Anand Bakshi’s lyrical treatise on global warming, drought, and man-made disasters rings as loud and clear as Vijay Arora’s cycle bell in this searing number. With inspired direction by Subhash Ghai and some docu-style cinematography by Pramod Mittal, Ek ritu aaye, ek ritu jaaye from Gautam Govinda works on multiple layers.
There is, of course, the song itself. Laxmikant-Pyarelal, for the most part, come up with some unnervingly effective minimal orchestration and a chilling choral track—reminding me on two occasions what Rahul Dev Burman would do later: the insistent click-clack sound ostensibly set to a flute, here almost signaling an impending doom of the drought, would Pancham morph in the Marathi TV serial, Shodhu Kuthe Kinaara’s title song; the cross-over here would make its presence felt in RD’s Koi Pardesi Aaya (Hum Hain Lajawab). Back to L-P: they’re at their inspired best here, keeping their notes and melody tightly wound, as if any louder would create more havoc in the ecological imbalance. Kishore Kumar is then their seer-announcer. His hushed travel in this song is impeccable, knowing fully well that his majestic voice need not rise or make any grandiose gestures to keep you in the song’s vice-like grip. His is the voice that drought-hit nations ought to have heard decades back. Plus, Bakshi saab neatly demarcates the words ‘ritu’ and ‘mausam’, tying up the concepts for generations to come.
There’s the layer where how this song continues to be terrifyingly relevant to this day. None of our governments or local bodies or populace have paid to heed its prescient forebodings. We continue to rely on the seasons, the weather, and even frogs (to marry them off); rest, we leave to ‘naseeb’ (fate). In that sense, the cycle here is a man-made machine set on the one-way track that’s representative of human-kind traversing through the ages, ignoring all the warning signs around us. The cycling continues, the mayhem of destruction and greed continues, and all we can hope for is divine intervention. That seems more and more like the miasma of a hopeless mirage.
And finally, Shashi Kapoor. He deserves a special mention for looking so damn dapper and unflappably handsome. While the rest of us mere mortals would’ve fidgeted and shifted on that uncomfortable cycle carrier seat, he positively radiates and looks comfortable even. There may be hope for us after all. The debonair Kapoor just may represent our handsome and cool future. If only we’d pay heed.