Passions run high when the temperature dips in the movies. A song sequence featuring the winter means that the leads are most definitely in want of love. The cold weather brings with it a natural yearning for warmth from one’s partner, while the silence of these few months leaves room for pining in the absence of a partner.
Filmmakers have covered a range of romantic feelings in song sequences set during the winter season. Shammi Kapoor and Saira Banu find their inner animal in the snow, while Amitabh Bachchan and Rekha take it slow walking through the meadows. Sanjeev Kumar broods about his old love standing in the fog while Dharmendra and Raakhee bask in romance through letters under the warm winter sun.
Before Yash Chopra let everyone know how to let go in winter with Kabhie Kabhie (1976) and Silsila (1981), some of the earliest winter songs were much sombre affairs. The cold breeze makes Nalini Jaywant think of the hunky Prem Nath she has just met, as Thandi Hawayein Lehrake Aaye comes in Mahesh Kaul’s Naujawan (1951). Jaywant is all by herself, infatuated with the hero, and lip-syncing to the SD Burman composition sung by Lata Mangeshkar.
The cold breeze carries Kishore Kumar’s yodelling from across the mountains to Madhubala’s mansion on a moonlit night in Shankar Mukherjee’s Jhumroo (1961). Madhubala, alone in her room, has just played a few notes on her piano when Thandi Hawa Yeh Chandni Suhani, in Kumar’s voice, wafts into her room and sets up the characters for the inevitable romance.
A few years later, the cold breeze once again makes Asha Parekh yearn for the man she has just fallen for, played by Manoj Kumar, in Raj Khosla’s Do Badan (1966). Jab Chali Thandi Hawa has been sung by Asha Bhosle and composed by Ravi. Shakeel Badayuni’s lyrics go, “Jab chali thandi hawa, jab uthi kali ghata / Mujhko ai jan-e-wafa tum yaad aaye.”
Uff Kitni Thandi Hai Ye Ruth from Amarjeet’s Teen Deviyan (1961) goes a step further. Gorgeously shot in black-and-white, the song sequence is brimming with sexual tension as Simi Garewal’s socialite and Dev Anand’s poet sing into the night, addressing their mutual attraction by the fireplace, and crediting the “thandi ruth” (cold season) for it.
Winter has since brought together several screen couples for both slow-paced duets and energetic fun numbers where characters frolic in the snow. Hill stations are thus favoured destinations to situate such songs, most popular among them being Kashmir.
The beauty of a snow-kissed Kashmir drives Pudhu Vellai Mazhai (meaning the new white rain) from Mani Ratnam’s Roja (1992). Tamil Nadu-born Roja (Madhoo) has never experienced an actual winter. Upon landing in Kashmir with her husband Rishi (Arvind Swami), a song begins about the new experiences that lay in store for Roja.
Vairamuthu writes, “My body is getting cold, the mind wanders in search of a pleasurable warmth. The Hindi version, Yeh Haseen Wadiyan, written by PK Mishra, begins as an ode to the Kashmir valley.
An early instance of seeking a lover’s warmth in the chill of Kashmir is from Shakti Samanta’s Kashmir Ki Kali (1964). Untimely rain forces Shammi Kapoor and Sharmila Tagore to seek shelter in a log cabin. Inhibitions fall as does the mercury. Tagore’s coy flower-selling woman prances out of the cabin into the fog and asks Kapoor where he learned the ways to steal her heart, Isharon Isharon Mein.
But Shammi Kapoor is not always sober with his expressions of love. In Subhodh Mukherjee’s Junglee (1961), he is in his element in Chahe Koi Mujhe Junglee Kahe, another Kashmir-set song, which appears in the film after he has spent two life-changing nights with Saira Banu. Though the lyrics or the staging of the song do not directly address winter, the sequence offers a nice contrast to the emotions cold weather can inspire.
While Shammi Kapoor does his characteristic shimmy, his calmer brother and nephew, Shashi and Rishi, are part of a lovely romantic winter song, Chal Kahin Door Nikal Jayein, in Ramesh Talwar’s Doosra Aadmi (1977). The fog, the walking past the trees, Rakhee beginning to like a charming Rishi Kapoor before she is taken back to the memories of her ex-lover played by Shashi Kapoor, the trio of Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar, and the stylish costumes – it’s all there in the song from the Yash Chopra production.
Yash Chopra undoubtedly created the blueprint for what to do with winter and romance in the movies. Kabhie Kabhie (1976), shot for the most part in Kashmir, is a prime example. Mukesh’s haunting vocals in the title track, the close-ups on the faces of Amitabh Bachchan and Raakhee as they lie under a chinar tree amidst the snow, and the languid pacing of the sequence is a master class in itself. Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh do get their own winter song, which is a sprightly fun affair, but the title track is where the magic begins and ends.
Chopra’s 1981 film Silsila, shot in Netherlands and Kashmir, has many great winter song sequences one after another. There’s Dekha Ek Khwab, featuring Bachchan and Rekha, shot in the Keukenhof Tulip Garden. The leisurely paced Neela Aasmaan So Gaya, where Bachchan and Rekha walk together from morning to night, is another delight.
The best sequence is for Yeh Kahaan Aa Gaye Hum, sung by Lata Mangeshkar. As Bachchan’s poet reminisces about his love, played by Rekha, the montage cuts through space and time, goes forward and backward, has fade-ins and dissolves over Bachchan reciting Javed Akhtar’s poem. The video covers the two stars romancing everywhere, from forests and gardens to a boat and the bedroom.
Another notable winter song that involves the bonding between the lead couple is Ae Zindagi Gale Laga Le from Sadma (1983), directed and splendidly shot in Ooty by Balu Mahendra. An amazing moment from the song is where Kamal Haasan and Sridevi blow vapour out of their mouths playfully to pretend-smoke.
Certain song sequences evoke a wintry mood by virtue of the way the song is arranged and the location. One example is Phir Se Aaiyo Badaraa Bidesi from Namkeen (1982), set in the hills of Himachal Pradesh. The intelligent and sensitive but mute Mitthu (Shabana Azmi) has fallen for the amiable Gerulal (Sanjeev Kumar). She cannot express her affection, but she feels it through and through, as is seen in Phir Se Aaiyo Badaraa Bidesi . Asha Bhosle’s pensive vocals, the fog hugging the frames, the unhurried shots of the hills and the sheep hovering about, and RD Burman’s use of hillside wind and string instruments, automatically create a chilly, wistful atmosphere.
Post-1990s, we move away from the sprawling landscapes of Yash Chopra and find winter romance in urban spaces. The Moh Moh Ke Dhaage song from Sharat Katariya’s Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015) departs from the usual winter-song formula and follows the lead couple (Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar) beginning to bond after months of living with differences.
But winters in the city are harsh, and Imtiaz Ali knows it in Tamasha (2015). A cold night in the Hauz Khas Village area serves as the setting for the tumultuous break-up of the lead couple, played by Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. In this winter-heartbreak moment, there are no valleys, meadows and chinars, but only cruel words, dark roads and neon lights.