Yesterday afternoon, as happens frequently with me, a random song came bursting out of some obscure recess of my mind. It was “Main akela apni dhun mein magan zindgi ka maza liye ja raha ke tum mil gaye” (I was living life happily absorbed in my own rhythm…and then you met me) by the very versatile Amit Khanna from the 1973 film ‘Man Pasand’, a Hindi remake of ‘My Fair Lady.’
Amit did a lovely job of capturing the mood of the original ‘I have grown accustomed to her face’ and managed to fuse it with the quintessence of conflicted Indian romance.
Amit’s line “Tumhare kadamon ki aahat, tumhare aankho ki masti, tumhare balon ki khushboo, Inse mujhe kya hai hansil? Fir bhi yeh hai meri aadat mein shamil” (The sound of your approaching footsteps, the vivacity in your eyes, the fragrance of your hair, What do I have to gain from those? But I am still accustomed to them). The expression “Inse mujhe kya hai hansil? Fir bhi yeh hai meri aadat mein shamil” is deft and light.
‘My Fair Lady’ remains one of my most cherished films, especially Rex Harrison as Professor Henry Higgins was outstanding. The masculine grandiosity of the protagonist occasionally strained by his barely hidden vulnerability was brilliantly captured by Harrison. To Dev Anand’s credit he did his best to bring it alive. I think in many scenes Anand appeared as if it was a character after his heart, particularly in the song above. He was reflective and indignant simultaneously about his feelings for the young woman (Tina Munim) whom he picked up from the grimy underbelly of the city and polished her up.
Directed by Basu Chaterjee and produced by Amit, the film also featured Girish Karnad as Anand’s sidekick in the same vein as Wilfrid Hyde-White in the original. Of course, there is no comparison between the two films in terms of their quality. Higgins is such a deeply English male of a certain high British class that it is hard to give him a different ethnic context.
Interestingly, the only reason why I remember ‘Man Pasand’ is this particular song written by Amit and composed by Rajesh Roshan. One always unreservedly admired Devsaab but as a 19-year-old in 1980 (he was 54) to me he seemed particularly cool in this song; even when kicks that imaginary can (Cue 1.53).
From left, Vijay Anand, Dev Anand, Amit Khanna
I have known Amit for close to 30 years. He has perhaps been the most articulate spokesman on behalf of the Hindi film industry. A man of diverse talents as a writer, lyricist, producer and generally someone who knows the industry inside out, I intend doing a detailed interview with him one of these days.