No, this song list isn’t the result of a dear relative landing up in jail or anything of the sort. It just popped into my head one day when I was looking up a song on Youtube and saw Lapak-jhapak in the side panel. It occurred to me: Hindi cinema has its fair share of people who are in prison, at times in really dire straits (not the case with Lapak-jhapak, where David’s character is really quite comfortable), but still being able to summon up the energy to sing. As a character writes in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Why do tired people sing?… Too tired to do anything else. Maybe that’s the case with film characters in prison: lots of time on their hands and too depressed to do anything else.
Happy 70th birthday, Mumtaz!
I have gone through phases when I’ve been very fond of a certain actor, only to later start disliking them. Or vice-versa. Dev Anand, for a while, I could watch in anything (until I discovered his post-Johny Mera Naam films, and began disliking him even in some of his earlier films). Mehmood I was fond of as a child; now, it’s only the rare film where I like him. Balraj Sahni I found boring when I was a kid: for many years now, he’s been an actor I admire immensely.
Mumtaz (born in Bombay, on July 31, 1947) is one of the exceptions. I have adored Mumu ever since I can remember. From that gorgeous smile to that cute little button nose, to those dancing eyes: I have never not loved Mumtaz. Initially, I remember loving her just for the fact that she was so very pretty and vivacious; later, when I saw films like Khilona, I realized just how good an actress she is, too.
Not too long back, I went on a trip to Kasauli, in Himachal Pradesh. It was a brief, pleasant little jaunt, and on the way back, I suggested that we stop—since it was on the way, in any case—at Pinjore Gardens. Later, back home and settled in, I posted some photos and wrote about the Pinjore Gardens on Facebook, and the post prompted fellow blogger Ava to remind me that several songs had actually been shot in the Pinjore Gardens.
That led me to think: it’s not just the Pinjore Gardens, but several other well-known gardens, that have been the settings for various songs. Some gardens—the ones in Kashmir, notably—are almost instantly recognizable, thanks to those distinct mountains and the towering chinar trees. Others are a little less obvious, but they are, too, quite obviously not just a set, not just a well-aimed, well-timed shot of flowerbeds in spring.
Here, then, are ten songs that have been picturized in well-known gardens. To make the challenge less of a sitter for myself, I added one rule: no two songs should be shot in the same garden. As always, these are all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and are listed in no particular order.
Some context, first, for this post.
I had recently been on a hiatus for a while because I shifted home. I’ve lived in Delhi for 32 years now, and for various reasons, my husband and I realized it would make more sense to move to Noida.
Shifting house is something I simply hate doing. I should’ve gotten used to it over the years: my father, after all, was in the IPS, and frequent transfers (once every year, when times were good) meant that we moved around a lot. Even after I grew up and got married, we’ve had to shift several times: because a relative offered us their flat at a nominal rent; because—one year down the line—they decided they wanted to sell it; because a landlady wanted to renovate a house; and so on. I have some idea of what to expect now when we hire packers and movers.
But there are always glitches, always another bunch of thoroughly unprofessional professionals. This time was no different. On top of that, I fell ill—first with a viral infection, and then with an infection of the eyes. Till a few days back, I was going around with two red eyes, a hacking cough, and a runny nose (I looked like something out of a Ramsay Brothers flick).
The silver lining, though, is that this made me think of just how important homes are to us. Not mere buildings, but places that we call our own. Places that shelter not just ourselves and our families, but which represent, too, our aspirations, our emotions, ourselves. Hindi cinema has done ample justice to the concept of ‘home’ and ‘house’, from songs like Ek bangla bane nyaara to films like Dastak, Biwi aur Makaan, Hamaara Ghar, Gharaunda and Tere Ghar ke Saamne.
Sometime back, blog reader Anup remarked that some songs had a major singer not really doing much singing. Duets, he pointed out, where one singer does almost all the singing, while the other one just does a supportive ‘la-la-la-la’, or something along those lines. Anup suggested I compile a song list of duets like that. Of what I call ‘technically duets’: not songs in which both singers play an equal part in making the song what it is, but in which the ratio is somewhat skewed.
Then, only about a week after Anup made this suggestion, yet another blog reader, Bhagwan Thavrani, sent me an e-mail with pretty much the same suggestion. He was rather more precise: songs in which one singer only hummed, while the other did the singing.
Two readers, both requesting songs of the same basic type? I decided I had to take up the challenge. Especially as, offhand, I couldn’t think of many songs that would fit the bill. This would require a good deal of research, and a lot of listening to songs. I decided, however, to make this a little more wide-ranging: not necessarily one singer humming, but definitely one singer dominating the song.
I don’t celebrate Holi—ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a horror of being wet and dirty, and come Holi, I used to insist on locking myself in. I was in good company; though my father was obliged to go and play Holi with his colleagues, Mummy and my sister were as intent on staying clean as I was. Come Holi, we’d happily feast on gujiyas and whatever other goodies came our way, but pichkaris, gulaal, and the rest? No, thank you.
Not so with Hindi cinema, where Holi has been a big thing all along: the perfect situation for displays of affection, camaraderie, general love towards one and all. And I don’t think I have ever seen Holi depicted in a film without there being an accompanying song. That was what I’d first thought I’d do to mark Holi on this blog: a post of Holi songs. Then, looking back at the number of non-Holi songs that are about colours, I thought, Let’s give it a twist. Let’s talk about blue and pink and green and yellow. Let’s talk sky and trees and eyes and whatnot. Neeli aankhein, peeli sarson. Hariyali aur raasta.
Just a few weeks back, Anu published a delightful blog post which listed ten songs on the theme of ‘Kaun Aaya’: who is this who comes? A lover, a hope, the much-anticipated partner of one’s life. I commented on that post, liked it, liked the songs, moved on. And then, one day, happening to revisit Anu’s blog, I came across that post again, and it struck me: what about the answer to ‘Kaun aaya?’
Because there are many songs that could well be answers to the question. A name spelled out, or a description provided. The love of one’s life, or the bane of one’s existence. One person may ask, “Kaun aaya?”, and another may well have the answer to that.
Whew. That’s a long title for a song list.
But at least it covers the basics for what this list is all about.
I listen to a lot of old Hindi film music. Even when I’m not listening to one old song or another, one of them is running through my head. And the other day, remembering some old song, I realized just how uncommon it is to find a good song that’s a duet (male and female) that doesn’t have some shade of romance to it. When the song’s a solo, there seems to be no problem doing themes other than romance: the singer could philosophize, could sing of life or past childhood, of—well, just about everything. When the song’s a duet between two females or two males, it could run the gamut from friendship to rivalry on the dance floor, to devotion to a deity, to a general celebration of life.
But bring a man and a woman together, and it seems as if everything begins and ends at romantic love. They may be playful about denying their love; they may bemoan the faithlessness of a lover; they may try to wheedle and cajole a huffy beloved—but some element of romantic love always seems to creep in. Even when there’s no semblance of a romantic relationship between the two characters in question (for instance, in a performance on stage, or—in my favourite example of a very deceptive song, Manzil wohi hai pyaar ki)—they end up singing of romantic love.
So I set myself a challenge: to find ten good songs which are male-female duets, and which do not mention romantic love in any form, not even as part of a bhajan (the Radha-Krishna trope is one that comes to mind). Furthermore, I added one more rule for myself: that the actors should both be adults (because there are far too many songs which have a female playback singer singing for a child onscreen).
My blog posts come about in odd ways. Some are suggestions or recommendations from blog readers, or from friends. Some strike me as I go through life. Some are serendipitous—a video appearing on the sidebar in Youtube while I’m watching something else. And some are like this: an idea which strikes two people at almost the same time. Anu and I don’t always see eye to eye (pun intended), but more often than not, we look at things in exactly the same way.
Therefore, it came as no surprise that Anu’s ‘zulfein’ songs post gave me the idea for an ‘aankhen’ songs post (and, even less surprising, that Anu had already thought of an ‘aankhen’ songs post too). Or that, as I was publishing my post, I thought, “I should do a post on either nigaah or nazar next.” Or, that Anu should send me an e-mail later the same day, in which she wrote: “Perhaps I should do ‘Nigahein’ as a complementary post.”
Anyway, to cut a long story short: Anu and I decided we’d do twin (but not quite; look-alike, as in Hum Dono or Mujrim, might be a more appropriate description) posts. And then Anu suggested we ask our third soul sister, Bollyviewer, if she’d like to join the party as well: with a post about nayan/naina songs. Bollyviewer, good sport that she is, agreed. So here we are, with a trio of song lists. Head over to Anu’s blog to read her post on nigaahein songs, to Bollyviewer’s for her post on nayan/naina songs—and read on for my list of ‘nazar’ songs.
Not nayan, not naina, not chakshu or any other Hindustani/Hindi/Sanskrit word for eyes, but aankhen.
This post, though the immediate spur for it was Anu’s delightful list of zulfein songs, has been in the pipeline for the past several years, since a fellow writer first asked her friends (of whom I’m one) on Facebook for all the songs we could think of that were about eyes. I came up with so many that it occurred to me then that I could do a post about them. That idea stayed on the backburner for a while, but when Anu’s zulfein songs post appeared, I thought, “I have to do that one on aankhen.”
Because, just as hair are praised, so are eyes. And unlike hair—inanimate, more often than not, and compared perhaps only to the dark velvet of the night, or the spreading black of a storm cloud—eyes have a life of their own. They convey infinitely more than hair ever can, from love to fear to hatred: they cannot disguise the soul, the emotions.