In an interesting Holi tradition in many parts of North India, important personalities of the town get together to play the fool, and vie with each other to get the coveted best fool awards. The next day’s papers carry colourful reports of these proceedings with profile of the winners of Mahamoorkh or Moorkhshiromani awards.
‘Playing the fool’ must be prevalent in other cultures also. One such tradition is ‘roasting’ in the US where a person is subjected to comic insults, outlandish stories and heart-warming tributes. To be roasted is supposed to be a matter of honour. One of the most eagerly awaited events in the US is the White House Correspondents Association Annual Dinner when the President makes fun of himself and other senior officials of the Administration. The Presidents tear themselves mercilessly and outdo the worst that the media would do to them. In the campaign years, the Presidential candidates, after their heated round of debates, traditionally stop by at the Alfred Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner where they trade one-liners and comic insults to their opponents and themselves. Here is a report in the Washington Post on Obama and Mitt Romney roasting each other in the dinner. Our politicians are quite boring in his regard. Except Laloo Prasad, I can’t think of anyone playing the fool with such élan – I am not including those who make a fool of themselves by their actions. Among Indian parliamentarians, Piloo Mody was a byword for whacky humor in the olden days. Those were the days when CIA was responsible for all our ills, and one day the irrepressible Piloo came to the House wearing a placard, “I am a CIA agent”.
The humour in the British Parliament is now the stuff of the legend. This MP’s one-liner holds good for our situation also – “The trouble with political jokes is that half of them get re-elected”. Then there was this tough lady MP who harangued Churchill that if he were her husband, she would put poison in his coffee, to which Churchill replied, “Madam, if you were my wife, I would happily drink it.”
In Hindi films two actors that immediately come to mind are Shammi Kapoor and Kishore Kumar, who have played the fool in a number of movies in order to get out of a sticky situation or avoid an unwanted marriage proposal. Holi and thandhai (laced with bhaang) gave license to Amitabh Bachchan in Silsila to stretch the boundaries of decorum with Rekha, and sing Khaye gori ka yaar balam tarase, Rang barse, to some bewilderment of Sanjeev Kumar and consternation of Jaya Bahduri. Talking of Amitabh Bachchan, perhaps the best ‘playing the fool’ has been done by him and Dharmendra in Chupke Chupke to put the smart Om Prakash in his place and get Sharmila Tagore out of her Jijjajee spell.
But Hindi films are also replete with characters who are too stupid to ‘play the fool’. They are quite dunce, or less pejoratively, innocent and simpletons in the matters of heart. They are very patiently wooed by their lovers and tutored in the matters of the birds and the bees. Raj Kapoor is the leading star of this genre, with Guru Dutt a distant second. This post is about songs of romancing the dunce, or in other words Mahmoorkhon Ke Gaane, if you wish.
1. Begaani shaadi mein Abdullah deewana by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar from Jis Desh Mein Ganga Bahti Hai (1960), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
You can’t be more dunce than Raj Kapoor who insists on calling the sizzling Padmini, Kammoji. The most overt hints fail to stir him. Finally she suggests that she might be married to some guy, to make him jealous. He is thrilled that he would get a chance to dance and sing at her wedding. What can you do to such a person except break into this lovely song?
2. Bhanwra bada nadaan haye by Asha Bhosle from Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam (1962), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Hemant Kumar
There are smart alecs and there are nadaan bhanwras. The whole demeanour of Bhootnath (they also pick up very appropriate names) is so amusing, Jaba (Waheeda Rahman) can’t help singing this song.
3. O mora nadaan balma na jane ji ki baat by Lata Mangeshkar from Ujala (1959), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan
Any sane girl would choose Shammi Kappor. With Mala Sinha paired with him, poor Kumkum must have been left with Rajkumar, but why is he nadaan in this film? But never mind. The girls find nadaan balma absolutely charming. I have never seen Kumkum dancing more joyously.
4. Balma anaari manga de ghoda gaadi by Lata Mangeshkar from Pocketmar (1956), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music Madan Mohan
Even though Geeta Bali asks her anaari balma to fetch her a ghoda gadi as she no longer enjoys his company, her joyous expression tells otherwise.
5. Wo chand khila wo taare hanse by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar from Anaari (1959), lyrics Hasrat Jaipuri, music Shankar Jaikishan
Raj Kapoor is the best at being anaari. When the moon is shining bright and stars are smiling, the one who does not understand is a dunce. This was Mukesh’s grand come back after he strayed from RK camp for a few years, foraying into acting and making films.
6. Bhola anari mora balma na jane by Lata Mangeshkar from Anokha Pyar (1948), lyrics Zia Sarhadi, music Anil Biswas
I thought writers are romantic at heart. One understands writing requires solitude. But would you send away a beautiful Nalini Jaiwant? I expected better from Dilip Kumar. Asked to go away to sell her flowers somewhere else, she does not move far from him and sings within his hearing भोला अनाड़ी मोरा बलमा न जाने, प्रीत भरे मन के इशारे. One of the early hidden gems of Lata Mangeshkar composed by the doyen, Anil Biswas.
7. Preet nahi jane balam more bhole by Miss Iqbal (?), from Sister (1941), lyrics Safdar ‘Aah’, music Anil Biswas
First you see a married couple who hear this song in the background. Is it reflecting what is going on in the mind of the lady? Then you see the singer in all her finery and oversized nose-ring, lamenting that her innocent balam does not understand preet even if ऊंची अटरिया पे सेजा बिछाई. Her unconcerned balam is still busy with his silbatta (grinding chandan for his pooja?). The singer credited in Hindi Film Geet Kosh is Miss Iqbal. This is amazing; I would have bet 100% that it was Amirbai Karnataki. Anyway, enjoy this throwback to the vintage era when you had enormous variety of female singers.
8. Paan khaye saiyan hamaro by Asha Bhosle from Teesri Qasam (1966), lyrics Shailendra, music Shankar Jaikishan
Raj Kapoor again in the dunce role. Whenever some interesting situation arose, he would bite his finger and say with a shy smile, Hiss, aap to mazaak karti hain. He was impossible. Any girl would fall for him. She had given him VIP pass for her dance show in the evening. The pass gives him access to the front, but he is not used to the ways of the VIP gallery. He gawks at Waheeda Rahman awkwardly, who sings about her betel-chewing saiyan with red lips who, when asked to bring surmedani, brings Banaras ka zarda.
9. Ja re kare badra balmu ke paas wo hai aise budhu na samjhe re pyar by Lata Mnageshkar from Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke (1969), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Laxmikant Pyarelal
Balma is so budhu that he does not understand love. Nanda asks the dark clouds to go before him to cry.
10. O more bhole balam by Kishore Kumar from Padosan (1968), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music RD Burman
The ultimate bhole balam song. The eponymous Bhola (Sunil Dutt) is quite unique from the general type of bhole balams. Once he realises from the book that having turned 26 now he is past the age of brahmacharya, he sets upon to win the heart of Bindu. Guru (Kishore Kumar) tells him how to express his feelings to her.
Some Padosan trivia
Padosan is a treasure trove of trivia. Here are some quizzes.
1. When Bhola asks Guru what should he reply to her, Guru tells him, “Arrey baangru (an endearing term for ‘dunce’), pyar mein jawab apne aap aa jata hai, aur kahnaa”, and then demonstrates in a very stylised tone Anuradha, O Anuradha! He is corrected by another jewel of Panchratna Natak Mandali immediately that her name was not Anuradha, but Bindu. Then he starts singing Meri pyari Bindu. His slipping into Anuradha O Anuradha was not inadvertent. It was another example of Kishore Kumar’s penchant for spoofing classic themes and songs. Which classic film is it taken from?
2. If Kishore Kumar was Guru and Sunil Dutt was Bhola, who were the remaining jewels of the Panchratna Natak Mandali?
3. Guru realised that Bindu’s attraction was not for the buffoonish Gaana Master, Mahmood, but his art (dance and music). Therefore, to have any chance with her, Bhola had to be taught music. But all attempts to teach a tone-deaf Bhola failed. The last straw was when his alaap brought in a donkey (a spoof on Tansen’s singing attracting a deer?). Then a song coming from the radio gave Guru the idea that the solution lay in the playback mode, i.e. Bhola lip-synching Guru’s singing. Which song from the radio gave this flash?
4. After the flash, Guru asks Bhola if he knew the words of any song. Bhola mentions a song, and Guru demonstrates how he would sing and Bhola had to lip-synch. Which song Bhola mentioned?
5. Which book Bhola was reading, which mentioned that on turning 26, a man was fit to marry?
6. This one I do not know myself, but it is my strong hunch that this song also must be a parody of some classic song, like Ek chatur naar in this film was of Ashok Kumar’s from Jhoola. In any case his alaap, Bindu re, towards the end of the song is a perfect Bhatiyali – an example of the genius of Kishore Kumar to glide effortlessly from Baul to Bhatiyali, from clowning to serious and vice versa.
7. Now a general question: Why are all dunces male? (Be careful! The question is not ‘Why are all males dunce?’)
Prizes for the winners
Had I been Dustedoff (Madhu) I would have at least promised to give my autographed book. I do not remember what Harvey offered in his quizzes, I was nowhere near winning any. Mercifully Anu Warrier and Richard do not post quizzes (or do they?). The whole purpose of posting these quizzes is to do to you what the US Immigration does to Shahrukh Khan. The only prize I can offer is what the sympathetic cop Mohanlal offered to Vivek Oberoi in the last scene of Company – Tumne wo kaam kiya jo police ko karnaa chahiye tha. Aur iske badle main tumhe jail ki sazaa aur shukriya ke do shabd ke siwa aur kuchh nahi de paungaa. The first is not relevant here; I would substitute that by Badhaai. So the winner gets congratulations and thanks from me!
This theme was suggested by Subodh. When I asked him why did he not write it himself, he said with a smile that I would do a better job of Mahamoorkhon Ke Gaane. I do not know what he meant by that, but I found his smile intriguing. OK Subodh, you write on classical music, so? Then I remembered we are lucky to have some decent people like Mr Arunkumar Deshmukh, Mr Ashok Vaishnav and Mr N Venkatraman (and now Mr Gaddeswarup and several others), who make us bloggers feel very profound and learned by adding ‘Ji’ to our names.
Subodh also sent me a list from which I have taken most of the songs. Therefore, you may also read the title of this post as Subodh Ke Gaane, which I am delighted to present to the Mahachaturs of the SoY family.
Happy Holi to all.