Shooting film songs

Picture the song: Is that really a lesbian moment in ‘Khwab Bankar Koi Aayega’ from ‘Razia Sultan’?

Kamal Amrohi’s historical is chiefly remembered for its soundtrack, which includes a daring clinch between Hema Malini and Parveen Babi.

News from the sets of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s beleagured historical Padmavati never fails to ignite the imagination. There’s a story doing the rounds, possibly apocryphal but delicious if true, that the December 1 release based on the mythical passion of fourteenth-century ruler Alauddin Khliji for Padmini, the queen of Chittor, will feature a song between Khilji and his general and chief ear-bender Malik Kafur.

Khilji has been described by some disputed accounts as bisexual, and Kafur as one of his lovers. The rumours mills have declared that Padmavati will include a song between Khilji (Ranveer Singh) and Kafur (Jim Sarbh). In the absence of an actual on-screen encounter between Khilji and his object of desire, it will have to do.

Same-sex passion between rulers and their courtiers had already been filmed in Kamal Amrohi’s Razia Sultan (1983), one of four movies directed by the aesthete. Amrohi’s account of the first and only female ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, who wrote herself into the history books for sitting on the throne between 1236 and 1240, hasn’t held up well. The plot is creaky and disjointed and the acting stiff. The depiction of thirteenth-century India is not as immersive as K Asif’s Mughal-E-Azam (1960), on which Amrohi was one of the writers. Amrohi’s focus on the supposed romance between Razia (Hema Malini) and her Abyssinian slave general Yakut (Dharmendra) reduces the complex power play to a squabble between suitors.

If Razia Sultan is remembered, it is for Bhanu Athaiya’s costumes and NB Kulkarni’s sets, Dharmendra’s blackface, Hema Malini’s regal beauty, Khayyam’s enduring soundtrack and a daring moment of lesbian passion between Razia and her confidante Khakun (Parveen Babi).

Khwab Ban Kar Koi Aayega is dropped on unsuspecting viewers minutes before the movie’s masterpiece, Ae Dil-E-Nadaan. Khakun is attentive to Razia’s every need, and when Razia sails about in a boat at her palace dreaming of Yakut, Khakun rides along.

Lata Mangeshkar’s sanitised voice cannot hide the erotic charge of Jan Nisar Akhtar’s suggestive lyrics. Khakun sings that Yakut’s deadly arrow has pierced Razia’s heart, and the stains of that wound are in danger of dripping all over her.

Razia’s eyes gets clouded and her toes tremble as she dreams about the horse-riding Yakut. Khakun seems to be playing both loyal aide and sexual aid, helping along her mistress’s fantasies until the point where she leans over Razia and caresses her. A white plume covers their faces, suggesting a kiss and prompting the eyes of one of the two women steering the boat to widen. The other woman orders her to ignore the decadent ways of the royals, who love in ways too strange for the serving class.

Your dream will ease you into sleep, Khakun croons. Is she educating Razia in the ways of seduction or projecting her own feelings onto the queen? There is no other moment in the movie to suggest that Khakun harbours anything more than loyalty towards her mistress. The moment remains unclassifiable, open to interpretation this way or that all these years later.

Vijayendra Ghatge, who plays Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia, one of Razia’s suitors, in the movie, concurred about the potency of the moment in Hema Malini’s recently published biography. In Ram Kamal Mukherjee’s Hema Malini Beyond the Dream Girl, Ghatge says:

  “Well, there was a scene between Hema-ji and Parveen Babi, which had a hint of bisexuality. After the film was released, the press and public did talk about this scene and I still remember that years later when the film was shown on Doordarshan, this particular scene, followed by a solo song sequence by Parveen Babi, was cropped. I really don’t know whether Razia was a lesbian or not. I guess Kamal saab would have been the right person to answer this question. But I would also like to say that both Hema-ji and Parveen did a fantastic job. It was aesthetically done. In a way, Hema-ji deserves kudos for having the guts to do that scene.” 

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.