31 Aug 2017

Hindi Film Songs: Javed Akhtar and War Movies: Border (1997)

jung toh chandd roz hotee hai
zindagi barson talak rotee hai 
(a war lasts for a few days 
life weeps for a lifetime)  

So go the balm-like lines to Anu Malik music at the fag end of the otherwise jingoistic Border. The song Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai (my enemy, my brother) deservingly won singer Hariharan and lyricist Javed Akhtar their respective 1998 National Film Awards. The movie was the first of the Anu Malik-Javed Akhtar-JP Dutta collaborations.

Movie Memories 
My college mate always turned up to the playground with moist eyes after watching Border in its umpteenth TV run. For the next five minutes, he was adamant about joining the army. The incident occurred at every Border rerun. He also joked about how the actress in the wedding night song Ae Jaatein Huve Lamhon momentarily made him forget all patriotism.

War Movies and JP Dutta 
Dutta dealt with war again in the 2003 multi-starter LOC Kargil. That we have only one warring neighbor didn't help Dutta if he was looking for variety. The director's tried and tested approach also threatened to make the music redundant. Just how many times can you have soldiers singing songs at the border in all abandon with the surety that the trigger-happy enemy never attacks mid-song?

Among Anu Malik's Best 
Yet singularly, solely concerned with the audio, we have to say that Border was a very good soundtrack. It can certainly be counted among Anu Malik's finest works. Though the musical treatment follows the Hindi film template norms, the sincere effort shows. (If someone were to brand Malik with the plagiarism taint, he can always shoot back with, "Hey, but I made the songs for Border, all by myself!")

Sandeshe Aate Hai highlights the exchange of letters between the soldiers and their family members. The song never seems to be ten minutes long. The language is deliberately simple. Nostalgia fills the air as the letters are read.

Akhtar nails it in the last paragraph. The soldiers hailing their heartfelt replies back to their loved ones completes the song's story curve. The final refrain main wapas aaunga...(I will be back) is strangely touching. Out in the middle of nowhere, with only desert sand as a constant view and camels day after day after day, why wouldn't you yearn to return home? The robust male chorus (oohohohoo...) is another evocative highlight. One epic emotive spill of a song. Contemporary Hindi film music classic.

Hamein Jab Se Mohabbat is an extended love duet with lyrics that adds luster to an Indian village setting. There are beautiful references to the setting sun, a still, silent river, the paths that run between fields, and the lingering of love. Nigam is a fresh, calming companion to Yagnik's honeyed voice.

Ae Jaatein Huve Lamhon makes poetry out of a wedding night, as the groom yearns to relish every moment with his bride. His heartbreak: War is looming and he is a soldier who may not return. Check the very apt guitar here. The eternally underrated Roopkumar Rathod hits the right mood and pitch.

But the most somber and lasting song of the soundtrack is Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai. Akhtar writes sincere, thought-provoking lines, asks the right questions. Hariharan is in his element, while the humming chorus now sounds overwrought and strained.

Hum apne apne khetoh mein, 
ghehu ki jagah, chawal ki jagah, 
yeh bondooke kyun bote hai? 
Jab dono hi ki galiyon mein 
kuch bhooke bachhe rote hai 
kuch bhooke bacche rote hai..    

(Why do we sow guns instead
of rice and maize in our fields?
when in the bylanes 
of both our countries,
some hungry children cry...)       

The Venus audio cassette also featured in its playlist a monologue laden section that goes to the refrain of Hindustan, Hindustan, Meri Jaan, Meri Shaan. The military drill like song plays out mostly in the chorus, beginning with a Sonali Rathod intonation of a Sanskrit sloka. Shankar Mahadevan yet to establish himself in the Bollywood music league, accompanies her. The song refrain is a backdrop to actor Kulbhushan Kharbanda's (who plays the Indian army cook in the movie) 'India glorified' commentary. It is at best a passing listen.

Two decades later, though many interlude portions of the Border soundtrack sound dated, much of its lyrical resonance, chorus, and love vibes still stick. The struggling 'Mohd. Rafi clone' Sonu Nigam made his mark with Border. He was to further establish himself as a distinct voice that year with the breakthrough Yeh Dil Deewana in Pardes (1997).

That Aadesh Shrivastava Soundtrack 
Also featured on the fag end of 'SIDE A' Border audio cassette was a promotional audio for the late Aadesh Shrivastava's Humko Ishq Ne Mara (1997) soundtrack. The featured singers were winners of a popular Doordarshan music contest show Meri Awaaz Suno. Check the soundtrack on youtube.com sometime, interesting, formulaic Bollywood first love scenarios. Humko Ishq Ne Mara never got a theatrical release.

Trivia: Sunidhi Chauhan had won an edition of Meri Awaaz Suno in 1996 as a 13-year old, her talent clearly towering over older singers. Lata Mangeshkar was one of the judges in the final.

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