There's a certain irresistible rhythm to songs on trains. Almost everyone has one. There's Rajesh Khanna wooing Sharmila Tagore in Mere sapnon ki raani kab aayegi tu from Aradhana, there's Waheeda Rehman giggling and trying to sleep on the upper berth while Dev Anand sings Uparwaala jaankar anjaan hai.
And of course, old loose head on a Swiss train singing to his absent lover, Phoolon ke rang se. There's Kishore Kumar yomping about in Half Ticket with Pran chasing his bottom in a manner that was wildly suggestive. Actually, it was about some contraband that the comic was hiding and the villain was after.
Perhaps the most dignified was the Jagruti number in which a teacher takes a bunch of children around the country in order to show them Jhaankhi Hindustan ki. It's a long way from there to Saari duniya ka bojh hum utaathe hain with Mr Bachchan playing a rather elegant porter to Rati Agnihotri's spoilt mem in Coolie.
The lyrics were unutterably lovely too: Jawaani ki rail kahin chhoot na jaaye.. another song ran. However, as far as truly terrible lyrics go, there was a song in Kareeb (Tera gussa aye hai) in which a young man announces: Papa mera laal tamaatar, ma meri rail engine. One must give him credit for his honesty, though.
The roof of the train has a special and separate appeal. Long before Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika Arora danced to Chaiyya chaiyya in Dil Se, we had Rishi Kapoor and Padmini Kolhapure on the roof of a train with him wooing her. The song was Hoga tumse pyaara kaun. Not a patch on SRK? Come, come, that's what we call progress.
The sound of a train runs through the Pakeezah number, Chalte chalte. It is a plaintive sound that recalls the moment where Sahibjaan and the man who will rescue her met.
The note he leaves at her feet says her feet are delicate, that she is not to let them touch the ground for they might get dirty. When they meet.. It is all he has seen of her. Was there ever such a brilliant evocation of the foot fetish?
But there was a time when B R Chopra's hero could still dream of creating the fastest train in the world and his rival could set it on fire. You do remember The Burning Train with its surfeit of stars? The title song had three words in it: the and burning and train.
It did however have a song, Pal do pal ka saath hamaara which suggested rather nicely the ways in which people begin to get friendly and a melting pot atmosphere develops on long-distance journeys.
Trains have always been a symbol of modernity in Hindi cinema. Well, almost always. Aeroplanes are now hot and happening although they don't seem to have given rise to similar songs.
Which is why it was so delightful to have the two young people meet in a train in Jab We Met. The one thing we missed was a nice train song. Rail gaadi howwa howwa.