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06 June 2018

The Many Moods of Nargis

As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t really thought of Nargis as one of my ‘favourite’ actresses, until I realised that whenever I saw her on screen, I loved how natural she was, how charming, and how effortless her performances. Now, I can better understand why she was my father’s favourite heroine. (The fact that he adored Raj Kapoor could also have had something to do with it, so closely associated is Nargis with RK, man and films.) In any case, I have a new favourite actress. To make reparations for having neglected her for so long, June will be 'Nargis Month' here at Conversations over Chai. (To pre-empt Shalini who will remind me that I’ve never had a ‘Meena Kumari month’ yet or a ‘Waheeda Rehman month’, I offer 15 posts (ten films) for the former and 11 posts (8 films) for the latter, not to mention countless appearances in my many song lists.)  

Nargis was no dancer like Waheeda Rehman or Vyjayanthimala, and her attempts at dance movements were singularly unsuccessful. At best, she was a marionette. However, she had some fantastic songs that were picturised on her, solos, duets and even songs where she's not lip-syncing but is still the focus of the song (Ik bewafa se pyar kiya from Awara, for example.) It didn't matter that she couldn't dance. If you watched her expressive face, you didn’t have to understand the language to understand what she was feeling / emoting. 

So once again, in what has now become a series, here are songs that depict Nargis in different moods. My only criteria were that the song had to be a solo (choruses are allowed), and it had to be lip-synced by her on screen. 

1. Carefree 

Raat aur Din (1967) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Music: Shankar-Jaikishan Lyrics: Shailendra
Peggy (Nargis), Varuna’s nightly alter-ego, is a ‘modern’ woman – she goes to clubs, drinks, smokes, behaves in a way the well-brought up, docile Varuna wouldn’t. Her beleaguered husband is at his wits’ end as his wife disappears from home at night – and refuses to even recognise him as she carouses. On one such occasion, Prakash (Pradeep Kumar) takes her to the hospital; there, recovering consciousness, she gets into an altercation with Prakash whereupon he leaves in a huff. The next morning, however, brings the news that Varuna is nowhere to be found. When we next see her, she’s wandering around town, singing Awara ae mera dil… Perhaps her subconscious knows she’s not who she is to the outside world at present.
Raat aur din ke
Ye do chehre
Kab tak pehnoon
Kuch to kah de
Kaun hoon main kyaa hoon
Sach hoon ke saayaa hoon
Another song that fits this mood is the upbeat Panchhi banoo udti phiroon from Chori Chori (1956) (penned by Hasrat Jaipuri).

2. Happy
Aah (1953) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Music: Shankar-Jaikishan Lyrics: Shailendra
This is a young woman who falls in love unexpectedly. Having written to her sister’s penfriend on her behalf, Neelu (Nargis) has an opportunity to meet Raj Bahadur (Raj Kapoor). Having no clue that this is not the girl he was writing to (but who was writing to him instead), Raj finds Neelu both attractive and entertaining. Expectedly, they fall in love.

Back home, Neelu is both thrilled and confused – how did she fall in love with him so soon? She’s only now beginning to understand the pangs of separation; if she had known it earlier, would she have allowed herself to fall in love?
Haay re meetha dard jigar ka
Haay re pehla pehla pyaar
Jo main jaanti ye sab hoga
Is mushkil mein padti kyun
Itna pyaar main karti kyun?

Since there seems to be very few songs in which Nargis is truly happy, let me also add Koi mere dil mein khushi banke aaya from Andaz...
Where Neena is wondrously, gloriously happy – Rajan is coming home.
Mohabbat ne chheda hai phir saaz dil ka
Woh har taar me raagini ban ke aaya
Koyi mere dil mein khushi banke aaya
Andhera tha ghar rashni banke aaya

3. Romantic
Meri aankhon mein bas gaya koi re
Barsaat (1949) Singer: Lata Mangheskhar Music: Shankar-Jaikishan Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
On their annual trip to the hills, Pran (Raj Kapoor) Gopal (Premnath) rent a houseboat for their stay. Their landlord's daughter, Reshma (Nargis) comes by daily to take care of the housekeeping. Drawn to Pran’s violin-playing, the young woman is soon attracted to the quiet, intense violinist as well. Wary of trusting the stranger (her father warns her about city slickers and their temporary romances), her defences fall when she realises that this young man has unexpected depths. Not used to playing games, Reshma openly admits her love for him, an avowal that brings tears to his eyes.
Meri aankhon mein bas gaya koyi re
Mohe neend na aaye main kaa karoon
Muskaaye jab raat ki bindiya
Ud jaaye aankhon se nindiya
Thandi thandi main aahen bharoon
Haaye main kaa karoon

My other choice for this mood was Koi aaya dhadkan kehti hai from Lajwanti (1958) which speaks of a deeper, more mature love than the song from Barsaat. Composed by SD with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri, it is sung beautifully by Asha Bhosle, who combines a girlish innocence with coquetry.

4. Anticipation
Jogan (1950) Singer: Geeta Dutt Music: Bulo C Rani Lyrics: Pt Indra
Jogan is known for its Meerabai bhajans, but this one, sung by Surabhi (a very young and pretty Nargis) before she becomes a jogan. Brimming with laughter and with the sensitive soul of a poet, Surabhi contains her deepest desires in her book of verses. Even as she laughs and plays with her friends, there’s a yearning for that special someone who will come to take her away from the sordidness of her existence. Alas, that’s never to be, but for now, Surabhi doesn’t know that. And so she bemoans the peacock who doesn’t visit when the rain clouds descend, the bee who remains far away though the gardens have bloomed and her beloved, who has mischievously chosen to stay away from her.
Dekh re bhanwre khil rahin bagiyaan
Door door kyon goonje rasiya
Paar hoon na hum se bhai bairi
Kaahe tu is oar nahin aaye
Sakhi ri chitchor nahin aaye… 

5. Yearning

Awara (1951) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Music: Shankar-Jaikishan Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
What can you do when day turns into night as you yearn for your beloved’s company? Where do you go to find him when night’s easing into dawn?
Ik chaand ke doli mein aayi nazar
Ye raat ki dulhan chal di kidhar 
Aawaaz to do khoye ho kahaan
Ab raat guzarne waali hai
Raj (Raj Kapoor) had promised to come to her, but where is he? What Rita (Nargis), pouring her heart out in longing, doesn’t know is that her beloved’s attempt to leave crime behind is being hindered by his erstwhile boss on the one hand, and her guardian (Prithiviraj Kapoor) on the other. Prevented from seeing her by her guardian’s orders, Raj is, at that very moment, outside the walls of her palatial home. 

The anguish of waiting for a beloved to arrive is more potent in Ye shaam ki tanhaaiyaan from Aah (1953).
Here, Neelu (Nargis) waits and waits. And waits. For a man who doesn't come.
 Jis raah se tum aane ko the
Uske nishaan bhi mitne lage
Aaye na tum, sau sau dafaa
Aaye gaye mausam  

6. Pleading
Shree 420 Singer: Lata Mangeshkhar Music: Shankar-Jaikishan Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
When Maya’s (Nadira) siren song causes Raj (Raj Kapoor) to turn away from all that Vidya (Nargis) has to offer, she leaves hurriedly. Raj is angered by her reaction to his success – what have her principles, his honesty given them? Don’t they need money to be happy? Recoiling from him (he is drunk), Vidya stands stony-faced as he scornfully turns away from her. Her heart knows that if she calls him, he will return to her; but her principles do not allow her to utter a word. Her inner torment bursts forth in her heart’s song as it pleads with her to stop him, and to him to look back, just once…
Fariyaad kar rahi hain
Khaamosh nigaahein
Aansoo ki tarah aankh se
Mujhko na giraana
Zara dekhte jana

7. Heartbreak
Mela (1948) Singer: Shamshad Begum Music: Naushad Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
When Mohan (Dilip Kumar) goes away to town to buy jewellery for his marriage to Manju (Nargis), he doesn’t know that Fate and Mehku (Jeevan) have other designs. An accident causes Mohan to lose his memory, and when he doesn’t return in time for the wedding, Mehku uses the opportunity to call the Panchayat insisting that Mohan is a cad who had trifled with Manju’s affections. In cahoots with Manju’s stepmother, Mehku insists he can find a suitable husband to replace Mohan at the mahurat of their planned wedding. No one listens to either Manju or even Mohan’s father, who pleads for his son’s future. A heartbroken Manju has no other option but to agree to the Panch’s decision.
Hansti hai qismat kahti hai duniyaa
Aapas mein do dil milne naa paayen
Gham kaa fasaanaa kisko sunaayen
Whom can she voice her heartbreak to?

8. Regret
Chori Chori (1956) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Music: Shankar-Jaikishan Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri
The runaway heiress, Kammo (Nargis) meets Sagar (Raj Kapoor), a down-on-his-luck reporter, whose only interest in Kammo is the exclusive story she can give him. On their shared journey to meet her ‘true love’ Suman (Pran), Kammo realises that what she feels for Sagar is deeper than her infatuation for Suman. Sagar, initially keeping his feelings in check, is finally forced to admit that he loves her. But when morning comes, Sagar is absconding, and a broken-hearted Kammo returns to her father. When days pass and Sagar doesn’t show up, Kammo is forced to believe her father – Sagar never loved her. And she wonders why she ever fell in love with him…
Dhoondhe hain paagal naina
Paaye na ik pal chaina
Dasti hai ujdi raina
Kaase kahoon main baina
Rasik balma haay,
Dil kyun lagaaya
Tose dil kyun lagaaya, jaise rog lagaaya…

9. Despair
Uthaaye ja unke sitam
Andaz (1949) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Music: Naushad Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni
Having discovered that Dilip (Dilip Kumar) loves her, and has mistaken her friendliness for love, Nina (Nargis) is dismayed. Her plans to stay far away from Dilip don't work since her husband, Rajan (Raj Kapoor), would like to return to Bombay. Matters come to a crux at their daughter's birthday, when Nina makes an impassioned plea to [as she thinks] Dilip to leave her alone. The cracks in her marriage are widening and nothing Nina says seems to make a whit of a difference. She's quickly spiralling into despair. 

I love this song as much for the melody as it is for the way Lata sung it – she sounds sublime. I can even appreciate the poetry in the lyrics, and that it fits the context. But oh... why, oh why can't she leave her husband's sorry self behind instead of singing: 
Yahi hai muhabbat ka dastoor ae dil
Woh gham de tujhe tu duaayen diye ja 
Uthaaye ja unke sitam  
(I did say Nargis had far too many 'trials and tribulations' roles; well, she also appeared to have an inordinate number of 'sad' songs as well.)

10. Resigned
Adalat (1958) Singer: Music: Madan Mohan Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
This is one of the many ‘trial and tribulations’ films that Nargis starred in – she is Nirmal, a young woman who, after a series of unfortunate incidents, lands up in a kotha. Where she’s forced to entertain the customers because her son is held hostage. By this time, her various troubles have worn her down, and she’s resigned to her fate.
Ghar se chale the hum toh khushi ki talaash mein
Khushi ki talaash mein
Gham raah me khade the wahi saath ho liye
Khud dil se dil ki baat kahi aur ro liye
Yun hasraton ke daag

11. Devotional
Jagte Raho (1956) Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Music: Salil Choudhury Lyrics: Shailendra
This is the siren call – a man dying of thirst, who has been hunted through the night like a wild animal, walks out of the building he had been trapped in, with no idea where he is to go or what he is to do. The purity of the voice singing an early morning hymn catches his attention, and almost subconsciously, he follows that voice into an adjacent building, where a young woman is watering the tulsi plant, imploring the Lord to wake up.
Kiran pari gagri chhalkaaye 
Jyot ka pyaasa pyaas bujhaaye
Phool bane man ke angaare
Jaago Mohan pyaare jaago
Nav yug choome nain tihaare
Jaago jaago Mohan pyaare…
She is too engrossed in her prayers initially to notice the man looking beseechingly at the water she’s pouring out. But when she does notice, she offers him the water with the same devotion with which she offered the water to the Lord. And in the background, the chorus swells up…
Jaagi re jaagi re jaagi kaliyaan jaagi
Nagar nagar sab galiyaan jaagi
Jaagi re jaagi re jaagi re
Jaagi re jaagi re jag jag  

My other choice for this was the beautiful Meera bhajan from Jogan, sung by the inimitable Geeta Dutt Ghunghat ke pat khol re. 
This works on two levels – one, in the purely spiritual meaning of the verses, where one meets God. (In the Bhakti movement, God was seen as your beloved.) In the other more mundane meaning, the removal of the jogan's veil is what gives Vijay the first glimpse of a woman who turns into his obsession. It is this song that acts as a siren's call that lures an avowed atheist into the temple precincts.

12. Maternal
Lajwanti (1958) Singer: Asha Bhosle Music: SD Burman Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Before a mountain of troubles breaks over her unsuspecting head, Kavita (Nargis) is a happy, if neglected wife, who nevertheless loves her husband (Balraj Sahni) and their little daughter, Renu. Here, she’s putting her little daughter to bed – asking the moon to hide, the jasmine to not bloom, lest its fragrance not allow her baby to go to sleep.
Chanda re
Chanda re chhupe rehna, soye meri maina, leke meri nindiya re
Phool chameli dheere mehko jhonka na lag jaaye
Naazuk daali kajrawaali sapne mein muskaaye
Leke meri nindiyaa re

So here they are a dozen songs (and a few others that I snuck in) that never fail to soothe my solitude.  What songs would you add?

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