Never on a Sunday

Most of the people who gave us wonderful cinema and its unforgettable music in the golden age have gone away. Decades after such art was created, not only film and music historians but even plain aficionados sit down sometimes to repeatedly enjoy classic films and hear remarkable songs, as also to appreciate the situations they were filmed in. Music buffs apply their minds to identify the different instruments used in songs, the charming lyrics brought to the table by our poets, and so many large and small facets of those wonderful melodies. This is not very different from the way archaeologists go about curating human culture from the past.

Recently, on Suchitra Sen’s birth anniversary a couple of weeks ago, a delightful discovery entered my thoughts while revisiting a song filmed on her in Musafir (1957). The song was Man re Hari ke gun ga, a Krishna bhajan that was so gracefully captured on celluloid. The lady was found watering a Tulsi plant.

Before going further, let’s pause and reflect on this plant for just a bit.

The Tulsi (Holy Basil) is famous for its medicinal properties but is also worshipped by many people in our part of the world. According to Hindu mythology, there was a Goddess named Brinda who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu. When she died, it was ordained that she would marry Vishnu in her next birth. They transferred her soul to a plant, which became the holy Tulsi. That is why lots of believers offer a Tulsi puja and circumambulate the herb, in what is called parikrama. Every year, millions of people also celebrate her marriage to Vishnu. This happens after Diwali has gone, and it is only after this wedding of the gods that the auspicious months start for us mortals to get married.

It is for these reasons that the Tulsi is given the place of honour in people’s homes. It is positioned well on the verandah or the parapet, and usually no ordinary pots are assigned to this sacred herb. Most Tulsis are planted in square-shaped and decorative pots, sometimes on a chest-high pillar too, for they must ideally be distanced from and above the other plants. But now about that discovery.

In that devotional, Suchitra Sen was seen watering a Tulsi plant while singing a Lata Mangeshkar song. By filmic association, memories of another Lata Mangeshkar song rushed in now, a song where a heroine was also seen watering plants, including a Tulsi. That song was Jaago Mohan pyaare in Jaagte Raho (1956), and the leading lady was Nargis. That situation was just a year before the Suchitra Sen one. So, I switched to watching the Jaagte Raho song and was fascinated to find more dots waiting to connect, one after another. Not only was the heroine watering a plant in both songs, and not only was the singer common, but the lyricist was the same for both songs (Shailendra), and so was the composer (Salil Chowdhury). The maestro even had the same assistants in both the albums: Kanu Ghosh and Sebastian. My serendipity didn’t stop there. Both the songs were even inspired by the same raag, Bhairav!

There was hardly any time gap between the two films and there was too much in common here for this to be a pure coincidence. So then, who from the crew could be the pollinating agent in this case, taking the idea from Jaagte Raho, and offering it in a new avatar in Musafir? And if it was not them, could it be Suchitra Sen herself? Needless to say, the filming of the Jaagte Raho song was extraordinary and it remains one of the high points of Indian cinema to this day. Perhaps you will have thoughts on this.

Meantime, there have also been a few songs that have featured the heroine watering plants—if not just a Tulsi—as she sang. A film was even dedicated to the idea in Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki (1978), where we found Asha Parekh watering the plant while she sang the title song, Main Tulsi tere aangan ki. Here are a few more actresses with the songs they were singing. Singers, lyricists and composers also find mention: Meena Kumari in Jap jap jap jap jap re (Mukesh/Rajinder Krishan/C Ramchandra/Sharda, 1957), Shyama in Naihar ke geet main gaoon, babul ka baag sajaoon (Lata/Pt Indra/BS Kalla/Do Dulhe, 1959), Meena Kumari in Jyoti kalash chhalke (Lata/Pt Narendra Sharma/Sudhir Phadke/Bhabhi Ki Chudiyan, 1961), Sowcar Janaki, Kanchana and Jayanthi in Humre aangan bagiya (Lata, Asha, Usha/Anand Bakshi/Kalyanji-Anandji/Teen Bahuraniyan, 1968), Jaya Bhaduri in Nadiya kinaare heraaye aayi kangna (Lata/Majrooh/SD Burman/Abhimaan, 1973), Nutan in Tera mera saath rahe (Lata/Ravindra Jain/Ravindra Jain/Saudagar, 1973), Raakhee in Bhor bhaye panchhi (Lata/Majrooh/RD Burman/Aanchal, 1980), and Jaya Prada in De Tulsi maiya vardaan itna (Anupama Deshpande/Anjaan/Bappi Lahiri/Ghar Ghar Ki Kahaani, 1988).

In the above songs lies hidden a fascinating point that too awaits our thoughts. In Saudagar, Nutan was a Muslim from a poor background, as was Amitabh, for whom she sang Tera mera saath rahe. It’s interesting that she was seen planting the Tulsi in her little compound outside her hut. Later on, they put a tikka on her forehead as she watered the Tulsi during that song. Now while such things are perfectly possible, they do seem somewhat unlikely for Hindi cinema. The mind goes to the film Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki released a few years earlier, in which not only was Nutan the main female lead, but for which she also received the Best Actress Trophy from Filmfare. However, the most popular song in that feature was filmed on the supporting actress Asha Parekh, the title song mentioned above. But even in that song, Nutan was given a lot of screen time. Perhaps she wanted more than that. A song in which she was watering a Tulsi, an act that helps sustain life in that most venerated of plants. That’s a charming visual experience for filmgoers. Yes, that would be nice.

About the plant itself, we know that some people pluck Tulsi leaves to eat them for the preventive and positive care of health and diseases. But it is believed that while the holy plant can be plucked on most days, it’s a no-no on Sundays. If you do so, you may invite a curse upon yourself. That does bring to mind a very popular English song rendered by lots of famous singers like Petula Clark, Andy Williams, and Connie Francis. Here’s how the lyrics of the song “Never on a Sunday” go:

Oh you can kiss me on a Monday, a Monday, a Monday is very very good

Or you can kiss me on a Tuesday a Tuesday a Tuesday in fact I wish you would  

Or you can kiss me on a Wednesday a Thursday a Friday and Saturday is best

But never never on a Sunday a Sunday a Sunday coz that’s my day of rest

Fair enough, if a holy plant needs a break on Sunday, we humans too can do with a day of rest.


Featured image on top: Nadiya kinaare heraaye aayi kangna.

Originally published in DNA Jaipur on 22 April 2018, page 13







22 thoughts on “Never on a Sunday

  1. It is nigh impossible to watch Jago mohan pyare without the goosebumps and tears coming on; and though it is beautiful, Man re Hari ke gun ga evokes feelings not as deep. But your piece centered around the sacred Tulsi invokes deep respect for the topics you pick and the manner in which you connect them with people, music, various other facets to present a wholesome picture that usually calls for a second read. Hats off Sir! And henceforth I shall remember Never on a Sunday to pluck Tulsi leaves ?

    1. Madhur, if the story touches a chord in you, for you to like it that way, I feel so validated 🙂 Please accept my gratitude _()_ And I look forward to your own essays, so beautifully talking about songs and film situations!

  2. Nice to see the DNA post again Kudos once again to the Genius..Pls dont stop this time continue till youe last breath so many more to cherish your dreams,,

  3. You are still not devoid of new ideas for the next Sunday blog and the variety you dish out would put any famous Chef’s to shame.
    Well, I for one is a connoisseur of everything you present Manek

  4. Manekji, Tussi great ho … aur Tulsi bhi. Thanks for educating that plucking Tulsi is prohibited on Sundays. I was freely plucking from my plant till I saw a religious advisory not to pluck on Fridays and also on Ekadashis and Dwadashis. So I had given my plant weekly off on Fridays and quite some declared holidays. Now that you have warned, I will leave it alone on Sundays too, before any curses come my way.

    As for the songs, my main motive while reading your articles has been to discover at least one song which you have not listed, though you hardly give any chance. But as I was about to give up, I suddenly recalled this song in which three ‘Madrasi Mami’s (being a ‘Madrasi’ myself, I take the liberty of calling them so) sing a Hindi song in the voices of three Maharashtrian sisters from a film called ‘Teen Bahuraniyan’ (re-make of Tamil super-comedy ‘Bama Vijayam’, which I consider to be one of the best by Director K.Balachander). I checked the video of the song (‘Hamre aangan bhagiya’) and find that lot of plants are being watered, but not quite sure whether Tulsi is amongst them.

    We remain thirsty ‘Tulsis’ of your ‘Aangan’ … waiting for your refreshing spray every Sunday. Don’t worry, you will remain blessed. Thanks.

    1. Not only am I a fan of your imagination and poetry in parody, but I am also amazed at your wonderful recall of situations and songs _()_ 🙂 And that trivia is so valuable…wow! One of the ladies is watering plants in the beginning, so it’s a good call, Nathan…will add soon 🙂

  5. While tulsi leaves are not to plucked on a Sunday, as also in the evenings, there is however no bar on getting an article published on it on this day. I am sure a lot of punya has accrued to you for doing this.

    The article is educative. And it refreshes the ones who know a bit about tulsi. Personally, I am delighted as I nurture and in in love with tulsi for over two decades. But somehow its english name basil conjures up the image of that great west indian batsman basil butcher which in hindi will be तुलसी हंता ! I wonder why do they have, in the caribbean, the butchers of basil ?

    Obviously, there cannot be many tulsi-centric songs. But the ones that are there and that you listed are just full of tulsi fragrance and heal. This is especially true of jaago mohan pyaare…. Nargis looking so fresh, so fragrant in her new avataar, pouring heal over a water starved and beseeching Raj ! Yes, this scene leaves an imprint.


    1. Vijay, I am in fits now “But somehow its english name basil conjures up the image of that great west indian batsman basil butcher which in hindi will be तुलसी हंता ! I wonder why do they have, in the caribbean, the butchers of basil ?”…this is too funny 🙂

  6. Wow!! What a novel idea!! And I so agree with the first paragraph about archaeologists and music historians.
    Tulsi needs a break on Sunday… haha..why not!! Rather today being the Earth day I think all plants need a break. They’re working overtime for us ?

    Amongst the songs I would love to add a song from Aanchal (1980). Rakhee sings Bhor bhaye panchhi… while watering the Tulsi plant ?

  7. jaaaneeee hum sunday koh bhee nahee chodhthey – sivai tulsi key

    Bhau – arey kai leehthaa tumhee aksharshaahaa – ashcaryachakith astho mee. mhanjhey tumcha range aakaashaachaa varthee deva barobar – aho – shaashtaang namaskaar kartho mee. 🙂

    now getting serious about Salil Daa, Kaviraj and Lata with two different movies and the commonality of Tulsi Plant being respected via a song / bhajan.

    The connect is simple – these legends are simple lovers of God, know the value of the ” Tulsi ” glorified it via their works – thereby seeking blessings of Lord Vishnu. 🙂

    Now this entire combo and their act of bringing tulsi along with a song – is it not soothing and they became legendary hit songs ? ? ?

    Ek Theer Nishaane Doh. 🙂

    Salutations – Mankebhai – you are truly my Gurujee. 🙂

    i had told all girls then – dont worry – we can work it out on a Sunday too. 🙂

    R N K

  8. WoW! Lata to Connie Francis… Holy Basil?!!!
    Down South we have Krishna Tulsi dark green admixed with a purple hue, like a pigeon’s plumage, the lighter green Rama Thulasi, the Karpoora Thulasi, with a camphor odour, and shaayad many more, I am ignorant about.
    Thulasi and Bilwa are both venerated here and Saint Tyagaraja has bequeathed a song, ‘Thulasi-Bilwa’ to Karnatic Music.

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