Arts and Cultures - An Immortal Film Song Based on Indian an Classical Mode

Arts and Culture
Dr Archana Verma

This is a great classical song with exceptional classical Kathak dance of North India, from a very well-made film on a social issue, but somehow, not only the film, but also some of its actors and actresses have been forgotten now, eventhough the song has attained immortal status. The lyrics of this song describe an amorous fight between Radha and Krishna. Radha has waited the whole night for Krishna to come, who arrives in the early hours of dawn. Radha refuses to talk to him as she suspects that Krishna spent the night with another woman. Krishna tries to cajole her, but she scolds him and says that he should not try to come near her. 
It appears that this was a popular folk song, because there are variations of it in some other films as well. Shailendra the lyricist, seems to have improvised on an already existing popular folk song and hence, the lyrics of this song are credited to him. Because of the amorous situation of the song, it appears that this song in its different variations, was also used in the courtesans' quarters till the end of 1920s, when these courtesans' establishments were destroyed by the British and most of the courtesans and their crew moved to the newly emerging film industry at Lahore, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. Being trained in the performing arts, they were greatly sought after in the Indian cinema and till the end of the 1960s, when this generation was alive and active, we see many realistic representations of courtesans' songs and dances in the Hindi cinema. This trend continued even beyond 1970, but by then most of this crew from the courtesans' quarters was no longer active, hence the mode of representation of courtesans changed after 1970. 
This song shows two courtesans at their establishment in Calcutta, entertaining a rich, young man from a nearby village. The very complex classical tune of this song has been beautifully sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Only she could have sung this very difficult song with so much of expertise and made it immortal. There is another remarkable aspect of this song. The music director, Anil Biswas had got married to Meena Kapoor, who was a singer from the 1940s, when Lata had not yet got established. If he wanted, he could ask his wife to sing this song. But he understood that only Lata could do justice to this complex tune and he remained fair to Lata and honest to his profession and asked Lata to sing this song. The two courtesans enact the song sung by her almost entirely in seated positions, expressing the meaning through their facial expressions and gestures. It's amazing how well they are able to convey the meaning of the verses without standing up to dance. Unfortunately, these two actresses have been wrongly identified in many websites and Youtube uploads. After a long research, I have been able to identify one of them, but the identity of the second one is still under some doubt. The woman who appears first in the song, saluting the youth, is Jivankala, who was an expert Kathak, Bharatnatyam and Manipuri dancer and trained students in classical dance apart from acting in films. Her identity is confirmed. The other woman has been wrongly identified as Ranibala. But Ranibala began her film career in the silent film era and played the role of Buddha's mother in 1925 in the silent film Light of Asia. She looks very different in these earlier photos and she couldn't have been so young in 1962 in this song.  She is also said to have died by 1956. The film credits mention another name, that of Rani. However, online searches don't show any Indian actress of this name in 1962. There was a Pakistani actress called Rani, who began her film career in 1962 in Lahore. She also resembles the woman in this song in her online images. The film credits also mention Anwari, who was the grandmother of Salma Agha of Nikaah fame and migrated to Pakistan after Partition, but kept on coming to India to act in the Hindi cinema. She must have been quite old by 1962 and hence, must have played the role of one of the old women in this film. Hence, circumstantial evidence suggests that the other woman in this song is the Pakistani actress Rani, who was at the beginning of her career in 1961-62. It seems that both Rani and Anwari were invited from Pakistan to act in this film. It's possible that Rani was noticed in this song in Pakistan when this film was released there and after this, she was offered roles in Lahore film industry in 1962, though this is nowhere mentioned in the Pakistani websites. This entire film is in Youtube and if you understand spoken Hindi, then you can watch it, because there are no English subtitles. I have explained the meaning of this song above, hence, I'm not giving a literal translation here. Watch and enjoy -
Film - Sautela Bhai (1962)
Singer - Lata
Music - Anil Biswas
Acting - Jivankala, Rani 
Lyrics - Shailendra