hindi film music

In the travel song in Hindi films, not all journeys are about love

‘Jab Harry Met Sejal’ is about finding the right partner, but there have been other quests too in Hindi cinema.

The life-as-a-journey theme has been played out in a great many Hindi film songs – Suhana Safar is a popular, happy sing-along choice, as is Zindagi Ek Safar Hai Suhana. The dominant emotion is one of reassurance and positivity. Life is beautiful, just look around you.

In Yun Hi CHala Chal Rahi from Swades (2004), a dishevelled fakir sings of the joys of life during a road trip with a US-returned scientist who is on a quest of his own.

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Yun Hi Chala Chal Rahi, Swades (2004).

Ye umr waqt raasta guzarta raha; Safar ka hi tha main, safar ka raha: It’s all about the journey in the song Safar from the August 4 release Jab Harry Met Sejal, composed by Pritam and written by Irshad Kamil. Singer Arijit Singh’s come-to-bed voice accentuates the blithe, living-in-the-moment vibe – Kamil’s play on the word rozaana is particularly suited to Singh’s drawl.

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Safar, Jab Harry Met Sejal (2017).

Pritam and Kamil have been down this track before, in Ali’s Jab We Met (2007). Two young people, looking for different things, find their paths crossing until they finally find each other. Aao Meelon Chale is about the realisation that often, the journey is so much more fun, and the destination doesn’t matter anymore.

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Aao Meelon Chale, Jab We Met (2007).

But there have also been poignant numbers about difficult journeys and turning points.

In Maachis (1996), a group of young men set out to join an armed movement, their trek through mountains and valleys punctuated by memories of home. Lyricist Gulzar and composer Vishal Bhardwaj put together a wistful number about a journey and all that you leave behind.

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Chod Aaye Hum, Maachis (1996).

There’s more revolt, and dangerous journeys, in 1942 A Love Story (1994), one of RD Burman’s last film albums, written by Javed Akhtar and sung by Shivaji Chattopadhyay. When an underground freedom fighter is discovered and killed, his grieving daughter must flee to safety and continue the struggle. Her fellow traveller, also a revolutionary, leads the way, singing of the difficult way ahead but reminding her that the dark times won’t last forever. There will be a new dawn soon.

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Yeh Safar, 1942 A Love Story (1994).

Further back in time, in Silsila (1981), love bloomed amid Amsterdam’s tulips and Lodhi Garden’s lesser flora, to be quickly followed by a season of separation and despair. Fate, as it often, does, brings the lovers together again, but it’s a different time now – domestic situations have changed. Will it be a rebellion against norms and traditions, or will be sacrifice, letting go of your heart’s desire? Shivkumar Sharma and Hariprasad Chaurasia composed this evergreen number, written by Javed Akhtar. Love is a journey too, and you can never be sure where you might end up.

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Yeh Kahan Aa Gaye Hum, Silsila (1981).

In Umrao Jaan (1981), a Lucknow courtesan flees the attacking British, arriving in Faizabad, her childhood home. It’s not a happy homecoming – she must find patrons in a new city, and although she finds her family, they won’t have her back on account of her profession. This is a place where she is no longer in charge of her life and destiny, and where there are “dust storms as far as the eye can see”. Here’s an Asha Bhosle classic, composed by Khayyam and written by Shahryar.

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Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston, Umrao Jaan (1981).

While on journeys, here’s a poignant, stirring ode to nation and patriotism. This Hemant Kumar number, composed by Naushad and written by Shakeel Badayuni, was a favourite in schools and often played before and during assemblies, presumably to inspire young minds. At a time when narrow notions of patriotism are being shoved down throats, young and old, Insaaf Ki Dagar Pe from Gunga Jumna (1961) is an excellent reminder of what the national project was always about: justice and equality for all.

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Insaaf Ki Dagar Pe, Gunga Jumna (1961).
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