1919 was a good year for Hindi film music (though, at the time, Hindi cinema—then only six years old, since Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra was released in 1913—did not know it). Because this year saw the birth of several people who went on to define the music of the industry from the 1940s onwards. From singers like Shamshad Begum and Manna Dey, to music directors like Naushad and Sudhir Phadke—and three of Hindi cinema’s finest lyricists: Kaifi Azmi, Rajendra Krishan, and Majrooh Sultanpuri.
… sung to a single person, not an audience.
Let me explain that a bit.
Hindi cinema, especially in the glamorous and colourful world of the 60s, is full of songs inviting love (or lust, or whatever interpretation one might want to put on it). Whether it’s a Helen with bizarre eye makeup singing Aa jaan-e-jaan to a caged lover in a floor show or a floral-shirted Joy Mukherji openly serenading Asha Parekh in a Tokyo party, there’s a good bit of sizzle, lots of “Come on and give us some love”.
I don’t celebrate Holi—ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had a horror of being wet and dirty, and come Holi, I used to insist on locking myself in. I was in good company; though my father was obliged to go and play Holi with his colleagues, Mummy and my sister were as intent on staying clean as I was. Come Holi, we’d happily feast on gujiyas and whatever other goodies came our way, but pichkaris, gulaal, and the rest? No, thank you.
Not so with Hindi cinema, where Holi has been a big thing all along: the perfect situation for displays of affection, camaraderie, general love towards one and all. And I don’t think I have ever seen Holi depicted in a film without there being an accompanying song. That was what I’d first thought I’d do to mark Holi on this blog: a post of Holi songs. Then, looking back at the number of non-Holi songs that are about colours, I thought, Let’s give it a twist. Let’s talk about blue and pink and green and yellow. Let’s talk sky and trees and eyes and whatnot. Neeli aankhein, peeli sarson. Hariyali aur raasta.
Hindi cinema has seesawed wildly when it comes to the depiction of women: on the one hand we’ve had films that glorify womanhood (even if it’s long-suffering, almost-always patient womanhood, as in Mother India); on the other, we’ve had appalling stuff like Suhaagan, which made no bones about telling women exactly where their loyalties lie.
But let’s lay aside the filmi angst and sacrifice for the time being, and celebrate International Women’s Day—with a list of female duets. While bromances have been so very popular with film makers, it seems rather surprising that the number of songs in which two men get together are relatively few. But put two (or, even better, more) women together, and—hey, presto—they burst into song.
Today, April 18th, is World Heritage Day. A day to thank God, our ancestors, civilisation—for the richness that surrounds us. Whether it’s in the form of a unique ecosystem, or a beautiful old building. Or a language, a cuisine, a medicinal system. It’s all heritage, and it’s all precious. All remarkably, frighteningly fragile.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has, as one of its wings, the World Heritage Centre. This is responsible for selecting (based on very strict criteria), preserving and promoting the UNESCO World Heritage Sites: natural and cultural heritage believed to be of ‘outstanding value to humanity’. India has a total of 28 World Heritage Sites, with a further 32 nominated and therefore on the ‘Tentative List’.
So: to celebrate. Ten songs, from Hindi films of the 50s and 60s (the only exception being Johny Mera Naam, 1970), which are picturised, either in part or totally, against a backdrop of a UNESCO World Heritage Site—or at least a tentative one. These are all from films I’ve seen. Enjoy!
As teenagers, my friends and I were unanimous about one thing: there was no beating Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand as the most watchable stars. Not that they were then in their prime; this was in the very late 80s, but as far as my pals and I were concerned, Hindi film heroes stopped being interesting somewhere in the 60s. Both Shammi Kapoor and Dev Anand were all we starry-eyed sahelis could’ve hoped for: utterly handsome, always in films that were generally happy (we conveniently forgot Guide), and always singing the most awesome songs.
We weren’t mature enough then to appreciate that Dev Anand was actually also a good actor, who could switch from melancholy to philosophy, tapori to suave gentleman, in a jiffy.
Memsaab’s excellent review of the Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman starrer Solva Saal reminded me of this film. Also Dev Anand, also a suspense thriller, and also with great music. And, may I add, like Solva Saal, extremely entertaining.
So I rewatched this and enjoyed myself all over again, ogling Dev Anand, humming along with the songs, and wishing there were more films like this.
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.