Hidden umbrella passions in ten Hindi film songs
Umbrellophily, a phenomenon not spoken sung about in the Hindi film industry. The author of these lines like many other fans of Hindi film songs was not aware of this shocking fact either. During his search for a list of his 10 favourite umbrella songs (since rain-song lists have been beaten to death), he stumbled over this taboo topic in the Hindi cinema. While he was searching, he could unearth only three songs, which mention an umbrella and two-thirds of them were not even melodious. Why this step-motherly treatment towards this ‘protector against rain’?
Rain scenes being one of the most favourite ones of all the directors, one would suspect umbrellophilly to be widespread in this fraternity. But quite in contrary umbrellophobia seems to be the order of the day for the songs written. Lack of umbrellophily seems to be not the case with the lyricist though, as would one suspect. In fact, as evident from the material, which has been laid at my disposal, it looks like umbrellophily was (is) quite widespread among the lyricists, but forces which control this industry didn’t/don’t allow the expression in words of this love, which dare not say its name.
Sources, which don’t want their name to be mentioned, tell, that the lyricist would disguise their love and put a different name instead of their real object of desire. Strong proof has been uncovered, which shows that Kaifi Azmi was alluding to the umbrellas in his song Bhichde sabhi bari, bari (One after the other they left me) in Kaagaz ke Phool, after he lost 7 beautiful specimens of this coveted piece of art in the monsoon of 1958.
For the first time the hidden love for the umbrella and the experiences of the deep love for this magnificent object of art has been unraveled in 10 songs of Hindi cinema. By the exposure of this list, the author hopes for new revelations from his readers, who see the masked face of this hidden love in their favourite songs!
Never to have enjoyed the company of an umbrella is painful for many. The single umbrellophiles crave for it. Some say that many buy it at the cheapest shop just to satisfy their cravings, while others wait for the perfect ones.
Kamal Amrohi wanted Ashok Kumar to carry an open umbrella when he enters the Mahal during this song and had explicitly told Lakshab, that he wanted him to mention the umbrella in the song. The song was written and recorded. The censors objected to the song giving the lame excuse that an umbrella would suggest subjugation by British monarchy. Since India is now independent such a blatant portrayal of adherence to monarchy would threaten the stability of the young nation. Amrohi protested, but to no avail. If he wanted his film to pass the censors he had to change the two syllable word, chaa – thaa. Thus chaathaa gave way to aanewaalaa. People still rack their brains over why an accomplished poet like Lakshab would use such an unpoetic word like aanewaalaa.
Original version: Aayega, aayega, aayega, aayega chaathewaalaa (He will come, the umbrella bearer)
Modified version: Aayega, aayega, aayega, aayega aanewaalaa (He will come, the one who has to come)
Young umbrellophiles dream about having a gondola rides with their beloved with umbrellas in their hand. They even think that an umbrella is the very personification of love, since it encompasses two hearts (or many). Look at the ribs of your umbrella and the arches it makes at the border. When my secret source showed me this I was bowled over!
Anand Bakshi wanted to capture exactly this mood for this song. Shakti Samanta had envisioned this song to be sung in the narrow streets of mist-hung Venice. Such news travel fast. Mr. Samanta was forced to wait till summer to picturise this song in Venice in a gondola. Look at Zeenat Aman’s cheeks. In the scene before the song they are flat and in the song puffed up. She had put on weight till then!). The official reason given was that a couple walking through the streets of Venice with an umbrella would have too stark sexual connotations, since the umbrella would be a strong phallic symbol. It was decided that a gondola with it non-sexual, non-sensual shape with a tall man (gondoliere) with a thick stick in his both hands would offer a neutral image.
Original version: Do chaathoon ki hai dil ki kahani (The story of heart is made up of two umbrellas)
Modified version: Do lafzon ki hai dil ki kahani (The story of heart is made up of two syllables)
To have an umbrella is not only a source of solace for an umbrellophile. There are many other umbrellophiles, who would like to steal your chaathaa from you. To possess an umbrella was considered by some as deviant from the true love! According to them true love for umbrellas would mean not to possess them but look at all of them as equal.
Pt. Sudarshan wanted to warn the umbrellophiles against this possessiveness as he wrote this song. For the colonial power, unused to this deep umbrella spirituality in Indian tradition, it meant a great threat to its imperial power and capitalism. Director Nitin Bose was asked to scrap the song. But the censors hadn’t counted on singer K. C. Dey’s honey-sweet singing charms. He stood in front of the board building and sang this changed version. The officials were enthralled! Thus this song could remain in this version in the film.
R. C. Boral’s uncle’s wife’s step-brother’s third concubine’s son’s nephew’s daughter-in-law’s niece writes on her blog that her… ahem that Mr. Boral had always hoped that his song would be sung sometime in the future in its original version. Is the time ripe for it?
Original version: Teri chathri me laaga chor musaafir jaag zara (A thief has set his eyes on your umbrella)
Modified version: Teri ghathri me laaga chor musaafir jaag zara (A thief has set his eyes on your sack)
Some umbrellophiles were not satisfied with one umbrella, they wanted two. Some wanted even more. Naturally, this can give rise to certain animosity between the haves and have-nots. This divide was much more glaring in the colonial time. Revolutionary film-makers of that time were conscious of this fact and wanted to show this inequality on the silver screen.
The British couldn’t accept this open revolution. They not only forced the producers to change the song but also the title of the film from My Umbrella to My Sister and the story was turned into a love-story.
Original version: Do chaathe matware tihare, hum par jurm kare (Your two eyes commit a crime)
Modified version: Do naina matware tihare, hum par jurm kare (Your two umbrellas commit a crime)
When it rains and people jostle on the street with their open umbrellas, somebody is bound to get hurt. School-going children have been reported to even sharpen the point of the ribs of their umbrellas to hurt their fellow students.
Majrooh Sultanpuri wanted precisely to point out at this kind of abuse in this song. The censors were of the opinion that this would be like adding fuel to the fire and thus the umbrella was replaced by a much softer kaantaa (a thorn). It is said that Asha Parekh was very much disappointed with this substitution, since she was very eager to show the pain from such an encounter from her school days.
Original version: Chaathaa lagaa, hai lagaa (The umbrella pricks…)
Modified version: Kaantaa lagaa, hai lagaa (The thorn pricks…)
Even children like umbrellas. Children integrate them in their world, which the world of adults can’t understand or accommodate. Parichay was such a film, which would have loved to propogate this message along with other things. Gulzar was/is always sensitive to children’s issues. Thus he wanted the children in the song to run along with umbrellas in their hands while singing: Saa re ke saa re, chaate ko lekar, gaate chale (Taking our umbrellas, we go singing).
But the conservative groups said it would give children a wrong role model if you let them sing an umbrella song. Their argument was, you can show them carrying an umbrella but you can’t let them sing about it. They were of the opinion that a child with an umbrella singing about it would lead them to think that that is only way one can lead a life. And their biggest fear was that they could be seduced to umbrellophily.
Gulzar was heartbroken, when he heard that he will have to replace chaatha with something else. An anonymous source told me that Jaya advised Gulzar to replace it with gaamaa and that would be the wisest protest against this stupidity. Since then generations of children have been wondering what gaa maa means.
Gulzar’s trauma was deep; he could only overcome it with the help of his good friend Vishal Bharadwaj, who offered him to write songs for his film ‘The Blue Umbrella‘.
Modified version: can’t be translated! 😦
Umbrella enjoys such a status symbol that some people match their umbrellas with their partners and see if they fit. Anpadh is a tale of an ignorant girl, who thinks that she has found heaven because she matches perfectly with the umbrella of her lover. The director of the film, Mohan Kumar wanted to make people realise their follies.
The censors objected that such a thing never happens in India and if it does than only with persons who are corrupted by the western influence. And talking about it can only strengthen it.
Original version: Aap ke chaathe ne samjha, pyaar ke kabil mujhe (Your umbrella deemed me worthy to be loved).
Modified version: Aap ke nazaron ne samjha, pyaar ke kabil mujhe (Your eyes deemed me worthy to be loved)
You have surely experienced this. It starts raining, you go inside a café, drink a coffee/tea/cocoa, meet a friend, talk about this and that, time flies. You would like to go home, say good bye, go to the umbrella bin, where you had put left your dearest alone and now it is surrounded by hundreds of look-alikes. The same thing happened to Hasrat Jaipuri in his struggling days once. He had gone to his favourite Irani restaurant since he had got some money by giving Hindi tuitions to a daughter of a rich family. Since now he had some money on him he spent a bit more time than usual and when he wanted to go home with his beloved umbrella, he couldn’t recognize it. That night at two am he wrote this song. The son of a close friend of his told me. that after this incident Hasratji decided he would never be true to any umbrella of his and buy a new one each month. Raj Kapoor knew of this deep wound of his lyricist and when he approached him for the song in Barsaat, he refused. But Raj in his charming manner was able to coax him into selling this poem, but the financers of Barsaat would have none of it. Open moaning at the loss of umbrella was unbecoming in those days.
Original version: Ab mera kaun sa chaathaa (Which is my umbrella now?)
Modified version: Ab mera kaun sahara (Who is my support now?)
Umbrellas being a status symbol are also a ladder to fame and respect in the society. In Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, Mala Sinha was to originally leave him for better and more beautiful umbrellas of Rehman. The mention of this in her farwell-letter was cut, but an allusion to this can be still seen in the scene of their first meeting after her marriage.
The song Sahir had written for Pyaasa, couldn’t be used in that film but was recycled by him in a modified form for Joshila. In fact, Chaatha mile to log aaj kal dil ko kabhi na le was even set to tune for Pyaasa. After the song was scraped, the melody was used for Jaane woh kaise log the jinse pyaar ko pyaar mila.
Original version: Chaathaa mile to log aaj kal dil ko kabhi na le (Everybody prefers an umbrella rather than a heart)
Modified version: Sonaa mile to log aaj kal dil ko kabhi na le (Everybody prefers gold rather than a heart)
Even this love is not immune to heart breaks. As many of us have experienced that exactly at the time when you have an urgent appointment and it is pouring cats and dogs, that the umbrella strikes or commits suicide. This is what Anand Bakshi must have gone through as he wrote this song! A close associate of his, who wants to remain unnamed, told me this story. It seems that in the monsoon of 1979 a true rain partner of his broke down, even the loyal chaathaa repair-man at the corner of the road couldn’t repair it. Heart-broken Anandji wrote this song in one go in the middle of the night in deep grief. Director J. Om Prakash lauded his work but was helpless against “the powers that be” and the word chaatha had to be replaced by sheesha (glass).
Original version: Chaathaa ho ya dil ho, aakhir tuut jaatha hai (Be it an umbrella or a heart, both are doomed to break)
Modified version: Sheesha ho ya dil ho, aakhir tuut jaatha hai (Be it a glass or a heart, both are doomed to break)
I end my post here. Dear readers, keep your ears open and please do report here, if you find any such hidden message of umbrellophily in the songs, which you encounter! Thank you!