Posted on 20/11/2021 on Trivia – The Spice of Life
There are umpteen Hindi movies where siblings get lost in a mela only to providentially meet years later as strangers. The mela or the fair, thus, is infamous for being the venue for orchestrating such disunion. While a lot has been written about this trope, I found that the songs that are shot in a mela setting and/ or refer to the mela metaphorically have not been listed or written about meticulously. My post is dedicated to such songs.
The origin of the Hindi word mela (मेला) can be traced to the Sanskrit word melan (मेलन) which means meeting. The word mela (मेला) has several connotations. The word is most commonly used for a fair or a gathering. Several songs from Hindi films use the word in the sense of a fair especially one in a rural setting; the word has also been used symbolically to mean the hustle and bustle of life or the illusory world. Before listing the songs of the mela, it would be interesting to place these songs in perspective by understanding what a village fair is all about.
The traditional fairs are a relic of the past with the entire world turning into a global village. In the past when connectivity between the village and the city was poor, these fairs were very useful. Today, the fair is more of a place for some entertainment than a necessity. In a typical village fair, people come from far to sell their wares in makeshift shops. There are shops of carpets, blankets, toys, shoes, books, wooden articles, utensils, clothes, medicine, etc. Also, there are hawkers selling trinkets, flutes, paper-umbrellas and various other kinds of toys which particularly attract children. There are fairs that are exclusively for trading animals like the Pushkar. There is brisk economic activity. The mela also serves as a meeting place for people living far away from one another. The fair doubles up as a cultural hotspot with folk dance, theatre and music also featuring prominently.
There is no dearth of entertainment at a village fair, thanks to the gamut of fun-filled activities such as thrilling rides and swings. A ride on the Giant Wheel, helps to soak in the idyllic view of the landscape from the top. The timing of the fair is usually around a major festival like Dusshera or Id. Who can forget the story of Premchand – Idgaah – which is centred round the fair that is organized on Id?
Literature is replete with references to the mela. The references to mela are in the sense of the actual fair/the hustle and bustle of life/ the illusory world. Harivansh Rai Bachchan in particular has dwelt on both aspects – the literal and the symbolic – of the word. On one hand in Mele Mein Khoyi Gujariya (मेले में खोई गुजरिया) – he provides a voice to a distraught mother whose young daughter has gone missing in the fair.
मेले में खोई गुजरिया, जिसे मिले मुझसे मिलाए। उसका मुखड़ा चांद का टुकड़ा, कोई नज़र न लगाये, जिसे मिले मुझसे मिलाए. मेले में खोई गुजरिया, जिसे मिले मुझसे मिलाए।
In another poem Jeevan Ki Aapadhaapi Mein ( जीवन की आपाधापी में) the word mela is used symbolically to refer to the materialistic (and illusory) world.
जीवन की आपाधापी में कब वक़्त मिला कुछ देर कहीं पर बैठ कभी यह सोच सकूँ जो किया, कहा, माना उसमें क्या बुरा भला। जिस दिन मेरी चेतना जगी मैंने देखा मैं खड़ा हुआ हूँ इस दुनिया के मेले में, हर एक यहाँ पर एक भुलाने में भूला हर एक लगा है अपनी अपनी दे-ले में
If literature has been enriched by the fair (mela), so has Hindi film music. Here, in this post I have tried to collate the mela songs – some which are shot in a mela setting and others which refer to the mela, either literally or symbolically. Songs shot in a mela setting are largely dance numbers – some of them are rather loud, which is what they would be in a rustic setting.
1) Mohe Le Chal Balam Mele Mein (Laal Haveli, 1944) Lyricist: Munshi Shyam ; Music Director: Meer Sahab; Singers : Meer Sahab (?) and Vatsala Kumthekar. This is a fun song from a 1944 movie, where the lady is asking her beloved to take her to the mela. He makes excuses and then there is a trading of charges. This song is sung by Meer Sahab (?) and Vatsala Kumthekar in a mela setting, with young Meena Kumari and Surendra appearing as enthralled onlookers. This song also suggests how the mela was almost akin to going to watch a movie in those times. It was a getaway and a source of some entertainment.
Mohe le chal balam mele mein main kehti kehti haar gayi haar gayi re tujhe kaise le jau gori mele wahaan ghurenge lakhon albele kahenge jaani haye najariya tori maar gayi maar gayi re
2) Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele (Mela, 1948) Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni ; Music Director: Naushad; Playback Singer : Md.Rafi. This song – from a romantic tragedy – straddles both worlds – the mortal and the immortal. It refers to how the hustle and bustle of life is eternal but the individual is sure to perish. The movie is also called Mela one referring to the carnival and the other to the world and life. This is a song sung in a mela by a mendicant. In the version where Dilip Kumar is old, it is sung by an older man and in the version which is sung in happier times where Dilip Kumar is young, the song is sung by a younger man (Rafiq Arbi). Interestingly, the mela is called Milanpur ka Mela in the movie. There is such deep-rooted philosophy in the sublime lyrics of Shakeel Badayuni.
Yeh zindagi ke mele duniyaa mein kam na honge afsos ham na honge ek din padegaa jaanaa, kyaa waqt, kyaa zamaanaa koyi na saath degaa, sab kuchh yahin rahegaa jaayenge ham akele, yeh zindagi ke mele …
3) Ek Baat Kahun Mere Piya (Amar, 1954) Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni ; Music Director: Naushad; Playback Singer : Asha Bhosle. This star studded movie flopped because of the star couple not uniting eventually. The portrayal of Dilip Kumar as a righteous lawyer but not devoid of animal instincts didn’t augur well for the movie. Interestingly, the movie begins with a dispute about where the village fair (mela) should be held, with Jayant the local goon not wanting his land to be used for the fair. However, Dilip Kumar wins the case for the villagers and the fair is after all held on Jayant’s land. This dance is performed in the fair by Nimmi, an unkempt village belle, who silently loves Dilip Kumar.
Do nainon ke panghat pe lage pyaar ke mele aansu bhi hain muskaan bhi jo chahe so le le ek baat kahun mere piya sun le agar tu
4) Haye Re Haye Yeh Mere Haath Mein (Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964) Lyricist: S.H.Bihari; Music Director: O.P.Nayyar; Playback Singers : Asha Bhosle and Md.Rafi. This movie has some outstanding music composed by O.P.Nayyar. It also marked the debut of Sharmila Tagore. This is a rather vivacious dance song performed in a mela by Sharmila Tagore and Shammi Kapoor; they melt in to the crowd at the fair to escape the clutches of Pran and end up as the star couple in the spirited dance. There is Pran desperately trying to trace Sharmila in the fair.
5) Julmi Sang Aankh Ladi (Madhumati, 1958) Lyricist: Shailendra; Music Director: Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar & Chorus. A bubbly and innocent Vyjayantimala dances gracefully to a folk song shot in a mela. Dilip Kumar watches her dance with a smile on his lips. They steal a glance or two even as the dance is on. There is a little girl too who matches the heroine’s grace while dancing. The song focuses largely on the dance with the other activities in the mela not getting adequate attention. There is a huge crowd though, which can be seen.
6) Aayi Mohan Milan Ki Bela (Janam Janam Ke Phere, 1957) Lyricist: Bharat Vyas; Music Director: S.N.Tripathi; Playback Singers : Md.Rafi, Shamshad Begum & Chorus. This movie was also known as Sati Annapurna. S.N.Tripathi acted in the movie apart from directing its music. A typical mythological movie, this song is one of raas leela being performed in a huge group in an open space. Obviously, if Krishna is in Madhuban, there is going to be a huge gathering (mela)! There seems to be some behind the scenes action as well. I love the way Rafi sings at a fast pace especially at the beginning of the song.
Aayi Mohan milan ki bela, laaga madhuban mein kaisa mela ho Radha bhi nache Mohan bhi naache, naache re gaon albela
7) Itni Badi Duniya Jahaan Itna Bada Mela (Toofan Mein Pyaar Kahaan, 1966) Lyricist: Prem Dhawan; Music Director: Chitragupt; Playback Singer : Md.Rafi. This is one of my favourite songs sung by Rafi. There is an interesting story behind the song. Apparently, this song had been recorded in Kishore Kumar’s voice but the actor who was lip syncing – who was none other than Kishore’s brother Ashok Kumar – was not happy with the way it turned out. He felt that the pathos was missing and the sardonic laughter in the song was not impressive. Thus, Rafi was asked to sing this song which is what we hear in the movie. It is a song of despondency interspersed with some laughter of despair (kaahin-e-azraar?). It talks of how the world is teeming with people (kitna bada mela) and yet how lonely the protagonist is. Rafi’s voice pierces through the heart. His laughter too is so full of despair. The music support is minimal.
Itni badi duniya, jahan itna bada mela magar main (hah hah hah) kitna akela
8) Le De Saiyyan Odhni (Pavitra Paapi, 1970) Lyricist: Prem Dhawan; Music Director: Prem Dhawan; Playback Singers : Md.Rafi & Asha Bhosle. There cannot be a more sprightly Bhangra performance than this. There’s Madhumati – Helen’s lookalike – performing in the mela along with her troupe. Parikshit Sahni, Tanuja and a young Neetu Singh can be seen in the crowd. The mela scenes can be enjoyed in the song. The song has a number of Punjabi words and expressions delightfully penned by Prem Dhawan and sung to perfection by Rafi and Asha.
9) Haye Sharmaun, Kis Kisko Bataun (Mera Gaon Mera Desh, 1971) Lyricist : Anand Bakshi ; Music Directors: Laxmikant Pyarelal ; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. The song is a rustic number shot in a mela bustling with activity; there is the merry-go-round, the giant wheel and lots of goodies on offer. The undercurrents are too strong to miss. The dacoits are around and so is the police. There are gunshots fired at the end of the song. The movie Mera Gaon Mera Desh, from which this song is, is viewed as a precursor of Sholay. The acclaimed dancer in this song, who has two other songs in the movie – Maar Diya Jaaye ki Chod Diya Jaaye and Aaya Aaya ataraiya, all sung by Lata Mangeshkar – is Lakshmi Chhaya. This movie had her play a significant role as she was a part of the main cast. She starred as Munnibai, a girl who works undercover for a dacoit. All the three songs were woven very well into the plot of the film. In this song, she tries to help Dharmendra locate the dacoit through the lyrics of the song.
Aankhon ko meeche dekho saanson ko kheenche wahaan peepal ke neeche mele mein sabse peeche khadaa hain
10) Aaye Bhi Akela Jaaye Bhi Akela (Dost, 1954) Lyricist : Varma Malik ; Music Director: Hansraj Behl ; Playback Singer: Talat Mahmood. I thought I would end the post with a philosophical song which refers to life as mela. The film featured Usha Kiran and Suresh. The lyrics are very simple but lofty. They refer to how everyone arrives in this world alone and departs alone as well. It is only in this mela or carnival of life that we meet others. Even as the song talks about life as a carnival that ends soon, it extolls the importance of friendship. This song of Talat is comparable to Rafi’s from Mela (1948) – Yeh Zindagi Ke Mele.
Aaye bhi akelaa jaaye bhi akelaa do din ki zindagi hain do din kaa mela
With this, I end my playlist of ten songs on the mela. The songs in my playlist are a mix of those that are shot in a mela or fair setup, those that metaphorically refer to the carnival of life and still others which echo the sentiments of those who feel that they are all alone despite the teeming crowds around them. In the carnival of life, people from distant lands meet, transact business spend some time together and depart. The spot where the carnival is held remains but every time there are new visitors added and some old ones never return.
There are many more songs which cover the various sub categories which I have not included or mentioned for the sake of brevity. I am sure those fond of Hindi film music who happen to read this post will add the songs that I did not include.
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13 thoughts on “The Mela Songs”
What a delight it was to go through the post.
Nicely narrated post.
The first song I thought of was,
Duniya ke mela, mele mein ladki
A street performance by Hema Malini wearing a नऊवारी साडी. The word comes metaphorically.
I think, Jhumka Gira Re qualifies
Mela dilon ka aata hai ek baar from Mela, from the 90s.
Pyara hindola mera from Us Paar 1974
Thanks Anupji, for reading and appreciating. I do not think Jhumka Gire Re would qualify as it is just a dance performance with no mela setting and no reference to mela either literally or metaphorically. However, the other songs are just perfect. The song from Us Paar is a discovery as far as I am concerned.
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It is a nice post. Now it seems, ‘Mela’ songs fall in two distinct categories: One, those distinctly picturised in a fair. Two, not picturised in a fair but the word ‘mela’ used as an idiomatic expression. You have covered a fair number of both.
Thanks for reading and commenting, AKji! While there are two distinct categories, there are songs like the one from Mela (1948) which fall in both categories. I wanted to cover both aspects together as I felt only ten songs on one would becoming somewhat repetitive.
Great selection of songs! Like Anupji, I too thought of Duniya ka mela mele mein ladki, but then wondered if that would qualify, since it’s not set in a fair.
Here’s another song I like, probably the least-known of the songs of Teesri Manzil: Dekhiye sahibon woh koi aur thhi, all taking place in a mela:
Thanks for the appreciation, Madhuji! The song from Teesri Manzil is perfect. While I know the song, I was not aware that it was shot in a mela setting. Thanks a lot for the wonderful addition.
I have covered both categories of songs – those shot in a mela and those that refer to mela either literally or metaphorically. So the song from Raja Jani also qualifies.
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An enjoyable post on Mela songs wherein the two categories have been captured nicely.
Some songs picturized in a mela:
1.Gori ke haath mein – A mela song from another film titled Mela (1971)
2. O tara tera mera nahin guzara – Banphool (1972)
3. Chal chal kahin akele mein – Salaakhen (1976)
4. Is mele mein log aate hain – Sahibaan (1993)
And songs that talk of duniya ka mela:
1. Duniya hasinon ka mela – Gupt (1997)
2. Joshe jawani haaye re haaye ….duniya ka mela main hoon akela – Around the World (1967)
3. Akela gaya tha main …..mere sang sang aaya teri yaadon ka mela – Rajput (1982)
Thanks, Dr.Deshpande! I admire your ability to recall songs for all themes and situations! I hadn’t heard the songs from Salaakhen and Banphool.
Anitaji, I came across this song yesterday, and was immediately reminded of this post. Here is Duniya ek kahaani re from Afsana. The film itself has the mela play an important part, because when a storm strikes during the mela, the hero (then a boy) is separated from the rest of his family and loses his memory.
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Thanks, Madhuji! What a wonderful song this is almost like the Mela song of 1948!
Yes! And interestingly enough, this song occurs twice in the film. The second time, the same man is singing, but twenty (or so) years later, at the same mela, and his singing helps bring the hero’s memory back and remind him of the meal where he had been separated from his family.