A common popular theme on the blog land is to put up a variety of favourite lists, such as ‘My ten favourite ??? songs’. This could be on a person (Mukesh, Naushad, Dev Anand etc) or a theme (birthday, holi, wedding etc.) or an object (train, rain, tonga etc.) Some creative bloggers have come up with very unusual lists, such as songs based on birds (koel, mor, papiha etc) and flowers (kamal, chameli, gulab etc). I was certain people would have done songs based on zulf (hair, or more accurately a woman’s tresses), which occurs so prominently in our songs. I have not come across any so far, which is quite surprising. So let me try to fill up this gap.
Whenever I think of zulf I am reminded of a silly verse popular in our college days:
Peechhe se unki zulfon mein pyar nazar aya
Saamne se dekha to sardar nazar aya
If I were to do a list of my favourite silly verses, this would be at the top. But if you think about it, this verse establishes two fundamental propositions – (i) that zulf refers to a woman’s tresses and rarely a man’s hair, and (ii) the association is sensuous/erotic. Therefore, the emotion or Rasa conveyed in film songs is generally Shringar (Love). This does not fully convey the tremendous potential of zulf to convey other emotions. In fact if you quickly survey our literary and cultural traditions you can find all the Navras (plus two later additions) associated with hair:
Lord Shiva arresting the fury of river Ganga hurtling down with mighty roar, and containing her in his hair to save the earth from destruction.
Offering hair to Tirupati Balaji.
The terror in the eyes of the widowed Padmini Kolhapuri when she is being taken to have her hair forcibly sheared off.
The Ritikaal poet Keshavdas (1555-1617) ruing his graying hair that moon-faced and doe-eyed beauties pass him by calling him Baba, and wishes such misfortune should not befall even his worst enemy.
केशव केसन अस करी जस अरिहूं न कराहिं
चन्द्रबदनि मृगलोचनी बाबा कहि कहि जाहिं
(Wikipedia describes it wrongly as करुणा, which is obviously because of the way we write some Sanskrit/Hindi words in Roman script with an extra ‘a’ in the end and pronounce it with long vowel, such as रागा for राग, रामा for राम. The weirdest I have heard recently was a classical dancer on Doordarshan talk show pronouncing अभिनय as अभिनाया).
Meena Kumari having her tresses done up elaborately while singing Piya aiso jiya mein samaye gayo re, with pathos writ large in Geeta Dutt’s voice conveying accurately the futile yearning of Meena Kumari for her husband Rahman who has strayed away too far to come back.
Kaikeyi with her dishevelled hair in Kopbhavan. It is interesting that only a Rani had this facility of Kopbhavan to convey clearly that she was furious, and not the Raja. This can be viewed in two entirely different ways – as a more enlightened environment which gave the women this facility denied to men, or a gender stereotyping of women that they have fickle moods and needed this kind of outlet. In this sense it could also be seen as a coping mechanism, and Kopbhavan can be described as Cope-bhavan.
Hindu ritual of males getting their head shaved off at the funeral of a family member.
Several and obvious.
Chanakya vowing not to tie his choti till he had annihilated Nand dynasty.
Draupadi drenching her tresses in Dushashan’s blood to avenge her insult.
वात्सल्य (Parental love)
The child Krishna whining before his mother when would his hair grow – मैया कबहूं बढ़ेगी चोटी (Surdas).
( You can see here an interesting article on Mohammad Rafi’s songs based on Navrasas)
Film songs have not harnessed all the above emotions, but if you include film scenes as well, I should think you would find all the above eleven Rasas around zulf. Nevertheless most of the zulf songs are of outstanding quality. As can be expected, Mohammad Rafi has the largest and best zulf songs to his credit.
Here is a list of my favourite ten zulf songs.
1. Zulfon ko hata lo chehre se by Rafi from Sawan Ki Ghata (1966), lyrics SH Bihai, music OP Nayyar
My clear top favourite. It has Rafi’s fullest vocal twists and conveys the exact mood of teasing. OP Nayyar’s music is superb.
2. Na jhatko zulf se pani by Rafi from Shehnai (1964), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Ravi
Another unparalleled song from Rafi. But entirely different style and mood. This time it is a soulful ghazal. And what sublime poetry by Rajendra Krishna and equally outstanding music by Ravi. Rajshree got drenched in rains and as she shakes off water drops from her tresses, Biswajeet pleads with her not to do so as it stirs his heart. Very elegantly erotic. One might easily have put this as number one zulf song.
3. Meri jaan na zulfein kholo by Mukesh from Awara Badal (1964), lyrics Jaan Nisar Akhtar, music Usha Khanna
Mukesh also had some excellent zulf songs. This is from a B-grade film picturised on Ajit. I have come across so many of my absolute favourite songs on Ajit (and other B-grade actors like Chandrashekhar) that I find A or B-grade distinction pointless when it comes to music. Usha Khanna herself, though not reckoned in the top league, gave some outstanding music. Now I am getting confused, I might equally easily have put it at number one.
4. O haseena zulfonwali by Rafi and Asha Bhosle from Teesri Manzil (1966), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music RD Burman
An iconic Rafi-Shammi Kapoor song and early career landmark for RD Burman. You also see full play of zulfs of a number of extra dancers.
5. Zulfon ki ghata lekar sawan ki pari ayee by Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle from Reshmi Roomal (1961), lyrics Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, music Bipin Babul
Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle sing this beautiful romantic duet for Manoj Kumar and Shakila.
6. Teri zulfon se judai to nahi maangi thi by Rafi from Jab pyar kisis se hota hai (1961), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan
Here is Dev Anand pleading for Asha Parekh’s love, in a somewhat poignant style. Rafi in early 60s was at his peak of singing prowess, and SJ-Rafi combination was the dominant winning formula for many stars.
7. Zulfon ki sunaehri chhaon tale by Talat Mahmood from Zindagi Ya Toofan (1958), lyrics Nakhshab, music Nashad
There has to be surely a Talat zulf song. And this less heard song has all the Talat magic of sweet silky voice and beautiful rendering. Pradeep Kumar singing this song to Nutan on a harmonium might appear emotionless, but at times you have to enjoy a Pradeep Kumar song by closing your eyes and not looking at him.
8. Zulfon se bandhkar rakh lungi tujhe by Sudha Malhotra from Shekhchilli (1956), lyrics Pandit Indra, music Vinod
I erroneously thought zulf songs would only be in the voices of male singers. Here the lady declares her intention to keep the man tied to her with her zulf and not let him go. If you have grown your hair long, you might as well put it to some use.
9. Zulfein uljhi hain mere kangna se by Lata Mangeshkar from Burma Road (1962), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Chitragupta
Here is a unique zulf song in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar picturised on Kumkum pleading with her man to unravel her tresses which have got entangled in her kangnaa. I was quite taken aback to find that Lata Mangeshkar is singing this song in an overtly Asha Bhosle style.
10. Lat uljhi suljha ja re balam by Noorjehan from Sawal, music Rashid Atre
But the ultimate song on tangled tresses is this traditional composition sung by Noorjehan in the Pakistani film Sawal for the heroine Sabiha Khanum. In case you are wondering where is zulf in this, firstly lat is zulf, and secondly, the next line of the song is Chand se mukhde par nagin zulfein. In a beautiful detail, you just see Sabiha’s hand gestures of dance on the screen when the song goes main na lagaun haath re. The second video is of Noorjehan singing it live for Pakistan TV, and you can see that age has not withered her sense of emotion and feel of the song. In the traditional composition the reason for seeking balam to untangle the tresses was mehdi lagi mere haath re, but in Noorjehan’s version no reason is given, it is a brazen assertion main na lagaun hath re, therefore balam has to do the chore.
Noorjehan sings live Lat uljhi suljha ja re balam
11. Zulf ko teri ghataon ka payam aya hai by Mehdi Hassan in film Salgirah
After I have included Noorjehan, this blog would have been incomplete if I did not include Mehdi Hassan. He has also sung several zulf songs, this one is particularly appealing.