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Yaadon Ki Baaraat: The Quintessential Bollywood Film

Yaadon Ki Baaraat: The Quintessential Bollywood Film

By Akshay Manwani

 The lost-and-found theme is one of the unique, defining elements of popular Hindi cinema. Right from the time Ashok Kumar-starrer Kismet (1943) was made, lost-and-found became a popular subject with filmmakers. Several films of the 1950s right through to the mid-1990s, used the lost-and-found element as the pivot on which a film’s storyline unfolded. Yash Chopra’s Waqt (1965) saw the filmmaker rework the lost-and-found element with a big star cast while Manmohan Desai used the device to conjure the zaniest screenplay ever written with Amar Akbar Anthony (1977). Yaadon Ki Baaraat (1973), which came right between Waqt and Amar Akbar Anthony, was very much in the same mould, but with a distinct identity of its own.

 Yaadon Ki Baaraat was written by the iconic Salim-Javed pairing for the Nasir Husain Films banner. Nasir Husain was the undisputed czar of commercial Hindi cinema ever since he first turned director with Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957). With a spate of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, courtesy films such as Jab Pyar Kisise Hota Hai (1961), Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon (1963), Teesri Manzil (1966), Caravan (1971) and Hum Kisise Kum Nahin (1977), Husain was pretty much the most successful filmmaker of his era. His films were known were for their sparkling soundtracks, emphasis on romance and largely dealt with the lost-and-found trope, yet audiences seem to enjoy every new Husain serving with the same fanfare.

 Salim-Javed, meanwhile, were building on their success with films like Haathi Mere Saathi (1971) and Seeta Aur Geeta (1972) when they were approached by Husain to do a film for his banner. And with Yaadon Ki Baaraat, the writer duo yet again struck gold with this tale of three brothers being separated following the cold-blooded murder of their parents by the devious Shakaal (Ajit). The film lives on in popular memory not just for the fact that the three brothers reunite at the end of the film, but also because Shakaal’s guise is ultimately revealed by the different shoe sizes he wears on each foot.

 The film is replete with all kinds of interesting trivia. For instance, Husain used Yaadon Ki Baaraat as the film’s title, borrowing it from the legendary Urdu poet Josh Malihabadi’s autobiography, which went by the same name. Neetu Singh, who stars in the film’s unforgettable song sequence ‘Lekar hum deewaana dil’, and who had worked as a child artiste before, was in her early teens when she did Yaadon Ki Baaraat. Her co-star in the sequence, Tariq Khan, who played the youngest brother Ratan (a.k.a Montu), and who was introduced in this film, was Nasir Husain’s nephew (his elder sister Anees Bano’s son).

 The young Ratan, meanwhile, who is seen in the film’s title track at the beginning, was played by Husain’s other nephew (Husain’s younger brother Tahir Husain’s son), Aamir Khan, in what was the current superstar’s first appearance in front of the camera. That title track, which is sung by Lata Mangeshkar initially, had Padmini Kolhapure and sister Shivangi singing for the child artistes while eminent music composers of the 1990s, Jatin-Lalit, were part of the chorus in the song. Also, Vijay Arora, who played the middle sibling, was an FTII graduate and had done a couple of films before doing Yaadon Ki Baaraat, but only came to be remembered for his work in this Husain production.

 Dharmendra played the oldest sibling, but it was the girl who was cast opposite Vijay Arora, who probably ended up being the big winner after Yaadon Ki Baaraat. Zeenat Aman had acted in a few films, winning a Filmfare award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971). But it was her performance in Yaadon Ki Baaraat, after which she came to be known as the ‘laal kapdon waali memsaab’, that gave her solid footing in the Hindi film industry. Husain had offered her the role, having seen Zeenat sipping ‘naariyal paani’ at the famous Frederick Hotel in Mahabaleshwar. Even today, when people see Zeenat in her lovely white jumpsuit palazzo outfit in ‘Chura liya hai tumey jo dil ko’, a song inspired by ‘If it’s Tuesday, it must be Belgium’, they are left dazzled by her resplendent presence.  

 And it is with the music that Nasir Husain put his stamp on the film and made it distinct from the other Salim-Javed offerings. Most Salim-Javed films did not allow for youthful romance and music since the lead protagonist in their films, played largely by Amitabh Bachchan, was generally simmering with rage and looking for revenge. This ‘Angry Young Man’ that was seen in Salim-Javed films like Zanjeer, Deewaar, Kala Patthar or Shakti hardly ever sang or indulged in frothy romantic pursuits.

 The same is true of Dharmendra’s character in Yaadon Ki Baaraat. The actor doesn’t have one song picturised on him in the film, but by bringing in the romantic and musician characters of Vijay Arora and Tariq Khan, Nasir Husain cleverly interwove his own cinematic sensibilities with the Salim-Javed universe. Collaborating with R.D. Burman yet again, Husain gave his audiences one gem after another whether it was the lovely ballad ‘Oh meri soni’ or the power-packed multiple song sequence that went from ‘Aapke kamrey mein koi rehta hai’ to ‘Dil mil gaye’ to ‘Dum maro dum’. And to top it all, the fact that the brother’s reunite at the end through the film’s title track, is the most Bollywood of moments in Hindi cinema and one which leaves viewers with gooseflesh each time they see it.  


Watch Yaadon Ki Baaraat, a riveting tale of song, separation and reunion by tuning into the Nasir Husain Film Festival, starting  from every Sunday, 7th January  at 12 noon on Zee Classic.