Bollywood Ear Candy: Piya Tu Ab To Asja
By Laura Witkowski
If there’s one thing Bollywood can promise, it’s that if a scene starts with a woman sitting alone at a bar drowning her sorrows, you’re seconds away from a spectacular song and dance number. ‘Piya Tu Ab To Asja’ is the gold standard of this rule, and further proof that Helen is amazing (see also her performance in Yeh Mera Dil). The song is sung by Asha Bohsle (actors and actresses don’t actually sing any of the songs – this is the job of ‘playback singers’), one of the most prolific voices in the history of music. Though it’s hard to say exactly how many songs she’s recorded, her own estimates are around 12,000 which makes her possibly the most recorded artist of all time. All I can say is thank goodness ‘Piya Tu Ab To Asja’ was among them, because it’s one of the finest Bollywood has produced – and not just by my weird-little-white-girl-who-likes-Hindi-music standards. It’s a much loved classic hit in India.
Written by 70s superstar film composer R.D. Burman, ‘Piya Tu Ab To Asja’ comes from the 1971 film Caravan. The film is essentially a thriller about a woman who, worried that the man she married isn’t the person she thought he was, joins up with a caravan of colorful characters so she can make her way to a family friend who can help her. But let’s just focus on this amazing video which easily transcends the plot of Caravan.
First and foremost, the set is amazing. I for one would go to a lot more nightclubs if they featured giant, rooftop bird cages complete with a slide. Hell, I would be so excited about a cage/slide combo that, like Helen, I too would probably hump it (2:19). Her drunken euphoric state knows no bounds, and she never once loses steam over the course of the six-minute song. When her boyfriend arrives dressed like a bullfighter and singing “Monica – oh my darling!” she tries to run to him but cannot: her dress is stuck (3:55)! But as Sting once sang, “If you love somebody, set your dress free/Then get in a cage with them.” I think that’s how it went – I never really did like Sting much. I do however love that some of the roughly translated lyrics to ‘Piya Tu Ab To Asja’ are, “My spirit flames like a blaze, come and extinguish it/So my body’s flame becomes cold, embrace me in that way”, because this song still sizzles this many years later.