Ten of my favourite Khwaab/Sapna songs

Some months back, I was listening to a music programme on the radio, and heard a song I hadn’t heard for ages: the title song from Dreamgirl. Once upon a time, a six- or seven-year old me used to love Kisi shaayar ki ghazal, not just because it sounded good, but because to me, Hema Malini, in all those frilly, frothy dresses was just—oh, gorgeous. This time, I heard the song with a warm sense of nostalgia; and it struck me that dreams have been, for a long time now, an important part of Hindi cinema. And of Hindi film songs.

For one, there are several songs which are set completely in people’s dreams. The heroine (or the hero) goes to sleep and dreams of singing a song along with the beloved. Then, there are songs which fit the very specific cinematic style known as the dream sequence: a dream which does not require anybody to be really asleep (though some of the best dream sequences in cinema history do involve people who are asleep). In a dream world, there can be little semblance to reality: special effects, grand backdrops, feats that people would not achieve in real life—all come to the fore, and are celebrated, in dream sequences. Look at Ghar aaya mera pardesi, for instance.

And then, there are the literal ‘dream songs’, songs which talk about dreams. Dreams in which the beloved features, dreams about a rosy future alongside the love of one’s life. (It’s interesting that dreams, in the context of Hindi film lyrics, almost always seem to refer to happy dreams, never nightmares. Those dreams may be shattered, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t wonderful to start with).

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Ten of my favourite Hemant songs

My maternal grandfather used to work in the Gramophone Company of India. Mummy grew up in a house full of LPs, and a lot of those—including dozens of albums from Hindi films of the 50’s and 60’s—ended up in our house. I grew up listening to music; but for a long time, I couldn’t tell one singer from another. The first singer whose voice I learnt to identify (I must have been about 11 or 12 at the time, I think) was Hemant.
Hemant Kumar Mukherjee was born on June 16, 1920, and went on to become one of Hindi cinema’s great music directors—and a singer with a very distinctive voice, rich and deep and sonorous.

So, as a birthday anniversary tribute: my ten favourite Hemant songs. These are all from the 50’s and 60’s, from films that I’ve seen, and in no particular order. Frankly, each song is a masterpiece in itself.

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House No. 44 (1955)

If I have one major failing when it comes to selecting films to watch, it is the stubborn (naive?) belief that any film which has good songs and a good cast must also necessarily be good. This has been proven to be a completely baseless criterion for film selection, but I plod on optimistically, buying and renting films that have superb music but fall absolutely flat on other fronts: House No. 44, for example, a Dev Anand starrer that tries to be noir but doesn’t quite make it.

Dev Anand in House No. 44

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