Rewind 2020: The soothing Hindi songs in a year of pain

Revisiting the memorable Hindi film songs that provided us joy and took our minds off from the despair around us

By Mayur Lookhar

It’s that time of the year when one soaks in the Christmas and New Year’s Eve festivities.  It’s a time to celebrate, reflect the best that the year offered us.  Sadly, 2020 started on a gloomy note, but it ends with a promise of life returning to a sense of normalcy.  The Covid-19 pandemic tormented the world throughout 2020.  While the vaccine offers humanity hope for the future, but scores of human lives lost to Coronavirus can never ease the pain of losing our dear ones.  In a year where breathing freely in open air was fraught with danger, the usual practice of compiling, comparisons, rating all seem so hollow and insignificant.  And so, we’ve decided against rating this time.

The air was gripped with fear and the common sound that beat repeatedly around us was the ambulance siren.  Amidst this pall of gloom, there was still some soothing music to savor.  So as 2020 is about to end, we will simply revisit the memorable songs that took your mind off from the despair around us. 

Shayad – Love Aaj Kal

The Pritam-Irshad Kamil-Arijit Singh trio weren’t quite at their best, but director Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal [2020] produced a magical romantic number in Shayad.  The protagonists were confused about their feelings for each other but the Shayad track made it clear, “I don’t want anyone better than you, but neither anyone lesser than you”.  Kamil’s lyrics are a beautiful metaphor on inseparable love.   Give him soulful lyrics and Arijit Singh immerses himself into its beauty. Add to it Pritam’s artistry and we have a majestic melody.  Shayad (maybe) is the title, but this composition is undoubtedly the most soothing Hindi song of the year.  The film couldn’t win much hearts on Valentine’s Day [date of release] but the Shayad track is likely to be your love song for many V-Days to follow.

Do Din Ka Ye Mela Hain – Gulabo Sitabo

Tune into a track that has a folksy flavour, and you want to dig into its origins. Lyricist Dinesh Pant’s Do Din Ka Ye Mela Hain comes across as spin-off to the Rajasthani [Kabir] bhajan Kya Lekar Aaya Bande, Kya Lekar Jayega.  Pant’s poem blended beautifully with Shoojit Sircar’s slice of life drama Gulabo Sitabo.  In a pandemic year, Pant’s lyrics embody the philosophy of life. Ups and downs, life-death is all part of the world that we live in. The only thing constant is that time, life moves on. Anuj Garg’s riveting score and Rahul Ram’s earthy baritone make this for a delightful, insightful number.

Dil Julaha – Ludo

Weave one’s magic. Writers often use such words to marvel at one’s artistry, but seldom have the words fitted rather knitted so appropriately. Anurag Basu’s ‘dice’ of life dramedy Ludo saw a beautiful number in Dil Julaha. The heart is the hub of human emotions. Lyricist, actor Swanand Kirkire equated the heart to that of a weaver, and the various pieces of cloth mirroring the human emotions.  Not your conventional one but this is a ‘master’piece from the under rated lyrical weaver.  Pritam’s jovial music and Darshan Raval’s effervescent singing make you revisit this Dil Julaha endlessly.

Main Tumhara – Dil Bechara

A year would be incomplete without a heartening ballad.  Grief gripped 2020 all around the year. Sushant Singh Rajput’s shocking demise only aggravated the pain of watching this tragic love story.  The Amitabh Bhattacharya-penned ballad summarised the grim inevitability around Kizzie [Sanjana Sanghi] and Manny’s [Sushant Singh Rajput] relationship.  Bhattacharya’s lyrics were acknowledgment of the nature of the relationship between the two cancer-stricken lovers, and the duo made peace with it. They can’t be together forever, but each deriving great joy in the fact their love is eternal.  With minimal music, it was all about the singing.   This ballad is all about baring the heart, and composer A.R Rahman was smart enough to keep the music to bare minimum, letting Jonita Gandhi and Hriday Gattani emote their feelings.  A particular opera-style verse gave you goosebumps. It can’t be just a coincidence that such a heartening duet comes from the Hriday [heart].

Taare Ginn – Dil Bechara

A rising star in films, an astrophile in his life, the late Sushant Singh Rajput now perhaps roams spiritly in the skies counting the stars.  Though not meant to be, Rajput’s last film didn’t leave any lasting impression, but Dil Bechara saw a part return to form for the Mozart of Madras, A.R. Rahman.

Counting the stars is often used metaphorically in Hindi romantic numbers. Love calls upon you to dream big. Dreams as big and far as the stars. And that is the essence of lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya’s romantic song – Taare Ginn. The track saw Rahman reunite with Mohit Chauhan. And the duo mesmerised with their skills.  But it was co-singer Shreya Ghosal who had the most creative influence in the duet. The beauty of the track is the intertwining tones at certain junctures. Ghoshal’s tone blends into Chauhan’s singing like a sweet, rapid whispering.  Manny’s [Sushant Singh Rajput] chivalry charmed the beauty Kizzie [Sanjana Sanghi] and the late actor’s legion of fans too.

Raat Ki Rani – Yeh Ballet

Just like its unconventional stories, often the music of niche films tends to slip under the radar too. Your writer is yet to catch on Sooni Taraporevala’s inspirational true story Yeh Ballet, but this rollicking number was hard to miss. Penned by Kausar Munir, Raat Ki Rani is a quirky riposte to the many doubting Thomases. Munir’s jovial track is a civil riposte to such cynics reminding them to mind their own business and leave the dreamers alone.  It rekindled memories of Sameer’s Raste Se Ja Raha Tha’ song from Coolie No.1 [1995].  Tujhko Mirchi Lagi Toh Mein Kya Karun – remember that envious cynics?  Raat Ki Rani is not that blunt but the sweet and sour lyrics, Sagar Desai’s bustling music and nonchalant singing of Chandreyee Majumder will surely unleash the Raat Ki Rani (Night Queen) in you.

Bird Song – Ghoomketu

Here’s another track that’s likely to slip under the radar for many.  The opening credits in the Nawazuddin Siddiqui-starrer Zee5 film Ghoomketu opened to a beautiful animated track, which the makers called it ‘Bird song’.  The blue bird reflected its principal character Ghoomketu [Siddiqui] who wants to break free from the monotonous life in his village and fly away to Mumbai to pursue his dreams.   Not quite in the mould of Freddie Mercury’s classic ‘I Want to Break Free’, but director, lyricist Pushpendra Nath Misra’s Bird Song does gives us the wings to break free and fly away to our destiny. Jasleen Royal’s fine soothing score and her child-like singing filled your heart with hope and joy.

Bulbbul theme – Bulbbul

Like Ghoomketu, director, poet Anvita Dutt’s Bulbbul [Tripti Dimri] was an aspirational bird, too, but the ugly tentacles of patriarchy clipped her wings.   Instrumental tracks are far and few in Hindi cinema. Composer Amit Trivedi scored an emotionally gripping Bulbbul theme. Though haunting, but its sorrowful tunes emoted the life of Bulbbul and struck a deep chord with the listeners.  Trivedi proved the old adage right – music has no language.

Ek Tukda Dhoop – Thappad

This one is clearly a wordsmith’s delight. And no, this one isn’t from Irshad Kamil or Amitabh Bhattacharya. Unheralded lyricist Shakeel Azmi weaved his magic in penning a beautiful ballad on broken human bonds. Couples, marriages fall apart, but perhaps it’s nigh impossible to forget a once beautiful relationship forever. The Ek Tukda Dhoop track is a reflection of the state of human heart, minds when bonds are broken. What’s gone cannot be retrieved, but the little left behind is never enough to live. Unheralded singer Raghav Chaitanya poured his heart and soul into this beautiful ballad.  Often shehnai is played in weddings, but here it is playing to a song about separation.  We wouldn’t complain though as it works just fine. Composer Anurag Saikia can be proud of his composition.

Bharat Ki Beti – Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl

The shehnai was heard in another song that is not about a wedding.  Lyricist Kausar Munir’s Bharat Ki Beti paid tribute to the valour of not just Gunjan Saxena (played by Janhvi Kapoor), but every daughter of India who dared to dream.  Fittingly, the inspirational lyrics playing out in the tone of a man (Arijit Singh). More power to feminism.  Amit Trivedi gave a fitting score. To all our lovely Indian women, jeeti raho, jeet ti raho (Keep living, keep winning).

Aabaad Barbaad – Ludo

Yet another track where the jovial music doesn’t quite mirror the emotions, frustrations of the Romeos in the video. Anurag Basu’s Ludo featured few characters who weren’t so lucky in love.  Despite the stark reality facing them, these characters harbour frail hopes. Destiny reunites Alok [Rajkummar Rao] with his childhood crush Pinky [Fatima Sana Shaikh], while Akash Chauhan is cherishing his reunion with Shruti [Sanya Malhotra] who is few days away from entering into wedlock with a rich groom.  The reunion triggers those frail hopes, but both Alok and Akash are seeking a final answer – either destroy (bardbaad) or help me thrive (aabaad) in love. The song is enjoyed in the context of its characters.  Sandeep Srivastava’s lyrics were fine but it is Pritam’s joyous score and the passionate singing of Arijit Singh that makes Aabaad Barbaad a must on your playlist.

Special mention

Qismat Ki Hawa Kabhi Naram– Albela (1951)

What is a 1951 fun song doing in a list of 2020?  The year is immaterial, but the underrated gem from legendary lyricist Rajinder Krishan holds true till the time life, humanity exists on earth. No matter the era, but the C. Ramchandra composition was fittingly incorporated in Anurag Basu’s Ludo [2020].  Life is both smooth and rough.  In a pandemic year where scores of human lives were lost, the words ‘wah re maalik, dukh aur sukh ki khoob banayi jodi (Oh God, you made a great pairing of happiness and sadness) are fitting reminder of how life is meant to be .  The world has endured sadness in 2020, but this track reminds us that good times are now perhaps not far away.  Singer Chitalkar’s classic track is a celebration of the human spirit.

Kokila Ben – Yashraj Mukhate

It’s been an odd year, and so a mash-up making it to this list shouldn’t surprise one.  YouTube is a hub for all kind of talents. You Tuber Yashraj Mukhate became an overnight sensation with is hilarious mash-up, a spoof on the kitchen politics in a soap opera. He’s not the first one to do such a mash-up but what made Mukhate’s spoof a sensation is that it provided relief, joy to scores of Indians at a time when the lockdown was at its harshest. It took your mind off from the grim reality around you.  Mukhate showed great skills at playing around with the melodramatic dialogues by Kokila Ben (Rupal Patel) in the Star Plus show. We don’t know whether this mash-up boosted the ratings of Saath Nibhaana Saathiya but Mukhate’s video led to many more hilarious videos on the Rasode Main Kaun Tha? meme. Not just average citizens, but even celebrities were enamored by it. Disha Patani couldn’t  resist creating a Rasode Mein Kaun Tha? video of her own.  Mukhate’s mash-up is a reminder of how any music can have a positive effect.

We hope 2021 will see more melodies from Hindi cinema, and the Mukhates of the world, too, would chip in with their entertaining musical videos.

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