Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and I’m going to be away in New Zealand, miles away from my man. No, I don’t see us crooning Main yahaan tu vahaan zindagi hai kahaan…, a la Hema Malini and Amitabh Bachchan in Baghban. But when love’s in the air, I’m filmi enough to decode it in terms of cinematic moments. There are so many that took my breath away. I could write a book but for now, since I have to restrict myself to 500-odd words, I’ll pick on just two.
The first one is from a movie that opened on August 5, 1960. Five decades have gone by but if you were to ask a connoisseur of Hindi cinema to pick one on-screen Valentine moment it would undoubtedly be that moonlit night from Mughal-e-Azam when Salim and Anarkali are in the garden together. The prince is caressing the showgirl’s cheek with a feather….Not a word is spoken but their lovelorn looks and Tansen singing Prem jogan ban jaooo in the background says it all.
The classical number in Raag Sohni was rendered by Bade Ghulam Ali Khan. Ustadji had no wish to sing a film song. But tehzeeb stopped him from saying a direct ‘no’ to the audacious director who dared to smoke in a musician’s house and flicking ash on the floor, told Khan saab to name his price. The affronted maestro quoted a figure, Rs 25,000, that he was sure would send the obnoxious man scurrying away, pronto. Without missing a beat, K Asif handed him Rs 10,000 and promised him the remaining on the day of the recording.
Stuck, Khan saab turned up at Mehboob Studio on the dot. And immediately threw a fit! “Where’s my gadda (mattress), chaddar (sheet) and takiya (pillow),” he thundered. Within minutes, Asif had transformed the studio into a bathak (sit-down gathering) that soon resounded with the heavy notes of gamak taan. “Can’t we have something softer and more romantic?” Asif suggested. And an upset Khansaab immediately called for a pack-up. As he was leaving, he asked Asif to show him the scene first. “Only then will I sing,” he asserted, as he stomped off in a huff.
The following day the scene was screened for him. And Dilip Kumar and Madhubala stole his heart. “Anarakali kafi khubsoorat hai, shehzada bhi khubsoorat hai (Anarkali is beautiful, so is the Prince),” he smiled approvingly. The next morning, he sang the song thrice, each time differently, and while leaving, told Asif, “Take whichever version you want, just see it is good.” Prem jogan ban jaaoo… has contributed largely to making that moment memorable.
More recently, at an award show, Shah Rukh Khan and Madhuri Dixit danced to a mélange of melodies. And in between was the famous line from Dil To Pagal Hai, Paas aur paas (closer and closer) that SRK has been quoting since La Dixit landed in India.
Rahul holds out the bracelet Pooja believes she’s lost and urges her to come close and closer. The moment is electric with unsaid passion and during one of our interviews, Shah Rukh admitted that it is one of his favourite scenes too. And Shah Rukh being Shah Rukh added that deep down every boy is an angry Rahul, rather than a lovelost Devdas.
When Pooja tells him that she’s marrying someone else and this is the end for them, he doesn’t drown his sorrows in the bottle. He turns on her bitterly and says, “Tell me once that you never loved me,” uncaring that he’s hurting her and making her feel guilty. He believes that if he can make her feel guilty, may be she won’t go away from him.
“Rahul’s problem is love and it doesn’t make him a better person,” Shah Rukh pointed out to me, admitting that when they were filming the Paas aur paas scene, both Madhuri and he as actors felt the magic of the moment and when Yash Chopra called ‘Cut’, they held on to each other a moment longer and celebrated Rahul and Pooja’s love.
Today, en route to Auckland, I recall these two scenes and wish all couples a Happy Valentine’s Day!