1. Jag Pari Mein Toh Piya
I grew up in the sanguine protectiveness of my maternal grand-parent's sprawling Kolkata home. Our beige walls used to be lined with lotus eyed Jamini Ray's, shaded Belgian chandeliers hung from the lofty ceilings, the gnawing halls reeking with the fragrance of mogras, balconies lined with marble busts and sepia portraits of our deceased ancestors. It was a different time - life simpler and slower. As a child, my first brush with a woman's passion was through my musical training under the seasoned lineage of Padma Bhushan Smt. Girija Devi who took me under her tutelage as a five-year-old, after hearing my rendition of my convent school hymn. It was she who taught me the famous Thumri in Raag Manj Khamaaj, one of her staples as I would grow up to learn, Jag Pari Mein Toh Piya. A wistful expression of a woman waiting for her lover, her eyelids doused with longing, her body writhing in anticipation of expectant pleasure, Appaji, as we all lovingly called her, explained to me, a young 11-year-old how a lover spends endless nights of wanton waiting, teaching me the various vocal nuances of their love-making, how by just a simple holding on to the breath, we can convey the way her slim waist curved, or her ankles were arched. The scent of rain, in the distant background. I still remember the evening I was introduced to this eternally bittersweet song of lust, longing and losing. The air pregnant with a ferocious storm. The branches of the trees that lined Appaji's compound within the protected premisis of Sangeet Natak Academy in Kolkata, twisted out of shape, resembling the tangled tresses of a woman pining to be in the sturdy arms of her beloved. As a young girl poised on the threshold of womanhood, my own body slowly transforming, the melody immediately conjured up feelings I could barely grasp, but those that simmered deep inside. Till now, on full moon nights, when I am alone at my desk, writing into the penetrating darkness, I hear this song, feeling a rush of heady emotions. With time, love has become synonymous with physicality and sexual cravings. This famous thumri always reminded me of an era gone by when slow yearning and simmering passions ran deep - it also came just at the start of my own sexual awakening - the song presenting a delicious aloneness, meant to be savored.
2. Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hain?
One of the most hummable and memorable songs of my adolescent years, this song was probably the baap of all item numbers today also represents the aesthetics of item songs, in a time when selling sex to the masses wasn't about cheap pelvic thrusts and obscene pelvic movements, skimpily clad heroines mouthing double meaning lyrics. Also, studying in a cloistered convent background, I remember how we would request this song at various inter school socials, and how young boys with newly sprouting moustaches and pimpled faces would letch at us in a forbidden and yet utterly tempting way. The way this cheesy number by the iconic Madhuri Dixit was banned at the Loreto House fest and fetes, and how we once smuggled in boys from neighboring schools, mostly our boyfriends and teen crushes and danced with our arms flung around them, knowing our principal and teachers were away for a meeting. The song repeating itself on a loop, the sexual tension heightened by the sight of scores of young couples embracing passionately, some lucky enough to steal a kiss. The mischievousness and raunchy sex appeal of the song heightened by our raging hormones and the way we were so curious about sex, and yet so very afraid. The song symbolic of our youth, the headiness, the carefreeness of our bodies and the way we longed to be lusted after, and wanted. Desire never truly explained to us, or as in your face as it is for today's youngsters - a seething rebellion, this song remains a top pick.
Father Figure, George Michael
Like many girls of my age, I nursed a huge crush on George Michael and let's not forget this was a time when we had zilch knowledge about his being gay, or mostly what even homosexuality as a concept. This was the age of MTV and posters and freshly launched cable channels, and boy did this man and his husky seductive voice get us aroused. There was something agonizingly adult and promiscuous about this song, the black and white music video especially, that talked of forbidden pleasures and the bitter truth of betrayal. I fantasized about the blonde pop-star the way many teenagers did in my time I am sure - something foreign in the way his soft hazel eyes literally penetrated the female psyche. It was also the time of walkmans and audio cassettes. And I remember I saved up for one just so that I could hear this song on a loop - almost wanting Michael to touch and kiss me ferociously, tormented and undressed by his intense gaze.
4. Bahon Ke Darmiyan
A long time, and I mean, a really long time ago I was a huge fan of Salman Khan and actually watched his films, first day, first show. This melody, hauntingly beautiful and tender always reminds me of a windswept night when two star-crossed lovers make torrid love preceding a lengthy season of separation. The picturization of this magical Sanjay Leela Bhansali number makes it my absolute sensuous favorite since it's simple and yet so very human in its emotional projection, capturing in a way Bhansali used to, before he turned period drama megalomaniac the raw realism of human love and the subtlety of love making. The two lovers, Manisha Koirala, and Salman Khan trapped in a decadent light house, hesitant and yet keen to explore each other, Kavita Krishnamurthy's achingly lovely voice and the soft focus of the camera make this one of my favorite tunes when it comes to sexual chemistry on celluloid.
5. Chaap Tilak, Amir Khusrao
Before I heard the Sufi song rendition of this acclaimed Sufi poem by the legendary, Amir Khusrao, I had already surrendered my soul to the potent power of its verses. 'Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay
Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay. Prem bhatee ka madhva pilaikay. Matvali kar leeni ray mosay naina milaikay...' The union of God and his disciple, celebrated in the form of a divine attraction between muse and master, between lovers, is eternal and truly embodies the eclecticism that Sufism reveled in. Abida Parveen's version, recently rejigged with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan as part of the fabulous Pakistan Coke Studio offering, is strong, supple, sacred and seductive. This one is to be savored, slow.