Why do we like old Hindi songs or as some call – Bhoole Bisre Geet?

The first reason is because of nostalgia. Nostalgia is such a curious feeling; it lends enchantment to even those things that we nearly hated during their currency. For example, if you ask a middle aged man about his childhood and boyhood, he is bound to bring out nostalgic memories of his ‘school-days’. He would have hated going to the school but years later, he forgets about being made to stand on a bench as punishment; but, only remembers the first “love note” he got from Nina, Meena, Tina or Madhu. Distance always makes things look more beautiful. People vie with each other to get a glimpse of the Marine Drive or Chowpatty from the distance and height of the Hanging Gardens but, when there, you can’t get over the filth and the stink.

A man turned to a guide whilst climbing a hill and in the midst of rocks and thorny bushes, and said, “Where is that beautiful scenery that you were talking about?” The guide replied, “You are standing in it now; which you will see when you reach the top.”

But, I think our love for Bhoole Bisre Geet is little more than just nostalgia made fascinating by distance and time. I think the main reason is the Urdu poets of that era who knew what to do with words and emotions and spin a tale or dream. I sometimes feel that they must have been in love themselves. When Kaifi Azmi wrote, “Dil ki naazuk ragen toot ti hain, yaad itna bhi koi naa aaye“, he must have placed himself at her position in Hanste Zakham. When Rajinder Krishan wrote, “Rukhsat ke waqt tumane jo aansu humein diye, humne un aansuyon ke fasaane bana liye“, he must have felt those deep agonising emotions. I think Lyrics is the main reason for our love for Bhoole Bisre Geet. Everytime we hear them, we get newer and deeper meanings. Thirdly, thanks to the versatility of these Lyricists, Old Hindi Songs have a song (indeed several songs) for every emotion that we go through. We relate to them. If I want to thank friends for giving me a good time; there are several songs I can choose from. If your beloved has cheated on you, you have countless songs through which you can express what you are going through. BBGs are, in this way, windows to your heart.

Fourthly, as one grows, one gathers memories. Many of these are related to songs. In the last one year or so many of our favourite actors died. All of us relate their memories to their songs. I remember Rajesh Khanna singing to Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana, “Roop tera mastaana…” and I can see myself, sitting in the hall, being mesmerised by the fires within and without. Fifthly, the music directors of that era helped build up the atmosphere of the lytrics. In this I would like to give the example of Salil Chaudhury giving music for ‘O sajanna, barkha bahaar aayi, ras ki phuhaar layi, akhiyon mein pyaar layi.” The music brings out pitter-patter of rain, the desire, the longing and the joy.

Lets now turn to the singers of that era: Mohammad Rafi never sang like Mohammad Rafi. He transcended into the being of the actor and brought out his (the actor’s) emotions and not his own. Unlike these days when, for example, several news readers consider themselves more important than news-makers, Rafi ji had the humility to consider that the actor was more important than him. Now that I have spoken to you about it, next time you hear Rafi, think about the actor for whom he sang; it would be different style of singing for Dharmendra (Main nigaahen tere chehre se) than for Dev Anand (Aise to naa dekho ke hamko nasha ho jaaye). Mukesh, mostly stuck to one actor: Raj Kapoor but did wonders to bring out his romanticism (Dil ki nazar se), deep hurt (Hamane tujhako pyaar kiya hai jitana), and even levity (Mere man ki ganga aur tere man ki jamunaa kaa) and quest for beyond (Sajan re jhoot mat bolo).

Hemant Kumar? What can you say about him? No other singer could build an entire scene merely by singing, eg, Chup hai dharti chup hai chand sitaare, or Ye raat ye chandni phir kahan, or Yaad aa gayin woh nasheeli nigaahen. You would never be where you were when you’d start listening to his songs.

   Geeta Dutt could sing diverse emotions: Baabuji dheere chalna to Chand ghatane laga raat dhalne lagi. Asha Bhosle too from chulbule to udhas songs. But, Lata Mangeshkar as young nightingale went straight to your heart with classical based songs (Rasik balmaa) to sad (Youn hasraton ke daag) to happy ones (Mere haathon mein nau-nau choodiyan hai). Her songs with the Music Director Madan Mohan can all bring out intense and poignant feelings. No wonder the nation has an unending love with her voice.

Finally, the actors; they stood out as men and women of emotions, character, style and uniqueness. Dev Anand was full of boyish charm. But, if you would hear his sad songs, your heart’d melt. Raj Kapoor could sing an entire song of four stanzas standing in front of a mike with only acting being done by his eyes and facial expressions (Watch the Dulha Dulhan song ‘Humne tujhako pyaar kiya hai jitana, kaun karega itna?”

        Nargis, Nutan, Vyjayantimala, Waheeda, Mala Sinha, Raj Kumar, Balraj Sahni…..etc etc all brought out the beauty of facial expressions and eyes to the fore in singing their songs.

Yes, guys and gals, we love Bhoole Bisre Geet for several reasons. But, those of us who lived in the era would tell you they are neither Bhoole nor Bisre. They are as much part of our lives as Eyes and Heart. “See it with your heart”, as the poet said, “’tis mere joy”. A joy that will never fade.

        Dil ki nazar se dekho….they are as fresh as when they were penned, composed, sung and acted upon.

Nutan singing Dil Ki Nazar Se in Anaadi

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