Some of the sweetest songs we have heard in our lifetime have been duets, especially those sung in the movies. Remember that haunting number from Manna De and Lata Mangeshkar, ke prothom kachhe eshechhi / ke prothom bhalo beshechhi / tumi na aami? It is a song which reminds ageing lovers, or lovers who have settled into the mundane routine of being married couples, of those early days of romance. Alas, those days are no more! But that old sweetness comes back every time spring sprouts in our ancient souls.
In our own Bangladesh, there was a time when the Khondokar Faruk-Shahnaz Rahmatullah song, shudhu ek bar boley jao / aami je tomar koto priyo, was all the rage and many of us, desperate for the attention of the women we secretly desired (and they were all our classmates at university), merrily went on singing that song. The performance, of course, was solo. Now think of Mohammad Rafi and Lata singing tere husn ki kya tareef karoon / kuchh kaehte hue bhi darta huun / kaheen bhool se tu na samajh baithe / ke mae tujh se mohabbat karta huun. Doesn't that set off a number of bells ringing in the glittering halls of the heart in you?
The charm of duets is that they serve as symbols of passionate union between two lovers. The pursuit, in this case that of the man, has ended and the beloved is all his. Or sometimes a duet is also a mark of impending separation, as this number from Ahmed Rushdi and Mala shows all too well: jab raat dhali tum yaad aaye / hum duur nikal aaye usi yaad ke saaye saaye. Or there is, again, the Rafi-Lata emblem of separation, teri duniya se duur chale ho ke majboor / hum-e yaad rakhna. A happy number is a beautiful song, dating from the 1970s, sung by Mohammad Khurshid Alam and Runa Laila: pakhir bashar moto duti chokh tomar / thik jeno Natore-er Bonolata Sen. Bashir Ahmed and Noor Jehan once sang a very lilting tum jo mil-e pyar mila / dil ko qarar aa gaya. And do not forget Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhonsle as they cheerfully sing jodi hoi chor kanta oi sharee'r bhaaje, for it throws up the image of a man ready to reduce himself to the most insignificant image of a thorn in order to be glued to the woman he loves.
Masood Rana and Mala once sang tujhe pyar ki qasam hai / mera pyar bun ke aaja, while Rushdi and Mala remain unforgettable for zindagi apni thi ab tak / urhte badal ki tarah. Talat Mahmood and Shamshad Begum's duniya badal gayi meri duniya badal gayi / aisi chali hawa ke dukh khushi mein dhal gayi remains inimitable.
The day is young. Sing, if you will, prem-er naam bashona / shey kotha bujhi ni aage / duti praaner shadhona / keno je modhur laage. And the singers? Who else but Shahnaz Rahmatullah and Mahmudunnabi?
The writer is Executive Editor,
The Daily Star