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28 February 2022

Nasheeli Songs - Lata Mangeshkar

I have published posts on sharabi songs before this. There has been a post on an intoxicated Dev Anand, another on inebriated songs, a third, warning women about the perils of alcohol. So why this post on a nasheeli Lata Mangeshkar? Blame Shalini. It tickled her funny bone; for someone who doesn’t imbibe, Shalini is hell bent on making me write about women who do. And because she’s a wicked woman who likes to drive me batty, she threw in a condition this time as well – I couldn’t use any of the songs on my ‘drunk heroines’ list. (So, no Kaise rahoon chup?  Or Na chhedo kal ke afsaane.) It ‘builds character’, she said. Huh!

Thankfully, she unbent enough not to add any more conditions. So, for the purposes of this post, I didn’t have to restrict myself to women being high on alcohol. Any intoxicant is fair game. It didn't matter if the lady in question was only pretending. I am, however, as I have done with my previous lists, restricting myself to her solos. Therefore, Ye aankhen uff yumma will not feature in this list. Nor will Jai jai Shiv Shankar. And as always, my favourites will tend to cluster around the top of the list.

Mohabbat mein aise kadam dagmagaaye
Anarkali (1953)
Music: C Ramchandra
Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan

In the first of these songs, the intoxicant is not alcohol or bhang or hashish, but an intoxicant that is cleverly poured into Anarkali’s (Bina Rai) bathwater by Gulnar (Kuldip Kaur), a court dancer who has been supplanted in the emperor’s favour by the former. What’s more, Anarkali also has the love of Prince Salim, and Gulnar, a women spurned, is taking revenge for her humiliation. As an inebriated Anarkali falters in the emperor’s presence, Gulnar’s wounded pride finds temporary solace.

In Conversations with Lata Mangeshkar, Lata says that they had rehearsed the song and were going to record it the next day, but C Ramchandra was not satisfied. He felt there was something missing. When he was climbing the stairs up to his house, he hiccupped. And decided to incorporate that into the song to reflect the lady’s intoxication. Anarkali wasn’t a patch on the K Asif’s magnum opus that came seven years later, but the film had a stellar score, of which, this is one.

Zindagi kitni khoobsoorat hai
Bin badal barsaat (1963)
Music: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Shakeel Badayuni

I have often wondered what it is about women expressing their desires that makes men look so disapproving. Of course, it also appears that our women need to take the help of a strong stimulant before they dare express any such sentiments. [So, the question arises – is it the drinking or the expressed sentiments that arouses such disapproval?] In this story of past wrongs seeking present redemption, Asha Parekh is out to seduce, or at least, flirt with Biswajeet. [Her little chuckles in the beginning are really quite humorous.] I love Lata’s rendition – the sighs that appear during the antaras raise the seduction quotient.

Zulfein uljhi hai mere kangana se
Burma Road (1962)
Music: Chitragupt
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

 I posted a ‘club song’ from this film picturised on a very young Vijaya Choudhry and an avuncular Ashok Kumar (a casting mismatch, if there ever was one). Here’s another lovely song from the same film, this time picturised on the lovely Kumkum. I love Lata’s rendition of this utterly sensuous song as well. But the best thing I can say about Moti Sagar is that he isn’t disapproving of an inebriated damsel. In fact, he appears to be quite charmed by Kumkum’s plea for help, and who can blame him?

Maine to nahin pii
Main Nashe Mein Hoon (1959)
Music:  Shankar-Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra

Ah, woman the temptress. The cause of every man’s downfall (and redemption as well). Here, the woman is not drunk, or pretending to be. She’s merely the goblet; he is drunk, she says, and she’s feeling the intoxication.

Funnily enough, I have watched Main Nashe Mein Hoon in my misbegotten youth, but I didn’t remember this song at all until I saw it. I love, love, love this song, especially the way Lata sings Kyun nashaa mujhe aaya? It is such a happy song. I also love Raj Kapoor's drunk interjections. A big thank you to Shalini for re-introducing it to me.

Kareeb aa ye nazar phir mile
Anita (1967)
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Raja Mehdi Ali Khan

Following the trajectory of Woh Kaun Thi? and Mera Saaya, Anita too revolves around a mysterious woman, her doppelganger (or maybe not), and a confused hero who seeks out the truth. Here, in the last part of Raj Khosla’s suspense trilogy, an inebriated Anita (Sadhana), dressed in a slinky knee-length dress, is half reclining on the bar counter, making moves on a a slightly confused co-passenger (IS Johar). They engage in a torrid affair, which culminates in a sensuous painting of a half-nude Anita. Or so the painter tells a horrified Neeraj, Anita’s ex-boyfriend.

Sadhana, already suffering from goitre, was not at the peak of her loveliness as she was in, say, Woh Kaun Thi? Or Mere Mehboob, but she could still emote like a dream. Lata infused what would have been a standard come-hither song (and a rather banal melody) with both yearning and deep hurt.

Hum ko bhi gham ne maara
Aas Paas (1981)
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

A tawdry tale with a contrived tragedy for an ending, I should have used Aas Paas as an example of the cautionary tales for women. Seema (Hema) is a confirmed alcoholic in this, not just a pretend drunk. Her fiancĂ© killed before their marriage, Seema falls into a depression and is fired from her job as a theatre artiste. Before she knows it, her father dies, leaving her to support herself and her little brother. She is kicked out of their house for not having money to pay the rent and ends up living with Rani (Nadira), an aging actress whose career has petered out. And oh, by now, Seema is also an alcoholic, and under the influence, is one day raped by Prem (Prem Chopra). Struggling to come to terms with her life, Seema now performs in a bar. Which is where a shocked Arun (Dharmendra) finds her. But since the makers cannot let a raped woman lead a dignified life…

This is one of the few latter day songs that I like for the emotion that Lata infuses into the song, and Hema’s portrayal of a woman who’s faced one too many hurdles to care a damn anymore. 
Lailo shabaab aayi
Do Phool (1973)
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
If Lata Mangeshkar had ever seen how the song was to be picturised before she recorded it, I am a hundred per cent certain that she would have refused to sing it. Watch at your own peril – there’s some truly awful calisthenics (I refuse to call it ‘dancing’) that’s part of the so-called choreography. But the song itself, with its faintly Arabic overtones, is a pleasant one. Not one of my favourites, but definitely listenable.
Panditji mere marne ke baad
Roti Kapda aur Makan (1974)
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Verma Malik

I don’t quite know how Roti Kapda aur Makaan fared at the box-office; I only know that if Manoj Kumar could make a half-decent premise sanctimonious and preachy, he would. The gratuitous and gory gang-rape scene [I had long-lasting nightmares about it], the constant references to this, the over-the-top symbolism, the hit-you-on-the-head messaging, the trippy psychedelia… and if all that weren’t enough, Mr Bharat never met a camera angle or filter he didn’t like. The saving grace of the movie was the decent performances, including Mr Bharat’s. [Though I wish he wouldn’t touch his face all the time; it gave me the shivers after a while.] And while I actually love Zeenat’s sass in Haaye haaye ye majboori, this ‘drunk’ song, where Aruna Irani tries to save Bharat from the villains is quite a favourite. Partly, it is due to Aruna herself, as she cavorts around holding a bottle. But mostly, it is Lata who made the song what it is. I especially love the way she sings the prelude to the song Na dharam bura na karam bura/Na Ganga buri na jal bura/Par peenewalo.n ko panditji/Na karna kabhi naseehat/Peenewala marte marte/Bas karta hai yeh vaseeyat...

Yaari ho gayi yaar se
Do Chor (1972)
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics:Majrooh Sultanpuri

Lots of eye candy, both male and female; a heroine who made for a very good looking (and believable) young man; a rather taut tale about two thieves, and some pretty brilliant music from RD, especially in the interludes of this song – they all contribute to making Do Chor a pretty decent watch. So, Lata gets to sing a rather hippy number, as Tanuja and Dharmendra avoid the cops and pretend to be high on whatever they were smoking. Dharmendra does a very good job of looking spaced out. [I have decided that Tanuja dressed as a man bears a striking resemblance to Ayushman Khurana, barring the hair. ]

Mera naam Rita Christina
April Fool (1964)
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Hasrat Jaipuri

Biswajeet, I’m convinced, spent a great deal of his time in the movies looking disapprovingly at women who drink. Don’t believe me? I already posted Zindagi khubsoorat hai where he looks disapprovingly at Asha Parekh; then there’s Aao huzoor tumko from Kismat where he frowns upon Babita, and here he is, looking shocked, shocked! that Rita Christina (Saira Banu) seems tipsy!

If there’s one reason to like this song, it is Saira Banu. She throws herself into the tipsy act with such joy and abandon that it is difficult not to smile. I especially love the way she kicks off her sandals, and flails around, twirling that ridiculous flounce on the back of her dress. Then, there’s a silk top hat and a sexy fan that ‘Rita Christina’ uses to make Biswajeet decidedly uncomfortable. Great fun. 

Free Love (1974)
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Asad Bhopali

A song from a movie that sounds like sleazy semi-porn? However, this beautiful, melancholic song deserves to be better known. Yes, it’s better heard than seen – if I were to make a list of beautiful songs whose charm was butchered on screen by directors who had no idea what the song means, I would be spoit for choice. If you do decide to watch, be warned that it has a pretty, but vapid Yogeeta Bali poured into a skin-tight gown with tawdry costume jewellery and an assorted bunch of villains. This ghazal, however misplaced, is worth a listen.
Raj Mahal (1982)
Music: Kalyanji Anandji
Lyrics: Verma Malik

 The eighties saw quite a few raja-rani films being made. Nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ and erstwhile minor kingdoms? Perhaps. Neetu Singh throws herself with a vim and a verve into a defiant anthem of love in the quasi-villain’s den. [I didn’t know princesses knew how to do this, or would deign to do this, if they did.] The lyrics are banal, but despite the not-great melody, the song is rather fun in a campy sort of way.

So, this is the last of a series of posts (for now) honouring Lata Mangeshkar. Themes for other lists have been suggested by blog readers but they will keep for another day.
For Lata, for the many, many years of listening pleasure that you have afforded me; for being present in my life and my memories, shared and otherwise; for the immense dignity and discipline that you personified; for sharing your talent with us – gratitude.

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