When I was a kid I dreaded the words “Let’s have a picnic!”. Picnics were nothing but an ordeal to get through: weather (the Beiges never let a little cold rain stop us), poison ivy, bugs, indifferent food. My father did not know or care to know how to barbecue so it was always sandwiches, which I could have just as easily eaten indoors where ants weren’t crawling on them.
Little did I dream in those days that halfway across the world beautiful people were picnicking in STYLE—even at night!
How much more happily I would have put up with dining outdoors had I been able to twist the time away with a band or the scenery of Kashmir as a backdrop; with Shammi or Rajesh serenading me as I pretended to be annoyed or bashful; dressed in a jewel-colored churidar kameez or pom-pommed hat and mittens and plentiful Spare Hair to toss about with sparkling chandelier earrings catching the sun.
The picnic tradition in Hindi movies is so much fun. It serves to initiate or further romance, as an excuse to play pranks or for some comedy—sometimes all of these things in one. It is always a great reason to insert a song, usually a fun one but sometimes a heart-achingly romantic one too.
It is my firm determination to picnic in India one of these days, preferably with sahelis in tow.
Which songs will I be humming when I do, you ask? With such a long and rich history to draw from, I made some rules to help myself out: there must be picnic accoutrements (at the very least a thermos or two), or the word “picnic” in the song, or the context of a picnic around the song within the film itself. People running around in gardens or through trees without one of those three things involved does not count. I’m also by and large omitting the ones which lack lyrics and so are harder to find video for (Cha Cha Cha’s beach picnic, for example) and have tried to include a variety of picnic situations.
Here we go, not in any particular order except it’s a sequence I like.
10. “Dil Ka Bhanwar Kare Pukar” from Tere Ghar Ke Samne (1963) (sung by Mohammed Rafi; music by SD Burman; lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri). The romance between Dev Anand and Nutan begins with this song, when he accompanies his new clients (her family which includes his father’s mortal enemy—her father) on a picnic at the Qutub Minar (incidentally one of my favorite places in Delhi). They climb up the tower for a breathtaking view of the city, leaving her parents lazing on the grass, and love blossoms.
9. “Chup Chup” from Do Behnen (1959) (sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Mahendra Kapoor; music by Vasant Desai; lyrics by Pradeep). I love, love, love this song: the melody is so nice and if the lyrics are written by Pradeep they must be good too! And Chand Usmani looks so beautiful as she multitasks with her friends on the lake, singing and paddling at the same time (and not unsurprisingly ending up in the water, as I most likely would too).
8. “Majhi Chal O Majhi Chal” from Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) (sung by Rafi; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal; lyrics by Anand Bakshi). Dharmendra comforts his beloved Asha Parekh and her siblings after their father dies in an accident caused by…well, Dharmendra, although nobody knows it yet. The setting in the backwaters of Kerala are as soothing as Rafi’s voice, which is also proof that a good picnic song need not be energetic. Such a lovely bittersweet song, because we viewers know that a whole lot of Trauma-Drama-O-Rama is right around the corner!
7. “Kal Ki Na Karo Baat” from Jangal Mein Mangal (1972) (sung by Kishore Kumar; music by Shankar Jaikishan; lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri, Neeraj). A night-time picnic with two Prans (one an elderly professor, the other a long-haired hippie, Gulshan Bawra dancing blissfully with his trumpet, and other Memsaab favorites Kiran Kumar, Jayshree T, Narendranath and a young Reena Roy. So very MOD! Plus a nun and a ghost!
6. “Ae Jaaneman Le Gaya Dil Ko” from Hare Kanch Ki Chooriyaan (1967) (sung by Rafi; music by Shankar Jaikishan; lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri). Now this is what I’m talking about. This is a picnic! And may I add that Rajendranath in a daishiki should be a prerequisite in these situations as well. A picnic can always use a funnyman.
5. “Sama Hai Suhana Suhana” from Ghar Ghar Ki Kahani (1970) (sung by Kishore; music by Kalyanji Anandji; lyrics by Anand Bakshi). I can never figure out how some people become heroes (Rakesh Roshan) and others don’t (Jalal Agha). But I do know that moonlit picnics must be conducive to romance, and I would be happy to watch Jalal play and sing and pretend it was all for me while Rakesh chased someone else.
4. “Yeh Shaam Mastani” from Kati Patang (1970) (sung by Kishore; music by RD Burman; lyrics by Anand Bakshi). Rajesh Khanna at the height of his considerable charms and über-picnicker Asha Parekh make eyes at each other as their friends look on (probably enviously) and skip rope. It’s a far cry from a children’s playground and mud pies!
3. “Tumse Achcha Kaun Hai” from Jaanwar (1964) (sung by Rafi; music by Shankar Jaikishan; lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri). There could not be a picnic list without Shammi (there were several other Shammi ones in contention, from Dil Deke Dekho and An Evening in Paris among others) but this one for me takes the cake. Shammi wrapped in a blanket, belting out the song in a cold river—having crashed her outing with friends to further his wooing of the reluctant Rajshree—is so quintessentially him. That first glimpse of him wriggling madly in his cocoon makes me giggle helplessly.
2. “Dekha Hai Teri Aankhon Mein” from Pyar Hi Pyar (1969) (sung by Rafi; music by Shankar Jaikishan; lyrics by Hasrat Jaipuri). Dharmendra serenades a bashful Vyjayanthimala as her friends cheer him on with this sublimely beautiful song. I would happily go on a picnic even to a place where I knew vicious killer spiders lurked if Dharam was going to drive me there in his jeep.
1. “O Manchali Kahan Chali” from Manchali (1973) (sung by Kishore; music by Laxmikant Pyarelal; lyrics by Anand Bakshi). I adore this film, and when I think “Hindi movie picnic” this one springs to mind first—especially Leena Chandavarkar in her fur-trimmed picnic outfit. Sanjeev Kumar looks so mischievous as he chases her around the park. They are surrounded by very stylish friends, and as long as I pretend that there are giant bottles of Kingfisher in those baskets, they have pretty much everything you could ever wish for at a picnic.
So, my friends in India, are we on? I will bring my Scotch whiskey decanter containing a music box with two walzing figures (oh yes it’s ON ITS WAY) if you supply the blankets and bicycles! And what will you be singing on that happy day?