No other season conjures up the kind of myriad emotions that rains do. For generations, Hindi film cinema has had an unending tryst with Nature’s most alluring side to portray it all -- romance, separation, togetherness, melancholy, cheer and what have you.
Not only songs, rains have carried the entire film on their shoulders with names like Barsaat, Barsaat Ki Raat, Saawan Ki Ghataand Baarish.
Perhaps the most enduring image of a rain song is the duet from Shree 420 where Raj Kapoor romances Nargis with Pyaar hua ikraar hua in Manna Dey’s second option voice (Mukesh being the obvious first) and his flustered, nervous beau responds in Lata’s submissive vocals with Kehta hai dil rasta mushkil.
RK couldn’t stop gushing about the song when I spent a musical evening with him at his Chembur studios. “It is not just a song. It is my love story that I tried to bring alive on the screen.”
The song made such a compelling viewing that avid cinegoers still recall how Rishi Kapoor as a child artiste walked through the rain scene shot on Charni Road while Tum na rahoge, ham na rahenge phir bhi rahengi nishaaniya played in the background.
For the Hindi cinema, rains are synonymous with romance and love. Dev Anand, undoubtedly the most handsome hero, was born to romance. Recall the graphic black and white images of the way he serenades Waheeda Rehman in his own productionKalabazaar.
Dada Burman perfectly captures the mood of that languid drizzle with the rotund voice of Rafi and Geeta Dutt. There’s no lip-syncing here, and yet the song Rimzim ke taraane leke aayee barsaat makes inroads into a viewers’ mind.
Now, I knew Dev Anand wasn’t much of a nostalgia person, but the mention of the song brought that famed toothy smile on his face. “We took a few retakes of the song and got drenched enough to have a bout with colds later, but what romanticism! Compared to some of my other songs like Abhi na jao chhodkar (Hum Dono), Rimzim ke taraane wasn’t as popular, but it so beautifully brought out the sparkle of a superb lyric. Dada was at his usual crest”, Dev Anand rattled off in one of those many sessions that I occasioned between my stopovers at his Bandra Navketan Studios.
Few will dare call Bharat Bhushan as an actor given his expressionless face. I chanced upon the veteran performer when he was past his commercial prime and known to reside in a modest two-room apartment in the western suburb of Borivali, Mumbai. He was, of course, candid in admitting that songs had a major role to play in his success.
Among the countless hits he delivered through the proxy voice of Rafi, he was sharp enough to remember the feet-tapping duet from a film that had everything to do with rains – Saawan. The movie was dismissed as a box office disaster but the actor told me laughing that the audience which had already gone off to sleep in the first half, suddenly sprang alive to the feet-tapping Rafi-Shamshad Begum duet Bheega bheega pyar ka sama bata de tuze jaana hain kahaan. “Hansraj Behl composed beautiful songs for me in that film, one of which was the classically inclined Rafi solo Dekho bina saawan baras rahi badli.
However, any reference to Bharat Bhushan would be incomplete without the signature song from Barsat Ki Raat where he singsZindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi wo barsaat ki raat, first in Rafi’s solo voice and later with the ethereally beautiful Madhubala singing in Lata’s voice. The solo came to be acknowledged as the biggest chartbuster of 1960 thanks to Sahir Ludhianvi and Roshan. Bharat Bhushan, Rafi, Sahir, Roshan, Madhubala are no more. The song lives on. The movie opened to Raag Gour Malhar unfolding inGarjat barsat saawan aayo re in the synchronized voices of Suman Kalyanpur and Kamal Barot.
I can tell you Salil Chowdhury wasn’t the kind who would open up easily. The reticent composer was answering my questions in monosyllabic “yes” and “no” until I mentioned to him his two creations: Ahaa rimzim ke ye pyaare pyaare geet liye (Usne Kaha Tha 1960) and Hariyala saawan dhol bajaata aaya (Do Bigha Zameen 1953) that carried a distinctive folk flavour.
Salilda went on to explain the whole dynamics of his songs and how western symphonies became an integral part of his compositional mindset. By a strange coincidence, Sunil Dutt, who once dropped me to Vile Parle during his election campaign, pointed out that the Usne Kahaa Tha duet was among his favourites.
The Do Bigha Zameen song that Manna Dey sang with chorus brought out the cheer of the first rains and its significance to a farmer and parched earth.
For actor Shashi Kapoor, Prem Patra (with Sadhna in 1962) remains among his favourite romantic. “It was one of the rare occasions when Salilda employed Talat’s mellifluous voice on me with that lovely ditty Saawan ki raaton mein aisa bhi hota hai, Shashi Kapoor pointed out to me over a chai-pakoda session in 1979 after inaugurating the Gemini Circus show in Nagpur.
Who will forget that it was Barsaat that pitch-forked Lata Mangeshkar – then a raw, thin voice – into playback singing. That was in 1948 when rookies Shankar-Jaikishen and Shailendra blended to create Barsaat mein hamse mile tum sajan. “S-J were brilliant from day one. There were few who could sustain the excellence in standards the way they did”, Lata told me long back. Incidentally, her illustrious brother Hridayanath shared her view.
Rajendra Jubilee Kumar never hid the fact that he idolised Rafi. So he made it clear in no uncertain terms to composers Kalyanji-Anandji to bring him on in Anjaana (with Babita in 1969). That’s how listeners got to hear Rimzim ke geet saawan gaye. At this juncture, it must be told that for some reason, KA were never great votaries of Rafi and depended more on Mukesh and other singers, often patting themselves on their back for “introducing new talents.” But Rajendra Kumar was immensely popular and his word carried weight.
In a strange paradox, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, always sold on Rafi big time, used Mukesh and Lata in “Milan” (1967) to playback Sunil Dutt and Nutan. Saawan ka mahina pawan kare sor topped the Binaca Geetmala scales that year. According to Pyarelal, this song was a big feather in their cap.
At his Union Park residence in Chembur, Dadamoni Ashok Kumar once told me how he and his singer brother Kishore Kumar decided to highlight the pristine beauty of Madhubala through a rain song. Assisted by Dada Burman, Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi(1960) – an out and out musical farce – had Kishore crooning to his lady love Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si.
In the same year in Bimal Roy classic Parakh, Salilda chose the other way round. Here it was the female protagonist sang through the heavenly vocals of Lata to go on a bashful Sadhna in O sajna barkha bahaar aayee. And interestingly enough, -- same year again -- it was the same Sadhna blushing to a handsome Dev Anand singing Ek but banaunga tera aur pooja karoonga (Rafi-Asli Naqli-1960) when heavy rains catch them unaware.
Barely a year later, a young composer who had inherited his father’s musical inclination, composed a Lata solo that could have given any seasoned composer a run for his money. Ghar aaja ghir aayee badra saawariya is close to Lata’s heart. “I knew Pancham was in the footsteps of his great dad, but I couldn’t believe that this chhokra who used to play around near the recording studios, indulging in silly pranks, had the maturity to compose such a classically beautiful song”, Lata said. And to think of it, it was in the same year that Lata-Talat sang Saawan ke zoole pade (Pyar Ki Pyaas) that brought alive, the angst of a separation.
Rains brought out a wide spectrum of compositions. The list of such songs can be exhaustive. Hindi cinema’s obsession with rains continues, but unlike the songs of yore, today’s songs do nothing more than to titillate. Gross lyrics, tuneless compositions and crass picturisation have taken away from the decency of the romance. Little wonder, rains are shying away from us.
(નોંધ – ઉપરોકત વિચારો લેખકના પોતાના છે જીજીએન તેની સાથે સહમત છે એમ માની લેવું નહીં.)