Mehbooba O Mehbooba
Singer/ Composer: R.D.Burman
Film: Sholay (1975)
If you are asked to name one song that reminds you of the spirit of Sholay – the greatest blockbuster in Hindi cinema, I am sure 99 per cent of you would come up with Mehbooba O Mehbooba. The sultry night, the dacoit camp fire, the gypsy dance and that infectious raunchy voice. More than Jalal Agha and Helen's dance steps; it was Pancham- Rahul Dev Burman's- rough, heavy bass vocalization that made this song so memorable.
The situation for this song was not there in the original screenplay but was 'created' when the director Ramesh Sippy and his wife Geeta, heard Say You Love Me- a captivating Demis Roussos number in London. Lyricist Anand Bakshi and composer Pancham then adapted, or rather adopted that sassy tune to give it a more desi flavour. After failing to convince Asha Bhosle to sing it in an extra husky old gypsy female’s voice, Pancham decided to sing it himself and how well he did that! The voice Pancham used here and in many other songs was a put on act from a singer who actually had a very soft and gentle voice. However, this rasping, gasping voice was to become his vocal identity.
The addition of the much-repeated clichéd gypsy dance sequence infuriated Sholay's writer, Javed Akhtar so much, that he had a heated debate with Sippy to remove the song. But once he heard the track, mesmerised, he did an about-turn to start demanding that it was just the song he wanted to picturise on Dharmendra and Hema Malini's Veeru and Basanti! Of course, his wish was not granted.
Today, all that colourful history behind this song has faded. Yet the song refuses to fade from memory – that almost barking wail, that exotic interplay of rhythm and string instruments and that fiery culmination of heat and passion!