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5 April 2016

My Favourites: Songs of Spring

Bahaar. Basant. Vasant. Spring. The loveliest of all seasons, according to some. For us in the cold climes of the North East, it usually heralds the end of a bitterly cold winter, though Spring seems to be coming later and later every year. But this year, we got lucky. Or as one acquaintance in the dog park remarked, 'We earned it!' That celebratory mood lasted until the official first day of Spring dropped 6 inches of snow on us. (Others got more.)

Then, two weeks later, after seeing temperatures soar to a balmy 600F,  when I was thinking of Spring plantings, we got another 6 inches of snow. The rest of this week is going to be as cold as an iceberg. The earth will warm up, however, and what snow we have will soon be gone. (Not before turning the ground into muddy slush.) The days are longer now, the sun is out more often, so it's brighter, and not quite as depressing as winter can be.

The colour palette is also changing the blues and greys of Winter will soon change into the pale greens and muted pastels of Spring.   

I'm looking forward to the trees putting out new leaves. That tender green is very pleasing to the eye; it never fails to surprise me that one day, tiny, pale green leaves just begin to unfurl shyly in the cool warmth of a Spring sun, and the next seemingly every tree is bursting forth with a mantle of different shades of green, ranging from the palest of creamy green to the deepest, darkest bottle green. Before we know it, cherry, crab apple, dogwood and lilac trees will burst into flower, so full of white, pink, lilac blooms that one cannot see the leaves at all.

My irises had already begun to sprout in mid-February (and I'm hoping the snow did not kill them), and very soon, hopefully, the crocuses will put out their shy heads, to be followed by snowdrops, daffodils, tulips, hyacinths, and bluebells.  

We are fortunate to have a small wooded backyard the only time I crib about it is during Fall when we have to rake the leaves. And because it's a 'yard', and not a manicured lawn (which I admire when someone else has it), we get plenty of wildlife throughout the year. Deer, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, woodchucks, foxes, squirrels, chipmunks, voles, moles, field mice - and birds, lots and lots of birds.   

Despite the cold, birdsong is already filling the air as the birds return to their old haunts. The incredibly cocky and cheerful robin red breasts have already made their appearance this year, despite the cold. Very unusually for them, they are collecting in large groups. (Apparently, this is a new phenomenon it's happening in Britain as well, where the robin is the national bird, and when people were asked to send in their choices for a collective noun for a group of robins, the most popular was a 'round'.)  
Photos: Massachusetts Audubon Society
I know I will soon hear our resident woodpecker go tap-tap-tap on a dead tree near our boundary wall. Blue jays, red cardinals, wrens, bluebirds, starlings, and sparrows will come along as well, and once in a while, hawks and kestrels will alight on the tree in our front yard. Wild turkeys there are too, and sometimes a whole flock will walk ponderously across our yard infuriating Scamper, who deems it his yard. But since he also lays claim to the town fields beyond our boundaries, and barks at the geese who own that land, they are well able to ignore him, even though their steps quicken a little bit to get away from the noise. 

Yes, Spring is beautiful. Even if in this area, it can be cool, or unexpectedly hot, there's something about the season that just can't be explained. And it is now that the season is (officially, even if not literally) a couple of weeks under way that I thought of songs that perfectly capture the charm of the season; apparently, in Hindi movies, at least, Spring is also a harbinger of love. 

The only restrictions I placed on myself were that the the lyrics should actually mention the word 'Spring' in any of its synonyms, and that the picturisation should show some signs of the season, even if it only means that the song is picturised outside. Which is why Aaya basant hai aaya from Subhadraharan (1964) or Dekho mausam kya bahaar hai from Opera House (1961) do not make it to the list, and I really like both of them. It's also why Ketki gulaab juhi (Basant Bahar / 1956) is missing from my list, even though the lyrics describe the season so well.

So here, in no particular order are some of my favourite Spring songs, songs that speak of the joys of the season.

1. Bahaar aayi khili kaliyan
Alif Laila (1953)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shyam Sundar
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
It's a balmy Spring night, the flowering plants are just putting out buds and the stars are out at such a time, can anyone blame a young lass for remembering her beloved and wishing he were with her? Picturised on Asha Mathur, the song is a plaintive one, singing of separation, and Lata's voice ebbs and soars with yearning. Even the beauty of Spring is not enough to make her want to live; she begs that her beloved would return to her at the advent of the season. 
Bahaar aayi, khili kaliyaan,
Hanse taare, chale aao
Humein jeene nahin dete
Ye nazaare, chale aao
 

2. Aayi bahaar jiya dole mora
Arzoo (1950)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Anil Biswas
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
Based on a story by Ismat Chugtai (and directed by her husband, Shahid Latif), Aarzoo, much like the Dilip Kumar starrers of the day, was a tragic love story. The difference being that, the hero, losing the girl he loves, is not content to sit back and sing sad songs. He actively seeks to create havoc in her marital happiness. (Dilip Kumar seems to have made a habit of playing obsessive, tragic lovers.) However, before that denouement, are happier times and so, a young woman sings of how Spring has awakened new feelings in her breast. So tentative these nascent feelings, so joyful indeed is the woman's song that the young man, listening from behind the shrubbery, is pleased to hear her admit to them.
Koi nainan ko bhaaya mori dol gayi kaaya
Dol gayi dol gayi dol gayi re
Dol gayi dol gayi dol gayi re
Koi man mein samaaya haule haule re...
 

3. Aayi bahaar hai
Hamari Shaan (1951)
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Shamshad Begum
Music: Chitragupt
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
I couldn't help include this song even though I could not find a video clipping. It's so very lilting, and very, very, funny at the same time. As the lady says:
Dekho ji dekho
Humse na karna
angrezi mein prem
Na karna angrezi mein prem
Hum toh nahin hain git pit git pit
karne waali mem
...to which he retorts: 
Bulbul hai bolta
jiya hai dolta
Aise mein karle milaap re
 
Classic Kishore Kumar, with veteran Shamshad Begum chipping in to provide a light touch to a budding romance between an anglicised young man and a young lady who prides herself on being a 'Bharatiya nari', it's a perfect 'Spring romance' song.  

4. Din suhane mausam bahaar ka 
Poonam (1952)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra
Kamini Kaushal, once again. Only, this time, she's not in love. Not yet. It is Spring time, and like the season, it's a time of awakening for her. She, too, would like to fall in love, would like to have someone to call her own, to dream of, to wait for...  
Jee yeh chaahe ke apna ho koyi
Neend mein pyaara sapna ho koyi
Aur mazaa ho kisi ke intezaar ka
Mausam bahaar ka
Din suhaane yeh mausam bahaar ka
On the cusp of womanhood, the young maiden waits, not fully understanding the tumultuous feelings that rise within her, yet aware that they portent something joyous, something earth-shattering.      

5. Shaam-e-bahaar aayi
Shama Parwana (1954)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi, Suraiya
Music: Husnlal Bhagatram
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
A song list, and no Shammi? Is that possible, I ask you? While the film itself may have been a contrived tragedy, this song, coming in happier times, is such a joyous one, as the lovers sing in separate homes of their happiness in the coming of Spring, because it heralds the birth of dreams, their fledgling love and their budding desires, the melding of minds, the beloved's messages... they celebrate their youth and romance and the season itself - one is synonymous with the other.
Aaya khushi kaa zamaana 
Ulfat ne chheda taraana
Honthon pe dil ki hain baaten
Aayi mohabbat ki raatein
Jhukne lagi kyun nigaahein nigaahein
Dil se mili dil ki raahein raahen
Unkaa payaam aaya 
Dil ka salaam aaya
Honthon pe naam-e-Khuda
Kiskaa ye naam aaya...
What's unusual about this song is that it is not split into the conventional mukhda-antara; it's one long melody.  

6. Jhoole mein pawan ke aayi bahaar
Baiju Bawra 
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi
Music: Naushad
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Like the previous song, here too, it's not just the young woman whose thoughts turn to love with the advent of the season. She's happy to be with her beloved, and together, they celebrate Spring, brought to them in the harness of the winds, as it showers them with love.
Jhoole mein pawan ke aayi bahaar
Nainon mein nayaa rang laayi bahaar
Pyaar chhalke ho pyaar chhalke
Dole man mora sajnaa
Chunariya baar-baar dhalke
Jhoole mein pawan ke aayi bahaar
Pyaar chhalke ho pyaar chhalke
 
 

7. Dekhoji bahaar aayi
Azaad (1955)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: C Ramchandra
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
It's Spring. Romance is once again in the air, if only on the young woman's side. She appears to be quite insouciant about inviting her unknown beloved to come visit her if not openly for fear of what the world will say, then at the very least, in her dreams, where he can whisper a few sweet nothings in her ear. So, 'come, come to me...' she sings. Perhaps in that land of dreams, they can celebrate their love.
Hum dil se tumhaare hain
Ye kah bhi nahin sakte
Aur tum se juda hokar 

Hum rah bhi nahin sakte  

She is bewildered that, even in his absence, she feels this desire. One can't get more explicit than this, surely? Meena Kumari is gloriously lovely, and one can't blame Dilip Kumar for being besotted. 

8. Saanwle salone leke din bahaar ke
Ek Hi Raasta (1956)
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
A small family father, mother, son cycling in tandem through the countryside, the song so full of joy, lyrics that sing of the breezes that caress the flowering buds, of the birds (koel, papeeha) and the bees, of the clouds and the river nearby...

Coming late in the list, this is perhaps the 'Spring' song more than any other song in this list, this song is not as much about romance, as it is about revelling in the season, and in being together. It is full of a certain joie de vivre, of the sheer happiness of being alive. It encapsulates what it feels like to be outside on a fine day.
Saanwle salone aaye din bahaar ke
Jhoomte nazaare jhoome rang daar ke
Nadi kinaare
Koyal pukaare
Aaya zamaana gaao geet pyaar ke
 

9. Kuhu kuhu bole koyaliya
Suvarna Sundari (1958)
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi 
Music: Adi Narayan Rao
Lyrics: Bharat Vyas
Like the previous song, this one here also sings of the season, the images coming quick and fast the koels cooing, the bees hovering over the flowers in the garden, the butterflies skimming the flower-laden branches, the half-open flowers filled with nectar, even evoking Spring as a bejewelled, well-dressed woman... 
Saja singaar ritu aayi basanti
Jaise naar koyi ho rasvanti
Daali-daali kaliyon ko titliyaan choomen
Phool-phool pankhadiyaan kholen, amrit gholen...
It's also romantic as the prince and his heavenly beloved meet and admit their love for each other. Originally made in Telugu, Suvarna Sundari was remade first in Tamil, and then in Hindi; Ranjan took over from Akkineni Nageshwara Rao as the male lead, while Anjali Devi reprised her role in the original. This is the Telugu original of this song, sung by Ghantasala and Jikki. 

10. Aayi jhoomke basant 
Upkar (1967)
Singers: Mahendra Kapoor, Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey, Shamshad Begum
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan 
Like Saanwle salone leke aaye din bahaar ke, this song too is a celebration of the season; more so, in fact, because this sings of Basant Panchami, the festival of Spring. Spring is the harbinger of life, the season of rebirth, of new beginnings... it heralds the rejuvenation of the earth. It does sing of love, both romantic love expressed in the tender declaration of love from Asha, and the oblique glances between her and Manoj Kumar and the love of a farming community for the land which provides its livelihood.  
Hai ye dharti sabhi ki
Gagan sab ka
Tera mera na kaho
Hai ye chaman sabka

The picturisation (and the lyrics) too focuses on the colour of spring - yellow, the colour of happiness, reflected in the tightly bound turbans and the loose, flowing dupattas, in the colour of the mustard fields, and the kites flying high in the sky. It's as much a celebration of brotherhood as it is of life itself in an agrarian community.

11. Aayi jhoomti bahaar
Insaniyat (1955)
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mehmood
Music: C Ramchandra
Lyrics: 
This is another of those 'Spring brings love' songs, where the dearly beloveds are at least admitting their love for each other, much to the consternation of the villager who sees them billing and cooing to each other.
It is there only because how can I have a song list and not include Dev Anand as well as Shammi? Even if it is this song, in which an ill-at-ease-in-a-dhoti-and-moustache Dev, the erstwhile commander-in-chief of an army, falls in love with a village belle, Bina Rai (after she slaps him; she falls in love with him after he saves her from a raging bull), and then gives up his commandeering in order to help the villagers revolt against his king. Forming the third angle to the triangle is Dilip Kumar (in his solo outing with Dev, who promptly refused to work with his colleague again, though they remained friendly until his death), who is also in love with Bina Rai, and is quite certain that she loves him in return; all the while, Ms Rai is busy singing love songs with Dev Anand, who without his funny helmet, looks quite dashing in this screenshot at least. 

Even though we are shivering in the cold and India is already sweltering in the early summer heat, we can imagine what Spring would be like - if it only appeared. What Spring songs would you add to this list?

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