Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Love and Longing in Bombay

In a deadly serious work meeting, a deadly serious senior manager - in a deadly serious voice - gave such a fantastically frivolous idea that I  had to turn it into a post.

India's city of dreams - being the seat and studio of Bollywood - has featured in a host of songs. Sometimes, the songs mention Bombay by name. Sometimes, they mention Bombay by scene. And sometimes, they mention Bombay by spirit. And I had to make up a list of my 10 favourite Bombay songs.
Probably no other city in the world has been paid such beautiful musical tributes.

Yeh hain Bombay meri jaan - CID
The irony of a pickpocket asking people to be careful in the city of satta-patta-chori-race gets heightened when the pickpocket has the expressive face of Johnny Walker. If I recall correctly, Majrooh Sultanpuri wrote the lyrics - which had the typical outsider's innocence though the female voice at the end brings out the fairness of the city as well.
Quite surprisingly, (what I think is) the best song of the film is not filmed on the (very handsome) hero but on a character actor. But then, this song has no heroes. Only a heroine - who wears a Queen's Necklace.

Bambai se aaya mera dost - Aap ki Khatir
A totally insignificant movie had this huge hit song, which may not be a 'Bombay song' for many. But Bappi Lahiri's vocals, Vinod Khanna's dancing and Macmohan's shadow-boxing give this song a brilliant arbitrariness that I can't get out of my mind thanks to the innumerable times I have watched this song on Chitrahaar.
Why should Bombay people eat, drink & make merry in the night only to sleep during the day? Why is the dost from Bombay tied up? Is he a thief? Are people from Bombay thieves? WHAT?
Who cares? And don't miss the buxom Rekha in the tight red top!

Bom bom bom Bombay meri hain - Rakhwala
Long before a Bombay slumdog played KBC with him, Anil Kapoor was hanging around with them on the streets. In Rakhwala, he was the standard-issue Bollywood tapori Robin Hood who spent his earnings from supari killings on street urchins by taking them to five-star hotels and claiming Bombay to be his.
I miss these kinds of songs in Hindi cinema nowadays... supporting dancers who don't have toned bodies, the bystanders crowding around the 'shooting' and of course, the location - which is Gateway of India and not Golden Gate. 

Rote hue aate hain sab - Muqaddar ka Sikandar
There is no Bombay in this song. And yet, it is only about Bombay.
The song stars a migrant from East Uttar Pradesh, who ruled the city of dreams. The star zips down some of the most beautiful locations of the city.
And if you listen to the lyrics, it talks about crying when you arrive but laughing on your way out. In the film, they talked about life. I am told it is also applicable to Bombay.

Bambai shehr haadson ka shehr hain - Haadsaa
The title song of the film has tons of zooms and pans across the Bombay landscape as innocent citizens get chopped down in a hail of bullets and avalanche of tomato ketchup. That Bombay is the hotbed of 'accidents' is well known. This song makes a virtue of it.
Even as the hero gets 'towed' away by a crane!

Tum ko jo dekhte hi pyaar hua - Patthar ke Phool
Teen sensations - Salman Khan and Raveena Tandon - burnt up the asphalt all over Bombay as they proclaimed their love on roller skates from Peddar Road to Cadell Road to Warden Road to Linking Road.
SP Balasubrahmanyam's lilting vocals, Salman's decent skating skills and Raveena's teeny-bopper charm could not save the film from sinking but the song - after many hours of Vividh Bharti - stays fresh and alive.

While on the topic of roller skates, it might be a good idea to quickly list down two very cool Songs-on-Skates: one from Seeta aur Geeta. And another from Aa Gale Lag Jaa

Ee hain Bambai nagariya tu dekh babua - Don
No song list about Bombay can be complete without pointing out the missing Church in Churchgate and the missing bandars in Bandra. Again, the UP migrant squats in front of Gateway and dances on Chowpatty, making Bombay his own, thus raising applause and hackles in equal measure.
And remember, what the film taught us. The simple, do-gooder belongs to Bombay. The international don belongs to 11 countries!

Ek akela is / Do deewane shehr mein - Gharonda
These two are twin songs - joined at the hip by the same film - which trace the life of a couple as they happily explore (1BHK!) flats to a lone protagonist who desultorily drags his feet through the same flats. The struggles of living in Bombay - whether you have a future to look forward to or not - is brought out in a tender, understated way as the couple "abo dana dhoondte hain, ashiana dhoondte hain..."

Mum-bhai - Bombay Boys
Three outsiders in Bombay being forcibly inducted to shoot a masala film for a don is not what your usual Bollywood fare is all about... but this film was all about that, very little Bombay. Except the song that played during the end credits. Performed with relish by one of Bollywood's most under-rated performers, it traces how life in Mumbai becomes easier when you add an extra 'h' to it!
So is this the last one? You wish! Forgotten what this song threatens? Its not over, bastard! Abhi khatam nahin hua, ch...
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