Sometime in the late ’80s I owned an audio cassette (quick poser: when was the last time you saw one of those anachronisms?) of Gulzar-penned songs that I would regularly listen to on the music system of my new car and drive, blissed out, from my home in Worli to my office at Breach Candy or to meet up with film stars at shoots in the outer suburbs.
Many of the songs in the compilation happened to be about the rains; and now every time the monsoon clouds gather, I am invariably reminded of the car and that audio cassette.
By a strange coincidence, just this morning, a young friend mentioned the rain songs of Ijaazat (1988) and memories of that audio cassette came flooding back. Ijaazat’s Mera kuchh saaman is one of my favourite monsoon songs.
Gulzar’s line: Ek akeli chhatri mein jab aadhe aadhe bheeg rahe the... strikes a chord with every man and woman who have shared an umbrella. And Asha Bhosle perfectly evokes the pangs of lost love with her pathos-laden rendition of Geela man bistar ke paas pada hai, woh bhijwa do mera woh saaman lauta do.
Amazingly, this extraordinary soundtrack by R D Burman is blessed with another notable rain song — the moody but invigorating Chhoti si kahani se, baarishon ke paani se, saari vaadi bhar gayee.
Inspired by the after-effects of cyclone Vayu battering the panes of my French windows, I began to make a mental list of all my favourite monsoon songs, only to make the discovery that a large number of them had been scored by RD Burman.
Maybe I am partial to RD because his ascent to popularity coincided with my teenage years and he composed some beautiful rain songs for the reigning superstars of my adolescence — Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna.
After all these years, I can still recall the tune and the words to the Rajesh Khanna-Zeenat Aman rain duet from Shakti Samanta’s Ajnabee (1974): Bheegi bheegi raaton mein, meethi meethi baton mein, aisi barsaaton mein, kaise lagta hai? The film was meh but the twosome scalded the screen with their smouldering expressions in this steamy rain song.
Another rain song from the terrific RD-Khanna-Kishore combination that reminds me of the spray of misty raindrops on one’s face is Kajra laga ke, gajra laga ke, jaiyyon na from the Khanna-Mumtaz hit Apna Desh (1972).
For Bachchan, RD memorably composed Rimjhim gire sawan sulag sulag jaaye man (Manzil, 1979), which falls on your ears like the gentle patter of rains. While the Kishore Kumar version of this RD Burman nugget is filmed at a sangeet mehfil, Lata’s version is fittingly shot on various rain-lashed Mumbai locales.
The track follows a young couple in love as they splash their way through puddles and take in the rains without a care, just delighting in each other’s company.
Unlike Amitabh’s superhit Aaj rapat jaaey toh from Namak Halal, where he tugs mischievously at Smita Patil’s sari, the mood here is much gentler. Amitabh (in a suit, would you believe?) and Moushmi Chatterji make an odd but oddly endearing couple — she reaches his height only while walking over the Marine
If senior Burman, SD, gave the ravishing Raakhee the burnished classical gem, Megha chhaye aadhi raat bairaan ho gayee nindiya in Sharmilee, junior Burman, RD, didn’t lag far behind in creating a lilting monsoon melody for the hazel-eyed actress with Saawan ke jhoole pade, tum chale aao from Jurmana (1979).
Whether it was Kumar Gaurav (Love Story), Sanjay Dutt (Rocky) or Sunny Deol (Betaab), the first choice as a composer for debutant star sons was RD Burman. Though rains were a popular staple to establish intimacy between nubile lovers in Hindi films, RD weaved his magic only for Sunny-Amrita in Betaab (1983) for the passionate rain song: Badal kyun garajta hai.
Though the 1942 — A Love Story (1994) song that has thrived after the passage of years is Ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga, the song that warms the cockles of my heart is Rimjhim rimjhim rumjhim rumjhim bheegi bheegi rut mein, tum hum tum hum. If only RD had lived to watch 1942—A Love Story bring back the thunder to his musical odyssey once again.
Before I sign off and surrender to a hot cup of chai and pakodas let me quickly scan through the rain songs by other composers that have also held me in their spell over the years.
A song I often hum, rains or no rains, is LP’s Chhup gaye saare nazare oy kiya baat ho gayee picturised on Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz in their first together superhit, Do Raaste (1969), SD Burman’s O ghata sawari thodi thodi bawari from Abhinetri (1970), a refreshing blend of sensuality and unalloyed joy; SD Burman’s fiesty Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si; Roshan’s melodious Zindagi bhar nahin bhulegi woh barsaat ki raat, Salil Chowdhury’s gem, O sajna barkha bahar aayee with the sitar strains embellishing Lata’s sweet voice. And of course Shankar Jaikishen’s evergreen, Pyaar hua ikraar hua (lip-synced by the immortal
Raj Kapoor-Nargis duo) with the lines, Hum na rahenge, tum na rahoge, phir bhi rahengi nishaniyaan etched in our collective consciousness forever.