There are film-makers who treat songs as add-ons. And there are film-makers who make music and song-picturization such an integral feature of their movies that their passion for the Hindi-film song brims over.
Nasir Hussain went all out. The producer-director-screenwriter loved his songs. His movies were known for their music. Hum Kisise Kum Naheen (1977) and Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai (1981), for instance, are fairly mediocre films where he had rehashed his old plots yet again. In fact, Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai had flopped. But ‘Dil Lena Khel Hai Dildaar Ka’ is still played at Bollywood parties.
Nasir Hussain songs came packed with great panache and exuberance, wonderfully mirroring all the exciting movement that took place in his masala narratives. His songs are just plain fun. Here’s why:
1. RD, RD and more RD
Whether it’s the hugely popular Hum Kisise Kum Naheen medley (no matter that ‘Milgaya,Humko Saathi Milgaya’ was taken from Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’ – young India was high on pop music then), the cabaret numbers or the qawaalis – the songs that RD Burman created for Nasir Hussain’s movies especially showcase the composer’s prolific brilliance. I also find something like ‘Daiyya Yeh Main Kahaan Aa Phansi’, from 1971’s Caravan, highly entertaining. Plus it’s always so refreshing to hear Asha Bhosale keeping up the with the change in pitch and musical scale that RD loved to experiment with. In fact, it wasn’t just Nasir Hussain and RD Burman; along with lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri and singers Asha Bhosale, Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi, their association was legendary.
2. Snazzy Sets
I wish I could watch Teesri Manzil on the big screen. It’s a thrill to see those spectacular club sets (often Art Deco) in Nasir Hussain’s films, and then the most sensuous dancer there ever has been – Helen – coming down a grand flight of stairs à la ‘O Haseena Zulfonwali’ in Teesri Manzil. Nasir Hussain was the producer of this 1966 thriller that was directed by the ace film-maker, Goldie Anand. For Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, Nasir Hussain ensured special attention was paid to the lighting for the disco-type sets. There isn’t a thing that doesn’t shine in this film’s qawaali. It’s all glitz, glam, and very Eighties.
3. The Real Divas
Adding to the oomph were Nasir Hussain’s actresses, like Zeenat Aman and Neetu Singh. Looking super-chic in red (at a club again) these two beauties sway to the Yaadon Ki Baaraat gems, ‘Aapke Kamre Mein Koi Rehta Hai’ and ‘Lekar Hum Deewaana Dil’. And that Seventies way of grooving – one ought not to describe it but watch it.
Also watch Aruna Irani in ‘Dilbar Dil Se Pyaare’ and ‘Chadhti Jawaani Meri Chaal Mastaani’ from Caravan. Need I even mention ‘Piya Tu Ab Toh Aaja’ with Helen? All of these were class acts; not plastic ‘item girl’ performances.
4. Rishi and Shashi
Then there were the lover boys. It’s impossible to imagine Hum Kisise Kum Naheen without Rishi Kapoor. Half the reason these songs are so entertaining is ’coz Rishi, the poster boy of Seventies’ romances, clearly had a ball doing them. He was completely at ease with both romantic and dance numbers as well as the qawaalis. Sadly, Zeenie Baby was no match for him in the Hum Kisise Kum Naheen qawaali. And Shashi Kapoor. Uff. You don’t need fun if there’s Shashi on screen or, even better, Shashi dancing on screen. He barely danced actually. Shashi just did his thing, if you know what I mean. There’s a 1969 film by Nasir Hussain called Pyar Ka Mausam with a song called ‘Ni Sultana Re’. Happiness is watching Shashi in it.
5. Lovers’ tiffs
Shashi’s brother Shammi Kapoor became a sensation with Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957), the first film that Nasir Hussain directed. The music was by OP Nayyar. Now, Nasir Hussain songs also had to have loads of teasing and misunderstandings and making up. If Shammi’s his goofy self with the miffed heroine Ameeta in the title track, in ‘Dekho Kasam Se’ he’s being the grump while she tries to cajole him. It’s all very sweet.
The roothna-manana usually takes place in gorgeous locations. Vast green meadows or hills, lovely weather, and a good-looking couple that has all the time in the world. Teesri Manzil features ‘O Mere Sona Re’ with Asha Parekh scurrying after Shammi; Yaadon Ki Baaraat has ‘O Meri Soni’ with Vijay Arora serenading Zeenat Aman. The director also seemed to enjoy getting his protagonists drunk. It was Kajal Kiran with Rishi Kapoor in the delightful ‘Humko Toh Yaara Teri Yaari’ from Hum Kisise Kum Naheen; Rishi and Padmini Kolhapure in ‘Pucho Na Yaar Kya Hua’ from Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai, where they think they’re drinking pure mountain water from a stream but it’s actually London Diet Beer pouring down from some broken bottles … Matlab, anything is happening. When the voluptuous Kajal (not guzzling White Horse Scotch here) holds a bunch of balloons in ‘Yeh Ladka Hai Allah Kaisa Hai Deewana’, she goes floating up in the air. So her childhood sweetheart, played by Tariq, follows her in his red vintage car that has an image of Dennis the Menace on it (don’t ask me why), then takes a rifle and shoots at a couple of the balloons, getting her to land smoothly. For the longest time in my childhood, I believed it was possible and used to daydream about flying off with ‘gas balloons’.
But, it’s Nasir Hussain songs that do instantly lift me up even today.