The year, as they say in Asterix, was 1984 AD. One Sunday afternoon in Delhi, three of us friends, Tarun Khanna, SV Sudhakar and I, went off to see a movie in God know which theatre. It was certainly not the Ritz (pronounced Ritaz in Delhi), which was just outside our college. I think it was Sheila, but I am not so sure. Anyway, the film was Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje. Made by V (or as they write in Marathi – Vhi) Shantaram in 1955, it featured the famed dancer Gopi Krishna, and Sandhya – Shantaram’s third wife and the woman whom he declared was his muse.

This was not the kind of movie that college students in Delhi would have chosen to see. But we three were different – we were fond of classical music and the film had plenty of it. The acting however was over the top when it came to hamming and Tarun had us in splits on the way back with his miming of what took place. The dances were of course top class, you did not expect any less from Gopi Krishna or for that matter Sandhya. The music was by Vasant Desai with the lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri. The title credits had Ustad Amir Khan singing as can be heard in the link above. In its time Jhanak Jhanak was a super duper hit though nobody would have believed it in 1984, still less in 2018. It gave Gemini’s Insaniyat a real tough time according to Asokamitran in his My Years With The Boss. Wikipedia informs me that Pt Shivkumar Sharma played the Santoor for this movie and it was the first time the instrument was heard on film. This was also one of the earliest Technicolour films.

The piece de resistance of Jhanak Jhanak is the song Nain so nain naahi milao, sung as a duet by Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar. The slow movement of the song, the soft music and the caressing voices, all make for a wonderful combo. The setting – Brindavan Gardens, Mysore, is perfect and so is the dancing by Gopi Krishna and Sandhya. It remains one of my favourites though each time I come to the line “ruk kyon gaye?”, I think of Tarun in the bus on the way back to the hostel, and smile.

In 1956, Aasai was made in Tamil, starring Gemini Ganesan and Padmini. The film has a brief entry in Wikipedia. I have not seen it. The music was by TR Papa and the lyrics by Udumalai Narayana Kavi, A Maruthakasi and KP Kamatchisundaram. Sure enough, they took the tune of Nain so nain, the chartbuster song of the biggest hit of the previous year and wrote words for it. Aasai Pongum Azhagu Roopam, is sung by AM Raja and Jikki and is sadly not a patch on Nain so nain. The very sight of Gemini in a frock and long sleeved muslin shirt is enough to take this into the realm of comedy. Add the tons of sambrani to indicate this is a dream sequence. Jikki pronounces Roopam as Rubam right through, which is a real irritant. I dont think Aasai was a hit.

This article is part of a series on old film songs, chiefly in Hindi and Tamil. You can read the earlier episodes here