Continuing with my plan to link every post to the previous one… well, what next? (Harvey: you were close when it came to guessing!)
My last post, North-West Frontier, was set mostly in a train – and that too a train in the Indian subcontinent. So it seemed appropriate to do a list of my favourite songs set in what seems to have been one of Hindi cinema’s much-loved settings. From this lovely old song by Pankaj Mullick (thank you, AK, for introducing me to that), to newer songs – from Teri hai zameen teri aasmaan, to the much later Chhaiya chhaiya.
But: I’m restricting myself to pre-70s songs, and those too from films I’ve seen. What’s more, these are songs where the person on whom the song is picturised is on the train throughout the song. That’s why, no Mere sapnon ki raani kab aayegi tu (for me, that’s a jeep song; I’ll do it in another post) and no Jab pyaar kisi se hota hai.
Here we go:
1. Hai apna dil toh awara (Solvaan Saal, 1958): One of my favourite songs – and one of the few that’s picturised on a ‘local’ train, not a long distance one. I love everything about this song: Dev Anand as the footloose and fancy-free journalist who smells a rat when he sees a couple eloping; Sunder as his harmonica-playing sidekick (the harmonica was supposedly actually played by an 11-year old R D Burman), Waheeda Rehman – and the extras, the ones playing cards, plus the ones who look as if they’re ready to get up and join Dev Anand in his antics. Hemant’s singing. S D Burman’s music. The Bombay skyline at night. Everything is perfect.
2. Apni toh har aah ek toofaan hai (Kala Bazaar, 1960): Dev Anand again – and Waheeda Rehman again. This time, though, she’s more adequately chaperoned, by parents who can’t quite figure out whether the handsome young man sharing their compartment is referring to their lovely daughter in the berth above, or to the Almighty. He could mean anyone.
Fabulous lyrics (by Shailendra), S D Burman’s beautifully melodious music, and a delightfully tongue-in-cheek picturisation.
3. Dekhoji ek baala jogi (China Town, 1962): Another hero-woos-girlfriend-while-hoodwinking-parent song. This time, it’s Shammi Kapoor. And because S N Bannerjee – who plays the father of the girl knows and disapproves of his daughter’s choice, our hero has to resort to subterfuge. Disguised as a sadhu, complete with beard and moustache, robes and iktaara, he gets into the same compartment as them and uses the same trick as Dev Anand did in Kala Bazaar: pretending religious fervor where it’s actually all romantic fervor. This one’s a much peppier song than the previous one (well, what would one expect, with Shammi Kapoor onscreen?!).
4. Rukh se zara naqaab utha do (Mere Huzoor, 1968): Trains seem to be a favoured place to sing love songs, don’t they? Here, it’s an overlipsticked Jeetendra begging Mala Sinha to lift her veil – only to have her finally fling down the veil in disgust. He pretends throughout that it’s their fellow passenger – played by Majnun – whom he’s addressing, but it’s clear to all concerned whom he means. Lovely song, wonderfully sung by Rafi, and with Mala Sinha looking very pretty (though my sister, a teenager when she first saw this song, said “Mala Sinha looks like an indignant powder puff!”)
5. Dil thhaam chale hum aaj kidhar (Love in Simla, 1960): Obviously, one needn’t be in the presence of a pretty girl in order to carry on an aboard-train courtship. In this delightful song, Joy Mukherji manages pretty well, in sheer anticipation of meeting his girl. What I love about this song is the fact that it’s very real. As anybody who’s travelled in the Indian Railways knows, our trains lurch about like nobody’s business. You cannot stand still, or dance about, like most train songs would have one believe. And the choreography in Dil thhaam chale hum aaj kidhar (if you can call it choreography) is great: Joy Mukherji staggers around the coach, now falling here, now bumping his head there, now dancing with his pillow… and oh, the atmosphere is so charming: the train chugging up to Simla, the train’s whistle and the sound of its wheels as part of the music. Fantastic.
6. Badal jaaye agar maali (Bahaarein Phir Bhi Aayengi, 1966): For a change, not a love song, but a philosophical one, about how – even if the gardener changes – spring will always come and the flowers will always bloom. The picturisation does seem a little too goody-goody at times: wiping a burdened labourer’s brow and telling him not to feel tired isn’t my idea of being encouraging – but Dharmendra is good eye candy at any time.
7. Cheel-cheel chillaake kajri sunaaye (Half Ticket, 1962): Another offbeat train song. This one isn’t a love song or a philosophical song; it’s just a nonsense song (though, if you listen carefully, there’s a sarcastic philosophy to this one too). Kishore Kumar – as singer and actor – is at his lunatic best here, leading a group of passengers on a mad dance through the coach. The children clap merrily, while the adults either join in his antics or (and Pran excels here) glare balefully at him. Not a film I particularly like, but this song is fun.
8. Auraton ke dabbe mein mard aa gaya (Mud-mud Ke Na Dekh, 1960): A sort of ‘battle of the sexes’ song, except that the opposing sides are very unevenly matched. Bharat Bhushan – an unlikely comic hero – strays into the women’s compartment, and finds himself being tormented by a band of women led by the feisty Anita Guha. They don’t just stop at telling him what his fault is (that he isn’t a naari – a woman; and that he isn’t wearing a jumper or a saari!) – they even go so far as to grab him and hurl him onto a platform where the train stops.
9. Humko samajh na lijiye (Kalpana, 1960): I didn’t know about this song until Richard posted it on his list of favourite Ragini songs. Since then, I’ve watched the film, liked the songs, and liked Ragini’s extremely competent dancing in a moving train. Even though she’s on her own (unlike Anita Guha & Co., above), this lady holds her own against a man with whom she gets into a somewhat pointless quarrel. She doesn’t actually succeed in intimidating him – all she manages is to impress him a lot with her dancing!
10. Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat (Nastik, 1954): I’d initially thought I’d list songs only in which the singer’s sitting in the train. This one doesn’t quite fit the bill – the song is played in the background – but it’s a memorable song, sometimes distressingly touching, sometimes laughable (that “naach raha nar hokar nangaa” [“man dances in the nude”, literally]) always cracks me up.
Incidentally, Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat was sung by its lyricist, Kavi Pradeep – the man who also wrote and sang the infectiously peppy train song Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaayein jhaanki Hindustan ki. I love that song; it would certainly have been on this list if I’d seen Jaagriti.
Do you have any favourite train songs?