Mankind, ever since it came into being, has always held the moon in great fascination. That orb- or crescent, depending on the time of the month- of celestial light has always had its beholders awe-struck. Many-a-phenomena has been attributed to the moon; right from the ocean tides to the loss of sanity of humans (lunacy. Remember?). Many-a-calendar has been based on the moon (lunar year). Festivals are dictated by the phases of the moon. Some fall on Poornima, some on Amasvaya while the rest fall on days in between (e.g tritiya, ekadashi). There have been Chandravanshi dynasties. The moon has been the source of thousands of names: Chandrima, Chandradeo, Poornima, Chandraprakash. Many-a-lullaby has been sung by mothers coaxing their children to sleep: “Chanda Mama door ke…”, “Chanda mama se pyaaara tera mama”. Ever since 1969, man has also been travelling to the moon trying to figure out its mysteries. Remember Apollo 11? However, this post is not on lessons in astronomy, but on a lot more interesting area; the Hindi cinema.
Hindi cinema, or any cinema for that matter, uses multiple devices to make points. Maybe I will discuss the stock ones in another post of mine. One wildly popular one is the moon, chand, chandrama. That singularly potent symbol of romance and the pitfalls of it. Chand describes the lover’s beauty, sets up the stage for a romantic rendezvous and if the lover does not respond, or worse still the rendezvous does not happen, chand is resorted to for advice, support and sympathy.
The hero often likens his beloved to the moon. In similies or metaphors. That Guru Datt classic: “Chaudhavin ka chand ho” from the eponymous film where the hero cannot decide whether the radiance of her visage resembles that of the moon (chand) or the sun (aftaab). This one can fully understand, the beloved in consideration being the lovely Waheeda Rehman. If you have seen the movie, you will recollect that the song starts with a close-up of the full moon. But what about Mala Sinha in “Himalaya Ki Gode Mein”? Manoj Kumar serenades her wishing his beloved was as lovely as the moon: “Chand si mehbooba ho meri”. Manoj Kumar “acting” as only he can and Mala S. acting as only she can complete with the coquettish biting of her little finger, attempting to blush. Then there is this rambunctious Shammi Kapoor dancing around in a shikara in the hit movie “Kashmir Ki Kali”. He is clear that Sharmila Tagore, his beloved, has a moon-like face and with golden tresses to boot. “Yeh chand sa roshan chehra, zulfon ka rang sunehra”. To emphasize that they are indeed in Kashmir- and on Dal lake- he even likens her eyes to a lake: “Ye jheel si gehri aankhein…”. With his active gestures, there is never a dull moment with Shammi K around. Compared to this vigorous chand song, this one from “Saawan Ko Aaney Do” sounds really tame: “Chand jaisey mukhdey pey bindiya sitara…”, says an impoverished-looking Arun Govil to the preening Zarina Wahaab.
Sometimes chand even serves as an advisor, a sounding board. Like Sanjay “Abdullah” Khan asking the moon whether it has seen someone as beautiful as his lover. “Mainey poochha chand sey, ki dekha hai kahin…”. The beloved being Zeenat A. (And to amply clarify the question the director+set designer duo even place a crescent moon “hanging” in the sky which you can see through the window.) Chand, of course, does not reply. Zeenat does, though, through her coy gestures. She agrees with her hero!
Sometimes the moon is compared to the lover’s beauty and is found wanting in comparison. The moon, then, has two option: either to feel shy (“Husn sey chand bhi sharmaya hai”) of Saira Rehman’s beauty, or sigh regretting its inferior looks: “Chand ahein bharega, phool dil thaam lengey…..”. That is Mala Sinha again! She is the one in focus while another Kumar serenades her- Raj Kumar!! I’m sure the Kumar’s have a thing about the seductive charms of Mala S. Samjhey Jaani??
Chandrama served as a reference point for the lover’s beauty and it is also instrumental in building up the atmosphere for a romantic rendezvous.
The sublime “Aadha hai chandrama, raat aadhi..” from Navrang built up this urge to an altogether different level. Never mind that the hero has an idiotic look on his face as he beseeches his beloved to complete their romantic chat, he did not want it to be truncated half-way. The heroine, Sandhya, is more interested in wiggling her hips and balancing that impossible seven pots arrangement on her head as the hero laments the slippage of midnight into day.
Decades later, Sanjeev Kumar gets a bit more physical and lassoes his beloved Shabana Azmi into joining him behind the local church where he has placed the chand he has stolen from the skies. Church, you wonder…? Well, this movie is based in Goa and we have the great Sanjeev Kumar in Goan costume, complete with shorts encasing his ample posterior and a beach shirt.
Things were rather subtle in Chori Chori where Raj Kapoor and Nargis both agreed that they should both meet up in the sweet shadow of the moonlight, “Aa ja sanam madhur chandni mein ham..” That Lata/ Manna duet is an all time classic. As is the great romantic film filched from “The Roman Holiday”. Or was that “It happened one Night”?
In 1952, in the movie “Jaal”, Dev Anand beseeches his beloved on the beaches of Goa (complete with palm trees): “Yeh raat, yeh chandni phir kahaan..”. Never mind he was wearing a rather odd piece of clothing on these beaches… a full sweater!
Or even the song from the comparatively recent film: “Chand chhupa badal mein..” .
If the hero had no guts to proposition, he would summon the moon to do the needful. As in this song from Shart: “Dekho who chand chhup key karta hai kya ishatey..”. The female understands and she reciprocates: Perhaps it says I am yours (“hum ho gaye tumhaarey..”). Some enthusiastic- and rather non-creative lovers- even liken themselves to the moon and the moonlight. “Mein tera chand, tu meri chandani..”. Or even the more modern “Chand mera dil, chandni ho tum” from the late 70’s movie Ham kissisey Kam Nahin. And some expressive ones say: “Chandni chand sey hoti hai, sitaron sey nahin….” Just in case you did not know that only the moon caused moonlight, never the stars.
Chand is also summoned to heighten the feeling of frustration of the lovers. Like the appeal of “Na yeh chand hoga na taarey rahengey”. Or “Chand phir nikalaa, magar tum naa aaye”. Or the intense- and incendiary- “Terey bina aag yeh chandni, tu aa aa jaa.” Dev Anand appealing to Waheeda “Khoya khoya chand, khula aasman..”. Or that last song ever of Mukesh from the film Mukti, “Suhaani chandni raatein, hamein soney nahin detein” sung by the bearded Shashi Kapoor punching the piano in a restaurant.
Chand also serves as the last resort of the loser, one who has lost it all in the game of romance. The ulitimate loser song is from Chandralekha: “Mainey chand aur sitaraaon ki tamanna kit hi…” The protagonist goes on to lament that while he sought the brightness of the moon and the stars, he got nothing but the darkness of nights (.. mujhko raaton ki siyahi ke siwa kuchh na mila..”)
Chand is sometimes summoned as a witness- an arbitrator really- to pronounce its judgement on the moony lovers. Like in this evergreen Hemant Kumar composition from “Miss Mary” sung by Rafi and Lata: “Oh raat key musafir, chanda zara bata dey; mera kasoor kya hai, yeh faisla suna dey..”.
When I was kid, I was taken to a show put up by USIS (United States Information Service- does it exist now?) where we saw a piece of a moon rock placed in an elaborate display case. As we exited, we were given a button which said “I saw the moon rock”. We were hyper-excited then and wore the button for the next few weeks. Now that I think of it, I realize that in Hindi cinema, the moon always rocks!
I must acknowledge the contribution of my friends Anshu Tandon and Sanjeev Roy who provided me lists of chand songs. And my thanks to Atul who celebrates in his blog his love for Hindi songs; go check it out: http://atulsongaday.wordpress.com/