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Singin’ In The Rain

Music composer Shantanu Moitra talks about most iconic rain songs in Hindi cinema.

music Updated: Jul 30, 2011 18:26 IST
Shantanu Moitra

India in the monsoon is a symphony, which slowly reverberates in every living soul with a thousand dreams. The whole country celebrates when the monsoon arrives; farmers, businessmen, politicians and children cheer the downpour. The rains mean that the country will be able to grow the crops needed to feed its population, and a land parched by harsh summer will be able to quench its thirst.

It’s no wonder the monsoon has played such an important role in Hindi films too. The rains are a lifeline, a symbol of joy and prosperity. Our sense of joy at the sight of rainfall is traditional, and no religion, caste or creed comes in between. It comes to me as no surprise that monsoon songs have always been used to represent many emotions. I was so influenced by the rains that my first composition was Ab ke sawan sung by Shubha Mudgal. The video showed the magic of the monsoon and how it affected people. My inspiration was the legacy of film songs celebrating the rain that I had been hearing for years.

Joy, romance, desire and emancipation – in Hindi cinema the rain has been used to express many emotions. That’s why it will never go out of fashion.Here are the other songs that come to my mind when I think of the monsoon.

Allah megh de, paani de from Guide – a desperate pleading for rain has been so beautifully expressed in the song. It’s a plaintive cry; cattle plodding through the dust amongst hordes of thirsty villagers and their reluctant local saint, played by Dev Anand. The song’s very moving tone and the haunting voice of SD Burman make it more so. Much later, Ghanan ghanan from Lagaan expressed the same sentiments and showed us that even 50 years on, the monsoon is still pivotal for rural India.

Then when the rains do come, no song represents the feeling better than Hariyala sawan dhol bajata aaya (Do Bigha Zameen, 1953, Salil Choudhary, Shailendra, Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey). Shailendra’s lyrics are evocative and full of lovely metaphors. The earth, decked out like a bride in a veil of green; the thunder of the clouds likened to the drumming of a dhol; the sheer joy of a parched farming village that rejoices at the arrival of the rains.

Of course, the ultimate romantic rain song for me is O sajna barkha bahaar aayi (Parakh, 1960, Salil Choudhary, Shailendra, Lata Mangeshkar). Not only is the music superb, so is the singing – Lata’s at her best. And while a young Sadhana (in one of her first films) is endearing, the imagery of the rain is what makes O sajna… stand out. Beautiful shots of rain drops as it falls on the leaves and trickles down forming pearls… can the monsoon get any more romantic?

Of course, where there is love, can lust be far behind? In the ’80s, monsoon songs meant wet chiffon-clad heroines shivering with rain and desire. Two songs that realy stand out for me are Kaate nahi kat te ye din ye raat from Mr India in which Sreedevi looks stunning and Bhaage re mann from Chameli in which Kareena Kapoor is in a wet sari. The song is so beautifully shot that Kareena looked the best she has in a long time. Later she looks equally stunning in 3 Idiots as she gets wet with Aamir and they both gyrate to Bheegi bheegi saree mein yun thumke lagati tu.

But as the language of cinema is changing, so is the dependency on rain decreasing to express emotions. However, trust me when I say that in Hindi film songs, the rains will never go out of fashion.

From HT Brunch, July 31

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