Friend and fellow journalist Jai Arjun Singh’s excellent post about a song from the 1965 film ‘Guide’ has prompted me to write this. Jai, who is a deeply attentive observer of things cinema and literature, elaborates on the song ‘Tere mere sapne ab ek rang hai’ (You and I dream dreams of the same hues).
Let me set up the context by taking excerpts from Jai’s post (without his permission or without so much as showing him the courtesy of informing him). There is no point in my restating what he has done with acuity.
“While the song in itself is one of the loveliest we have ever had, the visualization shows Vijay Anand’s talent for using the long, unbroken take to add dramatic intensity and continuity to a given situation. This sequence lasts more than four minutes, but it is made up of only three shots, which increase progressively in length – in other words, there are only two cuts in the whole scene. And this isn’t an arbitrary stylistic decision, it is central to what is happening in the film at this point.
Waheeda Rehman’s Rosie has just confronted her unpleasant, domineering husband and announced that she is leaving him. She has lately developed a bond with Dev Anand’s Raju – the “guide” of the film’s title – but this is the first time that the possibility of a future together will be properly broached. So we have two people who are very vulnerable in different ways: Rosie, having shown fire and resolve in the scene just before this one, is now uncertain about the road ahead, and Raju, a hitherto carefree man, is taking on responsibility and baring his own heart. As if mindful of the significance of the moment, the camera moves slowly, respectfully around the duo, observing them but not being intrusive.
The “language” of the sequence, with its long takes and tracking shots, is easier to understand if you consider that in filmic terms, a cut can represent disruption or a shift in tone. The two cuts in this scene (the first around the 39-second mark, the second around 1.44 minutes) both occur after a movement of the song has been completed, and both have Rosie drawing away from Raju after initially reaching for him. In the first scene, she strokes his shoulder; in the second she hugs him briefly, but then bunches up her fist and moves away. She is still conflicted at the end of both these movements, and in each case the cut serves as punctuation, indicating that the process of reassuring her must begin anew. And this is done at a dual level, by the lyrics of the song as well as by the sympathetic, probing movement of the camera.
All this leads up to the final, pivotal shot, which lasts for well over two minutes. Raju follows Rosie again, but his approach has changed now: instead of leading her by her hand, or drawing her close, he moves back, stands at a distance and holds his hand out – inviting her to come tohim when she is ready. And it is here that the unbroken camera movement finds its strongest, most purposeful expression. The camera follows Raju, then moves back to Rosie, bridging the (largish) gap that has opened up between them; it watches her as she makes up her mind, and then accompanies her as she moves toward him.”
This song is the finest example of mature and dignified love between two adults in Hindi cinema. No other actor romanced with such soft, cinematic élan as Dev Anand. The presence of Waheeda Rehman in this film makes it even more compelling. Director Vijay Anand captures Rosie’s ever changing conflicted mind about her growing fondness for Raju with subtle brilliance. Jai is spot on about the long, unbroken shots which allowed him to capture the states of mind that the protagonists are in.
When people say everything comes together in any form of brilliant art, they almost seem to be implying that things came together despite those involved in its creation. On the contrary, a great deal of thought goes into creating these outstanding moments. Right from Sachin Dev Burman’s extraordinary composition and Shailendra’s brilliant lyrics to the choice of the location and the timing of the shot to its difficult lighting against the mauve sky, everything was made to come together.
Dev Anand, whom I knew for close to 30 years, and I had discussed this particular song sitting inside a Subway joint in San Francisco’s Pier 39 where he was shooting his embarrassing dud ‘Love at Times Square’ in 2002. In fact, I told him how I thought this song is the finest example of mature and dignified love between two adults in Hindi cinema.
“Goldie (Vijay Anand) was so clear about the look, feel and mood of the song. He was insistent about the sky being of a certain pinkish-orange color. In a sense, we had to cheat between the dusk and dawn lighting. I am not going to tell you what time of day it is,” Anand told me. He was particularly referring to the shot where Rehman disengages herself from Anand (Cue 38-39 seconds) and walks away. The sky is a combination or orange, mauve and pink. Shailendra’s lyrics say at that point “Mere tere dil ka tay tha ek din milna, Jaise bahar ane par tay hai phool ka khilna” (Meeting of our hearts was as inevitable as flowers blooming in spring).
This song is an object lesson for other filmmakers in how to fuse such disparate elements as natural light, artificial light, tracking shots, actors’ expressions, body movements, lyrics and song composition. In short, not everything just came together. Things were made to come together.
Anand, who in the latter half of his career had become somewhat weary of talking about the movie’s many virtues, said he regarded ‘Tere mere sapne’ as one of the highlights of his career. “I felt it through and through and so did everybody else,” he said.
In terms of being in the song and feeling it, another brilliant number that comes to my mind is from the 1971 film, which by some strange coincidence, was called ‘Tere Mere Sapne’, also directed by Vijay Anand. It was ‘Jeevan ki baghiya mehkegi” featuring Anand and Mumtaz. The song was composed by Burman and written by Neeraj. “Thoda hamara, thoda tumhara, aayega fir se bachpan hamara (A a bit of you and a bit of me, our own childhoods will return). There isn’t another song in Hindi cinema that captures the charms and anticipations of wanting to be parents with such lovely words. For some reason I like to watch the two songs together.
Thank you Jai for triggering this.
Note: For some reason I am unable to embed the YouTube videos of the songs. Click the links if you are interested.