Ten of my favourite non-romantic male-female duets

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).

Hariyaala saawan dhol bajaata aaya, from Do Bigha Zameen

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Ten of my favourite philosophical songs

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.

Capture

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Ten of my favourite percussion instrument songs

Continuing with an on-and-off series of song lists featuring—in the picturisation—various types of musical instruments. This began with my post on women pianists, followed much later by a post on male pianists, and then a post on songs that featured string instruments. It’s time, I decided, to try and compile a list of good songs that feature another important category of musical instruments: percussion instruments.

Drum on!

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Noor – Mrs. Johnny Walker

We’ve mourned the passing of a favourite star, but now—in the yin and yang way of zindagi and maut that Anand would possibly have appreciated—it’s time to celebrate a birthday. Today, July 21st, is the 77th birthday of a very lovely lady who began a career in cinema, appeared in some landmark films, and then bagged her biggest offscreen role: as the wife of possibly India’s best-loved comedian ever. This is Noor, the beautiful Mrs Johnny Walker.

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Ladri di Biciclette (1948)

The first time I heard about this film, it was in connection with the Hindi film Do Bigha Zameen (1953), the story of a poor family that tries desperately to cling on to the one thing that stands between it and utter destitution—a tiny plot of land. I’d heard that Do Bigha Zameen was based on Vittorio De Sica’s Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thieves).
Having finally seen this, I have to admit I find little similarity between the two films. True, as in Do Bigha Zameen, here too only one thing can save the family from starvation: in this case, a bicycle. And here too, it’s the father and his young son who set out together in a desperate attempt to save themselves. Other than that, the tone, the story and the general mood of the two films is very different. And much as I admire Bimal Roy, I have to admit: De Sica wins. Ladri di Biciclette is much more powerful and haunting than the relatively melodramatic Do Bigha Zameen.

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Ten of my favourite monsoon songs

I’m sitting near an open window, breathing in what we always knew as the saundhi khushboo of wet earth (I’ve since discovered the correct English term is petrichor). Outside the window is a balcony, crowded with plants that are suddenly no longer limp and weary with the heat. Beyond the balcony is a field dotted with cows and cattle egrets. Pools of water shimmer silver in the field. The grass and the trees around the edges are bright green against the brooding grey of the clouds beyond. The monsoon is here. Finally, thankfully, here.

Looking out from my balcony...

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Do Bigha Zameen (1953)

Bimal Roy, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Guru Dutt, Asit Sen: some of my favourite directors, and all men with a string of poignant, meaningful films to their credit. Not always very happy films, but films that step away from the usual masala of Hindi cinema. Films that, like the classic Do Bigha Zameen, are not about bewigged, gadget-toting gundas and their better-than-good (not to forget immensely strong) nemeses, but about common people with common problems.

Do Bigha Zameen

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