Song Sketch

Subtle Shadow – Surmayi Shaam Iss Tarah Aaye – Lekin

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Lekin brings out the despondency and seclusion of a desert, in a haunting yet beautiful manner. The original story was first published in 1895 and one of the best short stories by Gurudev.
It is a story of an unhappy ghost, Reva (Dimple Kapadia), who haunts the palace of Raja Param Singh of Jasod, which is now a government property. Samir Yogi (Vinod Khanna) plays curator of government museums and is visiting the palace for an assignment. This is where he meets the mysterious Reva. Produced by Lata Mangeshkar, directed by Gulzar, Lekin is another good example of his adaptation. Based on a short story written by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Khudito Pashan meaning The Hungry Stones. A story of a ghost and a man caught between time and space. It fringes between science and art, logic and indefinite ideas, spirit world and real world and hence arouses a question in mind with……But….Lekin.

Samir’s encounters with Reva puts him in a mystified situation. It is the story where the past and the present are entwined. The destination and the travel are braided together. The lost terrains and the loneliness. As expansive but arid at the same time as the desert. A strange romance of distant past and a dwindling present. Samir is so mesmerised with Reva that he forgets she is a wandering soul. In search of salvation. Waiting to be liberated. He falls in love with her. There comes a time when her soul is not around. Since it is still wandering for the lost time. And Samir feels a vacuum around him without Reva, unable to breathe, unable to think, unable to come to terms with the reality. He becomes so used to the presence of her soul, it is as if mingled with his own. Her entity around him becomes his essence. Therefore, not finding her around, he begins the search for this lost soul (also searching for his soul and peace of mind, which is taken away by Reva).

The treatment of the song has presence of contradictions around. Some heavy music by Hridaynath Mangeshkar, light lyrics by Gulzar. Heaviness of heart felt by Samir, the eerie lightness of the atmosphere around him. But it is the rendition by Suresh Wadkar that does the magic since he has delivered both. You feel heavy and light at the same time. The tune is heavy, an evening ghazal with heavy feel. And Gulzar as if has given him a spread of delicate words and asked him to walk on it lightly without breaking them. He is supposed to be walking on eggshells. If he misses a step, he will break those shells, which isn’t allowed. His throw of words tell that. What a super fine rendition by him.

Samir is recalling his encounters with Reva, the wandering soul. The swarmandal, jal tarang give the breezy feel of love and bewitched effect. The violins and the trumpet together give that opposite effect – the contradiction. Reva as a soul is a mirage, an optical illusion but her presence felt is a reality. Samir at one point goes and feels the wall as if to reassure himself of her presence. To reassure that Reva is not just an illusion, she is real. Backed by tabla and sitar he lets out his feelings for her.

Surmayi shaam iss tarah aaye
Saans lete hain jis tarah saaye

The evening has set in, but it is not dark yet. It is just a shade of darkness. A flimsy black shade. As delicate and subtle as the shadows around. It has just floated in lightly, as frail as the breathing of a shadow, you can hardly hear it or see it.

Oh the feather light voice of Suresh Wadkar when he says Saaye….everytime!!! It is as if he is taking utmost care of those spread of eggshells around (Oops I shouldn’t miss a step or they break). He is not to disturb a single soul around and yet convey the feelings. Gulzar’s gossamer!! Difficult to come out of it.
There again at the first interlude we have jal tarang and violins contradicting each other. The subtlety and heaviness.

Koi aahat nahi badan ki kahin
Phir bhi lagta hai tu yahin hai kahin
Waqt jaata sunayi deta hai
Tera saaya dikhayi deta hai
Jaise khushboo nazar se chhu jaaye
Saans lete hain jis tarah saaye

I don’t hear you approaching but I still know you are here. I feel your presence even if I can’t see you. As I see/hear the time flying by, I see your subtle shadow in it. It is difficult to believe what I say. As difficult as seeing fragrance with eyes. A wisp of your fragrance says you are here and I can see that.
A blend of instruments used by Hridaynath Mangeshkar gives the haunting effect of eerie presence, dryness of a desert and the greenness of love in Samir’s heart. It also epitomizes his longing to see Reva once again.

Din ka jo bhi pahar guzarta hai
Koi ehsaan sa utarta hai
Waqt ke paanv dekhta hun main
Roz ye chhanv dekhta hun main
Aaye jaise koi khayal aaye
Saans lete hain jis tarah saaye

Each moment that I pass in your search is like favours done on me. He’s trying to say spending a moment without you is better than searching for you every moment. These footsteps of time remind me of the days turning into nights. When the subtle shadows mingle and become one with the darkness. They come as effortlessly as your thoughts come to my mind.
The song even ends with total contradiction. We hear some ultra fine jal tarang and vibra phone in the background but the look on Samir’s face is pensive and heavy.

Gulzar has extracted some really fine performances from Dimple Kapadia and Vinod Khanna. After Sanjeev Kumar, it is Vinod Khanna who dazzled as a natural actor in Gulzar’s creations (Mere Apne, Meera to add to the list).
With Gulzar as the lyricist, the meaning of the song has to be profound too. On a second thought Surmayi shaam can also be considered as mellifluous, soothing evening, which he compares with the delicate breathing of the shadows. The evening which brings in the presence of wandering soul, with the thoughts set on her presence and the search for her subtle shadow.

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan


  1. Bindu Krishnan

    January 20, 2019 at 12:58 pm

    Excellent review…

    • Deepa

      January 20, 2019 at 1:29 pm

      Thank you so much 🙂

  2. Kanishk Koushik

    August 7, 2020 at 11:37 am

    Though I haven’t watched this movie. But your write up make me feel that I’m watching this movie. Very good!!

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