Chapter 15: Woh Ladki Hai Kahan
“Woh ladki hai yahan.“
Woh Ladki Hai Kahan, sung by Shaan and Kavitha Krishnamurthy, is the most fun song in the film. It appears after Sameer confesses his love to Pooja, and the two of them go to watch a film called Woh Ladki Hai Kahan. The fictitious film’s poster says that it is written, produced, directed, and edited by Ritesh Sidhwani, who is also the producer of Dil Chahta Hai. When they both start watching this film, the song begins. Woh Ladki Hai Kahan is choreographed by Farah Khan, who won the Filmfare award for best choreography for it. It is no secret that Farah loves Hindi movies. All the films that she has directed, including Main Hoon Na (2004), Om Shanti Om (2007), Tees Maar Khan (2010), and Happy New Year (2014), have paid tribute to Hindi cinema. However, it was in Woh Ladki Hai Kahan that we saw the first shades of Farah’s immense love for films. The song takes us through the various generations of the Hindi film song by parodying its familiar tropes. It was her idea to show Sameer and Pooja dancing in a cinema hall where the audience joins them, but it was Arjun Bhasin, costume designer, who also suggested making the two a part of the film playing inside the theater as well.
Woh Ladki Hai Kahan beautifully shows the impact of films in our lives where we see ourselves as the protagonists on the screen. After all, we are also the heroes and heroines of our lives. In Basu Chatterjee’s Chhoti Si Baat (1976), during the song Jaaneman Jaaneman, Arun (Amol Palekar) sees himself in Dharmendra and the girl he likes Prabha (Vidya Sinha) in Hema Malini when he watches a film on the big screen. It is also noteworthy that Amol Palekar, a man known for slice-of-life characters, plays the role of Dharmendra, an actor known for his macho roles. Woh Ladki Hai Kahan follows that template where Sameer and Pooja see themselves as characters in the film.
The song starts in black and white, which was the era of the black and white cinema of the 1950s. In the book, Bollywood Sounds: The Cosmopolitan Mediations of Hindi Film Song, Jayson Beaster-Jones explains the song’s picturization. He says, “The opening mukhra is shot in faux black and white and bears many of the traces of Raj Kapoor’s style including extreme close-ups of the faces of the actors, period costuming and visual references to Ghar Aya Mera Pardesi, the song sequence from Awara (1951).” He points out that the song also had shades of Hum Aapki Aankhon Mein from Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957). The second theme in Woh Ladki Hai Kahan takes us to the era of the 1960s and 1970s. In this one, the men wear Dev Anand style clothes with bell bottoms and neck scarves, and the women wear polka-dotted dresses with beehives and bouffants and go on picnics with their friends. Some parts of this era in the song also remind me of Saamne Yeh Kaun (The ‘Sun, Sea, Sand & Sex’ Mix), from the album Dance Masti, released in 1997, by Instant Karma, Shankar Mahadevan, Ravi “Rags” Khote. The third theme in Woh Ladki Hai Kahan takes us to the 1980s and 1990s, where lovers run towards each other in the mountains, wearing bright-colored sarees and ugly sweaters as was seen in the era of Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, and Rishi Kapoor.
After these three eras, the song returns to the present, where Sameer and Pooja look at each other, and find their love affirmed in the other. The movie on the screen ends with ‘The Beginning’ written in its credits. Woh Ladki Hai Kahan became quite popular due to its hook step of flying birds, which was suggested by Geeta Kapur, Farah Khan’s assistant choreographer. Geeta shared that she did that step out of frustration because she couldn’t think of anything. Farah said, in an interview, “I remember I had told Geeta that I will play the song and you do some steps. She started doing some birdy step, and that is how we made that our hook step.” It is strange the way things work where something completely unplanned goes on to become iconic.
Woh Ladki Hai Kahan is a beautiful tribute to the Hindi film song and its tropes, which is also a bit ironic as it comes in a film that went far away from these very sensibilities of mainstream Hindi cinema.