Shakti Samanta’s romantic drama Aradhana (1969), which traces the journey of an unwed mother, was a landmark film in more ways than one. Its lead actor, Rajesh Khanna, sealed his superstar status with the movie. Kishore Kumar’s career as a playback singer turned around. The film also marked the beginning of a strong second wind in SD Burman’s career as a music composer.
While the entire album is a classic, the song that we still can’t get enough of after nearly half a century is Roop Tera Mastana. It is shot in one continuous take, which was highly unusual for its time.
A young man and a woman, forced to take shelter from the rain inside a small room, fight the urge to consummate their love. Sharmila Tagore and Rajesh Khanna move around the fireplace – now coming closer, now moving away – as it thunders outside. The camera doesn’t leave them. It is as fixated on the couple as they are with each other.
The story goes that Burman pulled music arranger Kersi Lord aside and gave him the following brief for the song: “Tumko jo karna hai karna, magar mere ko ekdum romance chahiye gaane mein.” (Do whatever you want, but I want romance in the song.)
Manohari Singh, RD Burman’s longtime assistant, played the saxophone and Homi Mullan played the duggi. The amazing interplay between the accordion and sax in between the stanzas is as romantic as it gets and mirrors the sensuous dance taking place between the characters on the screen.
The song is pivotal to the film. The plot hinges on that one indiscretion by Tagore’s character. Khanna’s eyes are lit with desire, but it is in Tagore’s face and body language that we see the conflict. She knows and fears the consequences of giving in, but what about her own desire? We see the heroine struggling to make a decision about her body. There’s no man here to mediate on her behalf.