In this pandemic, lucky are those who have a terrace for they can at least get a whiff of fresh air and pretend that they are not completely home bound. In fact, with the kind of multi storeyed structures that we live in, we are almost like Trishanku – neither is the earth ours nor the sky – literally caught in between. For those who have experienced what it is to have a terrace even if it is not exclusively used or owned, I am sure the joys that I shall describe would strike a chord. In a place like Delhi for example, the terrace is a blessing in winters. I remember how as a student I would spend the lazy winter mornings on the terrace studying and also observing the women folk shelling peas and cleaning the green leafy vegetables. This would of course be accompanied by hot steaming cups of ginger tea and gossip would be the snack to go with it! Traditionally too, the terrace in India has been used more by the women especially to make and dry pickles and papads. It would almost be an extension of the kitchen. When I say terrace I must clarify here that it only means an external, raised, open, flat area of a building – essentially a roof terrace on a flat roof.
The pandemic has thus inspired me to list down these terrace songs. Let me say here that terrace songs can be of two kinds – those which are picturized on a terrace and those where the terrace is referred to in the lyrics. It is the first category that I refer to, though there is no dearth of songs of the second category as well. I will perhaps reserve the second category songs for a later occasion.
Coming to the songs picturized on a terrace, the songs I have shortlisted largely belong to the golden era but there is one song of 1980. Also, at least one stanza of the song has been shot on the terrace. The terrace is the typical terrace – open to the sky and flat and not a jharokha or balcony. So here are the songs which I hope you enjoy.
1) Tera Mera Pyaar Amar (Asli Naqli, 1962) Lyricist Shailendra, Music by Shankar Jaikishan, playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. This slow and melodious number from the movie Asli Naqli is completely picturised on the terrace. The swaying coconut trees and the full moon shining brightly set the mood for this number where Dev Anand’s lady love Sadhana is confident about herself but there is an unexplained restlessness. The entire song is shot on the terrace and in fact it begins with Sadhana ecstatically running up the flight of stairs to reach the terrace and looking longingly at the moon.
2) Chand Phir Nikla (Paying Guest, 1957) Lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Music by S.D.Burman, playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. Another melody and the same moon again, the hero is the same too as in the earlier song – Dev Anand – but the heroine is Nutan. One of Lata’s most loved songs, this song echoes the emotion of having lost badly in love to the extent that even the spring seems to only fan more embers (jala gaye tan ko baharon ke saaye). The forlorn terrace and the silhouettes of tall minarets set the mood perfectly for this melancholic song. Nutan adds additional charm to this song and is very involved. The lip syncing is so perfect that it almost appears as though she herself is singing. In fact it would not be out of place to mention here that Nutan was an accomplished singer herself and has even sung songs in the movie Chabili including Ae mere humsafar rok apni nazar, which is a solo.
3) Kahe Jhoom Jhoom Raat Ye Suhani (Love Marriage, 1959) Lyricist Shailendra, Music by Shankar Jaikishan, playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. Yet another song with Dev Anand as the hero and this time the heroine is Mala Sinha. This is a peppy romantic number. The first stanza of the song is shot on the terrace. In this song, though there is a reference to the night, the moon unlike the earlier two songs does the disappearing act. There are many other memorable songs in the movie some of which are very beautifully picturised such as dheere dheere chal chand gagan mein and Hum jaan gaye sarkaar tum lakh karo inkaar.
4) Dil-e-betaab Ko Seene Se lagaana Hoga (Palki, 1967) Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni, Music by Naushad, playback singers Md.Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur. This is a lovely duet which bears the hallmark of the Naushad-Shakeel duo. Waheeda and Rajendra Kumar are neighbours and their terraces too are adjoining. They meet on their adjoining terraces where this song is picturized. I am reminded of Robert Frost’s line from the poem ‘Mending Wall‘ where he says ‘Good fences make good neighbours’. As an extension of this thought, this song leads me to believe that good (adjoining!) terraces help make good romantic film duets. Both Rafi and Suman Kalyanpur do full justice to this song which has lovely Urdu lyrics.
5) Aaj Sajan Mohe Ang Laga Lo (Pyaasa, 1957) Lyricist Sahir Ludhiannvi, Music by S.D.Burman, playback singer Geeta Dutt. This is an iconic song which needs to be seen in order to appreciate its depth, symbolism and beauty. Though written by Sahir Ludhianvi, its actually a Baul song (Bengali folk tradition which is based on Bhakti) which was more or less translated by Sahir. Further, the tune of the song also is a Baul tune which the music director S D Burman retained. The song, in the movie, is being sung by a jogan accompanied by the traditional Baul instruments – the Kartal and the Khol. This song has minimal music support and is carried to the crescendo singlehandedly by Geeta Dutt. There is a dual meaning that is being conveyed. On one hand is Radha’s love for Krishna and on the other is the love that Gulabo, the prostitute (Waheeda Rehman), has for Vijay, her saviour (Guru Dutt). And coming to the theme of this post, the manner in which Gulabo haltingly climbs the stairs following Vijay to the terrace is also perhaps symbolic of a purported slow ascent in life on her part. The terrace is the place where Vijay stands in this song leaning against the railing completely oblivious to the emotional turmoil of Gulabo.
6) Chali Radhe Rani Akhiyon Mein Paaani (Parineeta, 1953) (Sad version) Lyricist Bharat Vyas, Music by Arun Kumar Mukherjee, playback singer Manna De. This is another representative Baul song. This song has two versions. The version I refer to here is the latter, which is sung by the same mendicant who sang the happier version earlier; but now, misunderstandings have cropped up between the families of Shekhar ( Ashok Kumar) and Lalita (Meena Kumari). Here, it is important to mention that the protagonists are neighbours and what helps to strengthen their love is the common terrace that they share. Lalita can be seen frequently using the terrace to reach out to Shekhar. Further, in this song, even as the bard sings, a perturbed Ashok Kumar is seen standing on the terrace, as he sees Lalita and her family leave the neighbourhood. Manna De has beautifully sung both the sad and the happy versions of the song; the change in the mood in the sad version is made more perceptible by his impeccable rendition.
7) Yeh Sama Sama Hain Yeh Pyaar Ka (Jab Jab Phool Khile, 1965) Lyricist Anand Bakshi, Music by Kalyanji Anandji, playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. This song amply proves that a terrace does not necessarily need to be of a concrete building for making a memorable terrace song. The terrace of this houseboat of Kashmir in fact gives every other terrace a run for its money! Picturized on the terrace of the houseboat – Gulistan – that Nanda stays in, this is a beautiful solo by Lata Mangeshkar which aptly sums up why Kashmir is another name for heaven. The shimmering Dal Lake, the Shikaras, the tantalizing breeze – what more could one ask for!
8) Bagon Mein Bahaar Hain (Aaradhana, 1969) Lyricist Anand Bakshi, Music by S.D.Burman, playback singers Lata Mangeshkar and Md.Rafi. This is a peppy number shot entirely on the terrace featuring the handsome Rajesh Khanna in his second avtaar (as the son) romancing the pretty Farida Jalal. The lovely swing on the terrace adds to its charm.
S.D.Burman is said to have recorded two duets for the film Aaradhana with Rafi and Lata in the first one and Rafi and Asha in the second as the playback singers. This song I enlist here is the first one, the second one being Gunguna Rahe Hain Bhanwre. He fell seriously ill thereafter and his son R.D.Burman completed the unfinished work. Barring these two, in all the other songs of Aaradhana Kishore Kumar was the playback singer for Rajesh Khanna. There was hardly any looking back after this. Kishore Kumar almost became the voice of Rajesh Khanna after Aaradhana.
9) Maine Kahan Phoolon Se (Mili, 1975) Lyricist Yogesh, Music by S.D.Burman, playback singer Lata Mangeshkar. This is a chirpy song for children very tastefully shot on the terrace. The terrace has a lot of significance in this song as well as the movie. The male protagonist (Amitabh Bacchan as Shekhar) rents a flat on the topmost floor of a mutli-storeyed building with an adjoining sprawling terrace, believing he has exclusive rights over it. The female protagonist (Jaya Bhaduri as Mili) lives on a lower floor of the same complex. Shekhar is a loner and doesn’t like children coming up to play on the terrace whereas Mili who is an extrovert loves singing and dancing with them. This leads to a fight between the two with Shekhar slowly accommodating them and finally falling in love with Mili. It is also worth mentioning here that this was the last movie for which S.D.Burman gave music.
10) Piya Baawree (Khoobsurat, 1980) Lyricist Gulzar, Music by R.D.Burman, playback singer Asha Bhonsle and Ashok Kumar. This song based, on Raag Bihaag, is yet another take on how useful a terrace can be. Ashok Kumar does a fabulous job on the tabla and also sings quite impressively. It is also fascinating to compare Ashok Kumar on the terrace in the song from Parineeta, with the Ashok Kumar on the terrace in Khoobsurat. There is such a world of difference.
In this movie, the matriarch (Dina Pathak) of a joint family is a strict disciplinarian and does not view fun and frolic very kindly; egged by the female protagonist (Rekha), the patriarch (Ashok Kumar) of the family and the other family members use the terrace covertly to derive some ‘nirmal anand‘ (pure joy) and display their creative side without letting Dina Pathak smell a rat. It is interesting to observe how the terrace is used as a private assembly point for all planning and execution as well as the venue for the final performance. Moreover, It is amusing to see how Rekha, the female protagonist, in this movie, uses the space under the water storage tank on the terrace to write a letter. This is what optimum utilization of the terrace is! There is another song picturized on the terrace in this movie – Inqalaab Zindabad. However, I chose Piya Bawree because of the wonderful Classical touch it has.
This brings me to the end of my playlist. There were a couple of other songs that I did want to include but since I wanted to limit the number to only ten songs, I did not include Khilona Jaankar Tum to (Kihilona, 1970) and Dikhai Diye Ki Bekhud (Bazaar, 1982).
I thoroughly enjoyed myself while writing this post for it also involved looking at the movie songs more closely from a completely different perspective. It also meant seeing a bit of the movies before and after the songs to understand and appreciate the songs better. The terrace as it emerges from these songs (and I am sure from our own experiences) is a place where one can inhale some fresh air, view sights from a vantage point, enjoy some me-time (also nirmal anand!), shed tears in privacy and of course last but not the least – find true love.