Whenever I think of the movie Nagin, the Been dhun starts playing automatically in my mind. It’s like a reflex action. The tune and the film are indeed inseparable.
The film, Nagin was released in 1954 and was a huge musical hit of the year. ‘Man Dole Mera Tan Dole’ is an iconic song. It was the only song that appeared for two consecutive years in top three songs in Binaca Geetmala. It was on second place in 1954 and on third place in 1955. No other song has ever gained the popularity and honor in Binaca Geetmala.
The songs and the Been music, especially, got so popular that many rumors started circulating. The most hilarious one was, ‘the snakes actually get attracted and enter the cinema hall when the song plays on the screen’. The magic of the song was that, people used to believe these things. I remember, the same rumors running in the air, when the movie, Nagina starring Shridevi was released and the sapera dance and song gained huge popularity. I was a little boy then, and decided never to visit cinema hall to watch the movie! Now I laugh at it, because as a grown up I know snakes can’t hear and they just follow the Been movements, as the Sapera plays it in front of them.
Here, I’ll add information about the Been. It is also called as a Pungi.
It is a wind instrument played by snake charmers. It has a reservoir made from gourd with two connected reed pipes. It is played by blowing air into the pipes with no pauses. It is made from dried bottle gourd , with two bamboo pipes connected to it with beeswax. One of the pipes has 5-9 holes. The pungi is about one or two feet in length. It originated in India and still played by snake charmers, it’s important part of Indian folk music. Naag Panchami is the occasion when snake charmers use the Pungi as a part of religious rituals.
The Been music in the Nagin movie song was not of course, actually played on been, as we all know. It was played by Ravi on harmonium with Kalyanji Shah, playing an electronic instrument, Clavioline, to highlight the effect. Both of them were assistants, to Hemant Kumar, who was the composer for the movie. There has been a huge discussion as to actual credit of the been dhun. Finally it is now clear that, Ravi was the main player. While researching for the post, I came across an interesting article about the dhun. I am sharing its link for the interested. The tune, though played by Ravi, was originally constructed by a female musician in Hemant da’s orchestra. Ravi changed it a bit and played during recording.
Taking inspiration from the tune, and due to its huge popularity, many songs later made their appearance on the screen, with similar tune. There are three songs on the list by Kalyanji Anandji. It seems, he used it quite often in his forthcoming films. Here I’m mentioning one more song from Saheli, that has a long Sapera (Been) dhun at the beginning of song. There were many films in the ‘Naag’ series where at least one such song used to be there. My list also has some songs from the series. These low budget films used to have their typical actors and composers, who nevertheless created some memorable songs.
The first Sapera based Hindi films was ‘Sapera’ in 1939. I could not get a song from it with the Been dhun.
Actually the movie Dastan (1950) also had a Sapera dance, but I guess, it’s not that popular! Its opening music has sounds of Been, impressive really. The dance is performed by Kuku. She was a popular dancer and was a must for dance sequence.
I also remember another Sapera dance, which is as famous as the movie itself. Yes, you guessed it right. Beautiful Waheeda Rehman (Rosy) dancing gracefully to the tunes of Been in the movie Guide. Rosy is a dancer, but had been purposefully kept away from it by her husband, who thinks it to be inferior. When she sees the dancer and hears the infectious Been tune, all her defenses are put off. She can’t control her desire to dance and breaks into passionate dance , regardless of the world. Finally she faints.
Such a excellent dance, Waheeda was a trained classical dancer, she was trained in ‘Bharatnatyam’ (Thanks dustedoff for the correction). It shows Rosy’s passion for dancing, which actually is her soul. This dance forms an important part of the story and so I wanted to mention it here.
Today I present a song list with ‘Been dhun’ or the ‘Sapera dhun’. As usual the songs are from pre 1970s films and are in No particular order.
1. Tera Jadu Na Chalega – Guest House (1959) Lata Mangeshkar / Chitragupt – Prem Dhawan
A stage performance by Helen. The popularity of the Been dhun didn’t decline year after year. It made the composers use it not only in Naag based films, but in social films as well. Helen as always does her job wonderfully well. Mostly the dancer is dressed in a nagin costume, as in this song as well. As usual Lata- Chitragupt combo steals away my heart by its eternal sweetness.
2. Ek Pardesi Mera Dil – Phagun (1958) Asha Bhosle & Rafi / O P Nayyar – Qamar Jalalabadi
Phagun is a story about Bijon (Bharat Bhushan) son of a Zamindar & Banani (Madhubala) daughter of a Banjara Sardar. Bijon is a flute player and falls in love with Banani, parents of course don’t approve. Bijon comes in disguise as a Sapera and the been dhun attracts Banani, who recognizes him. A cute song and Madhubala looks awesome and beautiful.
3. Dil Lootane Wale Jadugar – Madari (1959) Lata Mangeshkar & Mukesh / Kalyanji Anandji – Faruq Kaiser
A melodious song. Kalyanji used a similar Been dhun in the song and that got very much popular. I don’t think it’s interesting to watch the video, so let me post this wonderful song in audio only.
4. Dil Tune Diya – Bajarin (1956) Geeta Dutt & Mukesh / Pardesi – Pandit Madhur
Pardesi is a lesser known composer and is best remembered for ‘ Chanda Re Meri Patiya’ from the same film. The been music sounds a bit different. This is a romantic song. Here again the Been dhun steals the show.
Click here for video song.
5. Ae Abdullah – Ishara (1962) Lata Mangeshkar & Rafi / Kalyanji Anandji – Majrooh
The song was a new addition to my collection, as I found it while searching for this post.
Again composed by K A duo. A good dance performance. I think many songs on the list are stage dances.
6. Bikhari Hai Laten – Nayi Zindagi (1969) Lata Mangeshkar / Chitragupt – Prem Dhawan
No video available. A good romantic song. It appears to be a song where the woman tries to seduce the man. It could be a vamp with the hero, or a dancer with the villian. In either case, it’s a wonderful song. But the Been sounds a bit artificial, we can make out easily, it’s not a real Been being played. Chitragupt has used the Been dhun in few movies, the other notable being ‘Nache Nagin Baje Been’.
7. Door Desh Se Koi Sapera – Kavi Kalidas (1959) Geeta Dutt / S N Tripathi – Bharat Vyas
A good song, the film takes a leap during the song, children grow up into adults. Anita Guha and Bharat Bhushan. The song symbolizes their connection. She deeply loves him, but he is not sharp enough to understand it. Kali is a simple minded, innocent fool who’s not wise and intelligent. Enjoy the song, as Tripathi gives his own Been dhun. It’s not a copy of the dhun from Nagin. Just one flaw, Bharat Bhushan keeps on playing the Been through out, even if no music of Been is in the background. Anita Guha looks nice enough and dances also ok.
8. Naag Devta Ho Naag Devta – Sati Anasuya (1956) Asha Bhosle / Shivram – Bharat Vyas
I was surprised to hear this song. Even in a film named Sati Anasuya, I found this good song. I was looking for something other than romantic songs and stage songs for this list.
A song where a woman worships Naag Devta. She even handles the snake and snake finally climbs to the shoulders of the sage. A good trained snake, it must be. Again a different version of Been dhun. Each composer has his own idea and style for it. I enjoyed this song as well to my surprise.
9. Tujhe Chand Kahoon Ya Phool – Sunehari Nagin (1963) Lata Mangeshkar & Mukesh / Kalyanji Anandji – Faruq Kaiser
A romantic song from series of Naagin films. Beautiful Helen in the lead role. Though a costume drama, it has good music, the above song being one of the popular songs. Helen looks stunning and compensates for Mahipal. Kalyanji Anandji used the Been dhun in a few more songs from the movie.
10. Sapera Been Bajaye Gayo – Naag Padmini (1957) Geeta Dutt & Krishna Goel / Sanmukh Babu – Prem Dhawan
A good song again from an obscure film. The music sounds very much lively. It’s more closer to the actual Been sounds. A romantic song from the series of Naag films. Geeta Dutt sings it with her usual sweetness and Krishna Goel just supporting her.
Before I conclude the list, I want to present a funny dance from a movie. When I watched it for the first time, I could not control my laughter. It’s from the movie, ‘Bride & Prejudice’. Let’s watch the famous ‘The Cobra Dance’.
Which song would you add?