Heroes and heroines dancing between trees has been an oft repeated cliché for the tropes of Hindi film songs. Like all clichés, it has some basis in fact, even if not as iconic as it has come to be portrayed. At some point, dancing between the trees started as a simple walk between the trees, because in the history of Hindi film, actual synchronised dancing to the music is a relatively recent development. Before such things came to be, matters were slower and simpler for the most part, and a great example of just such walking between the trees is Abhi na jao chod kar from the 1961 film Hum Dono.
The inclusion of trees in songs and modern Indian stories is really not as random an insertion as it might seem to someone observing from outside the culture. India is after all a country of many forests, and all our major epics and mythological tales prominently feature forest and trees in various capacities, as mere setting or in some cases as a major contributor to the events unfolding. As films came to be and the urban sprawl became a more common setting of stories, forests came to represent the lost privacy, and perhaps a touch of the wild that honest-to-goodness lovers simply had to escape to, to move away from the norms and taboos of a fairly conservative society and one in which arranged marriage was still the norm. However, romance was the wished for fantasy and trees and forests provided a setting for it.
In Abhi na jao chod kar, Dev Anand and Sadhana are filmically casual as they walk through some trees, and there is playful banter between the two about whether or not to bring their rendezvous to a close. Think of it as a very elaborate “You hang up. No, you hang up.” routine, but with a lot more poetry to it and plenty of bargaining. Amarjeet directed Dev Anand in several films and does a great job playing to his strengths here, while cinematographer V. Ratra shoots the whole sequence with classic rim lighting and plenty of theatrical drama to improve the atmosphere of the song.
Jaidev‘s music for this song is simple and melodic, which is why even stray bars from this song still remain identifiable to anyone who loves Hindi film music. And the voices of Mohammed Rafi and Asha Bhosle are at their silken best in bringing to life what is ultimately a very heartfelt and sweet song, with lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi such as:
Main thodi der jee to loo, nashe ke ghoont pee to loo
Abhi to kuch kaha nahi, abhi to kuch suna nahi
Let me live a while longer, let me have an intoxicating swallow
I haven’t even spoken yet, nor heard your thoughts to follow
Abhi na jao chod kar is a great song for more than involving trees. It has some beautiful music, singers at the peak of their clarity and nuance, actors who became icons for what they were at the time, and words that are simple and relateable. The song feels like a conversation and thus remains one of the most memorable songs from the era.