Dil Chahta Hai will remain a landmark film in the world of Hind cinema for many reasons. While it didn’t have the sheer bravado of something like Lagaan from earlier that year, this 2001 film included a change in what was possible within the old tropes, it introduced some important players, and it re-introduced some old hands. The songs in the film were all very good and grew to a popularity much bigger than the film itself in some ways. Of those, I’ve always had a soft spot for Tanhayee. It’s not usual for me to like the sad emotional song over more upbeat ones, but I think in the realm of sad songs too, this one acted as a milestone, of a change of mood.
The first thing most of us who were around at the time remember about Dil Chahta Hai, were its very memorable trailers. A bunch of friends, all actors we knew, dressed and styled in a way we were not used to seeing them, in gorgeous colours, sitting around and doing boyish things in various colourful locales in Goa, all set to extremely modern and catchy music. The initial trailers had no dialogue at all, depending only on the scenes and the music, a music montage, and that’s the same route taken in Tanhayee. It’s a song of heartbreak with no lip syncing, very few overt dramatics, and mostly consisting of a series of very beautiful shots of Amir Khan navigating streets and places.
Ravi K. Chandran‘s cinematography and Farhan Akhtar‘s first outing as director makes us want to avoid all this pain being sung about by making its settings so stark and beautiful; An interesting trick. Aamir Khan is at his intense best, communicating all through his few looks and his body language, with Priety Zinta being more demonstrative in keeping with her character. In a few minutes, Sydney is transformed into the perfect visual locale for loneliness.
The music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is youthful but also more traditional than the other songs in this album. There is a beautiful use of a wailing flute to convey the appropriate emotion, while never giving up on the many choral sounds and percussion that is a signature of this entire soundtrack. The one who really hits the ball out of the park with this one though, is Sonu Nigam, whose vocals seethe with pain, anger and suffering like few others could have done so earnestly. That anger is the new turn of mood this song established. After decades of sad songs filled with pathos and wailing at love and the universe, here was a song that expresses much more self-anger at letting such things happen. A definite change of mood and perhaps a sign of the times. In some ways a more healthy approach, I think, but only time will tell.
Javed Akhtar provides his usual brand of solid and powerful words, with line such as:
Kyon aisi umeed ki maine jo aise naakaam huvi
Door banayi thi manzil to raste mein hi shaam huvi
Ab kahan jaoon main
Kisko samjhaoon main
Why did I wish for things that never came to be
I aimed for far horizons but twilight fell for all to see
Where do I go now?
Whom do I convince and how?
This simplicity of language mixed with the sort of staccato rhythm of the lines of varying length adds to the restlessness of this song and make it a pleasure to listen to. A strange thing to say about a piece of music that mourns the death of so many pleasures so well.