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Thursday, April 27

"Aayega aanewala" The one meant to return will return


"Aayega aanewala" is the biggest hit song from Kamal Amrohi's Hindi-language 1949 movie Mahal, India's first "reincarnation thriller" -- and probably the world's first sight of such -- named by the British Film Institute as among the top ten romantic horror movies of all time. 

If non-Hindi speakers want to watch Mahal on YouTube, which doesn't have a version with English subtitles, they'd be well-advised to first read both Wikipedia's plot summary and the discussion of the plot at Outlook India, which is aptly titled Palace of DelusionThe reviewer, Nasreen Munni Kabir, is a filmmaker and author of books on cinema. I am not sure I would agree with either view of the gardener's daughter; however, as I have only seen the first half of the film so far I'll reserve judgment for now.    

 Kabir notes Mahal wouldn't scare audiences today. I'd add "Perhaps unless an audience thinks deeply about the plot." 

It's a very odd thing about the phenomenon misleadingly termed "reincarnation" -- while it's an actuality it's also something that should only greatly concern those most determined to break free of it; e.g., serious practitioners of the Buddha's path. 

For the rest, confusion and delusion are too often the result if they become entranced with the idea of their "past lives." They end up as a kind of ghost, with one foot in the present and one in the past.

From that point of view Mahal is more than a horror story; it's also a morality tale.

For those who'd prefer not to think deeply about the plot of Mahal, there is the fun of watching the birth of a Indian movie genre that created "an appetite for tales about ghostly mansions, murderous goings-on, unhinged minds and a female apparition sauntering as a haunting melody plays," as Kabir put it. 

But the reviewer also puts in a word for the romantics:
... at heart, Mahal is less about reincarnation than about people obsessed with finding eternal love. This search for and union with the perfect beloved is close to the Sufi idea of divine love, a theme running through all of Amrohi’s films: in Pakeezah and Razia Sultan, the question is whether love can transcend social and class barriers; in Mahal, it is whether love can transcend death itself."
There is also much in the movie to interest film buffs given that the cinematographer, a German, was a master of German Expressionist cinema and film noir, which derived from it

Yet it is the haunting "Aayega aanewala" and its singer, Lata Mangeshkar, who is never seen in the film, which still make the movie a topic of conversation even today among people who've never seen Mahal. There was a secret to how the haunting sound was achieved, as Kabir explains for India Outlook:
"Today sound perspectives are created using digital technology. But Aayega, aayega... was recorded more than 60 years ago. In an interview, Lata Mangeshkar once told me how much inventiveness Amrohi, composer Prakash and she brought to the recording to the give the song a ghostly feel: she stood in a corner of the studio, with the microphone at its centre, and walked towards the microphone singing the opening verse, from Khamosh hai zamana... to is aas key sahare, and when she got close to the mike, she sang the refrain, Aayega, aayega.... After much trial and error with this procedure, the song was finally recorded to everyone’s satisfaction."
Here is the English translation of the lyrics:

Time stands still,
The stars are silent,
The world is at rest.
Yet my heart is uneasy.
Suddenly, I hear footsteps nearing,
As though someone were
walking through my heart.
Or is it the sound of my heart
quickening with hope?
The one meant to return
will return

********

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