In November last year, friend, fellow blogger and soul sister Anu came to India on work—and actually came all the way to Delhi to meet me (now if that isn’t flattering, I don’t know what is!) We spent two days chatting, comparing notes on everything from books to our families to recipes; wandering around Chandni Chowk; buying jewellery and sarees and whatnot… and, as a gift, Anu bought me this absolutely lovely dupatta from Mrignayani, the Madhya Pradesh State Crafts Emporium on Baba Kharak Singh Marg.
This post has been in the pipeline for a while. I had been thinking about compiling a list of philosophical songs from classic Hindi cinema, and blog reader Kamini Dey’s request for a post with that theme served to spur me on. I got distracted midway, and decided to do a cynical songs post, but here it is, finally: a list of ten philosophical songs from old Hindi cinema that I especially like.
I know that sounds a little paradoxical—cynicism and something favourite? But that’s what this post is all about: songs that are cynical, but songs, too, that I like. Like a lot, in some cases.
A few weeks back, blog reader Kamini Dey made a request: a post on philosophical songs. I had been planning that anyway, so decided I should speed up my research on that post. And midway through compiling my shortlist of philosophical songs, I realized that several of the songs I’d put under that head were actually songs of cynicism (which, I suppose, is a kind of philosophy, after all: a philosophy of not expecting anything good from the world). I remembered then that another blog reader, Vinay Hegde, had long ago suggested a song list of cynical songs.
So here it is (sorry, Kamini: I get sidetracked easily, and these songs really include some of my absolute favourites). Ten songs that speak of the singer’s cynicism, his or her belief that the world is not a nice place. At times the bitterness boils forth in a fierce and/or despairing rejection of the entire world; at other times, it is cloaked with satire or a sort of bitter humour. Perhaps even smiles. But the cynicism is there, if you only pay attention to the lyrics.
Considering the ‘comic side plot’ used to be such an integral part of old Hindi cinema—and that the presence of a Johnny Walker, a Rajendranath, or a Mehmood almost invariably meant that there would be not just laughs but also a secondary (light-hearted and often outright comic) romance, and at least one song picturized on the comedian in question. Oddly enough, then, there aren’t those many songs that I find outright funny. Even an iconic ‘comic’ song (or what most people seem to refer to as a comic song—Sar jo tera chakraaye)—is actually more philosophical than comic.
So I set out to compile a list of ten songs that are actually funny. Funny because of the lyrics, the rendition, the picturization—whatever (in some stellar instances, all of the above). These may not be songs that make me laugh out loud (I am not a guffawer, anyway), but they are songs that always make me smile rather more widely than usual. As always, these are all from pre-1970s films (except one) that I’ve seen, and they’re in no particular order. Just songs that I find funny. And—I hasten to add—which are intentionally funny.
Sometime back, I was watching Dil Hi Toh Hai, and for the first time, actually paid attention to the scenario and picturization of the classic Laaga chunari mein daag. Raj Kapoor, in disguise, plays a classical singer who prides himself on singing such complex tunes that no accompanying dancer can match him. That sparked off a memory: the situation in Madhuban mein Radhika naache re is similar—it’s a faceoff between a singer (a man) and a dancer (a woman).
And that led to memories of other songs, all with a similar setting: a man singing, a woman dancing. A good enough theme for a post, I thought—especially as I could think of some superb songs that would fit right in. I only had to set down some rules for myself, and these (besides my usual one of including only songs from pre-70s films that I’ve seen) would be that in each of these songs, the man shouldn’t dance, and the woman shouldn’t sing.
Also, the man must be physically present in the picturization of the song (which is why the popular Tu hai mera prem devtaa doesn’t feature in this list, even though I like it).
One would’ve thought a blog dedicated largely to old Hindi cinema would milk Valentine’s Day for all it’s worth; after all, the number of old Hindi films that didn’t feature a romance of some sort, of some duration, can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand. True, the romance may end in tragedy; it may come up against one obstacle or the other; there may be misunderstandings galore—but romance and Hindi cinema did go hand in hand (still do, to a large extent). So a Valentine’s Day-themed post is pretty much de rigueur.
This year, after having dilly-dallied and wondered whether I should try a ‘romantic songs’ list, I decided I should. And, oddly enough, all the romantic songs that kept occurring to me—the ones which immediately popped into my head and kept playing—were of Shammi Kapoor lip-synching to Rafi. Too easy. So I decided to go a different route: ten romantic duets (yes, there’s still a good bit of Shammi Kapoor here, but not completely).
Or, to be rather more lucid, songs that begin with the word ‘Jaa’ (‘go’).
This post sprang out of my post on ‘Aaja’ songs. Fellow blogger and friend Ava suggested that I might want to do a post on ‘Jaajaa’ or ‘Jaao’ songs, and that started me thinking: is jaajaa a word, just the way aaja is? Or is it jaa jaa (repeated for emphasis?), and so the core word is actually only jaa? A little online discussion took place between me, Neeru and Milind, and we came to the conclusion that jaa jaa is probably poetic license, a word repeated in order to fit the beat. Which I tend to agree with.
So, the word here is jaa. And these ten songs all begin with ‘jaa’ (and I’m being strict about this; no variations, like jaaiye or jaao). What or who is being sent away differs, but the crux of the matter remains: go. Go away. All these songs, as always, are from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. And they’re in no particular order.
When Sadhana passed away at Christmas and I finally got down to thinking what tribute I’d post, the first thing that came to my mind was: a list of Sadhana songs. My favourite ten songs. Then, I realized that I had too much other work to get through (besides being none too well), and that a short piece requiring more heart and less research might be more doable. So that was what I did.
Or, to put that better: Hindi film songs that begin with the word “Aaja”.
Let me give the background for this. My daughter, ever since she was a baby, has always had an ear for music. All you had to do was turn on the music (or start singing) and she’d start wiggling her shoulders. When she began walking, the dancing became rather more vigorous—and the first song she totally fell in love with was Aaja aaja main hoon pyaar tera. The very first time she heard it (and she hadn’t even started talking coherently yet), she joined in at the end: “Aaja, aaja!” After that, every time she’d do a little wriggle and say “Aaja, aaja!” we knew she wanted to listen to some dance music.
So, Aaja. Literally, ‘Come!’ Though I’ve always puzzled over why aaja—which combines aa and jaa, and should create a paradox—and not simply aa? Does the imperativeness, the urgency (which is invariably a part of Hindi love songs that use aaja in the lyrics) come through more when the word is aaja and not aa?
This is one topic I’ve been toying with for a long, long time: Hindi film songs that mention jewellery. Given that romantic songs are so common in old Hindi cinema—and that shringaar ras, which includes the ‘adornment of the self’—is so very integral a part of romantic love, it’s no surprise that jewellery finds a mention in so many songs. From a fleeting Pag mein ghoonghar baandhke to an entire song about a lost earring, there are so many ornaments mentioned in Hindi film songs, one could actually create an entire list of jewellery songs without repeating an ornament.
So, why not? A list in which each song mentions—and prominently, in the first two lines of the song—an ornament of some sort. And, to make life somewhat less easy for myself (why am I always doing this?!), no two songs feature the same ornament. In addition, one condition for each song I’ve chosen is that it must literally be about an ornament; allegories, metaphors, and symbols don’t count (which is why you won’t see in this list Mila hai kisi ka jhumka—which refers to a flower as a earring, or Chhoti si mulaaqat pyaar ban gayi pyaar banke gale ka haar ban gayi—which uses an idiom: the gale ka haar, or necklace, meaning something very dear).