Song Sketch

Ripe Betel Leaf – O Mrignayani Chandramukhi – Rang Birangi

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Somewhere in the late 70s, a 6 feet something Babumoshai said in one of those action thrillers of his – Pehle paan fir gaan!! What if it was pehle gaan fir paan? Whichever way you look at it….paan and gaan is such a wonderful combination!! And this combination has been followed since ancient times. Mushairas accompanied with paan, hukkahs and refreshments, represented the essence of friendly competition and esprit de corps. The verses and the couplets inspired the members and the appreciations and waah waahs went on from dusk till dawn. To think of it, both act as stimulants. Amplifying the spirit and boosting energies. Just look at the number songs connected with paan. So many!! Paan – betel leaf, green and rich with iron, vitamin c and carotene. But what if it was a ripe betel leaf? Ahh it would be still as good. It’ll give same taste and also leave that reddish orange tinge on your lips.
A marathi mujra/lavani rendered by Shobha Gurtu has the lines – ‘Piklya panacha deth ki ho hirwa’. Meaning – even if the leaf has gone ripe, its stem remains green. The connection remains evergreen. Just as romancing at the ripe age. The bond between 2 people deepens with age. Ripe age/old age is free from all the responsibilities in life. Career done, children are grown up and flown out of the house. In fact it is an empty nest syndrome for an old couple. Time to revive young memories, young romance. How about romance with a flavour of paan and gaan!!

Pancham and Yogesh come to our rescue. Looking at the picturisation of this song, I always imagine this should have been the scene at Pancham’s house everyday. SDB sitting with a harmonium, composing tunes and Meera Dev Burman sitting beside him, helping him out with the lyrics and of course his fav paan. Wonder if Dada Burman was alive during the making of this song, would it have been in his voice along with his wife?
Hrishikesh Mukherjee has picturised the song so simply and beautifully in Rang Birangi (1983). An old couple in love (Chhaya Devi & Om Prakash) and a young couple in love (Deepti Naval & Farooq Sheikh). The differences between their caring for each other, the body language of both the couples. The younger couple is all naughtiness while the older one is naughty yet so matured.
The harmonium bellows mellifluously in the beginning, making way for Dr. Vasantrao Deshpande’s sonorous voice –

O Mrignayani Chandramukhi….

A slight thump on the tabla at 0.14 indicates the state of Chhayadevi’s heart. She’s nervous yet happy. Their love is ageing like wine. Speckled with banters here and there, they know the negative and positive sides of each other. But the tingle of romance makes them glow. That’s the reason she blushes even now when he says –

Main hun tera prem deewana aa aa aa…..
The tabla throbs languidly with her heartbeats and escorts Kumari Faiyyaz’s appealing voice –

Sun rasiya mann basiya mere
Mujhe tu bhool na jaana aa aa aa….

And Om Prakash looks at the younger couple to say – this is how our love is!! In tune with each other like the harmonium and the tabla.
Just then a dulcet sarangi puts her head up in a Pancham way, albeit for a few seconds only. Because there’s no time for anything in life when you are immersed in love.
Jab jab mere nainon se uljhe
Mad bhare tere naina aa aa aa
Tab tab mann mein mehak uthe wo
Pehli suhag ki raina aa aa aa…

The camera summarises the story for us. Shifting from older couple to younger and then again back. The present and the future. The older couple reminisces their green days looking at the younger couple while the younger ones are as if taking lessons from the older couple for their future.
The sarangi again nips in while we have the paan presented fondly.

Armaan yahi hai haathon se tere
Paan sada main khaun re
Teri baahon mein saans lun main
Charnon pe marr jaaun re

Ohh that stab when she says marr jaaun re…..the thought of going away forever is so desolating (the world would be all empty feeling)!! He adds hastily –

O jaan meri fir aisi kabhi
Baat zubaan pe na lanaa
Saath jeeye hain saath marenge
Gaate gaate gaana aa aa aa…

A couple so much in love at the ripe age too, just as the ripe betel leaf still having the greenness at its end. A couple which doesn’t shy away from each other. Is not apprehensive about expressing/showing their love for each other in front of others. Hrishikesh Mukherjee manages to fit this Raag Desh based semi classical song seamlessly in an out an out comedy film. Never during the entire film will you feel that this song is out of place or just added to be there. Pancham has prepared this ripe betel leaf taking the base of Bengali tappa. Though the tune also resembles the Marathi Natyasangeet genre, no particular song from this genre can be pointed out. The resemblance is more because both the singers belong to that genre (Natyasangeet) and have got the diction in that style.

Paan preparation – This ripe betel leaf is first washed in the traditional tappa. Pancham then applies the edible lime of the voices of Dr. Deshpande and Faiyyaz, sprinkles with the kattha of harmonium, tabla and sarangi, some fennel seeds of Yogesh’s lyrics, betel nut and gulkand in plentiful with Om Prakash and Chhayadevi and it is folded and fastened by the clove with the spicy, tangy pair Deepti Naval and Farooq Sheikh.

Chew on this paan and get refreshed!!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan

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