SOFT SOOTHING MELODIES
28 September 2012
Why are present-day films devoid of emotionally touching songs, asks AC Tuli
One thing that is common to mothers all over the world is that they use some words, often in a sing-song way, to lull their children to sleep at night. Different languages have of course different words for such bedtime songs. In English, these songs are known as lullabies. In Hindi we call them 'lories'. Infants-in-arms, even toddlers, love being sung to by their mothers while they are being patted to sleep at night.
But it is not just a mother who sings a 'lori' to send her child to sleep. Sometimes a young lover also delights in crooning a 'lori' as he rocks his lady-love to dreamland. Of course, a lover's 'lori' is differently worded from that of a mother's. It is often replete with sensuous imagery and wishful thinking.
Such indeed was once the popularity of this bedtime ditty that filmmakers of yore often used it in their films to enhance the impact of emotional moments in the storyline. But not every 'lori' caught the cine-goer's fancy and became popular. Only those lories which were well written, sweetly tuned, and imaginatively picturised could survive the test of time to be remembered and admired by lovers of sweet, soothing melodies.
There are so many such songs from old Hindi films that I find it very difficult to choose the best five for this article. Besides, musical tastes differ from person to person. What sends a thrill of delight down my spine might induce a yawn of boredom in you, and vice versa. But I am pretty sure that if someone were to make a list of fifty all-time great Hindi film 'lories', the five that I have chosen for this article are very likely to figure in it.
Let me start with the earliest 'lori' that became a rage with the cine-going masses. The lori was, 'So ja rajkumari so ja…'. Beautifully written by Kidar Sharma, it was set to divine music by Pankaj Mullick, and sung by the inimitable K L Saigal in his rich baritone. It figured in the 1940 New Theatres' film 'Zindagi'. It is of course a lover's lori for his sweetheart, in which he coaxes her to sleep so that she is transported to the world of dreams where, waiting for her, is her Prince Charming, who shall put the varmala round her neck and also kiss the parting in her hair.
A lori is not always a softly intoned invocation of the god of sleep as one rocks one's loved one to sleep. Sometimes it can be the anguished cry of a soul beleaguered by misfortunes. When a poor and homeless child goes to sleep on an empty stomach, its mother or elder sister sings a lori in a tearful voice to make it forget the pangs of hunger. There was one such lori exquisitely rendered by Lata Mangeshkar under music director C Ramchandra's baton in 'Albela' (1951). The lori, 'Dheere se aaja ree akhiyan mein nindya aaja ree aaja…' was written by Rajinder Krishan. It was very popular in the 50s. It is still heard in programmes of old film songs broadcast by various radio stations.
Music director Naushad has given us hundreds of sweet, memorable songs. But perhaps he has tuned very few lullabies. However, the one that he composed for the 1954 film 'Shabab' was so sweet and soothing that even today listening to it is a delightful experience. This lori, written by Shakeel Badayuni, is sung by the hero (Bharat Bhushan) when the insomniac heroine (Nutan) is unable to sleep. The 'lori', 'O chandan ka palna, resham ki dori, jhoola jhulaoon nindya ko tori….' was rendered by Hemant Kumar in his sonorous voice.
In V. Shantaram's 'Do Ankhen Bara Haath', there was a touching lori expressive of the universality of a mother's love for her child. The lori, 'Main gaoon tu chup ho ja, main jagoon aur tu soja…' was written by Bharat Vyas and set to music by Vasant Desai. It was sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The picturization of this lori was superb. The kind-hearted gypsy toy-seller (Sandhya) of this film, acting as surrogate mother to the children of a convict sentenced to life imprisonment, sings this lori in a sad, melancholy vein.
Another lori that perhaps did not become as popular as the four I have already talked about, figured in Bimal Roy's 'Do Bigha Zamin' (1953). It was written by Shailendra and so imaginatively composed by Salil Chaudhary that it retains a certain haunting charm about it even today. It was obviously the writer-composer-singer trio rapport that elevated this lori to the level of a finished work of art. The lori conjures up a sweet vision of a mother's love - tender, serene, and deep - for her child.
In a few evocative lines, sleep is personified by the lyricist as the queen of this world.
'Aaja ree aa nindiya tu aa,
Sansar ki rani hai tu,
Raja hai mera laadla,
Duniya hai meri godh mein,
Poora hua sapna mera!'
The lori-singing mother tells the goddess of sleep that if she is the queen of this world, then her son (ladla) is its king, and as her son is sleeping in her lap, she feels proud that she has the whole world lying in her lap, so to say.
Why are present-day films devoid of such emotionally touching songs? Maybe because the films we now make have far less to do with tender human emotions than with insensate violence and the crooked ways of our crime-ridden world. Obviously, in such films lories have no place.