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The curious case of "Mere Angne Mein" from Prakash Mehra-Amitabh’s LAAWARIS (1981) - Exclusive by Bobby Sing from the upcoming book - DID YOU KNOW (Vol.2)

10 Jul, 2019 | Did You Know!

In the world of music or rather Hindi film music, at times a film song gets hugely famous, becoming a cult in the later decades and we easily start assuming a lot about its conception, unintentionally influenced by the big names involved.
The description matches perfectly with the curious case of “Mere Angne Mein Tumhara Kya Kaam Hai” from Prakash Mehra’s LAAWARIS released in 1981(music by Kalyanji Anandji), featuring the angry-young man Amitabh Bachchan, who unexpectedly enacted a drag in the supposedly funny but an odd picturisation of the particular track in the film.
But before revealing about the actual song, it would be interesting to know that where it became a mega hit (both before and after the film’s release), “Mere Angne Mein” was also heavily criticized and the makers had to do a lot of explaining or image control post the film’s release and the song’s huge success.
In fact such was the magnitude of its criticism that after receiving numerous letters from its readers, one of the most reputed Hindi Film Magazine MADHURI had to come out with an issue having its cover page mentioning the concern as “Mere Angne Mein - Jaisa Naach Gaana Kyon” with interviews of both Amitabh and Prakash Mehra explaining their individual thought process behind its inclusion.
In the interview stated in the magazine, Amitabh admitted that he knew that his song and the drag act in LAAWARIS has not been appreciated by many but the viewers need to understand that there is a lot in film business which is not in our hands and one cannot blame only the star for any such specific inclusion. At the same time he also agreed that the song was worked upon on his suggestion only and the director is not entirely responsible for the same.
But further revealing the actual story, he said that initially the song was to be used conveying an emotional connect with the hero’s mother played by Raakhi (who actually sings it first in the film’s opening sequence). But post the recording, no one thought that this can be used as an emotional tool in the narration. On the contrary, it demanded to be filmed in a much lighter and different mood taking the story forward.
On the point of its double meaning lyrics, Amitabh said that he really didn’t find anything wrong or offensive in the wordings, as it was plain funny and he had heard it several times in the past, sung by people at various occasions since it was originally a traditional folk song of Uttar Pradesh. Moreover its onscreen execution actually turned out quite well becoming a major attraction for the film that worked big time, though having its own share of criticism.
The denial about the track being a cheap insertion also came from director Prakash Mehra, who stated that he had earlier heard the song sung by Amitabh in a Holi celebration and in a Kalyanji Anandji show of his film MUQADDAR KA SIKANDAR organized in Mumbai’s (then Bombay) Brabourne Stadium. Looking at the favorable response of the public they decided to somehow use it in their next venture.
Countering the question of it being vulgar and distasteful as per the team’s set standards in the past, the director answered that he never felt or looked upon the song from that angle and had used it in the film establishing the lost emotional connect between his key characters. Besides another reason for its inclusion was his intention to create something fresh and new for Amitabh’s gigantic fan following. Keeping that in mind they together conceived it as a special attraction of the project (which eventually got excitedly promoted by the music company) and therefore inserted the song in the final reels of the film keeping the curiosity alive.
However the criticism was not just about the track, but also about its lyrics credit being given to Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan in the initial LP Records released by HMV music company (now SAREGAMA). Interestingly the name was later deleted from the next lot released and the space was kept blank with no mention of its lyricist at all, which ideally should have been changed to Music & Lyrics - Traditional.  
As per Mehra, he was earlier informed by his team that the song had been penned by Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan, which was not correct as it was indeed a traditional folk song of Uttar Pradesh. So when they later came to know about the fact, the mention was deleted from the LP Records and the film credits also stated the names of only two lyricists as Anjaan and Prakash Mehra.
In continuation of his explanation Mehra further explained that they were later also told that basically the song was in Awadhi which Dr. Bachchan had edited/translated in simple Hindi and therefore was occasionally sung by Amitabh since many years. The strong association also gave them an impression that perhaps it was written by Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan.
Anyway, the above acceptance also doesn’t seem to be correct as there is another amazing twist in the case of this controversial song and its use in Indian/Hindi Cinema.
6 years before LAAWARIS, the same song was sung with a little variation of words as “Mere Angna Mein Kisi Ka Kya Kaam Hai” by Naresh Kumar in film MAZE LE LO directed by Kumar Vasudev and it was picturised as a stage-program without any change of get-ups by the male lead performer. The film’s music was given by Mahesh-Naresh and surprisingly the song’s lyrics were also credited to Naresh Kumar on its LP Record.
(Giving its deserving due, MAZE LE LO had another rare feature related with its soundtrack, which I came to know holding its LP in hands reading all the names mentioned. But will like to discuss it later in another short but Exclusive article soon.)
The credits of lyrics given to the singer-composer in MAZE LE LO was certainly not the right thing to do as the song did have a folk origin and had already been used in another major film five years before MAZE LE LO, though not as a pre-recorded track.
In 1970, Merchant Ivory Productions came with their English film BOMBAY TALKIE directed by James Ivory with a theme related with the Hindi film industry, featuring Shashi Kapoor in the lead. It was a major project with many renowned performers from India and had some unique features, which again deserve to be stated in another dedicated article (will try to write about it too soon).
The film had a sequence wherein Nadira is enjoying a song sung by Anwar - one of three young boys surrounding her, the other two being Jalal Agha and Mohan. Anwar here sings the same track with the same lyrics as heard in LAAWARIS saying “Mere Angne Mein Tumhara Kya Kaam Hai” and Agha keeps making musical sounds along with playing tabla on Nadira’s leg. Their fun-time gets interrupted; the moment Shashi enters the room in a puzzled state.
Coming to the conclusion, the famous “Mere Angne Mein” which surely has its origin in the folk music of Uttar Pradesh, was not anything fresh or novel written by a lyricist in either LAAWARIS or MAZE LE LO or in the reputed international project BOMBAY TALKIE. As a matter of fact, this remains the truth for a few other famous Hindi film songs too, having their origin in the rich Indian Traditional Folk Music that not always gets a clear mention in the credits.
(10th July 2019)
Copyright – Bobby Sing (Hapreet) / BobbyTalksCinema.com

Note: The chapter is a part of my upcoming book DID YOU KNOW Vol.2. It has been shared here on the website for all reader friends as an early promotion of the book most probably coming before the year end.  


 Did You Know By Bobby SingFor more interesting articles on lesser known facts on Hindi Cinema, do try DID YOU KNOW Series by Bobby Sing available in both Book and E-book form.

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Tags : The curious case of "Mere Angne Mein" by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Prakash Mehra-Amitabh’s LAAWARIS (1981), Exclusive by Bobby Sing from the upcoming book DID YOU KNOW (Vol.2), Lesser Known Facts about Hindi Cinema by Bobby Sing
10 Jul 2019 / Comments ( 10 )

Mere Angne Ki Amar Kahaani ... nobody would have thought that anyone can do so much research on this topic. 

Bobby Sing

Thanks a lot Camaal for your kind words.
Its really difficult but I always try to bring in something not available anywhere in the world of web.

Neel Trivedi

Interesting article, Bobby. I always knew this had to be a folk song because I was familiar with it being used in Bombay Talkie (as you pointed out in the article).

Incidentally, Prakash Mehra's story also seems true. I know a couple of journalists in Mumbai (distant relatives) who said Amitabh used to sing this song quite often at social gatherings & filmy parties for at least 4-5 years before Laawaris was released.

Bobby Sing

Dear Neel,
Sorry for the late reply as many comments got hidden due to a technical glitch.

Glad that you liked the article and you are very right in your observations too.
With a big thanks.....  keep visiting and writing in.

Shailendra Mishra

Interesting article.I remember reading the Madhuri issue  mentioned.But was unaware of Maze le lo.Mahesh kumar of Mahesh-Naresh also sang some songs in female voice which was his speciality in their famous orchestra. He sang Ruck Ruck chuk chuk in Raffochakkar  picturized on Rishi Kapoor with painal and a song picturized on Sanjay Dutt in Mera Faisla.It  will be interesting if a write up on songs picturized on actors in drag comes up as most have donned ladies avataar including muscular persons like Dharmendra, Shaikh Mukhtaar and Dara Singh.


Bobby Sing

Dear Shailendra Ji,
Thanks a lot for your valuable comment mentioning Mahesh-Naresh and their film works.
Regarding songs with actors in drag I think I have read it somewhere and it has surely been written upon. Will have to search for it again.

Please do keep visiting and wriiting in.
(Note : Would like to apologise for my late reply)

Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

Dear Bobbyji, a great share. Would love to create your dedicated column on my website to archive your similar articles. 

Bobby Sing

Thanks for your kind praises and wish to share the articles Dr. Mandar Sir.
But actualy as per Google's regulation you can share links of the articles but not complete articles as then it will be treated as copied at your site by Google.
Morevoer many of the articles at the site are going to be compiled in my next publications so that will also be the concern.

I hope and am sure you will understand Sir.
Please keep visiting and writing in.


I see a bit of irony or destiny in this. When Amitabh first came to Mumbai, his co-strugglers were Anwar and Jalal Agha. In fact he was staying with Anwar and both would make the rounds of studios accepting any role that came their way during their struggle and Anwar generally recommended Amitabh to producers as he felt Amitabh was a better actor . But for Shashi Kapoor, much to Amitabh's chagrin, removing Amitabh from Bombay Talkies for wasting talent as extra, the song recitation  would have been picturised on Amitabh. The other actors who laboured on this folk song faded away while Amitabh who missed out struck gold with this song.

Bobby Sing

Dear Sunil Kumar,
Thanks for writing it. Though it seems to be interesting but I think its not an irony as Amitabh was never a part of this project as I am informed. Both Anwar and Jalal Agha might and might not have heard it from Amitabh as this was a famous folk song of its region.
But then it is destiny that plays much more important role than even talent in the world of glamour and films in particular.

Do keep visiting and writing in.

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