Fruits! Delicious, luscious fruits! One would say everybody loves fruits. They are nutritious, taste good and are attractive for the eye. Well, they have to be, after all the plant wants it’s children to travel far and wide. Why then this step-motherly treatment to these fabulous creations of nature in Hindi film songs?
Fruits were and are associated with lust. Offering of the apple by Eve to Adam is often cited as an example of this partnership in sin. The Indian censors were very strict about this and only let small and insignificant fruits be sung about in the film songs. As you must have noticed in my post Fruit cake, even if they allowed some fruits to slip through, they saw to it that they had the ugliest melodies possible or it is was done indirectly like ambua ki dali (a mango branch) or beri ke neeche (below the jujube tree). Not the fruits themselves but the tree was in the focal point. Lots of lyricists still wrote lyrics mentioning the fruits of their taste or which suited the scene and occasion. All these attempts were brutally suppressed and the words changed beyond recognition.
During my stay in India in July, in London in August and the last week’s stay in the Black Forest, I could meet witnesses and activists in exile. They told me stories of suppression and oppression of artists and poets of the Bombay film industry by the censors. They told me stories of how works of art where mutilated on the grounds of decency and morality.
I can only write about ten such songs. After reading this article, you, my dear intelligent readers will surely see through many other songs, which we sing every day and have been racking our brains why a certain word doesn’t quite fit in.
1. Ek Khathal Bane Nyara – Badi Behen/President 
MD: R. C. Boral; Lyricist: Anon; Singer: Saigal
Have you seen a jackfruit (Khathal in Hindi) tree with its small baby jackfruits? Then you surely know the feeling of disbelief at the thought that from the tiny ones these gigantic fruits would be growing soon. The anonymous lyricist was equally amazed and thought of transporting this overwhelming feeling with the magical voice of Saigal. The colonial censors put their foot down and wouldn’t accept it, although they let the title ‘President’ untouched, which fuelled the ongoing freedom movement for democracy in India. Funny, eh?
Original: Ek Khathal Bane Nyara (A jackfruit is ripening fine…)
Modified: Ek Bangla Bane Nyara (I wish myself a mansion…)
2. Sakhi Ri Sun Bole Papita – Miss Mary 
MD: Hemant Kumar; Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan; Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle
The grass is greener on the other side and so is the papaya on the other side of the fence sweeter. Hasn’t it happened to you as well, that the papaya plant which you cared for and watered daily tuned out to be male and the neighbour has the prized female specimen and bearing the delicious fruit. Rajinder Krishan had experienced the same, Ramanbhai (name changed) told me in his store in Chor Bazar in Bombay. The producer intervened just before the recording and changed papita (papaya) to papiha (a bird). Asha knew about the original lyrics and you can still hear her singing papita.
Original: Sakhi Ri Sun Bole Papita Us Paar (Hark, dear friend, the papaya calls from the other side…)
Modified: Sakhi Ri Sun Bole Papiha Us Paar (Hark, dear friend, the hawk cuckoo/brain-fever bird calls from the other side…)
3. Tarbooz Tera Kya Naam Re – C.I.D 
MD: O P Nayyar; Lyricist: Majrooh; Singer: Shamshad Begum
Our neighbour in Bombay had the knack of talking to her garden plants and trees, while watering them. I am sure she had names for all of them. Majroohsaab wanted to impart this innocence to the character, the village belle, who would be singing the song. None of the concerned people even thought about the unspoken ban on mentioning fruits in songs. But the censors weren’t to be convinced. Samshad Begum was not ready to record the song again, while she justifiably said that she didn’t see any sense in saying Bhuj (a city in India) instead of tarbooz (water melon). The sound recordist then had to delete the ‘tar‘ from ‘bhooj‘, that is hwy it still sounds a bit abrupt at the beginning of the song.
Original: Tarbooz Tera Kya Naam Re (Tell me your name, dear water melon)
Modified: Bhooj Mera Kya Naam Re (Guess, what’s my name)
4. Aurat Ne Jamun Diya Mardon Ko – Sadhana 
MD: N Dutta; Lyricist: Sahir; Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Shahir, the boldest of them all, was not ready to accept the dictates of the censors. He decided to bring the very act of offering fruit in his lyrics. B. R. Chopra, the director was not only open to it but encouraged it as well. N. Dutta was euphoric of this revolutionary moment. The censors were furious and threatened with a ban on the film. Chopra relented and made janam (birth) out of jamun. Sahir was heartbroken, that his profound lyrics of offering fruit had been converted to a simple everyday line of a woman giving birth to a man.
Original: Aurat Ne Jamun Diya Mardon Ko (Woman gave jamun to man)
Modified: Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko (Woman gave birth to man)
5. Naranga Teri Yaad Me, Nain Huwe Bechain – Saranga 
MD: Sardar Malik; Lyricist: Bharat Vyas; Singer: Mukesh
Have you also experienced this, that the oranges when you really need them in the hot and dry Indian summer, they are just dry and fibrous. One thirsts for a good glass of orange juice and all you get are the dry ones. You just long for the juicy ones from winter. Bharat Vyas was thinking of those juicy oranges when he innocently wrote the poem. My informant told me, that when Mukesh read the lyrics, he was in tears. It was the month of May, in which the song was recorded. Naranga is the Sanskrit word for oranges, from which nearly all the words for oranges in the European languages have evolved.
But when the censors heard the word naranga, they saw only depravity. They forced the director to change the name of the film to saranga and also the lyrics.
Original: Naranga Teri Yaad Me, Nain Huwe Bechain (Oranges, in your remembrance my eyes are impatient)
Modified: Saranga Teri Yaad Me, Nain Huwe Bechain (Saranga, in your remembrance my eyes are impatient)
6. Ai Aa Aa Karu Me Kya Chikoo, Chikoo – Junglee
MD: Shankar-Jaikishan; Lyricist: Shailendra; Singer: Mohd. Rafi
Chikoos are, though not native to India, quite loved by Indians. It is cheap and nutritious and makes a very good milk shake. For non-Indians, chikoos (also written as chiku) are sapodillas (Manilkara zapota).
Shailendra, a poet of the folk, loved this fruit and always associated its mushy consistency with the mushy feeling of young love. He wanted to give an expression exactly to this feeling in this song. The censors saw this as a danger for the youth and as an impetus to the budding sexual revolution. In the process, they completely oversaw that it was coming through the back-door with a big yahooo in the same movie.
Original: Ai Aa Aa Karu Me Kya Chikoo, Chikoo (Oh my god, I’m going sapodillas)
Modified: Ai Aa Aa Karu Me Kya Suku, Suku (Oh my god, I’m going suku, suku)
7. Ek Kela Hu Me, Is Duniya Me – Baat Ek Raat Ki 
MD: S D Burman; Lyricist: Majrooh; Singer: Mohd. Rafi
Bananas are social fruits or have you seen Bananas being sold in single pieces? Well, in fact I have, on the streets in Bombay. And such a banana feels very, very, very lonely. And in certain artistic circles it was common to use the metaphor of banana to express the feeling of loneliness. Clueless about it’s implications, Majrooh wrote the above lyrics to describe the loneliness of the character played by Dev in the film. The alteration recommended by the censors was naturally very easy in this case, from kela (banana) to akela (lonely).
Original: Ek Kela Hu Me, Is Duniya Me (I am like a single banana in this world)
Modified: Akela Hu Me, Is Duniya Me (I am alone in this world)
8. Seb Aayaa Hai Jab Se Mera Haath Me – Dil Aur Mohabbat 
MD: O P Nayyar; Lyricist: Shevan Rizvi; Singers: Asha Bhosle, Mahendra Kapoor
Ten years after Sahir’s bold attempt, Shevan Rizvi made a similar but bolder attempt, expressing Adam and Eve’s triumph at getting the fruit of wisdom. This was supposed to be the ultimate rebellious moment. A rebellious stroke against the clergy. Unfortunately the producer got cold feet before it even could pass the censors. He didn’t want to risk the money he had invested in the film and substituted seb (apple) with haath (hand).
Original: Seb Aayaa Hai Jab Se Mera Haath Me (Since I’ve got hold of an apple…)
Modified: Haath Aayaa Hai Jab Se Tera Haath Me (Since my hand has come in your’s…)
9. Mile Jo Kadi-Kadi Ek Anjiir Bane – Kasme Vaade 
MD: R D Burman; Lyricist: Gulshan Bawra; Singers: Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle
Gulshan Bawra, who wanted to start his career in the film industry as a film hero, had taken up Botany in his first year at the university. He knew that the figs (anjeer) are not real fruits in botanical sense. They are in fact many small fruits in a fleshy mantle, so to say a composite fruit. Gulshanji wanted to use the medium of song to educate the people, that many fruits are needed to make a good anjeer, but all that the censors could see was *+#%. Thus a chain (zanjeer) arose from a fig (anjeer).
Original: Mile Jo Kadi-Kadi Ek Anjiir Bane (A fig is a composite fruit)
Modified: Mile Jo Kadi-Kadi Ek Zanjeer Bane (A chain is made up of links)
10. Khajoor Is Kadar Bhi Na Itara Ke Faliye – Masoom 
MD: R D Burman; Lyricist: Gulzar; Singers: Bhupinder, Suresh Wadkar
Gulzar and his funny metaphors are known to all and sundry, but the censors were sure that he meant something indecent with that. All that Gulzar wanted was to use the metaphor of an elegant date palm (khajoor) for a lady. As the saying goes who has dirt in his eyes sees dirt everywhere, such was the case with the censors, Faaroq Mia informed me, one of Pancham’s arrangers at that time.
Original: Khajoor Is Kadar Bhi Na Itara Ke Faliye (Dates, don’t fruit so abundantly)
Modified: Huzoor Is Kadar Bhi Na Itara Ke Chaliye (Don’t walk with such a style)
Well, these ten songs are just the tip of the iceberg. Dear readers, keep your ears open and your brains sharp and please do report here, if you discover more of these poor mutilated songs, where the fruits were deleted and nonsensical words substituted instead! Thank you!