“We went to see Pyaasa in a theatre and as Rut phire par din hamaare began playing, people started walking out. So I have removed it,” said Waheeda Rehman as she remembered Guru Dutt’s explanation for jettisoning her solo song from the 1967 film. Dutt realised that his cherished creation was a “cigarette song” – industry parlance for a musical track during which audience members leave the cinema for a nicotine break, Rehman said in her book-length conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir. With the arrival of VHS tapes and DVDs, the “cigarette song” was quickly avoided by pressing the fast forward button.
If you had used these options for Ye Din Kya Aaye from Basu Chatterjee’s classic romantic comedy Chhoti Si Baat (1975), not only would you have lost out on the plot but also missed out on six minutes of pure movie magic.
“Yeh din kya aaye,” begins Mukesh in his signature nasal voice as the trio – Amol Palekar’s Arun, Vidya Sinha’s Prabha and Asrani’s Nagesh – leave the comfortable environs of Café Samovar in Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai’s Kala Ghoda neighbourhood for the faux Chinese interiors of Flora restaurant in Worli. Since the song is all about faces – the looks of confusion, anger and despair on Nagesh’s face as he realises he is fighting a losing battle, the blossoming romance between Arun and Prabha – dialogue and lipsync are unnecessary.
For the Bombay nostalgist, much of the song’s pleasures come from its depictions of courtships in pre-liberalised India: playing tic, tac, toe on the corner of a bed and taking comfortable bus rides in the warmth of the Mumbai evening sun.
The song ends with a chess match between Arun and Nagesh. Even though Arun loses the match, the musical interlude that came before shows that he has already won the heart of his lady love, and that’s all that matters.