I was recently interviewed by the Canadian filmmaker, Sturla Gunnarsson, who is making a film on the Indian monsoon. One of his questions was about popular monsoon songs from Indian films. The conversation that followed inspired me to publish this new post in which I have written about five of my favourite rain songs.

1. “Pyar hua ikrar hua” (Film: Shree 420, 1955)

This song without doubt ranks topmost among all my favourite rain songs. I was very young when I first saw the movie in a theatre. Now when I watch it on dvd or youtube, the song still makes me feel young! It is a classic, will-never-be-forgotten song, filmed in black-and-white.

Shree 420 was about country boy Raj (Raj Kapoor) who comes to the city of Bombay in search of a job, with dreams of making it big in life. He finds life bewildering and unfair, but he also meets a simple and honest girl Vidya (Nargis) and the two fall in love. The storyline of the film gets complicated as Raj climbs the ladder of success but this love story remains at its core. And at the heart of the love story is the song Pyar hua ikrar hua sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey under the music direction of Shankar-Jaikishan.

The beginning of this rain song is heralded by thunder and rain. It is a dark night and we see Raj Kapoor and Nargis meeting on a lonely street. They have only one umbrella and they share it throughout the song sequence, mostly standing under it. Sometimes they walk a few steps down the road with whatever protection the umbrella is able to provide. In that day and age, life was simple and love was marked by restraint. The two lovers just stand close, looking intently into each other’s eyes. They hardly touch each other, but tightly clasp the handle of the umbrella. The song has its interludes of laughter and entertainment with Raj Kapoor playing the fiddle for Nargis.

It is easy to see that the entire setting is a studio construction. The roads, buildings and night lights are obviously artificial, even the mist floating around. But the dreams that the lovers see under the leaking umbrella are real and they point to three kids wearing proper raincoats walking past smartly!

2. “Jo haal dil ka” (Film: Sarfarosh, 1999)

Sarfarosh was a film that dealt with the issue of cross-border terrorism. The plot was woven around the lives of police officer Ajay (Aamir Khan) and his girl-friend Seema (Sonali Bendre). One of the songs in the film, Jo haal dil ka, is my second favourite rain song, primarily so because of its authenticity. It was sung by Alka Yagnik and Kumar Sanu and the music was set by Jatin-Lalit.

The song begins at a surprise party arranged by Seema to celebrate Ajay’s birthday. As Ajay blows off the candles on the cake, the smoke transforms softly into the mist of a faraway monsoon and the couple is sent out of the party crowd to a dream world just of the two of them. They soak themselves in the monsoon rains and in each other’s love as well. Both Aamir Khan and Sonali Bendre wear dresses of identical colours, first red, then yellow and then blue, for each of the three stanzas of the song. The colours provide photographic contrast with the green grass and grey background of the pouring rain. It is a passionate scene. Aamir and Sonali are shown drenched to the skin, and a lot of it is indeed revealed. The close-ups show rain dripping down hair, nose and chin. If the monsoon was supposed to make you romantic, then here is the proof! When the dream sequence ends, it is back to the party for some serious business. Jo haal dil ka was said to have been filmed on location in Khandala.

3. “Taal se taal mila” (Film: Taal 1999)

My third favourite rain song also has authenticity but I like it more because of its delicate and sensitive handling. The film Taal had a complex storyline beginning in picturesque Himachal Pradesh. Mansi (Aishwarya Rai), is the beautiful daughter of a spiritual singer and Manav (Akshaye Khanna) is the son of his close friend.

In the song, Taal se taal mila, we see Mansi’s two sisters in the open countryside when it begins to rain. Mansi extends her hands to collect the first raindrops in her palms, while her sisters run for shelter which is not to be found. The three girls not only listen, but sing, clap and dance to the rhythm of the falling rain. The music is A. R. Rahman’s and the singers are Alka Yagnik and Udit Narayan.

This is what they sing:

Dil ye bechain ve, raste pe nain ve…
sawan ne aaj to, mujhko bhigo diya,
Aa ja sawariya aa aa aa aa,
Taal se taal mila…

The setting of the song is absolutely natural and appropriate to the lyrics. The girls dance in angelic white dresses with flowing dupattas, prominent against the background of the lush green earth, grey monsoon skies and the blue mountainside. In a very tenderly shot scene, Mansi sheds some of her wet clothing, and abandons herself to the music of the monsoon. But out of nowhere comes Manav, protected by a raincoat and equipped with a camera. Mansi is dazed by the realization that her sawariya has in fact been there all along, watching her movements and capturing them on his camera.

4. “Tum se hi” (Film: Jab We Met, 2007)

The film Jab We Met tells the story of young but depressed businessman Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) from Mumbai who by chance meets on a train a Punjabi girl Geet (Kareena Kapoor). As the story develops, Aditya’s depression gives way to confidence and success.

Tum se hi, sung by Mohit Chauhan to Pritam’s music direction, is a song shot in a modern office environment with intervening dream sequences. Aditya is shown picking up a guitar in his office and then singing for his office staff and moving in and out of conference halls. But his mind is not really there and he sees Geet everywhere. We see him stepping out of his chauffer-driven car into the rain while brushing aside the umbrella held out for him. He imagines Geet to be on the street and he joins her in an impromptu dance. The high point of the song is when he picks her up in his arms and raises her high. The camera captures their swirling motion from above, showing raindrops falling from all sides and centering on the couple. The dream sequence ends with the beginning of a press conference in reality.

I like this rain song because of its modern setting, and imaginative camera angles, but more so because it brings out so naturally the spontaneous romantic feelings generated by the monsoon rains.

5. “Iktara” (Film: Wake Up Sid, 2009)

Wake Up Sid is a film about two young people, Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) and Aisha (Konkona Sen Sharma). Sid is a student in Mumbai and son of a rich father, and Aisha has come to Mumbai in search of a career as a writer. At their first meeting, which is in summer, Sid tells Aisha about the beauty of Mumbai’s monsoon and that she has to only wait for the monsoon to arrive to see its charm. Sid and Aisha become friends, then a bit more than just friends. Aisha soon makes her debut as a writer and Sid finds that his future is in photography. They do part ways, but only temporarily.

The sweltering summer of Mumbai comes to an end with the arrival of the monsoon. Sid stretches his arm outside the window of his luxurious home and Aisha puts her hand out of the window of her taxi. They are both touched by the raindrops of the first monsoon shower, emotions are rekindled, and they eventually meet again, at the same spot on Mumbai’s shoreline where they had first met. They both get drenched in the first downpour of Mumbai’s monsoon and at last they are able to say ‘I love you’ in their first passionate embrace. The song ‘Iktara’ plays in the background: “Je naina karun band band, beh jaye boond boond, tadpaye re, kyun sunaye geet malhar de…”

In the film Wake Up Sid, Iktara has two versions, one sung by Kavita Seth and Amitabh Bhattacharya and the second one which I have talked about here is sung by Tochi Raina. The music is by Shankar Ehsaan Loy.

I have included Iktara in my list of favourites not because it is a great rain song but because it has a message. It tells us that just as the monsoon keeps us waiting, life as a whole expects us to be patient. All things happen in the fullness of time, to use that Biblical phrase. If we could plan our life as per our own thinking and to our convenience, how boring it would be!