My memories of being enchanted by the song ‘Chalo Ek Baar Phir Se’ from Gumrah are vivid. It was preceded by Hema Malini’s introduction of the song on the Sunday morning Chitrahaar and succeeded by elders of the house discussing about a certain Sahir. The old and trusted Orson black and white TV set lit up as a dapper Sunil Dutt played the piano and lip synced while Mala Sinha stole guilty glances around a pipe smoking Ashok Kumar. As Mahendra Kapoor’s voice brought Sahir’s words to life, I was filled with a strange curiosity. I was enjoying the song even though most of the words were sounding alien to my ears. Thus began an adolescent’s tryst with the Urdu language, as I ran from pillar to post in a pre-internet era to find the meaning of words like ‘afsaana’, ‘taaluk’, ‘maazi’, ‘peshqadmi’ and so on. By the time I was done with translating the entire song, I was mesmerised by the lyrics and subsequently the writer and the language.
Snippets of this song have come back to me at random turns of life and alternately made me nostalgic, cheer up, shed a silent tear, and proceed in the right direction. It is at once a balm for the aching heart, a lesson for life and a testament to the magic of poetry. Friends and fellow movie club members have found me quoting this song at frequent intervals, for it is a song for all seasons and reasons. Take for example the best line from this song (in which every line is a gem) – “woh afsaana jise anjaam tak lana ho mumkin, use ek khoobsoorat mod dekar chhodna achha” (a tale that cannot be taken to the planned destination is best left at a beautiful turn in the journey). In the cacophony of break up stereotypes like “it’s not you, it’s me”, this line from Sahir is the clutter breaking aural delight. Combined with the preceding stanzas – “Taruf rog ho jaaye to usko bhulana behatar, taaluq bojh ban jaaye to usko todna accha” – it is also an indicator of when relationships of all types have reached the proverbial turn of closure. If life is about moving forward then dragging the weight of a crumbling friendship or ailing from a harmful acquaintance are counter-intuitive measures.
Yet, the song is not an anthem for deserters but an amicable solution under uncontrollable circumstances. It is a swan song of lovers not destined to walk into the sunset or the final goodbye between friends torn apart by ideologies. It is for those who drift apart not with a heavy heart but a smile that comes from burying the melancholy or acrimony of the present to preserve the fondness of the past. It is an explicit pledge that if paths collide in the future, no furtive glances or fumbling words would betray any hints of shared history. It is Tabula Rasa, a clean slate, and both parties are mere strangers. “Na mere dil ki dhadkan ladkhadaye meri baton mein, na zaahir ho tumhari kashmakash ka raaz nazron se. Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaye hum dono”. This song reminds me of simpler times: black and white TV sets, unhurried Sunday mornings, a house teeming with family, Sahir-Amrita trivia and the curiosity of an adolescent mind. Most of all, it reminds of the time when I fell in love with the power of words and the beauty of language.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.