The most crucial element of the monsoon process is the cloud, because without it there would be no rain. This is understood not only by meteorologists but also by poets, who have addressed many a beautiful film song as an ode to the monsoon cloud. Perhaps the earliest film song of this genre was ‘Sawan ke badalo’ from Rattan (1944) sung by Zohrabai Ambalewali and Karan Diwan in their deep, pensive voices under Naushad’s direction.

The dense, extensive, rain-bearing cloud of the monsoon appears very bright in images taken from the height of a meteorological satellite, but it looks dark and threatening from beneath to an observer on the ground. This is the ‘kali ghata’ or ‘kari badariya’ or ‘sawan ki ghata’ that has been the central theme of many Hindi film songs.

In Sujata (1959), Nutan played the title role of a lowly, lonely, girl growing up in a family but not quite a part of it, longing for a friend. On one grey afternoon she looks up to the sky and spots a dark cloud which she feels can understand her colourless life, empathise with her (Kali ghata chhaye mora jiya tarasaye, aise mein kahin koi mil jaye, …main hoon kitni akeli tu yeh jaante, mere berang jeevan ko pehchanate…). The song was sung by Asha Bhosle and music was given by S. D. Burman. There is another film song in which the heroine pleads with the dark cloud of the monsoon never to leave her (Kare badara to na ja na ja) This one was from the film Shikast (1953) and sung by Lata under Shankar-Jaikishan’s music direction.

But there are other songs which ask the dark cloud to do exactly the opposite. The heroine of Bhabhi (1957) tells the cloud to go away, not to disturb her (Kare kare badara ja re ja re badara, meri atariya na shor macha). She has been blissfully lost in her world of dreams and it is the cloud that is playing spoilsport (main to soyee thi, sapno mein khoyee thi). This was a Lata song directed by Chitragupta. There is another such plea to the cloud to go away, but more specifically to the land of the beloved (Jari jari o kari badariya, mat barso ri meri nagariya, … pardes gaye hain savariya,… jaiyo jaiyo ri desh piyake). This song sung by Lata for Meena Kumari in Azad (1955) had a lilting tune composed by C. Ramchandra. And of course there is the Naushad classic from the film Aadmi (1968) sung by Lata (Kari badariya mori nagariya).

The most romantic and lively song set against the backdrop of clouds may well be the Asha-Rafi duet ‘Diwana hua badal’ from Kashmir ki Kali (1964) under O. P. Nayyar’s music direction. Sharmila Tagore, in her debut appearance, and veteran Shammi Kapoor get trapped in a cloud that comes to their doorstep (sawan ki ghata chayee). And they get engulfed in an atmosphere of romance (yeh dekh ke dil jhooma), a flood of emotions gets released (sailab mere roke na ruka), a prolonged drought (barson se fiza ka mausam tha, veeran badi duniya thi meri) suddenly comes to an end (bahar aayee).

I end this post with a question that Lata posed on behalf of Raakhee in the film Sharmilee (1971) in a song under S. D. Burman’s music direction (Megha chhaye aadhi raat, bairan ban gayee nindiya, bata de main kya karoon?) As always, there are no answers for some of life’s questions.