Looking up various websites about rain songs in Hindi films leaves one perplexed. They list almost the same as ten top songs with little variation, beginning with umad ghumud kar aayi re ghata from V Shantaram’s classic Do Aankhen Barah Haath where a reformist jailor in the company of the village khilonewali Sandhya herald the arrival of monsoon with the twelve convicts. Few have tried to update the list to include even the raunchiest aaj rapat jayen to humey no bulaiyo picturised by Prakash Mehra on Smita Patil and Amitabh Bachchan in Namak Halaal. Fewer still have even cared to give a second look to Vijay Anand’s picturisation of rimzhim ke tarane le kar aayi barssat from Kala Bazaar complete with the umbrella that reminds one of the Nargis-Raj Kapoor singing pyar hua ikrar hua hai pyar se phir kyon darta hai dil in Shri 420. From the golden black and white era to the heralding of the colour era, the mandatory rain song, or song and dance sequence played an important role in enhancing screen romance. Interestingly, if the eclipse of this factor is related with the meteoric rise of Amitabh Bachchan and the kind of cinema his angry young man warranted, its return too, in many ways, be attributed to the superstar with the aaj rapat jayen. Thus indicating the changing and changed times where raciness gave way to melody.
The best of these rain songs belong to the black and white era when both the lyrics and its composition lent certain credence to romance. Two of my favourites, both involve the most beautiful ever heroine of Hindi cinema, Madhubala. What effect her naturally voluptuous body generated in a wet white saree in both Barsaat Ki Raat and Chalti Ka Naam Gadi could not have been emulated by any other heroine or film maker. Both zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi and ek ladki bheegi bhagee si would be stand out numbers in any cinema. During the black and white era aspects heightening the narrative process were the lyrics and the melody, geet and sangeet, tarana and mosiqee. And the last of those composers who could bring about that effect were RD Burman (rimzhim rimzhim: 1942 A Love Story) and Laxmikant Pyarelal (hai hai yeh majboori: Roti Kapada aur Makaan) though the
master of Hindi cinema romance, Yash Chopra could extract that kind of music from any composer and lines from any lyricist. Lagi sawan ki phir who jhadi hai in Chandni; Megha re megha tera man tarse re in Lamhe and; Mere khawabo mein jo aaye in Dilwale Dulhaniyan Le Jaige. Hindi cinema has stopped making film makers of that class and caliber, though Mani Ratnam’s picturisation of barso re megha barso with Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a ghagra choli does give some hope that all is not over… yet.
It is not that rain songs and song and dance numbers have made a summary exit from Hindi cinema. If in the past they were cleverly woven into the narrative, in recent times they look more forced to produce a certain effect. Sensuousness is the casualty because the emphasis is now on overt sexuality, though some of these stand out for their visualisation. One of the more sensuous song, generally been ignored by historians, is the one picturised on Aakshay Kumar and Raveena Tandon in Mohra, the heroine making a deliberate effort to seduce the hero. Sridevi, the thunder thighs heroine of the eighties and nineties, featured in many of them. Na jane kahan se aayi hai yeh ladhki in Chalbaaz and kaate nahi katte yeh din yeh raat in Mr India. But when a Kareena Kapoor sings bhaage re mann kahin aage in a rain-soaked saree it neither generates emotions nor sexuality. If Manoj Kumar from the earlier film makers used it to titillate the audience in Kranti but failed, in recent times Sudhir Mishra failed to create any impact on the audience despite the heroine oomph-generating physicality.
Rain songs have also been used solo soulful numbers, o sajna barkha bahaar layi in Bimal Roy’s lesser known Parakh. Or as a welcome refrain in otherwise draught situations to satiate the thirst of the parched land, like Allah megh de in Guide and Ghanan ghanan in Lagaan. They have also been used to arouse passion between the drenched heroes and heroines. Take the Aradhana song, for instance, roop tera mastana, or Baadal yun garajta hai from Betaab and then there have been Idhar chala mein udhar chala in Koi…Mil Gaya sensitively picturised on Preity Zinta and Hrithik Roshan. Some of the other recent notable numbers have been Zara zara from Rehena Hai Dil Mein; Dekho zara dekho barsaat from Yeh Zindagi or from the Rani Mukherjee and Saif Ali Khan starer Hum Tum.
However, the benchmark for rain songs continues to be Raj Kapoor’s simple and aesthetic picturisation of the duet on himself and Nargis, Pyar hua ikrar hua hai pyar se phir kyon darta hai dil in Awara. Its perennial appeal continues to haunt the listener even today. Raj Kapoor went on to deploy the rain song in film after film and exploited the female form to the hilt. So if he was the master of the aesthetic he was the grandmaster of the unaesthetic as well, as was evident from the manner in which he used Dimple in Bobby, Zeenat Aman in Satyam Shivam Sundram and Mandakini in Ram Teri Ganga Maili. So from Barsaat mein tak dhina din to on the roof in the rain, from Raj Kapoor to Karan Johar welcoming of rain or romance in downpour has continued to be a part of Hindi cinema. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Johar did not totally sidetrack the aesthetics when he picturised the rain song in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai on Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan.
But then it is not the song but the aesthetics, not the lyric but the poetry, not the music but the composition that has become a casualty. So monsoon has not really disappeared from the Hindi film, its meaning and picturisation has changed. It does not spell romance any more but exposure of the female form from a see-through fabric or skimpy dressing, even bikinis and swim suits. So songs and romance in the rain will continue only their contextual presence will raise question marks.
Barsaat mein hum se mile tum tum se mile hum, barsaat mein.
By Suresh Kohli