Friday Review

Missing, that poetic touch

Tees Maar Khan (Sheila Ki Jawani)  

It was a traditional Indian wedding. From the horse- drawn carriage, ‘doli,’ to band and ‘baraat,’ all were in attendance. But, one thing was different…the music!

Chartbusters from those days such as ‘Chaudvin Ka Chand,’ ‘Baharon Phool Barsao,’ ‘Babul Ki Duayen Leti Ja,’ ‘Yeh Jo Mohabat Hai,’ Mere Sapno Ki Rani’ and ‘Meri Pyari Baheniya,’ were replaced by the blaring modern music with quirky, romantic lyrics. This new trend reflected changing tastes.

In the past, Hindi film lyrics have been penned with simplicity of words and expression, speaking about the deep spiritual truths about our existence and surroundings. There was pleasure in hymns and devotional songs, patriotic songs, those that celebrated life, love and romance. Solos expressed the impermanence of love and life.Some songs were presented with sound that echoed the depth of suffering that the music might heal. State-of-the-art music studios have made certain instruments redundant and present day culture has made a mockery of the lofty standards with abstract and unintelligible lyrics. The old charm seems to have died. Tangles of ordinary and extraordinary occurrences from daily life now make a heady cocktail, in a departure from form, meter and symmetry of traditional poetry.

Old songs may have lost their sheen, but people still hum those Saigal, Rafi, Kishore, Mukesh and Manna Dey tunes. Unconventional methods fuelled by commercial interest and promotion have resulted in songs with lines such as ‘…Zandu Balm,’ ‘Fevicol Se’ and ‘Sheila Ki Jawani.’ At a recent forum, poet, lyricist and film director Gulzar came out in support of the present day lyrics, saying that one has to change with the times. “In the past, songs were shot with images and as a montage. But with cinema becoming sleek, racy and pacy, the songs played are a montage of the montage.”

Go Goa Gone (Khoon Choos Le)

A lyricist’s job has become more challenging today, Gulzar said. They have to write not only for the lead pair, but also for several supporting characters, thereby widening their purview of writing. Hence the use of common parlance. Like the number, ‘Khoon Choos Le’ (‘Go Goa Gone’) that cribs about the Monday morning blues in the life of an office goer. Confessing to a greater fondness for the present day than for his own time, Gulzar asserted that the growing professionalism among the contemporary artists is a manifestation of their commitment towards their job.

Kati Patang (Yeh jo Mohabbat Hai)

Gulzar singled out lyricist Shailendra as the master in this craft. Fellow lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri also once stated in a TV interview: “Shailendra was the best lyricist the Indian film industry ever had.” His songs would never let us and the future generations forget that. Majrooh Sultanpuri, who gave soul to songs such as ‘Ek Din Bik Jayega Maati Ke Mol,’ also earned his rightful place. Anand Bakshi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Shakeel Badayuni and Pradeep, all penned remarkable songs contributing to the golden period of Hindi cinema.

“People have changed with time. They now SMS, use mobile phones and the Internet to communicate. So the writer also needs to change his style to stay relevant,” adds a fellow lyricist. In the past, there were ‘piano’ songs, now there are party songs. Bappi Lahiri feels that the modern lyrics have no meaning and are bizarre. Some feel the modern scores have pushed real merit of the sequence into the background.Ballads such as ‘Tum Hi Ho,’ ‘Sawaar Loon’ and ‘Yaaram’ are bewitching numbers of deceit in love. Some present day songs are wacky with a mix of folk and fusion and a pinch of odd lyrics. Tracks such as ‘Ishqyaun Ki Dhishqyaun,’ ‘Tattad Tattad’ and ‘Ram Chahe Leela,’ for example. ‘Tooh’ from ‘Gori Tere Pyar Mein’ rocks at the weddings, but ‘Tooh’ is actually a derogatory usage in Punjabi. Similarly, ‘Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai’ has mischievous connotations. Even the numbers, ‘Gandi Baat,’ and ‘Saree Ke Fall Sa’ from ‘R... Rajkumar’ are catchy and big hits but do they really enrich the sequence? Many such songs are popular with the younger generation. The raving ‘Badtameeez Dil’ is a trendy romantic anthem of sorts keeping the current lifestyle and culture in mind.

One might fall in love with these love songs that have an old world charm. But the subtler elements of sensibility are missing. There are many components, which readily strike an uncanny rapport, but the fusion of qawwali, bhajan or semi-classical makes the end product outlandish. Old classics are also reprised, making poor imitations. The talk about love, loneliness, desire, illusion, dreams, silence and innocence are made in a lighter vein compromising on literary appeal. The haunting, crystalline and precise poetry is missing. One wonders how many songs are in accordance with the script. Do they really demand such raunchy and riotous scenes? Noted film historian and music critic, Raju Bharatan, says, “Do you really expect someone of the Naushadian generation to ‘lungi-dance’ to tune? Minus poetry, what is music?”Oh for a Naushad, settling for nothing less from Shakeel Badayuni than ‘Badi Chot Khaayi Jawaani Pe Roye’ - seeing that the composition had to communicate the picture of Anarkali (Madhubala) in chains.

Decades ago, a weird number such as ‘C.A.T, Cat, Cat Mane Billi, R.A.T, Rat, Rat Maane Choohaa,’ with English words interspersed looked odd, but today, one has free use of rhyming words such as match, catch, touch, attach, patch in ‘Saree Ke Fall Sa.’ Then the use of vulgar expletives in another number — ‘Chor, Lukkha, Luccha, Ganda …,’ reach out to the masses corrupting young minds. Another startling track is ‘Sardi, Khansi, Na Malaria Hua… Loveria Hua,’ which transcends all genre barriers.

The teen sensation Yo Yo Honey Singh seems to have the talent to make his songs better than the film itself. On how ‘Chaar bottle vodka’ (Ragini MMS 2— sung and composed by Yo Yo Singh with lyrics by Ustad Bhagdarh Ali Khan) went on to be a great number will remain a mystery. In the past, there have been many inimitable songs in praise of liquor, when jilted lovers drown their sorrows. Perhaps the present trend demands raucous numbers to make the films click.

The ability to express profound thoughts in plain and simple Hindi is, however, lost. Pun, repartee, repetition, sarcasm and hyperbole seem to rule the day, defying rationale.

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Printable version | Apr 21, 2021 10:02:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/old-hindi-film-lyrics-vs-contemporary-songs-lyrics/article7231303.ece

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