Songs ‘Spoken and Sung’

I hope I have piqued your curiosity by the title of my post. I actually did not know how better to christen it. In this post, I refer to songs where the lyrics are first uttered or spoken sometimes in a poetic and at other times in a sing song fashion and then the same lyrics are sung to tune. There are not too many songs that fit the bill. Let me clarify here that I am not referring to songs where there is intermittent conversation (e.g. Tere Bina Zindagi se Koi Shikwa from Aandhi). I am also excluding songs where there is shayari if the same is not sung (such as Zara Nazron Se Keh Do Ji from Bees Saal Baad or Naftrat Karne Walon ke Seene Me Pyaar Bhar Du from Johny Mera Naam). Even where one whole line has been spoken, I have included them in this post but the line has to necessarily be sung. There are very few songs where a substantial part of the lyrics of the song are spoken and then sung. As always, the songs I have shortlisted largely belong to the golden era. I have tried to arrange them somewhat in the descending order of the number of lines spoken and sung. Let me also add here that in many a song, it is difficult to make out whether the actress/actor has spoken the words or the playback singer.

1) Chupke Se Mile Pyaase Pyaase (Manzil, 1960) Lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri, Music Director S.D.Burman, Playback Singers Md.Rafi and Geeta Dutt. With minimum instrumental support, this is a wonderful soft romantic Geeta – Rafi duet with a rare twist. It has Geeta Dutt (or Nutan herself??) reading out the lyrics of the poem (on screen Nutan from a book/diary which is also my featured image) and Rafi singing them (on screen Dev Anand), in the first part of the song. In the second part, it is a duet but again with a twist. It is almost like an impromptu poetic and musical duel with each completing the other’s lines, the diary/book having vanished. The way the lines are left half unsung with the mouth organ (supposedly played by R.D.Burman?!) taking over adds to the aura that is created. This duet has Dev Anand and Nutan creating magic on screen. The innovative use of the mouth organ especially in the postlude after the lyrics end makes it very special. This unique experiment of poetry and music is extremely delightful.

2) Ek Do Teen Aur Chaar (Kaagaz Ke phool, 1959) Lyricist Kaifi Azmi, Music Director S.D.Burman, Playback Singer Geeta Dutt. This song of the movie Kaagaz Ke phool is one of the lesser heard ones. This is an open air paathshala song and the teacher is Waheeda Rehman. As she teaches numbers in a song and story format, she sums up her life’s trials and tribulations. The manner in which the song develops is very interesting. The lines are first spoken by Waheeda and then sung by Geeta Dutt. Almost the whole song is spoken and then sung. There is a lot of melodrama added to enthrall the children. This speaking cum singing format is a great hit with the children she is teaching and they join her in the chorus. Kaifi Azmi has penned, in this song, the story (so far) very euphemistically but poignantly, using numbers zero to ten.

3) Saawan Ki Raaton Mein Aisa Bhi Hota Hain (Prem Patra, 1962) Lyricist Gulzar, Music Director Salil Chowdhury, Playback Singers Lata Mangeshkar and Talat Mahmood. A lovely duet from a Bimal Roy movie with an uncommon pairing – Sadhana and Shashi Kapoor – has the lyrics being spoken by Talat and sung by Lata for the first part of the song. Talat’s quivering voice as he mouths the lyrics and Lata’s melodious voice as she sings the same make the song sound very different. It then turns into a normal duet. The tune of the song, based on Raag Miyan Malhaar, is mesmerizing. The song is pretty high pitched and rather difficult to sing. It is picturized partly on a terrace on a stormy, rainy night with swaying coconut trees in the backdrop, as the lyrics also amply suggest.

4) Titar Ke Do Aage Titar (Mera Naam Joker, 1970) Lyricist Neeraj, Music Director Shankar Jaikishan, Playback Singers Mukesh and Asha Bhosle. This is a movie which puts me off but some of the songs are excellent. This song is one of riddles and tongue twisters. The riddles and tongue twisters are first spoken, as it were, by Simi Garewal and then sung by Asha Bhosle. Thus, a substantial part of the song is spoken and sung. The cinematography of the song is beautiful. It features children on an excursion with their teacher – Simi.

5) Qayda Todke Socho Ek Din (Khubsoorat, 1980) Lyricist Gulzar, Music Director R.D.Burman, Playback Singers Rekha and Sapan Chakraborty. This song is all about wishful thinking – of how the laws of nature could be bent to suit one’s own whims and fancies. Written by Gulzar, it has Rekha speaking as well as singing (she does a decent job as a singer!) along with Sapan Chakraborty. Sapan Chakraborty worked closely with R.D.Burman as his music assistant. He also worked as an independent composer in a few Hindi films, though he was more prolific in Bengali films. You must listen to these lines sung by Sapan Chakraborty:

daata toone kiya kamaal
upar gagan vishaal

These are picked from a song of the movie Mashaal (1950) written by Kavi Pradeep, composed by S.D.Burman and sung by Manna dey. This experiment of dropping in a few lines of another song is enthralling and Kishore Kumar in fact did this quite frequently in his songs. I am also reminded of the wonderful parody of the song Pritam Aan Milo in the film Angoor sung by Sapan Chakraborty; this song again had R.D.Burman teaming up with with Gulzar and Sapan Chakraborty.

6) Tumse Hain Pyaar Mujhe (Teen Batti Chaar Raasta, 1953) Lyricist Pyare Lal Santoshi Music Director Pandit Shivram Krishna, Playback Singer Talat Mahmood. This song from V.Shantaram’s movie Teen Batti Chaar Raasta is adorable. The music director of this film Pandit Shivram Krishna worked closely with V Shantaram and worked in mythological films thereafter. The lyricist P.L.Santoshi was a multi faceted personality who also donned the hats of director, producer and writer.

In this song, the hero is a besotted lover who is writing about/to his lover. He writes and sings as he thinks aloud, which explains the experimentation with various synonyms. This conversational style of singing is rather distinctive. Talat Mahmood has done a stupendous job. The fact that the hero (Karan Dewan) is a writer and artist in the movie is also brought out very subtly in this song. He sings in front of a portrait he has made of his lady love (Sandhya who is shown as being very dark complexioned and plebeian in the film). Further, the movie is about national integration depicting a family where the patriarch encourages cross cultural marriages. The protagonist is also working on a project of writing a multi-lingual dictionary which would unite India linguistically. Hence, the use of synonyms – one in chaste Hindi followed generally by Urdu while he is searching for rhyming words is very topical. (I have highlighted them below – preet/pyaar, vishvaas/yakin/aitbaar, ravivaar/itvaar, bechain/beqaraar, udgaar/armaan.)

preet pyaar haan, pyaar
tumse hain pyaar mujhe, tumse hain pyaar

hum jaante hain pyaar me hota nahin vishvaas
vishvaas, un hunh yakin, nahi aitbaar haan
hum jaante hain pyaar mein hota nahin aitbaar
tumse hain pyaar mujhe, tumse hai pyaar

aaj hain ravivaar, un hunh itvaar
itvaar gaya somvaar gaya, mangal gaya budhvaar gaya
beet gaye din chaar ho na sake deedaar
yeh toh bata do mere sar ki kasam
kya tum bhi ho bechain, bechain nahin beqaraar
kya tum bhi ho bekaraar, bekaraar
tumse hain pyaar mujhe, tumse hain pyaar

hum na thakenge likhte likhte, tum thak jaao padhte padhte
chhupe hue hain mere kalam me sau sau bol mohabbat ke
aur dil me hain udgaar, udgaar nahin armaan
aur dil me hain armaan hazaar, armaan hazaar
tumse hain pyaar mujhe, tumse hain pyaar

7) Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se (Gumraah, 1963) Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, Music Director Ravi, Playback Singer Mahendra Kapoor. This song, from a film made on the subject of adultery, is spot on. It can be rated as one of the best songs Sahir ever wrote – some even say it was autobiographical in some sense. Each of the words that Sahir uses in this song is so appropriate for the situation where the heroine, Mala Sinha, is caught between her husband (Ashok Kumar) and lover (Sunil Dutt). There is one line in the second antara of the song that is first uttered almost like a sher and then sung by Mahendra Kapoor – mere humraah bhi rusvaiyan hain, mere maazi ki. (meaning the disgraces of my past are my constant companions). This adds more beauty to the song. On a lighter note, poor Mala Sinha is always caught on the wrong foot be it in Pyaasa (Jaane woh Kaise Log the Jinke) or here!

8) La Ra Lappa La Ra Lappa (Ek Thi Ladki, 1949) Lyricist Aziz Kashmiri, Music Director Vinod, Playback Singers G.M.Durrani, Md.Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar. This song is really special for it is sung by Durrani – whom Rafi initially tried to imitate. Though Rafi is mentioned as one of the playback singers of this song in various sources, his voice cannot be identified. It is not clear which part he sings, unless he was a part of the chorus. The music director is Vinod – whose original name was Eric Roberts (1922-59) – a true dyed in the wool Punjabi and hence the use of the Punjabi words Lara Lappa and Adi Tappa in the song (which apparently means making tall/false promises that are not meant to be kept). Also, the tune is typically Punjabi-Himachali.

The one line that is uttered and then sung immediately is jaa len den par khaaq mohabbat paak. This adds recall value to the song and makes it very conversational, especially because the same line is sung at a very different pitch. The song, if understood carefully, speaks of women’s equality and empowerment though it superficially seems to be light hearted banter of male and female colleagues in an office setup.

9) Main Aaj Pawan Mein Paaun (Reshma Aur Shera, 1971) Lyricist Uddhav Kumar, Music Director Jaidev, Playback Singer Lata Mangeshkar. This beautiful song written by a lesser known lyricist Uddhav Kumar is like pure honey especially with Lata singing it to Jaidev’s music. Shot in the desert near the LoC in Rajasthan, the landscape and the local architecture are an inseparable part of the song. Waheeda as usual is dazzling. The song begins with her saying Ek Mithi Si Chubhan, Ek Thandi Si Agan (or is it Lata who speaks these words?). The same is then sung by Lata.

The film and its music were much acclaimed. It had Amitabh Bachchan playing a mute character as he was apparently not able to memorize and deliver his dialogues correctly!! The music of the film composed by the brilliant but underrated music director Jaidev is mesmerizing.

10) Gaana Mere Bas Ki Baat Nahin ( Astitva, 2000) Lyricist Shrirang Godbole, Music Director Sukhwinder Singh, Playback Singers Shankar Mahadevan and Sadhana Sargam. This song is one of my favourites. Even among the new songs, very rarely though, there are flashes of brilliance and this song is a perfect example of this fact. Set to Raag Yaman, it is very peppy and at the same time does not lose the classical flavour. In this song, Tabu is rather disinterested even as the music teacher, Mohnish Behl is trying to teach her a song. She nonchalantly says – gaana mere bas ki baat nahin. The teacher asks her to sing the same! And thus, is produced this musical gem. It is this one line which is spoken by Tabu, which forms the mukhda of the song. Both the movie and its music are rather refreshing.

As I end my post on songs spoken and sung, I must say here that not just a line but there are songs which have only one or two words spoken and sung and these one or two words also make such a difference. In the song Bade Acchhe lagte hain from Balika Vadhu, the only word that is spoken and sung is aur but this one word adds more charm to the song. The other song where two (or one!?) are spoken and sung is Ja Ja Ja Re Tujhe Hum Jaan Gaye from the movie Sehra. In this song too, the only words that are spoken and sung are Ja – Ja. But these are the words that add to the general element of disdain being expressed in the song.

This post amply proves that there is no end to experimentation in music and each time something unique emerges out of such trials. Speaking and singing the same spoken words, though rare, is surely a category of songs to reckon with. If you can come up with more songs of the same ilk, please do add on.

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