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27 November 2017

My Favourites: 'Carpe Diem' Songs

My husband’s aunt, R – his mother’s cousin – is one of my favourite people in all the world. She’s always cheerful, and despite having been dealt quite a raw hand by life, is one of the most positive people it’s been my good fortune to meet. When I’m feeling low, a quick phone call to her to hear her carol ‘I’m fine, molu (child) wipes the doldrums away and never fails to put a smile on my face. It doesn’t matter what she’s going through – I have never heard her say anything other than ‘I’m fine, molu!’ in response to ‘How are you?’, as opposed to certain people who, if asked ‘How are you?’ never failed to give me chapter and verse of doom and gloom for the next hour or so. She’s one person whom I happily visit on every trip to India, not out of duty, but because I genuinely respect her attitude and love her company.

A couple of years ago, a blog-reader became, quite by chance, a rather good friend. ‘X’ has been going through some major health issues for some time. Again, like Aunt R, the response to my ‘How are you?’ is ‘I’m okay’ however badly X is feeling that day.  If I press, X will give me the updates in a very matter-of-fact manner. It’s not in X’s nature to sit and brood – X is always too busy to have much time for ‘woe is me’. 

Kal kare so aaj kar, aaj kare so ab 
Pal mein pralay hoyegi bahuri karoge kab...  wrote Kabir in his bid to arouse people out of their lethargy. Both Aunt R and X are never still. Aunt R went on to learn Bengali, take yoga classes, attend satsangs – each time I visited, she had something new she was learning (or as she put it, ‘attempting to learn’. I’d like to be like her when I’m that age. X has many battles to fight, but is never low, never depressed, never once letting go of the end goal. I doubt it’s in X’s nature to brood. I admire X for that never-say-die attitude.

So, today, I dedicate this post to Aunt R and my friend, X, and their spirit of Carpe Diem.* They inspire me to live for today, and to do so, happily.

Waqt (1965)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Coming at a crucial point in the story, Aage bhi jaane na tu is sung at a party by a crooner (Erika Lall), and is the perfect background for the long-lost brothers to cross paths. By the time the song ends, a necklace is stolen, a man is murdered, one of the brothers is accused of murder, and the other is the eyewitness to the murder.
Is pal ke saaye mein apna thikaana hai
Is pal ke aage ki har shay fasaana hai
Kal kisne dekha hai, kal kisne jaana hai
Is pal se paayega jo tujhko paana hai
Jeenewaale soch le
Yahi waqt hai kar le poori aarzoo
Ironically, even as the song calls for those present to seize the moment – the past is not important, the future has no bearing on the present, what’s important is the here and the now – the future of many people at that party is being decided. Here. And now.

Asha’s sultry rendition, her voice smoky and languid, dominates the song, even as Ravi’s instrumentation lends her the ‘western’ background that so complements both voice and context.

Guide (1965)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Shailendra
This is a song celebrating life and the freedom to live. Rosie (Waheeda Rehman) has finally taken her first steps towards freedom, breaking the shackles of a suffocating marriage. That happiness, that exhilaration seems to have made her shed years – Raju (Dev Anand), who had been the catalyst for the change, is amazed to see a joyous young woman on the cusp of discovering life in the place of the dutiful matron he had known until then.
Apne hii bas mein nahin main
Dil hai kahin toh hoon kahin main
Jaane kya paake meri zindagi ne
Hans kar kaha
Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai
Aaj phir marne ka iraada hai 

Rosie dances her sheer joy at living and her exultation of freedom as Raju looks on.

Andaz (1971)
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
This song, I think, exemplifies my aunt and X so well – why fear death so much that one forgets to live? Our hero (Rajesh Khanna) seems to live that philosophy as well – spend your life in laughter and song and face life with a smile because it is exciting: one never knows what the next turn might bring. 
Death is inevitable, no one can predict the future, so why not smile today?
Maut aani hai aayegi ik din
Jaan jaani hai jaayegi ik din
Aisi baaton se kya ghabrana
Yahan kal kya ho kisne jaana...

Gumnaam (1965)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
This is ‘Carpe Diem’ with a vengeance. Lured, along with several others, to a deserted island by a sociopath who wants to extract his revenge, Kitty (Helen) has already seen death strike not once but thrice over. Despite that, however, or perhaps, because of that, she cannot – will not – live in fear. If she’s going to die, anyway, she might as well enjoy her last days. (Her irrepressible nature will not allow her to think of dying, and her romance with Rakesh gives her a reason to want to live.)
Jeena uska jeena hai jo hanste gaate jee le
Zulfon ki ghanghor ghata mein nain ka saagar pee le
Jo karna hai aaj hi kar lo
Kal ko kisne dekha
Aayi hai rangeen bahaare lekar din rangeele 

And so, young Kitty dances with gay abandon, and her refreshing optimism infects the other members of the group as well.

Jagte Raho (1956)
Singer: Mukesh
Music: Salil Choudhury
Lyrics: Shailendra
While it does not explicitly talk about the future, or about seizing the moment, the lyrics emphasise the sheer joy of living in the present. This song never fails to captivate me with its exultation of life. I love it for the music, for the lyrics, and for the picturisation. 
Dil ne humse jo kaha humne waisa hii kiya
Phir kabhi fursat mein sochenge bura tha ya bhala
Purely hedonistic, this is the philosophy of a man (Motilal) who prefers to live in the moment (and live every moment as if it is his last). He’s amusingly cynical, living life according to his own desires, and he doesn’t really have the time to ponder over the rights and wrongs of his actions.  

Taxi Driver
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
This is a strangely philosophical song for a club dance. But perhaps it makes sense – don’t put off until tomorrow what you can celebrate today. Grasp the joys of life today, for you will never know if tomorrow will come; if it does, who knows if you will be there to enjoy it? 
Aaj hai duniya teri 
Jhoom le o matwaale
Yeh anmol zamaane
Phir nahin aanewale
Dekh ye rut kahin beet na jaaye…    

Suno gazar kya gaaye
Baazi (1951)
Singer: Geeta Dutt
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Dev Anand’s whole life seems to have been predicated on living in the moment. He was not prone to reminiscing about his past (or regretting it) nor of focusing on the future. He lived in the ‘now’. Perhaps that is why his films often espoused the philosophy of seizing the moment. Youth is fleeting, so grasp your happiness while you can, sings Geeta Bali, on stage.
Husn bhi faani aur ishq bhi faani hai
Hans ke bitaa le do ghadi ki jawaani hai
Time passes before you know it, and the future can be filled with regrets. It is an implicit call to live for today, for if – like the gambler whose story this is – you do not grasp at the opportunities given to you today, they will never come knocking again.
Bichhdaa zamaana kabhi haath na aayega
Dosh na dena mujhe phir pachhtaayega
O re jeenewale o re bhole bhaale
Sona na khona na
Baazi was a breakthrough movie for everyone associated with it – Guru Dutt, Dev Anand, SD Burman, Geeta Dutt, and even the fledgling Nav Ketan films that desperately needed a hit.

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
She makes a desperate plea for him to seize the moment, lest it pass and they never meet again. It’s as if she wants to snatch a few moments of happiness from the Fates.
Lag ja gale ke phir ye haseen raat ho no ho
Shaayad is janam mein mulaqaat ho na ho
Lata’s voice sounds ethereal, enticing, alluring…there’s a sense of the ephemeral in Raja Mehdi Ali Khan’s lyrics, a ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ feeling that is all the more effective for its being so simple. Lovingly orchestrated by Madan Mohan, and with Lata’s voice ringing clear and pure, Lag jaa gale is a compelling call to live in the present.
Humko mili hai aaj ye ghadiyaan naseeb se
Jee bhar ke dekh leejiye humko kareeb se
Phir aap ke naseeb mein ye raat ho na ho

Kasme Vaade (1978)
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulshan Bawra
Ah, the insouciance of youth. (Well, it’s Randhir Kapoor, so stretch your imagination a bit. Er, a whole lot.) Kal kya hoga kisko pata, aaj zindagi ka le lo mazaa. In its own self-centred way, it’s a call to live life in the moment, and not think of what the world might think of you.
Hey dilwalon duniya ki aisi taisi
Har pal apna hai din kaisa raat kaisi
Arre, aish karo aish karo
Naacho gaao khao piyo
Arre jeena hai toh
Masti mein rahke jiyo
There’s only one way to live – by enjoying life. RD Burman channelised the inner optimism of youth – the thought that life will wait for them while they make up their minds. In the meantime, live life king-size, as the caption went.

Kal Ho Na Ho (2004)
Singer: Sonu Nigam
Music: Shankar Ehsaan Loy
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
I watched this film in a theatre with my husband, my mother-in-law and a friend. My friend laughed his guts out at the corny jokes, my mother-in-law shed copious tears, my husband had a headache due to the Dolby surround sound (and the volume the theatre owners want to inflict on us) and I spent the last half an hour muttering, ‘For heavens’ sake, Shahrukh, die already!’ However, I must confess to absolutely loving this song – lyrics, music, singing and picturisation. If there ever was a song in the modern era that exemplified living for (and in) the present, it was this one.
Sung by a [preternaturally cheerful] man who knows he’s dying, Har ghadi badal rahi hai  showcases his zest for life – he knows that, for him, at least, there’s no ‘kal’ to think about. Yet, why should it prevent him from living today? So, Carpe Diem. It’s a song that calls you to enjoy the life you have, not the life you wish for; to live today so you don’t regret tomorrow – what if tomorrow never comes?
Har ghadi badal rahi hai roop zindagi
Chhanv hai kabhi kabhi hai dhoop zindagi
Har pal yahaan jee bhar jiyo
Jo hai samaa kal ho na ho…

To Aunt R and X, my friend - may your shadows never grow less.   

*The phrase comes from the original Carpe Diem quam minimum credula postero, which loosely translates to 'Pluck the day, trusting as little as possible in the future'. 

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