Sleeping Beauties

Sleep is vital to human existence. Perhaps that’s why we sleep about a third of our lives. We need to sleep for feeling healthy and looking good. Skin doctors often speak about the benefits of an extra nap, a situation called beauty sleep. Many successful men speak similarly about the invigorating benefits of power naps, short sleeping spells that can refresh us. Such people have included British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American inventor Thomas Edison, and Spanish artist Salvador Dali. This last artist just loved his siesta, and even wrote a story called “Slumber With A Key”. Here’s what he said you need to do to check the concept. Sit on a chair, one arm hanging out with a key held between your fingers. Below the key, keep a dinner plate inverted on the floor. Now try to sleep. As you doze off, the key will fall. The clang will wake you up inspired, even if the sleep happened for only a fraction of a second!

Diametrically opposite to power naps sit several stories in mythology and fairy tales, where many people have been said to sleep for incredibly long durations. In Hindu mythology, Kumbhakarna, the evil brother of Ravana would sleep for six months before waking up to eat up monkeys and everything else that crossed his path. In an American fictional tale, Rip Van Winkle shut his eyes in the Catskill Mountains, New York State for twenty years. And in the European fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, a cursed princess hibernated for a hundred years before she was woken up by a kiss from a Prince.

In real life though, more than sleeping too much—called hypersomnia—there is the problem of insomnia, ie, sleeping too little. This is precisely what happens to Nutan, who is a princess in the film Shabaab (1954). Her father the king has tried various doctors and unconventional ideas to get her some sleep, but nothing has worked. But the film is predicated on the miraculous powers of music. In fact, the leitmotif of this film is a rendering of the lines: “Sangeet hai shakti Ishwar ki, har sur mein base hain Ram, Raagi ko sunaaye raag madhur, rogi ko mile aaraam”. Consequently, enter Bharat Bhushan, a sitar-toting vocalist, who sings the Hemant version of “Chandan ka palna resham ki dori, jhoola jhulaoon nindiya ko tori”. Voila, the princess gets her sleep.

Under the scanner: only women in sleep

Our story today does not look for princesses, fairies or months and years of hibernation. Nor does it put under the scanner instances of insomnia, much less offer prescriptions for addressing them. We just look at beautiful ladies whose eyes were shut for at least a part of a song. Some of these ladies were even pretending to doze off. But all the shut-eyes we are considering were for longer than a blink. Here are those beautiful women in such songs. Singers’ names find mention too.

  • Jamuna: Soja Rajkumari, soja (KL Saigal/Zindagi,(1940)
  • Shobhana Samarth: Beena madhur-madhur kachhu bol (Saraswati Rane/Ram Rajya, 1943)
  • Swaranlata: Angdaayi teri hai bahaana (Manju/Rattan, 1944)
  • Mumtaz Shanti: Dheere dheere aa re, baadal dheere (Amirbai Karnataki with Ashok Kumar in the film, with Arun Kumar on 78rpm records/Kismat, 1943)
  • Geeta Bali: Mehfil mein meri kaun ye deewaana aa gaya (Lata, Rafi/Albela, 1951)
  • Vyjayanthimala: O zindagi ke dene waale (Hemant Kumar/Nagin, 1954)
  • Nalini Jaywant: Aankh khulte hi tum chhup gaye ho kahaan (Lata/Munimji, 1955)
  • Nutan: Allah teri khair kare (Rafi/Heer, 1956)
  • Madhubala: Mere sapne mein aana re sajna (Lata/Raj Hatth, 1956)
  • Bina Rai: Muhabbat zinda rehti hai (Rafi/Changez Khan, 1957)
  • Mala Sinha: Ho sakta hai kaanton se bhi phool ki khushbu aaye (Manna Dey/Duniya Na Maane, 1959)
  • Waheeda Rehman: Chaudhvin ka chaand ho (Rafi/Chaudhvin Ka Chand, 1960)
  • Waheeda Rehman: Apni to har aah ik toofaan hai (Rafi, Kala Bazaar, 1960)
  • Madhubala: Dheere chal dheere chal aye bheegi hawa (Rafi/Boy Friend, 1961)
  • Madhubala: Salaam aap ki meetthi nazar ko salaam (Rafi/Boy Friend, 1961)
  • Waheeda Rehman: Na tum humen jaano (Hemant Kumar/Baat Ek Raat Ki, 1962)
  • Sadhana: Aye husn zara jaag tujhe ishq jagaaye (Rafi/Mere Mehboob, 1963)
  • Leela Naidu: Koi mujhse poochhe ke tum mere kya ho (Ye Raste Hain Pyaar Ke, 1963)
  • Helen: Subah na aayi, shaam na aayi (Rafi/Cha Cha Cha, 1964)
  • Nutan: Ram kare aisa ho jaaye (Mukesh/Milan, 1967)
  • Jyotilaxmi: Aye mere soye hue pyaar zara hosh mein aa (Kishore Kumar/Paayal Ki Jhankaar, 1968)
  • Ranjeeta: Is reshmi paazeb ki jhankaar ke sadqe (Rafi, Lata/Laila Majnu, 1976)
  • Hema Malini: Khwaab ban kar koi ayega (Lata/Razia Sultan, 1982)
  • Sridevi: Surmayi akhiyon mein nanha-munna ik sapna de ja re (Yesudas/Sadma, 1983)

In the above list, we have ignored songs where there was a pretence of sleep, or no question of sleep. In Mughal-e-Azam (1960), for instance, as Dilip Kumar romances Madhubala during the song Prem jogan ban ke by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, she shuts her eyes momentarily only to express her nirvanic state of mind. Many years before, in 1951, there was a role reversal in the film Tarana, as the ravishing Madhubala was romantically putting the handsome Dilip Kumar to sleep in the song Beimaan tore nainwa nindiya na aaye. Such lullabies by women to men are unusual, but the odd ones have been spotted. Minoo Mumtaz achieved the same result for Kishore Kumar during the song Soja re chanda soja, chandaniya arz kare (Asha/Aasha, 1957). But this story is not about handsome men in sleep.

An instance of pretence happens in China Town (1962), where Shammi Kapoor dresses up as a Godman and sings to hoodwink initially Shakila, but essentially her father in the song Dekho ji ik baala jogi, matwaala jogi, dwaar tere aayo ri; the gullible lass folds her hands and shuts her eyes in prayer. Such pretence has been given a go-by, as indeed have lullabies in which children are being put to sleep.

But regardless of whether it’s children, men or women, and regardless of whether they are beautiful or not, perhaps more people stay awake longer these days than ever before in history. Insomnia has always been there, of course. But these days we also have an internet connection.


Published on 22 October 2017 in DNA Jaipur, page 13

Featured image on top: Dilip and Madhubala in Prem Jogan ban ke (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960)

6 thoughts on “Sleeping Beauties

  1. The story of the Trojan Horse, yes true, but I’m laughing my guts out at the “standing seat” part in Mumbai locals 🙂

  2. I am all for a power nap…and blessed are those who can manage that. I suppose the Mumbai Local trains do help you with…provided you are lucky enough to get a “sitting” seat when in most cases, consider yourself lucky if you get even a “standing” seat. Only a Mumbaikar can differentiate between a “standing” and a “sitting” seat 🙂

    When asleep – and I presume soundly – a Man or a Woman is as good as defenceless and history has many examples of perceived enemies being killed at that time. I suppose the story of Helen of Troy is one of earliest examples when a Wooden horse was used to attack enemies surreptitiously whilst they were asleep.

    As for beauty and sleep, in this instance beauty has to lie in the eyes of the beholder. Or for the poets to imagine as such. I don’t think many go to sleep with coiffured hair or make up intact. In fact, many health and beauty experts caution you to remove make up before going to sleep. However try as you might, beauty is but skin deep and age you will. The relentless march of time will ensure that!!

  3. Yes- that’s what the prescription for a sound sleep is- 2 hours prior to bedtime. Every night. ? And I’m just the messenger!

  4. Thanks Monica, but hours of disconnect? Hours? That’s a tall ask 🙂

    And that Shabab lullaby, kya baat hai, so soothing so heartening!

  5. Our outer connections are getting more addictive, while the inner connections – to rest – are losing out. Very thought-provoking. I’m sure you know there’s scientific evidence out there that says that you need to shut all ‘screens’ at least a couple of hours prior to when you wish to sleep – that’s as long as it takes for the human brain to ‘log out’ of the outer and in to the inner. And, yet, here we are – the last thing we do is check messages :). Thanks, Manek. This essay is definitely going to make me re-think my (lack of) sleep, while I enjoy these beautiful songs you listed. Loved that you started with the ‘Shabab’ lori. Thank you for pointing out yet another ‘theme’ in our songs. Makes them more enjoyable.

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