Guest article by DP Rangan
(The intoxicating drink as elixir of life is a part of mythology in almost all cultures. Harivansh Rai ‘Bachchan’ said that while the world celebrates Holi and Diwali only once a year, दिन को होली रात दीवाली रोज़ मनाती मधुशाला. After galloping on the High Horse, riding the tonga, and romancing with moon and stars in the night, DP Rangan ventures into the delights and sorrows of drinking. I have described him as a seventy plus-going on-seventeen, which makes him short of the minimum legal age for drinking. But this is an age when a youthful heart is filled with forbidden thoughts. In this well-researched article, typical of him, he takes us through the mythology and history of liquor and some drunken songs of Bollywood. Thank you Mr Rangan for another nice article from your inexhaustible repertoire. – AK)
Homo sapiens have been indulging in drinks from time immemorial. There are enough records in writing or stone carving to demonstrate this fact. Our religious literature talks of Aryans drinking somras after performing yagnas. Adverse effect on health of habitual drunkards did not deter them from indulgence. It came to be accepted as a consequential hazard. History is replete with instances of kings ruining themselves by excessive drinking and also destabilising their kingdoms due to negligence of proper administration leaving it in the hands of their incompetent or even villainous henchmen. The final sufferers were the common populace.
We all know Greeks believed in a hierarchy of Gods living on Mount Olympus headed by Zeus. Dionysus was the god of grape harvest and wine, and fertility in Greek mythology and was a God of epiphany. He is considered an outsider and admitted as the last God (twelfth) to Mt. Olympus. He was the youngest of the lot and born of Zeus and a mortal mother. His followers did not observe social norms and habits of the day and believed in the natural state of living. They used intoxicants and cultivated other arts such as dance and music to liberate themselves. The cult was introduced to Rome by and by, and the Romans named the God of wine and fertility, Bacchus, and hence this term has been associated with wine and other drinks. An orgy where wine is liberally gulped by participants is called bacchanalia.
Countries in Europe had their own brand of drinks. Scotland was a major producer of whisky from malt. French bred extensive vineyards, harvested the fruits, crushed and fermented it to produce rich wine drinks. In Russia, it went by the name of vodka, while in USA, it was called bourbon. History of these traditional drinks developed over centuries would make interesting reading. Let me first start with Scottish whisky.
The name whisky was derived from uisge beatha and it was being produced in Scotland over ages. First documented record of distilling was in 1494 as seen from tax records of the day, Exchequer Rolls. The entry in the record states – ‘Eight bolls of malt to Friar John Cor wherewith to make aqua vitae’ (water of life). 1500 bottles of whisky could be produced out of this quantity of malt. This goes to show that distillation was well established by then. Art of distillation was not well refined, and the liquor produced was more potent and even dangerous to some extent. Steady efforts were made and distillation was considerably improved by 16th – 17th century.
Scotch whisky originally was produced from malted barley and it was aged by storage in oak casks. Standing pot stills were used for distillation. Scotch whisky became a popular drink and a part of the Scots’ way of life. Distilleries sprang up throughout Scotland to cater to the growing demand. Secret of whisky making was the preserve of the monks of the day. Monastries were the home of distilleries and the lay public were kept away. King Henry VIII of England confiscated monasteries and the expelled monks had to make the whisky outside and share the knowledge with the public. The Scottish Parliament started taxing whisky from 1644 and, as usual, illicit distilleries mushroomed everywhere. With the union of Scotland and England in 1707, taxes rose higher and gave further impetus to illicit trade. Smugglers and taxmen clashed often and, yet, the smuggling flourished. Duke of Gordon from Scotland, himself a producer of illicit whisky in his extensive estate, proposed legitimization of the entire process. In 1823, Excise Act was passed, legalizing distilleries on payment of duty. Smuggling was no longer profitable and died out within a decade.
Malted whisky was being produced in potted stills initially. In 1820, continuous still was invented. Aeneas Coffey built his own ‘Coffey’ still in 1831. With this it was possible to produce consistent quality spirit and, for the first time, grain whisky made its appearance. It was a much lighter and less expensive whisky. Malt and grain whisky were mixed to create blends. Johnny Walker introduced his brand in 1820. French wine (brandy) from Cognac region of France was also being consumed in England. Phylloxera beetle invaded and destroyed vineyards in France around 1880 and the wine industry collapsed. Scots took advantage and captured the market. Later rejuvenation of the wine industry could not make any dent in the whisky market. Soon other brands such as J&B, White Horse, Dewar’s and Ballantyne’s sprang up. The industry went from strength to strength and its product is being consumed in more than 200 countries.
Wine industry was nurtured initially in France. Burgundy, Bordeaux and Cognac were some of the well known regions where vineyards flourished and several varieties of wine were produced. It spread to other regions in Europe. Today vineyards can be found in Southern United States and Australia and, unlike the whisky produced only in Scotland, wine became a native product in many countries. It had a much chequered history.
American whisky called ‘Bourbon’ is based on corn. The name is derived from the place of its production – Old Bourbon county of Viriginia which today falls in Eastern Kentucky. The knowledge of distilling was brought to America by settlers from Scotland and other European countries in late 18th century. The first commercial distillery was started in 1783 by Even Williams in Louiseville and the brand still survives. It is stored in white oak barrels and seasoned over several years giving it a distinct copper colour. Prohibition was in force in USA from 1920 to 1933. Liquor smuggling industry flourished and Scotch whisky entered the market at the expense of local distilleries which were closed. After 1933, the local industry started picking up.
Whisky was introduced to India by the British during their rule. In 1820s, Edward Dyer moved from England to India and set up the first brewery in Kasauli. This was shifted to Solan and now it is known as Meakin Breweries. Most distilleries in India produced alcohol from molasses, a byproduct of the sugar industry. Malt whisky was produced in small quantities but blended with alcohol. It is surprising to note that Indian whisky consumption is the third largest in the world, next to China and Russia. Poverty and meagre purchasing power restricts a large sections of Indians to the native variety produced from molasses. Illicit liquor also flourishes with the connivance of police and politicians here, with the inevitable tragic loss of poor lives now and then, when such drinks turn lethal due to ingredients used in fermentation.
Alcoholics played a singular role in many Indian movies. Devdas was about the life of its drink-besotted hero due to frustrated love, and his eventual demise. In many pictures, heroes were shown as addicted to liquor and causing misery to their family and his beloved. Because tragedies were not welcome, producers had to end films with heroes completely weaned from their bad habits like Daag (1952). There could be more such films, but my knowledge of film history is poor and I dare not venture further in such mine-laden field.
I am presenting below a series of film songs sung by heroes/heroines under the influence of drink, or made to sing by drunk heroes as in Bhai Bhai. The virtuoso Mohammad Rafi is the most popular male singer for these kind of songs, lip-synched by inebriated males. Lata Mangeshkar has also managed to sing such songs for the heroine. There could be other singers, particularly in the modern era, who could fill the bill. Having not followed movies for over 40 years actively, I do not want to do any exploration in the field.
1. Piya bin nahi aawat chain by K.L. Saigal from Devdas (1935), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music Timir Baran
The first version based on the novel of Sarat Chandra Chatterjee was produced in 1928 in the silent era. The second version with K L Saigal as Devdas and Jamuna as Paro was released in 1935 (it also had a Bengali version released in the same year). Though Devdas resorts to self-destruction, the character has cast a spell on generations of readers and film-goers. Most of the songs by Saigal are sung under drunken stupor. In this song he openly exhibits his drunken state. It is said that Ustad Abdul Karim Khan was highly impressed by Saigal’s rendering of his famous Thumri.
2. Ae mere dil kahin aur chal by Talat Mahmood from Daag (1952), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar-Jaikishan
Dilip Kumar and Nimmi are the main actors. It is the story of a village carpenter and his love for the sister of a local rich man. This version is sung by the hero while he is besotted. Dilip Kumar, as an alcoholic, is rejected by the girl’s family. After his mother’s death he leaves the village and returns as a reformed character and is united with Nimmi in the end. All the songs are top class and this song is sung in a sad way by Lata Mangeshkar, too. There is also a happy version near the end of the film.
3. Zamana yeh samjha ke hum pi ke aaye by Lata Mangeshkar from Anarkali (1953), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramchandra
A Pradeep Kumar and Bina Rai starrer, the film’s success is mainly because of the top quality music composed by C. Ramchandra. This fictional love story of Prince Salim and court dancer Anarkali is familiar to one and all. The emperor Akbar is not aware of the love affair. Another girl from Akbar’s court vying for the love of Salim gives a spiked drink to Anarkali. With no control over her senses, she dances in a sensual way before Akbar and betrays the love affair. An enraged Akbar entombs her alive in the end. Lata Mangeshkar had done full justice to the tune, including the hiccups. Every song in the film is a gem by itself.
4. Nashe me jo daulat ke hum dagmagaye by Lata Mangeshkar from Sitara (1955), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
Pradeep Kumar, Vijayantimala, Shashikala and Om Prakash are the principal actors. No live video is available for any of the songs. The way it is sung by Lata Mangshkar leaves no one in doubt about it being sung under the influence of drinks.
5. Kisko kabar thi by Talat Mahmood from Devdas (1955), lyrics Sahir Ludyanavi, music S. D. Burman
Directed by Bimal Roy, the fourth version of the classic story, had Dilip Kumar playing the role of Devdas with Suchitra Sen as Paro and Vyjayanthimala as Chandramukhi. S.D. Burman’s music was out of the world with each song a great hit. This song, sung in slow tempo by Talat Mahmood, is picturised on Devdas after a fair intake of drink. The film bagged three Filmfare awards in 1957 – Best Actor Dilip Kumar, Best Supporting Actor Moti Lal and Best Supporting Actress Vyjayanthimala.
6. Sharabi ja ja by Lata Mangeshkar from Bhai Bhai (1956), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan
A movie from Kollywood, it was a family drama dealing with two brothers, who were separated in childhood, and meet again when the younger sibling is a young man. The main actors are Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar, Nirupa Roy, Shyama and Nimmi. Ashok Kumar, a model family man, is lured into bad ways by Shyama and becomes a drunkard. Here fully drunk, he is forcing Nimmi, the beloved of Kabul pathan Kishore Kumar to sing and in sheer terror she obliges. Madan Mohan showed his class and all the songs are wonderful to listen to even after such a long time. Mera naam Abdul Rehman is a lilting and fast duet sung by Kishore Kumar and Nimmi.
7. Jangal mein mor nacha by Mohammad Rafi from Madhumati (1958), lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chowdhury
A Dilip Kumar, Vijyantimala, Pran and Johnny Walker starrer, it was a great musical hit. The storyline was lifted from Mahal. It would be interesting to note Bimal Roy who directed this movie, was the Editor of Mahal. This particular song with every note sung and orchestrated exhibits drunkenness. None but Mohammad Rafi can do such a stellar performance. I consider it one of the greatest songs sung by him in this vein. Salilda had excelled himself in setting this tune and it can stand up with other songs of this type composed by music directors as O P Nayyar. In the same film Rafi sings another song in a grave manner full of pathos – Toote hue khwabon ne. Vividh bharathi, the sole source of film music in those radio days, usually played the sad one but rarely this song. Thanks to You Tube and internet, such obstacles have evaporated and most of the songs are available for a click.
8. Maine pi hai by Mohammad Rafi from Raat Ke Rahi (1959), lyrics Vishwamitra Aadil, music Bipin Bapul
Shammi Kapoor and Jabeen Jalil are the leading pair here. I have posted another song from this film in the blog – Tonga in Bollywood and the storyline is given in brief there. Fully drunk Shammi Kapoor is chasing Jabeen, claiming he is not drunk in the real sense but bowled over by her.
9. Mujhko yaaro maaf karna by Mukesh from Main Nashe Mein Hoon (1959), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar-Jaikishan
This is a typical plot about a playboy roaming with his sidekicks, frequenting night clubs and getting involved with the vamp, while his chaste bride-to-be sits in the house pining for him and singing devotional songs. In the end, the hero returns home cured of his infatuation and is reunited with the homely girl. Raj Kapoor, Mala Sinha and Nishi are the main actors in this melodrama. Shankar-Jaikishan have acquitted themselves well composing many pleasing tunes. Here Raj Kapoor admits he is drunk and asks his colleagues to excuse him.
10. Na jao saiyan by Geeta Dutt from Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Hemant Kumar
This picture is about the decadent life style of the rural rich in Bengal in colonial days. Meena Kumari, the Chhoti Bahu of the house, is dismayed to find that her husband (Rehman) is spending his time with naach ghar girls and neglecting her. Challenged by her husband, she starts drinking to keep him in the house. Guru Dutt as Bhootnath is made to procure the drink by her. What a sterling performance from the great Meena Kumari. She is carrying the film singly on her shoulders by her superb performance as chhoti bahu in spirit. This song is an outstanding example. Hemant Kumar showered the film with delectable tunes and the master lyricist Shakeel has injected life into the songs.
Guru Dutt had requested Shashi Kapoor to act as Bhoothnath. But he demurred and Guru Dutt himself had to take the role. Guru Dutt had stopped directing and handed it over to Abrar Alvi. Waheeda Rehman was initially adamant to take the role of Chhoti Bahu. Guru Dutt had decided upon Meena Kumari and did not concur with Waheeda’s proposal. The director took a trial shot but concluded Waheeda Rehman was too young looking to act the part and the rest is history. Meena Kumari had the unique distinction of being the sole nominee for the best actress Filmfare award in three films of 1962 – Aarti, Main Chup Rahungi and Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam and received the said award for the last film.
11. Sharab ka sahara le ke by Mohammad Rafi from Commercial Pilot Officer (1963), lyrics Anand Baxi, music Roshan
No information is available about the film. Live video is not there either. Sohan Kapila, Shyama and Shashikala are the main actors. The song is slow-paced and Rafi shows his mastery in bringing out the emotions. One can detect O P Nayyar’s general style in this song.
12. Sawan ke mahine mein by Mohammad Rafi from Sharabi (1964), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan
Dev Anand and Madhubala are the principal characters in the movie and in love with each other. Dev Anand falls a prey to Bacchus and starts drinking. The girl’s father forbids their romance and Dev Anand’s mother is equally harsh. Madan Mohan has created a nice song to fit with the scene and Mohammad Rafi had sung with the right intonation. There is more than one version of the song.
13. Mujhe duniyawalo sharabi na samjho by Mohammad Rafi from Leader (1964), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad
Dilip Kumar, as reporter Khanna, is out to nab a gang of antinationals. Vyjayantimala, initially antagonistic, falls under his spell. After the usual ups and downs in such a movie, the good triumphs and they are united. Here he is made drunk and sings under its influence and conveys real situation to the heroine. Naushad has compiled a pleasing song, but this kind of song is not his forte.
14. Sharabi sharabi by Sumant Kalyanpur from Noor Jahan (1967), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music by Roshan
So far I have been describing songs which had been sung by hero or heroine under the influence of drinks – whisky, wine etc. But there are other types of intoxicants too. A garden full of flowers in full bloom and sweet aroma could induce a feeling of being light headed if one were to wander over. The scenery unfolding before someone atop a mountain could also induce euphoria. The rainy season is another occasion when people feel very relaxed and in an upbeat mood. Here Meena Kumari sings in praise of the ‘sawan mausam’ and how it induces a feeling of being drunk with love. Suman Kalyanpur had given a splendid performance. Shakeel Badayuni and Roshan combination has produced another great song with the most appropriate lyrics.
15. Background music for Wobbly Animals from Animals Are Beautiful People (1974)
I now close the post with a piece dealing with the behaviour of animals in peculiar circumstances. This is an extract from the film Animals are Beautiful People exhibiting the day to day life of various animals living in Okhavango Delta, an oasis in the great Namib Desert of South West Africa, as also Kalahari Desert. I processed the video and posted it to You Tube. Human beings should not be under the mistaken impression they alone can get drunk and suffer from its after effects. This snippet will demonstrate animals too get tipsy and act in a funny manner. A group of maribou starks are watching the antics of the animals with a puzzled look.
Now let the experts take over and carry this theme further by bringing out more such songs. It need not be restricted to only songs of Bacchus but also other situations which induce more or less similar feelings but in a beneficial manner to the singer.