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Have you ever been through countdowns and Top Tens like US Billboard Top 100s or  UK Top 100s? Ever lived in a countdown? For instance, you knew that you are in a countdown to leave on a particular day from a place, or countdown to a beautiful phase of your life that has a few more moments left? Or countdown to an examination or submission? Or countdown to a rocket/missile test? Pulsating, throbbing, and existing in a pure sense of ‘time’! Countdowns make you sense the value of time — the toughest reality of the Universe.  Living in countdowns is interesting, but not always fun. We perennially live in countdowns — vacation countdown, submission countdown, seminar/ examination countdown, new jobs/new place countdown, wedding/ relationship countdown, etc.

Let me not get into abstract philosophy. Since, am feeling somewhat musical today —  thought of getting a music countdown discussion for you.

While we were at school and before the age of computer games, graphics, and computer-based assignments began, there was a great love for music albums, countdown shows, and Top Tens on Television.  A famous countdown show named “Philips Top Ten”  was aired on Friday evenings at 9.00 pm on Zee Tv.  We were given permission to watch this particular show after completing rolls of the extra notes and home-works. Sometimes celebrities and famous stars were invited to present their list of Top 10 songs and that would be the gala episode. By the time the countdown ended we would be sleepy.  I had imagined that one day I’ll present my own Top-10 songs of all time in Philips Top-10 if I become a celebrity or star 🙂 . In fact, made a list of songs. Thought should share the list today and also spell out reasons I like those songs. Bollywood is so melodious and musical and we breathe so much of music that it is tough to create a countdown actually.

Am just sharing the countdown of my favourite old timers, and not including the new songs here. The range is from the black and white era only. This article is a tribute to the era when the charms of just two colours encapsulated the canvas of Indian cinema.

TEN: From the movie Teesri Kasam (1966): Ae Duniya Banane Wale Kya Tere Man Mein Samayee, tune Kaheko Duniya Banayee??  ….Kahe banaye tune mati ke putle, dharti yeh pyari pyari, mukhde yeh ujle, kahe baneye tune duniya ka maela…gupchup tamashe dekhe wah teri khudayee…sapne jaga ke tune kahe ko de di judayee (Teesri Kasam). (Rough transl: Oh Maker of this world! What struck you that you decided to make such a complex world where there are no human but only statues made of clay? Why did you make the lovely earth, and lovely faces? Why did you make dreams and give those dreams in eyes only to lead us to separation…why do you watch the game of the world silently? ) The song beautifully scored by Shankar Jaikishen and written by Shailendra reflects the simplicity and innocence of a rural setup. The voice of Mukesh is interspersed with dialogues by Raj Kapoor to create an eternal feeling of awe and beauty.  Hiraman  (Raj Kapoor), a poor cart driver narrates the legend of the beautiful and innocent Mahua who was sold off by her step-mother to a Saudagar (merchant), to Hirabai (Waheeda Rehman) the local nautch girl. As the story unfolds, we  come to know that Mahua’s story ironically is the story of Hirabai herself. I have always liked the song because it seems to project all those questions to the maker that we ourselves ask in our innocence.

NINE: Movie Kohra (1964): Yeh Nayan Dare Dare, yeh jaam bhare bhare, zara peene do…kal ki kisko khabar, ek raat hoke nidar mujhe jeene do…. Pyar mein jeevan ki khushi, deti hai khushi kayee gham bhi, main maan bhi loon kabhi haar…tu manena (Rough transl: These deep dark eyes full of fear… let me drink from your eyes…Who knows what lies hidden for tomorrow?) One of my all time favourite singers is Hemant Kumar. His voice reflects a soft baritone, a complete calmness and harmony with rhythm, and rhyme. A very unconventional tone. This particular song from Kohra shows a deep  existential dilemma, a love that is bound to a moment, he keeps saying who knows what will happen tomorrow? Based on the novel Rebecca, the song  itself gives a lilting, haunting effect. I find it one of the most sensuous songs of Hindi Cinema with Waheeda Rehman and Biswajit playing the role of a gorgeous newly wedded couple.

Yeh nayan dare dare...

Clipping of the song

EIGHT: Movie Sujata (1959): Jalte Hain Jiske Liye Teri Ankhon ke Deeye Dhoond Laya Hoon Wohi Geet Main Tere Liye…Dard Banke Jo Mere Dil Raha Dhal Na Saka…Jadoo Banke Teri Ankhon Mein Ruka Jal Na Saka…Aaj laya hoon wohi geet main tere liye…. (Rough Transl: That for which the deeyas of your eyes get lit up, I have searched out and brought such songs for you) . You should watch the song for the beauty of the bygone era and the charm of the land-line phone. Expressions were the greatest factors of cinema of that age and Sunil Dutt sitting on a glass showcase singing the lines to Nutan over the phone is a moment to cherish. Personally, I have grown up hearing this song being hummed by grandma — it’s her favourite song. The story between a high caste Brahmin boy (Sunil Dutt) and a low caste girl (Nutan) is one of the greatest cinematic commentaries on marriage across castes — a problem still persisting in twenty-first century India.

SEVEN: Movie Madhumati (1958): Zulmi Sang Ankh Ladi re…Sakhi Kaa Se Kahoon,Jane Kaise Yeh Baat Badhi…ek din chhota raat badi…Zulmi sang ankh ladi. Mera pagal pana toh koi dekho,  pukaroon main chanda ko sajan ke naam se, manke jadoo ki chhadi se… Zulmi sang ankh ladi re…. (Transl: Need help in translating these lines. Completely at a loss for words) When it comes to Madhumati, I am always stuck with which song to choose? All the songs are equally delightful and unique. Salil Chaudhury‘s music and Shailendra’s lyrics combine to create an eternal musical. This song is less known than Bichhua or Ghadi Ghadi Mora Dil Dhadke or Aaaja re — but the beauty of the song is concealed  in its  rustic language full of mock anger at the object of love who is addressed as ‘ruthless‘ . Lataji’s timeless voice adds to the haunting effect of the song. The charms of a suave Dilip Kumar from the city coolly watching the gorgeous Vaijayanthi Mala dancing unrestrained on the village streets,  something that you can only feel if you observe and perceive. Watch the expressions of Johnny Lever in the song and you will get an idea of what subtle comedy is.

SIX: Movie Khamoshi (1969): Woh Shaam Kuchh Ajeeb Thi, Yeh Shaam Bhi Ajeeb, Woh Kal Bhi Paas Paas Thi, Woh Aaj Kareeb Hai…Jhooki Hui Nigahon Mein Kahin Mera Khayal Tha… Dabee Dabee Hansi Mein Ek Haseen Sa Gulal Tha…Main Soch ta tha mera naam gunguna rahi hai woh, najane kyon laga mujhe muskura rahi hai woh (Rough Transl: There was something starnge about that evening and there is something strange in this evening…). The song is one of my favourite Kishore Kumar renditions. The effect of a Ghazal combined with modern instruments is simply outstanding — the feel of the water rippling across the boat makes the song a delight to the ears.  Watch the expressions of Waheeda Rehman when she sits like a wooden doll on the boat.

FIVE: Movie Pyaasa (1957). Jaane Kya Tune Kahi Jaane Kya Maine Suni, Baat Kuchh Ban Hi Gayee….Sansanahat si hui, Thartharahat si hui, jaag uthe khwab kayee baat kucch ban hi gayee(Rough Transl: Who knows what you said? Who knows what I heard? Something changed and something just snapped….There was some stirring and my soul rose from its deep slumber….). There is something called melody and there is something called performance — Guru Dutt was a master of both. The pursued playfully inviting the pursuer to pursue her — a combination of beauty, grace, wit, charm, and love.  This is one of those lighter songs of Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt that stand out in the history of Dutt’s cinematic style. Combining the charms of folk lilt and the mischief in the voice of Geeta Dutt, this song shall remain a core favourite. Moreover, observe the song for its Light and Shadow cinematic technique — simply magnificent.

FOUR: Movie Dil Hi Toh Hai (1963): Laaga Chunri Mein Daag Chhupaaoon Kaise,  Chunari Main Daag Chupaaoon Kaise, Ghar Jaoon Kaise Hogayee Mailee Moree Chunariya, Kore Badan Si Kori Chunariya… Jaake Babul Se Nazrein Milaoon Kaise Ghar Jaaoon Kaise? …Kori chunariya atma mori maill hai maya jaal, woh duniya more babul ka ghar yeh duniya sasuraljaake baabul se nazarein milaoon kaise ghar jaoon kaise? (Rough Trans: My veil has been stained, how do I hide it? Oh, How do I face my father, Oh How do I go home?) This song by Mannadey can be easily branded as the most philosophical song of Hindi cinema. Only Mannadey could have handled such a composition where the soul is compared to a veil and the world to the in-laws place, and God’s abode is thought of as the father’s house. The song speaks of the strife of the world staining the soul. Just listen to the melody, the pure chhandas and aalaaps in Manna Dey’s unparalleled classical rendering. The classical dance by Padmini is so completely in sync with the spirit of the song. The combination of the carnal with the spiritual makes the song a masterpiece of Indian cinema.

THREE: Movie Sahib, Biwi, aur Ghulam (1962): Piya Aiso Jeeya Main Samaye Geyo Re, ke Main taan-maan ki suddh-buddh gawa baithi, har ahat pe samjhe woh aaye gayo re, jhat ghunghat mein mukhda chhupa baithi . The melodious voice of Geeta Dutt somehow deserves much more accolades than has been given to her. Geeta Dutt brings out the raw beauty in melody whether it is Piya Aiso or it is Babujee Dhire Chalna. She remains my favourite voice for all times. Added to the charm of her song, Meena Kumari’s performance in the song brings out the best that Indian cinema could aspire. Especially, observe the two girls helping her out in dressing up — it seems Guru Dutt brings  a painting out of a canvas and places it on the canvas of the camera.

TWO: Movie Kala Pani (1958): Accha Jee Main Haree, Chalo Maan Jao Na, Dekhi Sabki Yaree Mera Dil Jalao Na…Chhote Se Kasoor pe Aise Ho Khafa? Roothe Toh Huzoor The Meri Kya Khataa…. S.D.Burman’s music, Asha Bhonsle and Rafi Saab’s voices combined with out of the world expressions by Madhubala and Dev Saab —  what is called great cinema . There is a moment in the song where Dev Saab sings : “Ho lena kisike” to Madhuabala’s question “Kya Karna Hai Jeeke?” Unforgettable is the only word that I can think of. The playfulness and charm  of the singers flow into the playfulness of the protagonists. I fell in love with Dev Saab instantly when I saw him in this song and in Har Fikr ko Dhuyein Mein Udata Chala Gaya,  Khoya Khoya Chand which are my all time favourites.

A clipping

A clipping

ONE: Movie Howrah Bridge (1958): “Aaiye meherbaan baithyie jaane jaaan, shauk se lijiye jee ishq ke imtihiyaan…” . Shakti Samanta’s movie Howrah Bridge marked the turning point of Hindi cinema. Watch this song as one of the best examples of the earliest forms of Club music and of course my biases for Madhubala is self-evident. Her easy charm, effortless beauty, and extremely expressive eyes add to the beauty of the song. Asha Bhonsle’s voice combines an easy melody and feather-like delicacy in the song. Especially remarkable is K.N.Singh’s glances and expressions — lechery and desire completely overt in expressions. Ashok Kumar’s sophistication acts as the crowning glory.

Let me add that this list is completely incomplete 🙂 . The Black and White era is so rich in Indian cinema that it would be an injustice to say that you have accomplished a countdown with a handful of songs. I have deliberately left out some of my all time favourites like Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar;  Lag Jaa Gale Ke Phir Yeh Haseen Raat Ho Na Ho; Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh; Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya; Kuchh Dil Ne Kaha, Kuchh Bhi Nahin; Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se Ajnabee Ban Jaye Hum Dono; Jane Woh Kaise Log The; Hum Bekhoodi Mein Tumko; Aaaja Piya tohe Pyar Doon….. Simply because time and space do not permit me to discuss all these songs on Iris.

Hope you enjoyed the selections here….Do write back with your favourites. Signing off…. Goodnight and take care! 🙂


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