It’s often struck me that there are a number of Hindi film songs that could well be interpreted to refer to medical problems. The omnipresent theme of romantic love in itself has enough substance for everything from insomnia to palpitations of the heart, giddiness, and whatnot. Bung in heartbreak (hah! Another medical problem?), and you can also tag on mental illness, in the form of depression. Of course, romance isn’t the only reason for problems concerning one’s health: betrayal, fear, family troubles—everything can be cause for singing about ailments concerning one’s heart, one’s liver, and sundry other body parts.
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).
The other day, I was thinking about some of those songs that end up featuring on every other list I make. Songs that are perennial favourites of mine, because they are those rare combinations of brilliant music and equally brilliant lyrics, singing, picturisation—everything. Songs like Aage bhi jaane na tu, Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye toh kya hai, and Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh.
Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh made a thought pop into my mind: that a fair number of Hindi songs are an invitation to be hugged. That might seem fairly innocuous, but in the good old days of nodding flowers and birds putting their beaks together onscreen, an embrace was a daring enough statement: it meant you did love someone; you weren’t being frivolous. No heroine (or hero, even) worth their salt actually hugged anybody—in a romantic way—other than the love of their life. So telling someone to come on and give you a hug meant you were serious (even if the way it was said—as it is in some of the songs in this list—in a light-hearted way).
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).
Of the three Kapoor brothers—Raj, Shammi and Shashi—Shashi Kapoor is the one who falls in the middle when it comes to my personal preferences. Raj Kapoor I tend to not like (except in the occasional film now and then, like Chori-Chori or Teesri Kasam). Shammi Kapoor I am nuts about and will gladly watch in just about any film from his heyday. And Shashi Kapoor—well, he did act in some films I don’t like at all (Bombay Talkie, Benazir, Satyam Shivam Sundaram, Aa Gale Lag Jaa, Raja Sahib…), but he also acted in some of my favourite films. In Prem Patra, for instance. And Waqt. And Pyaar Kiye Jaa. And my guilty pleasure, Sharmeelee.
He was wonderfully handsome in a boyish sort of way, he was a versatile actor (compare, for instance, his hot-headed young Hindu radical of Dharmputra with the madcap of Pyaar Kiye Jaa), he was extremely watchable. (And, to his credit—or his wife, Jennifer Kendall’s?—remained relatively well-preserved until quite late. Of the three brothers, Shashi had the longest innings as a believable leading man, all the way from the start of the 60s to the early 80s).
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.
I have never—in all the years this blog has been in existence—compiled a list of my favourite Madan Mohan songs. An oversight, and one for which I have no explanation to offer: just reparation.
Born Madan Mohan Kohli in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) on June 25, 1924, the young Madan Mohan returned with his family to their home town of Chakwal (in Punjab) when he was 8 years old. His parents went on to Bombay, where his father, Rai Bahadur Chunilal, entered the cinema industry: as a partner at Bombay Talkies Studio, and then at Filmistan Studio. Madan Mohan too moved to Bombay, where he finished school and eventually joined the army—only to finally leave soldiering to become a music director. The first film for which he provided the score, at the age of 26, was Aankhen (1950).