We all know about Indian mythological films and songs from such films, but consider where mythological comes from. It’s from the word myth, which itself is from the Greek word mythos, meaning a narrative in which no distinction can be made about truth or falsehood. Something whose veracity can neither be confirmed nor denied. The Greeks milked the idea on the stage to explain the reasons behind natural wonders and disasters, as also God’s role in the universe. From myth we get both mythical and mythological, the former referring to strange and powerful creatures, while the latter has to do with a collection of myths put together.
It’s interesting though that over time the word myth has made up its unsure mind. It has in fact moved away to now convey something that is a commonly-held false notion, a collective belief that is patently untrue. That is why we often hear phrases such as “Myth or Reality?” and “Myth or Fact?” The other interesting thing is, when a collective of myths journey into the mythological, they almost always take a plunge into the domain of religion. Thus these may be seen emerging as religious narratives that are not true. It is for this reason that some people get furious when you treat their gods or prophets as mythological, ie, not just in the grey area, but definitely untrue. Rupa Ganguly was Draupadi only in BR Chopra’s TV serial Mahabharata, but for some people she will remain Draupadi, never mind that she turned into a politician or often showed up in jeans in later years. Nitish Bhardwaj was Lord Krishna in the same serial; it took him a long time to get resigned to being unshakably revered as Krishna incarnate, with people touching his feet even at places such as airport terminals.
Such beliefs hold true for films as well. Remember Shobhana Samarth as Sita in Ram Rajya (1943)? People bought her photos and started worshipping them in their homes. Still a teenager, Nirupa Roy was cast as Parvati in Har Har Mahadev (1950), only for people to accept her as the goddess herself. The same thing happened to Anita Guha after Jai Santoshi Ma (1975); people started worshipping the lady in terms that can hardly be described today.
Not that this holds true only for one religion. All faiths have their myths—taken in the classic sense of unprovable—and brought into the frames of mythological cinema. The opening up of the seas, the healing of lepers, waters miraculously coming up in arid deserts, the control of thunder and lightning, all these and more have been the cornerstone of faiths down the centuries.
Interestingly, it turns out that when it comes to mythological films, songs found in them tend to be so much fun to hear on a repeat basis. Without in any way meaning disrespect to any faith, and looking at the genre just academically, here are a few songs from mythologicals, even if not all of them are religious:
- Beena madhur madhur kachhu bol (Saraswati Rane/Ram Rajya, 1943)
- Murli bajaane waale kitne badal gaye (Shanta Apte/Subhadra, 1946)
- Mane chaakar raakho ji (MS Subbulakshmi/Meera, 1947)
- Madhur Ram ka naam jag mein (Rafi/Shri Ram Bhakt Hanuman, 1948)
- Charan tumhaare phool hamaare (Lata/Narsinh Avtar, 1949)
- Dhanya dhanya hai Awadhpuri (Geeta Roy, Manna Dey/Ram Vivah, 1949)
- Sandesh mera pa ke mujhe daras dikhaana (Mohantara, Rafi/Veer Ghatotkach, 1949)
- Kankar kankar se main poochhoon Shankar mera kahaan hai (Geeta Roy/Har Har Mahadev, 1950)
- Kyoon rootth gayi mujhse kya maine bigaada (Geeta Roy/Hanuman Paatal Vijay, 1951)
- Basa le man mandir mein Ram (Talat Mahmood/Lanka Dehen, 1952)
- Chaayi birha ki raat mora tadpe jiya (Geeta Roy/Nav Durga, 1953)
- Sar pe gagariya tirchhi najariya (Lata/Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, 1953)
- Kaahe ko bisaara satnaam (Talat Mahmood/Mahapooja, 1954)
- Jheeni jheeni re bheeni chadariya (Manna Dey/Mahatma Kabir, 1954)
- Hai dhanya suhaagan wo jisne (Rafi/Tulsidas, 1954)
- Pehchaan sake to pehchaan (Rafi/Jagatguru Shankaracharya, 1955)
- Parwardigar-e-aalam tera hi hai sahaara (Rafi/Hatimtai, 1956)
- Bade pyaar se milna sab se (Rafi/Sati Anusuya, 1956)
- Zara saamne to aao chhaliye (Rafi, Lata/Janam Janam Ke Phere, 1957)
- O Krishna bigdi bana de (Lata/Krishna Sudama, 1957)
- Darshan do Ghanshyamnath mori akhiyaan pyaasi re (Manna Dey, Sudha Malhotra, Hemant Kumar/Narsi Bhagat, 1957)
- Humen to loot liya mil ke husn waalon ne (Ismail Azad/Al-Hilal, 1958)
- Shyam bhayi Ghanshyam na aaye (Lata/Kavi Kalidas, 1959)
- Manmohan Madhusudan Keshava (Lata/Keechak Vadh, 1959)
- Baadalo barso nayan ki kor se (Lata/Sampoorna Ramayan, 1961)
- Aaj madhuvaataas dole (Lata, Mahendra/Stree, 1961)
- O nirdayi preetam (Lata/Stree, 1961)
- Chale bhole baba byaah rachaane ko (Rafi/Kailashpati, 1962)
- Taaron ki thandi chhaiyaan (Suman, Mukesh/Naag Devta, 1962)
- Sab ko naach nachaata phir bhi nazar naheen jo aata (Manna Dey/Kan Kan Mein Bhagwan, 1963)
- Chamke chaand poonam ka (Suman, Mukesh/Mahasati Behula, 1964)
- Jeevan dor tumhi sang baandhi (Lata/Sati Savitri, 1964)
- Chandrama ja unse keh de (Lata, Mahendra/Bharat Milap, 1965)
- Teri muraliya meri paayaliya (Suman/Gopal Krishna, 1965)
- Dar laage garje badariya (Lata/Ram Rajya, 1967)
- Madad karo Santoshi maata (Usha Mangeshkar/Jai Santoshi Mata, 1975)
- Took-took tha dharti ka tan (Mahendra, Suman/Lav Kush, 1977)
- Mere to Girdhar Gopal (Vani Jairam/Meera, 1979)
The above songs were from films that had mythology as the central push; the list would be larger if we also included songs dealing with mythological names in films that were themselves clearly not mythological. For instance, Main Raavan Lanka Naresh (Manna Dey, Rafi/Insaniyat, 1955), Mother Mary maa hum tere dulaare hain (Lata/Bachpan, 1970) and Ye naatak kavi likh gaye Kalidas (Manna Dey, Lata/Khilona, 1970). Also, many of the songs above are devotionals, of which a great deal more can be found in films that are not principally mythological.
Folklores and Fables
Incidentally, as seen earlier, Nirupa Roy was Parvati in Har Har Mahadev, a mythological film. The same lady was also a Greek Princess named Helen in Samrat Chandragupta (1958), but since this film was about humans, it becomes part of our folklore. Stories of such kind have been there too, again orally handed down generations, and then made into films such as Raja Bhartari (1944. Bhiksha de de maiya Pingala/Surendra Nath, Amirbai Karnataki), Adl-e-Jahangir (1955. Apna hi ghar lutaane deewaana ja raha hai/Rafi), Nausherwan-e-Adil (1957. Bhool jaayen saare gham/Rafi, Lata), Angulimal (1960. Buddham sharanam gachchaami/Manna Dey), Sangeet Samrat Tansen (1962. Badli badli duniya hai meri (Mahendra, Lata), Harishchandra Taramati (1963. Main ik nanha sa, main ik chhota sa bachcha hoon/Lata), and Umrao Jaan (1981. Dil cheez kya hai aap meri jaan leejiye/Asha Bhosle).
There’s another orally-transmitted sub-genre too, called fables. These take the help of animals to tell a story, most often with a moral. The Hare and the Tortoise is one we all know. The Fox and the Crow is another. An excellent example of this kind is found in our films also: Suno suno re kahaani ik bahut puraani jise kehti thi naani ho (Shamshad, Asha, Suman, Usha/Hum Panchhi Ek Daal Ke, 1957).
The mythology genre has all but gone away now, along with filmmakers who made such films, though it seems to be doing fine on television. But without musical accompaniment, it’s not so much fun. As for the new generation of filmgoers, they are watching what the west chooses to call mythological films. Features such as Hercules (1997) and Clash of the Titans (2010). Cheers!
Featured image: Kanan Kaushal in Madad karo Santoshi maata
Originally published on page 13 in DNA Jaipur on 8 July 2108, http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2018-07-08