Atul’s Song A Day- A choice collection of Hindi Film & Non-Film Songs

Ai suru ai suru mera watan Japan

Posted on: August 23, 2013

This article is written by Raja, a fellow enthusiast of Hindi movie music and a regular contributor to this blog.

Disclaimer: If I appear to be even more incoherent in this post than I usually am (and that would be quite an achievement!), blame it on Saira Banu. 🙂 The line that comes to mind is “Kya kya na sahey hum ne sitam aap ke khaatir”. 🙂 Further explanation in the post.

Today, the 23rd of August, is the birthday of yesteryear leading lady, Saira Banu. She turns 69 today.

And naturally, as we always do on this blog with various artistes, we celebrate the occasion remembering the artiste on the day.

So here’s to Saira ji. Wishing her a lot of happiness, good health and many more birthdays to come!

The 1960s was a decade known for color cinema hitting Indian films big time. Suddenly different sort of films began getting made, a lot of them deliberately exploiting the possibilities of colour. Outdoor locations, with the possibility of showing nature in its glory, became more common.

The themes of films also moved from the more serious social-issue based films of the 1950s to the “Swinging 60s” mood. If Hollywood had its Elvis Presley and Rock Hudson-Doris Day type films, Hindi cinema had its Shammi Kapoor, Joy Mukherjee and Asha Parekh. It was that sort of decade. Whether it was escapist in America or not (the US economy was on the rise), it was most certainly escapist in India.

It was in the first year of this decade that Saira Banu stepped into cinema.

And all through the decade, and for the first half of the next, she was one of its fairly prominent leading ladies.

Not that she was new to cinema when she entered the scene. She was the daughter of Naseem Bano, considered one of Hindi cinema’s most beautiful leading ladies of the 1940s, known for films like Anokhi Ada and Sheesh Mahal.

Saira’s debut film as leading lady was Junglee (1961) opposite Shammi Kapoor. From a box-office standpoint, this could be considered a dream debut. The film rocked the box-office, all its songs became runaway hits, Shammi Kapoor’s reputation got seriously enhanced as the “yahoo” star, who would forever be associated with Junglee.

And a very young Saira (she was barely 17 when the film was released) announced herself to the film world.

From then on, she acted in several films in the 1960s and early 70s – and many of them went on to become big hits. She forged successful leading-pair partnerships with Rajendra Kumar, Joy Mukherjee, Dharmendra and her eventual husband, Dilip Kumar.

And yet, for all her popularity and success, Saira Banu never really got acclaim for her acting as such. Sure, her films often became hits but she was often seen as just adding to the beautiful scenery of the film. And that, most do agree, she did very well, because she was very beautiful, no doubt.

My own opinion of Saira Banu’s acting is that it was not bad at all. I wouldn’t consider it outstanding (certainly not in the Nutan or Waheeda sense) – but then many of the roles she got were also not the type that she could have done very much with. I think she did do justice to her roles – whether it was of the innocent village belle in Shagird, or the annoyed neighbour in Padosan, or the Westernized Indian in Purab Aur Paschim.

But somehow, right from the beginning, she got this image of beauty without much acting ability. Apparently Shammi Kapoor, her first co-star, was very critical of her acting in Junglee, though he did act once again opposite her in Bluff Master a couple of years later. (Ironically, Saira got a Filmfare Best Actress nomination for Junglee, I believe).

So was it her image that precluded her getting meaningful roles where she could prove her ability? It was only probably with Purab Aur Paschim (late in her career), that she got some credit for her acting too.

I read in an interview that when somebody asked her once “When will you act in a sensible film?” she replied “I will act in a sensible film when there is a sensible audience to view such a film. Is there anything sensible in our country that we should single out films and make them the target of criticism?”. She must have been quite fed up of being constantly questioned about her acting.

Saira Banu also got noticed sometimes for the rather daring dresses for some of her roles, given the times. In today’s day and age, nobody would bat an eyelid but in those days, Saira’s dresses, whether a mini-sari in Shagird, or a mini-skirt in Purab Aur Paschim, or the towel scenes of Victoria No.203 all came for a bit of comment. Not that she cared.

The other thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Saira Banu is of course her long-standing and very warm marriage with Dilip Kumar. When they got married in 1966 (at 22, she was half his age!), there was talk that it wouldn’t last. Both had had their share of rumoured affairs (stories even continued well after their marriage), but it is now 47 years – and they are still together, and very much in love with each other. In every interview with Saira or with Dilip, whenever the topic of the spouse comes up, the response is always overflowing with love. And that is just SO wonderful to hear.

Personally, speaking purely for myself, I’d gladly see a Saira movie anyday. Her movies were almost always fun movies to watch anyway.

Which brings me, in a rather ironic way, to today’s song.

The song is “aisuru, aisuru” from Aman (1967).

I said “ironic” because if you’re looking at fun movies – and look at the filmography of Saira movies – Aman would probably be close to the bottom of that list. It is a film with a very serious message. Fun doesn’t figure.

That brings me to the explanation in my opening line, my disclaimer.

As regular readers of my posts here know, I always like to see the film that I am posting a song about. The main reason for this is that I can then put the song in its context.

So with this in mind, when I started looking for a Saira song to post for today and came across “aisuru aisuru”, I decided to watch Aman. The only problem was I could not find time till last night. Late last night. Very late last night. Is 1.00 a.m late enough?

I really wanted to post this song – I fell in love with it when I heard it (after years!) yesterday. I could of course have posted it without seeing the movie – but I was curious to know where it fitted in.

So I decided I’d watch the movie, even if it was as late as 1.00. I thought I’d watch it at least till this song – and then go to bed.

As it turned out, I continued, and went on to watch the whole film. By the time I’d finished and went to bed, it was almost 4.00 a.m. As a result, I woke up today feeling very groggy. All this for Saira. “Kya kya na sahey hum ne sitam aap ke khaatir”. 🙂

Now about the film.

Aman (1967) is a very non-1960s film. In a decade of largely fun and frivolous movies, this film is an exception. It has a very serious message and, while making some allowances for it being a Hindi film, tries to stay focused on its message.

The message is one of creating awareness and distaste for the atomic bomb. The movie, based largely in Japan, uses the August 6th attack on Hiroshima to illustrate its point about the devastation that the atomic bomb can wreak. Throughout the film there are horrific scenes of the bombing, and horrific scenes of its aftermath, including some scenes of victims that would make anybody look away in horror.

In that sense, it is a depressing film. But I was fascinated by it – I was thinking “imagine, if we feel so repulsed by these scenes just seeing them, imagine what those who actually experienced the bombing and its after-effects, would have felt”. If this was the message the film wanted to get across, it did succeed with me at least.

It being a Hindi film, there are the usual breathers in order not to make it a total documentary type film. Thankfully the breathers are not in the form of a comic side plot (CSP) but in the form of the romance between Rajendra Kumar and Saira Banu. It is really so lovely to see this, especially in the backdrop of the heaviness of the main storyline. They enjoy a lot of time together in the outdoors, the scenes of Japan are breathtakingly beautiful (assuming they were shot there) – and the songs, much under-rated in my opinion, are lovely too.

Yes, a pure historian would probably find a lot to complain about. An Indian doctor, educated in England, going to Japan and discovering a miracle treatment for radiation makes for a good fiction piece but a historian wouldn’t be happy. Especially if the film claims to also induce realism through its many portrayals of real-life events. So where does fiction end and reality kick in? My answer is the film does not pretend that the fiction pieces are not fiction. And therefore there is nothing insidious about the way the fiction has been woven in. It is far more dangerous when somebody claims to make a biopic or a reality film and throws in lies. If Aman does that (and maybe it does, I cannot judge), I would be more critical of the film.

As it turned out, I didn’t mind it all that much. It did keep me interested all the way through – without any fast-forwarding at all. That says a lot. I didn’t feel sleepy at all, I was pretty engrossed in the film. (My version of “aaj ki raat ye kaisi raat, ki humko neend nahin aati”? 😉 ).

I think the film was a big flop when it was released. I am not surprised. Not only must the film have been made on quite a big budget (assuming it was filmed in its overseas locations of London and Japan) but such serious movies are not quite appreciated by the Indian audience. The 1960s audience, and possibly audiences ever since, was very escapist. They didn’t probably want to be confronted with the harsh reality of brutality of death due to radiation. I myself remember, when I saw this film as a young boy, I didn’t like it much. I didn’t then understand too much of it either.

I thought Rajendra Kumar gave one of the finest performances of his career in this film. It is very much his film – and I was very impressed by him. He even seemed to better Balraj Sahni in the father-son showdown scene. And that’s saying something! Rajendra Kumar has often not quite got credit as an actor – I think for this film at least, he deserves to get credit. Also, this film can be added to the long list of Rajendra Kumar movies in which he either turns blind or lame. 🙂

Saira Banu, as a Japanese woman, has a very pleasant role in this film. I quite liked her in this.

There is a small role for Bertrand Russell also in this film. Since this film is about peace (“Aman”), I guess the producer, Mohan Kumar, managed to rope in Bertrand Russell (a peace advocate) for a small part. It was, strictly speaking, not necessary at all for the plot – but was still good to see.

The song today is “aisuru aisuru”.

I checked the meaning – “aisuru” apparently means “to love”, “to be affectionate about” in Japanese.

It is a sweet song, sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Somewhat reminiscent of “sayonara sayonara” from Love in Tokyo. That song is very famous, this song deserves to be better-known.

In fact, Aman is full of lovely songs. The lyrics are by Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri (this song is by Hasrat). The music is by Shankar Jaikishen.

The context for this song is as follows. Rajendra Kumar is in Japan, furiously working on discovering a drug to combat radiation. He works day and night, with no rest, no sleep. Finally he does manage to discover a drug, but the whole process takes a toll on his own health. So he is advised by the local doctor to take rest and to get away to a hill station. This is of course a perfect setting for some lovely songs in Hindi films.

Saira Banu, daughter of the founder of the hospital where Rajendra Kumar is working – and who also happens to be his girlfriend – then gets him away from his work. In the opening scene here, they’re going off in a helicopter and she’s showing him the sights and sounds of Japan.

It is a pleasant song – I liked it. I hope you like it too.

Song-Ai suru ai suru mera watan Japan(Aman)(1967) Singer-Lata, Lyrics-Hasrat Jaipuri, MD-Shankar Jaikishan


Ai suru ai suru
ai suru ai suru
mera watan Japan
mera watan Japan
kitna haseen hai
kitna hai sundar
mera watan Japan
??? Japan
ai suru ai suru
ai suru ai suru
mera watan Japan
mera watan Japan
kitna haseen hai
kitna hai sundar
mera watan Japan
??? Japan

chaandi ka hai ye nagar
sone ki hai har dagar
aa aa chaandi ka hai ye nagar
sone ki hai har dagar
heere ki hai galiyaan
jalwey hain shaam-o-seher
ai suru ai suru
ai suru ai suru
mera watan Japan
mera watan Japan
kitna haseen hai
kitna hai sundar
mera watan Japan
??? Japan

aaye jo tum jaaneman
har shay mein hai baankhpan
aa aa
aaye jo tum jaaneman
har shai mein hai baankhpan
kuchh aur bhi khil gaya aa aa
dekho ye neela chaman
ai suru ai suru
ai suru ai suru
mera watan Japan
mera watan Japan
kitna haseen hai
kitna hai sundar
mera watan Japan
??? Japan

karta hai mehmaan se pyaar
daale hain baahon ke haar
aa aa aa
karta hai mehmaan se pyaar
daale hain baahon ke haar
iska chalan dosti ee
karta hai ???
ai suru ai suru
ai suru ai suru
mera watan Japan
mera watan Japan
kitna haseen hai
kitna hai sundar
mera watan Japan
??? Japan


10 Responses to "Ai suru ai suru mera watan Japan"

The song is indeed pleasant. Also, I like the lovely scenery of Japan depicted in here.

I don’t remember this song at all. The only songs from this film that I remember are of course – Aaj ki raat and Aman ka farishta.

Nice post. Sorry you have to suffer, but we got a good write up in return. 🙂

You said :When they got married in 1966 (at 22, she was half his age!)…..She is still half his age. Just kidding

Somewhere I had read in the magazine, that in this movie,while Rajendra Kumar`s funeral procession takes place, Naseeruddin Shah appeared in that crowd scene.

Asha parekh, sadhana, saira were all glamour queens in those days with not much acting prowess which was not required in those films.

I saw Junglee when I was in school and like any school going kid I fell in love with Saira!
If Japan was glitzier in the 60s, it is even more glitzier now!

The alluring sceneries and the most beautiful and enduring song by Lataji.

What I couldn’t understand while watching the film is, Japanese people including patients speak fluent Hindi in the film throughout, which is a far cry from reality. I think things have changed a lot in the near times, where such’filmy’ flaws will be heavily criticized through youtube and social media, and now filmmakers are keen in the minute descriptions and scenes of the movies, placing close to reality.


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