Ab jo mile hain

Movie: Caravan (1971)

Producer: Tahir Husain

Director: Nasir Husain

Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Singer: Asha Bhosle

Caravan is a blockbuster musical hit from the master of romance Nasir Husain. This movie helped establish the production banner for his younger brother and production assistant Tahir Husain – T. V. Films. Like most of Nasir Husain movie soundtracks, Caravan is replete with lilting super-hit songs that convey the myriad moods of romance and the romantic.


In fact one of the biggest stars of any Nasir Husain’s movie (especially the ones with soundtrack composed by Rahul Dev Burman) is Asha Bhosle. From Teesri Manzil (and before) through Zabardast, Asha Bhosle has had an amazing array of playback opportunities to demonstrate and showcase her immense talent and vocal prowess.


Caravan too proved to be a significant and career-defining soundtrack that provided her with some of her biggest hits and challenges. From the monster cult defining “Piya tu” to the complex “Daiyya ye main”; from the seductive “Ab jo mile hain” to the folkish “Goriya kahan tera des.” And that too in a soundtrack that also boasts of three hugely popular Lata Mangeshkar songs!


Picking a song is the most difficult task − from the romantic to the creative to the sizzling to the popular − where does one start! In such instances where making a choice is akin to the impossible, selection by means of the Russian Roulette is the easiest solution. Such an occasion, however, requires moody suspense thriller music for accompaniment. And that brings to mind the game of Russian Roulette the character of Jeetendra indulges briefly in Caravan − the one of selection between the seductive poisonous charms of Aruna Irani (which over-promises on her commitment and attachment) and the syrupy romantic loyalty of Asha Parekh (who in contrast accords promises but shows no signs of commitment).


Nasir Husain was the master of romantic movies in Hindi cinema. It goes without saying that romance is the central concept in each of his movies. (Baharon Ke Sapne may be a stray exception.) He has possibly explored all flavors and nuances of romance in his movies − and one of the most tantalizing of them would the one where one of the lovers attempts to use the green-eyed devil of jealousy to rouse the passion (or commitment) in the other. Of course these situations require an apt foil − be it Aruna Irani, Helen or Rishi Kapoor.


For Pancham that challenge of the situation is always the method and means used by the lover to arouse that jealousy or to inflict that arrow of pain. In Nasir Husain’s movies, the mood/situation may be the same but it may unfold anyplace − outdoors, indoors, at a party or as a cabaret. Thus even though the range of possibilities in arranging the music and creating the tune is boundless, the mood conveyed has to remain fixed/the same.


In Caravan (and later in Manzil Manzil), Nasir Husain provides the scene where both the loved one and the temptress indulge in singing − leading to a tug-of-war for the hero’s attention. And for each, Pancham employs the vocals of Asha Bhosle, which has the chameleon-like quality to seamlessly switch from the inflictor to the inflicted.


The “Ab jo mile hain” song has Aruna Irani playing the role of the one inflicting the pain/arousing jealousy while Asha Parekh plays that of the inflicted. Jeetendra is the bone of contention for the two and his moment of weakness and lack of judgment is seductively taken advantage of by the waiting arms of Aruna Irani.


The prelude uses the innovative 1-2-3, 1-2-3 pattern on the guitar that provides the mood of uncertainty, intrigue and thrill. It is as if the guitar dances between the “will-he-fall-will-he-not” uncertainty. The bossa nova beats on the congas usher in the seductive start as Asha croons (for Aruna Irani). An interesting aspect of Pancham’s music of that era was the use of music instruments he would employ to complete the singer’s phrase. Notice how the flute echoes her crooning (“Turu turu turu”) in the prelude.


The Aruna Irani part of the song is fashioned with many seductive harkats and nuances − just the mukhda itself is replete with Asha’s crooning, “hai-re hai-re,” “ssss,” and the extra “na-naa.” Also, notice how Pancham makes Asha Bhosle sing out in an extended manner for the antara lines. Each word is emphasized and modulated with harkats to fit into the bossa nova pattern − be it “Nashaaa,” “Pyaaar,” “Jhoomtaa-haah-aah,” or “Saaya tera-aah-haah.”


Hats off to Majrooh Sultanpuri for providing yet another seductive song that, in his inimitable style, combines the power of suggestion while maintaining decorum and somehow still ends up rhyming. The Pancham−Majrooh partnership is distinct for the innumerable seductive songs (usually featuring Asha Bhosle) they have produced where the marriage of the words to the tune is simply astounding. In fact Pancham makes the most of his “feel for the words” skills and arranges the emphasis on the words either to bring forth the emphasis or to fit it into the tune.


Notice Majrooh’s “shadow play” with words “Yeh jhoomta saaya tera tan pe mere padta rahe….” Suggestive − yes! Seductive − indeed! Salacious − certainly not! There is even a guilt-free ticket enclosed − “Tu aa gaya jo hosh mein …kya hoga phir…ye bhool jaa…” − and Pancham repeats the intoxicating “Kya hoga phir yeh bhool jaa…” twice, emphasizing the suggestive encouragement.


The second half of “Ab jo mile hain” shifts the focus on the afflicted − the heroine Asha Parekh. Pancham provides his signature “third” wherein the interlude music switches gears to announce the arrival of someone/something special. Here the playful flutes are followed by sonorous trumpets, which melt into Asha Bhosle’s vocals taking over. Pancham unveils a “different” Asha Bhosle to suit Asha Parekh’s style, on-screen persona and scene for the second half.


Even Majrooh’s words change tracks and delve on analogy to convey Asha Parekh’s message. Highlighting the relationship between the breeze and fire, Majrooh pens the essential “cannot live with or without” aspect of love: “Milke bhi jo mil na sake…bujh na sake tere  bina …tere bina jal na sake….”


Melody replaces seduction as Pancham strips off this half of all harkats from the rendition − Asha’s extension of words this time around is languorous, deliberate and almost imperceptible. Even when she repeats the last line, “Jhoothi nahin meri wafaa.” Such is the contrast that one expects Asha to render one of those harkats with “hai-re hai-re” or “na-naa” any moment – however, Pancham and Asha decide to leave us thirsting. Nevertheless, this half is no less complicated − Pancham makes Asha deliver an unsuspecting rap at the very end with the breathtaking (and controlled) “Ab jo mile hain to mujhko nighahon mein rehne de saajna…sachhe ke jhoothe hain nainon ko nainon se kehne de saajna….” And the song switches back to those 1-2-3, 1-2-3 guitar strums, which come to an abrupt end.


Which of course also highlights another aspect of the Nasir Husain−Pancham partnership. Their soundtracks are classical examples of a musical, where the song blends in seamlessly into the movie’s narration and tunes recur throughout the soundtrack. And thus the variations in moods, styles and duration are offered within the soundtrack for the same familiar story situation. In their next album Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, Pancham and Nasir Hussain devise an elaborate song competition to bring forth the same situation of opposing lovers attempting to woo their object in their own style. And later in Manzil Manzil, where Pancham crafts the delectable “O mitwa” for the similar situation.


In an interview, Nasir Husain had boasted of delivering almost all of his romantic musical hits using the same story formula. He succeeded with his intelligent direction and screenplay. Pancham, on the other hand, had a simple formula – he simply changed his style and delivered different sounds for every association he had with Nasir Husain – from Teesri Manzil through

Shashi Rao