Tony Ryman, my British colleague in Dubai several decades back, had no idea of Hindi film music. One evening, before going on a month’s vacation, he dropped in unannounced at my home to say goodbye. I was in my shorts listening to music on my cassette player at the time, so I made an excuse and went away to wear something more presentable while he waited.
Upon my return, he asked why I was listening to sad music. After all, things were going just so fine for me, so wasn’t all well? I told him all was good, that I loved sad songs for they made me feel better in a way that I couldn’t explain. But wait, where did he hear a sad song now? It turns out that the song he meant was Hum aaj kaheen dil kho baitthe, yoon samjho kisi ke ho baitthe, from Andaz (1949). I told him that was in fact a romantic song. In the film, Dilip Kumar has just fallen in love, and while some people would go yahoo about it, perhaps this actor was being understated since he had a sober kind of personality. “Really?’ asked my colleague, “I heard hints of pathos, both in the voice and the violins. In fact even in the song’s tempo”. He may have had a point; the lyrics were telling us of incipient love, and the visuals were showing Nargis and Dilip Kumar smiling as the latter sang. But to someone who was denied the visual experience and had no idea of the language, the composition and voice were as if headed the other way.
It is in fact for just such a situation that music becomes a universal language, when people cannot see the song and don’t understand the language of words. At such times, the instruments and vocal expressions take greater responsibility of communicating.
The Andaaz song is not the only one in which all the elements of a song were not sending us a common message clearly. It’s possible many music makers may have even thought that every element was not needed to do so, for fear of overkill. And yet it is true that on the flip side, there have been vocal elements of songs that have been milked by composers beautifully, so much so that people like Tony Ryman can tell what’s up right away. This becomes particularly clear in comedy songs if the singer is made to sing a passage playfully. The musical description of such a passage is Scherzando, which is Italian. It comes from scherzare, to joke, and in music, it’s an instruction to the singer to render a passage in a funny way.
We look at a few comic songs from Hindi cinema and identify at least one sung passage where the vocalist gave it the funny touch. The composer is mentioned along with the singer, and if the funny passage is not the start itself, it is mentioned in brackets. We leave out songs with yodelling since that is so predictable.
- Qusoor aap ka huzoor aap ka (left-right, left-right about turn) (Shamshad/Kishore/Bahaar, 1951)
- Kabhi na bigde kisi ki motorrr raste mein (Suraiya/Hansraj Behl/Moti Mahal, 1952)
- Khaali peeli kaahe ko akkha din baitth ke bom maarta hai (Kishore/Manna Dey/Tamasha, 1952)
- Chaahe koi khush ho chaahe gaaliyaan hazaar de (Pi ke dhandhli karoon to mujhko jail bhej do) (Kishore, Johnny Walker/SD Burman/Taxi Driver, 1954)
- Daal kaise gale (Aise shaadi se hum to kunwaare bhale) (Kishore/C Ramchandra/Baap Re Baap, 1955)
- Dil ki umangen hain jawaan (the Pran part) (Hemant, Geeta, Thakur/SD Burman/Munimji, 1955)
- Dekh tere Bhagwan ki haalat kya ho gayi insaan (Sun kar is paapi ko taano) (Rafi, SD Batish, Manmohan Krishna/Madan Mohan/Railway Platform, 1955)
- Aal line kiliar (Papa! Are dhat teri ki) (Rafi/Shankar-Jaikishan/Chori Chori, 1956)
- Humko haste dekh zamaana jalta hai (Jalta hai jale koi yahaan hai fikar kise) (Rafi, Durrani/OP Nayyar/Hum Sab Chor Hain, 1956)
- Are bhai nikal ke aa ghar se (Kem oonghe chhe bhai Ghanshyam ji) (Kishore/Shankar-Jaikishan/New Delhi, 1956)
- Yaar tum shaadi mat karna (Chai pilaoon ke thanda mangaoon, ke murghi ke ande ki bhurji banaoon) (Kishore/Salil Chowdhury/Parivaar, 1956)
- Main ik shola aag babola (Baraf ka gola) (Shamshad, Uma devi/Rangeen Raaten, 1956)
- Aaj na jaane paagal manwa kaahe ko ghabraaye (Tabiyat bichki bichki jaaye) (Kishore/Shankar-Jaikishan/Begunah, 1957)
- Ye ho kar rahega (Abba ae abba!) (Rafi/Hansraj Behl/Changez Khan, 1957)
- Dekhta chala gaya main zindagi ki raah mein (Naheen hoti) (Rafi, Lata, Johnny Walker/Madan Mohan/ Gateway Of India, 1957)
- Main hoon Mr. Johnny (Tum poochhoge kyoon? Main abhi bataata hoon) (Rafi/OP Nayyar/Mai Baap, 1957)
- Gaana na aaya bajaana na aaya (Kaheen ga ma pa dha ni hai) (Kishore/Rajinder Krishan/Hemant Kumar/Miss Mary, 1957)
- Tel maalish champi…sar jo tera chakraaye (Rafi/SD Burman/Pyaasa, 1957)
- Main sitaaron ka taraana (Dheere se jaana bagiyan mein) (Asha, Kishore/SD Burman/Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, 1958)
- Zulf ke phande phas gayi jaan (Is dil ke armaan) (Rafi/Mujrim, 1958)
- Main Bangaali chhokra (Mur jaaye mur jaaye) (Kishore, Asha/OP Nayyar/Raagini, 1958)
- Kaise Diwali manaayen hum Lala (Daata teri akal ku he kaaye jhaala) (Rafi/C Ramchandra/Paigham, 1959)
- Aankhon se aankhon ka tu jaam liye ja (Manna Dey, Kishore/SD Burman/Bewaqoof, 1960)
- Ye duniya gol hai (Ek photo ka sawaal hai baba) (Rafi/Ravi/Chaudhvin Ka Chand, 1960)
- Hum tum jise kehta hai shaadi (Mr Iyer, are you there?) (Rafi/SD Burman/Kaagaz Ke Phool, 1960)
- Ye hai jeevan ki rail, ye hai toofaan mail (Mote-mote dil ke khote, Grand Hotel ke double rote) (Kishore/S Mohinder/Mehlon Ke Khwaab, 1960)
- Aake seedhi lagi dil pe jaise katariya (Kishore/Kishore/Half Ticket, 1962)
- Aashiq hoon apne pyaar ke jauhar dikhaoonga (Apan to ghar ka aadmi hai na, aa?) (Rafi/Ravi/Kaun Apna Kaun Paraya, 1963)
- Duniya banaane waale…pyaar ki aag mein tan badan jal gaya (Manna Dey/SD Burman/Ziddi, 1964)
- Lori suna suna ke…muskura laadle muskura (Mehmood/Kalyanji-Anandji/Purnima, 1965)
- Yahaan bhi to naheen hai (Kamaal ho gaya) (Kamal Barot, Rafi/Kalyanji-Anandji/Preet Na Jaane Reet, 1966)
- Ek chatur naar (Aiyo ghoda bola) (Kishore, Manna Dey, Mehmood/RD Burman/Padosan, 1968)
Want to think of some comic songs in which the vocals didn’t carry the idea of fun? How about Mere piya gaye Rangoon? This was from Patanga (1949), with the singing by Chitalkar and Shamshad Begum for maestro C Ramchandra. Next year, in Meena Bazaar, the brothers Husnlal and Bhagatram composed for Ram Kamlani to sing Suno buzurgon ka ye kehna, without humour in the vocals. Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji is another example. Tuned by OP Nayyar, it was duetted by Geeta and Rafi in Mr & Mrs 55 (1955). Do akalmand hue fikarmand from Akalmand (1966) is another instance of non-humorous singing. This last ditty was sung by Rafi and Kishore for OP Nayyar.
As we saw, humour, when heard in a singing voice, is denoted by the Italian word Scherzando. Italians have contributed so much to the world in so many ways, in astronomy and gastronomy. In language, literature, and painting. In music and fashion. Many love the country for its tourist spots. They have done fairly in sports too, for instance finishing at no. 9 at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Sadly, it’s the first time in 60 years they have not qualified for the football World Cup underway in Russia. Wonder if they are able to manage humour in their voice and sing away their ignominious absence from this game. Luciano Pavarotti would have managed that easily, but the world’s most famous Opera star passed away over a decade ago.
Originally published on 1 July 2018 in DNA Jaipur page 13, http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2018-07-01
Featured image: from Main sitaaron ka taraana