There are umpteen Hindi film songs – both old and new – which speak of reminiscence (yaad). This has been a frequently portrayed emotion in Hindi movies especially to accommodate a soulful melody. In this post, I am trying to explore this genre of songs but with a rider – there has to be a flashback sequence in the song. The dream sequence songs are excluded from this category as they do not fit the bill.
Flashback sometimes also called ‘analepsis’ in motion pictures is a narrative technique of interrupting the chronological sequence of events to interject events of earlier occurrence, the earlier events often taking the form of reminiscence. Flashback is indicated not only by narrative devices but also by a variety of optical techniques such as fade-in or fade-out (the emergence of a scene from blackness to full definition, or its opposite), dissolves (the gradual exposure of a second image over the first while it is fading away), or iris-in or iris-out (the expansion or contraction of a circle enclosing the scene). Even the music/rhythm – especially in songs – sometimes changes when a flashback scene is interjected. A reflection in water is also occasionally used for this.
A little bit of research revealed that P C Barua’s Roop Lekha (1934, Bengali) called Mohabbat Ki Kasauti (in Hindi) was the first Indian film with a flashback. While today, the concept of flashback is passé, one can only imagine what an innovation it would have been in the 1930s.
Not all songs of reminiscence are flashback songs but the converse is generally true. There were so many songs that I saw (hearing would not suffice for this post!!) which I felt would be apt, expecting to find a flashback sequence. But to my dismay, I did not find any. Examples of such songs would be – O Jaanewale Ho Sake To Laut Ke Aana (Bandini, 1963), Bachpan Ke Din Bhi Kya Din The (Sujata, 1959), Aaya Hain Mujhe Phir Yaad Woh Zaalim (Devar, 1966), Woh Din Yaad Karo (Humrahi, 1963), Koi Lauta De Mere Beete Hue Din (Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964) and Zindagi Bhar Nahin Bhulegi (Barsaat Ki Raat, 1960). A flashback sequence would have enhanced the impact of the lyrics by creating the right visual imagery, I felt.
My playlist consists of ten gems – all very popular – which have one or more flashback sequences in the picturisation of the song. The songs are of the pre-1970 era. Most of the songs are melancholic but then as Shailendra wrote in Patita (1953):
Hain Sabse Madhur Woh Geet Jinhe Hum Dard Ke Sur Mein Gaate Hain (our sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thoughts - also what P.B.Shelly said).
1. Jeet Hi Lenge Baazi Hum Tum (Shola aur Shabnam, 1961), Lyricist Kaifi Azmi, Music Director Khayyam, Playback Singers Lata Mangeshkar and Md. Rafi. It is a beautiful duet from a movie whose story line is pretty average. In fact I ended up watching the movie for its outstanding music. It starred Dharmendra – acting in one of his initial movies – and Tarla Mehta – who happens to be Dina Pathak’s younger sister. There is a quiet confidence exuded in the song with a tinge of defiance and a firm resolve to make the horizon the heart’s paradise.
The song, which has a long and lovely vocal prelude by Rafi, is in fact critical in developing the plot. This is the same song that the lead pair sing as childhood sweethearts. They get separated and lose contact. When they meet again, in their youth, in pretty unfavourable circumstances, it is this song which helps them identify each other. The moment the female lead (Tarla Mehta) hears the song, childhood memories start inundating her mind (which is where the flashback sequence comes in). Both are startled and she involuntarily starts singing the song along with the male lead (Dharmendra). However, both conceal the fact for quite some time (in the movie) that they have recognized each other, due to the adverse circumstances.
2. Woh Bhooli Dastaan (Sanjog, 1960) Lyricist Rajinder Krishan, Music Director Madan Mohan, Playback Singer Lata Mangeshkar. This is perhaps the quintessential song of reminiscence with flashback sequences thrown in quite generously. It is almost a rewind of the life of Anita Guha (the heroine). There are happy sequences from her childhood and youth with her sweetheart that accompany the entire song. The visual imagery complements the lyrics beautifully. There is a lot of pathos in the song as this is sung at a time when all the joys of life have deserted her. The prelude music of the santoor adds to the poignancy of the song. This song is one of the best that Madan Mohan and Lata Mangeshkar created.
Interestingly, there is another song from Sanjog which also speaks of memories – Bhooli Hui Yaadon sung by Mukesh – but has no flashback sequences.
3. Toote Hue Khwabon Ne (Madhumati,1958) Lyricist Shailendra, Music Director Salil Chowdhury, Playback Singer Md.Rafi. This song, from a movie that was based on the theme of reincarnation – borrowing quite a bit from Mahal (1949) – is one of Rafi’s best songs of reminiscence. This movie has timeless melodies. This song in particular is one of pining and heartbreak. Dilip Kumar tries to desperately trace his beloved who has suddenly disappeared. It is in one such moment of despair and helplessness that he sings this song. There is a brief flashback sequence of happier times just before the beginning of the first antara.
4. Jaun Kahan Bata Ai Dil (Chhoti Behen, 1959), Lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri, Music Directors Shankar Jaikishan, Playback Singer Mukesh. This is a melancholic melody with two flashback scenes in it. Interestingly, it is not just the scenes that are included; the dialogues are also incorporated in the song. The dialogues help to show how relations between the sister (Nanda) and the brother (Rehman) have gone sour over time. The complete contrast in the celebration of Raksha Bandhan before and after Rehman’s marriage in encapsulated in the song. Rehman who has shifted out of his own house into his father-in-law’s residence due to the growing chasm among the family members, sings this song as he mentally replays all that has befallen him and his family.
5. Yaad Na Jaaye (Dil Ek Mandir, 1963) Lyricist Shailendra, Music Directors Shankar Jaikishan, Playback Singer Md.Rafi. This Rafi song is another gem of a composition in Raag Keerawani. Shankar Jaikishan have used the harmonium wonderfully in the prelude music. There is an outpouring of grief as old flames confront each other in rather queer circumstances. Rajendra Kumar, a doctor, has to save the life of his ex-lover’s husband. There is angst and emotional turmoil. The song has him holding an old photograph where he and Meena Kumari are together. All the old memories come rushing back. The flashback scenes of happier days are interjected in the interludes. Both the movie and its songs are out of the world.
6. Main Jab Bhi Akeli Hoti Hun (Dharmputra, 1962) Lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi, Music Director N. Datta, Playback Singer Asha Bhosle. This is a song which everyone can relate to. I am sure all of us would have sat on an arm chair in solitude and cherished old memories. The vivid imagery woven into the lyrics by Sahir almost plays out in front of you as you hear this song. To enhance their effect, the lyrics are aptly supplemented by flashback sequences, which showcase bitter sweet memories. The song speaks of very mundane things – such as drying one’s hair on the terrace – in such a poetic manner that the listener is left enthralled.
If Lata’s song from Sanjog (listed above – Woh Bhooli dastaan) wonderfully captures the mood of longing for the old times, this song of Asha perfectly replicates the same mood.
7. Kaarvaan Guzar Gaya (Nai Umar Ki Nai Fasal, 1966) Lyricist Gopal Das ‘Neeraj’, Music Director Roshan, Playback Singer Md.Rafi. Here is a song which is hard hitting. Its lyrics penned by Neeraj – whose name is almost synonymous with this song – are so powerful that they could give you goosebumps. The mood of the song is of despair, hopelessness and dejection. The movie too deals with a less explored subject of those times – student politics. It is a grim take on what could go wrong when the younger generation is misguided. As the song pans out, there are flashback sequences that show the good and the bad times the protagonist has seen. However, I felt the change of the flashback sequences could have been managed better. The manner in which the sequences change makes it seem like an amateurish job.
8. Phir Teri Kahaani Yaad Aayi (Dil Diya Dard Liya, 1966) Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni, Music Director Naushad, Playback Singer Lata Mangeshkar. Loosely based on Emily Bronte’s work ‘Wuthering Heights’, this movie had Dilip Kumar and Waheeda Rehman playing the lead roles. It has soul stirring songs based on classical music – which was Naushad’s forte. It would not be out of place to mention here that one of my first blogs – In search of sculpted serenity – was on the sculpture used in this movie and my first hand experience of seeing it in Mandu. The song – which is shot in the breathtaking Jahaaz Mahal of Mandu – is set to Raag Jhinjhoti; it is great song of reminiscence. The cinematography of the song is amazing. There are birds flying in the sky captured wonderfully on camera. There are flashback sequences of the good old times in the interludes. The colours also say it all; the plain black saree that Waheeda wears in the song can be contrasted with the bright green and pink one worn in the flashback sequences, when things were brighter.
9. Woh Hum Na The Woh Tum Na The (Cha Cha Cha, 1964) Lyricist Neeraj, Music Director Iqbal Qureshi, Playback Singer Md.Rafi. This is another song of reminiscence by Md.Rafi. The lyrics by the great poet Neeraj remind you of Kaarvan Guzar Gaya – especially the reference to the paalki or palanquin. Neeraj probably had a liking for the palanquin! At some points, it is very obvious that a poet – instead of a regular lyricist – has penned the lines, which have then been set to tune. Interestingly, the other lyricist Maqdoom Mohiuddin who penned a song – Ik Chameli Ke Mandve Tale – for the movie was also a poet and not a regular lyricist. Iqbal Qureshi – the music director – is less celebrated but his tunes are par excellence as the songs of Cha Cha Cha aptly demonstrate.
The song I talk of here is picturized on Chandrashekhar – who could not emote for nuts – and Helen who is cast as the heroine in this film (and thankfully not the stereotypical club dancer). Chandrashekhar also produced and directed the film and hence was both in front and behind the camera. There are flashback sequences in the interludes with both the hero and heroine recalling the past.
10. Mere Mehboob Tujhe Mere Mohabbat (Mere Mehboob, 1963) Lyricist Shakeel Badayuni, Music Director Naushad, Playback Singer Md.Rafi. This song is one of the best flashback songs, as the flashback sequences are not inserted in the interludes but coincide with the first two antaras. In fact, the lyrics and the flashback scenes beautifully complement each other. The lyrics and the flashback visuals replay the beginning of the love story of the lead pair. There is a female version of the same song sung by Lata but with no flashback scenes. Also, the female version is shorter with only 3 antaras (as against 5 in the male version) – 2 of which are the same as in the male version. I somehow personally like the male version than the female as Rafi seems to sing it with more emotion. The nazm penned in chaste Urdu is quite long and is an example of Shakeel’s mastery over the language. It is no doubt one of the best songs that the trio – Naushad- Shakeel -Rafi – gave us.
These ten songs of my playlist above establish one thing beyond doubt; Md.Rafi was undoubtedly the king of reminiscence. Each one of his songs listed above is unparalleled. His range and mastery over rendition made him the best voice to convey a wide array of emotions.
As far the flashback sequences are concerned, I noticed that the tendency was to use the flashback sequences in the interludes perhaps to give the onscreen actors a break. The songs where the flashback sequences are played along with the lyrics are in a minority. The optical techniques used are largely ‘fade-in or fade-out’ and ‘dissolves’. Inserting flashback scenes in songs obviously was more tedious than just shooting a song and editing it. This perhaps partly explains why not all songs of reminiscence have flashback sequences. Writing this post meant seeing and not just hearing songs and so I ended up watching quite a few of them, something I enjoyed thoroughly. There are several other songs which I did not include to maintain brevity. I am sure the lovers of golden era Hindi film music will add them, if they happen to read this post.