Lollywood Flashback

Sound of Lollywood: ‘Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana’ from the superhit ‘Aaina’ is truly unforgettable

Music composer Robin Ghosh presents the song four times in the film, each sung by a different artist or combination of artists.

Aaina is an interesting film for a number of reasons, none of which has to do with the plot. The story of love found, thwarted and regained is tired and predictable and 40 years on, it makes you wonder what the fuss was all about.

But move away from the narrative to the music, the direction and the acting and it is easy to see why audiences swarmed to the theatres week after week. The 1977 movie ran for 401 weeks – nearly eight years – making it the longest-running and biggest grossing Urdu film of all time.

Though Lahore is considered the heartland of Pakistan’s film industry – hence the sobriquet Lollywood – the Punjabi capital was not the only city where movies were made. Karachi, with its dramatic Arabian Sea backdrop, glitzy skyline and rich financiers, was a natural magnet for filmmakers. Before the breakup of Pakistan and the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, Dhaka too was a production centre.

Though filmed in Karachi for the Urdu-speaking audience, Nazarul Islam’s Aaina is, in fact, a Bengali blockbuster. The producer, director, music director, the two leads as well as one of the playback singers were all Bengali or had connections with the small but vibrant Dhaka-based film world.

Aaina (1977).
Aaina (1977).

Aaina is a fine example of the different sensibility Bengalis brought to filmmaking. Director Nazarul Islam relished poking holes in social conventions. In Aaina, he turns the generation gap on its head. The wealthy, bridge-playing, whisky-drinking and status-conscious older generation is depicted as wayward and immoral. It is the young couple, played by Nadeem and Shabnam, who persevere in their love by invoking the established traditions of marriage, gender and decorum.

And it is the leads who steal the show. Though Shabnam was married to the film’s music composer, Robin Ghosh, it was the doe-eyed Nadeem who was her on-screen foil. For more than a decade the pair dominated the industry. In Aaina, the chemistry between them is immediate, genuine and infectious.

But the music is also noteworthy. Robin Ghosh had extensive knowledge of and exposure to western music, which he used to great effect throughout his career. His soundtracks, including Aaina, are marked by a luscious sound that is sophisticated, elegant and wonderfully imaginative. Indeed, in one rather dreadful scene, drunken party goers dance woozily to a sizzling James Brown R&B that saves the episode from sinking into farce.

The soundtrack’s key song, Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana (Don’t Ever Forget Me), is presented four different times in the film, each sung by a different artist or combination of artists. On each occasion, Ghosh sets the lovely melody in a distinct emotional context. He uses different instruments, arranges the song variously and works with different lyrics, enriching the soulfulness of the score and the movie.

Ghosh drew on the rich, melodious folk traditions of Bengal, which has a completely different sound from the percussion-driven Punjabi folk or raag-based compositions employed by his peers in West Pakistan. Nazarul Islam also won praise for allowing Mehdi Hassan’s version to stand on its own without the lyrics being lip-synced by the actor on screen.

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Mujhe Dil Se Na Bhulana from Aaina (1977).

In this version, Ghosh uses the voices of Mehnaz, daughter of the noted soz khwan Kajjan Begum, and the rising Bengali pop singer Alamgir to deliver the goods.

A version of this story appeared on the blog https://dailylollyblog.wordpress.com/ and has been reproduced here with permission.

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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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For more information on special offers on flights to London and other destinations in the UK, see here.

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