Chaiyan chaiyan chaiyan chaiyan – Sukhwinder/Sapna – A R Rahman | Dil SE (1998)

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This is a fantastic dance song sung by Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi.

Movie: This song appears in 1998 romantic thriller Dil Se (From the Heart). The backdrop is of the insurgency in North East India. It was produced by Ram Gopal Verma, Mani Ratnam and Shekhar Kapur and directed by Mani Ratnam under the banner of India Talkies-Varma Corporation. This is the third in Mani Ratnam’s terror trilogy after Roja and Bombay. The film starred Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala with Preity Zinta (her debut), in a supporting role. The movie bagged Netpac Award at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1999. It was also screened at the Helsinki International Film Festival and the Era New Horizons Film Festival. It also won 2 National Awards and 6 Filmfare Awards.

Amar Kant Varma (Shah Rukh Khan) is a Program Executive working with All India Radio sent from New Delhi to cover festivities in Assam. En route, during a rainy night, Amar stops at Haflong railway station. He needs to catch the Barracks Valley Express. He tries to have a smoke but does not have a match or a lighter so he asks a mysterious figure at the other end of the platform for a light. The person does not reply so he walks to the end of the platform to ask again. A few seconds later a strong wind blows the cover off the figure revealing a female (Manisha Koirala) and catches him off guard. He finds her very attractive and he tries to strike a conversation but she ignores him for some time and then asks for a cup of tea. The moment he returns with the tea, he finds that she is boarding the next train with 3 male passengers.

Song: The song was composed by A. R. Rahman and the lyrics were written by Gulzar. This song was featured in all time top 10 songs in an international poll by BBC World Service.

A girl begins the song with, “One whose head is in the shadow of love, there will be heaven below his feet.”

The boy eulogizes the girl whom he had seen just some time ago, almost as if she is God in so many words. Gulzar has the habit of using difficult words, which have deep meaning. I wonder how the singers would have learnt the difficult song. Usually, Gulzar’s lyrics do not match the story. But, this one is bang on.

Video: Cinematography is by Santosh Sivan. Dance choreography is by Farha Khan.

The sequence opens with Shah Rukh Khan covering his head with his coat and drinking the tea he has brought. Then, the song begins. Malaika Arora begins dancing on the top of a goods train. While she dances, the train enters a tunnel. While the train moves out of the tunnel, Shah Rukh Khan is also present there. Cinematic liberty enables the makers to shoot the song this way.

The choreography of the dance has been done within the small space on the goods train-compartment. Space is less so the choreographer has made the 2 actors with the extra dancers perform the dance with shoulder, hip and head movements. The choreographer has also risked giving them jumps in one place. At one time, Malaika happens to bump into Shah Rukh Khan and stops dancing for a few seconds. This is one thing.

Another thing I noticed is, having some knowledge of dance, I feel that they could have made the extra dancers sit at one place in the background on the train and make small movements. They could have got some more space for the main actors to show their dancing skills.

Artists: Playback singers are Sukhwinder Singh and Sapna Awasthi. Shah Rukh Khan and Malaika Arora are seen lip-synching to the song.

Cultural Influence: This song and dance sequence is only worthy of watching. There have been people, who have sat on trains, in Mumbai locals, or elsewhere and have fallen down to their deaths or have become handicapped. It is ok to watch such a sequence in a movie. But in reality, we should not imitate these actions.

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