Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani: Jhumka, Bareilly and a Love Story | Bollywood News

Sometimes, a song can make the past shore up and become vividly compelling in the present, drawing us into its circle of charm. What Jhumka, the reprised version of poet Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and composer Madan Mohan’s Jhumka gira re (Mera Saaya, 1966) in filmmaker Karan Johar’s latest drama, Rocky Aur Rani ki Prem Kahani, is not just a reminder of a remarkable legacy of its original composer and singer, it is also a peek into the changing face of young love in India since Independence. Sung to perfection by Asha Bhosle, the original song was different from its composer Mohan’s favoured genre of ghazals. The unique motifs, the folk-style lyrics, and their sensuality have a tale of their own.

The story begins in 1941 in Bareilly, a significant trade centre in Uttar Pradesh, where an evening of poetry was in progress on New Year’s Eve at professors Prakash Johri and his wife Prabha’s residence. Allahabad-based poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan and Lahore-based psychology professor Teji Suri, friends of Prakash and Prabha respectively, were in attendance. Bachchan was mourning the loss of his wife and his father, while Suri was unhappy with her engagement to a man studying in London. The two bonded over poetry that evening. Suri would go on to break her engagement afterwards. The two would later marry next year.

In the second part of his autobiography titled ‘Need ka Nirmaan Fir’ , Bachchan writes how poetry brought the two together and the seeds of their eventual marriage were sown that evening. After that, whenever the two were together at poetry conferences and mushairas, where Bachhan’s good friend Khan would also be present, many would ask Bachchan and Suri if they were a couple. Once, after considerable pestering, Suri is known to have said, “Mera jhumka toh Bareilly mein hi gir gaya tha (My earring had fallen in Bareilly only),” a delicate and somewhat poetic reference to falling in love.

The statement sparkled, a line that Khan could never forget. Over two decades later, he used the reference for Raj Khosla’s film Mera Saaya, the second in his trilogy of thrillers and a remake of Marathi film, Pathlaag, a quick dance number that got many to the movie theatres. While most of Mohan’s songs in the films found success, Jhumka gira re became a chartbuster, requests for it pouring in on the popular AIR radio show, Binaca Geetmala week after week.

Such was the popularity of the song that Bareilly, otherwise known for its historic temples and mosques, and as the birthplace of Draupadi, began to be associated with jhumkas.

In February 2020, 54 years after the song was released, the city of Bareilly found the lost earring that had fallen in its bazaar. On National Highway 24, a brass and copper jhumka, weighing 200 kg, is positioned on a 14 ft-high pole at a T-point and is called ‘Jhumka Tiraha’. An effort to attract visitors, this was also a tribute to a song that put a relatively unsung city on the Bollywood map and in turn in people’s hearts and minds.

The new composition in Johar’s film has been crafted by Pritam, retaining the soul of the original number. But while it may introduce a new generation to an old classic, not many will remember the love story that had spawned the song in the first place, etching it in collective memory across generations.

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