Earlier this week, “Koi Ladka Hai Jab” randomly entered my head and hasn’t left. So hey, I can write about it! Despite its commercial success and the popularity of its soundtrack, Dil Toh Pagal Hai has slipped from the public consciousness. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai came out a year later and consumed the 1990s, especially in regards to Shahrukh Khan movies.
The song has a strong, relentless beat. It sinks it’s hook in to you and it’s difficult to resist the urge to dance. The children’s chorus actually melds well with the adult singers. Lata Mengeshkar was in her late 60s when she recorded this song, and it can sometimes be incongruous to hear her voice coming out of a much younger heroine. The children’s voices help smooth over any strangeness.
Side note, the other playback singer, Udit Narayan, was in his 40s. Music seems to be one of the few places where one will find a much older woman paired with a much younger man. Of course, the two have worked together before, and their voices are beautiful together. I am a ‘90s kid (sorry) and Mangeshkar and Narayan are the quintessential voices of the ‘90s for me.
The dance moves are also relatively simple, and the children smile and dance with abandon. Madhuri Dixit, as Pooja, makes the moves seem effortless. One can picture themselves joining in the dance.
However, this number shows what happens when metaphors collide with reality. The number takes place in a downpour. Dixit and Khan are soaked to the skin; you can see Khan’s nipples and only a heavy-duty choli prevents a similar fate for Dixit. As the song slides back into the story proper, both characters remain in the rain, smiling and breathing heavily. We know what this mean: sex, or at least some heavy sexual situations.
But there are children, literal children, in much of this number. They, too, dance in the rain, cavorting with Dixit and Khan. Around the midpoint of the number, the backup dancers turn into adults in white with brightly colored sashes around their waists. Do the adult back up dancers represent the children or is it simply a logistical change? And where do the children come from, are they street urchins? The symbolic implications of street children dancing in the rain are quite disturbing.
Not that I think the movie intends for those implications. It’s a film about dancing. It’s a song about dancing. Children are prominent in the chorus and so it makes sense to include them in the number. We can probably assume the rain implications apply to the adults only. The rain just provides a neat visual, and the choreography and set design are certainly quite different from what we normally encounter. The real problem might be less the confused metaphors and more the issue of using already written/performed songs instead of ones specific to the story. The movie needed a sequence in the rain, and, well, this was it.
This sequence shows what can happen when too many symbols and standard practices apply. Why it’s important to think critically about choices and meanings, even in pop culture. “What is this really saying?”