As a child when I encountered a meaningful song, I would immediately label it as boring and move on to something more upbeat. Of course, as a child I couldn’t be expected to understand deep, meaningful lyrics when all I really wanted to do was shake a leg. But of late, as I started paying for a Spotify Premium membership (unlimited skips y’all), I came across some incredible pieces from my childhood that seem so different to me now, so enlightening, and so relevant.
- Radha Kaise Na Jale from Lagaan
Lagaan is, to this day, one of my favourite movies ever. Any cricket match I watch will always have direct parallels with this movie. In the latest India v. Australia series just gone by, I would have made multiple references to Captain Russell because that is how relevant this movie is. Another thing that is relevant still is the songs from the original soundtrack. While every song is fresh in probably everyone’s heads and people could go on to sing ‘Ghanan Ghanan’ every time it starts to rain (no? Just me?), a song that recently made me chuckle was ‘Radha Kaise Na Jale’. No disrespect to Kaanha and Radha but it really does sound like a stilted version of contemporary romantic woes.
“Madhuban mein bhale Kaanha kisi gopi se mile, mann mein to Radha ke hi prem ke hain phool khile- kis liye Radha jale? Bina soche samjhe, kis liye Radha jale?”
Well, of course, Radha is jealous! You claim to be in love with her, so there’s no business for other gopis to be around. Javed Akhtar seems so close to saying ‘Bitches be crazy’.
2. Kaisi Hai Ye Rut from Dil Chahta Hai
In the movie this song plays when Akshay Khanna paints a likeness of Dimple Kapadia and I will admit, sometimes when this song plays on my Spotify I have a sudden urge to grab a canvas and paint an abstract piece (because I am artistically challenged when it comes to drawing). The painting I like to call Vasundhara came about as a result of this song.
“Dekho- nadi ke kinaare panchi pukaare kisi panchi ko; Dekho- ye jo nadi hai milne chali hai saagar hi ko. Ye pyaar ka hi sara hai karvaan”
It is love that creates and sustains the world we live in for everyone, humans, animals, birds and nature itself. Just like it was love that saved Harry not once, but multiple times against Voldemort.
3. Bhool Ja by Shaan
This song came to me when I was in the throes of “heartbreak” and to be honest, I wish this song comes to everyone when they’re feeling sad about a break-up because it almost feels like Shaan is talking to you personally when he says the following-
“Vo to nahi tha teri vafaon ke kaabil, jaane kya soch kar tune de diya apna dil- is baar dil ka sauda karna na yun bevaja”
“Bhool ja, jo hua usse, Bhool ja, hai kasam tujhe, muskura, khud ko yun na de tu saza- un yaadon ko tu bhool ja”
He is like a combination of your friend who will tell you that your ex didn’t deserve you in the first place and the friend who believes in tough love and says, ‘babe, be sensible the next time- now move the f*ck on’. Not to mention, it is a banging tune. Everybody needs a Shaan in their lives.
4. Sandese Aate Hain from Border
I’m not going to lie, I don’t have particularly dignified memories of this song. The movie Border released when I was living with my family in Hong Kong (didn’t know that about me, did you?). Because Hong Kong didn’t have a large Indian penetration at the time, there was really only one Indian channel we got on TV and because the movie had done so well, the song Sandese Aate Hain used to play a lot. Hence, it was imprined upon my mind for a large part of my childhood- to the extent that I used to sing this song whilst on the shitter to while time away. Told you it wasn’t a dignified memory.
But this song made a comeback in my life last summer on India’s Independence Day. My mother had been watching a reality singing show and one of the contestants dedicted this song to his dear departed father who had lost his life on the battlefield. It is a beautiful song that talks about the simple things that a soldier wants but cannot have- memories of their loved ones- but that which they sacrific everyday because they love their country more than anything else. Meanwhile the country in question is led by a Hindu-nationalist bigot.
5. Humein Jabse Mohabbat from Border
I am not a particularly romantic person. One time a guy said to me on text ‘You’re beautiful’ and my response was ‘enough’ because he had said it a few times and it was kind of getting old (am I just the worst person ever?). My first time holding someone’s hand was quite possibly the least romantic story ever told- he took my hand and I took it back saying ‘no, wait, my hands are wet’ because I had just been in the WC. The point is- romance doesn’t come naturally to me and for most of the time I am almost un-feeling- except for when this song comes on, again from the movie Border.
“Ye saare log bilkul bekhabar hain. Main dil hi dil mein sapne bun rahi hoon.”
“Humein jabse mohabbat ho gayi hai, ye duniya khoobsurat ho gayi hai; fizaon mein nayi ek roshni hai, havaon mein ajab si taazgi hai. Tum iss wadi mein mujhse mil rahi ho, zameen lagta hai jaise ga rahi hai”
Isn’t it true? When one is in love, the world truly is the most wonderful place. It is as if the world is yours but you are also so far away from the world in your own mind palace of love, if you will. Nobody but you knows how you feel- unless you post about your feelings on social media all the time.
6. Satrangi Re from Dil Se
This song is a dramatic turn from the previous one- while the previous song talks about how the world is more beautiful ever since falling in love, this one literally talks about “wanting to sleep in the womb of death”. Yeah. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Everything about this song- the music, the filming locations, the lyrics, the voices of the singers- is incomparable. There is not once that I have been bored of this song- and it’s a long song.
7. Zara Zara from Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein
Who doesn’t like this song? This is possibly the sexiest song Bollywood has produced. That’s not true. Ye Hai Reshmi Zulfon Ka Andhera is pretty sexy too. But there is something so sweet about Zara Zara, something so innocent about a woman’s desires for the man she loves.
8. Chupke Se from Saathiya
The lyrics of this song are everything.
“Chupke se raat ki chadar tale, chaand ki bhi aahat na ho, badal ke peeche chale”
I’m afraid I’m that person already who will one day say to her nieces and nephews, ‘your generation’s music is nothing, when we were growing up, we had Javed Akhtar, Gulzar…you guys have things called ‘The Hookup Song’. You are a lost generation. The generation of Neha Kakkar. Yuck.’
9. Main Jahan Rahoon from Namaste London
This song always reminds of my late grandmother. I watched the movie Namaste London with my entire family (so awkward when Katrina Kaif’s white fiance calls her ‘a bloody Indian bride’ because she refused to have sex with him before the wedding) and as Katrina Kaif demonstrated her character’s brat-like features, my grandmother was sure that I would turn out to be the same for one reason and one reason only- that both her character and I lived in the UK. Nobody saw anything wrong in getting a London-born Indian girl married to a man from the pind-because he was portrayed by Akshay Kumar. They don’t look like that in real life! I completely sympathise with Kaif, though, because as someone who has had rishtey from guys from the pind, I cannot imagine being married to one of them and not taking legal action against my parents for enforcing it.
The song, though- consider this-
“Kahin jo dhaage toote to malaein bikhar jaati hain”
Seriously, Indian lyricists are full of magical words. Such an elegant metaphor for the intricacies of relationships.
10. Kahin Aag Lage from Taal
“Pyaar bada harjaai hai, par pyaar bina tanhai hai; dil mat dena kehte hain, sab dil dete rehte hain; jab neend chura lete hain, rat jage maza dete hain”
For a thoroughly unromantic person, I sure do have a lot of love songs on this list. One more of these and Adam Levine will be sick (little Maroon 5 humour there, apologies).
But again, such heartwarming poetry about the paradox of love- you want it, but you don’t want it because it’s so difficult, but it’s also great when it works, but who knows if it’s going to work?
I guess the songs from the 2010s aren’t too bad either.
No, they are, they are terrible.