Post-drenchings: Ten Songs

The monsoon has arrived here, in Delhi and around. We’d had a parched and hellish June, the heat seeming to grow more unbearable—and then, suddenly, one morning we woke to an overcast sky. Grey clouds looming, and soon, rain. Except in my childhood (when I remember going out in the rain to play, with the express purpose of getting thoroughly soaked), I’ve never really liked getting wet in the rain. Come the monsoon, I don’t venture out without an umbrella. In our car, we always have an umbrella or two to spare (our latest acquisition in that department is a golf umbrella, large enough to accommodate two adults). If I should by some chance get caught in the rain—a rare chance, indeed, given the precautions I take—I will bolt for the nearest shelter, even if it consists of six inches of overhang.

The last thing that occurs to me is to sing.

Not so in Hindi cinema, where getting wet (almost always in pouring, roaring thunderstorms that come out of a clear blue sky) is invariably a precursor to bursting into song. For various reasons.

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Ten of my favourite romantic duets

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).

Romantic duets

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Ten of my favourite boat songs

Some of you may know that I’ve recently returned from an exhilarating time at the Bangalore Literature Festival—one of the highlights (at least for a cinema fanatic like me!) of which was that I got to meet Nasreen Munni Kabir. (And was introduced to Farhan Akhtar, and met Sidharth Bhatia, and got to get photographed within the same frame as Gulzar… but that’s a different matter). Nasreen Munni Kabir and I actually shared a cab for the two-hour trip from the airport to the hotel, and spent most of it chatting about all things cinema. I told her about this blog, of course, and happened to mention that among the most popular posts seem to be song lists.

Which reminded me: it’s time for another list. And because this popped into my head while I was travelling, I decided to do another ‘sung in transit’ list. But because I’ve already done car songs (not to mention ghoda-gaadi songs and train songs), I’m going the water way this time: with boat songs. The criteria here (besides my usual ones, of the films being all pre-70s ones that I’ve seen) are:

(a) The singer(s) should be on the boat for at least three-fourths of the song’s duration
(b) All types of boats are allowed—shikaras, rafts, motorboats, ships, anything. Moving or not.

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Ten of my favourite car songs

I don’t often need to take a taxi to get around, but when I do, I always steel myself, because 9 times out of 10, the taxi driver will have music playing—a CD or a radio—and 99% of the time, it’ll be some completely vile stuff with just a monotonous beat, and no melody to speak of.
Last Friday, I had to take a taxi (for a longish ride, moreover—Delhi to Gurgaon and back, nearly 2 hours in the taxi). Sure enough, the radio was turned on. And what a pleasant surprise!—this driver had tuned into a radio channel that seemed to play only old Hindi film songs.

Those two hours were total bliss, and I was reinforced in my belief that good music can make a long and otherwise boring car journey also pleasurable.

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Ten of my favourite ‘Kashmir songs’

Some of you may have noticed my recent hiatus. Some of you may even know the reason for that—a trip to Kashmir (or, to be more specific, Srinagar). I lived in Srinagar for 3 years, beginning with when I was about 9 years old. I loved Srinagar. It was a beautiful place, and the beauty of it changed with the seasons: from the golds and reds of the chinars in autumn to the billowy white of winter (winter also meant teeth-chattering cold and long power cuts and occasionally no water, but never mind). From the masses of narcissi and daffodils, and the flowering fruit trees in spring, to the gardens bursting with poppies, roses and pansies in summer.

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Ten Situations, Two Heroes, Twenty Songs

Caution: Long post!

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.

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Ten of my favourite Shammi Kapoor songs

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).

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Kashmir ki Kali (1964)

This particular Shammi Kapoor film has a very special place in my heart – because Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra was one of the first Hindi film songs I ever learnt to sing. I must’ve been about eight years old. I’d never seen the film; television was yet to make its way into our lives (it was just round the corner, though I didn’t get to see the song till much later). But I used to hear it now and then on radio, and sometimes on an LP my parents owned. I always did wonder who the heroine was, the woman who was praised for the fact that her ‘zulfon ka rang’ was sunehra, and who had jheel si neeli aankhein. Could she have been an Indian actress, I wondered? She sounded firang.

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An Eye Candy Post to Begin Shammi Kapoor Week

Over a year ago, my husband remarked, “You’ve done special weeks on Robert Mitchum and Tyrone Power. You’re also going to be doing one on Johnny Walker. But what about your favourite actor? Don’t you think you should be doing a Shammi Kapoor Week sometime?”

Of course, I said. I just wanted to time it well – in time for Shammiji’s 80th birthday, which would be on October 21st, 2011. That would be quite an occasion, and the right time for me to spend an entire week gushing about my favourite film star.


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Rafi in Ten Moods

The other day, after a long gap of 16 years, I met someone who used to teach me in college. I never knew back then that he was a Mohammad Rafi aficionado; and now, chatting with him about Dusted Off, I got a request: do a Rafi post.
So, as a sort of gurudakshina, here it is: a Rafi post. And since I cannot even begin to think of trying to narrow down my favourite Rafi songs to just ten (or even a hundred), I’m taking the easy way out. Rafi, in ten moods. Ten songs that showcase the breathtaking versatility of this man and his voice. There will always be dozens of other Rafi songs out there that reflect the same emotions behind these songs, but these are my favourites. And, in keeping with the rules I always set for myself, they’re all from the 50’s and 60’s, from films I’ve seen.

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