From Raj Kapoor’s Japaani Joota and Dilip Kumar’s Suit Boot to Salman Khan’s banter over Jootey do Paise lo or Naseerudin Shah’s rendition of Ibn-e-Batuta, Bagal Mey Joota: Bollywood has given us a fair share of shoe melodies. Movie titles have been dedicated to it, too – remember the classic, boot polish or the recent critically acclaimed That Girl In Yellow Boots – shoes have been an important part of our filmy culture. in fact, there are numerous dialogues, sequences, plots, climax, and scenes where the shoe gets a special mention, but it is the songs that remain etched in the memory forever.

A tribute to the beautiful melodies and foot-tapping chartbusters that mention the shoe – a metaphor of much more than mere footwear!

– The Indian Trumpet’s Shoe Special Edition

The Symbol

In the course of time, the shoe as a symbolism has evolved to a large extent. back then, the lyrics often depicted a social set up where shoe-polishing is the means of survival for the street children. In some cases, an entire song is dedicated to explaining the nuances of bringing about a ‘shine’ on the shoe and how a well-polished shoe adds to status. These songs also bring about the stark social and economic divide in the society where the destiny of urchins on streets is compared to the shine on the polished shoe.

Boot Karoon Mein Paalish Baabu

Movie: Nai Duniya (1942) Lyricist: Tanvir Naqvi Singer: Suraiya
Music: Naushad Ali

One of the earliest mention of the shoe in the Bollywood melodies comes in this song from Nai Duniya. The film released before Independence and the lyricist effortlessly brings about the social ethos of the era as he speaks about the significance of polished shoes as a status symbol and how the street kids earned their livelihood by polishing shoes.

Boot karoon main paalish babu Boot karoon main paalish
Is paalish ki chamak niraali Taaro ko sharamaae

Set in the times of the British Raj, where well-polished shoes were an essential element of the formal get up and a defining feature of upper social class and strata, the song explains how important it is to let your shoes shine.

Boot Polish Karwaa Le Baabu

Movie: Ghar Ki Izzat (1948) Lyricist : Ishwar Chandra Kapoor Singer : Meena Kapoor Music : Govind Ram

Depicting a social set up where shoe-polishing is the only means of survival for the street kids, the entire song narrates the situation of an urchin pleading the rich to get their shoes polished. the lyrics express his agony further as he compares the urchin’s destiny to the shoe’s shine.

Jyun jyun chumke boot tumhaare Kismat meri jaage

The song brings out the stark divide in the social strata where the poor child confesses the fact that as the shoes shine with polish, so will his fortune when he is paid for bringing that shine on the shoes.

Mera Joota Hai Japani

Movie: Shree 420 (1955) Lyrics: Shailendra Singer: Mukesh
Music: Shankar Jaikishan

Raj Kapoor makes this masterpiece an evergreen memory in the minds of audiences. You may have hummed the song as a kid without lending a deeper thought to the lyrics, but it is only when you pause to appreciate the underlying sentiment of the song, do you realize the magic of it. Set in the post-independence era where India is developing its nationalist character, the song has several undertones to it. The strongest being the spirit of being an Indian. The song reiterates the sentiment of Indianness and patriotism as the protagonist points out to the fact that despite him donning clothes and accessories that are from across the globe, his heart remains Indian.

Mera joota hai japani
Ye patalun ingalistaani
Sar pe laal topi rusi
Phir bhi dil hai hindustaani

The song has not only been immensely popular with the Indian audiences for all these decades but also has a fair share of international acclaim to it. From featuring in the opening chapter of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses to being a part of Bengali author Mahasweta Devi’s popular address at the Frankfurt book fair; the song has featured at several places in the international arena. An instant click with the music lovers for its simplicity and melody, it is also an admirable piece of poetry where simple words conveyed deeper emotions of patriotism.

Paalish Kara Le o Babu

Movie/album: Dekhi Teri Bambai (1961) Singers: S.Balbir, Sudha Malhotra
Song Lyricists: Aziz Kashmiri
Music Composer: Vinod

Set in a comic sequence with the male and female protagonist (dressed as males) go about the streets urging the rich ‘baabu’ to get his shoes polished. the song in a comical way explains why is it important to get the shoe polished.

O topiwaale baabu
O pagdi waale chhaila
Kyun boot hai tera maila Tujhe love na karegi teri laila

While a polished shoe is already seen as a status symbol or a measure of social class, adding another comic dimension to the song, the lyricist mentions how the lady love would lose interest in his man if the shoe was dirty or unpolished. The mention of topiwale babu and pagdi waale chhaila shows how a clean and polished shoe is important for men of all class and strata and irrespective of the attire being western or traditional, a polished shoe is a must for a man of class.

Boot Chappal Sandal

Movie/ Album : Kaarigar (1965) Lyricist : Rajendra Krishan Singer: Asha Bhonsle and Usha Mangeshkar Music: C. Ramchandra

Another Bollywood song of the yesteryears that uses shoe-polishing as
a means of livelihood. Set on young kids who earn their bread and butter out of polishing shoes, the song shows how it is a symbol of daily income for them. The lyrics bring out the meaning in simple words,

Boot Chhapal Sandal Mardana ya janana Hai sab ka ek hi khana

Na mange Babu Chanda Palish karte Special

Again set in times where India as a country is defining its character. Where it has social issues and problems to tackle on one hand and has a spirit and vigour to face the world with its newfound independence. The sequence showcases a sentimental portrayal of street children polishing shoes, slum life and the poverty at that point of time in the society.

The shoe’s companion

During the course of time, shoe symbolism undergoes a change. From the popular trend of shoe polish being a source of livelihood or a well-polished shoe being a symbol of social class and status; the shoe now finds a companion – in suit. The famous suit-boot companionship becomes a popular trend in many Bollywood songs thereafter. Be it Dilip Kumar in 1970’s feeling sahib-like with suit and boot or Anil Kapoor in 1990s rejoicing in his suit boot; both dressing up in shoes and suit is a symbol of being upmarket.

Saala mein toh sahaab ban gaya

Movie/album: Sagina (1974) Lyricists: Majrooh Sultanpuri Singer: Kishore Kumar, Pankaj Mishra Music: S.D. Burman

Saala Mein Toh Sahaab Ban Gaya… Ke ban ke dekho kaisa tan gaya
Ye Suit Mera Dekho…
Ye Boot Mera Dekho…

Jaise Gora Koi London Ka

Another foot tapping number mentioning the shoe, the song is a powerful reminder of how clothes and accessories can be a metaphor for class. Set in a time where ‘suit, boot’ was synonyms with class and status; the song mentions – ye suit mera dekho… ye boot mera dekho…jaise gora koi london ka’. While the song uses simple language and lyrics, it conveys
a meaning that is a product of culture and lifestyle of that time.

Suit boot mein Aaya Kanhaiya

Movie/album: Kishen Kanhaiya (1990) Singers: Amit Kumar Lyricists: Indeevar (Shyamalan Babu Rai) Music Composer: Rajesh Roshan

Suit boot mein aaya kanhaiya band bajane ko

Naye geet pe nach nachane naye zamane ko

Again the mention of ‘suit-boot’ here is a symbol of status. The protagonist takes pride in dressing up and the song showcases the culture where suit-boot is an exclusive dress up that is peculiar to the west and a matter of pride when donned in this part of the globe.

The shoe & culture

Jootey do paise lo

Movie: Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) Lyricist: Ravinder Rawal
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar, S P Balasubrahmanyam Music: Ram Laxman

An indispensable item in the wedding albums, this chartbuster of the ’90s, is a foot-tapping number that mentions the shoe as it describes an important tradition of the Indian weddings. featuring Salman Khan and Madhuri Dixit, the song describes the tradition where dulhe ki saaliyaa (sisters-in-law of the groom) hide the groom’s wedding shoes and later bargain their return with dulhan ke devar (brothers-in-law of the bride) in exchange for the shagun (money). Set in a typical Sooraj Barjatya family setting, the song is a friendly banter between the two parties over the exchange of shoes for money. Such was the popularity of the song that ‘jootey do paise lo’ became a popular phrase in each wedding scene conversation.

Kass Ke Joota Khons Ke belt

Movie : Tare Zameen Par (2007) Music: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy Lyrics: Prasoon Joshi Singers : Vishal Dadlani

A peppy and narrative number from the bollywood blockbuster Tare Zameen par, the song ‘Jame raho’ is like an anthem of an average school going child in India who is overburdened with the workload
and the expectations at a tender age. The use of shoes here is again a metaphor of being dressed up. Kass Ke Joota Khons Ke belt is the typical morning routine of the school going kid as he rushes through his morning routine. Joota Kasna or tightening of shoe lace becoming a metaphor for getting ready to face the world full of competition.

Ibn E Batuta Bagal Mey Joota

Movie: Ishqiya (2010) Lyrics: Gulzar Singer: Sukhwinder Singh, Mika Singh Music: Vishal Bharadwaj

Another popular number from the recent times is ibn- e-batuta…bagal mey joota. Penned by the legend Gulzar, the song sets the tone for the film about the two run-aways. Making a mention of the famous ancient traveller Ibn-E-Batuta who is believed to have travelled all the way from Turkey to India on foot, the song juxtaposes the historical tales to the present-day movie sequence. The lyrics for the song also saw a controversy as they were claimed to be inspired by the famous poem by Sarveshwar Dayal Saxena that also centres around ibn-e-batuta and his joota! Keeping the controversies aside, the song was a chartbuster and does bring back the nostalgia of the travelogues of the ancient traveller.

High Heels

Movie: Ki and Ka (2016) Singer: Meet Bros feat. Jaz dhami and Aditi Singh Sharma Original song: Yo Yo honey Singh Lyrics: Kumaar Music: Meet Bros

The latest offering from Bollywood featuring the footwear is ‘high heels’ from the movie Ki and Ka – set on the theme of breaking gender stereotypes. Interestingly the song ‘high heels’ opens with the male protagonist of the movie, Arjun Kapoor getting ready in a pair of red hot heels and the female lead Kareena Kapoor tightens the black formal shoes sans heels. While the idea seems to be on the lines of breaking gender stereotypes, the lyrics of the song fail to do justice.

High heels te nache tan tu badi jache

Pehli baat to ye

Jo tu tik-tok tik-tok chalti hai

Maana ye saari teri high heels ki galti hai

Shoes and apparel do have a gender stereotype and in one instance, it does look like the song is attempting the shake the stereotypes, however the lyrics that follow take the song to another tangent where the woman’s walk in heels is highlighted along with other mannerisms. The song though peppy fails to strike a chord as the melodies of the yesteryears that made the footwear a powerful metaphor.

To sum up, bollywood and the boot have been close companions since decades and here is hoping it goes on as the poets and the lyricist continue to find new metaphors and symbols in the joota!

Keep blowing the Trumpet! This & many more stories await in the pages!

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