One of the most enjoyable comic films that emerged from Hindi cinema of yesteryear was Padosan, released in 1968. Its music was remarkable too, not just in melodic content, but in the unusual cinematic treatment received by three of its songs. Those three songs were Mere saamne waali khidki mein ik chaand ka tukda rehta hai, Kehna hai kehna hai aaj tumse pehli baar, and Ek chatur naar karke singaar. In the film, Sunil Dutt wants to impress his line-of-sight neighbour Saira Banu with his singing, but how can he? He cannot sing to even save his life. So much so, that when he begins to learn singing, a braying donkey appears at his doorstep, in an “I’m with you brother” kind of way. However, his friend Kishore Kumar can sing beautifully. So the hero comes up with a brilliant idea: Hidden behind Sunil Dutt, Kishore will sing a song, even play the harmonium, while the hero will move his lips, as if he himself is singing to toast the damsel. It should work here, imagines the hero. And it sure does.
The idea of impressing the heroine through fake singing was not new here. This film was based on a Bengali story titled Pasher Bari (meaning the house next door), which was adapted to make a Bengali film of the same name in 1952. Next year, it was made into a Telugu film called Pakkinti Ammayi (which like Padosan means girl staying next door), and decades later, in 1981, another Telugu film of the same name dealt with the same narrative. There have been Kannada, Marathi and Tamil adaptations of this tale as well.
While we do not have access to the Bangla film, the 1953-made Telugu version certainly had such a transfer-of-feelings singing idea filmed beautifully, perhaps something new to cinema then. It is here that Relangi Venkata Ramaiah acted as the comic hero wooing the leading lady Anjali Devi, with his hidden friend AM Rajah doing the actual crooning, quite similar to what we saw in the story of Padosan filmed a decade and a half later. Romantically did the hero mime to Kalayemo edhi na jeevitha phalamemo, his crooning friend concealed behind him The hero had other encouraging buddies too—hidden from her again—to pump him up, not leaving much for the imagination of Padosan’s director-cinematographer team when they shot their own version of the story.
Nor was this a first for a Hindi film. Do recall Hum Sab Chor Hain (1956) where a harmonium and mandolin playing Shammi Kapoor tried to woo Nalini Jaywant with his vocals, while it was his friend Ram Avtar who did the actual singing in Tere aage bolna dushwaar ho gaya.
The surrogacy of transferred emotions
A surrogate is a person who substitutes in an assignment for another. From there we get surrogate mother, a woman who bears a child for another woman who cannot or will not carry one. The songs mentioned above may cinematically fall into such a definition, because in these stories, while the hero himself is unable to sing, someone else is doing the job for him. In Padosan, the feelings are Sunil Dutt’s but musically speaking, Kishore Kumar is the surrogate father of those songs. Such a surrogacy of transferred emotions is true anyway for every playback artist in every film in which the hero just moves his lips—after all, that is the meaning of playback and lipsynch—but let’s not digress from our visual focus.
An interesting case of such surrogacy was also found in Babar (1960), this time with only the surrogate moving her lips, and the owner of the feelings not even in the frame. Apart from the story of the first Mughal Emperor, the film also dealt with the sub-text of his son, Prince Humayun, who fell in love with a commoner called Hamida Begum. Because face-to-face meetings between the opposite sexes were not so common, the prince sent the lady an overture through a song which was not rendered by himself, but instead by Hamida’s friend. That song was Salaam-e-hasrat qabool kar lo, meri muhabbat qabool kar lo. This too is a case of transfer of emotions, even if is a woman’s voice representing the feelings of a man.
I leave you with these songs, where someone else was singing the feelings of an actor whose mouth was shut:
- Ye afsaana naheen zaalim (Husn Bano for Munawwar Sultana/Dard, 1947)
- Phir aah dil se nikli (Unknown actress for Nargis/Mela, 1948)
- Shukriya aye pyaar tera shukriya (Talat Mahmood for Premnath/Aaraam, 1951)
- Ik bewafa se pyaar kiya (Honey O’Brien for Nargis/Awaara, 1951)
- Ho jab se mili tose akhiyaan (Unknown couple for Chand Usmani and Bharat Bhushan/Amanat, 1955)
- Ab to ji hone laga kisi ki surat ka saamna (Unknown actress for Madhubala/Mr and Mrs 55, 1955)
- Le ke pehla pehla pyaar bhar ke aankhon mein khumaar (Sheila Vaz and Shyam Kapoor for Shakila and Dev Anand/CID, 1956)
- Dil ka na karna aitbaar koi (Helen for Ajit/Halaku, 1956)
- Badi pyaari kahaani hai muhabbat ki kahaani bhi (Unknown street performer for Nirupa Roy/Do Roti, 1957)
- Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo (Maya Das for Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt/Pyaasa, 1957)
- Kya dhadak dhadak dil dhadke (Cuckoo and one for Suresh and Geeta Bali/Aji Bas Shukriya, 1958)
- Bichhde hue milenge phir (Unknown actors for Sunil Dutt and Shakila/Post Box 999, 1958)
- Mere jeevan mein kiran banke bikharne waale (Unknown couple for Rajendra Kumar and Kamini Kadam/Talaaq, 1958)
- Jaane kahaan gayi (Raj Kishore for Raj Kumar/Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai, 1960)
- Chhodo chhodo mori baiyaan saanware (Unknown actress for Kamini Kadam/Miyaan Bibi Raazi, 1960)
- Ghar aaja ghir aaye badarwa saanwariya (Sheila Vaz for Ameeta/Chhote Nawab, 1961)
- Aye mere pyaare watan (Unknown actor for Balraj Sahni/Kabuliwala, 1961)
- Dhalti jaaye raat, keh le dil ki baat (Unknown couple for Jairaj and Nirupa Roy/Razia Sultana, 1961)
- Kho gaya hai mera pyaar/Unknown boatman for Manoj Kumar/Hariyali Aur Raasta, 1962)
- Abke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul (Ms Kapoor for Nutan/Bandini, 1963)
- O re maanjhi…mere saajan hain us paar (Unknown actor for Nutan/Bandini, 1963)
- Nikle the kahaan jaane ke liye (Helen for Meena Kumari/Bahu Begum, 1967)
- Main idhar jaoon ya udhar jaoon (Roopesh Kumar and two others for Waheeda Rehman/Palki, 1967)
- Sama hai suhaana suhaana (Jalal Agha for Bharti and Rakesh Roshan/Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani, 1970)
- Beshaq mandir masjid todo (Narendra Chanchal for Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia/Bobby, 1973)
- Deewaane hain deewaanon ko na ghar chaahiye (Gulshan Bawra and Sanjana for Amitabh and Jaya/Zanjeer, 1973)
- Lambi Judaai (Reshma for Meenakshi Seshadri/Hero, 1983)
Do note that the above are not songs rendered background. Someone is seen actually singing them.
On another note, has it happened to you that someone is singing your feelings on the screen? That’s good news. You haven’t transferred your feelings to them; they’re on your page on their own. Unlike many other bounties of life, music can belong to everyone.
Featured image on top: from O re maanjhi
Grateful acknowledgments: Antara Nanda Mondal (for Bengali inputs), Anuradha Srinivasan (for information on the Telugu song), Sundeep Pahwa for other songs.
Originally published in DNA Jaipur on 03 December 17, page 13 http://epaper2.dnaindia.com/index.php?mod=1&pgnum=1&edcode=131002&pagedate=2017-12-03