The frequent cultural juxtapositions that I make in this blog are at least plausible if not altogether astonishingly brilliant. If you insist of course, I would grant you that many fall in the latter category. (Humor).
Waking up with two tracks playing simultaneously in my mind, composed 45 years apart, can be discommodious. And yet, they offer an interesting cultural contrast when juxtaposed.
One is the 1968 bona fide hit ‘Likhe jo khat tujhe’ composed by the ever melodious Shankar-Jaikishan from the movie ‘Kanyadan’. The song was written by the redoubtable Neeraj and sung by—who else?—Mohammad Rafi. The other is from the upcoming movie titled ‘Jai Ho’. The song is written by Kausar Munir, composed by Sajid-Wajid and sung by Himesh Reshamiya.
Quite apart from the superficial changes such as the in your-face-body –language, production gloss and near aerobatic dancing seen in the second song what stands out for me is the change in the idiom of love.
It is true that love has often been expressed in an overwrought poetic framework in Indian cinema but in the 1950s and the 1960s, it still had that charming understatedness. Although the lyrics by Neeraj in “Likhe jo” were written in keeping with the traditional imagery of Hindi cinema songs of the day, they were still poetically inventive.
Likhe jo khat tujhe voh teri yaad mein
Hazaron rang ke nazare ban gaye
Savera jab hua to phool ban gaye
Jo raat aayi to sitare ban gaye
The letters I wrote
In your memory
Became colorful images
At dawn they became flowers
At night stars
(Excuse the rough translation)
Now compare that with the second, contemporary number. It opens with lines in the Gujarati language which happens to be my mother tongue.
Tu nathi to taro photo pan chalshe
Jo taro photo nathi, to photocopy pan chalshe
If not you, your photo will do
If not your photo, then even a photocopy will do
The protagonist in ‘Kanyadan’, Shashi Kapoor, is wooing Asha Parekh with those lines and going to great literary lengths to make his case.
The protagonist in ‘Jai Ho’, Salman Khan, is wooing Daisy Shah, in a rather pragmatic fashion. At some level he is entrepreneurial enough to approach her but, simultaneously, he lets it be known to her that he is willing to settle for proximate love, as in a photocopy. The words here sum up the Gujarati enterprise rather effectively—it is both entrepreneurial and yet practical.
Of course, these words are not to be taken literally because if you do you would die of incomprehension. How did the letters turn into flowers in the morning and stars at night? At least in the case of the second song it is possible to achieve the very modest expectation that the protagonist has set for himself in the romance department—if not her, her photo and if not that, a photocopy.
Just about now I am beginning to wonder what it is that I am trying to say. When that happens, it is always wise to end. In any case, I have to leave for work, which unlike Shashi Kapoor and Salman Khan does not entail wooing Asha Parekh or Daisy Shah.