Guest article by DP Rangan
(DP Rangan has been a familiar figure in the comments section. He recently debuted as a guest author with his piece on Bollywood’s love affair with horses. I had introduced him as a member of the very senior brigade, who has the enthusiasm of a teenager. The proof is this sequel to his last post. He had planned to put the cart before the horse, but on my suggestion he has right-sequenced the order. For someone whose first language is not Hindi, the collection of songs is absolutely impressive. Thank you Mr Rangan for another outstanding piece. – AK)
I have written enough about the horses in my earlier post and how they are part and parcel of humans even in the present age of technological advancement. Encouraged by the response of the generous readers to my first effort at ‘writing’, I venture to write its sequel on their use in horse carts, or tongas. Horses continue to be yoked to carts and haul people and goods from place to place. Fortunately, horse carts have been phased out from almost all the metropolis and may be a rare sight in countryside too. I am happy to see them in partial liberation. I hope to see a reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln to free them in totality and ensure they roam in whatever little is left of the wild. Film producers, of late, are not incorporating such scenes in their films. It is only an educated guess as I have not been to a theatre for more than fifteen years and have rarely sat before the idiot box with the technical name of Television. I am a computer nerd and, while trawling through internet, chanced upon SoY and my life thereafter became topsy turvy. I saw many snippets of songs based on tonga/cart scenes and decided to present them to the followers of this blog.
The film producers were not feeling happy and sensed they were missing something vital. Like Buddha who got revelation under Bodhi tree, they saw the potentialities of amalgamating the horse drawn carts, i.e. tongas, as known in north in love scenes. Thus was born a genre of films with horse cart scenes as a bonus. I am not considering those instances where horses merrily cantered down paths, roads and trails burdened with hero and heroine, unmindful of the billing and cooing indulged in by the lovelorn couples, having covered it in the previous post, which I hope is still circulating around.
The permutations and combinations were infinite, limited solely by the imagination of the directors in conceptualizing the scene and stitching the canvas. They left the hard part of the endeavour to music directors and lyricists. In normal scenes, the music directors could compose a song without worrying for the beat as they had a great latitude given the ready availability of taals, as for example teen taal. In the horse cart scenes they were denied such liberties. The tunes had to be completely synchronized with the steady beat produced as the horse hooves struck the ground. They had to contend with differing beats according to the pace of travel. It could be a jaunt at a sedate pace or a trot/canter or something in between. The music directors took it in stride and produced great tunes with perfect beats to depict virtual reality.
When one looks at the actual scene enacted in the picture, it is possible to realise how complicated it is. The songs could be solos sung by hero or his counterpart as well as duets. Sometimes the tonga drivers take a hand and insist on singing themselves, leaving the leading actors to indulge in their own antics. I will present below a selection of songs covering all angles.
All music lovers know that the leading music directors in this field are O.P. Nayyar and Naushad. I do not have records and cannot quantify. But I can safely assume they would account for about 50 per cent of the songs in this class. As usual I will try to cast my net wide and present such songs from other music directors. I had access to more than 30 songs and was surprised to find that Roshan has 6 songs under his belt. Salilda had two such songs in one film Ek Gaon Ki Kahani, rendered in the silken voice of Talat Mahmood, and Roshan in Daadi Ma.
1. Chale pavan ki chaal by Pankaj Mullick from Doctor (1941), lyrics Arzoo Lakhanavi, music Pankaj Mullick
This is the earliest known instance of such a song I could stumble upon. Talkies were already ten years old by 1941 and I leave it to our erudite AK to dig out such songs during the 1930s. My extensive forage to nab a song came a cropper.
The story revolves around a doctor (Pankaj Mullick) fired with the zeal to serve the poor in villages in the grip of cholera epidemic, which really occurred in Bengal in 1941, rather than attend to the rich hypochondriacs. His aristocratic father remonstrates but the son goes away to pursue his vision. Streak of tragedy runs throughout the film, but ends with three generations meeting together. The full film is available on You Tube, but of poor quality and with loss of video in bits and pieces. This song is picturised on the young doctor plying his own cart along a road with railway tracks running parallel, prior to his tiff with his father. The film was originally made in Bengali and dubbed in Hindi.
It is a lovely sight to watch serene rural scenes unfolding as the cart saunters down the road at a steady pace. The song is too well known to all music lovers of vintage era to require further description. If you lend your ears carefully to the line – Chale pavan ki chaal, every time you will hear a female voice humming in perfect unison. A great piece of imagination by the singer and music composer Pankaj Mullick. A local passenger train pulled by a worn-out locomotive, looking more like the famous Puffing Billy, leisurely overtakes the cart. Suddenly you see the cart going backward in relation to the motion of the train forward, a phenomenon you can feel if you close your eyes while seated inside the carriage of a speeding train. It is realism at its best. The steady beat of horse hooves was actually created by the orchestra by clanging two empty coconut shells against each other. Incidentally, I may state that Bengal abounds in coconut trees. The video is of poor quality and though I could eliminate the background noise fully with an advanced music software, the end result was a case of the cure being worse than the disease. Therefore, I decided to keep it as it is.
Such was the impression it created, it was remade in Hindi/Bengali titled Anand Ashram in 1977.
2. Zindagi zindagi koi sapna by Khan Mastana and chorus from Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), lyrics Deewan Sharar, music Vasant Desai
Shantaram-Jayshree starrer, made in Hindi and English and directed by Shantaram himself, is based on a real life character. Dr. Dwarknath Kotnis was born in Sholapur on 10th October 1910 and graduated as a doctor from Mumbai. China was waging a bitter war against the invading Japanese in 1938 and sent an appeal to Jawaharlal Nehru for medical volunteers. Subhash Chandra Bose also solicited for doctors. Dr. Kotnis volunteered and was part of a five-member doctors’ team. They landed in China amidst the war. Dr. Kotnis did great service during the conflict as a field doctor. He could speak and write Chinese. He met a Chinese nurse named Guo Qinglan and married her in December 1941. A son was born in August 1942 and was named Yinhua – Yin (India) and Hua (China). His arduous tenure as a war time doctor, working ceaselessly treating the war wounded, took a heavy toll on his health and he was struck down by epilepsy three months after his son was born. After a series of seizures he passed away on 9th December 1942,when he was just 32 years old, leaving behind a grieving wife and an infant son. He is greatly honoured in China even today and visiting Chinese premiers make it a point to meet his surviving relatives whenever they pay a state visit to India. I am indebted to Wikipedia for source data.
Dr. Kotnis (Shantaram) is singing while plying the cart, calling on people to come forth for service, and stresses even sacrifice of life in the process. Khan Mastana has conveyed the right spirit of the song by his wondrous singing. Oddly, I see no Chinese characters in the scene. It looks like an Indian rural setting.
3. Upar gagan vishal by Manna Dey and chorus from Mashal (1950), lyrics Kavi Pradeep, music S. D. Burman
This is the opening scene of the film. Young Ashok Kumar is beaming with joy while travelling in a cart plying through a rural setting. The cart driver is all praise for God for his creation of such a wonderful world of nature where everything is in harmony with no conflicts. Kavi Pradeep has shown his mastery in penning the lyrics, richly deserving his title, and S D Burman has let fly his creativity and the result is an enduring song. A young Manna Dey is at his best and probably he has no equals in singing songs conveying great philosophy. Just after 3.38 minutes of watching, one is startled to see a pluming volcano. The producer, with his mysterious skill, has transported a volcano from Indonesia to India and he is yet to reveal how he achieved such a great feat. The news in the grapevine is that Indonesia is still pursuing the matter to acquire this technology and shift all their volcanoes elsewhere so that they live in peace for ever. I am forced to give a long video of more than five minutes as other videos refuse themselves embedded. However, there is some compensation that the viewers get all the information about the film in the process of watching. Another good song in the film is – Aankhon se door door hai by Lata Mangeshkar.
4. Ho mera dil hai nikhattoo by Chitalkar from Nirala (1950), lyrics PL Santoshi, music C Ramchandra
A Dev Anand-Madhubala starrer, the picture is nothing to rave about. It has a weak story and the usual tragedy, prevalent at its time, of the heroine being married off to another individual and coming back to lay down her life at the feet of her former lover with the penitent husband in close tow.
It is a hilarious song and the tonga driver is making merry of the passing ladies describing how his heart is racing and advising them to watch their steps. One of the passengers is the famous male dancer Mumtaz Ali on whom AK has written a masterly post. C Ramchandra has exhibited his usual skills in composing tunes to reflect such an atmosphere. The song closely follows the differing pace of the tonga and the hoof beets are not in the same scale throughout but matched to horse trot. Another incidence of the masterly handling of the orchestra by the music director.
5. Ghir ghir ke aasman par by Asha Bhonsle and Raj Kumari from Bawre Nain (1950), lyrics Kidar Sharma, music Roshan
Producer Kidar Sharma did not lose faith in Roshan despite the disaster of their first film together (Neki Aur Badi, 1949) and gave him a second chance in this film. The roaring success of the songs show how legends are created. Roshan never looked back after that. Raj Kapur and Geeta Bali were cast in principal roles. The song is picturized in a typical rural setting. Young males of the village seem to have migrated to drier urban pastures in search of livelihood. As a result the tonga is managed by a female. She must have been made of tough mould to manage such a demanding feat. The ladies are Geeta Bali and Manju. The scenery with heavy rolling clouds, wandering goats and curious passerby moulds into the lyrics very well. The kind ladies allow the horse a brief rest so that it can quench its thirst.
6. Jhoome re neela ambar jhoome by Talat Mahmood from Ek Gaon Ki Kahani (1957), lyrics Shailendra, music Salil Chowdhury
One of the few films where Talat Mahmood dons the hero role in addition to that of songster. In fact, at the beginning of his career he acted in a few films starting with Rajlaxmi (1945), followed by Tum Aur Main (1947), Samapti (1949) – produced in Calcutta – followed by ten films in Bombay, such as Dil-e-Nadaan, Waris, Lala Rukh and so on. The story revolves around typical characters in the village Chandangaon. Gokul, a widower, pretends to be a homeopathic doctor and acts as village compounder dispensing arnica for all ailments. As usual, his late wife had left him a daughter named Jaya (Mala Sinha) to cope with. This is even more complicated than AK’s formula. While he dealt in only two dimensions, in this film a third dimension has crept in, i.e. newly arrived really qualified doctor (Talat Mahmood) to man the charitable dispensary. Two village buffs were vying for Jaya, but ultimately the prize is snatched by the urbane doctor who carries her along to a new place with a tearful father looking on. A run of the mill story with delectable songs composed by the veteran Salil Chowdhury.
There are two songs sung by Talat Mahmood while plying the tonga. He is just on his way to the village driving the tonga himself unaware of what is in store for him. The rural scene rolls by while he is all praise for nature and how his heart is bulging with joy. The duet Haye koi dekh lega is picturized around the village shrubs. Jaya at home in these surroundings is drawing a ring around the bemused doctor. The other ghoda song – Raat ne kya kya khwab dikhaye is sung in a sombre mood while plying the tonga at night. I choose the happy one for portrayal. In fact this was rarely broadcast through radio in bygone years.
7. Bheega bheega pyar ka sama by Mohammad Rafi & Shamshad Begum from Saawan (1959), lyrics Prem Dhawan, music Hansraj Behl
A love story plot with Bharat Bhushan and Ameeta as lead actors. Bharat Bhushan is all smiles while handling the horse with his lady love matching him. The horse, sensing nothing amiss, jogs at an easy pace on the slow side and the song is also paced similarly. Shamshad Begum is rather shrill in parts while Mohammad Rafi is his usual unruffled self in delivering his part of the notes. On the whole, not a good quality audio. Other notable songs are Lata Mangeshkar solo – Kanha chhede bansuri, a Mohammad Rafi solo (classic raga based) – Dekho bina saawan baras rahi badli, and a soulful Mukesh-Lata Mangeshkar duet – Nain dwar se man mei wo aake in which Mukesh sings in his pathos style at a measured pace, whereas Lata Mangeshkar sings her part in her dulcet voice at fast pace bringing down the curtain.
8. Ek nazar ek ada by Mohammad Rafi from Raat Ke Rahi (1959), lyrics Vishwamitra Adil, music Bipin Bapul
This is a social drama revolving around an alcoholic brother-in-law and his ruffian like brother with the girl coming to live with her much abused elder sister. Shammi Kapoor and Jabeen Jalil are the lead pair. Since the other pair have already tied knots, AK formula is not applicable. During the drive on the road with no bystanders to gawk at them, Shammi Kapoor goes through his usual histrionics. The cart driver is indifferent to the ruckus behind him. Judged by standards of this genre songs, the current piece is very ordinary. But hold, every cloud has a silver lining. The cart with all the artistes does a Houdini Act and disappears from 3.12 to 3.15 minute and the relieved horse is trotting alone. I do not know whether the film director was successful in waking up the yawning audience and making them sit up in rapt attention by this subterfuge.
9. O matwale saajna by Asha Bhonsle from Faulad (1963), lyrics Anjaan, music G S Kohli
A story with a bizarre plot. As usual astrologers are the instigators. The King, warned of the possibility that his daughter could marry a commoner and ascend the throne with him, orders wholesale mayhem of all male newborns – Kansa raised to the power of infinity in cruelty. The clairvoyant mother, apparently inspired by the Mahabharatha epic, dumps her baby in a bamboo basket and sends it careening down the river à la Kunti. It is conveniently intercepted by a wealthy thakur and, voila the baby grows into a handsome towering man (Dara Singh). During his jaunts he rescues the princess (Mumtaz) from danger. Cupid shoots his arrow and they are in love. They are standing (no provision for seats) in the wooden contraption designed for war. The hero is busy controlling the horses while the princess sings in bliss. Asha Bhonsle as usual has sung as the mood demanded. A good piece of music composed by second tier music director G. S. Kohli. There is a tinge of O.P. Nayyar, not surprising considering he was assistant to the legendary composer.
10. Rut albeli mast sama by Mukesh from Shreeman Satyawadi (1960), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Dattaram Wadkar
Raj Kapoor is the obvious choice for the film. He can play the role of a person of truth irrespective of the situation and the difficulties he may have to face. He is paired with Shakeela. Wearing his trademark hat and with a song- bird cage in his hand he is at peace with the world and sings his heart out. The ride begins at Chowpaty Beach in Mumbai and extends into the suburbs. No vehicular traffic to create traffic snarls. Today such a depiction would be impossible even in the interior of the country as cars are ubiquitous like a swarm of locusts. We can expect the locusts to leave once they have cleaned an area, but the cars are here to stay forever adding to the pollution levels. Mukesh has sung another rare song of joy unlike his usual ones of pathos.
By now I realise the viewers might be gnashing their teeth at not finding the composer who became synonymous with ghoda gaadi beats. Let me present a couple of O P Nayyar songs which would delight all. Here is an immortal duet by Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar.
11. Piya piya piya by Asha Bhonsle & Kishore Kumar from Baap Re Baap (1955), lyrics Jan Nisar Akhtar, music O P Nayyar
Kishore Kumar is taking a nice nap in the gaadi and the swaying motion of the cart acts as a soothing catalyst. Chand Usmani appears like a genii from the back and explodes into her song. Kishore is rudely jolted out of slumber and is quite confused as to the source of the noise. Realising it is his lady love, he joins in the song with full fervour. His trademark yodelling follows. It is a tête-à- tête of love between them in a musical form. The horse joins in the fray and ensures no sudden jolts and tilts to upset the couple. There are no superlatives left with me to praise OP Nayyar for his great composition.
12. Maang ke saath tumhara by Mohammad Rafi & Asha Bhonsle from Naya Daur (1957), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanavi, music OP Nayyar
The story is well known to all. It is essentially a conflict between man and machine, symbolized by the horse cart and motor for picking up passengers from railway station and depositing them at their destination. The climax is a race between horse cart and car and, as expected, the cart wins. In our films, normally, the heroes are not expected to fail in such competition and it is so here, too. When Dilip Kumar and his love Vyjayanthimala are on a jaunt, such problems are far into the future and they revel in each other’s company and show to the world how couples in harmony can enjoy the ride. OP Nayyar is in his elements and ticks off another successful composition.
I am guilty of not having looked at the songs of another great music director, i.e. Naushad, who has numerous hits of this category to his credit. I hasten to repair the omission. I am presenting two pieces. Here is the first one from the film Uran Khatola. It was dubbed in Tamil by name Vaana Radham i.e., vehicle of air.
It is an ustadon ka ustad song of this category. Everything has been integrated and the song pours forth as a stream. The background humming by Lata Mangeshkar is so subtle, one may miss it unless close attention is paid. The picture with a poor story is very average. AK’s formula B1 versus G1/G2 is the backbone. However it does not run in its usual track. G1 played by Suryakumari perishes in the maelstrom which engulfs the island, a just retribution from Goddess for her misdeeds and G2 (Nimmi) sacrifices herself to restore normalcy, leaving poor Dilip Kumar alone to grieve over her. He lives to a ripe old age very loyal to her memory and joins her at last in spirit leaving his mortal remains behind. At least in spirit he could have been shown as a young man when he crash landed on the island from his airplane instead of the aged man. All the songs are gems and all-time greats. Not one song can be dubbed as average. Naushad scored similarly in Shabaab and this is another one. Let us watch Nimmi pursuing the plane piloted by Dilip Kumar in her chariot with her coterie. There are several instrumental versions of this song and I have not heard so many of any other Hindi film song. The one by Enoch Daniel is a lovely piece of orchestral music. I will upload it as a sound cloud piece. We need not dwell on the fallacy of how slow moving chariot can keep pace with the fast paced aircraft in the air. It is better to forget ourselves for the space of a few minutes in this song.
13. Mera salam leja by Lata Mangeshkar and chorus from Uran Khatola (1955), lyrics Shakeel Badauni, music Naushad
14. Pyar ki raah bahaar ki manzil by Mohammad Rafi & Asha Bhosle from Saaz Aur Awaz (1966), lyrics Khumar Barabanqvi, music Naushad
Joy Mukherjee and Saira Banu, lost in each other impervious to the surroundings and hauled by twin horse cart, sing in great ecstasy. This song is closely modelled on the earlier song of Kohinoor (1960) – Koi pyar ki dekhe jadugari for which music was given by Naushad. Nothing amiss as music directors tend to take tunes from earlier films of their own and with a slight tweak introduce it in another movie.
I regret the cruel necessity of having to leave out many more meritorious songs as Phoolon se dosti hai (Duniyan Jhukti Hai) to name one, and another of Hemant Kumar in Taangewaali (Halke halke) because the post has already grown like Hanuman’s tail in Ravan’s court thereby inviting AK’s attention to my infringement. However, I am sure, commentators, not suffering such restraints, can introduce many more songs of this genre in their follow ups. That will act as a soothing balm for my forced neglect.
Habits die hard, especially, bad ones. Once again I am reverting to the golden sixties with the fond hope I will get a pat on the back instead of lashings. The adage ‘Happiness is a state of mind’ and has nothing to do with poverty or plenitude is amply borne out by this ghoda gaadi song. Tongawalas cannot by any stretch of imagination be deemed to be wealthy in material terms. They have to eke out their living along with their companion horse, which is the basic bread winner. In the instant case, the tongawala plies his vehicle on the streets in joyful abandon, not bothering with the risk of injury he may cause to the unwary road users by his careless peregrinations. The latter have to dart away just in the nick of time from being knocked down by the hooves or wheel thanks to the vociferous admonitions from the vehicle plier. His warnings are lustily uttered with a mischievous twirl and the affected individual does not seem to take offence. When you watch the video of the tongawala wandering down the streets of the town, picking and dropping customers as a means of sustenance and look very happy about it, you will agree with my deductions as a veteran in psychology. Raj Kumar fits into the role as a fiddle. Look at his beaming countenance while plying his vehicle in the streets of Peshawar, collecting his fares from commuters and periodically shooing off bumbling pedestrians in choice Punjabi epithets. His calling appears to be a very desirable one. Let us watch him in action on a typical day. Music Director Ravi has produced a masterpiece. Mohammad Rafi, a native of Punjab, adopts a boisterous voice and renders the song in his inimitable style. Others can only stare with an envious sigh.
15. Ghoda Pishori mera taanga Lahori mera by Mohammad Rafi from Pyar Ka Bandhan (1963), lyrics Sahir Ludhyanavi, music Ravi
Now I am coming to the last piece. There is the usual element of lightness in the song, but at the same time the respect and love shown to motherhood is very touching. It is a magnificent piece of lyrics in praise of and devotion to motherhood.
Rani (Bina Rai) is proceeding to the temple in a chariot along with her sons. Well not exactly. One is her own son, but brought up by her in servant lodgings without the boy and the Raja father being privy to it, and the other her deceased devar’s(step brother) son mistaken as his own by her explosive husband (Ashok Kumar). Both the lads sing in praise of the mother while the chariot is steadily drawing towards the temple. The lyrics are wonderful and the mother, secretly pleased, still looks abashed. Watching the video will convey the notion far better than the poor attempt on my part in writing.
16. Usko nahi dekha humne kabhi by Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey from Dadi Maa (1966), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Roshan
Now I am resting on my laurels. If my ramblings are long and dull in parts, I crave the pardon of the knowledgeable fraternity. I had to leave out another 20 songs from the collection which does not include any song from Naushad or O P Nayyar, the doyens of this genre. If any praise is due it should go to AK only as he has been my inspiration in this new venture. I would request the viewers to bring forth more hidden gems of this category – songs sung while driving in a cart. Au revoir.