Picnics, dear Agents, are an ancient Indian tradition. Krishna and the gopis had lots of them in moonlit forests after all. Shakuntala and Dushyant played I-spy-something-beginning-with L(ove) while she was out picnicking with sahelis. The images in the raas leela picnic pichwais traveled through history to the movie screen and that’s why we have a healthy archive of picnic songs in Hindi movies.
Picnic songs are about leisure. But they are also about pleasure. The picnic is a world away from the world of family, parents, neighbours and tradition – all of social scrutiny. In a pastoral world we may enjoy being modern, fashionable and free; think of youth as a midsummer night’s dream in which we dress up and make out or fantasise about making out. Flirting, hooking up, cross-dressing, queer role play – it all happens at the picnic.
So, here’s a picnic playlist for International Picnic Day that will make you want to pack your basket and head off to the gardens of pleasure in a cute outfit. Do it!
1. JAB DIN HASEEN, DIL HO JAWAAN
What is mausam for, if not some fun, wholesome, not-wholesome you decide which boat you wanna float in. This song from 1958, is all about being young, modern and cool – yes,even Pradeep Kumar. Cycles – check. Sunglasses – check. Hip hip hurray – check. Drindl skirts – check. High waist pants – check. Jiving in the bageecha? Check, baby, check.
2. PICNIC HAI DILWALO KI
Sheher se door, nashe mein choor, picnic hai dilwalon ki. This song, also from 1958, establishes the picnic, with its gangs of girls and boys as the epitome of being carefree and modern. The Hindi film picnic sometimes features girl gangs and boy gangs – but it also tells us this is a space where the genders mix freely, without chaperones, and romance and sizzle can happen, without any real commitment. What happens at the picnic stays at the picnic. Also – there is Johnny Walker, dashing in plus fours.
3. BADE HAIN DIL KE KAALE
Dil Deke Dekho might have been the Dil Chahta Hai of its time (or not). But on this picnic, fashion is definitely high. Here, the hero and heroine become the central figures, like Radha and Krishna in all the old paintings. The flirtation is between them, while the others dance around them – and eventually the two go off for some alone time, away from the group. There are never sandwiches in filmi picnics because I guess they have other fish to fry.
4. SHEESHA-E-DIL ITNA NA UCHHALO
Girls just wanna have fun. And they like to have fun together often. In this song from Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi (better known for the more tragic Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh), the women in the song are actually all nurses who work together in a hospital and are out at the beach on their day off, which makes it a unique representation of working women in a Hindi film. Every type of woman is there – Shammi in a swimsuit, Meena Kumari in a white sari, women in salwar kameezzes, skirts and pants. They tease each other, they play together, they confide in each other, they flirt a little too while telling each other – hold on to your heart!
5. PICNIC MEIN TIK TIK KARTI
Who needs Tik Tok if they can have picnic mein tik tik anyway? Picnics are an invitation for Carpe Diem – Sunday ko Mauj Mana Lo, Monday ko Maro Goli – as this song declares. Picnic songs of course often have someone who can play the guitar or a harmonica at least, adding to the overall sense of cosmopolitan cool.
6. KAL RAAT USNE SAPNE MEIN
If you are looking for some unabashed queer cuddles, you will hit the mother lode in Picnic songs. In this song there are layers of role-play. Neetu Singh, is telling the girls about a sexy dream she has. Sometimes her lover becomes Krishna, stealing her clothes while she’s bathing in the pond. Sometimes she needs to demonstrate to her girlfriends exactly what her lover did in this dream-fantasy. Kabhi aise simat, kabhi vaise simat. Who is fantasizing about what and doing whom is merrily verily mixed up in this picnic.
7. SAMA HAI SUHANA SUHANA
By the 1970s, free love was in the air and hippies were on the beach and night picnics found their way into the movies – meaning teenagers allowed to go out of town in mixed groups, ohemgee. How much thrillinger can it get? Sama hai Suhana Suhana is probably the most iconic song of this genre, with Jalal Agha serenading a bunch of young folks to a very stoned rhythm indeed.
8. AE KASH KISI DEEWANE KO HUMSE BHI MOHABBAT HO JAAYE
Asha Parekh might have featured in the maximum number of picnic songs. But this one is another queer cross-connection classic. As the women fantasise about meeting a perfect lover, they also role-play these sexy romances. Their desires are frank and sensual and their embraces clutching and steamy.
9. SHAAM HAI KOI
Is this dreamy song from Aisha the last time we saw a picnic song in the movies? It has all the languor one feels at the end of a long day of playing in the outdoors, of limbs relaxing and guards being let down, and all the slow-burn one feels being away from home, in a bubble, alongside your beautiful, secret crush.
10. LOVE IN THE GARDEN OF CONSENT
Is this AOI music video the most beautiful picnic song ever? Maybe. Drawing on all the picnic songs before it – the miniature painting forest, the waltzes, the frolicking in dating vans, the girls telling each other stories. And hey, they even have cake.