Dil Dhadke Main Tujh Se Yeh Kaise Kahoon

anjuman

Anjuman (Anjuman) is an Urdu film released in 1970. It was a Platinum Jubilee ‘superhit’, with the public lining up at cinemas for 81 weeks straight to watch the show.

The film tells the story of Anjuman, a much-sought-after tawaaif (courtesan) who has caught the lustful eye of Nawab Wajahat Ali (Santosh Kumar). Anjuman (Rani) sadly is depressed and lovesick. She has no interest in the Nawab but under pressure from her mother strings the nobleman along to get access to his millions.

Meanwhile, Asif (Waheed Murad) the Nawab’s supposed younger brother has an unhealthy set of feelings for his sister-in-law, Nawab sahib’s wife,  played beautifully by Sahiba Khanum.  These feelings are eventually ( and thankfully) redirected to Nusrat (Deeba) an old childhood friend who has recently migrated from India.

The more he hangs out with Anjuman the more coldhearted Nawabsahib becomes towards his wife and one day his excuses of ‘working late’ are exposed as lies. He confesses his affection for Anjuman to his wife but tells her to put up and shut up, which, of course, she does.

Asif is sent on a mercy mission to the dancing girl’s house. In a pique of righteous rage he tells her to stay out of his family’s affairs and desist from seeing his elder brother, the Nawab. As soon as she lays eyes on the handsome Asif, Anjuman falls in love. She agrees to break things off with the Nawab (no biggie, she couldn’t stand the man anyway) on the condition that Asif replace him.

So much does Asif love his sister-in-law who is suffering because of this prickly situation he agrees. ‘At least I’ll save her marriage,’ he says to himself.

Asif becomes increasingly alienated from himself and his family and Nusrat and sinks into the bottle to soothe his conflicted feelings.  About two thirds of the way through the film you are hit with the depressing realisation that all the main characters are incredibly unhappy, either abandoned by those they love, stuck in torturous moral dilemmas or scorned by society.

Eventually, though, things turn out ok. Sort of. When Anjuman refuses to see the Nawab anymore he realises the error of his ways and begs forgiveness from his wife. Asif has it out with his sister-in-law who accuses him of abandoning Nusrat. He lets Bhabi (sister in law) know of his deal with the devil, Anjuman. Bhabi confronts Anjuman and reveals that Asif is not her brother-in-law but in fact her son! ‘Take my husband if you must, but give me back my boy!’ Anjuman reluctantly agrees to release Asif from his vow but insists that she will dance at Asif and Nusrat’s wedding the following week.

With order restored to the feudal Universe the Big Day is marked with a wonderful dance by Anjuman. Just as the dance nears conclusion Anjuman collapses and dies at the feet of Asif. The final scene depicts Asif laying flowers at her tomb with hunched shoulders and a heavy heart.

The story may be full of moral quagmires, numerous loose ends and uncomfortable depictions of unchecked human desire but the music once again provides a degree of artistic ballast.

The tawaaif  film is a well-established sub-genre of South Asian cinema and is usually set in mid-19th century feudal Muslim India. In the case of Anjuman the location is contemporary 1960s Lahore which adds a hint of implausibility to the whole movie. Music director Nisar Bazmi does his best to cater to this split world by working in two idioms. In scenes involving Nawab sahib he creates the familiar haunting sarangi-based soundscape that such tawaaif movies employ. However, when Asif is in Anjuman’s company, he resorts to a more modern, ‘western’ sound led by non-traditional instruments like the guitar.

Dil Dhadke Main Tujh Se Yeh Kaise Kahoon (My Heart Races to Tell You) is a song Anjuman sings as she dances temptingly in front of grim Asif who has come to scold her.

It’s a delightful little song for a number of reasons. First, the twangy electric guitar intro would not be out of place on a Marty Robbins or Johnny Cash record. The country & western sound is so unexpected and refreshing at this point in what has turned out to be a heavy story you immediately perk up and find new energy to continue watching.

Second, it is a reminder of how connected the film culture of Lahore was with what was going on elsewhere in the world.  Sounds and musical styles from north America and other places were familiar to music directors in Pakistan and it is a testament to their creative talents that they could so quickly and naturally adapt these sounds to their own context.

Third, the smooth-as-polished-leather guitar playing is proof of just how talented the anonymous studio musicians in Lahore were. The string section too, is able to conjure a sound that is every bit as emotional and on point as Barry White‘s Love Unlimited Orchestra.

But in the end, it is the coquettish delivery of Runa Laila that makes the song so cool.  Laila was a Bengali girl raised in Karachi and grew up hearing the rock/pop music of Karachi’s then active nightclub scene as well as falling in love with the vocals of Ahmed Rushdie.

As soon as she burst on the scene in the 1966 film Hum Dono (We Two) she was recognized as an exceptional talent. In a few years she was a regular performer in India and the UK. She was one of Pakistan’s true pop stars and made well-received records of non-film music as well.

Her light and crisp voice is perfect for pop and upbeat music. Dil Dhadke is certainly one of my current favorites.

Anjuman

Nain Kissi Se Milaye

qayamat

Qayamat (Judgement Day) is an Urdu movie released in 1978.

The film appears to have been a B-grade picture with no superstars. The leading lady Najma was referred to as a ‘known’, as opposed to ‘well-known’ artiste in her obituary. Her sister, on the other hand was Asha Posley, one of Pakistan’s most famous female actors in the years immediately following the 1947 Partition of India. Ghulam Mohiuddin, the male star had a better run in his career which spanned 400+  films from which he garnered a number of Nigar Awards (Pakistani Academy Awards).

The music of Qayamat  was composed by Khalil Ahmed, a veteran of the industry but again, nowhere as influential, prolific or creative as peers such as M Ashraf, Sohail Rana or Nisar Bazmi. Ahmed was born in Agra, India but migrated with his family to Pakistan in the wake of the 1947 upheavals surrounding Independence and the division of India into three bits.

By the early 1970s, Ahmed was making a name for himself in the new medium of television where he was the musical mastermind behind several shows, the most famous being Sangat which began its run in 1972. Those who worked with him recall someone who worked passionately but also very quickly. He’d sketch out a melody line and then get a Spanish guitar or harmonium player to fill it out. Soon percussion was included and a lovely melodious folk or pop tune emerged.

His favorite singer, and one for whom he often composed, was the great Ahmed Rushdi who sang for him in the 1965 blockbuster, Kaneez.  Though TV appears to have been his main area of activity he didn’t abandon film work altogether as today’s selection indicates.

Nain Kissi Se Milaye (Make Eyes at Someone) is a perfect example of Ahmed‘s adept pop style. This is a 3.5 minute, fast moving pop song with a wonderful hiccup-like beat which singer Nighat Akbar vocalises to great effect.  Synths were all the rage in Lahore at this time. They appear to have done the work of many dozens of instruments and eventually played a critical role in the disempowerment of thousands of lifetime musicians who depended on the film studios for their bread and butter.

In this song, a warm liquid electronic pulse complements a steady, snappy,  mid-pace drum beat that delivers a tightly wrapped little musical lolly. The tune is catchy, the singing is infectious and the only real complaint is that the fun is over just as we are hitting the dancefloor.

Qayamat