Film music

A snowy winter is the perfect excuse to get cuddly in Hindi film songs

Low temperatures equal low inhibitions.

Snowfall and snowstorms, frozen rivers and lakes, jammed roads and highways, landslides, faces and bodies disappearing into woolen garments – the harshest phase of winter has arrived in parts of India. As have memories of the snow song, a sub-genre as distinctive as the rain song, the beach song and the disco song.

The snow song is typically associated with romance, the loosening of inhibitions, and sexual intimacy. In Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe from Junglee (1961), Shekhar (Shammi Kapoor) gets stuck in a blizzard and has to spend two days in a log cabin with Rajkumari (Saira Banu). The quiet period establishes their intimacy, after which Shekhar realises how much he loves Rajkumari. He breaks out into a cry of jubilation, screams “Yahoo” and frolics in the snow. Anecdotal evidence suggests that couples, especially newlyweds, have since made trips to Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh in winter to experience the same heady rush of romance.

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Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe from Junglee (1961).

Kashmir in winter began appearing as early as the 1940s. In the black-and-white film Ek Thi Ladki (1949), the song Hum Chale Door combines studio shots with footage of the lead actors (Motilal and Meena) enjoying a boat ride on a lake. The cloud-capped mountains are filmed with a hint of winter in the region.

Skating rinks are hotspots for simpering lovers. In Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyaan (Woh Kaun Thi, 1964), Parveen Chaudhary serenades a coy Manoj Kumar, who needs the assistance of a chair to step onto the ice.

Snow leads to sex in Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973). Preeti (Sharmila Tagore) meets amateur skater Prem (Shashi Kapoor) during a holiday in Shimla. Sparks ignite during Wada Karo, set at a skating rink. Preeti almost drowns in a lake. Prem rescues an unconscious Preeti and to save her from hypothermia, he removes his shirt and slips between the sheets to keep her body warm.

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Wada Kao from Aa Gale Lag Jaa (1973).

The quest of Indian filmmakers for the perfect snowy setting took them as far as Europe in the 1960s. Raj Kapoor shot in the Alps for Sangam (1964), co-starring Vyjayanthimala and Rajendra Kumar. In the song Ich Liebe Dich (German for I love you), the newlyweds Sundar (Raj Kapoor) and Radha (Vyjayanthimala) include a sleigh ride during their honeymoon as Vivian Lobo sings in German in the background.

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Ich Leibe Dich.

Following Raj Kapoor’s example, filmmakers have frequently set songs in snow-covered locations. Yash Chopra filmed the melancholic number Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein (Kabhi Kabhie, 1976) in a white Kashmir. Composed by Khayyam and sung by Mukesh, the popular song reinvented Amitabh Bachchan’s image from an angry young man into a romantic lead.

Dekha Ek Khwab from Silsila (1981) was shot partly in The Netherlands and Pahalgam in Kashmir. Chopra moved to the picturesque landscapes of Switzerland after growing tensions over the pro-independence movement in Kashmir forced filmmakers to abandon the state in the ’80s.

In 1985, Chopra shot a couple of songs, including Janam Janam (Faasle, 1985), against snow-capped mountains in Switzerland, even though the scenic locations were not part of the storyline.

Chopra later wove the tranquil country into his movie plots. In Chandni (1989), Lalit (Vinod Khanna), a travel agency owner, befriends Rohit (Rishi Kapoor) in Switzerland, where Rohit has successfully undergone treatment for his paralysed legs. They don’t know it yet, but they are both in love with the same woman Chandni (Sridevi), and they sing a duet Tu Mujhe Suna, urging each other to reveal the name of their sapno ki rani (dream girl).

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Tu Mujhe Suna from Chandni (1989).

Chopra’s son, Aditya Chopra, continued the tradition in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995). A skimpily dressed and inebriated Simran (Kajol) romances a fully clothed and shivering Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) in the song Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main. It was shot at Jungfraujoch, known for its icy glaciers.

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Zara Sa Jhoom Loon Main from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995).

In several film songs, snow usually serves as a pretty backdrop. It took Mani Ratnam, the director from the city without barely any winter, to depict the awe that the first sighting of snow can produce. In Yeh Haseen Vaadiyaan from Roja (1992), originally made in Tamil, Rishi (Arvind Swamy) takes his bride Roja (Madhoo) to Kashmir and reveals the snow-encrusted peaks, she is astounded. Her emotions are expressed in the symphonic tune composed by AR Rahman. Quite naturally, a lovemaking scene follows.

In the peppy track Yeh Ishq Hai (Jab We Met, 2007), Geet (Kareena Kapoor) is ecstatic when she reaches the Rohtang Pass. The narrow road is covered by snow. She leaps off the jeep driven by Aditya (Shahid Kapoor) and exclaims that she can see jannat (heaven) in the white expanse.

The song Kitni Khoobsurat Yeh Tasveer Hai from Bemisal (1982) pays direct tribute to the wonders of winter. Lyricist Anand Bakshi and composer RD Burman thank the wintery landscapes of Kashmir. The visuals pan away from the actors singing onscreen to the sheer beauty of Kashmir in winter. It’s enough to make you want to pack your bags and head north.

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Kitni Khoobsurat Yeh Tasveer Hai from Bemisal (1982).
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London then and now – As experienced by Indians

While much has changed, the timeless quality of the city endures.

“I found the spirit of the city matching the Bombay spirit. Like Bombay, the city never sleeps and there was no particular time when you couldn’t wander about the town freely and enjoy the local atmosphere”, says CV Manian, a PhD student in Manchester in the ‘80s, who made a trip to London often. London as a city has a timeless quality. The seamless blend of period architecture and steel skyscrapers acts as the metaphor for a city where much has changed, but a lot hasn’t.

The famed Brit ‘stiff upper lip, for example, finds ample validation from those who visited London decades ago. “The people were minding their business, but never showed indifference to a foreigner. They were private in their own way and kept to themselves.” Manian recollects. Aditya Dash remembers an enduring anecdote from his grandmother’s visit to London. “There is the famous family story where she was held up at Heathrow airport. She was carrying zarda (or something like that) for my grandfather and customs wanted to figure out if it was contraband or not.”

However, the city always housed contrasting cultures. During the ‘Swinging ‘60s’ - seen as a precursor to the hippie movement - Shyla Puri’s family had just migrated to London. Her grandfather still remembers the simmering anti-war, pro-peace sentiment. He himself got involved with the hippie movement in small ways. “He would often talk with the youth about what it means to be happy and how you could achieve peace. He wouldn’t go all out, but he would join in on peace parades and attend public talks. Everything was ‘groovy’ he says,” Shyla shares.

‘Groovy’ quite accurately describes the decade that boosted music, art and fashion in a city which was till then known for its post-World-War austerities. S Mohan, a young trainee in London in the ‘60s, reminisces, “The rage was The Beatles of course, and those were also the days of Harry Belafonte and Ella Fitzgerald.” The likes of The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd were inspiring a cultural revolution in the city. Shyla’s grandfather even remembers London turning punk in the ‘80s, “People walking around with leather jackets, bright-colored hair, mohawks…It was something he would marvel at but did not join in,” Shyla says.

But Shyla, a second-generation Londoner, did join in in the revival of the punk culture in the 21st century. Her Instagram picture of a poster at the AfroPunk Fest 2016 best represents her London, she emphatically insists. The AfroPunk movement is trying to make the Punk culture more racially inclusive and diverse. “My London is multicultural, with an abundance of accents. It’s open, it’s alive,” Shyla says. The tolerance and openness of London is best showcased in the famous Christmas lights at Carnaby Street, a street that has always been popular among members of London’s alternate cultures.

Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)
Christmas lights at Carnaby Street (Source: Roger Green on Wikimedia Commons)

“London is always buzzing with activity. There are always free talks, poetry slams and festivals. A lot of museums are free. London culture, London art, London creativity are kept alive this way. And of course, with the smartphones navigating is easy,” Shyla adds. And she’s onto something. Manian similarly describes his ‘80s rendezvous with London’s culture, “The art museums and places of interest were very illustrative and helpful. I could tour around the place with a road map and the Tube was very convenient.” Mohan, with his wife, too made the most of London’s cultural offerings. “We went to see ‘Swan Lake’ at the Royal Opera House and ‘The Mousetrap’ by Agatha Christie. As an overseas graduate apprentice, I also had the pleasure to visit the House of Lords and take tea on the terrace.”

For the casual stroller along London’s streets today, the city would indeed look quite different from what it would’ve to their grandparents. Soho - once a poor suburb known for its crime and sex industry - is today a fashionable district of upmarket eateries and fashion stores. Most of the big British high street brands have been replaced by large international stores and the London skyline too has changed, with The Shard being the latest and the most impressive addition. In fact, Shyla is quite positive that her grandfather would not recognise most of the city anymore.

Shyla, though, isn’t complaining. She assures that alternate cultures are very much alive in the city. “I’ve seen some underground LGBT clubs, drag clubs, comedy clubs, after midnight dance-offs and empty-warehouse-converted parties. There’s a space for everybody.” London’s cosmopolitan nature remains a huge point of attraction for Indian visitors even today. Aditya is especially impressed by the culinary diversity of London and swears that, “some of the best chicken tikka rolls I have had in my life were in London.” “An array of accents flood the streets. These are the people who make London...LONDON,” says Shyla.

It’s clear that London has changed a lot, but not really all that much. Another aspect of Indians’ London experience that has remained consistent over the past decades is the connectivity of British Airways. With a presence in India for over 90 years, British Airways has been helping generations of Indians discover ‘their London’, just like in this video.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.