If you haven’t had the time to drive past mustard fields recently, you might not have noticed that spring is in the air. But the profusion of hearts and red roses on billboards would have reminded you that it is time for another edition of Valentine’s Day. One way or the other, whether through the benediction of Saint Valentine or the invoking of Kalidas’ Madan Utsav or Basant Panchami, it is the time for love songs. Serenading us from almost every radio channel is the evergreen voice of the inimitable and irrepressible Usha Uthup, who rolls her Rs with infectious delight in Darrrling, aankhon se aankhen chaar karne do… with Rekha Bhardwaj following suit saying Rrroko naa, rrroko naa, mujhko pyaar karne do… from the film 7 Khoon Maaf.
Expressions of love rendered in song are, of course, as diverse as the human race itself and range from the classic and conventional to the most unconventional and even ludicrous. I have my share of favourite love songs from Hindi films but I am certain that if I were to share the list publicly, it would be contested from many quarters. So I will make do with sharing just one song, which is likely to find universal approval—Piya tose naina laage re from the 1965 classic Guide, sung by Lataji for S.D. Burman, with lyrics by Shailendra.
But to recall some other love songs, ones that I learnt years ago as a teenager in Allahabad, and which I haven’t recorded or even presented publicly, I decided to look into an old black diary dated 1974 in which I had painstakingly inked lyrics of a fairly large song collection, ranging from wedding songs to ghazals, geet and sundry film songs that classmates and friends would request me to sing for them. And one that I found and would like to share with readers finds mention as a Lok Geet and is particularly apt for the season. It was taught to me by a gentleman whom I remember as Udayji, whose profession was that of a fitter in the Railways, but who also sang and played as a member of one of the popular folk groups in Allahabad. In fact, Udayji was possibly part of the popular Lallan Singh Gahmari group and had been recommended to my mother by Gauri Shankarji, a brilliant clarinet player and composer from whom I had the fortune to learn many light music compositions. Udayji would come to our home in Allahabad occasionally to teach folk songs as a consequence of my mother’s belief that students of music need to be exposed to different genres of music. A couple of us would sit before him, and his calloused, grease-stained hands and slight lisp as he sang made us silly young things break into peals of laughter. But then we would be attentive and full of admiration as he generously shared with us the most captivating and charming of songs in his repertoire. The one that I remember with particular fondness went:
The sultry voice: Singer Rekha Bhardwaj. Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Hansi hansi dolay basanti bayaar, jhoomat aave phagunwaa duwaar…
(the spring breeze blows with a smile as phagun sways to the doorstep)
sajali sughar jaise naikee bahuriyaa, bhari bhari ankhiyaan se nirakhe putariyaa,
dharati ke sorahon singaar, haay Raam…
(my eyes soak in the vision of the earth, dressed as if in nature’s full bridal finery…)
As for unconventional expressions of love that easily cross over to becoming ludicrous, how’s this from the album Unforgettable by Dutch-born Punjabi singer Imran Khan—nee woofer tu meri, main teraa amplifier (stylishly pronounced amplifyah)! You are my woofer, and I your amplifier? This one pips the samose mein aloo song to the post any day.
Write to Shubha at email@example.com