Sanjay Leela Bhansali is rumoured to be a big fan of the raag Yaman Kalyan. He finds a way to drop the raag into his latest movie Padmaavat, in the sequence in which the treacherous sage Raghav Chetan (Ayaam Mehta) visits the incarcerated Ratansen (Shahid Kapoor) to smirk at the Chittor king’s plight.
Raghav Chetan is the one who persuaded Delhi Sultanate’s ruler Alauddin Khilji (Ranveer Singh) that Ratansen’s wife, Padmavati (Deepika Padukone), is so beautiful that she is worth invading Chittor for. Khilji captures Ratansen through deceit. As Chetan gloats at his shackled former king, he plays Yaman Kalyan on his flute.
“I thought I could play some Yaman Kalyan to soothe your pain,” Raghav Chetan sneers. Ratansen scoffs and says, “Go on, play your raag Yaman.”
In Bhansali’s films, everything on the screen – from a piece of furniture to the shade of colour on the walls – is meant to further the plot. The raag isn’t far behind.
Raag Yaman, and its close relative Yaman Kalyan, pop up with frequency on the soundtracks of Bhansali’s movies. The song best summarises one of the themes that Bhansali has been pursuing throughout his career – eternal love, one that outlasts death.
In Padmaavat, Bhansali, who is also the film’s music composer, uses raag Yaman in Ek Dil Ek Jaan. The song is the last to appear in the tragic romance, and is a tribute to the undying love between Ratansen and Padmavati. Dressed to the nines, Ratansen and Padmavati walk towards their death believing that they will meet again on the other side of fate.
One of the best uses of raag Yaman is in Bhansali’s Bajirao Mastani (2016), which he also composed. Aaj Ibadat is not used in the period drama but plays during the end credits. The song opens with a Vedic shloka (one that is recited to officiate a Hindu wedding) and slowly turns into a soulful Sufi song that encapsulates the impossible but enduring love between Bajirao (Ranveer Singh) and Mastani (Deepika Padukone). Their love story, complicated by their religious identities, can find fruition only in death.
Doomed love is celebrated once again through raag Yaman in Goliyon Ki Raasleela: Ramleela (2013), Bhansali’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Ram (Ranveer Singh) and Leela (Deepika Padukone), hailing from two rival blood-thirsty communities, realise that their relationship is doomed. Bhansali gives them the track Laal Ishq in which the two lovers affirm to each other that their only identity is love. Snatches of Laal Ishq appear in the film when it becomes clear to Ram and Leela that their love story can never succeed. The track plays in full at the end, as their bodies are carried to the burial site.
Hamesha Tum Ko Chaha from Bhansali’s 2002 adaptation of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Bengali novel Devdas is perhaps the most obvious pledge to eternal love. Unsurprisingly, this too is in Yaman.
As Paro (Aishwarya Rai) is sent to her husband’s home after her wedding, she and her childhood sweetheart Dev (Shah Rukh Khan) relive their love story through the song, promising to live off those memories forever. They finally declare that “bin tere mere is jeevan mein kuch bhi hahin” – there is nothing left in this world without the other.
Death lingers at the start of Jhonka Hawa Ka Aaj Bhi, from Bhansali’s second film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999, which is also in Yaman.) Nandini (Aishwarya Rai) is shot and is rushed to the hospital by her husband Vanraj (Ajay Devgn). He does everything he can to nurse her back to life. Elsewhere, Nandini’s former lover Sameer (Salman Khann) begins singing about her in the memory of their doomed love story.
A commitment to love each other eternally is affirmed in this song too, but between Vanraj and Nandini. The act of applying vermilion on the parting of the hair, a common feature in all the other songs, shows up here too.