Hindi film lyricists would concur that the ball of white glow in the sky — the calm, benevolent lesser light assigned by god to govern the night in the Book of Genesis — has no match in expressing matters of the heart:
The moon is the lover’s companion through a wakeful night of yearning. There’s Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum (Chori Chori, 1956), where Nargis calls on her onscreen love in this Indian remake of It Happened One Night (1934). The moon sets the mood, whether it’s in the playful ‘Khoya khoya chand‘ (Kala Bazar, 1960), with Dev Anand gallivanting about, or the staid Yeh raat, yeh chandni phir kahan (Jaal, 1952). Nutan beams with happiness in Woh chand khila, woh taare hanse (Anaadi, 1959), while Shah Rukh Khan sings Chand ne kuch kaha, raat ne kuch suna (Dil Toh Pagal Hai, 1997) on stage and the moon carries his message to Madhuri Dixit. Or, picture Bipasha Basu’s seductive dance after swallowing the moon, figuratively, in Gulzar’s risqué Namak ishq ka (Omkara, 2006).
In Chalo dildar chalo, chand ke paar chalo (Pakeezah, 1972), the moon is that last point of familiarity beyond which is the unknown, which is where the lovers dream of escaping to. It signals to yearn and helps lovers meet or stands in for the beloved in her absence. Dev Anand urges it to Dheere dheere chal (Love Marriage, 1959) lest the night would end and his dreams would shatter. Prabhudeva beseeches it to descend on earth, so that they can sit and share sweet nothings, in Chanda re chanda re (Sapnay, 1997). And once it hides in the clouds, Salman Khan calls on his ladylove to come and embrace him in Chaand chhupa baadal mein (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999).
Standard of Beauty
From Sridevi’s Chandni (Chandni, 1989) to Madhuri Dixit’s Chandramukhi (Devdas, 2002), the moon’s attributes are to be aspired to, even if only in name. If Guru Dutt sings the titular Chaudhvin ka chand (1960) to the ever-gorgeous Waheeda Rehman, Manoj Kumar doesn’t lag behind with Chand si mehbooba (Himalay Ki God Mein, 1965) for Mala Sinha, and Tariq Khan strumming Chand mera dil (Hum Kisise Kum Nahin, 1977) to woo Kajal Kiran away from Rishi Kapoor. Replace the shikara afloat on Dal Lake with a sofa in his living room and Shammi Kapoor will still be stretched out in bhujangasana, singing paeans to Sharmila Tagore’s bright moon-like face in Yeh chaand sa roshan chehra (Kashmir ki Kali, 1964), and Sunil Dutt would lip-sync to Kishore Kumar’s Mere saamne wali khidki mein ek chand ka tukda rehta hai (Padosan, 1968). That TVC tag line “daag achche hai” (stains are good) holds true, solely, for Ae chaand teri chaandni ki kasam — praising the un-moon-like spotlessness of the ladylove — from the forgettable Tera Jadoo Chal Gayaa (2000).
Marker of Time
The waning and waxing moon signals the many moods of estranged lovers: Suraj hua maddham, chand jalne laga (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…, 2001) and Dekho chaand aaya (Saawariya, 2007). It is also a trigger for melancholy and heartache, as one night becomes many nights, and Nutan sings Chand phir nikla, magar tum na aaye (Paying Guest, 1957). And, it’s a reminder of happier times as lovers part ways: the sublime line, “Ek sau solah chaand ki raatein, ek tumhare kaandhein ka til,” in Gulzar’s Mera kuch samaan (Ijaazat, 1988).
The symbol of unattainability, intense and unrequited love. The moon and chakor, the bird which, according to legend, loves it, are lovers never meant to meet, like in Tu hai chanda, main hoon chakor (Aagosh, 1953). And yet, it creates the possibility for lovers to meet, even if momentarily, as the Muslim Pooja Bhatt opens the door to her visiting and separated Hindu husband Nagarjuna in Tum aaye toh aaya mujhe yaad gali mein aaj chand nikla (Zakhm, 1998).
The moon and the stars are the rewards of success that the young ambitious Shah Rukh Khan dreams of plucking from the sky, as he gyrates around a white grand piano in Chand taarein tod laaun (Yes Boss, 1997).
The moon changes gender gears to become that jolly uncle moms call on in lullabies to appease bawling kids. Asha Parekh sings to her child, Aao tumhe chaand pe le jaye (Zakhmee, 1975) where Santa Claus lives, as papa Sunil Dutt looks on while driving. Sharmila Tagore sings Chanda hai tu, mera suraj hai tu (Aradhana, 1969) for the apple of her eye. Indian mothers should really stop doing that if women want to nip toxic masculinity in the bud.