Money does all the talking in 2018, as Yo Yo Honey Singh informs us in Billionaire from the stock market-themed thriller Baazaar.
In Gauravv K Chawla’s October 25 release, ambitious upstart Rizwan (Rohan Mehra) enters the world of ruthless tycoon Shakun Kothari (Saif Ali Khan). Before they get to lock horns, they party to Billionaire, whose lyrics spell out the joys cash can buy, such as “Italy ka khayenge dono hum pizza/Diplomatic passport mera, chahiye no visa”, “Alex Spain ki summer/Crusing in the Hummer” and “Dubai mein Chivas, California mein grass”.
The song’s outlook on hoarding, earning and spending money is representative of contemporary attitudes towards wealth in India. Six decades ago, Sahir Ludhianvi wrote “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai” for Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957). Of what use could owning everything be beyond a point? But chasing wealth has become the point today, and Hindi cinema’s lyricists have traced this slow-changing relationship of a country with money with fine wit and grace over the years. Here are 10 songs from Hindi films that speak of money and its various hues.
‘Sabse Bada Rupaiya’, ‘Sabse Bada Rupaiya’ (1976)
Listeners will recall the song for its remix from Rohan Sippy’s Bluffmaster (2005). Sabse Bada Rupaiya talks of the power of money. One of the most colourful bits in Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyics says that if it weren’t for money, the doctor’s fees wouldn’t have been paid, so one is not born in the world because of their parents but for money. Composed by Basu-Manohari, the song gets life from the vocal prowess of Mehmood, whose loutish mannerisms nail the spirit of the song.
‘Ek Paisa De Do O Babu’, ‘Vachan’ (1955)
A heart-wrenching song, both in terms of the lyrics by Prem Dhawan and the composition by Ravi. Sung by a beggar in the Geeta Bali-Rajendra Kumar-starrer Vachan (1955), Ek Paisa De De O Baabu underlines the desperation and humiliation of being penniless. Mohammed Rafi’s voice bolsters the pity in the simple but effective lyrics: “Teri jeb rahe naa khaali, teri roj mane diwali diwali / Tu hardam mauj udaaye, kabhi naa dukh paaye / O babu ek paisa de de.” Asha Bhonsle joins Rafi as the voice for the beggar kid.
‘Paise Ki Kahani’, ‘Girl Friend’ (1960)
Written by Sahir Ludhianvi and running over six minutes, Paise Ki Kahani tracks the origins of how money came into being and follows its journey as it created inequality among people and eventually corrupted humanity. The lyrics are one couplet after another. Without music, they read like a sermon. Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Ranu Mukherjee and Hemanta Mukherjee (also the composer), Paise Ki Kahani, however, flows like a children’s rhyme.
‘Chhan Chhan Baje Rupaiya’, ‘Char Paise’ (1955)
Chhan Chhan Baaje Rupaiya is a brisk fun song made memorable on screen by Kishore Kumar’s theatrics in Char Paise (1955). Sartaj Rahmani’s lyrics point out that money gets you a suit, a bungalow and makes a “babu” of you. The music is by Barendra Dev Burman, credited as BD Burman in the film, and is not to be confused with Sachin Dev or Rahul Dev Burman.
‘Paisa Bolta Hai’, ‘Kala Bazaar’ (1989)
A paean to the benefits of corruption, Paisa Bolta Hai is a sardonic song that is light on the ears thanks to singer Nitin Mukesh’s soft vocals. The music is by Rajesh Roshan and the lyrics are by Payam Sayeedi. Sample the song’s get-rich-by-hook-or-crook philosophy: “Rang gora ho ya kala ho, jag uska jo paise wala ho / Ghaple se mile ya rishwat se, banta hai mukaddar daulat se”.
The song acts as the introduction track for corrupt clerk Kimtilal (Kader Khan) and his deputy Kutti (Johnny Lever), who have turned graft into an art form in Kala Bazaar. The video is notable for showcasing Khan’s superb lip-syncing and dancing skills. Lever provides company.
‘Paisa Phenkh Tamasha Dekh’, ‘Jwaala Daaku’ (1981)
That money can buy the company of a woman is a recurring line of thought in Hindi film lyrics. An early example is Mohammed Rafi-sung Rupaiya Jaha Hain Wahan Hain Roop from Roop Rupaiya (1968). This has become prevalent in recent times particularly. Paisa Phenk Tamasha Dekh is not just one such song. The titular phrase (spend money and behold the fun) has earned an ubiquitous presence in pop culture.
The phrase “Paisa phenko tamasha dekho” appeared earlier in a Lata Mangeshkar song from the 1972 film Dushman, where Phoolmati (Mumtaz) regales village kids with her bioscope. The phrase returned in the 2000s through Vishal-Shekhar for the title track of Cash (2006), and then in the next year with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s Move Your Body from Johnny Gaddaar.
‘I Want Money’, ‘Waah Tera Kya Kehna’ (2002)
Money is “jaan”, “shaan”, “dharam” and “imaan”, among a host of things, in I Want Money from Waah! Tera Kya Kehna (2002). The song lists out the priorities of the hero, played by Govinda, who also sings the song. The funky track has music by Jatin-Lalit and lyrics by Sameer. The song is fairly uncomplicated as it is unabashed in upholding the charms of wealth.
‘Baazi Laga’, ‘Guru’ (2007)
The carnivalesque song from Mani Ratnam’s Guru (2007) could be the anthem for an obsessive gambler. It is truly the theme for the film’s protagonist, played by Abhishek Bachchan, who rises from rags to riches by betting against his luck and goes on to build a business empire. Gulzar’s lyrics focus on the magnetism of money. At one point, Gulzar’s characteristic playfulness, perfectly complemented by AR Rahman’s composition, makes the listener doubt if he is calling the restlessness for money good or bad – note the song from the 3:25 mark.
‘Sun Sun Mere Bhai’, ‘Banarasi Thug’ (1963)
Money is a slippery illusion that is best left alone in Sun Sun Mere Bhai from Banarasi Thug. Prem Dhawan’s lyrics complement the Iqbal Qureshi composition sung by Mohammed Rafi and lip-synced to by a group of saints in the film. Thematically, the song paints money as an evil that sucks the life out of mortals. Though not a spectacular composition in itself, the tune does stand out for its quasi-religious tone, placing it in a different space from other similar songs.
‘Paisa Paisa Karti Hai’, ‘De Dana Dan’ (2009)
No song is more on the money about the 2000s than Paisa Paisa Karti Hai by Punjabi group Rhythm Dhol Bass, popularly known as RDB. The song appears in the film De Dana Dan. Akshay Kumar sings it to Katrina Kaif, perplexed that the woman only wants money and not love: “Kyu paisa paisa kati hai, kyu paise pe tu marti hai / Ik baat mujhe batla de tu us rab se kyu ni darti hai.” The song has since gone on to become a club favourite and a hit with the meme makers.