There is something charming about train journeys. As the locomotives whizz past different landscapes, routes and places, towards their destination, taking a whole set of travellers with them, they become a bit more than just a convenient mode of transportation. Accidental meetings take place – people meet, connect and go their separate ways. Long journeys can spark intense reflection and thought as the traveller sits still. A scenic train journey earlier this month had me thinking at first about lofty, existential matters but the mind, being an unchained monkey, soon went haywire and I started thinking of how trains have been used in literature and film.
I started mentally making a list of all the songs picturised inside a train in Hindi films. And there are so many!
Here is a list of songs remembered and much-liked. Two songs that promptly came to my mind have not been included – one because it is a song from the nineties and hence doesn’t qualify as an old song (Chaiyya chaiyya, Dil Se (1999)) and the other because the protagonist singing the song is not in the train himself (Mere sapnon ki rani, Aradhana (1969)).
And then there are others such as Teri hai zameen (The Burning Train, 1980), Hoga tumse pyara kaun (Zamaane ko dikhana hai, 1981) which have been left out simply because they also felt too recent in my memory (years of watching Chitrahaar and Rangoli, you see)
Evocative of a happier tomorrow, this sweet song is is in the mellow voices of Talat Mahmood and Lata M and picturised on a young Pradeep Kumar and Jayashree. They are in a train, looking out at the dark sky breaking into dawn, hopeful of tomorrow. This is a dim ray of hope and optimism in an otherwise tragic movie on widow remarriage by V. Shantaram.
Another Talat Mahmood duet, this time with Suraiya, also picturised on the singers. Composed by Anil Biswas, this song one appears in Waaris a number of times -happy and sad. One of the sad versions is also picturised in a train, as Suraiya remembers her first meeting with Talat Mahmood (who is presumed dead). Yes, the duet version is sung promptly after they meet.
My favourite starring a suave Dev Anand and a winsome Waheeda Rehman. While the melody (SDB), lyrics (Shailendra) and singing (Rafi) are flawless, its the clever picturisation that stands out. Who is the “uparwala” being referred to? – God or Waheeda? 🙂
Another Dev Anand- Waheeda Rehman number which is popular to-date. No ambiguity here. You know Dev Anand’s antics are targeted at Waheeda Rehman. In the movie, he plays a journalist who is accompanied by his friend (Sundar, playing a harmonica) on this local train. He suspects something is up with the couple in the seat behind them (Waheeda Rehman’s character is eloping with the guy she is accompanying who is indeed a slimy character) and keeps an eye on them when they get off the train. The singing and music (in this song and the whole album) is exemplary. The song is still remembered as one of Hemant Kumar’s finest songs (in Hindi).
This melodious Asha Bhosle number, picturised on a supporting character played by Mohana Cabral, an actress in the 1940s and early 50s is unfortunately hardly known. A pity considering that this movie, starring Shyama and some unknown actor, is still remembered for Hemant and Geeta Dutt’s Na yeh chaand hoga
This lilting melody captures the romance of a train journey – long distances traversed in scenic locales – the mood is upbeat as the character looks forward to welcoming some romance in her life. Asha Bhosle’s breezy singing makes it worth a rewind.
Another romantic number, this time, where the hero (Joy Mukherjee) is excited and happy as he will get to meet his then lady-love (Azra, whose photograph he is staring at), once his journey gets over. Of course, as the name of the movie suggests, he does find true love in Simla, just that it is not the lady in the photograph. Rafi brings out the much needed joie-de-vivre as Joy Mukherjee portrays the impatient man in love on screen.
This one is a romantic duet, sung by Asha and Rafi and picturised on Pradeep Kumar and Nishi. I included the song purely because I like the music and singing and then it is entirely shot inside a train. Listen to it – the singing is much better than the acting onscreen!
A philosophical song which speaks about how everyone is dispensable – the world goes on, no matter what happens and how we need to continue moving on with hope, courage and kindness. In an ironic way, fitting. Guru Dutt died during the making of this film, and was completed by Dharmendra in the lead role. No one is indeed indispensable.
A lovely OPN composition sung by Mahendra Kapoor, this one has a young and a handsome Dharmendra in a train, being saccharine sweet to the other passengers!
This one, a childhood favourite, written and sung by Kavi Pradeep and composed by Hemant Kumar ranks as one of the most patriotic numbers in Hindi film music. It was a played invariably before Independence Day and Republic Day year after year. Abhi Bhattacharya takes his students on a journey across India, educating them about the geography and history of the nation, instilling a sense of pride and love towards the motherland.
Kishore Kumar, as an actor, has had a few songs picturised on him in a train (two of which I did consider for this list- one being that crazy Cheel cheel chillake kajari sunaye (Half-ticket, 1962) and that equally nonsensical (in terms of picturisation), Yeh hai jeevan ki rail (Mehlon ke khwab, 1960). Ending the list with this extremely popular, happy lively song sung and composed by Kishore Kumar which plays in the background as the credits of the movie roll by and the heroine (Madhubala) is in a train. This was chosen simply because train journeys, for me, have happy associations.