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20 September 2016

My Favourites: Picnic Songs

I have a sad tale to relate. (All my recent tales seem to be sad.) My cup of woe is full to the brim, and in danger of overflowing. I mentioned in an earlier post how my laptop decided to give up its ghost while I was in India. Well, I've been attaching a keyboard and making do with it all this while. It is certainly not a 'laptop' any more, but it's sufficient unto the evil thereof, and hey, into each life some rain must fall, and all that tosh. (Besides, we need the rain; the North East is going through a drought.) 

But yesterday, I wrote a very good post (if I do say so myself) and was very pleased with myself indeed. Until, I hit 'Save', and pouf! the whole thing just vanished before my eyes. There was nothing I could do to bring it back; S tried his level best as well, but Blogger did not cough up the entrails. I tried to rewrite the post - after all, I'd just finished writing it, hadn't I? No luck. While I remembered the gist of the post, the words just didn't flow as well, and the writing seemed flat. I scrapped the post, nearly threw my busted laptop out of the window, vented to Dustedoff, and went to sleep in a huff. 

So. That post has been consigned to the embers. Since I'm not in the mood to write up any other movie at short notice, what could I do but fall back on my lists of songs. 

After a long, hot, horrid summer, the weather is finally cooling off here. Yesterday, it rained quite heavily, even though only for a short while, but today, the weather is perfect - cool, dry, perfect Fall weather. In short, perfect picnic weather. 

I grew up on Enid Blytons, where they all seemed to have the most amazing picnics, with the most delicious of food. Our picnics were usually from school. (My parents were not the picnicking sort.) We had two types of 'picnics' the day trips, usually to a museum and gardens, or a local stream/waterfall/tourist spot that was termed a 'picnic', and a longer 'excursion' that involved staying overnight somewhere. They were fun, especially the longer ones, but they definitely did not include fruit cake and orangeade. Since half the fun was chomping away on various street food, however, I don't think we complained much. The trips were fun, anyway, with all of us belting out songs with gusto, playing Antakshari and Charades, exhorting the bus driver to overtake every other vehicle on the road, keeping him well-supplied with coffee or snacks, giggling away at the back row where some of the older boys and girls were 'romancing'... yup, they were fun! 

Picnics in Hindi films today seem to have gone the way of the dodo, but they were a staple, indeed, integral part of the narrative in the 60s and 70s. (Perhaps today's youth are too 'cool' to go on picnics?) Of course, in Hindi films, they got to go to the coolest hill stations, the women got to wear the most lovely clothes (We had to wear uniforms on our picnics!), they played games, and sang songs typically, the heroines were serenaded by the likes of Shammi Kapoor or Shashi Kapoor or Rajesh Khanna. (Dev Anand did not seem to go on many picnics, poor man.) Picnics were the perfect occasion to include a song; mostly, it was there so the hero and heroine could a) tease each other b) make fun of the other c) fall in love with each other. Am I complaining? Noooo! We got some lovely songs thus. 

So, just for my own edification, for this post, the song either in picturisation, or in its lyrics has to show us a picnic. There has to be, if not a picnic basket itself, food and drink on show. Even if the hero/heroine wander off on their own, the context of the song has to show them going on a picnic.

Golmaal (1979)
Singers: Kishore Kumar, (RD Burman, Sapan Chakravarty)
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
This is the first song that came to mind when I thought of picnics and Hindi films. The lyrics evoke a smile when you listen carefully. Who else but Gulzar would think of writing 'Ek din chhoti si dekhi ek sapni, Woh jo hai na Lata apni?' To me, this is the quintessential picnic song, comic and full of fun with friends (Anand Ahuja, Amol Sen, Chandramohan Khanna, Siddharth) interrupting to ask questions, or to respond, sometimes verbally, at others, by action; the picnic itself is more realistic than is usual (it's Hrishikesh Mukherjee, so that explains that), and the song is full of complete bombast (Lata gaa rahi thi, Main table pe tha, Woh mukhde pe thi, main antare pe tha) about his dream within a dream. What makes it so much fun is the frequent interspersion of reality, with the pun on 'sapna'. (Sapna khadi thi, haath mein chhadi thi, dekha toh main bhaag raha tha...) It's all in good fun, and no one, least of all the singer himself, is taking anything seriously. 

Anupama (1966)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
From another Hrishikesh Mukherjee film, another picnic song. This is slightly more upmarket, in that they get to go to the picnic spot by car. Not just any car, mind you, but a foreign convertible. I like that Shashikala gets to wave a small basket around and oh, that basket brings back memories: my mother used to have one just like that, that she used to buy vegetables from the market; it was my job to wash the basket after she took the vegetables out — while Dharmendra carries a blanket draped on his shoulder, Deven Verma struggles up with two large tiffin carriers.  However, it is the start of a beautiful romance, with Deven Verma's Arun, who's supposed to marry Uma (Sharmila Tagore), falling in love instead with the free-spirited Annie (Shashikala).

Adalat (1958)
Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
This is the sort of 'picnic' I remember once I became a teenager — a group of us, all on our bikes, cycling quite long distances to a not-very-crowded-with-families picnic spot, lunches packed in baskets on our carriers... one of us would bring an old 'two-in-one' so we could play music — unfortunately for us, since none of us had the talent of Mohammed Rafi or Asha Bhosle, we had to depend on music cassettes, to which we all dutifully sang along, un-tunefully, when we could spare our breath from the cycling. This meant, of course, that the cassette player usually ran out of juice just when we reached the place. But... we were young, the world was our oyster, and cycling many miles just so we could eat and play silly games for a few hours, and then have to cycle many miles back, didn't faze us much.

Apart from the fact that Pradeep Kumar and Nargis looked too old to be playing college students, the song itself is a peppy number, and it fully encapsulates the joy inherent in being young and enjoying oneself with one's friends.

Dil Apna aur Preet Parayi
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
A picnic on the beach. What fun! The last time I went picnicking on the beach was when I was working in erstwhile Madras, and we had gone to the Silver Sands resort in Mahabalipuram. There's an assortment of attire to be seen here saris, salwar kameezes, shorts, swimsuits... which seems rather realistic in India. They seem to have come prepared too there's a tent to shelter from the sun and to change, they have beach balls and skipping ropes, hula hoops, umbrellas... there's even a happy Meena Kumari! And she's having fun! (I can assure you that that's not as rare a sighting as my exclamation marks may make you believe.) While Meena sings, and the others chime in, some of them are skipping, while the others are swimming or even playing ball in the water; some of them are twirling their hula hoops, or their umbrellas. Meena even builds a sand castle, which spoilsport Shammi knocks down. Whereupon, Meena pulls Shammi face down on the sand, and throws wet sand at her with gusto. In short, everyone's having fun, which is the whole point of a picnic.

Waqt (1965)
Singers: Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
I must confess we didn't have picnics like this one, no, not even when were in college. Especially not when we were in college! This was one of those situations that were contrived to provide a song. So, we have a 'cultural club' outing, where everyone except the two lovebirds are busy doing their own thing. (Really! Just look at the men and women who are playing instruments or dancing in synchronised steps, or clapping in unison... No one even seems to be paying attention to two of their own singing what's essentially a very romantic song, full of deep meaning. (In our college, by the time the mukhda was sung, they would have been greeted with boos of mirth, and have to endure much teasing for the rest of the outing.) Also, for a college outing, there doesn't seem to be any adult chaperonage, or if there is, it is pretty lax; by the time the song ends, the loving pair, deep in embrace, have gone off on another ferry, leaving their classmates behind.

Pyar ka Mausam (1969)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
The hero (who is the real son of a wealthy man) obviously meets the foster daughter of his biological father at a picnic and falls in love with her. In order to charm his way into her good graces, he proceeds to fool her friends and pretend to be her betrothed. Said friends (Tabassum/Laxmi Chhaya) are sympathetic to the hero's cause. At the same time, he convinces the heroine that he's her best friend's fiancé, trying to make up with his fiancée after a fight. Which allows the heroine to smile and clap her hands girlishly and sing songs with him. Of course, by the end of the song, the truth is out, and it gives the heroine a chance to chase hero away. (Does all this sound familiar? It should. Pyar ka Mausam was from the stable of Nasir Hussain, who rehashed the same script multiple times.) In the meantime, we, the audience, are treated to a lovely song.

Ghar Ghar ki Kahani (1970)
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
The first time I heard this song was as part of the Antakshari sequence in Maine Pyar Kiya. I never did know which film it was from, but liked the song very much. I had never watched the visuals until today, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that this is a 'picnic' song — and a moonlight picnic, at that. (We didn't have moonlight picnics, and if we did, I wouldn't have been allowed to go to it. What a deprived childhood I've endured!) I must also confess that as the song went on, I began to laugh. The actors in the background, forced to dance to synchronised steps that passed off for dance, also had to march around with their hands outstretched to the side. I'm sure they were silently wondering, 'This is what I got out of bed for?' However, Jalal Agha looks really, really handsome as he pretend-strums the guitar; Rakesh Roshan, who has a lot more of his natural hair at this point in time, and whose biggest claim to fame is that he gave us Hrithik Roshan, is off gazing deep into Bharti's eyes, while Jalal Agha sings of their feelings in the background. It is a nice song! 

Kati Patang (1970)
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Another picnic, another song. Classic Kaka. Even handicapped by bright yellow trousers and a mustard yellow shirt, Rajesh Khanna managed to look very, very handsome. This, of course, was a period when Kaka could do no wrong, and as Javed Jaffrey put it once, 'Kake ne patang udaayi, toh fillum hit!' Asha plays the titular broken kite, adrift in the world after she runs away from home on her wedding day to marry a man who was only wooing her for her wealth. In the process, she's broken the heart of none other than Rajesh Khanna, who was the intended bridegroom. Now, he's attracted to her, not knowing she's the woman he hates for having ruined his life. She's attracted to him too, but she's pretending to be his best friend's widow (long story!) and obviously, does not feel she should fall in love again. All very complicated, but the film was leavened by good performances, a strong story — and lovely songs. This one, sung at a picnic at the behest of his younger sister, gives Kaka an opportunity to express those feelings to her, while reassuring her that he understands her reluctance.

Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
Did I say Dev Anand didn't go on picnics? I obviously didn't know what I was talking about. It would be accurate to point out, however, that he didn't go on picnics like other heroes usually did. Not for him a platoon of giggling sahelis; nor a squad of preening sakhas he didn't want competition, after all. No, when he went along on a picnic, it was with the heroine. She's chaperoned by her parents and her brother, of course, but it is child's play to Dev saab to extricate his beloved from the chaperonage of her strict parents, and to ensure that her brother is safely ensconced with his own love affair. His excuse is valid; Sulekh wants to climb the Qutb Minar and, of course, her parents are too old to attempt the climb, so he  — in a very gentlemanly manner that quite impresses her parents — offers to be her guide, as her parents make themselves comfortable on the grass around the structure. As they make their laborious way up the many flights of stairs, he attempts to tell her of his love for her, but she will have none of it. The sounds of silence are so much more interesting. On the way down, however, he insists that she listen to the clarion call of his beating heart. How can she resist?

Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Usha Khanna
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
How can I have a song list and not have Shammi Kapoor? The man must have 'sung' every genre of songs there was to sing in the Hindi films of the time. Here, he has a bet with the heroine as to whether he can get the village women to drop their chores and come at his song. As for context, Shammi is Raja/Roop, the 'real' son of a wealthy woman, who's had a run-in with Nita (Asha), the ward of his biological mother. Nita has caused him to lose his job and now he's on his way to take up another job — at her guardian's hotel. When he spots her having a picnic with her friends, he decides to crash it. He tells her friends (Tabassum included) that he's Nita's fiancé. He tells Asha he's her friend's fiancé. By the end of the song(s), the charade falls through, and Nita is incensed. Does this sound familiar? Well, it should. You just read this paragraph above, alongside the context for Ni sultana re. Dil Deke Dekho is the precursor to Pyar ka Mausam, and in turn, succeeded Tumsa Nahin Dekha, all with the same basic plotline. 

Did you go on any picnics in your childhood? What songs did you sing? Or, more accurately, what songs do you associate with picnics?

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