Blast from the past Friday Review

Chalte Chalte (1976)

Vishal Anand and Simi Garewal in "Chalte Chalte". Photo The Hindu Photo Archives   | Photo Credit: HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

In the hustle-bustle of everyday life, artists often tend to forget some of the gems they leave behind. Back in 1977 Gulzar penned a song which would probably be remembered as Lata Mangeshkar’s signing off song. The song from the film “Kinara”, “Meri awaaz hi pehchaan hai” still lingers on, long after the film is consigned to inner recesses of our memory. Back then Gulzar did not realise the import of the words, it was only when Lata herself pointed this out that it dawned on him that the song could as well have been written for her.

One can say something similar about Kishore Kumar. His song in “Chalte Chalte”, a 1976 film directed by Sunder Dar, “Chalte chalte mere ye geet yaad rakhna” echoes in our ears though the film is long forgotten. Yes, it had the delectable Simi Garewal, way ahead of her times. It exuded oomph when the word was seldom used in polite circles. It had beautiful Nazneen too. She gave it all and left many wondering why fate treated her the way it did. It also had at least three other melodious songs, “Jaana kahan hai, pyar yahan hai”, “Pyar mein kabhi kabhi aesa ho jata hai” and “Door door tum rahe”, each of the songs important in its own way. “Jaana kahan hai” had the rare combination of Bappi Lahiri – much before he became the butt of ridicule as a mobile jewellery shop – and Sulakshna Pandit, a grossly under-utilised singer-actor who was better off behind the camera. “Pyar mein kabhi kabhi” had the Shailendra signature all over it. In the age of Rafi-Kishore-Mukesh, he provided a common man’s alternative. And “Door door tum rahe”? Truth be told. Sung beautifully by Lata, Simi Garewal made the song entirely hers. Out to seduce her man in the song, she reduces poor, very poor, Vishal Anand to a piece of furniture. She oozes sensuality, chutzpah, and is glamorous to her last bone. So much so one was left wondering why on earth would a woman so obviously well endowed fall all over a wimp of a man!

Then there was the storyline; it had more substance than a cloudburst can carry: Geeta loves a man but before the relationship could reach fruition, he ‘dies’. She ends up, first in hospital, then a mental asylum, but recovers after a few years. Only to find a new ladylove in his life. Then, well, what is it they say about hell having no fury to match a woman spurned? The story had enough twists and turns to challenge the actors, involve the viewers. It could have done with better direction, and certainly a better hero.

In a way, Anand and Dar in their own ways act as pawns of fate. Their listless work makes sure that the spotlight stays firmly on Kishore Kumar’s peerless talents. There was an Aziz Mirza film of the same name in the early years of the new millennium. It worked at the box office. The songs too scored with the masses. Yet today when somebody mentions “Chalte Chalte”, the mind invariably plays the song from the 70s! Yes, the film is remembered today only for Kishore Kumar’s sayonara moment. From the day Bappi Lahiri gave him the song, there has hardly been a signing off moment in this part of the world when the song is not remembered. Be it college farewells or corporate parties or even simply musical evenings in restaurants across the country, nothing is complete without this magical moment, a time when nostalgia overtakes us all. Kishore’s da’s long drawls, the whistling quality of his voice, its crystal clarity all shine through. The song was played in almost all programmes where tribute to the genius of Kishore Kumar was paid. And even today, when he is remembered, the last song in any geetmala is invariably “Chalte chalte”, its poignant lyrics adding to the mood of the moment. Yes, Amit Khanna’s words convey the lyrical beauty of somebody quietly fading away, much like a family album which we retrieve once in a few years, wipe off the dust, and realise that many have moved on in the journey of life.

And Bappi da’s work here is such a delight, so soothing that it is unthinkable that the man a few years later gave us those jarring songs for K. Bappiah and D. Ramanaidu films. Of course, he redeemed himself with “Aitbar” and much later “Maine Gandhi ko Nahin Mara”, but by then the damage had been done. More is the pity for the man who gave us “Chalte chalte mere ye geet” had the oeuvre like few others.

In 2016, when you sing this song, give a little credit to Bappi da as well. If you applaud Kishore da’s inimitable genius with “Chalte chalte”, do not be guilty of letting perception or reputation override your assessment of Bappi Lahiri’s not so insignificant talents. And when do you go down memory lane to be smothered again by Simi Garewal’s simmering sensuality, remember she was an artiste ahead of her times. In a film like “Chalte Chalte” she could as well have acted opposite a wooden plank!

Yes, like life, “Chalte Chalte” had all those bitter-sweet moments. What you come back with says it all about the person you are, the movie you watched.

Genre: Romantic social

Director: Sunder Dar

Cast: Simi Garewal, Vishal Anand, Nazneen, Shreeram Lagoo, Jagdish Raj, Chadrima Bhaduri,

Screenplay and dialogue: Sunder Dar

Story: Anmol Purohit

Lyrics: Amit Khanna

Music: Bappi Lahiri

Box office status: Hit

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Printable version | Nov 26, 2020 9:40:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/chalte-chalte-1976/article8366268.ece

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