A Life Mirrored in Old Hindi Film Songs!

Growing up, my generation was rather sheltered and had few outlets to express personal emotions. In fact, it was rather taboo to even entertain thoughts other than what was expected of ‘good’ children  – obey the parents, respect elders, study hard and trod the expected path of graduation, job, marriage and a steady, izzat bhara (socially respectable) life. Taboo or not, we still had and entertained all sorts of dreams and emotions. And many of us turned to music (read old Hindi film songs) as a vicarious means of expressing our feelings!

Friendly Warning: Readers unfamiliar with old Hindi film songs may not be able to relate to the contents of this blog. 

I am sure finding personal meaning in music is pretty much a universal phenomenon. But I suspect it was much more intense in times past with little outlet for release. No Facebook or Word Press in those days!

With little choice, we turned to music and loved, laughed, got naughty or soulful, and wept along with the lyrics and tunes of Hindi film songs.

Falling in love with the idea of love! 

Parental restrictions or no, I think many of us fell in love with the idea of being in love courtesy the lyrics of Hasrat Jaipuri, Shailendra, amongst others, and the music of Madan Mohan, S. D. Burman, R. D. Burman, Jaidev, Salil Choudary, O. P. Nayyar and Shankar Jaikishen.

There was always a ‘love’ interest in the neighbourhood or college.  And songs like “Aise tho na dekho, ke humko nasha ho jaaye; khoobsurat si  koi humse khata ho jaye” (Teen Deviyan), “Aap yuhi agar humse milte rahen, dekhiye ek din pyar ho jayega” (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena) or “Tumne mujhe dekha ho kar meherban” (Teesri Manzil) fuelled many a romantic dream.

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And boy oh boy, did the actors of those days have their expressions down pat! Especially Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor! Their gaze on a woman along with lyrics such as “Abhi na jao chod kar ke dil abhi bhara nahin” (Hum Dono) or “Ehsaan tera hoga mujh par, dil chahta hai woh kahne do” (Junglee) had a whole audience sighing clutching onto their rapidly beating hearts. The women, I am sure, were imagining the man of their dreams looking at them in just that way while the men were, no doubt, mentally practicing ‘the look.’

Several decades later, these and other similar songs still have the power to make us wistful of days gone by and dreams that we once had and never lived. Or, for the few lucky ones, dreams that came true but could not be held onto.

Shedding inhibitions and experiencing Joie de Vivre! 

Dance is one of the most beautiful forms of expression. It is also a fantastic channel to lose oneself and become one with the Universe. That, if I am not mistaken, was what the Bhakti movement was about.

Which is why losing oneself in dancing is so exhilarating! Those days, too many of us were inhibited, bogged down as we were with “Duniya kya kahegi?” Yet, we conducted our own exuberant, coming out party when no eyes were watching and swayed and danced to “Aaja aaja main hoon pyar tera” (Teesri Manzil) or “Hothon mein aise baat main daabake chali aayi” (Jewel Thief).

Some of us even got naughty and, if we are honest enough to admit it, silently practiced seduction along with a Mumtaz singing, “Yeh hai reshmi, zulfon ka andhera na ghabariye” (Mere Sanam). Or a Tanuja dancing to “Raat Akeli Hai” (Jewel Thief).

A finer appreciation of life!

Some of the finest Hindi film songs also helped us along the path of appreciating just how wonderful life could be. Even today, when I roam around a mountain or hill side, I automatically start singing, “Suhana safar aur yeh mausam haseen” (Madhumati) or “Hari hari vasundhara pe neela neela yeh gagan.” What words. Sheer poetry. Bharat Vyas goes on to write, “yeh kisne phool phool pe, yeh kisne phool phool pe kiya sringar hai; yeh kaun chitrakar hai” (Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti).

And how can any blog on Hindi film songs be complete without mentioning the beautiful eulogizing of the Monsoon Gods? While the recent Lagaan captured beautifully the heart stopping anticipation with which India waits for the annual rains and when it comes, breaks into a collective, spontaneous dance, nothing can quite match the romance or the emotional beauty of the rains captured in songs like “Oh sajana barkha bahaar aayi” (Parakh) or “Diwana hua badal sawan ki ghata chaayi” (Kashmir Ki Kali). 

Then there were other songs which helped us develop a deep empathy for the less fortunate in life. Be it a “Woh subah kabhi tho aayegi,” (Phir Subah Hogi) or Guru Dutt singing “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jayen tho kya hai” in Pyaasa. 

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Moulding the values of an entire generation! 

I got my love for Hindi film songs from my mother who bought vinyl LPs and EPs every time she had some cash to spare. After she passed away, I compiled a collection of her favourite songs and it was then I realized just what a deep romantic she must have been. Why else would she love songs such as “Aayega aayega aane wala, aayega” (Mahal) or “Chupa lo yun dil mein pyar mera” (Mamta)? 

A person’s choice of music does indeed reflect on that individual’s persona and inner dreams. I recently realized that one highly taciturn office colleague was actually a closet romantic. How? By the caller tunes he was choosing for his phone:)

Looking back, I think a whole generation of us grew up buying into the emotions expressed in old Hindi film songs because it appealed to the romantic in all of us. I use the word romantic here in its broadest sense of being an idealistic who dreams of an Utopian world. Or perhaps, we were like that because a generation of lyricists and music composers influenced us. A little bit of both, me thinks.

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