When Zeenat Aman Smoked a Chillum and Asha Bhosle Sang ‘Dum Maro Dum’
The Controversial Song That Became a Sensation
When Zeenat Aman smoked a chillum without a care in the world as Asha Bhosle sang ‘Dum Maro Dum’ in Dev Anand’s Hare Rama Hare Krishna, the Indian audience responded with shock and awe. The 1971 film was designed as a comment against the ‘hippie movement’ that was starting to find more and more followers in the subcontinent but after watching the song that had Asha Bhosle singing one of her most iconic numbers until then, it honestly didn’t look like the film was criticizing the marijuana users (at least in this song) but in fact, it almost appeared as if this was the most glamorized version that one could imagine. Perhaps, that was the reason why All India Radio banned the song and Doordarshan decided to chop it off when the film played on television.
The Context of the Song in the Film
In the film, the song comes in when Dev Anand’s Prashant finds his sister Janice, played by Zeenat Aman, in Kathmandu as she is living a free-spirited life and takes it upon himself to bring her back to sobriety. So as she sings ‘Dum Maro Dum’ followed by the chorus of ‘Hare Krishna Hare Rama’, he sings ‘Dekho O Diwano’ that is followed by the lyrics ‘Ram ka naam badnaam na karo’.
The Unique Conception of the Song
The song’s conception is a rather unique story as it came into being not because the director Dev Anand wanted a glamorous number but because lyric writer Anand Bakshi and music composer RD Burman took it upon themselves to deliver more than they were asked for. The composer and lyricist were composing the Kishore Kumar track ‘Dekho O Diwano’ that would be picturized on Dev’s Prashant as he pleads to the drug-infused youth to stop smoking up. Dev had requested the composer to make a piece of introduction music to the song that could be played in the background as Prashant enters the party and sees Janice smoking a chillum. In a 1974 interview, RD Burman recalled this incident and shared that it was Anand Bakshi who came up with the lyrics that perfectly suited the situation and before they knew it, they had a song. “We had heard of this line since forever. People would say it often ‘Dum maro dum, mit jaye gham’ so we thought of using it here,” Bakshi can be heard saying in the video. When Dev came in the next day to continue with the music sitting, RD Burman and Anand Bakshi presented him with the song ‘Dum maro dum’. “Dev saab heard it and he said this is okay but then ‘Ram ka naam’ (Dekho O Diwano) will lose all impact. He was very concerned about his song,” Burman shared with a laugh.
The Initial Reception and Controversies Surrounding the Song
The song’s release led to many controversies at the time. It was banned by All India Radio but on Radio Ceylon, which was popular with its Binaca Geetmala, the song was topping the charts every week for months on end. It was even declared as the ‘Sartaj Geet’ which was a spot reserved for songs that had stayed number one for over 12 weeks. On Doordarshan, which was the only television channel in India for many years, the song would be cut when the film was played. Asha Bhosle received a lot of criticism for the song, but it became one of her most popular tracks.
The Evolution of the Song
It is almost impossible to imagine ‘Dum Maro Dum’ without Asha’s vocals but that’s not how the song was initially conceived. At one point, the song was supposed to be a duet with Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Uthup, planned to be filmed on Mumtaz and Zeenat. When Lata Mangeshkar dropped out due to unknown reasons, the song was set to be a duet between Asha Bhosle and Usha Uthup, but even that didn’t materialize. Asha Bhosle ended up singing the song as a solo. The controversy and popularity surrounding the song made it a significant part of Indian music history.