When the first lumbering steam locomotives took to the railway tracks, (in 1804 and near Merthyr Tydfil in Wales of all the places in the whole wide world…..) who would have imagined that these magnificent beasts of burden would someday become an inspiration for songs ?!
The clackety- clack of the train on the rails does lend itself to a soothing sound track, especially if one is travelling in a near empty train, at the end of a good, long day, with the wind in your face and the crazy business of Mumbai life going past backwards in a blur.
For those who have ever travelled by Mumbai locals, the ‘music’ of the train journey is usually limited to beggars and urchins doing ‘cover versions’ of popular and devotional songs, and the various bhajan groups that not only sing loudly and fervently but also play their instruments to add to the cacophony and chaos of the journey.
However, over the years, many superhit hindi film songs that have been featured in or on or around trains. Here are my top ten:
(if you have any others you like then do share the names in the comments section!)
- This is sometimes considered the first rap song in Hindi films.Although it isn’t picturized in a train at all, Ashok Kumar’s Rail Gaadi Rail Gaadi with its rhyming stations Mandwa- Khandwa, Khandwa-Mandwa, Talegaon- Malegaon, Malegaon-Talegaon has stayed popular through the decades.
- Every child of my generation knows this song—“Aao bacchon tumhe dikhaye jhanki Hindustan ki”. But many may not know that it is set in a moving train, with a bunch of school children and their teacher showing them their country from the window. This was the New India ! Where Jawaharlal Nehru had declared that dams were the new ‘temples’ and where we said (and believed in) Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan. (look at the New ‘New India” of today, where we have farmer suicides and broken mill worker unions).
This movie Jaagriti,, released in 1954 also has another (non train related) poignant song—–Hum laye hain toofan se kashti nikaal ke, is desh ko rakhna mere bacchon sambhal ke.
- When you want to serenade a lovely girl but her mother is also listening in , here is a great song to communicate with them both ! Apni to har aah ek toofan hai……..uparwala jaan kar anjaan hai….. and the train whistle also becomes a part of the song….How come when we travel by train there is never anyone as beautiful as Waheeda nor as charming as Dev Anand in the upper or lower berth?! In real life trains, mostly everyone looks like they came off the Kapil Sharma Show. And of course if this song had been sung by Prem Chopra it would be seen as a harassment……..how classist we are in who is allowed to express emotions and how…
- Cheel cheel chillake kajri sunaye. In Half Ticket an incredibly crazy Kishore Kumar, buys a ‘half ticket’ to run away from home and spends most of the movie wearing shorts he has stolen from a fat school boy. Madhubala has matched Kishore Kumar in his madness every step of the way. The funniest song ever is also in this film and is picturized between Kishore Kumar, dressed as a tribal woman trying to escape the attentions of Pran, who manages to look debonair and somewhat dignified even in a dhoti kurta and being involved in a ridiculous dance !
- Mere Sapnon ki Rani kab ayegi tu?? Rajesh Khanna at the peak of his charming best, wearing a cap at a rakish angle, the Darjeeling Toy Train going round the hills and the harmonica at the beginning. ……Still an amazingly popular song and one of Rajesh Khanna’s few double role films. Apparently RD Burman composed the music after SD Burman became too ill to complete the film. The rhythm seamlessly incorporates the beat of the train racks and the whistle.
- Hum dono do premee duniya chhod chale: One more breezy romantic song with Rajesh Khanna and an unusual pairing with Zeenat Aman. It is said to be the first song to be filmed entirely on top of a moving train. The film ‘Ajnabee’ is a murder mystery and Rajesh Khanna plays an honest station master. Those were the days….
- Bunty aur Babli was a high energy film driven by the big dreams of two young people from a small town. Released in 2005, it captured the emerging wave of small towners with stars in their eyes, leaving Tier 2 towns ( their ennui and lack of options reflected in the name Fursatganj) to try their luck in the Big City. These are the brave young men and women, the white collar in-country immigrants who are the true superheroes of modern India and have led to the slow transformation of gender roles, of urban public spaces and of job opportunities while battling loneliness, exploitation and depression. Although Kajarare became the most well known song, the others are also hummable and fun. The song “Dhadak Dhadak’ is kind of on and around a train, as they imagine how exciting life will be when they reach the City of Dreams.
The other one ‘Nach Baliye’ is a dream sequence that starts in a train, has a cameo by Shiamak Davar and ends with the delightful typical announcement for a platform change !
8 a ). Jai Ho ! AR Rahman, one of our true national treasures, composed this song for the film that manages to capture the positive energy of slum life despite the grim desperation. Slumdog Millionaire is achingly too true in its depiction of the desperate lives led by street children in Mumbai. While this song is not strictly in or on the train, it is on a railway platform so it kind of fits in…..and in true Bollywood style, ( or like a regular day at Churchgate station haha) when the boy meets girl, a hundred other people turn up and do synchronized dancing 🙂
This song was also performed live at the Oscars in 2009 by the maestro himself.
b). I am going to cheat and add one more platform dance which I can’t really leave out since it is so much fun (although the movie Chennai Express was excruciatingly horrible). This is a tribute to Thalaiva!
- Hoga tumse pyara kaun? . Hummable song which I am including in this list mainly to show the contrast between this easy song-on-top-of-train obviously shot with a green screen versus the next one.
10 . Chaiyya Chiayya: The only song to be shot entirely on top of a moving train. Apparently one member of the crew was assigned only to shout warnings when they reached a tunnel so that everyone could duck.
It was filmed on top of the Ooty train and is based on a sufi song Thaiyya Thaiyya, whose words were re-written by Gulzar and includes gems like Jinke sar ho ishq ki chhaon, paon ke neeche jannat hogi.
If you want to know more fun facts about this song, including why it is popular in Indonesia, check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaiyya_Chaiyya
And then……( drum roll!) finally, in a category of its own– The Burning Train!
This film was released in 1980 and has a star cast including Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini, Parveen Babi, Danny Dengzopa, Jeetendra, Neetu Singh, Vinod Mehra, Simi Garewal and many more. Every possible trope is utilized by this film. And that too in a sensational way. We have the two BFFs Dharmendra and Vinod Khanna who like two girls Hema Malini and Parveen Babi. They woo them and love is all around. One of the couples gets married and in a very contemporary twist, the woman ends up being a bored and angry housewife who is going to walk out of the marriage taking their young son along. It is her father- in -law who is trying to patch things up (and in a good way too—not one of those ‘tum is ghar ki izzat ho’ types). Anyway, her husband happens to be the Chief Engineer working on a Superfast Express project.
The rest of the story includes a professional rivalry, a sabotage, a runaway bride and a thief, a covert police officer dressed as a priest, a wanted man, a school teacher with a classroom full of kids going on a field trip, a qawwali troupe, and of course one Muslim, one Hindu, one Sikh and one Christian man.
Eventually, as expected, this train, going superfast from Delhi to Bombay is ON FIRE !
There are some incredible scenes of attempted rescue, using helicopters, running another train on a parallel track so they can throw ropes across. At one point Jeetendra and Dharmendra are on the top of this train which is on fire, trying to reach the engine to pull the emergency brakes. Incredible ! And there is a twist in the tale—one of the BFFs did not get married and he reunites with his old flame under these circumstances with a mystery of the break up solved. What is not to love about this movie?!
Just to show you that this movie has a serious fan following beyond me, here are some other blogs to check out:
Of course there are plenty of songs too, including the prayer song—Teri Hai Zameen, Tera Aasman, led by Simi Garewal and the school children ( trivia—the song was sung by Padmini Kolhapure who has a lovely voice, and is also related to Lata Mangeshkar).
So, do watch it if you have not yet done so ! And watch it again even if you have 🙂
Hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and railway tracks…..
Remember, pal do pal ka saath hamara, pal do pal ke yaarane hain……