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.
It was breathtakingly lovely, and when my family moved to Delhi in 1985, I was heartbroken. I’ve wanted to go back to Kashmir for the past 27 years, and this year, we finally did it. So, to celebrate: a list of 10 ‘Kashmir’ songs from pre-70s Hindi films that I’ve watched. And, yes: no two songs are from the same film—otherwise, I’d probably end up listing the songs of only about four films.
(Note: All are songs that are actually, visibly set in Kashmir. This is why Humdum mere maan bhi jaao—set in Kashmir but filmed indoors, which could well have been done in a Bombay studio—does not count. Neither does Hum jab simatke aapki baahon mein aa gaye, which is obviously filmed in Kashmir but has no reference to Kashmir in the film itself.
In essence, these are songs which show Kashmir—especially Srinagar—in all its glory. Enjoy! And do tell us which ‘Kashmir songs’ you particularly like.
1. Hum chalein door (Ek Thi Ladki, 1949): Shikaras—the long-prowed, sleek boats that are so common on Srinagar’s lakes and canals—make an appearance as far back as 1949, in a film where the lead man was supposed to be a Kashmiri (though Motilal himself was from Himachal). The lilt of this song is nicely folksy Kashmiri in places, and the chorus of the boatmen is especially infectious.
In all my time in Srinagar, though, I’ve never seen more than two people plying a shikara—usually it’s only one, or sometimes two people. No more. There was, for instance, this flower-seller who came by on his shikara to our houseboat. See? Just one man.
2. Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964): One of those quintessential Shammi Kapoor-in-Kashmir films. Kashmir ki Kali had superb songs, and picturised well too, against a backdrop of a breathtakingly lovely Kashmir, flowers, poplars, and shimmering waters. This one—on a lake (Dal? Nageen? I can’t tell) is one of my favourites. What beats me is how Shammi Kapoor manages to keep his balance for so long.
3. Mere yaar shabba khair (Junglee, 1961): While talking about Shammi Kapoor and Kashmir, how can one possibly overlook Junglee? Nearly half of this film was set in Kashmir, and it was Kashmir at its prettiest—with songs set in the snow, the mountains, or in the Mughal Gardens at Srinagar. This one, romantic rather than boisterous, is a special favourite of mine.
I haven’t been able to figure out where Mere yaar shabba khair has been filmed, but it does remind me a bit of the more outlying parts of the Shalimar Bagh, laid out by Jahangir in AD 1619. Here’s a glimpse of what Shalimar looks like today:
4. Tumse achha kaun hai (Jaanwar, 1965): The Kashmir to which Shammi Kapoor’s character travels in Jaanwar is an autumnal one (though you’d never guess it from the sleeveless salwar-kurtas Rajshree wears in it!) In this song, for once, the hero is as skimpily clad as the heroine—Shammi Kapoor has to make do with a thin blanket that leaves his arms and calves pretty much bare.
As far as I’m concerned, the combination of Shammi Kapoor, Rafi, and the glorious golden-brown chinar leaves make this song an utter delight.
The chinar leaves don’t turn those wonderful shades of red and brown till mid-October, so we didn’t get to see them looking that way now. In May, this was how we saw the chinar leaves (and don’t they look lovely in early summer, too?)
5. Laakhon hain nigaah mein (Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963): Joy Mukherji, for a change—and in a song that could well be considered one of those ‘what to do and what to see in Srinagar’ travel brochures.
Here, he begins in a flower-filled Mughal garden (which looks rather like the Nishat Bagh), before he goes on a shikara, and then back to the gardens again—this time, more filled with balloons than with flowers.
If it is Nishat Joy is cavorting around in, you might want to see what it looks like today. No water in the channels (a restoration project is in progress), but the terraces, the flowers and the steps alongside the channel are all there.
6. Humko tumhaare ishq ne kya-kya (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, 1962): Besides the fact that Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (like Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon) also starred Joy Mukherji, one particular song from this film had a link to Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon: this song contained the words “phir wohi dil laaya hoon” (“I have once again brought my heart”, literally).
While Ek Musafir Ek Haseena was chockfull of fabulous songs (and songs like Mujhe dekhkar aapka muskuraana is a good showcase for Kashmir too), I’m choosing this one—because it’s one of the few songs that actually shows the less touristy angle of Kashmir. All through the song, our heartbroken hero, searching for his beloved, wanders on a shikara through the canals of Srinagar, singing as he goes.
7. Pukaarta chala hoon main (Mere Sanam, 1965): This was another of those ‘Kashmir in all its glory’ films. Mere Sanam had lots of good songs, though some (Yeh hai reshmi zulfon ka andhera, Humdum mere maan bhi jaao, and Tukde hain mere dil ke) were filmed indoors. Of the outdoor songs, Pukaarta chala hoon main is my favourite: fabulous music, and Rafi at his best.
True, the girls on their cycles waver around a bit, but the road itself—arrow straight between its rows of Kashmir poplars (which are distinctively slender and tapering)—is picture perfect.
8. Ae nargis-e-mastaana (Aarzoo, 1965): No sign of any nargis (narcissi) in this song, but the gorgeous Sadhana is substitute enough. Everything’s pleasant and pretty (with some possible exceptions…). Sadhana, her cute little pony, and even the landscape (somewhere outside Srinagar—one of the many places that are popular day trips from the capital, such as Pahalgam, Gulmarg, or Yusmarg).
9. Pardesiyon se na akhiyaan milaana (Jab Jab Phool Khile, 1965): In this film, Shashi Kapoor plays a Kashmiri, a young man who owns a houseboat and falls in love with a fashionable foreign-returned city girl. My favourite song from the film (Yahan main ajnabi hoon) isn’t set in Kashmir, but this one’s passable enough for me—mainly because it shows the serene willow-poplar-and water lily canals of Srinagar. You also see some of the old stone and wood bridges that crisscross the canals.
10. Phir bhi hai dil beqaraar (Kalpana, 1960): This film boasted of—in rapid succession—two songs picturised on Padmini singing about beqaraari (restlessness). The other one was O ji sawaan mein hoon beqaraar. But for me, this song wins, because it shows off Nishat Bagh at its prettiest, with gurgling fountains, the rippling water channel, chinars and cypresses, and loads of flowers.
If you haven’t seen Kashmir yet, you should definitely give it a try. It’s just as pretty as it appears in the films. Even prettier, if you care to look closely.