14 December 2010

Situational Songs Part 2

Since I started with Rang aur noor ki baraat, let me continue with songs that deal with similar situations. That of separation, due to circumstances beyond the control of the protagonists. This usually consists of the hero / heroine being forced by circumstances to forsake their lover, a forced marriage typically follows, and as pointed out before, is accompanied by the forsaken one singing plaintive laments at the engagement / wedding / reception of the person who is getting married. The repetition of this trope never fails to amaze me. However, no complaints, or few, since this trope is also responsible for giving us some of the most poetic lyrics and melodious tunes that continue to enthrall listeners of generations that hadn't even been thought of when these songs were written.

First off the bat is a personal favourite from a BR Chopra film. A production house that has given us some of the best films of all years - Kanoon, Ittefaq, Waqt, Naya Daur, Afsana, Humraaz, Dhool ka Phool - they were all 'different'. Unlike the lip service paid to that word today, Mr Chopra's films did indeed touch upon many sensitive issues, and featured highly controversial characters, with many shades of grey.

Kanoon, a songless courtroom drama, showed how circumstantial evidence could go wrong, while Ittefaq (once again, without songs) had the heroine (sweet, girl-next-door Nanda playing seductress - good for her!) taking on the role of a murderess. Gumrah, the story of a woman (Mala Sinha) who resumes her relationship with her lover after a forced marriage with her late sister's husband, was the weakest in terms of characterisation, in my opinion, because the character made an 180 degree turn, to end the movie as a 'good woman' should.

And so, from Gumrah. Once again, the same scene plays over - the heroine (a one-expression Mala Sinha (MS) ) is now married. Her husband (Ashok Kumar (AK) in a stellar characterisation), who meets his wife's former lover (FL. Sunil Dutt. Will someone explain to me just *why* Dutt saab played "former lover who has to sing wonderful songs, while looking absolutely lovelorn" so many times?), and becomes friends with him (without knowing the back story. Of course! How else are they going to justify signing Rafi / Mahendra Kapoor / Kishore Kumar / Lata Mangeshkar et al?) has उन्हें चाय पे बुलाया है.

Of course, FL is never shown to drink tea. He spies a piano, and as pulled to it as by an extra-powerful magnet, proceeds to sit down at the instrument and belt out this soulful number.

Which is not only a satirical promise to meet as strangers, but also an indictment of his lover who did not have the guts to refuse to become the second wife of her widowed brother-in-law.
Na main tumse koi ummeed rakhoon dilnawazi ki
Na tum meri taraf dekho galat andaaz nazron se
he sings, as she tries valiantly to look unaffected. But he hasn't finished:
Mere humraah bhi rusvaaiyaan hain mere maazi ki
Tumhare saath bhi guzri raaton ke saaye hain

Talk about hammering the final nail in her coffin!

And, all the while, AK is wandering around with a pleasant smile on his face, tamping his pipe, though never actually smoking it, while MS adds glycerine and tries to look sad. I mean to say, after all this, one would think AK would suspect something? And ask? But no. How would the rest of the film play out then? I must admit that the suspense was quite chilling, but BRC sort of wimped out in the end, or MS did, considering she had her image to consider.

Nonetheless, Sahir's (yes, him again!) lyrics scored by Ravi, gave us this gem and while one can have a legitimate beef against the movie, it is hard to find fault with this Mahendra Kapoor solo.

Dutt Saab definitely had some of the best songs from that era picturised on him. To a large extent, heroes like Rajendra Kumar, Biswajeet, Joy Mukherjee, Pradeep Kumar, Bharat Bhushan and Sunil Dutt became successful by piggybacking on the talents of the lyricists, music directors and of course, their playback voices. One must admit, though, that among the lot, Dutt Saab was probably the better actor. He was also a supportive actor in that, in many of his films, he ended up playing the supportive role to the heroine. Sujata, Sadhana, Gumraah, Humraaz, Mera Saaya, and so many more, had author-backed roles for the heroines. That Dutt saab made his presence felt is testimony to his screen presence.

Humraaz, another suspense thriller from BR Chopra, had Sunil Dutt (surprised?!) in a familiar situation. Of course, there was a difference - HE was the deluded husband this time, but that did not stop him from sitting at the ubiquitous piano to sing Kisi patthar ki moorat se to an absolutely expressionless Vimmi. One wonders whether she took the lyrics for gospel and decided to be stone-faced. One must confess though, that SD seems to be enjoying himself a bit more than when he was singing either Rang aur noor ki baraat  or Chalo ik baar phir se, so maybe there is something to be said for a lack of expression after all.
And why am I not surprised that it is the same team (Sahir / Ravi / Mahendra Kapoor once again?)


  1. I LOVE Chalo ek baar phir se - so bitter, cynical and yet so touching and poetic! Love Kisi patthar ki murat se too, but here I miss Rafi. This song was more his style than Mahendra Kapoor's (plus I am awfully partial to Rafi saab's voice!).

    "Will someone explain to me just *why* Dutt saab played "former lover who has to sing wonderful songs, while looking absolutely lovelorn" so many times?"

    Umm... because he looked so very picturesque? Also, Sunil Dutt losing out to the likes of Dada Mani (I do love him too, but really, he is no competition against SD!) and Raj Kumar gives an added touch of pathos to the situation, don't you think?

  2. bollyviewer, Duttsaab did look picturesque. And the thought of him losing out to Raaj Kumar made me want to cut up whoever thought up the (baaad) idea in the first place! Dada Moni, I liked! Though I always thought he made a great villain rather than the old-grandfather roles he ended up doing. Have you seen Kanoon?


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