Childhood Friends Turned Sweethearts

In 1982, thirty-five years after migrating to Pakistan, singing-actress Noor Jahan set her foot on India again. This was principally in connection with the golden jubilee of sound in Indian cinema, a live music celebration arranged at Mumbai’s largest auditorium, Shanmukhananda at Sion. The event, called “Mortal Men, Immortal Melodies”, was kicked off by Lata Mangeshkar rendering a shloka, and included singing by Ashok Kumar (Main ban ki chidiya ban ke ban ban doloon re and Na jaane kidhar aaj meri nao chali re), Rajkumari (Ghabra ke jo hum sar ko takraayen to achha ho), GM Durrani (Neend hamaari khwaab tumhaare), Talat Mahmood (Aye dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal jahaan koi na ho), Meena Kapoor (Rasiya re man basiya re, and Geeta Dutt’s Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam), Hemant Kumar (Jaag dard-e-ishq jaag—he sang it solo—and Ye raat ye chaandni phir kahaan), Usha Mangeshkar (singing Lata’s Aaja re pardesi), and Mahendra Kapoor (Chalo ik baar phir se), among many other singers.

At this event Noor Jahan rocked the audience with Mujhse pehli si muhabbat mere mehboob na maang, and Awaaz de kahaan hai. This last song from Anmol Ghadi (1946) assumes special commemorative significance because its composer, Naushad Ali, was around and was also conducting the orchestra on the stage that day. From another point of view too, this song assumes apposite importance. The fact that this was Noor Jahan’s duet with singing-star Surendra Nath—who too was alive and in the auditorium on that day—made it wonderfully special. So, wouldn’t you have thought it in the fitness of things for both the original artistes to sing Awaaz de kahaan hai under the same maestro’s baton once more, after all those decades? As it turned out, that did not happen. The lady proceeded to convert the duet into a solo, singing it all by herself, and soaking up all the limelight. That was baffling.

In the film itself, the two singing actors were shown as close childhood friends who got separated and in adulthood became sweethearts, to be with each other through thick and thin. Real life is different from reel life of course, but I wonder if her going solo on that day was caused by her feeling of importance, consequent to her meteoric rise and fame in Pakistan, synchronous as it was with Surendra’s descent in Indian films. As such, set against the background of the lady conveniently overlooking him on that day in 1982, I chuckled to myself when Surendra came to the stage to sing Kyoon yaad aa rahe hain guzre hue zamaane (from the same Anmol Ghadi), perhaps not so much for his lost love in the film, but in fact a broad-spectrum, real-life indictment of childhood promises which turn meaningless, for one reason or another, when we become adults. Perhaps that is why a realistic thinker has remarked, “Aap dil kya milaoge, aap se to mitti mein bhi milaaya naheen jaayega”.

As observed, Noor Jahan came to India after thirty-five years. It is thirty-five years more since the time that show was held, when several seniors sprinkled stardust on that magical musical nite. Many of them have gone away, but what have not gone away are some essential questions, for now just those about childhood notions and adulthood realities. For instance it may have been okay for a Meena Kumari to sing for Bharat Bhushan Bachpan ki muhabbat ko dilse na juda karna in Baiju Bawra (1952), also a tale of childhood friendship growing into adulthood love, but does it actually pay to stay so optimistically engaged with romantic notions of our salad years later in real life? Those of us that are in their mid or late 40s now would have been 10 or 15 years old in 1982. I wonder if they had any sweethearts at that tender age, and if so, what happened to their relationships. Did they meet after a huge gap, and end up in marriage, or not so? If childhood sweethearts did go on to marry, did the love end once the marriage began?

Perhaps you have some thoughts on the subject. Meantime, here are some memorable songs from films that featured kids in varying intensities of friendship, to become adults in love. A few stories have been made into a film more than once, with different actors, and they find a place here. The adult actors are mentioned for each song, regardless of how the tale ended:

  • Swaranlata and Nazir in Laila Majnu (1945): Duniya hai ab mere liye zinda tere baghair
  • Surendra and Noor Jahan in Anmol Ghadi (1946): Aaja meri barbaad muhabbat ke sahaare
  • Trilok Kapoor and Noor Jahan in Mirza Saheban (1947): Haath seene pe jo rakh do to qaraar aa jaaye
  • Nalini Jaywant and Ashok Kumar in Sangram (1950): Ulfat ke jaadu ka dil mein asar hai
  • Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Awara (1951): Dum bhar jo udhar moohn phere
  • Dilip Kumar and Nargis in Deedar (1951): Bachpan ke din bhula na dena
  • Geeta Bali and Arjun in Malhar (1951): Bade armaanon se rakkha hai balam teri qasam
  • Suraiya and Jairaj in Resham (1952): Yehi hai duniya teri Bhagwan
  • Dilip Kumar and Madhubala in Sagdil (1952): Dharti se door gore baadalon ke paar aaja
  • Shammi Kapoor and Nutan in Laila Majnu (1953): Aasmaan waale teri duniya se jee ghabra gaya
  • Nargis and Nasir Khan in Angaare (1954): Tere saath chal rahe hain ye zameen ye chaand-taare
  • Dilip Kumar and Suchitra in Devdas (1955): Mitwa laagi re ye kaisi anbujh aag
  • Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari in Parineeta (1955): Chaand hai wohi
  • Shammi Kapoor and Shyama in Mirza Saheban (1957): Mohe la de dupatta malmal ka
  • Kishore Kumar and Jabeen Jalil in Raagini (1958): Piya main hoon patang tu dor
  • Rajendra Kumar and Ameeta in Goonj Uthi Shehnai (1959): Tere sur aur mere geet
  • Sunil Dutt and Nanda in Usne Kaha Tha (1960): Aaha rimjhim ke ye pyaare pyaare geet liye 
  • Dharmendra and Tarla Mehta in Shola Aur Shabnam (1961): Jeet hi lenge baazi hum-tum
  • Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha in Hariyali Aur Rasta (1962): Laakhon taare aasmaan mein
  • Rajinder Kumar and Vyjayanthimala in Sangam (1964): Ye mera prempatra padh kar
  • Dharmendra and Sharmila Tagore in Devar (1966): Duniya mein aisa kahaan sab ka naseeb hai
  • Waheeda Rehman and Dilip Kumar in Dil Diya Dard Liya (1966): Saawan aaye ya na aaye
  • Manoj Kumar and Sharmila Tagore in Sawan Ki Ghata (1966): Aaj koi pyaar se dil ki baaten keh gaya
  • Rishi Kapoor and Ranjeeta in Laila Majnu (1976): Koi patthar se na maare kisi deewaane ko
  • Jeetendra and Sulakshana Pandit in Sankoch (1976): Chanchal man teri chaturai kaam na aayi
  • Tariq Khan and Kajal Kiran in Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (1977): Kya hua tera waada
  • Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman in Laawaris (1981): Kab ke bichhde hue hum aaj kahaan aa ke mile
  • Saif Ali Khan and Vidya Balan in Parineeta (2005): Piyu bole, piya bole kya ye bole jaanu na

In many such films, the kids lose touch with each other, and then it becomes very hard finding the lost one. In some ways, it’s a better world now, since Facebook for one can help you find a childhood friend. But the question is, from where will Facebook find us great music?

(Picture on top: Little Shashi Kapoor and Baby Zubeida in Awara)


Originally published with substantially this content: 23 July 2017

(page 11, DNA Jaipur)


24 thoughts on “Childhood Friends Turned Sweethearts

  1. Wonderful article, Manek!!! Bachpan ka pyar continuing till adulthood is only for those who are fortunate, the blessed lot! Otherwise, Love is something which is so overrated and can only be convincingly portrayed by sooper actors on screen!!! What I believe, however, is the institution of marriage and commitment! To be with someone, to love that someone, to forgive that someone whenever he or she errs, to be together in sickness and good health, to understand the human failings, have some fights to clear the air – that is love for me, which is inevitable with long years of togetherness!! Familiarity does not always breed contempt, it just makes couples comfortable with each other!!!

  2. How come I did not meet you on that evening of February 1982 at the program Manek? Haha..
    Yes, a memorable evening, It was about 10 days before I got married, hence memory even more vivid. I remember Noor Jahan dressed in a black saree, shimmering with sequeins work and bright red lipstick and nail polish…Introduced by Dilip Kumar in chaste Urdu…I also remember she sang a Punjabi song – Ja aj toh main teri, tu mera, sajana we ja- heard it that evening for the first time, but has stayed in my mind till date. She fluttered her eyes and was at her glamorous best…But then, she was making in impression and as Shalini and you said, upstaged Surendranathji. Lovely article, so true to life and faced by so very many folks in life.

    1. Like Monica, I enjoyed reading your comments too! How much you noticed, and recall: That Punjabi song, sure! “Noor Jahan dressed in a black saree, shimmering with sequins work and bright red lipstick and nail polish” and “She fluttered her eyes and was at her glamorous best” 🙂

      Had your dad been alive, he would have brought the house down by the applause…

  3. So well said Manek. I remember that occasion in 1982 so well. Felt very bad for Surendernath. He had practiced his part in the song. But when his part in the song came. Noor Jehan sang his part too. Star and Style,Cine Blitz and Stardust went to town about this. Really sad. How interesting you have made your article. Times change. Never take anything for granted. Thank You.

  4. Very interesting essay, Manek. Read it a few hours ago and was wondering how to respond. Your essays illuminate different aspects of life, connect them to HFM, but also make one think. Beautifully presented. You ask many questions. I can’t think of any childhood romances in my world to connect this to. But love that lasts? Yes, I am a product of one such love :). And I can think of at least a couple more such examples – one from this current generation. My cousin, born and raised in USA, fell in love with an American boy in high school. Her mother wouldn’t even hear of the boy, forget wanting to meet him – in deep denial that anything like this could happen in her perfect world :). The girl and the boy waited close to 12 years for her approval. Broke down her resistance, while resisting being in a physical relationship/living together – the norm in the US. Finally wore her down. Got married – in India, with Indian customs – with her blessings. Of course, now the sun rises out of Davey 🙂 (for my aunt). Geetika and Davey are happily married for the past 10 years, have 2 adorable kids and, I think, their relationship is stronger for the wait.
    This, however, is not the norm, I know.
    There is a quotation – “real love begins when romantic love flies out the window”. 🙂 In the case of childhood romances, maybe this is ‘real’ love – not to be confused with romantic love?
    Beautiful song list, as usual. Thank you for another lovely essay.
    May the ‘romance’ you share with your pen and Muse never end, as far as we, the beneficiaries are concerned! 🙂

    1. How beautifully moves your pen Monica! Such a wonderful description of your aunt and her daughter. And the fact her daughter’s story is unusual in its success.

      I am grateful you wish me well too, but what has touched me most is about your parents, their love story. I cannot forget how you described elsewhere that your dad passed away 34 years before your mom did, which was last year. And when you were cleaning her drawer after she passed away, you found the book she was reading, and the bookmark was a letter from him to her? My goodness Monica, I cannot even begin to say what I’m thinking about their love now. I cannot raise my hand high enough, or bend low enough, to salute your mom and dad…ineffable situation for me…no words…

      1. 🙂
        Theirs was an unusual love story – maybe someday I’ll write about them. Yes – we are the fortunate products. The fact you mention here gathers more significance when you realize that the letter that became mom’s bookmark was written in 1965! 51 years she held on to that letter – probably one of the last ones he wrote, as they were not separated for appreciable periods of time after that one year that they spent apart, 6 years into their marriage.
        The matters of the heart are inscrutable. Indescribable. And, when it works out, so beautiful.
        Thank you, Manek. _()_

  5. As anticipated, so well penned by you now on a different genre. During our youth times co education educational institutions were far and between. Only source of talking to a girl was only if she was friends to one’s sister. Another reason is shifting of cities. Childhood friends were only seen in films and ‘Bachpan ke din bhula na dena.’

  6. As always Manek, you always write, new, and very much interesting article…Surprised to read about Noor Jaahan though, while on stage…How most of us some time or other, do think….as song from movie….Patang…1960..Music..Chitragupt..Lyrics..Rajinder Krishan….Rang dil ki dhadkan bhi lati to hogi…Yaad meri bhi bhi unko aati to hogi.. Good list of songs. Thanks.

  7. I wish this essay of yours could reach a much larger readership, for the question that it raises looks much beyond its cinematic context. It is essentially asking : if the often-felt-than-said childhood attachment will have enough in it to last till the two – the boy and the girl – come of age, and even if it lasts that much, will it still retain fire and urge to compel a formalization of the relationship ?

    In my humble opinion, since each individual is different, is unique, so will be his / her response to the situation. However, the period milieu will surely impact / modify / moderate the intensity. For instance, in the early part of twentieth century, the child marriages largely preempted such situations. my grandfather ( year of birth 1896 ) was given in marriage at the age of 13. My grandmother – first in the series – died almost as soon as she was married, claimed by cholera. He was married a second time at the age of 15 but my second grandmother too died a year after, though the death had a different name this time – it was plague. But the one year of togetherness was enough for my grandfather to develop a strong bond – perhaps non-carnal – so much so that he stealthily left home with an avowed intent to turn a sanyasi, so as to be ever away from such attachments and consequent grief. He wandered for about one year and was eventually intercepted by a person known while he was watching at Chandani Chowk the ceremonial procession wherein a home-made bomb was hurled on Lord Hardinge ( Dec, 1912 ). He was again put in marriage in the year 1913, which of course lasted. If we, for the sake of discussions, remove the tag of marriage on his second ill-fated togetherness, we will have a fine example of childhood relationship which did not run its course to reach adulthood. But the important point is that my grandfather could overcome his great grief owing itself to snapped-love ( snapped by death ) within a year to get married a third time. I think love reaches its crescendo rather quickly and the matter should come to a head by then including an irreversible and articulated commitment to a formalization. If one misses the love apex, he / she may miss the formalization for good. Love thereafter tends to plateau before petering finally.
    The childhood attachments always have the built-in risk of hitting the plateau and running out of steam for formalization. Of course, there will always be exceptions.

    Also, when we speak of childhood proximity and consequent attachment, we assume an ‘innocence’ informing the relationship. It was by and large there in the good part of the later half of the last century. But what of the present times when consummation is part of the experimenting and experiencing urge that overwhelmingly possesses the new generations of the twenty first century. Formalization in such cases is either irrelevant or incidental but hardly a question to impact the existential momentum.

    Thanks Manek for this essay.

    1. What a wonderful story, Vijay, of your grandfather, and in its wake, what an illuminating take on matters matrimonial! Saluting you for such deep analysis! The one thing that still remains is for your observation on whether such teenage romances turn into marriages, by and large I mean. And those that do, are they happy unions?

  8. Wonderful recall of Child Hood Romance of the 60s/70s when during school/college days was so difficult to talk to a Girl and express your feelings Just now watching Bimal Roy’s Usne Kaha Tha on DD .The characters played by Sunil Dutt & Nanda know each other since young days also and meet after many years An addition to your list of films

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