Guest article by DP Rangan
(Someone suggested a post on flower songs, Hans offered to compile a list of such songs, and our man of many flowers, the evergreen and eternal romantic, DP Rangan, offered to write a post. And here we are.
Flowers are a common motif across cultures with a variety of associations – from offering in pujas, to greetings for all occasions, to decorations, to expression of love, to varmala, to funeral wreath etc. The wilted flower can also denote sadness of a lady whose lover is away. Bollywood found another use during its prudish phase when two flowers touching each other due to breeze signified intimacy between the leading couple hiding behind the bushes. Mr Rangan explores through film songs several of these emotions and moods. His write-up shows his usual in-depth research of the subject. As we welcome the onset of spring with blooming of myriad flowers, let us enjoy another fine post by Mr Rangan with thanks to him. – AK)
The mere sight of flowers lining the roads and pathways sends us into a tailspin of unbounded joy and uplifts us into a higher plane of existence. When we see them spread all over the meadow or covering bushes and trees in full bloom with resplendent hues and colours, our spirit is uplifted and romantic illusions start building up. Flowers in splendid array affect human beings in a myriad ways and we all succumb to its magic of seduction to forget our day to day worries and travails and be a part of the magic world they entice us to.
Who has not heard of the Valley of Flowers nestled between ranges in the depth of Himalayas while on way to Hemkund Sahib? As the name implies, it is home to more than 500 species of flowers. It has been declared as a Nature Reserve Park since 1982. This reserve is in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 2004.
Situated at an altitude of 3352 to 3558 metres above sea level in the form of a valley, it is 8 kilometres long and 2 kilometres wide. The river Pushpawati cuts through it. It is God’s gift to mankind as a parterre of flowers. In late August through September, it unfolds itself among myriads of flowers of all colours and hues and is a tourist delight. In 1931, three British mountaineers, after successfully climbing Mt. Kamet, lost their way on return and stumbled on this valley. I had been there way back in 2000 summer and had a wonderful time wandering amidst the verdure. It is a place worth visiting from mid July to late September.
Before venturing further, a brief introduction on the biological history of flowers would be in order. The planet Earth is predominantly a water body and would look blue when viewed from space. Oceans account for bulk of the surface area and land area is much less. The continents developed gradually, and over millions of years underwent changes thanks to the plate tectonics and seismic activity. Plants colonized land about 425 million years back to state it in simple manner. Through photosynthesis they pumped in oxygen in the atmosphere making it possible for other lives to emerge. Initially they propagated by spores. Flowering species of plants appeared about 200 million years ago. Preservation and continuation was by means of seeds in which flowers played an important role. Bees, butterflies and birds helped to transfer pollen from male to female flowers and enabled production of seeds. This symbiotic relationship is still in existence to this day ensuring the survival of plant species, which in turn enabled the animal species including human beings to flourish.
Plants remain rooted to a place and depend on animals and birds to propagate and spread to other areas. It would be surprising to note that there are carnivorous plants which acquire nutrients by trapping insects and anthropoids within their flowers like Venus flytrap. They are to be found in areas with poor soil and nitrogen content. More than 500 such species have been identified.
Flowers are useful in many ways to animals including mankind. They serve as food: broccoli, cauliflower, artichoke etc. Saffron is a dried flower. Herbal tea is an offshoot of flowers. Honey, another useful foodstuff, is derived from flowers’ nectar through bees’ efforts. Since time immemorial flowers have been used as offerings in poojas, and made into garlands for various uses. Ladies in some part of India adorn their head with it. Bouquets are offered as greetings and visiting dignitaries often lay a wreath of flowers on graves and memorials like Rajghat in New Delhi.
Flowers have been associated with femininity and poets have sung the beauty of flowers, particularly during 18th-19th century romantic era. William Wordsworth’s (1770-1850) poem on daffodils of four six-line stanzas – “I wandered as a cloud..” – is an outstanding example of how it influenced him. A few lines are given below:
I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
This YT link gives the story of how after travelling all over Europe, Wordsworth finally settled at Grasmere in Lake District with his sister in Dove Cottage. He thought that that was the best place in the world, and wrote his most famous poems, including his celebrated Daffodils.
William Blake (1757-1827) wrote a poem on sunflower in 1804:
Ah Sunflower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done.
Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
Poems on flowers have been composed in all languages of the world. We are familiar with those in Indian vernaculars and English. Indian literature is rich in various flower topics. Ancient literatures mentions many flowers which are not in common parlance these days. A few are अशोक, अकुंद, कदम्ब, कुमुद, यूथिका etc.
A beautifully composed song on flower – Pushp Ki Abhilasha by the nationalist poet Makhanlal Chaturvedi has become the ultimate tribute for martyrdom for the sake of the nation.
चाह नहीं, मैं सुरबाला के गहनों में गूँथा जाऊँ,
चाह नहीं प्रेमी-माला में बिंध प्यारी को ललचाऊँ,
चाह नहीं सम्राटों के शव पर हे हरि डाला जाऊँ,
चाह नहीं देवों के सिर पर चढूँ भाग्य पर इठलाऊँ,
मुझे तोड़ लेना बनमाली, उस पथ पर देना तुम फेंक!
मातृ-भूमि पर शीश- चढ़ाने, जिस पथ जावें वीर अनेक!
(Translation by AK)
I do not aspire to be woven in the ornaments of a beautiful lady
Nor do I aspire to tempt a beloved by getting embedded in the lover’s garland
I do not aspire, O Lord, that I adorn the funeral wreath on an emperor’s corpse
Nor do I aspire that I mount the crown of the Gods and swagger on my fortune
O Gardener, please pluck me and scatter me on the path
That would be trodden by the bravehearts marching to sacrifice themselves at the altar of the motherland
Flowers also inspired many great paintings like Vincent van Gogh’s sunflower series and Monet’s water lilies. In India, Raja Ravi Varma painted Goddess Laxmi standing on a lotus.
There are numerous quotes on flowers. Here are a few in English. I plead my ignorance in so far as Hindi is concerned. I leave it to the blog followers to do the needful.
Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.
~Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts, 1858
For myself I hold no preferences among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, and spontaneous. Bricks to all greenhouses! Black thumb and cutworm to the potted plant! ~Edward Abbey
I will be the gladdest thing
Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
And not pick one.
~Edna St. Vincent Millay, “Afternoon on a Hill”
Flowers… are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty outvalues all the utilities of the world. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844
The flower is the poetry of reproduction. It is an example of the eternal seductiveness of life. ~Jean Giraudoux
The lovely flowers embarrass me,
They make me regret I am not a bee –
~Emily Dickinson, 1864
Flowers have been integrated into the lives of humans in myriad ways. Bollywood producers too have adopted it in their ventures and you will have many songs on flowers, like a girl singing in a garden while picking flowers, males offering flowers to their beloved and hopeful would-be’s, the hero walking along a mountain path strewn with flower bush and singing their praise. I am presenting a few songs associated with flowers. As usual personal bias cannot be ruled out and many may present other songs which they may insist as more suited to the theme.
1. Mere phoolon mein chhipi hai jawani by Lata Mangeshkar from Anokha Pyar (1948), lyrics Bahzad Lakhanavi, music Anil Biswas
A picture with eternal love triangle as the theme follows the beaten path. The poor flower girl (Nalini Jaywant) sacrifices her love for the author (Dilip Kumar) in favour of the doctor’s daughter (Nargis). Probably Indian producers of those days did not believe in social upliftment and made the poor as scapegoat. Anil Biswas has given excellent songs. Several songs were rendered by Meena Kapoor in the film whereas 78 rpm discs were cut in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar. The film starts with this song. Nalini Jaywant is busy collecting flowers for sale and singing like a lark and comparing her youth with flowers.
2. Tere phoolon se bhi pyar by Lata Mangeshkar from Nastik (1954), lyrics Kavi Pradeep, music C Ramchandra
This is a well known picture from the banner of Filmistan filled with wonderful songs of Pradeep/Chitalkar combination. This was the last film with which C Ramchandra was associated under this banner. Nalini Jaywant sings this soul stirring bhajan.
Flowers can be associated with various moods of human beings. It can bring memories of joy, enchantment and melancholy too. I will attempt to bring all these sentiments through songs.
I will commence with a song exhibiting sentiments of love for the mother land and the atmosphere is one of sadness and supreme sacrifice.
3. Ae watan ae watan humko teri kasam by Mohammad Rafi from Shaheed (1965), lyrics Prem Dhawan, music Prem Dhawan
Manoj Kumar and Kamini Kaushal are the lead actors. The word “phool” occurs twice in the entire song. The mukda conveys, what to speak of flower, they would happily offer even their head for the nation. In the antara, it conveys that human beings are from various parts of the nation and as divergent as the flowers. It is a great song of patriotism.
Next I will exhibit songs based on theme of love through flowers.
4. Phir kahin koi phool kila by Manna Dey from Anubhav (1971), lyrics Kapil Kumar, music Kanu Roy
The love between Sanjeev Kumar and Tanuja is presented graphically and another iconic song is rendered in the voice of Manna Dey.
5. Ae gulbadan, phoolon ki mahak kaanton ki chubhan by Mohammad Rafi from Professor (1962), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan
A typical Shammi Kapoor film with Kalpana as heroine, it runs on the usual plot of the hero donning disguise to fool the alert guardian of the girl. SJ gave evergreen tunes in the film with a noted duet Awaaz de ke humein tum bulaao based on classic raga. Shammi Kapoor is pursuing Kalpana in a flower garden hoping for blooming of love between them.
6. Phoolon ke rang se by Kishore Kumar from Prem Pujari (1970), lyrics Neeraj, music S D Burman
Here the hero (Dev Anand) is describing how the heroine (Waheeda Rehman) teases him in various subtle ways and seems indifferent to his letters of love. Neeraj and SDB have combined to entertain viewers with another great piece of music.
7. Ae phoolon ki rani baharon ki malika by Mohammad Rafi from Aarzoo (1964), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan
Rajendra Kumar is waxing eloquent on the ethereal beauty of his beloved Sadhna and it is compared to flowers from beginning to end of the song.
Who can bring such seduction in his voice except the great Mohammad Rafi, a sui generis. HJ and SJ score another hit.
8. Baagon mein kaise ye phool khilte hain by Lata Mangeshkar & Mukesh from Chupke Chupke (1975), lyrics Anand Bakshi, music S D Burman
Sharmila and Dharmendra are exhibiting their mutual love in a garden through this exquisitely rendered duet. S D Burman again proves his prowess has not dimmed with years.
I am rounding off the love theme with one more song.
9. Kaliyon ne ghunghat khole by Mohammad Rafi from Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya (1966), lyrics G S Rawal, music Sonik Ohmi
Dharmendra is chasing Nutan in a garden of flowers and beseeching her to lift her ‘ghunghat’ just as flowers have done. Another expert rendering from Mohammad Rafi of a serene tune from Sonik Ohmi.
Happiness and sorrow are entwined and are a part of human life cycle. I am putting forth a song of pathos.
10. Mile na phool to kaanton se by Mohammad Rafi from Anokhi Raat (1968), lyrics Kaifi Azmi, music Roshan
Zaheeda and Sanjeev Kumar are the leading lights. A frustrated hero is hurt at the attitude of the girl he pursues and states if he is denied the flowers, he will make friendship with the thorns, meaning probably rose flower. It is a song of melancholy. This film is Roshan’s last tryst with film world.
Comic element can also be introduced under the flower theme. The song below is an example of the same.
11. Phool gendwa na maro by Manna Dey from Dhooj Ka Chand (1964), lyrics Sahir Ludyanvi, music Roshan
The entire episode in the song is amusing to watch. The antics of frightened Agha praying to the cobra not to bite him is the crux of the song. Manna Dey excels in this traditional Bhairvi composition, though the picturisation is intended for comic effect. Roshan has composed a masterpiece which will stand the test of time.
In an earlier post someone suggested a post on flower theme. I was attracted to it but hesitated this long as I had doubts whether I could put together a few songs. Big boss AK sent me a list of more than 50 songs compiled by none else than the great Hansji. I thank him profusely for his efforts in putting together so many pieces from which I borrowed a few. How I wish he shares the secret of his magic wand by which he conjures up songs aplenty on any theme, with me only of course.
I touched only the fringe of the ocean. I expect the blog followers to reveal other moods in which this theme could be extended.