My 10 favourite ‘maanjhi’ songs from Hindi cinema
To say that I love the maanjhi songs would be an understatement. Particularly “O re maanjhi” from Bandini takes me to a different dimension. Maanjhi (also pronounced as maajhi) is a boatman. In songs and poems they are often pleaded to by lovers (mostly women) to take them across the river to meet their beloved. In devotional songs he is the spiritual master who is being begged by the seeker to give him/her that shift in consciousness, which will take him/her from the body consciousness to brahman. These two different levels give the songs a certain spin.
So here are my favourite 10 ‘maanjhi’ (in chronological order) songs from Hindi cinema.
The pirate queen is fishing out the prince, who is her enemy (at least she thinks so). But her heart is not really compliant with her former feelings. This duality in feelings is making her heart waver. A typical Guru Dutt song, sung by an onlooker and mirroring the feelings of the situation, rendered beautifully by Geeta Dutt and with O P Nayyar holding the baton.
Naav badha le maanjhi jor laga le – Ferry (1954)
MD: Hemant Kumar; Singer: Hemant Kumar; Lyrics: Rajinder Krishan
Hemant Kumar, it seems wants the boatman to row a little bit hard so that he can go to the other side fast. He fears the oncoming thunder and rains. Picturised on a junior artiste it gives a moving account of the uncertainties of life. On the other side of the shore a boy is waiting for his mother with the dog ‘Lassie’ (!).
Curiously enough, the film has two different titles: Ferry and Kashti
Maanjhi re, le chal naiyya – Biraj Bahu (1954)
MD: Salil Chowdhury; Singer: Nirmal Chowdhury; Lyrics: Prem Dhawan
Some sources say that the song is sung by Nirmal Choudhary and some say it is Hemant Kumar. I think it is Nirmal. The boat plays a major role in the story of the film. It epitomises Lanka. Forget the plot (depressing and provocative), just enjoy the song. It gives one ‘the Bengal feeling’!
Couldn’t get hold of the video. Some say that the song was cut. If the link above is working you can see that the song is at the beginning of the film as the credits roll.
Asha Parekh lip syncs this song by Lata Mangeshkar. She is ready to lay her fate in the hands of her beloved and ready to follow him everywhere. Thus it is suggested to us that India is in quite good hands of the youth (Hum Hindustani, We Indians), who are leading it through the industrial revolution (!?!). Remember the other song of this movie ‘Chhodo kal ki baatein’? It’s aim was I think to reassure that India is on the right track with Nehru at the helm.
Words cannot express what I feel about this song. The scene, the words, the sound, the voice, the picturisation! The work of a genius! Better said: Teamwork of geniuses!
Afterthought: Poor Dharmendra, left high and dry!
Maanjhi chal, o maanjhi chal tu chale to cham cham baaje – Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969)
MD: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Singer: Mohd. Rafi; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
And here in this song, Dharmendra is, I think, very much happy that he is dry. He is enjoying the boat ride so much that he even hears the sound of anklets in the water. This doesn’t seem to impress Asha Parekh and Aruna Irani much, they are very busy with pulling long faces. Either the bouffants are weighing too much on their heads or they are hurt that the boatwoman is dancing to Dharmendra’s tune (in fact Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s).
Maanjhi naiya dhoondhe kinara – Upahaar (1971)
MD: Laxmikant-Pyarelal; Singer: Mukesh; Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
Well, it seems everybody is searching for something and this boatman is searching for the banks. Not quite a capable boatman, this one! But maybe he is just trying to convey the feelings of the bridegroom towards his child bride. The moral of the story: Never marry young!
Poor Mumu, being forced to go through the convulsions forced upon her by the dance director. This makes one easily overhear the splendid music and rendition by Asha Bhosle. Trust Pancham to give the old maanjhi a modern sound!
Jeetendra sailing under Gulzar’s direction on a river, though he asserts that no shores are waiting for him. Hema Malini’s Kusum is left behind with a sour feeling that she has missed the boat again. Just listen to the short prelude, to understand Pancham’s genius!
People living on river banks seem to marry quite early. This child bride has not even reached puberty. She will be leaving soon for her parent’s home (for gauna?) and her bridegroom (also a teenager) sings to her saying how he will miss her. The maanjhi in the background reflects her feelings: She would like to return to her beloved before she has even left him.