All UN-known songs!

Do dil mil rahe hain, magar chupke-chupke, goes a guitar-strumming Shahrukh Khan in Pardes (1997), bang in the middle of the walled city of Fatehpur Sikri (City of Victory). It is here that Emperor Akbar was to set up his abode, until scarcity of water drove him back to Agra, some thirty-five kilometers away. Agra’s Taj Mahal, a more-visited tourist attraction, has also been featured in many a Hindi film song. Do you recall Johnny Walker and Shyama (Rafi and Geeta Dutt) in Johnny Walker (1957)? Bach ke balam chal ke rasta hai mushkil muhabbat ke baazaar ka, or the later Ik shahanshah ne banwa ke haseen Taj Mahal (Rafi, Lata/Leader, 1964). Both these properties are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like twenty-seven others, with thirty-four more demanding entry into the august list.

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), a wing of the UNO, identifies natural or cultural heritage sites across the globe, and then does whatever it can to finance, preserve and promote what it has identified. This body has ten parameters of choosing such sites, but most relevant for our reference today is the fourth one, which says: To be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history.

Let’s look today at some more of these sites that have shown up in the songs of our films, even if for just a few frames.

Daali pe baitthi thi dus chidiyaan, performed on-screen by Vyjayanthimala in a class of kids, which is being taught the count. The song features the Qutab Minar. The film is Deep Jalte Rahe (1959), and the vocals belong to Asha Bhosle.

The Qutab Minar is also featured in Tere Ghar Ke Saamne (1963), Dev Anand going romantically down with Dil ka bhanwar kare pukaar, his companion Nutan hardly able to pretend she’s upset.

Main chali main chali, peechhe-peechhe jahaan sing Lata and Rafi in Professor (1962), though they don’t leave Bombay for the song. Instead it is Kalpana and Shammi Kapoor who get to travel on the Darjeeling Toy Train, another site identified by UNESCO.

Johnny Walker joins Kum Kum in singing Ai dil hai mushkil jeena yahaan near Chhatrapati Shivaji (Victoria) Terminus, India’s oldest railhead, decorated too with lions, peacocks, elephants and gargoyles acting as water-spouts to drain off water when it rains so heavily in this, India’s commercial capital. The song is from CID (1956).

The city of Delhi is on the tentative list and brings to mind many sights of our capital, including the Red Fort, in the song Zameen bhi wohi hai, wohi aasmaan, magar ab wo Dilli ki galiyaan kahaan (Rafi/Chandni Chowk, 1954). The Red Fort, already in the list, featured so prominently in—where else—the movie named after it (Lal Qila, 1960), through the sorrowful number, Na kisi ki aankh ka noor hoon (Rafi).

We move away from Red Fort to the forts of Rajasthan, also declared as heritage monuments. When that happens, the mind rushes to recall the montages of Nainon mein badra chhaaye, Rais Khan’s sitar lacing Lata’s voice in this extraordinary Bhimpalasi effort picturized at Udaipur fort. The film of course is Mera Saaya, released in 1966.

We repair to The Group of Monuments at Hampi in Karnataka, World Heritage Sites too, and find Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha gyrating wildly to Chikni kamar pe teri mera dil phisal gaya, in Rowdy Rathore (2012).

Ellora Caves is the venue inside which Jeetendra is an uninformed guide taking students for a conducted tour, with Rajshri joining him in the duet Aiye padhaariye (Geet Gaaya Patharone, 1964).

Many more songs have been featured on such premium sites in India, but some Hindi and regional cinema units have even gone abroad to shoot film songs there.

Suraj hua madham, chaand jalne laga, went Shahrukh and Kajol in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001), the song using Egypt’s Pyramids as a backdrop.

Earlier superstar Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman were seen in a gondola near the lagoon in Venice, a UNESCO Heritage Site too, with the song Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahaani, from The Great Gambler (1979).

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(Photo: Dil ka bhanwar kare pukaar)

Originally published: December 9, 2012