My first contact with rain and a song was when I was about seven years old. My father took me to see Singing in the Rain at Odeon Cinema in Delhi. It was his way of exposing me to music beyond the world of All India Radio and when I saw that famous sequence of Gene Kelly dancing solo with his umbrella in the rain it blew me away. As a kid jumping over puddles was fun but something we were strongly berated for. And there, I watched an adult pat and wade through puddles with such pace and abandon. I realized that the idea of ââsinging and dancing in the rain was not only cool in my head, but also somewhere far away in the world.
I was 16 when I first heard âO sajana, barkha bahaar aayiâ from the movie Parakh. We didn’t have a TV at home, so I had only heard it on the radio until I watched the song play out like a visual at my neighbor’s house during Chitrahaar. I stood there, amazed that a black and white visual could be so colorful. Also that the rains could serve as a metaphor for a woman’s emotions. The feeling of reverence, hope and childlike joy in Sadhana with his cupped hands catching raindrops – a classic photo of Bimal Roy with uterus-like hands and symbolic water drops of the elixir – remains ingrained in my mind as one of the most enchanting rain song moments on screen. Rain songs are generally known to be vibrant, sultry, and outwardly, but this was an example of the subtlety and interior of a song about the rains.
The sexiest woman to appear onscreen for me has to be Smita Patil in ‘Aaj rapat jaye’ in the movie Namak Halal. An incredible song that shattered the myth of Smita Patil as the tsarina of alternative cinema. The uninhibited and bewildered chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil – an unlikely couple to frolic in the rain – was just joyful.
Kishore Kumar’s crazy and kinky expressions at his best in “Ek ladki bheegi bhaagi si” with a rain drenched Madhubala alone on a rainy night, remind you of all kinds of mischief that rains inspire. The beat of the song and the idea of ââhaving a carefree good time sums up the beauty, wit and romance of a classic Bollywood and Baarish act. Then there is everyone’s favorite antakshari song – R for ‘Rimjhim gire saawan’ where you see the beautiful landscape of Mumbai when the city was a lot emptier with two figures walking through drenched streets.
The song that changed my life was ‘Ab ke sawan aise barse’, my very first album. I was a Delhiite at the time. The realization of what nature and music could do together came to me on a Sunday evening at India Gate. I was with some friends when it suddenly started to rain. People got out of their cars to dance to “Ab ke sawan” screaming into their car radios. Being able to capture the euphoria of the rain through a piece of music triggered in me a sense of responsibility to create music, not just for entertainment, but to make a difference.
I heard Chameli’s âBhaage re mannâ when I had just arrived in Mumbai from Delhi. Watching the song turn, it was almost like smelling the rain, the chills, and the earthy smell. A song full of hope, innocence and new beginnings. Life came full circle when the same Kareena Kapoor brought that playful energy to ‘Zoobi Doobi’, a rain song I made for 3 Idiots.
These songs are just a fraction of the kind of magical realism and fantastic moments that Indian cinema has created over the years thanks to the rain. The art of imagining a rain song – in all its cheerful abandon, innocence and sensuality – was due to writers and directors who lived in very different eras with very different associations with rain. What romance would a young filmmaker living in Mumbai find today in the rain when you are surrounded by potholes and construction sites?
When you look out the window, the changing cityscape with congestion and traffic jams would naturally prevent the natural thought of rain as the background for two people falling in love under an umbrella. It’s a sad tragedy of our time that I can’t remember the last time a beautiful rain song was made because psychologically everyone is like “who wants to go out in the rain?” Rampant urbanization has robbed cities of their rainy romance and we also see the effect in music and movies. In addition, the cinematic technique has changed where filmmakers engage less and less in songs, especially lip-syncs. Therefore, a rain song in itself is a luxury and what we saw in ‘O sajana’ with the rain in the foreground is now a distant backdrop 60 years later.
How I wish a director would use their cinematic art to recreate a Singing in the Rain musical moment today – with a jump here and a splash there through wet streets and puddles – and I’m sure the song rain will be back. If it worked then, it will work now. There is nothing more unifying than the feeling of breaking up, letting go and being washed away by the rain.
-As said to Mohua Das
It was raining in Mumbai when we did Aaj Rapat
Bappi Lahiri, composer Aaj Rapat Jaye To, Namak Halaal
When (director) Prakash Mehraji and (lyricist) Anjaanji came to my studio, it was raining a lot in Mumbai. Mehraji said to me, “Bappi, can you do a song about this rain?” The lyrics were composed by Anjaan ji, who was one of the best writers I worked with. I made a mukhda for ‘Aaj rapat jaye to’, and when I played it for Prakashji, he liked it so much that I didn’t even have to try another version.
While I am credited with bringing disco to India, I have also done many acts inspired by classic ragas. ‘Aaj rapat Jaye to’ was a totally Indian song. I used instruments such as the santoor, the violin, the mandolin and the sitar and the first two helped evoke the mood of the rains. There are very few rain songs that become evergreen hits, but ‘Aaj rapat jaye to’ has become one. The mazaa (fun) of song also comes from song and dance. It was sung by Ashaji (Bhonsle) and Kishore mama (Kumar) who added their own keys such as arre, arre, arre at the start. Although I composed the song, I do my salam to Amitji and Smitaji for this exceptional rain dance.
Nowadays there are less rain songs in Hindi movies but I think they will someday come back in fashion. On a personal note, I believe the rains have been lucky for me. I recorded the most memorable song of my life, ‘Chalte chalte’, sung by Kishore Kumar in the 1976 film of the same name during the July rains. Now Namak Halaal is being remade but even if they remix this song they can’t get the one and only voice of Kishore Kumar. The magic of ‘Aaj rapat’ cannot be copied.
– As said to Sonam Joshi
The story of a sizzling rain song
Viju Shah, Composer Tip Tip Barsa Paani, Mohra
Today, ‘Tip tip barsa paani’ is considered one of the most sensual rain songs, but it started out as a simple romantic track between Akshay and Raveena. The tune mukhda had been approved by the director, but Anand Bakshi sahab (the lyricist) felt it was a bit too long. After chatting for an hour, I told him to forget the melody, give me the lyrics, and I would compose it again.
Eventually he told me to play it one more time and suddenly came up with the âtip tip barsa paaniâ line. The thing is, once Bakshi sahab got the first line, the whole song would be over in 10-15 minutes. When I played a tune for Bakshi sahab, I wrote fictional lyrics just to give it an idea. The only line he kept from my fake words was the last ‘hand kya karun’. I think he wrote the other lines around: “Teri yaad aayi toh jal utha mera bheega badan, ab tu hi bata o sajan main kya karun …” It was only after finding this line that she turned out to be a rain song and (director) Rajiv Rai thought of imagining it that way. At that time, rain songs were very popular, perhaps because of the dancing and the sensual element. Take Mr. India’s âKaante nahin kat teâ, for example. But the song must also have rhythm. If “Tip tip” only had visuals, why would people still listen to it?
Nowadays there are a lot less songs of rain in movies. Likewise, there have been no mujras and qawwalis for many years, perhaps because young people are not open to it. Everyone wants to play it safe, and it’s either Punjabi or rap. Today’s directors say they want “halke-phulke jo logo words ko samajh aaye” and insist on certain English words. But I think people will listen to a good song. Everything you hear in ‘Tip tip’ – even the tabla – was electronic, created with 12 synthesizers. The only acoustic element came from the violin. We first tried this approach of focusing on electronics in Tridev in 1989, just to give it a new sound.
Today, even I can’t recreate the opening sound of tang nanana tang nanana – it just happened and that’s the life behind the song. This is what people remember. After recording it in 1993, many producers demanded that same sound, but even I didn’t know what the combination was. If I hear it and try to analyze it, I can get close to it, but it wouldn’t be the same.
Honestly, I never thought he would play again after 27 years. It has been remixed so many times, along with another in an upcoming movie. But it’s only the basic arrangement that these remixes change. The song is far from being that of Alka (Yagnik) and Udit (Narayan).
– As said to Sonam Joshi