Rain Men

What do lyricists look for in songs about the rains?

Monsoon is the most celebrated season in Hindi film music.

A rain song that begins as “Tip Tip Barsa Paani” (Drop by drop of falling rain) or “Geela Geela Paani” (Wet wet water) is an ode to the arrival of the moody monsoon. As prosaic as these words sound, it’s the music composition around the lyrics that gives the songs a distinct identity. These two memorable tunes are at the opposite ends of the spectrum even as they share a common thread of salutation involving the rain.

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‘Geela Geela Pani’ from ‘Satya’.

“Tip Tip Barsa Paani” swiftly establishes its allegiance to the erotic in the second line “Paani ne aag laga di” (The water has stoked fire). The heroine of Mohra singing the song (Raveena Tandon) makes a not-so-subtle reference to her drenched body. Viju Shah composed the scintillating number, which was written by the prodigious lyricist Anand Bakshi. “Geela Geela Paani” has the pristine heroine (Urmila Matondkar) standing at the terrace of her building in Satya (1998), holding out her palm to collect the first drops of rain. She sings “Paani sureela” (the musical water), reaching for an esoteric understanding of rain water. The music was composed by Vishal Bhardwaj, while Gulzar wrote the fluid lyrics.

Lyrics associated with the monsoon have worked strongly as a metaphor for private emotions, including very occasionally a respite from drought, such as “Hariyala Sawan Dhol Bajata” (Do Bigha Zameen, 1953), “Allah Megh De” (Guide, 1965), “Allah Megh De” (Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein, 1977) as well as hope in “Ghanan Ghanan” (Lagaan, 2001).

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‘Allah Megh De’ from ‘Guide’.

Lyricists and composers have had a field day decoding the rains. In Shor (1972), Inderjeet Singh Tulsi questioned the true colour of water in “Paani Re Paani Tera Rang Kaisa”. Anu Malik captured the profound sound of rain in “Rain Is Falling Chama Cham Cham”, which has the tinkle of a woman’s anklets. It was written by Surendra Sathi for Gunehgar (1995). In the second line, Sathi rhymed “cham’ with “Ladki ne aankh maari gir gaye hum” (The girl winked and I fell flat), suggesting that the woman’s advances made the man skid rather than the slippery road on which he is stomping for her attention.

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‘Paani Re Paani Tera Rang Kaisa’ from ‘Shor’.

Often, lyricists toe a thin line between love and lust when writing a song in which rain meets romance. Couples frolic in the first shower of the season as it offers them an opportunity to mate like amphibious creatures.

Umpteen songs have played out to this rhythm: “Kabhi Jo Badal Barse” (Jackpot, 2013), ”Dekho Zara Dekho Barsaat Ki Jhadi” (Yeh Dillagi, 1994), “Badal Yun Garajta Hai” (Betaab, 1983), “Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein” (Ajnabee, 1974), “Chhup Gaye Saare Nazaare” (Do Raaste, 1969) “Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke” (Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke, 1969) “Haye Re Haye” (Humjoli, 1970), “Aaj Rapat Jaaye” (Namak Halal, 1982), “Rimjhim Ke Tarane” (Kala Bazaar, 1960), “Rimjhim Rimjhim Dekho” (Shehzada, 1972), “Megha Re” (Pyaasa Sawan, 1981) and “Rimjhim Rimjhim” (1942 A Love Story, 1994).

Can lyricists do away without mixing the two? The poetry of the monsoon’s effulgence has featured in “O Sajna Barkha Bahaar Aayi” (Parakh, 1960 ), “Kaali Ghata Chhaye” (Sujata, 1959), “O Ghata Sawari” (Abhinetri, 1970), “Garjat Barsat Sawan Aayo Re” (Barsaat Ki Raat, 1960), “Chhoti Si Kahani Se” (Ijaazat, 1987), “Megha Re Megha” (Lamhe, 1991) and “Barso Re” (Guru, 2007).

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‘O Sajna Barkha Bahaar Aayi’ from ‘Parakh’.

The classical raga megh malhar, which is invoked to tease rain out of dark clouds, has inspired such songs as “Barso Re” (Tansen, 1943), written by DN Madhok, composed by Khemchand Prakash and sung by Khursheed Bano. It is one of the foremost songs in the genre. Manna Dey sang “Lapak Jhapak” for Shankar-Jaikishan in Boot Polish (1954) and classified it as based on raga malhar. However, Dey did not clearly state if the raga was megh malhar, adana malhar or mian ki malhar. The composition is often attributed to other ragas like darbari, basant and kanada. The flourish towards the end of the song, in which clouds thunder and lightning strikes suggests the influence of megh malhar.

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‘Barso Re’ from ‘Tansen’.

Two other variants of the rain song exist. One is in which the lyrics that allude to the rains are not carried out by the visuals. “Barsaat Mein Humse Mile Tum” (Barsaat, 1949) “Kuch Kehta Hai Yeh Sawan” (Mera Gaon Mera Desh, 1971 ), “Sawan Ki Raaton Mein” (Prem Patra, 1962) and “Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si” (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, 1958) do not have a drop of rain in sight.

It is the other kind of song that is difficult to imagine without the accompanying visuals – songs such as “Pyar Hua Ikraar Hua” (Shree 420, 1955), “Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam” (Dil Tera Deewana, 1962), “Kaate Nahi Kat Te” (Mr India, 1987), “Hum Tum” (Hum Tum, 2004) and the instrumental version of “Kuch Kuch Hota Hai” (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, 1998), in which the rain plays match-maker without appearing in the lyrics.

Then there is the oddly sweet “Rim Jhim Gire Sawan” (Manzil, 1979), in which the couple isn’t lip syncing the words. The monsoon allows the pair (Amitabh Bachchan and Moushmi Chatterjee) to wade through puddles of water and slush and gives viewers an unforgettable tour of a drenched Mumbai. The visuals have the perfect tint of a gloomy day that is made cheerful by its inhabitants. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, the lyrics were written by Yogesh for composer Rahul Dev Burman.

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‘Rimjhim Gire Sawan’ (female version) from ‘Manzil’.

For every “Koi Ladki Hai” (Dil To Pagal Hai, 1997), in which Anand Bakshi injects the rain dance song with the humour of a nursery rhyme, writing “Ghode jaisi chaal, haathi jaisi dum, o sawan raja, kahan se aaye tum” (With the gait of a horse and an elephant’s tail, where do you come from, monsoon king?), there is the cliché reinforced in Sameer’s words for “On The Roof, In The Rain” (Masti, 2004). This childish ditty has such lyrics as “Chori chori chora chhori chhat pe milenge, toh khelenge prem game, chhod ke saari baatein bas romance rahega main” (Sneakily boy and girl will meet on the terrace and play the game of love, where romance will take over small talk).

Moving away from words and songs, the rain sequence in Pather Panchali (1955), tuned to Ravi Shankar’s sitar, is perhaps one of the most beautiful odes to the first flush of rain. In Satyajit Ray’s masterful debut, the brother-sister duo Apu (Subir Banerjee) and Durga (Uma Dasgupta) enjoy the gentle showers and later take shelter under a tree to escape the squall that follows. Durga prays for the torrential downpour to go away after a short-lived dance of joy.

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The rain sequence in ‘Pather Panchali’.
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