Recently, I watched Sanjay Leela Bhansali's 1999 film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam ("I Have Given My Heart, Darling") for the first time. While I was caught up in the beautiful story, music and cinematography, I was caught off-guard when I seemed to recognize one of the songs.
The familiar song was "Doli Taro Dhol Baje" which was composed by Ismail Darbar with lyrics by Mehboob. Sung by Kavita Krishnamurthy, Vinod Rathod, and Karsan Sagathia, the song is picturized on Aishwarya Rai and Salman Khan (in one of his best ensemble dance performances).
The chorus of this song can be translated as:
The drum beat,
The drum beat,
The drum beat,
The drums beat loudly.
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam was filmed in the Gujarat-Rajasthan region and the song is part of the festival of Navratri, or "Nine Nights", which is celebrated with particular pageantry in this area. According to the Official Gujarat State Portal:
Gujarat’s Navratri Festival, is “a circle of ecstasy” that throbs non-stop for nine nights with millions of fantastically costumed devotees swaying in a fusion of dance and devotion. Although this festival is celebrated throughout India, nowhere is it performed with more panache and fervor than in Gujarat.
Because of the pageantry, music and celebration, many tourists visit the Gujarat region during the Navratri festival. According to Getit Navratri:
Navrati in Gujarat is celebrated in full extent; here all the nine nights are celebrated with much passion and grandeur. During this period people wear traditional costumes, enjoy folk music and folk dance, with some awesome traditional cuisines of Gujaratis. In this event, local people can be found in ethnic wears like women wearing Ghaghara choli and men wearing dhoti kurta. The dance form of ras garba and dandiya are performed every night during the festival. This nine night dance festival is perhaps the longest in any part of the world.
In the beginning of the event, firstly a puja [prayer ritual] is conducted in honour of Goddess Amba. After that, starts the music, people form a circle to dance and whirl away till late night. Music and dance are generally of traditional form. Music is principally composed with singing and drumming, but these days’ people also like to use amplified sound systems or a mixture of both with performance of live bands using modern instruments.
As picturized in the film, the dance style of this song reflects the traditional dances:
- The Garba dance is performed in a circle - as a symbol of the Hindu view of time - around around a clay lantern with a light inside - which symbolizes the human body and the divine soul. The rings of dancers revolve in cycles, as time in Hinduism is cyclical. The dance symbolizes that God is the only thing that remains unchanging in a constantly changing universe.
- The Dandiya Raas dance form is actually the staging of a mock-fight between the Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, the mighty demon-king, and is nicknamed "The Sword Dance". In this dance, men and women form two circles, with 18 inch long sticks ("dandiya") in each of their hands. Generally, in a four beat rhythm, opposite sides hit the sticks at the same time, creating a nice sound. One circle goes clockwise and another counter clockwise.
Because of the Gujarat setting and the Navratri festival, I couldn't help but be reminded of a similar performance in the 2013 film Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela, starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone.
The flirting between the two main characters in the 1999 "Doli Taro Dhol Baje" seems to be mirrored in the 2013 item number "Lahu Munh Lag Gaya":
While there are definite similarities in this song storyline to the 1999 "Doli Taro Dhol Baje", the music and lyrics are different. It is the 2013 song "Nagada Sang Dhol" which comes closer with has similar lyrics - and accompanying drums - to the 1999 song: