Film: Raja Rani (1973)
Lyricist: Anand Bakshi
Producer: Jagdish Kumar
Director: Sachin Bhowmik
Singers: Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar
Just recalled an interesting line “Ek tawaif ek dakoo (ka) yaarana puraana” from the song “Chhup jaa chaand” (from the 1984 film Maati Maangey Khoon). I would like to add the film maker in that list. Many films have been based on that subject, and probably it’s the common element of “living on the edge” that lures them. Another reason could be that while one (tawaif) ensured the musical aspect, the other (daku) added enough action and their union resulted in the much needed emotional twists and turns.
While the earlier movies from the 1960s on this subject were mainly rural based, the 1970s saw the base shifting to the cities or metros. One such movie was Raja Rani featuring Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore, the hit pair of many successful films like Aaradhana and Amar Prem. In Raja Rani, however, the hero was a burglar rather than a menacing daku.
The film obviously had brilliant mujara or kotha songs like “Laal chunariya odh ke” and “Ja re ja maine tujhe jaan liya.” But the album was very well balanced by “Jab andhera hota hai,” a background duet by Asha Bhosle and Bhupinder Singh, which became a near-signature of the film. The romance of the tawaif and the thief bloomed in a cute duet “Haan to main kya keh rahaa tha” by Mukesh and Lata, a rare combination in Pancham’s output. The consequence of this love gives rise to their decision to quit their professions and start a new and married life, and a lovely situation for a great romantic song “Main ek chor, tu meri raani” by the celebrated combination of Kishore and Lata.
The song kicks off with a beautiful sea-side view of the sunset from one of Mumbai’s sea-facing roads. It’s the beginning of the night before the dawn of their new life. Rajesh Khanna carries limited luggage that interestingly includes a parrot in a cage, which is symbolic of their caged lives.
Pancham starts the musical proceedings with light strums of guitar, very soft rhythm with audible strokes of reso-reso set to the walking pace of the characters but coupled with the cautious flute starting simultaneously and becoming distinct, hinting to the thoughts in his minds that he is about to express to his partner. The “Hmmm hmmm” with which Kishore starts the song depicts a sort of hesitation in his mind that follows a long mukhda expression:
“Main ek chor tu meri raani…main ek chor,” but with a cautious touch.
Lata is curiously watching and listening to his expression and comes up with a perfect pick of Sharmila’s style along:
“Aaaan, haaan…chor naheen” and beautifully punctuates his line with
“Tu mera Raaja main teri Raani.”
A lovely glorification of her beloved that reminds me of a similar act by Asha in the line “aap ke sar per bhi ulfat ka taaj hai” from the song “Aap sa koi haseen” (Chandi Sona).
Her confidence in him just oozes out in the next line:
“…chal padee main saath tere…
saari duniya ko bhulaake”
Get enough of the unforgettable sweet twist that Lata gives to “bhulaake” in this line. You will yearn for it in the second occurrence toward the end of the song but Pancham, as usual, will deny you that chocolate. The only possible way to re-experience it is by rewinding to the start of the song.
The deep violins that carry the flavor of The Age of Aquarius start the first interlude, setting the path for the siren of the police van that sweeps across the scene. Always trust Pancham for his efforts to make even this warning sound effect musical.
Again, it is a lovely reference of this sound that underlines the fear of the police deep in Rajesh Khanna’s mind. Pancham again makes good use of this fear effect in the other duet “Haan to main kya keh raha tha,” where the police whistle makes Rajesh Khanna cautious and Sharmila reassures him. Here too, she does the same with the help of strumming guitars and the violins bringing him back on the route of the antara.
The antara has the swap of the sequence of the singers, and it is Lata to start with her amazing energy and confidence for Sharmila. After that police siren effect, they move to the sandy beaches of a Mumbai chowpatee where they nearly stumble on a sand castle, which tempts them to dream about their own similar one. Sharmila is already confident about that future but it makes even the cautious Rajesh Khanna dream about those moon-lit nights and love talks of their future.
Pancham here induces the kick that makes the crossover soar along:
“yeh baatein ye raatein bhool jaayen hum…
to humein… yaad dilaaana…ho bhool na jaana”
The last part is reminiscent of “tar tara raa…he raa raa” of “Jab andhera hota hai.” Again, Pancham’s genius coming to the fore (it is always at the fore, by the way) bringing in the leitmotif of the song that’s an inseparable part of Rajesh Khanna’s past life.
Back again, that typically inquisitive Sharmila pitches in with her “kyaaa?” that bridges the antara–mukhda gap and brings us back to the meter of the mukhda seamlessly.
The second interlude, again, has a similar start on those typical deep violins as the first, but another minor turbulence is in the waiting with the police constable searching his luggage while the road Romeos trouble her, which is followed by a brief mock fight.
The whole sequence is beautifully visualized by Pancham with the apt use of guitar strums, violin punctuation’s and some twisting flutes (for those twisting wrists) and a lovely sequence of expressive violins. The sturdy strums with a supporting layer of violins lead us to the final antara.
Kishore (Rajesh Khanna), obviously disturbed a bit by the proceedings, brings in that negative note along the first two lines:
“Kismet ne to humko dukh hee baantein…apne raste mein bikharaye kaante” but Lata is quick again to make it positive with that attitude of “kaante chun chunke bikharayee kaliyaan” and topping it with a soaring and inspiring crossover.
The typical violins, now brief and direct, gear up for final rendition of the sign line, which is followed by the fade-out with alternate vocal threads, finally ending with the positive “Tu mera raja, tu meri raani” eliminating that negative “main ek chor” totally.
This song has always remained a favorite of mine accompanying me right from my childhood. Even after knowing it was inspired from The Age of Aquarius, my fondness for it never ceased but grew multifold, making me wonder how He could make two totally different songs – one an action-packed thriller and the other a soft romantic melody – with a cleverly subtle link.
With this song, I could proudly say that my “Age of Music” had started and loRD Pancham’s creations had to be featured in it as the dominant living species.