calling her a piece of the moon.
5. Chaand si mehbooba ho meri (Himalaya ki God Mein, 1965): From a playful but still complimentary ode to a lady’s beauty, to one that’s downright insulting. Did no-one of all those involved in the creation of this song—the lyricist (Anand Bakshi), the music directors (Kalyanji and Anandji), the singer (Mukesh), the director (Vijay Bhatt) or even the actors (Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha) realize just how insulting this song really is to the woman it’s addressed to? Because this man says he never thought he’d have a sweetheart as beautiful as the moon. And yes, she is exactly as he thought she would be (logically, given the previous line, not as beautiful as the moon).
But perhaps there’s something I’m missing here, or misunderstanding. At any rate, it fits in this list: it is a song, after all, that compares someone to the moon, even if that someone is an imaginary someone.
6. Ek raat mein do-do chaand khile (Barkha, 1960): A rather more conventional song, one that lavishes praise on the beauty of the one being serenaded. A pair of young newly-weds sing a sweetly romantic song, one that happily marries the actual moon in the sky with the one here on Earth, according to the adoring husband. One moon has blossomed in the night sky, shining out from between the clouds, he says. And another here, shining out from behind the ghoonghat. The moon in the sky is everybody’s, but the moon in the ghoonghat—and this is such a cute bit of pride—is all his. Sweet!
7. Ae chaand ki zebaayi (Chhoti si Mulaqat, 1967): Why do filmi men in boats sometimes seem to be so completely oblivious to the expressions of the women they’re wooing? At least Rajesh Khanna’s character in Woh shaam kuchh ajeeb thhi can be given the benefit of doubt, because Waheeda Rehman only looks a little sad and wistful. Not so here; Vyjyanthimala’s character in Chhoti si Mulaqat has just discovered that she is actually married to another man, and is (not unsurprisingly) distressed to find that she now has to choose between her husband—whom she doesn’t know and doesn’t even remember from her childhood—and the man she loves.
She is so distressed, but her lover is oblivious, happily serenading her, calling her the ‘elegance of the moon’, telling her to come on and fall into his arms…given that she’s smiling by the end of the song, though, this man’s technique perhaps works with some women.
8. Gore-gore chaand se mukh par (Anita, 1967): Mukesh seems to have sung playback in several songs where a man serenades a woman by comparing her to the moon. Here, his becomes the voice of Manoj Kumar, who praises Sadhna’s character. The focus of the lyrics is really on her eyes (unfortunate, really, since by this time, Sadhna’s eyes had stopped being her best feature because of her thyroid condition). But the song begins with comparing the ‘fairness’ of her face to that of the moon.
9. Phool sa chehra chaand si rangat (Raat aur Din, 1967): Raat aur Din had a few really good—and really popular—songs, like the wonderful Dil ki gireh khol do and the two–version Awaara ae mere dil, which is perhaps one reason this relatively low-key song often gets overlooked. It’s a good song, though, and one of the few in this list where the serenading is a public affair. Not for Pradeep Kumar’s character the quiet intimacy of Ek raat mein do-do chaand khile (even though he is married to the woman he’s serenading, and could therefore just as easily have sung this in the privacy of their home). No, he sings her praises at a picnic, much to the embarrassment of his wife, who looks utterly mortified.
10. Mehfil mein aap aaye jaise ke chaand aaya (Mohabbat Isko Kehte Hain, 1965): To end, a song that is unique in this particular list: it’s the only song where it’s not a woman but a man who’s being compared to the moon. Not even one man, but several, though I like to think that the two dancers here are directing most of their song to Shashi Kapoor, who plays one of the men who’s come to visit this kotha and watch the mujra. The others, sadly, are no oil paintings… but maybe it’s Shashi to whom these women are expressing their gratitude, for his having graced their mehfil this once.
Which songs would you add to this list? Do share!