(function() { var c = -->

28 February 2023

My Favourites: Comic Songs

I have not always been a fan of ‘comedy’ in old Hindi films. They are usually stereotypical, loud, and at least to me, not at all funny. Even the songs that are picturised on these comic side plots are sometimes more irritating than comic. [Especially if they featured Mehmood.] Except, of course, for Johnny Walker, whose songs were as iconic as him. But if you look closely at Johnny Walker's songs, not all of them are ‘funny’ except for the fact that one just has to see him on screen to smile. Many of them were rather philosophical musings, albeit in a funny way – Sar jo tera chakraaye, for example, or even the satirical Ae dil hai mushkil.

Comic side plots have all but vanished from Hindi films, and I, for one, am glad about that, but ‘comic songs’ – I am talking here about Hindi film songs that make you smile widely, sometimes even laugh out loud – have also gone the way of the dodo. And that makes me sad. Because I feel that we don’t laugh enough these days, we are all too busy being offended by everything.

So, my small effort to bring a smile to your face – some of my favourite ‘comic’ songs; they need not always be picturised on the comedic actors though Johnny Walker does make an appearance on this list (how could he not?). In fact, when I was looking for my favourite songs, I found one actor to be overly represented in this genre of songs – actor-singer-director Kishore Kumar! If I hadn’t restrained myself, this would have been a ‘Kishore in comic songs’ post, and so, I gave in and split this into two posts – Kishore and not-Kishore.

Here is Part 1 – the not-Kishore comic songs: as in, Kishore Kumar may well be providing playback for another actor, but he’s not the actor on screen.

Arre na na na na na na tauba tauba
Aar Paar (1954)
Singers: Geeta Dutt, Mohammed Rafi
Music: OP Nayyar
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
Johnny Walker makes me smile just by being on screen. He’s hands down my most favourite Hindi film comedian – because his comedy was never cheap or vulgar. It didn’t depend on double-meaning dialogue or the caricature of a particular community. His comedy came from his dialogue delivery, his body language and that incredibly mobile face on which expressions chased each other like quicksilver. Many of his songs may seem ‘comic’ because of these reasons, but to me, this is one of his truly comic songs: he’s wooing real-life sweetheart Noor with Majrooh’s witty lyrics.

Sar se jigar se main weak hoon bahut
Karo aisa na julam
Arre ho jaayenga fail abhi heart hamaara
Tere sar ki qasam…
he sings, before promising to climb the highest mountains and plumb the deepest oceans for her sake. She’s not very impressed, likening him to a bear’s uncle and a monkey’s father and demanding that he stop faking. And when he insists that her heart must beat fast at the thought of him and give her sleepless nights, she assures him that she’s perfectly fine and sleeps very well indeed.

This is one song where the music, the lyrics, the rendition and the on-screen acting all come together to make a truly smile-worthy song!

Geet pehle bana tha
Chupke Chupke (1975)
Singers: Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
A very different kind of comedy, the sort that makes you smile very sillily because the actors on screen are acting very silly (deliberately so). It is a very gentle comedy – Parimal (Dharmendra) has just come to visit his best friend, Sukumar (Amitabh Bachchan) with his newly-wedded wife, Sulekha (Sharmila Tagore) in tow. To entertain his ‘bhabhi’, Sukumar insists on Parimal joining him to sing ‘their’ song, but before that, they have to dress alike. Both Dharmendra and Amitabh had perfect comic timing, and this light-hearted song has just the right kind of funny lyrics that make absolute sense. It is the actors on screen who make you smile with their antics. 
Geet pehle bana tha ya bane the ye sargam
Ek hi saath hua tha do dilon ka ye sangam
I always have a silly smile on my face when I watch this song (and this film).

Dil ki umangein hai jawan
Hemant Kumar, Geeta Dutt and Thakur Desai
Munimji (1955)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi 

The song is funny because of the situation: Roopa (Nalini Jaywant) and Raj/Amar (Dev Anand are in love, though Roopa is 'promised' to Ratan (Pran).
She has very definite ideas of her own however, and so does Amar. Here, the two of them conspire to make a fool of Ratan by encouraging him to 'sing'. Ratan, who cannot sing, makes an absolute fool of himself. What's even funnier than the faces that Dev and Nalini make, is Dev pretend-playing the guitar - he's not even making an attempt to look realistic. Of course, the song ends with poor Ratan being sent off on a donkey. Both Hemant Kumar and Geeta Dutt are obviously having fun, especially Geeta whose 'voice-acting' is fabulous.

Jungal mein mor naacha
Madhumati (1958)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: Salil Chowdhury
Lyrics: Shailendra
Johnny Walker again, this time playing a drunk – so exceptionally well, considering he was a teetotaller. This time, however, he’s not wooing anyone, or philosophising to the world at large. He’s complaining, loud and clear, to anyone who will listen. Has anyone seen a peacock dance in the jungle, he asks? No, but the minute he takes a swig, everyone sees him! Have they noticed all the men who are devastated by a woman’s large, round, intoxicating eyes? No! But they have the time to notice that he’s drunk – just a little! Does anyone notice the avarice of people around them? Not at all, but they stare goggle-eyed at him just because he likes a tipple. Life is Just. Not. Fair!
This is yet another of those songs that are a perfect combination of music, lyrics, rendition, and acting. I am really not sure who choreographed the song but Johnny’s physical antics fit in oh-so-well into the rhythm of the song. And Rafi’s drunken drawl!

Daiyya main ye kahan aa phansi
Caravan (1971)
Singer: Asha Bhosle
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This song never fails to make me chortle. Performed on a the makeshift stage is in a barn, poor Sunita (Asha Parekh) is pushed to dance in front of an extremely impatient audience. Her panicked reaction – Daiyya ye main kahaan aa phansi, kaise phansi – has the audience jeering, especially when they take in the odd assortment of clothes she’s wearing (including a lampshade as a head-dress). There are some escaped hens that Jeetendra is trying to capture, even as Asha swings on a rope to escape the goons who are after her, and Junior Mehmood clowns valiantly around.

Asha Bhonsle channels Kishore Kumar; Asha Parekh discovers a fine instinct for physical comedy; Majrooh does what he does best – write the zaniest lyrics; the choreographer does a fantastic job of making a dancer like Asha seem like she doesn’t know how to dance; and RD straddles insanity and genius to bring out a composition that is sheer genius! As is his wont, RD incorporated the sounds of people jeering, clapping and even thumping their feet into the song.

Arre haan dildaar
Bewaqoof (1960)
Music: SD Burman
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
The more I listen to lyrics by Majrooh, the more awed I am by his immense talent in writing pure nonsense verse in brilliant poetic format! Here, in a situation where Pran is being hoodwinked (in a tale of babies being switched at birth – or not), Manna Dey’s and Shamshad Begum’s vocal dexterity complement IS Johar’s facial contortions as he and Krishnakumari hide behind a wall pretending to be singing on radio. 

They sing Majrooh’s lyrics (in Hindi) in different accents – Bengali, Tamil and Sinhalese – depending on the listeners tuning the radio to ‘different’ radio stations. Total bedlam ensues.

Bade miyaan deewane aise na bano
Shagird (1967)
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
When the student becomes the teacher… Or how to make over so an old man can win over a fair damsel. Ramesh (Joy Mukherjee) is advising his mentor, Prof Brijmohan Agnihotri (IS Johar), a former misogynist on what it takes to impress a young woman. Look young, dye your hair, dress up, exercise, spout poetry…

Majrooh obviously had fun with the lyrics – ‘Seena ziyaadah, pet kam’, ‘Chehra polish kiya karo thodi maalish kiya karo’.  The light-hearted lyrics complement the picturisation where a dour and increasingly agitated Johar is being thus lectured by a very amused – and amusing – Joy. Rafi infuses his rendition with the right amount of drollery necessary, but the icing on the cake is Manna coming in for Johar when, away from his ‘teacher’, he puts his lessons into practice. His repetition of ‘Ae dilbar mere lab par kab chhalkega tere lab ka jaa… jaa… jaaa’ is hilarious. (The word ‘jaam’ gets cut off because Poonam (Saira Banu) pushes him. Johar’s dourness plays off well against the playfulness of both Joy and Saira.

I love you, O madam
Dulhan (1958)
Music: Ravi
Lyrics: SH Bihari
How can such a regressive film have such a light-hearted, fun song? With Nanda as the ‘man’ and Nirupa Roy playing the woman ‘he’ is chasing, this light-hearted song is one of the few bright spots in a bleak, self-destructive movie. The scene is enough to bring a smile to your face – a very young Nanda looks rather cute dressed in drag, while Nirupa Roy (whose character in the film made you want to give her a spine or kill her, depending on whether you were feeling sorry for her or angry at her) looked very pretty twirling a parasol. SH Bihari obviously had a blast writing the lyrics.

Preetam aan milo
Angoor (1981)
Singer: Sapan Chakraborty
Music: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
Ashok 2 (Sanjeev Kumar) and Bahadur 2 (Deven Verma) have been inadvertently trapped in Ashok 1's (also Sanjeev Kumar) house. So Bahadur 2 makes a devious plan – he spikes the pakodas with bhang thus getting Sudha (Moushumi Chatterjee), Tanu (Deepti Naval) and Prema (Aruna Irana) high. Then, he proceeds to sing their pre-arranged signal to let his master know that the coast is clear and they can escape. He is singing in right earnest, raising his voice a little when his master does not appear. 
The singing becomes a little more anxious but he continues to sing valiantly – looking over his shoulder to make sure that Prema (Bahadur 1’s – also Deven Verma – wife) isn’t appearing. The lyrics are a hoot –
Raaat akele
Dar lagta hain
Jangal jangal
Ghar lagta hai
– and so is Deven Verma.

If you ever want to see how Shakespeare can be ‘go native’ as it were, and be intelligently adapted to a modern context, you need look no further than Angoor. Gulzar adapted his own script of the Bimal Roy-produced, Debu Sen-directed Do Dooni char, which in turn, was a reworking of the Bengali film Bhranti Bhilas, based on Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar’s play of the same name. That, in turn, was inspired from the Bard’s Comedy of Errors.  
Ye raat aur ye doori
Andaz Apna Apna  (1994)
Singers: SP Balasubrahmanyam, Asha Bhosle
Music: Tushar Bhatia
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri
This song (and film!) never fails to bring a smile onto my face. Raveena (Karisma Kapoor) and Karishma (Raveena Tandon) have exchanged places because Raveena wants to marry a man who loves her and not her wealth. Amar (Aamir Khan) and Prem (Salman Khan) are two layabouts who have inveigled their way into the two girls’ good graces. Unfortunately, both Amar and Prem have designs on the fake Raveena (Raveena Tandon) while the real Raveena (Karisma Kapoor) has fallen in love with Prem. Upon hearing from the real Raveena that the pretend Raveena loves music, Prem decides to serenade her at night. Amar, waking up to the song, is initially bereft when he hears – as he assumes – ‘Raveena’ respond to Prem’s singing. Until he realizes that it is ‘Karishma’ who is singing with Prem while ‘Raveena’ is on the adjacent balcony. If that sounds confusing, just wait until you watch the movie and realize that it’s not just the girls who have exchanged places! 

The song is sweet, very reminiscent of OP Nayyar in the 50s (a deliberate tribute by MD Tushar Bhatia) and the four actors on screen – Aamir, Salman, Raveena and Karisma – play up the comic aspect of this song, It’s not just Amar’s night cap that droops and then perks up when he realizes 'Raveena' is next door; it is Prem’s pyjamas and his goofing about; it is Karishma’s wide-eyed simpering (she channels her mother very well in this song), and it’s Raveena’s glee at realizing her friend and employer has taken matters into her own hands. 
Filled with references to Hindi films of yore, and with the comedy dependent as much on its spark-and-crackle dialogue as it does on intelligent slapstick, this film was that rare commodity in Hindi films – a comedy with no drama or melodrama. It’s just a laugh riot from start to finish.
What songs make you smile? Or laugh out loud? 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Back to TOP