How back-to-back songs in Hindi films told a story by themselves

What better way to transition from one emotional theme to another than to have a song immediately after another with a different mood so that the differentiation becomes obvious?

 |  8-minute read |   15-07-2020
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Under the overarching banner of Hindi film songs, we have categories, genres, and facets. Some are rather obvious like ‘club’ songs, ‘break-up’ songs, or ‘tandem’ songs. Some have come to light with the advent of technology, such as songs with missing stanzas on vinyl records. However, there is one aspect which is not so obvious. You cannot know it in the audio format and many times, you may not even get to see it on YouTube. It only comes to light when you see the film. And since most of the films are old, only people on the wrong side of their 50s may recognise this peculiar feature – the feature of back-to-back songs in Hindi films when the second song follows the first one without a pause. Each song is different and finds a separate place in the album/cassette/CD. It just so happens that while you are still savouring the joy of the first ditty while watching the film, you get another one instantly.

Remember Bobby (1973)? How can one forget ‘Na Chahoon Sona Chandi’? Rishi Kapoor — oily-haired, young and innocent — dancing to the Goan folk song with a bottle-swigging, portly, Hitlerian-moustached Premnath, with Dimple Kapadia in a fisherwoman’s dress demurely watching the proceedings. The moment the song gets over, ‘Jhoot Bole Kauya Kaate’ begins, with Dimple joining in. The village square remains, the participants remain the same (the fisher-folk take over from the suited Goan Christians) — two songs in one setting! The first song with a Western beat, the second with a boisterous dholak. Two moods!

Now consider Guide (1965). Lata Mangeshkar’s ‘Mose Chhal Kiye Jaaye’ is immediately followed by Rafi’s ‘Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya Bewafa’. Both the songs are composed in Raag Jhinjhoti. Listen carefully and you will realise that they are the same tune but on a different scale. The songs may sound dissimilar, but they are not. The theme is the same. Lata’s is that of anguish at ‘Saiyan Beimaan’ and Rafi’s also that of anguish at ‘Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya’. But the genius of SD Burman still created two moods from the same raag and same theme. Two songs, one raag, two moods.

In Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971), ‘Dum Maro Dum’ with its iconic opening guitar sequence sets the mood of the song – the chillum-smoking hippies swinging, raising the finger to society and singing “go-to-hell”! Zeenat Aman made a sensational entry in the film and the film industry with this song. The song finishes (only one stanza was used in the film. The song, however, has two), Dev Anand starts ‘Dekho O Deewano’. The brother needed to make an entry immediately to show his disapproval and request his sister (who doesn’t yet know Dev is her brother) and her troupe to desist from escapism. No two songs in their theme and mood could be so diametrically opposite.

Then there is the well-known and finest dream sequence in the Hindi film world from Awara (1951) involving two back-to-back songs: ‘Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni’ and ‘Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi’. The second follows the first with such seamlessness that one can be forgiven for thinking they are one single song. Here the mood shifts from plaintive to dread in the first song - “Mujhko yeh narak na chahiye; mujhko phool, mujhko geet, mujhko preet chahiye; mujhko chahiye bahaar”, segueing to peace and calm in the second song which at the end again turns to dread. Two songs, same set, same dream sequence, same actors, three moods – mournful, anxious and tranquil.

There are many such examples.

As long back as in 1938, Gramophone Singer (composer Anil Biswas) had ‘Kaahe Akela Dolat Baadal’ followed immediately by ‘Ek Chhota Sa Mandir’ – both sung by Surendra.

Ram Rajya released in 1943 — one of the two films Mahatma Gandhi ever saw — had such a pair (composed by Shankar Rao Vyas). These were ‘Surya Dev Jagdish Tej Jinko’ and ‘O Rani Maharani Itna To Karo Vichar’. Its modern remake released in 1967 had four (yes FOUR!) back-to-back songs – ‘Tha Andhera Chhaya Hua’, ‘Aaja Tujh Bin’, ‘Dar Lage Garje Badariya’, and ‘Hato Jao Mat Chhedo’.

An interesting aside here: Vasant Desai, the music director, was chosen to receive the inaugural Dr Brihaspati Award (later known as Saraswati Award) but Naushad pointed out that two of the film songs were “replicate” songs from the original Ram Rajya. It instead went to Naushad for the film Palki.

main_vasant-desai_fa_071520043037.jpgVasant Desai, the music director, was chosen to receive the inaugural Dr Brihaspati Award for Ram Rajya initially. (Photo: Facebook/ Vasant Desai)

Nagin (1954) had two instances. Composer Hemant Kumar gave us ‘Teri Yaad Mein’ and ‘Oonchi Oonchi Dunya Ki Deewarein’, and towards the end of the film ‘Sun Rasiya’ and ‘Mera Badli Mein Chhup Gaya Chand Re’. Later, in Nandini Durgesh (1956), Hemant gave us ‘Mat Maaro Shyaam Pichkari’ and ‘Pyar Ke Rang Mein Saiyan’.

Madan Mohan composed three absolute back-to-back classics that were filmed on three heroines who were pining for the men they thought had deserted them. One song, with three stanzas, each filmed on a different heroine would have done the trick. But then the Hindi film music would have been poorer by two songs. Nobody was complaining. Dekh Kabira Roya (1957) had these exceptional songs – ‘Meri Veena Tum Bin Roye’, ‘Ashkon Se Teri Humne Tasweer Banayi Hai’ and ‘Tu Pyaar Kare Ya Thukraye’. Earlier, in Madhosh (1951), Madan Mohan had given us ‘Dil Dhak Dhak’ and ‘Nazron Ke Chaar Hote’.

In New Delhi (1956), the evergreen catchy ‘Nakhrewali’ composed by Shankar-Jaikishan leads to ‘Zindagi Bahaar Hai’. Naya Daur (1957) had OP Nayyar transitioning from the easy rhythm of ‘Dil Leke Daga Denge’ to the hot-blooded boisterousness of the patriotic ‘Yeh Desh Hai Veer Jawanon Ka’. Chaudvin Ka Chand (1960), whose title track fetched Rafi his first Filmfare Award, had ‘Mera Yaar Bana Hai Dulha’ give way to ‘Balam Se Milan Hoga’. The composer for this was Ravi.

Nasir Hussain — the acclaimed producer-director — is rightfully regarded as the filmmaker who took such songs to a whole new level. In Dil Deke Dekho (1959) — the debut film of both music director Usha Khanna and actress Asha Parekh — Hussain had ‘Megha Re’ composed in the traditional format, followed by a westernised ‘Bade Hain Dil Ke Kale’. Along with the feel, the look of the dancers also changed from Indian to western.

In Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973), he gave us ‘Aap Ke Kamre Mein’ and ‘Dil Mil Gaye’ that was composed by RD Burman. Then in Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin (1977), we were treated to a dance sequence featuring ‘Chand Mera Dil’, ‘Aa Dil Kya’, ‘Tum Kya Jano’ and ‘Mil Gaya’. Four songs, four singers (including composer RD Burman), four different melodies, four moods – yet each flowed into the succeeding song organically, without looking contrived.

In Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981), he slowed down and gave us just a pair – ‘Bolo Bolo’ and ‘Poochho Na Yaar Kya Hua’.

So, what explains this phenomenon? Why back-to-back songs? The most obvious reason is that songs in Hindi films tell a story. What better way to transition from one emotional theme to another than to have a song immediately after another with a different mood so that the differentiation becomes obvious?

But there are other reasons as well. In Pratigya (1975), after belting out ‘Main Jatt Yamla’, a drunk Dharmendra (drunk in love and alcohol) falls into the lake and moves on to a dream sequence ‘Uth Neend Se Mirzia’. Very normal for any person in his position! In Mazdoor (1983), a jilted Rati Agnihotri sings ‘Tumhe Bhool Jaane Ka Haq’ to Raj Babbar at his wedding reception, which is followed immediately by ‘Pehla Pehla Pyar’ sung by Padmini Kohlapuri at the honeymoon. This tactic works well to push the story along.

Sometimes, the mood remains the same in both the songs and could have been just one long song. But it would have been tedious to hear it on record or the radio. Also, such a long song could not have been accommodated on a 78-RPM disc. Awara is one such example (‘Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni’ and ‘Ghar Aaya Mera Pardesi’). It’s essentially one song carved into two. Or take the cases of dance competitions in Nasir Hussain films. Song after song is to be expected. Or sometimes, the film is overloaded with songs (like Nagin) and back-to-back is the solution.

The concept is almost non-existent now.

It was seen in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016) where ‘Cutipie’ is immediately followed by ‘Channa Mereya’. Again, two moods. The formula still works. Ranbir could have been singing about this fascinating aspect of Hindi music of back-to-back songs, now been put out to pasture, when he sings “Mere Zikr Ka Zubaan Pey Swaad Rakhna”.

Also Read: What makes the Bollywood title song eternal


Ajay Mankotia Ajay Mankotia @ajaymankotia

The writer is an author, former revenue official and a music aficionado.

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