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16 January 2018

Of Whiners and Doormats

The other day, I was thinking about a couple of long-ago conversations on my blog. Blogger Chitrapat Sangeet had posted one of his favourite Lata Mangeshkar-Manna Dey duets on the post on Manna Dey's duets, and I responded that I hated the song because of its lyrics. He called it a 'samarpan' song, but he didn't convince me then. I’ve since changed my mind about the doormat factor of that song – I still don’t think it’s ‘samarpan’; it is one of those self-deprecatory ‘I have to show I’m inferior to you’ songs. Fortunately (or unfortunately), both (man and woman) seem to feel that way. When another fellow-blogger, Madhulika of dustedoff, mentioned she had the same reaction to Aap ki nazron ne samjha, I'd jokingly mentioned that perhaps I should do a song list of 'doormat' songs. After all, Hindi cinema thrives on role models – especially for women. Films of a certain vintage had a litany of life lessons for ‘good’ women. Madhu concurred. But there the matter rested.

Later, also quite long ago, in my post on Songs of Betrayal, I had mentioned how most of the male-heartbreak songs were rather whiny; while the women mourned their lost loves, the men typically blamed their beloveds for everything under the sun. I mean, we’ve all been there – feeling sorry for ourselves, indulging in our victimhood, drowning in sad songs that seemed to know our emotions better than we did ourselves. Usually, we outgrow that phase. Not so the Hindi film hero, who seems to be in arrested development, at least emotionally. [Imitiaz Ali has made a career out of making films on such men.] Or, who thinks that standing around at his ex-beloved’s engagement party (or birthday party or whatever celebration), sometimes uninvited, and singing a heartbreakingly emotional song full of despair and betrayal is a good idea. [More to the point, why doesn’t someone kick him out? Are they thinking ‘Chalo, now I don’t have to pay for a wedding singer’?] We beat the theme to the dead-equine stage in the comments.

Now that I remembered these instances, I figured I would make a list that’s somewhat tangential to those, in that the predominant emotion here is either an exultation of their martyrdom or a deep mourning of their fates. So here are some very beautiful songs (and some not as beautiful) whose lyrics make me want to shoot myself. I do like some of the songs very much indeed but I did not post this under ‘My Favourites’, because most of thse songs are depression-inducing, and I can do without help in that direction, thankewberrymuch.

So, without further ado, my choices to fit the twin (complementary) themes of self-abnegation and self-pity, in no particular order. Songs I love to hate are nearer the top. 

Koi jab tumhara hriday tod de 
Purab aur Paschim (1970) 
Singer: Mukesh
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyrics: Indeevar
Topping the list of songs I love to hate is this one from Manoj Kumar’s saga of ‘West bad, India good’. Apart from the fact that I spent most of the film's running time wondering why Saira Banu was blonde (given that she’s of Indian descent), the ‘modern’ woman having to be tamed to become a domesticated – cow! – was regressive enough to make me froth at the mouth. 
If that wasn’t bad enough, the lyrics of this song are so insulting, so demeaning that I wonder any woman worth her salt would actually give this guy the time of day, let alone fall in love with him. 
Darpan tumhe jab daraane lage
Jawaani bhi daaman chhudaane lage 
Tab tum mere paas aana priye 
Mera sar jhuka hai jhuka hi rahega tumhaare liye…  

Indeed. How romantic. How tempting. How barf-worthy! [Was she supposed to be grateful?]

Mera chhota sa dekho ye sansar hai 
Bhai Bhai (1956)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan 
Doormat example no. 1: You know what happens to women who are doormats? Their husbands promptly have affairs. Don’t believe me? Ask Nirupa Roy. 
No sooner she finishes removing her husband’s shoes, pressing his legs and singing:
Mera jeevan hai ek muskurahat teri
Meri duniya hai kadmon ki aahat teri
Tere kadmon mein hi mera ghar-baar hai
Mera chhota sa dekho ye sansar hai…
off he goes away to Bombay and has an affair with an utterly charming, utterly unscrupulous and very un-doormat-like Shyama. Not just that, he very happily employs his wife as his paramour’s maid, and doesn’t seem too bothered about his wife or son. I know I was supposed to feel sorry for the doormat, er, Nirupa Roy, and yes, he was a cad, but I can’t help but confess that my reaction to her plight was, ‘Well, you (literally) asked for it.’    

Jo tumko ho pasand 
Safar (1970)
Singer: Mukesh
Music: Kalyanji-Anandji 
Lyrics: Indeevar  
Doormat example no.2: You want to know what happens to male doormats? They meet with a tragic end. Ask Feroz Khan. Also, let me inform lyricists that doormats – male or female aren't very appealing. I am not a doormat and I don't want a man who is one, either. I wager I'm not the only woman (or man) who feels this way.   It has to be a very insecure man who has to sing Tum din ko agar raat kaho, raat kahenge, Jo tumko ho pasand, wohi baat kahenge... even if he has Sharmila Tagore simpering beside him. 
Not to mention that, after all these pretty words, he is perfectly willing to suspect her of infidelity. In fact, if Sharmila had taken a knife and stabbed Feroze Khan's character, I would have headed a campaign for letting her off on charges of justifiable homicide. [I'm an equal opportunity defender – I will defend anyone who wanted to do the same to any of Nimmi's characters in any number of films.] 

Tumhi meri mandir 
Khandaan (1965) 
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan 
This song is on the top of my list of ‘songs that make me want to cut my throat'. It’s as much the lyrics (refer to ‘devta’ and ‘puja’) as the picturisation.
The song is beautifully sung by Lata Mangeshkar, enacted very well indeed by Nutan who manages to look both loving spouse and maternal at the same time. (Sunil Dutt, unfortunately, manages to look rather unappealing.) However, I don't want to be my spouse's mother, and while my husband is many things to me, I cannot fathom thinking of him at any point as:
'Tumhi meri mandir, tumhi meri puja, tumhi devta ho
Main toh chhoti si maati-ki gudiya
Tumhi pran mere, tumhi aatma ho'   
(Luckily for me, he would laugh outright at the notion, or think I've gone insane.) 

Jaane woh kaise log the jinke 
Pyaasa (1957) 
Singer: Hemant Kumar
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi 
I don’t know if Guru Dutt thought that angst was touching or poignant, but his ‘heroes’ seem to be men who just cannot move on from disappointments. Anirudha Bhattacharya once mentioned to me (of Dutt’s character in Kaagaz ke Phool) that it was hard to sympathise with a character who spent all his time mourning his personal problems instead of working; that, if any of us ordinary mortals brought our emotional baggage to work with us, we would be fired. I tend to agree. 
Perhaps it is that but this song falls into the throat-cutting inspiration category. (I don't like Hemant Kumar's rendition either.) Just listen to:   
Isko hi jeena kahte hain toh yunhi jee lenge
Uff na karenge lab see lenge aansoo pii lenge
Gham se ab ghabrana kaisa gham sau baar mila… 

…and tell me if you think a person who is so sunk in self-pity can be in any way attractive!

Mujhko sahara denewale 
Isi ka Naam Duniya Hai (1962)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: SH Bihari 
Another lovely song, this time sung by Asha Bhosle. Mujhko sahara denewale - the lyrics are self-explanatory. She is full of gratitude to someone who gave her succour; by loving her, he has proven to be her benefactor. And so,  
Dil mein bithake teri puja karoon 
Main hoon teri pujarin tu mera devta... 
Aaargh! Why do our heroines so often mistake gratitude for love? And why are they so intent on turning their men into Gods? Surely they are doing no one any favours? In response, all I can quote is Shashi Kapoor in  Kabhi Kabhie - 'Is duniya mein aadmi insaan ban jaaye toh bahut badi baat hai! (It is enough, in this world, if a man is human.)  

Hue hum jinke liye barbaad 
Deedar (1951)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Naushad
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni 
One public service announcement to Hindi film heroes (and heroines): if your childhood sweetheart has moved away from you, please don’t expect that when you grow up, s/he will still in love with you. People have a habit of changing as they grow up. In fact, they might actually be in love with someone they met as an adult – you know, when they actually have some idea what ‘love’ means? So, if you learn that a) they have no recollection of you or, b) they aren’t in love with you – please go away and learn to move on instead of singing: 
Hue hum jinke liye barbaad woh humko chaahe karein na yaad
Jeevan bhar unki yaad mein hum gaaye jaayenge…  
It certainly does you no good to be so defeatist about it, and it ruins everyone else’s lives too. 

Hai isi mein pyaar ki aabroo 
Anpadh (1962) 
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Did I ask which woman worth her salt would fall for a man who confuses disrespect for love? Well, a woman such as this, I think. This song is filled with such self-loathing that I wonder any man would be attracted to someone who doesn’t respect herself. Just think of lyrics that state:
Mujhe gham bhi unka azeez hai ke unhi dii gayi cheez hai
Yahi gham hai ab meri zindagi ise kaise dil se judaa karoon?
A beautiful ghazal by Madan Mohan, sung so beautifully by Lata Mangeshkar, and enacted on screen with such pathos by Mala Sinha, an uneducated woman whose husband cannot bring himself to accept her. (Of course, he later changes his mind, which gives her a chance to sing Madhu’s pet peeve.)  Yes, I can understand the scene and its constraints, but I still found the lyrics regressive, even from the point of view of the character. Luckily, the film does talk about the importance of women's education, and the music is so beautiful that I try to shut my ears to the lyrics.

Aansoo samajh ke kyun mujhe 
Chhaya (1961) 
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: Salil Chowdhury
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan 
Never mind that he had earlier told the girl ‘Itna na mujhse tu pyar badha ke main ek baadal awaara’. Never mind that she had fallen in love with him anyway. Never mind that circumstances cause them to break up. It sets the scene for a certain kind of Hindi film hero to wash his dirty linen in public. But when you begin to sing:
Jo na chaman mein khil saka main woh gareeb phool hoon
Jo kuch bhi hoon bahaar ki chhoti si ek bhool hoon
Jisne khilaake khud mujhe, khud hi mujhe bhulaa diya
Aansoo samajh ke kyun mujhe aankh se tumne gira diya 
… you lose my sympathy. 
Have some self-respect, people! (And he goes on to whine some more.) Beautiful music by Salilda, oh-so-beautifully rendered by Talat, and I can even appreciate the language and syntax of the lyrics. I like the song very, very much but… self-pity is not an emotion I enjoy. 

Maine chaand aur sitaron kitamanna kii thi 
Chandrakanta (1956)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: N Datta
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi 
Why do such beautiful songs have to be so self-pitying? I do love this song, as much for the way Rafi has sung it as for its music and even its lyrics. But whine, whine, whine… then, if that’s not enough, whine some more. 
Main woh naghma hoon jise pyaar ki mehfil na mili
Woh musafir hoon jise koi bhi manzil na mili
Zakhm paaye hain bahaaron ki tamanna kii thi
Maine chaand aur sitaaron ki tamanna kii thi
Mujhko raaton ki siyaahi ke siwa kuch na mila 
Yes, I get it. You have been separated from your beloved. You’re bereft. Life sucks. I get that too. But you know what? We don’t always get what we desire, or even what we deserve. (It doesn’t help that it’s picturised on Bharat Bhushan. He always looked like he was wallowing.) 

Uthaaye ja unke sitam
Andaz (1949) 
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Naushad
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Talking about self-pity, God save me from doormats. Woman, clock your husband on his head, will you? Actually, could you just knock both men’s heads together? Might knock some sense into both of them. Of course, that might be best after you actually tell your husband the truth. Seriously, though, you think sitting there like a water spout, spouting nonsense like this –
 Uthaye jaa unke sitam aur jiye jaa
Yunhi muskuraaye jaa, aansoo piye jaa
 Yahi hai muhabbat ka dastoor ae dil
Woh gham de tujhe tu duaayen diye ja
is preferable to leaving his sorry self behind? I seem to be repeating myself here, but go buy yourself some self-respect, woman! 

I love this song; it's quite one of my favourites as much for the melody as it is for the way it's sung Lata sounds sublime. I can even appreciate the poetry in the lyrics, and understand that it fits the context very well, but oh...  

What about you, my readers? Do you have any submissions for this theme?

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