The other day while listening to Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation’s (“Aap ka Purana Dost Radio Ceylon”, as the broadcaster nostalgically introduces themselves) morning Hindi programme, the song ‘Yeh phoolon ki rani, baharon ki mallika, tera muskurana.......’came out crystal clear in all its glory to our utter delight. This happy, melodious romantic song penned by Hasrat Jaipuri and composed by Shankar Jaikishen from Sagar Films International’s ARZOO (Direction: Ramanand Ragar) was a huge hit of those days. In fact for music directors Shankar Jaikishen, who were riding high on popularity charts throughout the decades of the 1950 and the 60, the music of the film was an outstanding success, the film bagging four Filmfare Awards, for best music(SJ), Best Lyrics (Hasrat: Aji ruth karna),best direction and story(Ramanand Sagar)and best actor(Rajinder Kumar).
The song ‘Ye phoolon ki rani’ is rarely heard nowadays and hearing it suddenly over the radio was a pleasant experience. Mohammed Rafi had made it his own, rendering it as only he could, bringing out the mood of the song and its nuances pleasingly to the discerning ears! Film ARZOO had a few other outstanding songs in it like ‘Aji ruth karna’(Lata) , Yeh nargise mastana and ‘Chalke teri aankhon mein (both by Rafi) and the haunting ‘Bedardi balma tujh ko (Lata). But for us those days ‘Ai phoolon ki rani’ was closer to the heart as it touched a chord somewhere. What pains today is the feeling that the musical duo, S-J, who had given us innumerable wonderful songs in films from Aag, Barsaat, Chori Chori to Sasural Sangam, Jis desh nein Ganga bahti hai to Be-iman and so on and who were the kings of the music industry, earning a record nine Filmfare Awards, for more than two decades are not getting the deserved prominence nowadays in music related programs and features. Are they being slowly pushed into the oblivion?
While listening to ‘Ae phoolon ki rani’ three songs with a similar tune but entirely different in content , treatment and style flashed through my mind. Two are from film PYASA with music by S.D.Burman and penned by Sahir Ludhianvi. While the songs, ‘Jinhen naaz hai Hind par woh kahan hai’ and ‘ Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jayen to kya hain’ rendered by Rafi are intense, grief filled and filmed on the tragic hero of the film played by Guru Dutt , the song ‘Ae phoolon ki’ is simple, pleasant and romantic. These songs show Rafi’s range and flexibility in singing songs to the mood of the situation and the theme of the film. The film PYASA created a sensation when it was released and it became a milestone in Indian film history and is considered as one of the top romantic films of the world. Singer Geeta Dutt was at her best in the immortal songs ‘Jane kya tune kahi’and ‘aaj sanam mohe ang lagalo’ as was Hemant Kumar in the song ‘Jane woh kaise log they’, argueably, his best remembered song.
The third song which came to my memory was a ghazal (Nazm) by Jagjit Singh from film Aaj,viz., Woh kaghaz ki kashti, woh baarish ka paani’ with music by Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh for the lyrics penned by Sudarshan Faakir. The similarity of the tune with the earlier mentioned songs are clear. But the content and mood of the song are entirely different . The song takes us nostalgically back to our childhood days with the beautiful lyrics soulfully rendered by Jagjit Singh. People often wonder why we always long to hear old songs. They are not mere old songs; each song evokes special memories and feelings in the hearts of listeners, especially those who had heard them and seen the films when they were released in their local theatres giving them immense joy and a sense of belonging! The song ‘Kaghaz ki kashti’epitomises all that can be said about the wonderful olden days.