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6 October 2017

My Favourites: Songs of Regret

Life, if lived well – ‘tis said – does not involve regrets. Because everything happens for a reason. Even if you don’t really know what that reason is, at that point of time. However, there are very few people who are that sanguine about their actions. Hindsight being perfect, we often dissect our past in the hope that we can find answers to that most frustrating of questions – ‘What if?’ What would our lives have been if we had taken the other fork in the road – the road not taken? What would our lives had been if we had chosen to do otherwise? Not having a crystal ball, no one can answer that question either. That doesn’t stop us, however, from gnawing at hypothetical scenarios. Just as much as for any other recurring life theme, Hindi films have a song to fit the occasion. Here are a few of my favourite songs of regret. 

Humein kaash tumse muhobbat na hoti
Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Naushad
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
If ever there was an open avowal of regret, this would be it. Having fallen in love with the heir to the throne, and aware of the Emperor’s disapproval as well as the consequences of such an affair, Anarkali is left wondering, ‘if only…’. If only she hadn’t fallen in love with the prince; if only she hadn’t given her heart to him…
Humein kaash tumse muhobbat na hoti
Na dil tum ko dete na majboor hote
Qayamat se pehle qayamat na hoti
then perhaps the Day of Judgement wouldn’t have appeared before doomsday. Couldn’t he [her prince] have stopped her from forgetting her status in life, from crossing all societal boundaries for love of him? If only…

Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
It is said that there are always regrets – as much for what you did, as for what you didn’t. Here is a song that regrets not saying something:
Meri baat rahi mere man mein
Kuch keh na saki uljhan mein
Mere sapne adhoore huye nahin poore
Aag lagi mere jeevan mein…
At a moment when she had hoped for a life with the man she loves, she’s told that she’s already married (as a child) to a man she’s never met. Having never spoken of her love before, she’s now forced to remain silent as events conspire to tear her life apart. A deeply regretful plaint for missed chances and broken dreams.

Manmauji (1962)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
These are the bitter dregs of a failed love; unlike Anarkali’s love for her Prince, it is not circumstances or societal boundaries that cause this young woman’s anguish. It is the bitterness of knowing that she had given her love to a cheat; it’s the grief of knowing betrayal; it’s the regret that had she not met him, she may never have had to grieve.
Na milti ye bairan ankhiya,
Chain na jaata dil bhi na rota
Kash kisi se pyar na hota…  

If only she hadn’t fallen in love…   

Anuradha (1961)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Pt. Ravi Shanker
Lyrics: Shailendra
Here are regrets of a different kind – the longing for a time that’s shrouded in the mists of the past. Once a renowned artiste, she has subsumed her identity in the task of making a loving home for her workaholic husband and little daughter. Even that would be have been rewarding if only her husband noticed her, not as a well-oiled cog in his well-ordered life but as a person in her own right. He even introduces her as ‘My wife, Anuradha’, whereupon his senior doctor reprimands him – Pehle Anuradha, phir dharam patni. She has an identity beyond just being his wife. Anuradha (Leela Naidu) is finally getting a chance to dust off her singing skills along with her memories of a brighter past.
Sooni meri beena sangeet bina
Sapnon ki maala murjhaaye…
…she sings; perhaps her husband will realise just how much she’s lost?

Aandhi (1975)
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
What happens when, at life’s crossroads, you meet your past? What happens when your shared laughter and tears become shared regrets for the road not taken. He has no complaints of life because she’s not there, he says; but without her, life is just not worth living. The feeling is mutual.
Kaash aisa ho tere kadmon se
Chhoo ke manzil chale
Aur kahi door kahi
Tum gar saath ho, manzilon ki kami to nahi
If only her path would cross his, even if their destinations are different; for if he is with her, there can be no dearth of destinations… if only…

Ek Saal (1957)
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
It is not often that one gets a chance to make reparations. However, before that comes sincere regrets for his own behaviour, and the doubt that there may not be time to make amends. For she has very little time left.
Hum badnaseeb pyaar ki ruswaayi ban gaye
Khud hi lagaake aag tamaashaayi ban gaye,
Daaman se ab ye shole bujhaaye to kya kiya
Din mein agar charaag jalaaye to kya kiya
His actions have caused her grievous harm, and his conscience has awakened. However, he’s not sure if his repentance will make a difference – to her. To him. To them.

Chhoti si Baat (1975)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Salil Choudhury
Lyrics: Yogesh
Sometimes, the regrets are not borne of serious consequences. Not as serious as life and death in the previous situation, but still important enough to make her question herself. She’d had an admirer, a gentle, nervous admirer who couldn’t bring himself to tell her he loved her. She knew, but she laughed and threw her hat at a colleague just to make him jealous. Now he’s left and she doesn’t know where he’s gone, or when he’ll come back. She’s not bereft, but she’s certainly missing his gentle presence, and there are mild regrets – why is it that absence makes the heart grow fonder? Why does she remember the littlest of things about him? Why do his memories fill her waking nights? Where have those evenings gone that were once so intoxicating?
Wohi hai dagar
Wohi hai safar hai nahin
Saath mere magar ab mera humsafar
Idhar udhar doondhe nazar wohi hai dagar
Kahan gayi shaamein, madbhari, woh mere mere woh din gaye kidhar….
Na jaane kyun….

Babul (1950)
Singer: Shamshad Begum
Music: Naushad
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Na socha tha yeh dil lagaane se pehle ke tootega dil muskuraane se pehle – it appears that the most regrets come from loving not too wisely, but too well. If only she had known that tears follow laughter as sure as night follows day, would she have loved at all? In what was one of those contrived tragedies that Hindi films so used to love, the heroine (one of them) seems not to know that love is dependent on trust. Believing – on only the flimsy evidence of another’s words that her lover has been double-timing her, Usha (Munawar Sultana) makes the ultimate sacrifice – and pays the ultimate price.

Having made that decision, she regrets not the consequences (not yet), but having stepped on another’s turf – if she hadn’t, would she have cause to grieve at all?

Nadaan (1951)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Chic Chocolate
Lyrics: PL Santoshi
On the face of it, a deep anguish at what seems like betrayal, the grief spills out in the form of bitterness – if he had no intention of keeping faith, why did he have to cross her path at all? If he had to flood her life with tears, why fill it with laughter in the first place?
Chhod ke agar saath jaana tha ik din
Toh ulfat ka rasta mujhko dikhaaya na hota
Tu aaya na hota…
That anguish is filled with regret, a regret born out of the realisation that it might, after all, have been better not to have loved at all… Achcha hota jo dil mein tu aaya na hota...

Sanjog (1961)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
What happens when a twist of fate takes away from you all that you hold precious? When you’re left holding the baby (literally), and there’s nothing to look forward to? When life throws questions at you that you cannot answer?
Bade rangeen zamaane the, taraane hii taraane the
Magar ab poochta hai di woh din the ya fasaane the
Faqat ek yaad hai baaki, bas ek fariyaad hai baaki
Woh khushiyaan lut gayi lekin, dil-e-barbaad hai baaki
Kahaan thi zindagi meri, kahaan par aa gayi…

Like Haay re woh din kyun na aaye, there is a lingering yearning for a brighter past, a feeling of regret for the path that life has chosen for her through no fault of hers. Her lover’s actions have had far-reaching consequences – only, she’s bearing its brunt. If only she could go back to happier times; if only…

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