1 July 2021

My Favourites: Flirtatious Songs

Flirting – by Henri Gerbault
Source: Wikipedia

We have had long discussions on stalking in films. How the “Never accept a ‘no’ until she says a ‘yes’ ” hero manages to turn the until-then independent minded heroine into a simpering mess merely by irritating the hell out of her. We have even enjoyed many of the songs because they were so beautifully rendered (in Hindi) by Mohammed Rafi, Hemant Kumar, Manna Dey, Talat Mahmood, Kishore Kumar et al. It was an accepted notion – girls say ‘no’ when they actually mean ’yes’. Several of my favourite heroes have been guilty of this behaviour. And even loving Shammi Kapoor as I do, even accepting that the times were more innocent, I still cringe at some (not all) of the songs as he irritated the heck out of the heroine who, you knew, would soon fall in love with him. 

The flirtatious songs I write about here do not fall into that category. These are no stalking songs – the playing field is level. These are songs which make it clear that the attraction is there on both sides. The snappiness on the woman’s part is a veneer, a defence mechanism as she struggles with an emotion hitherto unknown to her. It is part of the mating sequence, in an age when men and women did not get a chance to meet openly or get to know each other.

These songs are also different from the ‘roothna-manana’ songs, which usually occurs after a relationship is already established, and usually occurs when one or the other is coaxing their beloved out of his/her sulks. This is the stage before one or both fallen in love – for want of a better word, I’ll call them ‘wooing songs’ or ‘nok-jhonk’ songs since there’s an element of teasing in these songs. The ‘threats’ are humorous, the retorts are snappy, and there’s no power imbalance – the women are quick to respond/retort as the men are to woo/tease them.

That is not to say that a roothna-manana song cannot also be a nok-jhonk one. It’s the element of humour, of good-natured teasing that elevates these songs beyond the normal duet. And yes, they are all duets.

Let’s start with the song that set off this theme in my mind.

Chal diye banda nawaaz
Mr & Mrs 55 (1955)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
It was when I was watching Mr & Mrs 55 that I really began to notice these teasing songs because the context made it very clear that the attraction was mutual. Since she’s not [yet] in love with Pritam, she fights her emotions as much as she does him. Just before this song is Ab to jee hone laga where the nascent attraction between Anita and Pritam is evident. 
But he has kidnapped her and she’s angry, snapping, “Daaman se khencho zara haath ko/Samjho zara apni auqaat ko”. He responds, “Auqaat meri na poochhe huzoor /Hoon aap ka mujh ko ye hai guroor”,  but she’s not exactly falling over herself to appease him. “Yun na rishta jodiye, daaman hamaara chodiye…” It’s not exactly the response he was hoping for, but the journey’s end is near.

Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji
Mr & Mrs 55 (1955)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
From the same film is a song picturised on the parallel pair of Johnny Walker and Yasmin, playing Johnny and Julie. Johnny is a photographer in a newspaper where Julie is the stenographer. Johnny, a flirt of the first order, is always bringing flowers for all his female colleagues. When Julie, a new hire, appears, Johnny forsakes all others and tries his charm on her. She’s not very responsive to his overtures, even threatening to complain to the editor (in today’s times, he would be hauled before HR for sexual harassment), but it is soon clear to her that Johnny is harmless, if persistent. Again, there’s no hint of unease in the relationship, and it is very clear that Julie can – and will – wave him off like the pesky fly when she’s had enough of his nonsense. 
Even here, when he claims he’s lost his ‘jigar’ and can’t find it, she’s not very sympathetic, though she does help him look for it, offering both remonstrations (“Yahaan use laaye kaahe ko bina kaam re?”) and advice (“Chalo chalo thaane bataayen jamadaar se”). When finally he begs her to tell him the truth – did she steal his heart? She’s quick to say that she would tell him if he would fall at her feet. There’s the eternal woman sparkling in her dimpled smile.

Ye mard bade dil sar dard
Miss Mary (1957)
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
This is not exactly a duet, since the allegations/counter-allegations come one after the other. It is still a nok-jhonk song in that while the two leads are not yet in love with each other, the attraction is palpably evident, to the extent that the heroine is jealous of the attention he gives another young woman. And so, she ostensibly tries to warn off her supposed rival by singing:
“Jhooti in ki zaat badi/ Yeh hai dastoor purana / Meethi meethi batiyon mein bhool ke na aana”. 
To which his good-humoured response is: “
Mardon ko dosh dena / Raag purana hai yeh / Jhooti in ki zaat kaho / Ya kaho inhen deewaana / Mardon ka phir bhi /Ghulaam hai zamaana. 
In the game of one-upmanship, the stakes suddenly got higher.

Main chali main chali
Professor (1962)
Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi
Music: Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra
Another Pritam (Shammi Kapoor). And Nina (Kalpana), the young woman he’s been hired to teach. But she hates the very sight of him – in the guise of her old, bumbling professor. When she and her sister (Parveen Choudhary) try to get him fired, Pritam vows that he will pay them back. And so, running into Nina at the tailor’s while he’s his own young self, he manages to snag her salwar kameez, knowing she will get into trouble with her aunt for wearing western clothes. 
Though perturbed, Nina plays along, being smart enough and sassy enough to get the better of him. The attraction – on both sides – is still dormant, but these meetings stoke the attraction that two young people soon feel for each other.

Dil hai aap ka huzoor
Jaali Note (1960)
Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosle
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
If there’s Shammi in a song list, can Dev Anand be far behind? Here he is, in disguise (he’s an undercover cop) insisting to Renu (who’s an investigative reporter) that “Dil  hai aap ka, huzoor, leejiye na leejiye/ Itna husn par guroor tauba tauba keejiye”. His heart is hers for the taking, but whether she accepts it or not, should she be so proud of her beauty? Not being indifferent to “Kunwar Vijay Bahadur Singh’, but not being a pushover either, she is quick to retort: “Sheesha dekhiye huzoor, dil na hum ko deejiye /Apni shaql dekhkar tauba tauba keejiye”. Perhaps he should look at himself in the mirror before offering his heart to all and sundry? To add insult to injury, she also accuses him of being drunk: “Aap kya nashe mein hai, Kuch toh hosh keejiye.”

Dekh idhar ae haseena
12 O’clock (1958)
Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
Another undercover cop, another teasing/squabbling song. Here, while it appears that  Motilal Sharma’s (Johnny Walker) only interest in Marina (Ashita Majumdar) is to lure her into leaving the child (she’s a nanny) behind, he is actually attracted to her, and she to him, though she’s loth to let him know. Especially since they don’t know each other very well. So when he sings: Sun le kabhi dil ki sadaa/O Nazneen dil na jala, she doesn’t hesitate before responding: Laakhon hi jab aahein bharein /Tum hi kaho hum kya karein? /Kis kis ke dil ki khabar koi le? /Kis kis ke gham ka asar koi le? With hundreds of suitors heaving sighs for love of her, it’s difficult for a young woman to keep count of their broken hearts.

Hum aap ki aankhon mein
Pyaasa (1957)
Singers: Mohammed Rafi,
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
This is a song in flashback, picturized as a dream sequence. When Vijay meets his ex-girlfriend, Meena, it is as the wife of a wealthy publisher. And in one of those meetings, they remember happier times. but the song is both teasing (on one hand) and foreboding on the other. 
“Hum aap ki aankhon mein is dil ko basa den to?” He asks, to which her response is a teasing “Hum moond ke palkon ko is dil ko saza den to?” He’s not done – from troubling her in her dreams (she’ll disturb his sleep) to placing a flower in her hair (she’ll shake her tresses so the flower falls down), he finally pleads: “Hum aap ke qadmon par gir jaayenge gash khaakar” (“What if I faint [out of love] at your feet?], she’s unrepentant – Is par bhi na hum apne aanchal ki hawa den to? [“What if I still don’t offer succour?”] It’s but a sign of things to come.

Arre na na na na na na tauba tauba
Aar Paar (1954)
Singers: Geeta Dutt, Mohammed Rafi
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
She doesn’t want to fall in love, she tells him. “Main na pyaar karoongi  kabhi kisi se tauba tauba…” He’s shocked. How can that be? After all, “Jigar se weak hoon main karo aisa na julam/ Arre ho jaayenga fail abhi heart hamara tere sar ki qasam.” Later in the song she castigates him for promising great acts of derring do. Reechh ka tu uncle bandar ka tu baap / thhoko nahin bundle raho ji chup chaap”.  
The song’s piquancy intensifies when you realize what you’re watching is a real life wooing as well; Johnny Walker, who fell in love with Noor (heroine Shakila’s sister) during the shooting of this film wooed her assiduously. In an interview, he mentioned that he had fallen in love with her at first sight and was pleasantly surprised to learn (through back channels) that she wasn’t indifferent to him. He couldn’t understand how someone as pretty as she could fall in love with someone who looked like him, but he was quick to woo her once he knew of her interest.

Sun sun sun sun zaalima
Aar paar (1954)
Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
It was while making this list that I realised how many of Guru Dutt’s films had these amusing teasing songs. This is the second film from which I’ve been able to pull out two songs that fit this theme, and in both films, the songs were picturized on Guru Dutt and Johnny Walker respectively.  
Nikki’s (Shyama) initial encounter with Kalu hasn’t endeared him to her. But when he walks into her garage looking for a job, he manages to sweet talk her into giving him one. It is when Shakila appears that it is clear that Nikki is not as disinterested in Kalu as she first appears. But she has no intention of letting him know that – not so quickly, at least. Though Kalu seems to take for granted that she will eventually fall in love with him (because he’s in love with her), she is rather offhand in her response. “Sun sun sun sun zaalima”, he address her – ‘the cruel one”. 
How long will she stay away from him? “Door kab talak rahoon/ Phool tu hai rang main/ Main to hoon tere liye/ Dor tu patang main”, she cheekily retorts: “Kat gayi patang ji/ Dor ab na daaliye/Aur kisi ke saamne/ jaa ke dil uchhaaliye”. “Go hawk your heart elsewhere.” These songs, as the earlier ones from Mr & Mrs 55 showcase the best of Majrooh’s ability to write conversational lyrics.

Achha ji main haari
Kala Pani (19)
Singers: Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This song is one of the rare roothna-manana songs that fits this theme. Because Asha (Madhubala) is already attracted to Karan (Dev Anand) and it is clear that Karan is not indifferent to her. But when she sees Karan with Kishori (Nalini Jaywant), she is furious. So furious that when Karan comes to her for help, she turns him away. Until a chance remark by her photographer colleague reminds her why Karan had initially come to the newspaper office.  
When she finally meets Karan at the police station (where he’s been charged with public disturbance) he’s not even willing to speak to her, until she reminds him that she’s a reporter. Which is how she learns why Karan was meeting with Kishori. So she sets out to coax him out of his sulks: “Chhote se qasoor hai, aise kyon khafa?” she queries, to which he retorts, “Roothe to huzoor the meri kya khataa? She was the one who was upset; what was his fault? 
But Asha’s coaxing is not apologetic in the least. When he pulls his hand out of her grasp, she quips, “
Chhod diya to haath maloge, samjhe?” But she pleads with him to take her along – life is long, and he will need a companion. “Jeevan ke ye raaste lambe hai sanam” / “Kaatenge ye zindagi thokar khaa ke hum”/ “Oy zaalim saath le le” / “Achhe hum akele” / “Char qadam bhi chal na sakoge, samjhe?”. By the end of the song, not only is he coaxed out of his sulks, they have both accepted their mutual attraction.

According to Psychology Today, "Flirting is not a trivial activity; it requires many skills: intellect, body language, creativity, empathy. At its best, flirting can be high art..." 
I have long mourned that good, old-fashioned flirtation has gone extinct. It's a shame. :) 
What songs would you add to this list?

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