Happy New Year Ensemble!

Ensemble refers to a group of performers or musicians who sing or play together. Now consider this: later today, when it hits 12 midnight, all of India will be lighting up the skies with fireworks, drinking up, dancing to happy music, hugging and shaking hands. We will be quietly making New Year resolutions. And we will be as if singing Happy New Year ensemble.

Later still, as midnight crawls westwards into different time zones across the globe, people in other regions will be welcoming the New Year too. In Ankara, Istanbul, for example, celebrations will start happening two and a half hours after we begin ours. The Greeks will erupt an hour later, Parisians will be cheering sixty minutes after the Greeks, while Londoners will eagerly have to wait another hour still. Of course that’s because all these people live in different time zone slices, never mind that in reality, France with its dependencies actually has 11 time zones. This means people scattered in mainland France and its territories won’t be right in singing Bonne Annee in a collective burst. It will be staggered 11 times. People living in the United Kingdom will have to echo their New Year outburst in 9 one-hour intervals, since that country’s dominions cover 9 time zones. This is somewhat like timed-release capsules, dissolving into our systems at one-hour intervals.

Interestingly, when you superimpose the map of India on one of Europe—so easily done on the net these days—you see how large we really are. We are bigger than the UK and France put together. And there is enough left over to add half a dozen other European states. From wingtip to wingtip, our expanse is wider than the longitudes that pass through the 4 cities in different time zones listed above. Not just that, the number of languages and dialects we have far exceeds the diversities of Europe. And yet we remain one country. With one ethos. With one time zone and orchestrated effort, singing Happy New Year ensemble, in a Mile sur tumhaara hamaara 24/365 kind of way.

Interestingly too, the amazing thing about India is the levels at which we operate. Every significant religious group has its own new year too, which is also celebrated. Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Parsis, all have their new year. Culturally considered as well, many have their own new year. For instance, Malayalis have their Onam, Sindhis their Cheti Chand and Maharashtrians their Gudi Padwa. Away from India too, that applies to various nationalities such as the Chinese, Koreans, Tibetans and Japanese. But the excitement that accompanies the departure of December 31 has a universal electrical charge that dwarfs local festivities.

It wasn’t always so, especially in India. It’s the British who brought in this New Year enthusiasm in the 1940s. In the United States too, the public celebration of New Year’s Eve began only in 1907, when several buildings in New York City’s Times Square came together in an illuminated display. But now the idea has caught on, even if Hindi films haven’t really romanced this western idea sufficiently in its songs. Here are a few songs sung at a New Year party, with the music crew in brackets:

  • Saal mubaarak aaya, ho jeeyo mere Raja (Shamshad Begum, Trilok Kapoor/Anjum Jaipuri/Chitragupt/Toote Khilone, 1954)
  • Sab ko mubaarak ho naya saal (Asha Bhosle/Rajinder Krishan/Hemant Kumar/Samraat, 1954)
  • Nineteen fifty-six, nineteen fifty-seven, nineteen fifty-eight, nineteen fifty-nine/Lata Mangeshkar, Manna Dey/Shailendra/Shankar-Jaikishan/Anari, 1959)
  • Jaani mujhe tu ne ye kya cheez pila di (Sharda, Kishore Kumar/Indeewar/Shankar-Jaikishan/Naina, 1973)
  • Happy New Year to you (Shailendra Singh/Writer unknown/Ravindra Jain/Do Jaasoos, 1975)
  • Saal mubaarak sahib ji (Rafi, Mukesh/Hasrat Jaipuri and Ravindra Jain/Ravindra Jain/Do Jaasoos, 1975)
  • Naya saal haaye tamaasha dikhaaye (Asha Bhosle, Amit Kumar, Anwar/Nida Fazli/Hemant Bhosle/Nazraana Pyaar Ka, 1980)
  • Naye puraane saal mein ik raat baaqi hai (Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle/Anand Bakshi/RD Burman/Raksha, 1981)
  • Aane waale saal ko salaam (Shabbir Kumar/Anand Bakshi/Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Aap Ke Saath, 1986)
  • Aadhi raat aayi to khayaal aaya hai…naya saal aaya hai (Suresh Wadkar/Gauhar Kanpuri/Ram Laxman/Baharon Ki Manzil, 1991)

Let the good times roll is fine, but it isn’t always a happy new year for everyone. Every January 2, we get news of many mishaps that happened on the first day of the year. Sadly, in most places, much of the depressing news is associated with irresponsible alcohol consumption. Studies on alcohol drinking carried out abroad have observed that as a person consumes increasing quantities of it, his condition progresses through these five alliterated stages: dry and decent, delighted and devilish, dizzy and delirious, dazed and dejected, and dead drunk.

But if it isn’t a happy new year for everyone, some of the sad news doesn’t have to do with alcohol either. Take the case of Dharmendra on New Year’s Eve in Aaye Din Bahaar Ke (1966). He is not at all drunk at a New Year’s Eve party when he sees his old flame Asha Parekh, who has just picked up someone’s child in her arms. In seconds and without determining whose baby it is, our hero aims highly poisonous arrows readied for the lady by Rafi, Anand Bakshi and Laxmikant-Pyarelal through the song Mere dushman tu meri dosti ko tarse.

On the other hand, the ultimate song on New Year’s Eve was mimed by Dev Anand, clearly quite under the influence in Haaye haaye haaye ye nigaahen, rendered by Kishore Kumar for Majrooh’s poetry and SD Burman’s music in Paying Guest (1957). How much has Dev had before the song? I’d say he is in the delighted and devilish stage. What says you?


Featured image on top: From the song Haaye haaye haaye ye nigaahen

Originally published in DNA Jaipur 31 December 2017, page 17  http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-12-31


4 thoughts on “Happy New Year Ensemble!

  1. Fabulous essay to start the year. Dev was always delighted and devilish.. Probably never needed a drink to get there. We experienced a Jan 1 through a bunch if time zones. Slept through midnite in Frankfurt, anticipating our 5:30 a.m. dash to the airport, amid firecrackers all through the night (and walked through streets littered with broken bottles, etc. at 6 a.m.); watched 2 1/2 movies on the plane and crashed after 20 hours awake in a 30 hour long Jan 1. Your article resonates with this New Year for me. Gained a lot of perspective from your writing, wish for 52 more this year. Thanks for the ride, Manek.

  2. Awesome essay…time zones do make us wonder how cd everyone be so right while being so different…about dev…his name tells u that the devilish stage is bingo for him anytime! Thx for a lovely new year treat!

  3. Proud to be an Indian – and yes, only if you are a heartthrob like Dev Anand then get to the delighted and dazed state, otherwise just be joyful singing ‘ Happy New Year to you’.

    Thank you for the ensembled list of new year songs – will listen to them tonight.
    Sabko Mubarak Ho Naya Saal – 2018

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