16 December 2010

Situational Songs Part 3

Continuing the trope of the hero/heroine singing sad songs about the break-up *in front* of the ex-boyfriend / girlfriend and *their* present lover / spouse - let's reverse genders for a bit. Here is one from Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi - the title is so self-explanatory, isn't it? You know what you are getting into even before you watch the film.

It is interesting that some of the best known stories from literature deal with love and loss, separation and being reunited; some of the loveliest songs ever composed have the same love / loss / separation / yearning for their leit motif.

Luckily for me, this one was NOT picturised on a moony-eyed Sunil Dutt. Instead, we had Meena Kumari, who, while singing the most descriptive-of-her-emotions lyrics, tries to rather ineffectually hide her tears. Of course, this fools no one (watch Shammi's expressions depicting her inner glee at being privy to what are meant to be 'private' emotions), except for the oddly-clueless Nadira, who plays the navi-naveli dulhan to a jelly-spined Rajkumar. But oh, how I loved the ending! Whoever wrote the screenplay had a sick sense of humour, or at least was pragmatic enough to understand that heroine needed to end up with hero if the film were to be successful.

Listen to the lovely orchestration that begins this piece before Lata takes over, and how! Written by Shailendra, composed by Shankar-Jaikishen, and picturised on one of the most talented actresses of all time - Meena Kumari.
One thinks that positively *every* hero worth his name must have, at one time or the other, been put into this position in a movie. Think of Dilip Kumar pleading Bachpan ke din bhula na dena to Nargis while she vainly tries to *not* listen to him. And in this film, the poor woman didn't even love him in the first place! This is not a very clear print, but you can watch the better clip here. 
Deedar (1951)  not only suffered from a black and white characterisation of its principal characters, but also from the lack of a plot that could hold the viewers' interest. Dilip Kumar played the tragic lover, a role that he was doomed to reprise in many, many later films. It is his effortless enactment of the pathos of his character, and Nargis' portrayal of a woman who realises, too late, that her friendliness and sympathy is misconstrued by a man who has loved her since they were children, coupled with stirring music that made the film watchable.

Shakeel Badayuni's sensitive poetry (seemed slightly whiny though, especially the male solos - think of Hue hum jinke liye barbaad, Meri kahani bhoolnewale, etc.,) was set to some brilliant tunes by Naushad, and the result was there to hear in melodies such as Bachpan ke din bhula na dena (this was also a Rafi-Shamshad Begum duet), Dekh liya maine, and Naseeb dar pe - that alone made the film worth the price of its ticket (or DVD). 

Another film where Dilip played into the tragic hero stereotype was Mehboob Khan's Andaz - probably the first 'love triangle' in a hindi movie and one that was responsible for a long line of future movies which insisted that a platonic relationship was not possible between a man and woman. And of course, the tragic denouement in Andaz lays the cause of all the problems at the 'modern' woman's feet.

Falling in love with the westernised Nargis, who has no such feelings toward him, Dilip is devastated when he realises that Nargis is in love with, and engaged to be married to Raj Kapoor. She, in turn is horrified when she realises that her father was right all along - a woman cannot behave with a man as she may with another woman, without her behaviour being misconstrued (hey don't blame me; I didn't write the script!). And Raj Kapoor, seeing his newly-wed wife retreat from her erstwhile best friend begins to be suspicious (oh, his is such an irritating character that one wonders what Nargis sees in him!). And the scene is set for:

Here, the song sequence diverges from the trope in that the heroine is clearly unaware of the underlying tension. It is the husband who senses something amiss. It is easier to sympathise with Dilip Kumar than with Raj Kapoor here partly because of the earnestness and grace with which Dilip plays the rejected suitor. Nargis is a joy to watch as she moves from the open-minded naive young girl who offers friendship and cannot believe that anyone could misconstrue her friendship for love to the tragic wife who is misunderstood by a possessive, suspicious husband. It is Raj Kapoor who suffers from a very weak characterisation. And the movie's portrayal of West = bad, Indian = good is responsible for many other movies that were inflicted on us (think of Purab and Paschim!) with the same stereotypical premise.  

Naushad rose to the occasion to string together more than a dozen melodies, ably assisted by Majrooh Sultanpuri's lyrics. Classics like Koi mere dil mein, Tu kahe agar, Tod diya dil mera, Uthaye ja unke sitam, etc., made the soundtrack a must-buy, even though the songs popping up in the film slowed down the narrative considerably.

Over the decades, whenever there has been a love triangle in a hindi film, the scene has been set for a sequence such as this with slight variations for the reasons for the songs. If Sanjeev Kumar isn't  offering up his broken heart while wishing his ex-girlfriend well though he insists she is 'बेवफा', Dharmendra is understandably bitter and doesn't care who knows it in Devar. Amitabh Bachchan is apologetic and sufficiently sorrowful in Muqaddar ka Sikander, while Kamal Hassan apes Raj Kapoor's Joker in Saagar - the list is endless.

And if you want to be bludgeoned over the head with a hammer, then you really *must* see this - talk about wearing your heart out on your sleeve (or about the fall from the sublime to the ridiculous). The only thing that surprises me about this picturisation is why the heroine even puts up with this. I mean, it's one thing to have someone look moony-eyed at you and sigh longingly at what may have been, but it is quite another to be held up to ridicule by what passes off as the angst of a broken heart. As if Pooja Bhatt didn't already have a bad hair day and a cockroach for a fiancè to worry about!

No lyrics please (these do not even qualify as lyrics, not after Sahir's poetry), not even for Aamir who is quite simply one of my favourite actors. Having Kumar Sanu and Anuradha Paudwal moan in the background hurts my sensitive ears, though the latter was a wonderful singer, who is sorely missed. The film is Dil Hai ke Maanta Nahin for those who care enough to want to know, directed by Mahesh Bhatt. The music is by Nadeem Shravan and the lyrics, for what they are worth, from Sameer's lyrics factory.

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