An Indian Civilizational Perspective

How Mohammad Rafi’s 1965 Song Became The Cult Rock Song Globally in 2000s!

Daniel Clowes, the writer of that cult movie, Ghost World – met a person who was house-sitting for Peter Holsapple, who was the guitarist and songwriter for a band in the 1980s – dB’s.    That person had copied a song from Peter’s collection, which Daniel got hold of.  Terry Zwigoff, the movie’s director happened to see a clip of the song on a VHS and he knew that he had to use it for the cult movie of the new millennials – Ghost World!

How Mohammad Rafi's 1965 Song Became The Cult Rock Song Globally in 2000s! #Ghostworld Click To Tweet

“I saw a short clip of it on a VHS tape and I really loved it and decided I needed to use it in Ghost World somehow,” Zwigoff recalls. “Wasn’t too logical an idea, but I knew I had to do it.”

The song that had enticed the movie-makers of Ghost World was a song from the 1965 Bollywood movie Gumnaam – Jaan Pehchaan Ho (which means “Should know each other”).  This song has since gone on to become a cult song of its ownself and bands and singers from around the world have been singing it in their own way.

The song was written by Shailendra and the Music – which is the main reason for its global popularity – was given by none other than Shankar Jaikishan.  And, it was sung by the Bollywood singing legend – Mohammad Rafi.

Although the movie had Manoj Kumar and Nanda in the lead, but this song features neither of them.  In fact, the choreographer – Herman Benjamin – also acted in the song as the lead singer.  Herman was the assistant to Hiralal – choreographer in 1960s and of the Sohanlal-Hiralal duo and grandfather of the current choreographer Vaibhavi Merchant.

Herman Benjamin was a Bene Israeli Jew of Mumbai who actually happened to choreograph Shammi Kapoor in his first amazing dance song – Dil Deke Dekho.  So, a lot of credit for launching the irresistible Shammi Kapoor the dancer goes to Herman.  He went onto to choreograph the two amazing songs – Aaja Aaja Main hun Pyaar Tera and Aaj Kal Tere Mere Pyaar ke Charche.

Zwigoff and Clowes went on to get the rights for playing this song – Jaan Pehchaan Ho – as the movie opens up.  All three – Shankar-Jaikishan, the music directors, lyricist Shailendra and the singer Mohammed Rafi – are in the credits of the movie.

Salon magazine rated this song as the best Foreign Language Frug Freakout!

Best Foreign-Language Frug Freakout to Appear on a Movie Soundtrack: Mohammed Rafi, “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” from the “Ghost World” soundtrack (Shanachie)

“Jaan Pehechaan Ho” plays during the opening credits of “Ghost World” — a wondrous (if flawed) film adaptation of the Daniel Clowes comic — as the camera pans from one blue-television-lighted suburban window to another, looking desperately for signs of life. As the camera finally happens upon the window of the film’s protagonist Enid (played masterfully by Thora Birch), we realize that it’s “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” that’s blaring out of her bedroom TV in an absolutely raucous ’60s Bollywood sequence. That sense of otherness — and the sly charm of it — goes on to inform the whole movie, but it never hits this early apex again. “Jan Pehechaan Ho” is Enid’s freak flag brought to speaker-bursting life.

The song obviously touched a chord with a lot of people and even though the song appears only briefly in the opening of the movie, people actually sought out the original song track and have listened to it many times!

praise for Jaan Pehchaan

Song’ Cult Status

The song has not just been copied and sung by many other bands, but was part of the 2011 Heineken advertisement as well.

The contemporary Swedish Dance company Cullberg Ballet then used this song’s music also in its own production – Ekman’s Triptych.

Here is a rendition of the song by the band “les Fanfoireux” which is from Brussels, Belgium playing live in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in 2017!

In this video below, the Surf Music legends the Atomic Mosquitos perform Jaan Pehchaan Ho at Virginia Beach.

Here is another band playing the song in Austin, Texas

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1 Comment
  1. Harry says

    I bet, they didn’t pay large amount of money for copyright, it’s shame we sell our artistic wealth for nothing, I have similarly seen this in many other films as well. In our culture we have not understood the cost of art yet.

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