Unlike cinema in the rest of the world, songs are integral to our films, often playing to their disadvantage and digressing from their plots. However, this does not undermine the fact that our films have paid a lot of attention to make these songs, often spending more on songs than the rest of the film. This has made songs a melting pot of creativity, where acting, dance, staging, setting, camera, cuts, everything plays a role in telling a story, communicating an emotion, or inducing a certain mood in the audience. Last month's Bengaluru Review published an essay on the picturisation of ‘Aap ki Yaad’, a song from Muzaffar Ali’s film, Gaman. This month, we have compiled a list of the most visually perfect video songs from Bollywood. This triggered in us a search for finding the masterpieces Bollywood has produced over the past decades. The songs where the visual and the phonic merge, creating a wholesome 4-5 minutes of magic. The list is in no way exhaustive. We might have missed some of your favourites, and even some obvious choices. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Jane Kya Tune Kahi : Pyaasa (1957)
Ye Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaye To : Pyaasa (1957)which was later covered by Piyush Mishra). The song begins in almost a murmur, with Guru Dutt starting to sing his own poem, while still in the dark. Only the publisher on the stage recognises his voice. As his voice intensifies, we see the reactions of each important character. This is followed by a shot of the poet's Jesus Christ-like resurrection, with all heads turning back to see him. The song is a lesson in staging and camerawork. Notice how the movement on screen intensifies with music. And by the time Guru Dutt yells, "Jala Do Ise Foonk Daalo Ye Duniya" (burn this world down), we are already getting goosebumps.
Pukarta Chala Hoon Main : Mere Sanam (1965)
Ek Chatur Naar : Padosan (1968)
. While R. D. Burman's music is among his lifetime best, many of these songs remain a lesson in camera work and staging (watch 'Meri Pyari Bindu', 'Mere Samne Wali Khidki Mein', 'Kehna Hai' in sequence to appreciate this). But if we were to pick one song from the film, it has to be 'Ek Chatur Naar'.This is a complex song in every regard, with all four actors together in a musical duel. Notice how the camera is not hesitant to focus on Kishore Kumar and blur out Sunil Dutt (even when he's in the foreground). It is however, Mehmood, with his brilliant slapstick performance, who wins us in this song (and in spirit - Manna Dey - singing his lines). Saira Banu is a silent character, but notice her physical performance, straight out of the silent era masterpiece.
Chingari Koi Bhadke : Amar Prem (1972)Roop Tera Mastana' displays the quintessential Rajesh Khanna-Sharmila Tagore romance (notably shot without a single camera cut), 'Chingari Koi Bhadke' from Shakti Samanta's 'Amar Prem' is where the duo's 'chemistry' is at its best. With an entire song shot on a gently rocking boat in the Hoogly river against the iconic Howrah Bridge in the background, it creates drama with perfect character and camera movements, adding to the already magical Anand Bakshi's lyrics and Kishore Kumar's voice. Notice how the song begins with the camera moving in one direction displaying the Howrah Bridge's lights at night, cut only by their shimmering reflection on water with camera moving in the opposite direction. Rajesh Khanna's inner torment is visible, as he shifts from one place to another on the boat, as Sharmila Tagore speaks only with her eyes. The camera movement is fluid, as it goes on to block, pan, and zoom in sync with the music and lyrics of the song.
Bade Accha Lagte Hain : Balika Badhu (1976)
Rim Jhim Gire Sawan : Manzil (1979)Seene Mein Jalan, Aankhon Mein Toofan Sa Kyun Hai' from Muzaffar Ali's Gaman, and the quirky 'Babu Samjho Ishare' from Satyen Bose' 'Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi'. But if we were to pick one just one, it would the rain washed mega city in 'Rim Jhim Gire Sawan' from Basu Chatterjee's Manzil. Amitabh Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterjee play a couple walking through the most iconic roads of rain washed Mumbai. Notice the powerful intimacy created by their clutch hands, and how Amitabh's slight stiffness adds much so much grace to Moushumi Chatterjee's energy. The camera movements are fluid, as it walks with them, and zooms in and out at will.
Chaiyya Chaiyya : Dil Se (1998)
Mera Jahan : Taare Zameen Par (2007)this classic shot in a train in Nitin Bose's 'Hum Kahan Ja Rahe Hain', to 'Dadi amma dadi amma maan jao' from SS Vasan's Gharana. However, there something special about Aamir Khan's 'Taare Zameen Par', which tells the story of an an eight year-old dyslexic child, played by Darsheel Safary. Add to it Adnan Sami's meditative voice and Prasoon Joshi's lyrics set to Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's composition, and it becomes a recipe for greatness. What happens when Darsheel runs away from school and is lost in the city of Mumbai? Nothing. He just observes the city in action, and goes back home at the end of the day. In a sequence of near-poetic montages, we see Darsheel's world closely. It is not just a silent ode to the burgeoning city, but turns out to be much more. A poor labourer man buys an ice gola for his son, then lifts him up on his shoulders and walks away. As Darsheel watches them intently, we empathise with him who is much better off, but lacks a father who would believe in him, a void which is later filled Aamir Khan, his teacher. An event that could have been overly dramatic or transformational, is used just to develop the character of the film's main protagonist, and in such a brilliant way.
Lahu Munh Lag Gaya : Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-leela (2013)elaborate choreographed dance sequences, Sanjay Leela Bhansali is one modern director who has really taken this to its limits, may it be 'Devdas' or 'Bajirao Mastani'. It all started with 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam', which begins with a brilliant character introduction to Aishwarya Rai, who dances her way to defeating a group of men in the game of lagori (also known as pitto). But if you thought 'Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam' had the best Garba sequences, wait till you see 'Lahu Munh Lag Gaya' from his 2013 film 'Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-leela'. In his telling of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the boy and girl meet for the first time as this song unfolds. But unlike in Pyaasa, their chemistry is not subtle. It is loud and flared up with romantic exchanges between the two, followed by one of the best choreographed dance sequences in recent cinema. From initial flirting between the two, to a beautifully synced dance sequence. The fluid camera movements capture the swaying garba movements to perfection, and the acting and dance efforts from both Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh are commendable. There is a part where Ranveer stops dancing to watch Deepika, and she bumps into him just in time of the clap, which has the potential for giving us goosebumps every time we watch it.
Badra Bahaar : Queen (2014)
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