"Varsha" (or 'saawan' as it is popularly called), is the third 'ritu' (season) in the Indian calendar; a season that has been widely celebrated in Indian classical music and dance, and of course, in popular culture. Hindi film songs have glorifed 'saawan' , with almost all the great masters having composed at least a few songs on this theme. The obvious choice of raga for such compositions would perhaps be 'malhaar', such as "Garjat barsat sawan aaye re" or "Bole re papihara" (Mian ki malhar) but several composers have chosen other ragas for their songs of the rain, such as "O sajna barkha bahaar aayee" (Khamaaj), to great acclaim. Here is a short list of some of the outstanding and most popular musical celebrations of the rains in Hindi cinema –
1. Barkhaa Kii Raat (Adhikar, 1937)
Pankaj Mullick, whom K.L.Saigal considered as one of his mentors, sings this soft yet powerful composition, composed by Timir Baran, with lyrics by Arzu Lucknavi. The film starred director P. C. Barua, Pahari Sanyal, Jamuna, and Pankaj Mullick, among others.
2. Garjat Barasat Saawan Aayo Re (Barsaat ki Raat, 1960)
Music director Roshan, in his most celebrated film album, opens the score with this song in the title credits. Sung by Suman Kalyanpur and Kamal Barot. Lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi. The song was picturised on Shyama and Ratna Bhushan.
3. O Sajnaa Barkhaa Bahaar Aayee (Parakh, 1960)
The legend Bimal Roy directed Sadhana sans make up in this song which was stunning in its simplicity and charming picturisation of the rains. Perhaps only a legend like Lata Mangeshkar could have done justice to this number by bringing the lyrics by Shailendra to life. The film is based on a story by the famed music director Salil Chowdhary, who also composed the music.
4. Aha, Rimjimh Kay Yeh Pyaare Pyaare Geet Liye (Usne Kaha Tha, 1960)
The 1960s truly belonged to the versatile master from Bengal, Salil Chowdhary, who showed his incredible lightness of touch in this unique melody. The movements and dancing notes make this song a pleasure to sing. Talat Mehmood and Lata Mangeshkar made for a great duet in this one. Lyrics by Shailendra.
5. Saawan Aaye Ya Na Aaye (Dil Diya Dard Liya, 1966)
The film Dil Diya Dard Liya was loosely based on Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. This song, set in raga Sarang, is picturised on one of the best romantic couples on the silver screen, Waheeda Rehman and Dilip Kumar, who played Catherine and Heathcliff respectively, doing full justice to the tale of deep and abiding love, passion and betrayal. Composed by Naushad, with lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni.
6. Boley Re Papiharaa (Guddi,1971)
Jaya Bhaduri, in her coming-of-age film Guddi, charms her suitor by singing this song while they are out on a picnic in a rock cut cave, waiting for the passing showers to subside. One of Vani Jairam's most famous songs, composed by Vasant Desai in raga "Mian ki malhar", lyrics by Gulzar.
7. Barkhaa Raani, Zaraa Jum Kay Barso (Sabak, 1973)
The lovely Poonam Sinha (formerly Chandiramani) acted in only a handful of Hindi films. The film Sabak was one such film, in which she acted with her real life husband Shatrughan Sinha. This romantic song, sung by Mukesh, is one of the favourites of Shatrughan Sinha fans. Lyrics by Sawan Kumar, music by Usha Khanna.
8. Brishti Pade Taapur-Tupur (Paheli, 1977)
The Rajshree film Paheli had a young couple, played by Satyajeet and Namita Chandra, who welcome the rains unabashedly and float paper boats in a stream. A celebration of pure, innocent love. The song is best remembered for bringing the Bengali terms "Brishti", and "Tapur-tupur" into the popular Hindi lexicon. Perhaps inspired by a Tagore poem by the same name. Music and lyrics by Ravindra Jain, sung by Hemlata and Suresh Wadekar.
9. Rim Jhim Gire Saawan (Manzil, 1979)
Almost every single compilation of Kishore Kumar hits is sure to include this melody by R.D.Burman, which demonstrates why KK was king as far as playback in Hindi cinema is concerned. The version by Lata Mangeshkar, also in the same film, pales in comparison, despite a better picturisation (the Lata version was shot in a real downpour in Mumbai, whereas the KK version is shot indoors, in an informal 'mehfil'). Lyrics by Yogesh.
10. Saawan Ki Aayi Bahaar Re (Junoon, 1978)
An unparalleled melody by unsung master Vanraj Bhatia who was known as the thinking man's composer. Asha Bhonsle's dulcet tones make it a song as smooth as divine nectar, she was ably assisted by (late) daughter Varsha Bhonsle in the song. Nafisa Ali and Deepti Naval on a swing in a mango orchard became a lasting, endearing memory of this remarkable film produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Shyam Benegal. Lyrics by Yogesh.
11. Kahaan Say Aaye Badra (Chashm-e-Buddoor, 1981)
This film by Sai Paranjpe was one of the first to capture the delights of Delhi which had hitherto not been seen in Hindi films, such as the Lodhi Gardens, or the Old Fort (Purana Qilla), or the lanes of Nizamuddin colony. This song forms a part of the brief, sad interlude in the otherwise laugh riot starring the team of Farooque Shaikh and Deepti Naval in one of their best roles together. The song was sung by K.J.Yesudas and Haimanti Sukla, and picturised on Vinod Nagpal and Deepti Naval. Music composed by Raj Kamal, and lyrics by Indu Jain.
12. Ajj Mera Jee Karda (Monsoon Wedding, 2001)
No song list of monsoon songs in Hindi films can be complete without this ditty; a great adaptation of a Punjabi folk song which invokes God (rabba) to shower his blessings in the form of rains, so that one's stores are filled with grain. Sukhwinder Singh's powerful vocals and the foot tapping dhol beats make this a popular song at weddings. Composed by Mychael Danna.
13.Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Ghir Aaye Badra (Lagaan, 2001)
This song set the mood for what follows in the film. The entire village gathers in the open, excited at the prospect of a passing cloud which may bring relief from the sweltering heat and irrigate the dry fields. But to no avail. Beautiful lyrics by Javed Akhtar, composed by A.R. Rehman.
Nirupama Kotru is posted as Commissioner of Income Tax at Delhi. She was formerly Director (Films) in Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Views are her own.