Naa Jaa O Mere Humdum …

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar Lyrics: Majrooh

Film: Pyar Ka Mausam (1969) Producer: Nasir Hussain

Director: Nasir Hussain

Our song for this edition, Lata’s haunting naa jaa o mere humdum comes off the Pyar ka Mausam soundtrack, which boasted nine songs that saw Pancham in fine form. Majrooh pens a familiar staple of Bollywood films: the heroine beseeching her lover to return to her after a lover’s quarrel, or perhaps a misunderstanding of sorts. In addition to being one of Lata’s best renditions, the song also boasts another example of Pancham’s penchant for experimenting with arrangements and sounds: the striking (no pun intended) use of church bells. It’s a Morricone-esque flourish employed for a different mood. But what mood is it? Despite the familiar territory, the trademark mix of elements makes the intent a bit ambiguous.

Consider the prelude. It opens with a building wall of sound from strings and percussion followed by a set of short furious fragments backed by a progression of simple notes. The vigorous section pulls off only to segue to an interplay between the strings and the aforementioned church bells. As the rhythm sets in on the acoustic guitar and the triangle, one can’t help think about ye shaam mastaanii from Kati Patang (released the following year). The rhythm is punctuated by chordal stabs on an electric guitar. The strings return to establish a rhythm and pace not unlike a running train — echoes of mere sapano.n kii raanii from Aradhana (released the same year).As the strings repeat a fervent riff, the synthesizer punctuates the fragment with chord stabs. This is followed by a short interplay between cellos and violins — the contribution of the latter is overlaid by a melodic fragment (played on a pennywhistle?). The strings start playing longer fragments now and Pancham tosses in some vibes as well. The energetic section is cut short by a calm melody played out on the flute. The vibes join in and, at the tail, so do the strings. As the instruments fade, Lata’s voice breaks in with the reverb and echo you would associate with either a ghostly voice in the woods or an echo (accompanied visually by a panoramic view of the hills. The occasional contribution from the vibes augments the effect of her voice. The strings carry the riff forward and strums on the acoustic guitar lead the rhythm in. The lament of a jilted spirit represents an extreme of the lass who wants her lover back, and perhaps, in the grand scheme of things, either interpretation works for the song. I don’t remember how the song unfolds on screen, but one can only hope that it doesn’t represent a completely different interpretation.

Pancham uses the church bells to complement the lead-in as well as the first line of the mukha.Daa. No new instruments (except in the percussion section) are heard. The melody is ethereal and Lata’s rendition coats each word with longing and love. That she makes the navigation of the notes effortless is a testament to her gift of singing.

The first interlude opens with a vigorous interplay between the strings and the synthesizer, before a swirling riff is played out on the strings. As the section levels out, strums on the acoustic guitar punctuate a flute melody; the interlude ends with a riff played out on the guitar that leads into the a.ntaraa.

The bongo and acoustic guitar are the prominent elements accompanying Lata in the a.ntaraa. The melody anticipates the a.ntaraa of kahii.n karatii hogii from Phir Kab Milogi (which came a good 5 years later). The switch back to the mukha.Daa happens without any pause or leading music. The only respite comes after Lata has already announced the return with naa jaa. This break represents an interesting use of the first line and Pancham eschews the need to establish the mukha.Daa again, choosing instead to continue seamlessly.

The church bells that accompany Lata as she sings the mukha.Daa again continue into the second interlude, where they are accompanied by an off-beat two-note ping-pong fragment. The chimes are more prominent (as are the punctuating vibes) as the strings and flute exchange melodies. The church bells and the two-note fragment return to end the interlude.

The percussion (at least the triangle) is more prominent in the second a.ntaraa, although the other elements remain the same.

For a coda, Pancham whips out another rabbit from his hat. He has a trumpet play out the melody of the mukha.Daa. The off-beat two-note ping-pong fragment returns; when the trumpet is done, the strings take up the melody, and as they repeat the first line, complemented by the church bells, the song fades to a close.

In addition to the interesting use of church bells, Pancham’s arrangements give us several examples of interplay (strings/church bells, cellos/violins, strings/keyboards, strings/flute). We also see portends of other Pancham classics buried in the melody and arrangements. Unfortunately, the song, and the soundtrack as a whole, has (predictably) received shoddy treatment from HMV. The CD (CDF 120167) contains a terrible copy of the songs. This song is full of the crackle you’d associate with old records. The murky sound only obscures the details of the arrangement. And how does one explain the strange spelling of the title on the CD (Pyar ka Mousum)? This is a tawdry effort that’s begging to be remastered for the sequel to Tumse Milke. (the 2-CD compilation boasting a host of sparkling Pancham goodies, courtesy Pancham Studios). Or am I asking for too much?

George Thomas