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.
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).
When I posted my list of ‘background songs’ (songs that form part of the film, but to which nobody lip-synchs), I made one stipulation: that they wouldn’t include ‘credits songs’, or songs that play while the credits roll. Not all of these, as you’ll see from my list below, are necessarily ‘background songs’ as well: some of them are ‘sung’ by people onscreen. And they run the gamut from songs that introduce the film’s ethos or primary theme, to—well, just another song to add to a list of songs the film already boasts of. And they are all sorts, from romantic to philosophical to patriotic.
…and a day or two in Beirut (plus an afternoon in the Lebanese countryside, masquerading as provincial France). A couple of days in Switzerland, and a grey afternoon at the Niagara Falls. Lots of Paris, of course, from the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysées, to the bateau mouche and pretty little cafés.
And Sharmila Tagore. And Shammi Kapoor. And pretty mad masala.
What with reading about Amar Akbar Anthony (and thinking over the lost-and-found trope), I ended up thinking, too, about An Evening in Paris, which is a good enough example of the genre. In this one, Sharmila Tagore is the one who plays the character(s) who’re lost: twin sisters, separated as children, thanks to a villain. They grow up unaware of each other’s existence, and in classic Hindi film style—ranging from Anhonee to Sharmeelee—with one sister good and the other bad, or at least not-so-good.
I’d been thinking, for the past few months, of doing a post on songs that a person uses to introduce himself or herself in Hindi cinema. Not the “Awaara hoon” or “Main rangeela pyaar ka raahi” type, which actually use a set of adjectives to describe the singer, but an actual introduction: this is my name, this is where I live, stuff like that. I can think of a number of songs along those lines, and it seemed like a good idea to do a list.
When I watched Love in Bombay last weekend (and saw Kishore Kumar belting out Maazaa naav ahe Ganpat Rao), I was reminded of that long-pending list. So here it is: ten of my favourite songs, mostly from pre-70s films, where the singer introduces himself/herself by name. These are, as I usually stipulate for my lists, from films I’ve seen. Not all of them are necessarily good songs, music-wise, but they invariably have something or the other—lyrics, picturisation, situation, whatever—which sets them apart for me.
It’s been a while now, but last year this blog hosted a Classic Bollywood Quiz. The prize for the runner-up was the chance to dictate a post: a theme for a list, for example.
Our runner-up, Anu Warrier, like me, likes both Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand a lot. So, when we were discussing how both Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor had acted in some similar films, Anu submitted her request for her prize post. Ten similar situations in which these two heroes find themselves in their films, and one song, respectively, that they sing in that situation. Easy? No, it wasn’t, as you can see from the fact that it’s taken me a long time to compile this list. But fun? Oh, yes!
So, Anu: here you go. Two of our favourite leading men in ten similar situations, and twenty songs that arise out of those situations. Enjoy! All of these are from 50s and 60s films that I’ve seen. And, no two songs from the same film.
My sister keeps a stack of CDs in her car. Often, when she gives me a lift, she puts a CD into the stereo and we listen as she drives along. The CDs are a mixed lot: Harry Belafonte, Simon and Garfunkel, 3 Idiots, Wake up, Sid!, The Best of S D Burman… and The Best of Shammi Kapoor. The others are in reasonably good condition; the Shammi Kapoor CD is battered and scratched and sadly in need of replacement.
I can understand why.
Shammi Kapoor is, for me (and I think I can speak for my sister too), one actor on whom some of the most fabulous songs in classic Hindi cinema were filmed. Funny songs, sad songs, romantic songs, madcap songs, rock-and-roll songs: he did them all, and memorably. And – somewhat unusually for an actor – he took a great interest in the music of his films. (There is an oft-repeated story of how Shammi Kapoor was so biased in favour of Shankar-Jaikishan’s music that he at first refused to let R D Burman compose the music for Teesri Manzil. But RDB, by insisting on playing a couple of the tunes he’d already composed, won Shammi over).
Or rather, I was back in India a couple of days ago, but I’ve only now managed (somewhat) to get over the jet lag, clean up home a bit, and find time to see what’s happening in cyberspace. Travelling is so tiring and trying.
Having said which, I’ll have to admit I love travelling. Give me a new place to explore—preferably with lots of old buildings, museums or pretty sceneries—and I’m very happy. Though I suppose I have to confess: Switzerland didn’t quite measure up to all I’d expected of it. There was, for one, no Shammi Kapoor begging me not to go off on my own…
There was a snippet in the newspaper the other day about a Britisher who was fined by the police for laughing while driving. He’d been using a handsfree on his mobile to chat with a friend, but it wasn’t, apparently, the mobile that irked the police; it was the laughing.
That got me thinking: what would they make of characters in Hindi cinema who sing, play musical instruments, and sometimes even dance, while driving? That thought, of course, led to this post: ten of my favourite 50’s and 60’s songs, picturised on modes of transport. They’re all from films I’ve seen, and haven’t been included in any of my earlier posts (or, as one of my readers pointed out, not in one of my earlier Ten of my favourite… lists). Just to make it a little more interesting, no two songs are filmed on the same type of vehicle—and a song qualifies only if (a) the singer is on the vehicle (people sung to could be elsewhere) and (b) the singer stays on the vehicle through at least 80% of the song. And yes, a song figures on this list only if it’s good to look at and listen to.