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MONSOON MELODIES: BOLLYWOOD

There is something romantic about songs composed in the magic of monsoon showers. From the steady drizzle to a thick curtain of gushing raindrops, the black and white era scenes have a beauty that can never be replicated by modern day screaming colours.

"What are you doing in this badmash weather?" My friend Khushwant Singh calls and asks me on a rainy Saturday morning in Delhi. I would laugh and say, "Listening to the radio, Akashwani – they are playing Bollywood's golden oldies."

He would promptly invite me over for tea and we would talk of vintage favourites. Khushwant's favourite was Raj Kapoor and Nargis's 'Pyaar Hua Ek Rar Hua' while my favourite was Talat Mahmood and Lata's 'Aha Rim Jhim Pyaare pyaare Geet liye' – directed by the veteran Salil Chaudhry composed by Shailendra and sung by Sunil Dutt and Nargis Dutt in the movie Usne Kaha Tha.

There is something intrinsic and romantic about songs composed in the magic of monsoon showers. From the steady drizzle to a thick curtain of gushing raindrops the black and white era scenes have about a limpid and lithe beauty that can never be replicated by modern day screaming colour.

Shree 420

'Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua Hai' had the golden-voiced singers – Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey. Composed by the eternal Shankar Jaikishan, it had the quintessential scene of Raj Kapoor and Nargis – stealing glances as they walked under a big, black umbrella that has become the RK Studio symbol for many decades. Perhaps it is the many suggestions of the moment that lead to the magic of monsoon as well as of a certain humanism in the romance of the moment.

As Raj and Nargis gently saunter into the sunset, they also dream of a future together. Khushwant was a huge fan of Nargis, he says, "Nargis's expressions are what set her apart," Khushwant would reminisce. "Film directors in those days were able to draw out subtle emotions that were evocative and elegant, in those few seconds you could sense her hesitation and longing to fall in love. The fifties' love songs had a freshness that survived age and time." In later years, I discovered India's veteran print-maker Jyoti Bhatt had used this iconic image in a number of prints which he says, was an unconscious repetition.

Manzil

In the good old days, we recalled memories of songs according to music directors and singers, but nowadays that is not the case. Now, the songs are remembered according to the actors. Speaking of which, one of my favourites in the Amitabh Bachchan genre is 'Rhim Jhim Gire Sawan' from the Moushoumi Chatterjee starrer shot on Mumbai's streets from the movie Manzil.

The riveting rhythmic resonance of Kishore Kumar's baritone in the song composed by R.D.Burman is an evergreen imagery filled number. This monsoon melody, penned by Yogesh Gaur – brings to our minds a thousand associations with rain with its simplicity and its humble moments of enchantment. The tall lanky Amitabh Bachchan sings with verve and style as the doe-eyed Moushumi looked on in admiration and joined him to later enjoy the drenched drops of rain soaked to the skin a sari. Perhaps more than anything is the dulcet difference between looking sensual rather than seductive, a fine line in aesthetics.

Rudali

Then in 1993, there was Rudali the film that made waves. Directed by Kalpana Lajmi, it was based on the short story written by famous Bengali author Mahasweta Devi. The film was selected as the Indian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards, it had a haunting folk element song called 'Jhuti Muti Mitwa' sung by Lata Mangeshkar and composed by the magician Bhupen Hazarika. In the dry, arid deserts of Rajasthan, Shanichari (played by Dimple Kapadia), a rudali, wakes up to the splash of raindrops on her face. The scene shows rushing out of her hut to welcome the rains. The song captures the passion, the romance felt of man and nature as Dimple in her rustic zest enjoys the first shower of life-giving rain in a parched and thirsty desert land.

Guru

In 2007 there was Mani Ratnam's Guru with the light peppy A.R.Rahman song: 'Barso Re' sung by the singing sensation Shreya Ghoshal who gave Bollywood a new repertoire with her silver-toned voice.

The beauty of this song is that we remember both Shreya as well as Aishwarya Rai because Aishwarya has a soft and gentle dignity in the dance sequence. As nimbus clouds gather in the sky the village gets ready for the downpour of a storm. While everyone hurries back home, a slender dhavani – clad girl runs to the open fields to embrace the torrential rain. Aishwarya Rai is as graceful as a gazelle as she dances on the tip of a jutting rock with the waterfalls behind her. The "nannare nannare" refrain was the most lilting part and it remains a song that gives you moments of reverie.

Uma Nair

Uma Nair

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