The earliest Hindi film song to enter my consciousness was Love in Tokyo.
Le gaya dil/gudiya Japan ki
Pagal mujhe kardiya
(That doll of Tokyo stole my heart/She drove me crazy)
I was 9 years old in 1966 when the film by the same name as the song came out. The previous year, 1965, had been a drag. India and Pakistan had fought a second war which India won. But the victory was marred when the Prime Minister, Allahabad’s very own Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Taskent the day after signing the peace agreement with Pakistan. I remember the adults in our compound and house debating whether he had been poisoned by the Russians. I got the impression the adults believed so. Whether or not it was true, a sadness, a shock and a resentment hung in the air for a long time.
Love in Tokyo is a romantic comedy and the title song was an instant hit. It was lighthearted, bouncy and exotic. After all, very few Indian movies were actually shot on location overseas in the early 60s, and Love in Tokyo, we all knew, had been filmed in Japan. The 1964 Olympics had been hosted by Japan and India, like the rest of Asia, basked in the reflected glory of the Land of the Rising Sun. Would India ever scale such giddy heights? It seemed impossible. We were in awe of the accomplishment. Japan, we imagined, must be just as modern, swanky and glitzy as America. Audiences flocked to the cinema to sneak a peek at this amazing country. And the opening scenes that depicted the Olympic stadiums, Ginza, superhighways and women dressed in western skirts, could have been produced by the Japan Tourism Board.
The movie was just what the doctor ordered for a sad, poor and weary country: entertaining distraction for sure, but hopeful aspiration too. Everyone could relate to Mohammad Rafi’s happy lament of being driven mad by a Japanese beauty.
The story starts off in India where Ashok (Joy Mukherji) is being pressured to marry a woman he doesn't love. His elderly mother asks him to travel to Tokyo to pick up his eight year old nephew, a recently orphaned boy named Chikoo whom Ashok has never met because his family disowned his older brother after he married a Japanese woman. Ashok arrives in Tokyo only to discover that Chikoo has no intention of going to India, a country he has never seen before. Ashok hopes to win his nephew over by taking him on an expensive shopping trip, but the boy escapes when his attention is diverted by a beautiful woman named Asha (Asha Parekh), whom he sees performing a traditional Indian dance on television. Asha was also orphaned as a child and raised by her uncle in the Indian community of Tokyo. Asha's uncle wants her to marry a man she despises, a boorish, chain smoking airline pilot named Pran. Asha runs away after she discovers that the two men have cooked up a fiendish plot to get their hands on her sizable inheritance. Chikoo and Asha both end up in the same hiding place and form an alliance against their uncles. Asha protects the boy by posing as a bearded Sikh until she realizes that she has fallen in love with Ashok. She later pretends to be Chikoo's Japanese aunt in order to win Ashok's heart without being discovered. The movie has subplot involving a friend of Ashok's named Mahesh (popular comedian Mehmood) who comes to Tokyo to marry a woman from a higher class. There's a hilarious scene where Mehmood fools his potential father-in-law by posing as an "International Geisha" who just happens to speak Hindi fluently. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0157944/plotsummary)
The movie is remembered by many Indian women for the hair clips that Asha Parekh wore. Hereafter, this accessory was referred to as ‘Love in Tokyo’ clips. The Washerman’s Dog, as usual, loves the music. Rafi and Lata share the honours and in addition to the title track both give great performances. In fact, the winsome ballad Aaja Re Aa has to be one Rafi’s finest moments. His voice is a gem and the way he can make it sparkle in so many different ways is a never ending wonder. Aaja is full of tenderness, gentleness and infatuation and is the highlight of the soundtrack.
01. Love in Tokyo
02. Koi Matwala
03. O Mere Shan e Khuban
04. Mujhe Tum Milgaye
06. Mein Tere Pyar Main
07. O Mere Shan e Khuban (reprise)
08. Aaja Re Aa