A R Rahman, dev anand, dharmendra, gulzar, hemant kumar, indian railways, kanan devi, kangana ranaut, kavi pradeep, lata mangeshkar, majrooh sultanpuri, R D Burman, S D burman, sahir ludhianvi, trains, waheeda rahman
Indian Railways are the arteries of the nation. They not only move a behemoth of its peoples, but also reflect a slice of life of the diversity of this land. Other modes of transports do not nearly compare to the romanticism and the experiences of a long distance train journey. I have a plethora of bitter sweet memories of traveling by trains in India, right from childhood until as recently as this month. Albeit, the number of train journeys I undertake now have greatly diminished, but even today every time I board a train, a certain thrill and excitement grips me. What I love about trains is the democratic nature of travel – you could be anyone in your stationary life, but once you are in a compartment with other travelers, all passengers live a “common” life for the duration of the journey. You could say the same about buses and planes, but where trains (especially the second class Indian trains), offer a freedom of movement and interaction with other passengers that cannot be replicated on buses and planes. You share meals, you share stories, you sleep in close quarters to each other, you become a temporary family/society/community. I am not exaggerating when I say that you can literally find all of life’s emotions and experiences if you travel enough on Indian trains. I have had my fair share of experiences on the many journeys I have embarked on over the years. My romanticism primarily stems from these experiences, the sights and sounds of India you experience while watching the landscape unfold as the train rattles on. So, it is no surprise that Hindi films and their music has found a connection with trains. In the 1950s and 1960s, it was ubiquitous to find songs filmed in a train compartment in many movies. As air travel became more and more accessible, somehow songs shot in, or on trains became a rarity. This did not automatically translate into more songs being shot on air planes. The romanticism and the music that trains naturally provide is lost on air travel. This blog post is a compilation of songs that feature train travel. This is not an exhaustive list by any means. The reasons I chose these songs is based on a few criteria (aside from the obvious one that the song has to feature trains), each song meets at least one (if not all) of these:
- the song is of high quality: composition/singing/lyrics OR
- the song portrays a distinct emotion/feeling/situation OR
- the cinematography or other film making techniques are unique OR
- the actors on whom these are shot give a stellar performance OR
- the song evokes cherished memories for me
The key to the index is:
Year of the film/Song Title/Title of the film/Singer(s)/Composer(s)/Lyricist
1942/Toofan Mail/Jawab/Kanan Devi/Unknown/Unknown
Unofficial claim, but this is probably the first Hindi film song about trains. Sung by and picturized on Kanan Devi who was an immensely popular singer/actress in the 30s and 40s. The simple (yet philosophical) lyrics of the song draws parallels of a train journey to life. “Koi kaheen ka tikat kataata, ik aata toh ik hai jaata; sabhi musafir bichhad jayenge pal bhar ka hai khel“. Such simplicity to explain life as an ephemeral train journey. Another trivia about the title of this song, Toofan Mail. “Mail” was a designation given to certain trains which carried passengers and also “post” from one city to another. Trains carry post to this day, but the term “Mail” in the name of a train has fallen out of fashion. While there is no written record of an actual train by the name of “Toofan Mail”, there however was a train called “Toofan Express”. Somewhere the idea of “Toofan Mail” took hold during the pre-independence era and this song immortalized that term. Films and film songs not only are a means of entertainment, but can also be looked at as documentation of a bygone era and this song is a proof of that.
1943/Hum chale vatan ki aur/Kashinath/Asit Saran/Pankaj Mullick/Pandit Bhushan
Such an upbeat composition from Pankaj Mullick, full of optimism and anticipation. Another reason I find this song, unique is that it is one unbroken shot (referred to as a “tracking shot”). You have to imagine, this is 1943, there weren’t moving dollies or multiple cameras, and films had to largely rely on a single (mostly) fixed camera. The director and cinematographer here are using the light they have on the set – a fan blowing on the actor to give an impression of a moving train combined with an occasional shadow from a tree or a building that we do not see. You can see the inside of the compartment, the luggage storage and the windows on the other side. The actor moves from the window to the door of the compartment and back and the camera follows him. Beautiful effects with limited means.
1950/Dhak dhak karti chali/Dilruba/Geeta Dutt/Gyan Dutt/D N Madhok
The song itself is quite ordinary, but the shot taking and the situation is unique. The song opens with that classic shot of a fast approaching train from the front and the camera pans as the train zooms past it, followed by the beautiful dance of the rail tracks that we all usually see from moving trains. The camera then gets inside the compartment (which is clearly a studio set) and we see a tabla player, a harmonium player and the feet of a woman tapping to the rat-a-tat rhythm of the train. The rest of the song is full of extended shots of a dancer entertaining a rich man (a client? a husband? a lover?) to a steady Tabla beat that is imitating the sounds of a train. She has a whole troupe of musicians with her and the train compartment becomes an intimate performance theater for the man in the suit. The song intercuts with stock footage of outdoor scenes of white fluffy clouds strewn across the vast Indian plains.
1954/Aao bachchon tumhe dikhaye/Jagriti/Kavi Pradeep/Hemant Kumar/Kavi Pradeep
This song was a staple for the Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations. You could hear it on Doordarshan, Aakashwani, and on the loudspeakers in most schools. As soon as I hear this song even today, it brings back memories of those early childhood days when the airwaves were filled with this and other patriotic songs. Kavi Pradeep was well-known for his passionate nationalistic poetry. He got into trouble with one of his first hits from the 1943 movie Kismet – “Door hato aye duniyawalo Hindustan humaara hai“. This song drew the ire of the ruling British government, causing Kavi Pradeep to go into hiding. Post independence he penned many memorable songs, the most popular being “Aye mere watan ke logo“. Aao bachchon is a showcase of a song that describes the beauty and the legends of “Hindustan”, it is a song full of pride for the poet’s homeland.
1954/Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat/Nastik/Kavi Pradeep/C Ramchandra/Kavi Pradeep
If Aao bachchon shows Kavi Pradeep’s adulation for his homeland, this song shows his disappointment in it. I do not mean to say with surety that he was personally disillusioned by the world around him. The song may just be a demand from the film-maker for a certain situation in the movie. The song is shot on Ajit (who later found fame as a bad guy in many movies) and is sung by Kavi Pradeep himself and composed beautifully by C Ramchandra. C Ramchandra is usually not mentioned in the same breath as the other composers of that era (like Naushad or S D Burman), but he was one of the most versatile composers of the 50s. This is the same man who composed the rollicking Shola jo bhadke from Albela and the previously mentioned Aye mere watan ke logon. Dekh there sansar ki haalat is composed to a Bhajan like tune, but the words are anything but devotional, in fact it derides religions and the ills of religious strife.
Raam ke bhakt raheem ke bande, rachte aaj fareb ke fande;
Kitane yeh makkar yeh andhe; dekh liye inake bhi dhande;
Inhi ki kaali kartooton se hua yeh mulq masaan; kitana badal gaya insaan.
A constant theme you may see in the songs shot in trains is that the mood of the song and that of the actors pervades everyone in the compartment. For example, in this song, the entire compartment is morose. They seem to be infected by the same emotions that the song and the lead actors are conveying. I find this interesting, because the chances of this happening in real life are slim to none, but the film makers took the cinematic liberty to shoot train songs in this fashion and really it does not feel forced. Somehow, this seems believable that everyone in that compartment partakes in whatever emotions the song is trying to convey through the lead actors.
1954/Gaya Andhera/Subah ka Taara/Lata Mangeshkar, Talat Mehmood/C Ramchandra/Noor Lucknowi
Another beautiful melody by C Ramchandra sung tenderly by Talat and Lata. The overall emotion is of a hopeful love and a bright future for the couple singing the song. There is something very pure about the song and the expressions of the lead actors, especially the heroine, played by Jayshree, one of the wives of the great director, V Shantaram.
1958/Hai Apana Dil toh Awara/Solwa Saal/Hemant Kumar/S D Burman/Majrooh Sultanpuri
A lilting melody by the great Sachin Dev Burman shot on Dev Anand and the ethereal Waheeda Rehman. This song is quite popular even today, just google it and you will see hundreds of cover versions. Hemant Kumar is usually not associated as the playback voice for Dev Anand, but here his voice and Dev’s flirtatious expressions work very well. The use of mouth organ (which was played by SD’s son Rahul Dev Burman) in the interludes gives it an extempore like quality. Majrooh’s words are simple but \profound in expressing the travesties of romantic souls, of those who fall in love like they catch a cold and yet, are unlucky in finding lasting love. More on the great Majrooh Sultanpuri, later.
“hua jo kabhi raazi, toh mila nahi qaazi; jahaan pe lagi baazi, wahin pe haara, zamaane bhar ka nakaara, na jaane kis pe aayega…”
1960/Apani toh har aah ek toofan hai/Kala Bazaar/Mohammed Rafi/S D Burman/Shailendra
The 50s and 60s are considered the golden era of Hindi film music. This song is yet another example of the all round creativity in song compositions, lyrics, and the way the song is filmed in the general context of the movie. Shailendra’s lyrics are perfect for the situation where Dev Anand is clearly addressing Waheeda who is on the upper berth but could also be construed to be addressing God.
“apani toh har aah ek toofan hai, uparwaala jaana kar bhi anjaan hai” The word “uparwaala” is used in its masculine form but that’s how God is typically addressed in Hindi, so the word conveys two meanings quite beautifully (for him his God is Waheeda, while the fellow passengers become convinced that he is addressing the actual God). SD’s quiet tune uses the rhythmic strumming of guitar to the rhythm of the moving train punctuated by the sounds of the train’s whistle. Mohammed Rafi sings it like a devotional song but adds a dash of naughtiness. Of course Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman enact it all on the screen so delicately that you can’t help but smile all along. This song (like many others from this era) is a wonderful example of all departments working together to create the overall impact of the song.
1960/Jaane wale sipahi se poocho/Usne Kaha tha/Manna Dey/Makhdoom/Shailendra
Trains move more people in India than any other mass transit medium. It is no surprise then that during wartimes, soldiers also use trains to report to their fronts from all over the country. Post-independence, India has fought (and continues to) a number of wars with its neighbors. Especially in the 60s, the young nation saw its defenses and its unity put to test. Hindi films resonated the wartime sentiments that were sweeping the nation at that time. This song is about soldiers leaving their loved ones behind to answer to the call of duty. The mood of this song is not that of nationalism, but the devastation that war leaves in its wake. Makhdoom’s poetry is gut-wrenching and Salil Chowdhary’s composition evokes an environment of doom (the wailing chorus is so apt):
कौन दुखिया है जो गा रही है
भूखे बच्चो को बहला रही है
लाश जलने की बू अ रही है
ज़िन्दगी है की चिल्ला रही है….जाने वाले सिपाही से पूछो
वो कहा जा रहा है
1961/Jiya o Jiya/Jab Pyaar Kisise Hota Hai/Mohammed Rafi/Shankar-Jaikishen/Hasrat Jaipuri
An energetic and playful song sung with incredible gusto by Rafi. Dev is on top of a car singing to the heroine, Asha Parekh who is riding the train. This format has been used numerous times in later years (Mere sapnon ki rani from Aradhana, for example). The song was a rage in it’s time and one can see why Dev Anand was such a successful romantic icon of his days.
1962/Cheel cheel chillake/Half Ticket/Kishore Kumar/Salil Chowdhary/Shailendra
Kishore Kumar at his uninhibited bufoonery best! He is wearing a skull cap and a boy scout outfit with round rim glasses. The rest of the folks in the train are from different walks of the society, men in suits, vendors, children, a team of musicians, young women, a money-lender, policemen, etc. Shailendra’s poetry outwardly reads like a nursery rhyme full of absurdism, but he brings social issues in one of the verses:
गोल मोल गोल मोटे लाला शौक़ीन,
तोंद में छुपाये हैं चिराग ए आलादीन;
तीन को हमेशा करते आये साढ़े तीन ;
ज़रा नाप ज़रा टोल इसे लूट उसे छीन.. अरे वाह वाह वाह ….
1962/Na bhavra na koi gul/Aarti/Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhosale/Roshan/Majrooh Sultanpuri
When every major composer of the golden era had a song set in a train, why should Roshan be an exception. Aarti has a stellar soundtrack (my personal favorite is the Lata number: Kabhi toh milegi, kahi toh milegi, baharon ki manzil). This youthful Asha-Rafi duet is picturized not on the lead pair of Ashok Kumar and Meena Kumari but the side-kicks, Rajendra Nath and an unidentified actress. I love the general casual mood of the song, further accentuated by the performers eating moong-falli from paper cones. Trivia: Roshan is the father of actor/director Rakesh Roshan, composer Rajesh Roshan and grandfather of Hrithik Roshan. Rajendra Nath’s sister, Krishna was married to Raj Kapoor ,making her the grandmother of Kareena, Karishma and Ranbeer Kapoor.
1964/Ek matwala aaj chala/Aap ki Parchayiyaan/Mohammed Rafi/Madan Mohan/Raha Mehdi Ali Khan
Madan Mohan is usually celebrated today for his haunting melodies sung by Lata (lag ja gale, has found a new life all of sudden). It is refreshing to hear his other not so serious compositions, like this forgotten song picturized on a young and handsome Dharmendra. Once again, note the religious diversity of the people in the train compartment.
1969/Mere Sapnon ki Rani/Aaradhana/Kishore Kumar/S D Burman/Anand Bakshi
Well, who doesn’t know this song? A truly iconic song for a number of reasons: Rajesh Khanna established himself as a Super Star with Aradhana and ruled the Hindi films for most of the 70s. SD’s favorite male singer was Rafi, but by the time Aradhana happened, even he had caved in to the youthful voice of Kishore Kumar. The soundtrack and the film was a blockbuster in 1969. It was the last year of the 60s, which is now regarded as the Golden era of Hindi Hindi film music. From the 70s, westernized sound became a mainstay and Hindi film music was never the same again.
1970/Koi na jaane ram/Maa aur Mamta/Manna Dey/Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Anand Bakshi
The first time Laxmikant-Pyarelal feature on this list. The mood of the song is sadness and one of my favorite actresses, Nutan does a fine job of channeling this sadness. Her grace is the only reason for this song to have made it to the list.
1974/Gaadi bula rahi hai/Dost/Kishore Kumar/Laxmikant-Pyarelal/Anand Bakshi
I have a distinct childhood memory of this song. Its 1981, I am about 6 years old, playing by a park near our house in Aurangabad and this song is playing on someone’s radio transistor. I am not sure why this memory has stayed with me, but I think it’s probably the sound of the train incorporated in the instrumentation of the song. Other than that, I don’t find anything great with this composition or the lyrics.
1974/Hum donon do premi/Ajnabee/Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar/R D Burman/Anand Bakshi
Dost and Ajnabee came out in the same year, 1974 and both had lyrics by Anand Bakshi. Both the songs incorporate the sounds of trains in their instrumentation, and yet both convey different moods. This song is laden with romantic abandon and freedom which might be an outcome of RDs use of a pahadi tune. I also like the picturization of this song on a goods train (as against a passenger train in most songs from this list). And lastly, Zeenat Aman’s cool candor further adds to this sense of freedom and rebellion.
1975/Bombay se Baroda tak/Rafoo Chakkar/Asha Bhosle, Usha Mangeshkar, Mahesh Kumar/Kalyanji-Anandji/Gulshan Bawra
What a sight it is to see Rishi Kapoor and Paintal in drag having a whale of time. They seem to be fully invested in the absurdist premise of the song. At one point Paintal starts singing in a male voice only to be reminded by Rishi in-song to switch back to the female (Usha Mangeshkar’s) voice. Rafoo Chakkar was a remake of the 1959 Marilyn Monroe hit Some Like it Hot and was also a huge hit in 1975.
1977/Dhanno ki aankhon mein/Kitaab/R D Burman/R D Burman/Gulzar
Up until now we had songs sung by and shot on the passengers of the trains. This is the first of the only two songs in this list which puts the spotlight on those who are driving the train. Not a surprise that this is from a movie written and directed by Gulzar, who has a penchant of not relegating the obviously overlooked people by the wayside. The first time I heard this song in my college days, I was dumbfounded by the audacity of everything about it – the singing, the unusual composition, and the lyrics. Who is this Dhanno? What does he mean by Raat ka Soorma and pray, what does one make of Chaand ka Chumma? Nothing made sense, and yet I found myself under a hypnotic spell of this song. Note that I had no visuals to aid me. When I finally saw the movie and aided with the visuals, the song took some meaning. The song is sung by a train driver who is calling out to his lover (Dhanno) as the train passes by her village. This is probably his usual route and we are given a tiny glimpse of his life as a “full” person and not just a side character in a movie. He also becomes a person, and shown to have relationships and stories like you and I. So, why wouldn’t he be singing a song in Hindi movies, even though he is not the central character in this story? You will find this trait of Gulzar humanizing the fringe that occupy our world without pointing a finger at the them in many of this films. He makes us take notice of all “persons” without patronizing us or exploiting them. The next time you are riding the train, it makes you think about the driver or the guard or that guy who came to clean your coach, about who they are leaving behind as they get along with their jobs of taking us to our destinations.
1979/Suniye Kahiye/Baton Baton Mein/Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosale/Rajesh Roshan/Amit Khanna
Rajesh Roshan (the son of Roshan) did not quite reach the heights that his father did, but managed to give an some decent melodious music in his career (he is now restricted to just composing for his director brother, Rakesh Roshan). I love the music of Baton Baton Mein, and especially love this song for the way Kishore and Asha have sung it, there is a soapy frothiness to their singing. While the entire song may not be set on a train, it still deserves a place on this list because the Bombay local trains form a major plot point in this lovely romantic comedy about the Anglo-Indian community of Bombay. The Bombay locals are a lifeline for the millions of her residents. They say, everything that could happen in life from giving birth to dying does happen on these locals. So it was only a matter of time that they featured in Hindi film songs. In this song, the lead couple are going through their dating rituals while commuting in the city. There is a strange lost innocence to everything that is shown in this song. I feel that place, that Bombay, that music, that uncomplicated way of living, has been lost. Of course, I am romanticizing the past, but then music has that power over me, so let me. (And how can I not mention two other things: 1) David – This actor embodies the patronly, jovial, progressive thinking elder who is always there to mediate between the young and the old generations in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’ & Basu Chatterjee films. All of us have craved for a David in our lives to make our parents understand our angst in our teenage years. 2) How delicately beautiful Tina Munim looks!)
We venture into the 80s now, and there is a sharp drop in the number of songs on trains from here on. The next three and half decades barely have 10 songs in all. That’s barely three songs for every 10 years. Not to mention, the quality of the music also drops drastically. However, they do have memories associated with them, since your truly had arrived on this planet by then.
1980/Logon ka dil agar/Man Pasand/Mohammed Rafi, Tina Munim/Rajesh Roshan/Amit Khanna
This song from an awful remake of My Fair Lady features only because for the first time we see an entire song shot on a local train in Bombay. And also, Mohammed Rafi’s voice as Dev Anand’s voice (Kishore Kumar had replaced him as Dev’s voice after Guide). Ravi had ceased to be a mainstay in playback singing by the 80s, so its good to hear him through an actor who together built a solid body of work in early years of their careers. (A coincidence that the last song of the 70s and the first of the 80s have three things in common – Rajesh Roshan, Amit Khanna and Tina Munim).
1980/Pal do pal ka saath hamaara/The Burning Train/Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi/R D Burman/Sahir Ludhianvi
This is the first (and the only) song from the Qawwalli genre to feature on this list. Not only is the song shot in a train, but a large part of this so-bad-its-so-good movie is also shot in/on a train, which ends up burning (well, the title does give it away). Both Rafi and Asha are in full form right from the opening alaap. Everybody who was a somebody at that time, is in this movie (no really, look up the IMDB or Wikipedia entry for this film), Funnily enough, everyone’s playback is Rafi and Asha. Hey, they had to save the money somewhere on this mega-budget epic movie (which ended up losing a lot of money for its producers). The lyrics by Sahir are also in sync with the temporary aspect of a train journey and life itself.
1981/Hoga tumse pyaara kaun/Zamaane ko dikhana hai/Shailender Singh/R D Burman/Majrooh Sultanpuri
There it is, RD using the Pahadi tune again! This film was supposed to be the next blockbuster from the Nasir Hussain production house (who in the previous years had given phenomenally successful films like Yaadon ki Baraat and Hum Kisise Kam Nahi). Nasir Hussain retained RD as the composer, who for some unknown reason, decided to not have Kishore for any of the songs and instead had Shailender Singh be the lead singer for the entire album. This is the only claim to fame of this singer who for a brief period was known as the voice of Rishi Kapoor. The film failed miserably but its music endures among ardent RD fans. (Admittedly, its sub-par compared to Yaadon ki baraat or Hum Kisise Kam Nahi).
1982/Haathon ki chand lakeeron ka/Vidhaata/Suresh Wadkar, Anwar/Kalyanji-Anandji/Anand Bakshi
Another song shot on the drivers or the trains, in this case though they are the leads of this Subhash Ghai film. The 80s was all about finding a replacement for Rafi’s voice, Anwar was one such Rafi-light (Mohammed Aziz was another, who had a slightly longer run than Anwar). I love to watch this song, to see Dilip Kumar and Shammi Kapoor sharing screen space together. They do this filmy natural-ness that is rarely to be seen in today’s actors.
1984/Mujhe tum yaad karna/Mashaal/Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar/Hridaynath Mangeshkar/Javed Akhtar
So far, we have had songs on moving trains, this song is a departure. It’s set around stationary trains in a train yard. I have memories of Maharashtra Express (the train we would take to travel between my hometown and my college town) before pulling into Nagpur Station. It would slowly crawl through an area which is popularly referred to as “outer” where many coaches and locomotives are parked awaiting their turn to go someplace in this vast nation. Looking at them quietly sitting there, the whole logistical complexity of running a network like the Indian Railways would boggle me (it still does). This song, is like a little nod to that memory of those coaches and locomotives in the “outer”. On a trivia note, this movie was produced and directed by Yash Chopra based on a Marathi play called “Ashroonchi zaali fule”. It was his last social drama before he moved on to full on romantic films.
1994/Deewana dil deewana/Kabhi haan Kabhi naa/Amit Kumar, Udit Narayan/Jatin-Lalit/Majrooh Sultanpuri
The 90s arrive and with them bring a breed of new composers, actors, singers! But what remains the same are the lyricists. This youthful song is written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, who was about 75 years by 1994. Majrooh has been writing lyrics right from the 40s to the tail end of the 90s, a career that span almost 60 years. His contribution to Hindi film music is monumental. Just think for a while, Majrooh’s songs have been sung by K L Saigal and Udit Narayan, have been shot on Meena Kumari and Juhi Chawla, have been composed by Naushad and Anand-Milind. Show me another pop culture personality in the entire world whose contributions span (and left their mark) so many generations? Back to this song, Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na was one of Shahrukh’s earliest films. Suchitra Krishnamoorty (who eventually married director Shekhar Kapoor) was the heroine. You can also spot Ashutosh Gowariker (the drummer in the video) who later directed Aamir Khan in Lagaan and then Shahrukh in Swades. This film also marked a beginning of a successful stint for Jatin-Lalit who churned out a number of hit soundtracks in the 90s.
1998/Chaiyya Chaiyaa/Dil Se/Sukhwinder Singh, Sapna Awasthi/A R Rahman/Gulzar
The one song that made A R Rahman establish himself in the Hindi Film-world. Don’t get me wrong, he was already popular in the non Tamil world, but Dil Se established him as a legitimate pan-Indian composer. I distinctly remember listening to the songs of Dil Se on a trip from Pune to Mahabaleshwar in peak monsoon. The lushness of the green of the Western Ghats in the monsoon is unparalleled. To me, Chaiyya Chaiyya forever is tied with my memory of being soaked to the bone while riding my friend’s Kawasaki Bajaj on the misty roads of Mahabaleshwar and Panchgani. Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi bring a rustic earthiness to Rahman’s composition of Gulzar’s complex but beautiful poetry. A very young & fresh looking Shahrukh Khan does his energetic shtick while a nubile Malaika Arora (who was known for just this one song until Munni happened and then she was known just for that) contorts with a bunch of Rajasthani musicians on top of a train, that seems to be far away from Rajasthan. The whole picturization and the placement of the song in the film itself is quite gimmicky, but nonetheless, it remains an iconic “train” song, only because it’s shot on a train. I have always found Mani Ratnam’s placement of many of the songs in his films quite abrupt and regionally confusing (like the Rajasthani musicians in the Nilgiris). If it was another casual film-maker, say David Dhawan, not demeaning David, just saying that he doesn’t take his films so seriously, so as an audience, I give him a lot of leeway. But Mani’s films are supposed to be “artier” and yet his regional sensibilities just don’t hit the spot (I have received many a angry glares whenever I bring this up in a group). But, that’s for another post, lets get back to the trains.
2005/Dhadak dhadak/Bunty aur Babli/Udit Narayan, Sunidhi Chauhan/Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy/Gulzar
Not since “Gaadi bulaa rahi hai” we have a song in this list that directly talks about “trains”. Gulzar, of course is using trains here as a mere medium for Bunty and Babli, the lead pair of the film who hail from small towns of India, to achieve their big aspirations. The mood here is that of hope, ambition, and a can-do spirit. It’s a theme that is not far removed from reality. Thousands of Indians from small towns and villages migrate to large cities with their full hearts and empty pockets in search of their destinies.
2005/Kasto Mazaa/Parineeta/Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal/Shantanu Moitra/Swanand Kirkire
The oft-used pahadi tune makes an appearance again, this time its Shantanu Moitra doing the composing to Swanand Kirkire’s beautiful words. The tune is melodious in that old wordly way and weaves in the train sounds quite effortlessly. You can almost see Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman or Asha Parekh in this song. Vidya Balan does a fine job of evoking that demure quality of the yesteryear Hindi film heroine. I have fond memories with the soundtrack of Parineeta. We had just moved into our first house and we would play the soundtrack of Parineeta (and Hazaron Khwaishein Aisee) over and over again while unpacking boxes or arranging furniture and when Kasto Mazaa would come on, I would have an extra spring in my step.
2011/Mannu Bhaiyya/Tanu Weds Manu/Sunidhi Chauhan, Niladri, Ujjaini, Rakhi Chand/Krsna/Rajshekhar
This song gets the milieu of the middle class Indian wedding party traveling together on a train in the 3-tier sleeper. If you don’t know what the previous statement means, well, you won’t until you have lived it. The way Aanand Rai has shot this song (and his movies, which are set in small town India), it tells me he has lived this life. This life of growing up in second tier cities, with a plethora of relatives constantly in your business. For someone like me who has also lived a similar life in his early years, there is an intense feeling of familiarity with the world he creates in this song (and his movies).
That’s where this journey ends for now. As you can see, the list spans over half a century. It’s by no means an encyclopedia of all Hindi film songs about trains. If you think of any songs that deserve a mention, or want to share your memories associated with the songs listed above, I would love to hear about them.