Teachers and Students: Ten of my favourite songs

I began this blog in November 2008, and in the eleven years since, I’ve never done a post for Teachers’ Day. That is mostly because I did not have great memories of teachers from my school days. A handful were good, a handful left an impact on me; but the majority were people I did not look back on with fondness or gratitude or any other such emotion. More often than not, if you were to ask whom I would thank for moulding me in my childhood, I’d say it was my parents. They were my first teachers, and even till fairly late, they continued to be the people who influenced me the most.

These days, however, I am feeling a love for teachers. My six-year old daughter, the Little One (the ‘LO’) is attending online classes, and when I see the patience, the calm, the classroom manner (that’s the best term I can think of for what would be bedside manner in a doctor) I cannot help but admire these teachers. They maintain their composure through connectivity issues, bossy and demanding parents, excessively chatty children, and sometimes just sheer lack of tech-savviness. Through it all, they’ve continued teaching our children their lessons.

So, in appreciation, a list of songs for teachers and students. To commemorate the classroom, the bond between taught and teacher, and education itself. As always, these songs are from pre-1970s films that I’ve seen.

1. Alif zabar aa alif zer ae (Love in Simla, 1960): For most of us, parents are our very earliest teachers. For many of the unfortunate children who have little or no access to an online class, parents can again adopt the role of teachers, to whatever extent possible.

And it’s not just parents: it can also be other people, and the child in question may have varied reasons for being taught by someone who’s not a professional teacher. In Love in Simla, for instance, the boy is sitting around at home during a holiday and needs help with his Urdu. That’s when his elder sister’s boyfriend, with a view to earning brownie points, jumps in to help.  The Urdu lesson starts off well enough (and coherently enough) as they go through the alphabet, but somewhere down the line the lesson goes off the rails, both tutor and tutee going a bit nuts.

2. Ek do teen chaar aur paanch (Kaagaz ke Phool, 1959): Even when one has teachers other than one’s parents, there are times when the school isn’t a formal one. When, for instance, classes are held out in the open (and not always in idyllic surroundings), the teacher isn’t a trained one, and all teaching is somewhat haphazard. As in this case, where the children sit under a tree, and the teacher (a lovely Waheeda Rehman) is actually an actress. Of course, teaching little children mathematics isn’t a big deal, but she, instead of merely teaching her students the numbers from 1 to 10, also makes her lesson a reflection of human life: of the petty politics that govern social interactions, the bitterness and quarrelling. I do wonder how much of that deeper meaning children that small would understand…

3. Ichak daana beechak daana (Shree 420, 1955): The quintessential ‘informal school’ song: Nargis plays the fun-loving teacher in this lovely little bunch of riddles. Wonderful little riddles, about chillies and ears of corn, peacocks and pomegranates. I’m not sure if this could be considered a proper lesson (what would she be teaching? Hindi?), but it’s fun. And the children are certainly much cleverer than an onlooker who eventually joins in, gatecrashing and posing a riddle (not a very good one, and completely self-serving) of his own.

4. Kuchh din pehle ek taal mein (Laajwanti, 1958): Nargis again, playing a teacher, and again in what is a very informal sort of school. Again, her ‘class’ sits out in the open, though in somewhat more upmarket, comfortable surroundings. There is only a fleeting mention of anything akin to formal education here: when her class refuses to study and demands a story instead, the teacher chides them: will stories get them through their exams? But she does bend to general opinion, and tells them the sad story of two swans that were separated by fate. Not quite the thing to tell little kids, I’d have thought, but it’s a lovely, melodious song.

5. Kitna pyaara pyaara mausam (Naunihaal, 1967): I have some very vivid memories of my long-ago schooldays, and of those among the fondest is of the only school picnic I remember having gone on: we went to Kokernag, near Srinagar. I don’t recall our teachers singing or dancing, but I remember, with much warmth, the sheer joy and excitement of that day. Of being with friends but not having to study. Of seeing our teachers letting their hair down a bit.

So, a song celebrating the school picnic, with teachers and students getting together to have some fun. They swing, they wade through the shallows of a stream. They sing and dance. The teacher (a very pretty Indrani Mukherjee) does give the boys a brief spiel on being good, but otherwise it’s all a paean to the lovely day this is, and what joy surrounds them. A cute, happy song.

6. Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaayein (Jagriti, 1954): Another teacher-and-children-on-a-jaunt. This one, though, is a much more extended jaunt, no school picnic. Abhi Bhattacharya’s revolutionary school teacher, in an attempt to get his jaded students interested in the things around them, takes them on a Bharat darshan. From the Himalayas to Rajasthan, from Shivaji’s Maharashtra to Amritsar’s Jallianwala Bagh, and finally to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Bengal. A pan-India trip with a focus on nationalism, but there’s a catchiness to this song, its music as well as its lyrics and rendition (both of the latter by Kavi Pradeep).

7. Daali pe baitheen thheen dus chidiyaan (Deep Jalta Rahe, 1959): Back to the classroom, and with a song that actually does have something of mathematics in it. The teacher (played by Ranjana) tests her students’ skill at subtraction. Ten birds are sitting on a branch: one flies off and how many are left? The nine birds left fly off then to perch on the giant boot at Kamla Nehru Park. From there, another two fly away, and so on. The birds traipse around, ending up at Parliament House via Calcutta’s Maidan. At each stage, the students are asked to calculate how many birds we’re now left with.

One of the rare songs that actually have something of a core subject being taught (rather than mere faffing). What irks me, though, are the props the teacher uses: live birds, a projector and film reels, a plaster model of Parliament House: all quite unlikely, and quite impractical—especially the birds.

8. Humne suna tha ek hai Bharat (Didi, 1959): I have hazy memories of, very early in my school days, having to study something called Moral Science. Basically the sort of stuff expected to make you a ‘good’ person: don’t tell lies, don’t cheat, don’t steal, etc. Moral Science was abandoned by the time we had launched into more ‘serious’ subjects like History, Geography and Civics and so on.

In this class, though, the teacher played by Sunil Dutt seems to be teaching something that straddles History, Civics, and Moral Science, with perhaps some Philosophy thrown in. He addresses all the many questions his students have, about how a ‘perfect’ India need not be equated with a ‘uniform’ India. I love the core message of this song: that diversity is the basis of India’s secularism, that this diversity is to be cherished, and how intolerance and communal hatred today is a legacy of the Divide and Rule policy of the British. If only more lessons of this kind would be imparted to our children.

9. Insaaf ki dagar pe (Ganga Jamuna, 1961): Another song about patriotism and morality. A kindly school teacher, in this song set in a village school, tells his students how they are the future of India, and how it’s important for them to uphold justice and right. It’s not an easy path, he says; they must remain steadfast and careful, always looking to do what is good and right. I do not agree with the ‘Duniya ke ranj sehna aur kuchh na moonh se kehna’ bit—it’s too martyrish and wishy-washy for me (and really, how can you fight for the truth and for justice if you refuse to speak up?), but the rest of the song is fine. And the music, along with Hemant’s rendition, is lovely.

10. Aaj miyanji ko chadh jaaye bukhaar (Mirza Sahiban, 1947): And, to end the list, a somewhat offbeat song. A tongue-in-cheek tribute to the rather more mundane side of the classroom bond between teachers and students. Which student, after all, always and every time loved studies? I was often referred to as an ‘exemplary student’ by my teachers, and I actually liked attending some of the classes. I was diligent and attentive and hard-working. But. But, I loved it when we had holidays, for whatever reason. No school was my idea of bliss.

This, therefore. From Noorjehan’s last film in India, a song which doesn’t feature a teacher, but is actually all about the teacher. In a village school, while they wait for their teacher (‘Miyanji’) to arrive, Miyanji’s students wish Miyanji would get a fever so that they could have a day off. One of them even suggests he’ll do something akin to what most Indian schools do on Teachers’ Day: he’ll take the place of Miyanji, and behave like him. Which means sitting a mile away, droning on, and letting fly with his shoes whenever anybody in his class is guilty of any infraction.

Happy Teachers’ Day to all the teachers and students out there, and here’s to the bond between them!

94 thoughts on “Teachers and Students: Ten of my favourite songs

  1. Good list. Allow me to suggest the song ‘Ye kaun chitrakaar hai’ from V Shantaram’s ‘Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti’. Teaching children the value of nature and environment besides cultivating a sense of awe and gratitude to the Divine.

  2. Happy Teachers’ Day :
    Can’t help but start with this longtime favourite… Not really a teacher in sight
    But Masterji ki Chitthi for sure … from Kitaab

  3. Now that that is out of the way , let me please post the one song that captures the spirit of Teachers’ Day like no other … To Sir with Love, from To Sir with Love…

  4. And as you pointed out DO, in Hindi Films , the teaching seems fairly abstract (or evolved) , as everything seems to be philosophically oriented , even for very young children.
    Here is Hawa Chale Kaise (Movie : Daag) , which could have been a lesson on Natural Sciences , but is again a life lesson :)

    • Yes, I had read your post shortly after I posted this one, and was relieved to see that not all our songs overlapped! :-) Certainly does show how many different variations on the same theme Hindi cinema could come up with.

  5. Great post for Teachers’ Day. I don’t know many of these songs too.
    And even those that I do, I hadn’t see the picturisation before.

    The first song that came to my mind is in fact not in this list, maybe because the teacher isn’t actually teaching but is saying farewell. It’s also from Jagriti:

    Hum Laaye hain toofan se kishti nikal ke

    Thanks for the post.

    • Glad you liked this post, and thank you for Hum laayein hain toofaan se kashti nikaalke! I never post two songs from the same film, which is why I had to drop this one in favour of Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaayein, but it’s a lovely song too.

  6. I haven’t seen Didi but I’ve known that song for a long time, and I love it. There’s a similar (less successful) one with Amitabh from an early 70s but he isn’t a teacher in it.

    The only one I can think of is that one from Geeta Mera Naam the “good” sister sings with the kids she teaches, but it isn’t on youtube.

  7. It just occurred to me that this song also fits the theme – a tutor is also a teacher.

    Saare ke Saare Gaama ko lekar gaate chale

    And if this fits, then so does Doe a Deer! Does it? Do they?

    • Oh, yes! In fact, just yesterday a friend of mine on Facebook also mentioned ‘the song from Parichay‘ and I was so glad she talked of it. Because, when I was compiling this post, one of the songs I had shortlisted was a ‘teaching music’ one: Chand ki sundar nagri mein, from Dholak. I ended up discarding it, because I liked the other songs more, and also because the ‘teaching’ being done in that song wasn’t the way I thought music should be taught. A more appropriate ‘teaching music’ song, I thought then, would be Do re mi. :-)

      So here are both songs!

      Chand ki sunder nagri mein:

      And Do re mi:

  8. Nice theme, Madhu. And so appropriate for Teachers’ Day. What about Teetar ke do aage teetar from Mera Naam Joker?

    Or ABCD chhodo from Raja Jani? (I’m not really sure what she’s learning, though.)

    A philosophical teacher – Ruk jaana nahin from Imtihaan

    And because I can’t resist. Bum bum bole from Taare Zameen Par

    • Oh, very nice songs, Anu! Thank you for these. I was hoping someone would post Ruk jaana nahin – it’s a song I like a lot.

      I don’t know how much Hema Malini’s character is actually learning in ABCD chhodo, but Dharmendra’s character is trying to teach her English, no? Long time since I watched Raja Jani, but if I remember correctly, this is part of the makover, when he’s trying to train her to act the princess.

      Talking of Hema Malini, here’s a song where she tries to teach Shashi Kapoor music: Sa re ga ma pa pa pa, from Abhinetri.

      • “What about Teetar ke do aage teetar from Mera Naam Joker?”

        I don’t think you have reviewed Mera Naam Joker in this blog (unless I have missed it) — do you consider it a 70s film? I saw this movie yesterday and got a distinct 1960s vibe and a mythical, old world feel. The emotion of the narrative literally compelled me to finish the whole 4 hours the same night, though not at one sitting.

        I later learned that it was over 6 years in the making from 1964 to 1970, with the final “Padmini” segment being picturised first, maybe as early as 1965.

        Mera Naam Joker requires our attention because it was one of Bollywood’s most cliche-free, fiercely artistic films (though by no means perfect), whose brutal rejection by the audience in 1970 led to decades of pervasive, formulaic mediocrity as mainstream commercial filmmakers felt afraid to make individualistic films, thus ending the golden age of Hindi cinema.

        In particular I would like to know your assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, to understand why it failed so spectacularly at the box office, turning Raj Kapoor into a very different director in his last 4 movies.

        I see you have reviewed delayed films of the 60s like Pakeezah that finally got released in the 70s… Please consider reviewing “Mera Naam Joker” as one of those last golden age films @Dustedoff!

      • …and, too, I am so pleased to have now become the proud owner of all 4 Muzaffar Jang mysteries published so far, as ebooks via Amazon Kindle — took me a few days to sort out the e-payment, but all done now and reading to begin at the earliest — Indians writing in English give me such a special feeling, being full of the inimitable flavor of home and rich with profound ‘insider’ meaning for us fellow-Indians; and historical mysteries are indeed my particular weakness — do write many more such awesome detective novels @Dustedoff!

        • You are too kind! Thank you so very, very much, and I do hope you enjoy the books. I think it took me some time to hit my stride with the Muzaffar Jang series, so the first one isn’t a favourite of mine. Please do persevere!

          As for Mera Naam Joker, I would review that on my blog, if I could summon up the courage to watch it. I have seen songs from it and I have read the book version of the screenplay, and both combine to make me steer clear of the movie. Mostly, I guess, because of RK and Padmini, neither of whom I like. RK I actively dislike. Perhaps someday if I’m feeling especially forgiving of RK, I may just watch it.

          • You are most welcome dear author! I like historical mysteries because they can have social and political complexity while retaining the innate attractions of the detective novel. Moreover the historical sleuth is challenged by having to work without modern forensic tools, and in circumstances where absolute justice (such as that of an emperor or a dictator) could also be politically motivated and well beyond appeal, if not frighteningly arbitrary. Think of how Prithviraj Kapoor disposed of the case of Madhubala in Mughal-e-Azam… The unknown real fate of Anarkali could well be its own medieval mystery!

            Will you believe that Mera Naam Joker which I watched yesterday was my first Raj Kapoor film? Although brought up on Shammi Kapoor style 1960s Bollywood on Doordarshan in 1988-90 at the age of 10, I was claimed by the hugely inviting contemporary cinema thereafter, and was always more interested in sports, literature and music than films anyway, so that I remained willingly oblivious of the Golden Age of Hindi cinema, which lurked in plain sight on the edges of my consciousness for over 30 years, right up until reading the lyrics to a rather long song from Shashi Kapoor’s Utsav prompted a random google search for the longest film songs and led me to that awesome 12 minute qawwali from Barsaat ki Raat, dropping me down the rabbit hole of the Golden Age again, as recently as late July this year.

            Thus this peculiar situation that the first I ever saw of both Dilip kumar and Madhubala was in Mughal-e-Azam, and not as a child or youngster but at the ‘advanced age’ of 41 in August 2020, and Pakeezah and Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam were my first two Meena Kumari films! Is it good or not good to see an artist’s best work first? Their other efforts seem somewhat ordinary in comparison, despite actually being outstanding by any standards.

            That, however, allowed me to approach Mera Naam Joker without any preconceptions about Raj Kapoor’s style, and I found that he embodied the tragedy and pathos of the clown with heavily comical dignity but without melodrama, just as the admittedly very long film refreshingly avoided so many mindless, annoying and simplistic Bollywood
            tropes while depicting the generous and selfless
            but unlucky lover with philosophical depth and unsentimental compassion, definitely not an Indian 3-hanky weepy!

            Some viewers might take issue with this director’s visual depiction of the feminine in his movies but the female characters certainly know their own mind in this film. Women show agency and initiative in making professional and personal choices, even at the expense of romantic love and the constant lover. Moreover, their choices are not condemned righteously by the filmmaker, which is a big thing for cinema of the 1960s.

            Above all, Raj Kapoor needs to be admired for being dedicated to making the movie he wanted to make, rather than thinking of what the audience might like to see, which also however proved Mera Naam Joker’s undoing — a gloriously defiant flop in other words, but only in India: it was a huge hit in the Soviet Union a year later and presumably made a lot of money for its producers at long last, and continues to be considered a true classic of World cinema, though possibly forgotten by Indians in this day and age; watch and review when you feel the time just right @Dustedoff!

            • I can understand how many people come late to the oeuvre of a particular star or film-maker. I know several American bloggers who discovered Hindi cinema only when middle-aged, and most of them do end up (quite naturally, I suppose, since after all, it’s mostly the well-known films that first draw people’s attention and which get talked about) watching the prominent films first. So your first watching Mera Naam Joker isn’t very surprising. :-)

              I suppose I have now seen RK in so many Chaplinesque roles that I cannot stomach the thought of yet another. For me, his best roles still are the ones where he wasn’t the director – for instance, in Chori-Chori and Teesri Kasam.

              • Good titles for me to be watching next, thanks @Dustedoff. These artists (particularly Raj Kapoor and Meena Kumari, but also possibly Dilip Kumar and Sanjeev Kumar) seem to have excelled at channeling some inner sorrow and erasing the line between acting and life, carrying thousands of viewers with them over the emotional precipice… It’s frighteningly intense in a way that rarely Shah Rukh Khan and Tabu came even close to doing among modern actors. The real question seems to be whether Mera Naam Joker is ‘typical’ RK style or not — I shall find out soon enough!

                • Incidentally, Meena Kumari was also brilliant as a comic actress. She had great comic timing and could be really funny. And she has the distinction of acting in one the best feminist movies of the golden era, as far as I’m concerned: Majhli Didi, which does a wonderful job of portraying a strong-willed, feisty woman who is by no means Westernised, unfeminine, or chulbuli – all of which seem to be stereotypical character traits of so-called ‘strong’ female characters in Hindi cinema.

                  • Good to know. I have been deeply haunted by the real life trauma and tragedy of Meena Kumari all through these last 2 months. And I somehow thought, based on somebody’s vague reviews, that Majhli Didi was another melodramatic weepy… This is the movie I shall watch next, ok bye!

                  • Good to know. I have been deeply haunted by the real life trauma and tragedy of Meena Kumari all through these last 2 months. And I somehow thought, based on somebody’s vague reviews, that Majhli Didi was another melodramatic weepy… This is the movie I shall watch next, ok bye!

  9. A nice timely post on the occasion of Teacher’s Day with a perfect selection of songs!!

    A beautiful recent movie on teacher-student relationship that comes into my mind is Taare Zameen Par 2007.

    Here are couple of songs from the movie

    Kholo Kholo darwaze parde karo kinare

    Bum bum bole masti mein dole

  10. Singing teacher, Dilip Kumar giving Munawar Sultana singing lesson in “Babul”.
    Secondly I do not recall any other Hindi song with symmetrical singing. Not sure if symmetrical is the right word, to describe this lovely song.

  11. What a lovely post! Brilliant as usual. BTW, did you notice that in the song, Insaaf ki dagar pe, there is a little Aruna Irani sitting in the front row of kids. She looks so adorable repeating the chorus lines! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the video of the song on YouTube, so I can’t point you to a link, but I’ve seen the song on TV enough times to have identified her and remember it.

    • Hey Rajani!

      This is not the video, but it’s an instrumental with shots from the song. I found Aruna Irani at :40 seconds in the video! What a cute find, thanks for pointing out that!

      • Thank you so much, Rajani! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. And thank you for mentioning Aruna Irani here – I had forgotten about her.

        @ak: Thank you for giving that clip! Aruna Irani does look cute.

  12. What a cute post! My memories of the different schools I went to are generally ho-hum. But I was extremely lucky to have been taught history by one of the most brilliant people at a school that I hated but for the history classes. So much so that I had to study history and then later teach it myself because I wanted to let others know how much fun there is in it :-).

    This is slightly off, but my history teacher always sang this song for every batch. So while it may not fit in with your theme, this song resonates very strongly with me every time I think of being a teacher. While it is important for me to discuss not so pleasant things with my kids, talk about both de-facto and de-jure, explore how historical narratives can be so dangerous, what tools to use to evaluate claims, etc, there were moments when I wished I could do this too,
    ‘chanda ki kiran se dhulkar ghanghor andhera bhaage’
    because they are after all kids. So yes, teach them maths, languages, about society, but oh, if only we could take them towards a world where there is only love, no?

    • “but oh, if only we could take them towards a world where there is only love, no?

      So very, very true. On the rare occasion I sit in on one of my daughter’s online classes (usually it’s my husband who’s around her, not me), I have found a few of the children to harbour some very disturbing notions of the world. For instance, for Independence Day celebrations, while most children did stuff like recite poems about the beauty of India, one child recited a very macabre poem about little children being willing to take bullets for love of the country. :-(

      This idea that violence and bloodshed is necessary to show one’s patriotism is something I cannot fathom. And why would anybody pass on that sort of message to a 6 year old?

      The world is not a place full of love, but we can at least teach our children to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  13. Talking of teaching music, here are couple of more songs:

    Dev Anand teaching Tina Munim to sing in Manpasand 1980
    Sa re ga ma pa ma ga re

    Mehmood disguised as a music teacher supposed to be teaching Shubha Khote in Sanjh aur Savera 1964
    Ajhuna aaye baalma saawan beeta jaye

  14. Suddenly remembered,
    Mausam Ki Sargam Ko Sun from Khamoshi the musical

    I think, may fit.
    And while reading comments, I also wondered if there are songs where someone is teaching a dance.
    I can’t remember any off hand.

    • Thank you for this! Nice song. I was trying to remember, too, if Sur had any songs that might have fit. Lucky Ali, after all, played the teacher at a music school in that, if I remember correctly.

  15. Fun and timely post! The schools in our area started (virtually) this week and even though my son doesn’t get to actually see any of his friends he’s ecstatic that school’s on again. My guess is that he’s happy to have a legitimate excuse for being on his laptop All.Day.Long. :-)

    So many great songs have been posted but I do have a couple more that I like.

    The first is song that we used to sing at the start of the day at my teeny-tiny school in Srinagar when I was a little girl. I’ve retained a fondness for it since.

    Likho padhoge toh aage badhoge – Barood/Chitragupta/Lata-Rafi/Majrooh

    And the second makes me wish Aruna Irani had been around when I took dance lessons!

    One, two cha cha cha – Shalimar/RD Burman/Usha Uthup/Anand Bakshi

    • Glad you liked this post, Shalini!

      I don’t think I’ve heard Likho-padhoge, though the words sound very familiar. Or maybe I’ve heard the song, but just don’t remember it.

      And oh, yes! Thank you for One two cha cha cha. :-) So good.

  16. Two songs depicting Classical Music teaching…

    A beautiful song from Sur Sangam 1985, where Girish Karnad plays the classical music Pandit.
    Jaaoon tore charan kamal par vaari

    Vikram Gokhale teaching Salman Khan in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
    Albela sajan aayo re

  17. A song from Paathshaala 2010, where Shahid Kapur plays a teacher teaching English and music!!
    Aye Khuda mujhko bata tu rehta kahan

    Songs from Hichki 2018 which has Rani Mukherjee playing a teacher suffering from Tourette syndrome
    Khol de par

    Ho na purani teri dastan

    • Thank you for these! You seem to really know a lot of songs from recent years. Have you watched Hichki? I have heard about the film, but have been wondering whether I should watch or not. I do like Rani Mukherji, though…

  18. Madhuji,

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, I like to keep myself updated with all movies and film songs,both old and new.
    Though,of course, majority of the recent hindi film songs neither leave any lasting impact nor have much recall value. Films, these days, don’t create situations for songs. The no. of songs picturized have reduced and most of them play in the background.
    Hichki, overall, is a decent movie, worth one watch. Definitely, if you like Rani Mukherji, as she has put in a brilliant performance as the teacher afflicted with Tourette syndrome.
    On the positive side, the script is well-intentioned, has an interesting story line about a teacher with disability wanting to get acceptance, good performances by the actors playing students, some impactful scenes.
    On the downside, there are some usual filmi clichés ( such as separated parents, rivalry between topper privileged students and students from slums), predictability and sentimentality.
    Also, the film is a bit stretched, could have been shorter and crisper.

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