The History of Kissing in Bollywood: Timeline of a Taboo

Satyam Shivan Sundaram kiss Shashi Kapoor Zeenat Aman

Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman kiss each other and a damp dupatta in Satyam Shivan Sundaram (1977).

Kissing in Bollywood films has been a volatile subject, a heated source of international ridicule and shame, for almost 100 years.  This blog post is likely to horrify just as many readers as it intrigues. What many people do not know is that the taboo of kissing in Hindi films has evolved so dramatically since the birth of film. In its early days, intimacy on-screen was not the heretical offense it later became–in fact, an appropriate diegetic display of affection was once standard fare in Hindi film! But a carefully constructed web of symbolic cinematography and allegorical imagery soon replaced the film industry’s brief encounter with physical romance. Instead generations of Indians grew up in a world where pretty treetops and flowers were more passionate than any human interaction could ever become. We created scores of young men and women like myself who get so uncomfortable when kissing appears on-screen if Indian parents are present, that we actually have to leave the room to relieve tension. And when I first saw Shashi Kapoor sell his soul kissing in a Satyam Shivam Sundaram, I felt my world had come to an end.

Why is there such hype around kissing in Hindi films? After all, we’re all modern citizens of the world, and certainly Indians are some of the most romantic. Kissing in Bollywood films has jumped the spectrum from as liberal as the French in the 1920s to a wave of conservatism brought by the 1950s and again a shift back toward cinema’s early lip-locking roots by the 1990s. We at Mr. and Mrs. 55 hope our descriptive timeline of this fascinating cause célèbre sheds light on this controversial impulse of nature we were all led to believe pure Indian film stars did not possess!

Kohra Waheeda Rehman kiss fish symbolism

Director Biren Nag cleverly cuts from a threatened kissing scene in Kohra (1964) between Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet to two fish finishing what the married couple started.

1896: The Lumiere Brothers bring cinema to India with a showing at the Watson Hotel in Bombay.

1918: Cinematographic Act is first passed by the country’s legislative council.

This addresses the licensing of cinema houses and the certification of films declared suitable for public exhibition. Boards of Censors would be established within 2 years in all major Indian cities, based on the guidelines of the British Board of Film Censors.

1921: Bilat Ferat, a Bengali silent film directed by Dhirendra Nath Gunguli, displays intimate scenes and kissing galore.

Based on Mahabharata, the film is about two kings who are vying for same hermit’s daughter.

1922: The film Pati Bhakti showcases Lalita Pawar in a serious kiss.

She would later become known for her stock roles in the 1950s and 1960s as the hard-hitting conservative mother figure.

1929: Silent film A Throw of Dice an exciting kiss between actors Seeta Devi and Charu Roy.

1933: Devika Rani locked lips with her real life husband Himanshu Rai on screen in Karma.

The famous lip-lock took 4 minutes and remains the longest onscreen kiss to date.

Devika Rani Karma

Shocking, right? Silent film star Devika Rani kisses her hero like a champ in Karma (1933). I know, I know. Despite myself, I can’t help but feel really, really uncomfortable.

1952: Cinematograph Act is established, ruling on-screen kissing to be indecent.

The Supreme Court of India claims: “Film censorship becomes necessary because a film motivates thought and action and assures a high degree of attention and retention as compared to the printed word. The combination of act and speech, sight and sound in semi darkness of the theatre with elimination of all distracting ideas will have a strong impact on the minds of the viewers and can affect emotions. Therefore, it has as much potential for evil as it has for good and has an equal potential to instill or cultivate violent or bad behaviour. It cannot be equated with other modes of communication.”

1954: 13,000 Indian women of Delhi collect a petition to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that urges him to address the cinema’s wild potential to encourage “precocious sex habits.”

My question is, where were all the Indian men of Delhi?

“Films have an essential part to play in the modern world,” Nehru responded. “At the same time it is true that any powerful medium like motion pictures has a good effect and a bad effect. We have to take care therefore that we emphasise the good aspect of it.”

Incidentally, the biographical movie “The Indian Summer” in production a few years ago featured the story of Prime Minister Nehru during independence. The irony? The Information and broadcasting ministry wanted a scene featuring the kiss between Nehru and Edwina, wife of Lord Mountbatten, to be deleted. The film was ultimately shelved.

1964: The film Kohra displays a super awkward scene between a newlywed couple flirting with each other as wife Waheeda Rehman attempts to wake up her husband Biswajeet in the morning.

Several kisses are creatively implied. While the scene is actually filmed in the couple’s bedroom, two twin beds are shown just in case there could be any confusion.

1969: The song “Roop Tera Mastana” from film Aradhana becomes arguably the steamiest scene ever to hit the Hindi film industry.

See our English translation of “Roop Tera Mastana” for more! The Khosla Committee is established to inquire into the working of the existing procedures for the certification of films for public exhibition and related matters, focusing on the representation of sexuality saying:

“If, in telling the story it is logical, relevant or necessary to depict a passionate kiss or a nude human figure, there should be no question of excluding the shot, provided the theme is handled with delicacy and feeling, aiming at aesthetic expression and avoiding all suggestion of prurience or lasciviousness.”

Yet, many continued to find this attitude “un-Indian,” as the nation grappled with its increasingly important role in the global forum.

Bobby Rishi Kapoor Dimple kapadia kissing

Rishi Kapoor unexpectedly smooches Dimple Kapadia in Bobby (1973).

1973: Dimple Kapadia dresses in fewer items of clothing than ever seen on-screen before and kisses Rishi Kapoor in the film Bobby.

From bikini scenes by a pool, to lounging around the house with her bare midriff and a miniskirt, Dimple Kapadia was careful to leave nothing to the imagination.

1978: The film Satyam Shivam Sundaram showcases Shashi Kapoor and Zeenat Aman locking lips in multiple scenes.

Shashi Kapoor eventually jumps off the kissing deep-end in Merchant-Ivory films becoming known as the Bollywood actor with no boundaries!

1988: Gulzar’s Libaas is banned by the Indian Censor Board and was not released in India until 2014.

The film starring Shabana Azmi and Naseerudin Shah centers on Indian couples having extra-marital relationships. The film was critically acclaimed around the world, but was not allowed a showing for almost 30 years in the country of its origin.

I’m sure the Censor Board’s decision to ban this film prevented tons of men and women from cheating on each other…umm, not.

1996: Raja Hindustani features an awkward minute-long kiss between Amir Khan and Karishma Kapoor.

I still recall the awkwardness of that scene when first seeing this film with my family. Oh, my scarred childhood.

2004: Sharmila Tagore becomes Chair of the Central Board of Film Certification (until 2011).

You might think that would tame things down again, but she subsequently allows all kinds of wildness:

“We see ourselves as more of a certification body than just censor board. We are not into moral policing; we follow a middle path. There are certain things we let go, as we have to be a little more tolerant and mature. Times are changing and we have to change with it.”

Under her watch, kissing in Hindi films hits the jackpot.

“I do believe in censorship and I do believe in freedom of expression, but at the same time there has to be a reasonable restriction. You really can’t go back; the change of being liberal is here to stay for a longer time,” she added.

2005: Rani Mukherjee and Amitabh Bachhan share a cross-generational kiss in the film Black

It’s as weird as you would imagine.

2008: A passionate kiss between Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik Roshan in the film Dhoom 2 was asked to be removed by Aishwarya’s father-in-law, Amitabh Bachhan.

After all, she was a married woman now, and that would just be the height of humiliation for her family, right???! Oh, the irony. Isn’t it 2008 already?

2010: Shah Rukh Khan who vowed never to kiss on-screen was “forced” to kiss Katrina Kaif in the film Jab Tak Hai Jaan.

Oh please, Shah Rukh. That didn’t exactly look like extortion to me.

2012: Bombay Talkies displays Bollywood’s first full-out gay kiss, and debuted at the Cannes Film Festival.

We totally love how this is finally making it to the mainstream and stereotypes are getting challenged in India! Thank you Karan Johar for having more guts than most Bollywood directors ever did.

Karan Johar gay kiss Bombay Talkies

Director Karan Johar featured a tender kiss between two men with lots of facial hair in his short segment in Bombay Talkies (2012).

My apologies in advance to all the aunties who were unable to finish their breakfasts because they stumbled across this post. Believe me, it hurts me as much as it hurts you.

One of the reasons we’ve been so out of touch the past few months is because of preparations for my wedding that took place 2 weeks ago! Mr. 55 gave a beautiful piano performance at the sangeet of “Lag Ja Gale” that would have you in tears. Many pictures are forthcoming, but you’ll be interested to note that in classic Bollywood tradition, not a single kiss was planned at the event! But we were tricked as soon after we stepped off the mandap by my husband’s groomsmen yelling in unison to “Kiss the bride!” It was a no-win situation! If we kissed, my Nani was right in the front row and would judge us so hard, but if we didn’t, our friends would think we had some kind of problem.

So we went for it. It was probably the most awkward thing I’ve ever done. Thank you old Bollywood films for making two otherwise completely normal Americans totally unprepared for a public display of affection at their own wedding.

And no, we won’t be posting any pictures of that special moment…for obvious reasons.

- Mrs. 55

 

Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Madhubala in Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955)

The epitome of modernity, feisty Madhubala croons poolside in Mr. and Mrs. ’55 (1955).

Today we present the lyrics and English translation of “Thandi Hawa Kali Gata” from our very own namesake Mr. and Mrs. ’55 (1955). The film follows an unlikely young couple, Madhubala and Guru Dutt, who are forced together by circumstance and end up challenging their own social mores, maturing, and finding love to essentially become an ideal match—a figurative “couple of the year.”

People tend to have strong feelings one way or another for this film. The music is hands-down fantastic, but the plot tends to be divisive, depending on how you view Guru Dutt’s stance on female emancipation in the 1950s. I tend to argue that the film is empowering—his narrative is social criticism of the flaws in patriarchal society, as well as an exploration of non-traditional female roles. While Madhubala’s character does indeed discover many virtues of a conventional Indian housewife, her realization that she would prefer marriage to divorce comes with a refreshing sense of maturity and self-discovery that in no way shackles her independence. Unlike many great heroines of the era, in Mr. and Mrs. ’55, Madhubala is feisty and does exactly what she wants, when she wants! I like that about a woman.

Madhubala in Mr. and Mrs. 55 Thandi Hawa

In the coming-of-age classic “Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata,” Madhubala blushes in Mr. and Mrs. 55.

Now let’s take this moment to talk about the ridiculous ribbons and pigtails flying around the set in this song. Don’t be shy, you know precisely what I’m talking about. Mr. and Mrs. 55‘ was not the first film (and certainly not the last) to idealize fully-grown women who did their hair like 5-year old girls. Every actress of Bollywood’s yesteryear from class-act Meena Kumari to joke-a-minute Asha Parekh has played the romantic lead with a hairdo that awkwardly imitates the elementary school kids. Yes, chew on that for a moment. There’s an entire slightly uncomfortable social theory behind the craze. Contrast this lunchbox look to Madhubala’s long flowing locks in the sweet duet “Udhar Tum Haseen Ho” toward the end of the film as she begins to accept her marriage to Guru Dutt. Symbolic, no?

But enough about my beef with pigtails. Sung by Guru Dutt’s own wife Geeta Dutt, there’s plenty to love in this uplifting jingle! Follow along with the video here and enjoy our English translation and lyrics to “Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata” below!

Thandi Hawa Kali Ghata Lyrics and Translation:

ThanDii hawaa, kaalii ghaTaa, aa hii gayii jhoom ke
A cold wind and black clouds have come with ebullience
Pyaar liiye, Dole, ha.Nsii, naache jiiyaa ghoom ke
Carrying love, laughter swayed, and my heart danced in swirls

baiThii thii chhup-chhaap yuu.N hii, dil kii kalii chhum ke mai.N
I was sitting quietly, caressing the flower of my heart
dil ne yeh kyaa baat kahii, rah na sakii sun ke mai.N
What my heart said, I could not stay there to listen
mai.N jo chalii dil ne kahaa aur zaraa jhoom ke
As I left, my heart spoke with even more exuberance
Pyaar liiye, Dole, ha.Nsii, naache jiiyaa ghoom ke
Carrying love, laughter swayed, and my heart danced in swirls

Aaj to mai.N apnii chhabii dekh ke sharam aa gayii
Today I became shy upon seeing my own reflection
Jaane yeh kyaa soch rahii thii ki ha.Nsii aa gayii
I do not know what I was thinking, but I suddenly laughed
LauT gayii zulf mere honTh meraa chhuum ke
My hair flew back and touched my lips
Pyaar liiye, Dole ha.Nsii, naache jiiyaa ghoom ke
Carrying love, laughter swayed, and my heart danced in swirls

dil kaa haar iktaar hilaa, chhiDne lagii raginii
The necklace of my heart struck a chord on the iktaar, and it began teasing out a melody
kajraa bhare nain liye, ban ke chaluu.N kaaminii
With kajra-lined eyes, I became a beautiful woman and set out
Keh do koii aaj ghaTaa barse zaraa dhoom se
Someone tell the clouds to rain thunderously today
Pyaar liiye, Dole, ha.Nsii, naache jiiyaa ghoom ke
Carrying love, laughter swayed, and my heart danced in swirls

ThanDii hawaa, kaalii ghaTaa, aa hii gayii jhoom ke
A cold wind and black clouds have come with ebullience
Pyaar liiye, Dole, ha.Nsii, naache jiiyaa ghoom ke
Carrying love, laughter swayed, and my heart danced in swirls

Glossary:

ThanDii: cold, hawaa: wind; kaalii: dark; ghaTaa: cloud; jhoom: ebullience, exuberance; Dolna: to sway; ha.Nsii: laughter; naachnaa: to dance; jiiyaa: soul, heart; laughter; ghoomnaa: to swirl; chhup-chhaap: absolutely quietly; chhabii: reflection, image; sharam aanaa: to become embarrassed, to become shy; zulf: hair; honTh: lips; haar: necklace; iktaar: a traditional Hindustani one-stringed instrument, raginii: a small song, kajraa: traditional Indian  eyeliner; nain; eyes; kaaminii: a beautiful, desirable woman; koii: someone; barasnaa: to rain; dhoom se: with noise

Madhubala and friends in Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955).

Madhubala and her girlfriends join hands in a chorus of pigtails and parasols in Mr. and Mrs. ’55 (1955).

Don’t you love how this film is just bursting with the tension of modernization? Like many typical “coming-of-age” songs, lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri employs nature-based allegories to describe a girl’s maturation to womanhood and the development of romantic inclinations. However, the song is unexpectedly filmed at the uber urban hangout of Mahatma Gandhi swimming pool in Bombay’s Shivaji Park! Gotta love those modern girls. Producer-director Nasreen Munni Kabir describes Guru Dutt’s cinematographic decision-making process while filming this song in her must-see documentary “In Search of Guru Dutt“!

This brilliant Geeta Dutt hit was requested by loyal fan Sonia! We know we’ve been taking longer than usual to get around to requests, but with Mr. 55 getting swamped in medical school and me getting down to the wire for wedding planning, we’re doing our best! Stay tuned–we love hearing from our fans!

- Mrs. 55

 

Spooky Songs of Classic Bollywood: The 15 Most Haunting Melodies of Yesteryear

Biswajeet Bees Saal Baad film noir kahin deep jale

Biswajeet is haunted by a mysterious voice singing of love and murder in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Happy Halloween! What better way to give yourself the creeps than with a vintage Hindi film song! Mr. 55 and I once hosted a Spooky Song-themed study break on-campus during which we projected old Hindi film noirs on a large screen, drank rooh afza and jammed nerdily to Lata’s high notes. Was it any surprise the two of us were the only ones really having an awesome time? Join us in our countdown to the spookiest song of classic Bollywood! When I say scary, I’m not referring to Vinod Khanna’s lime green tuxedo in Aan Milo Sajna (although it might give you nightmares). I’m talking about the real deal here. These are songs that will keep you up at night, that will haunt your waking moments as you grapple with the symbolism. And if you see a mysterious woman in a white-sari floating around your house this evening…well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

The Fifteen Scariest Songs from Old Hindi Films!

15. Tujhko Pukare Mera Pyar (Neel Kamal 1968)

Few things are scarier than being buried alive. Rajkumar haunts his Mughal-era lover through the ages even when she is reborn as a 1960s desperate housewife.

14. Gagan Jhanjhana Rah (Nastik 1954)

This song is a hidden gem. Hemant Kumar actually impersonates God in this song with a voice that booms from the heavens amidst a stormy apocalpyse. The chorus is so darn creepy in this song, you might feel real chills from the wind sound effects mixed into the song!

13. Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

What makes this song so spooky and yet so beautiful? It’s all in the lighting and the spectres lingering in the room–read our translation for more!

12. Jayen To Jayen Kahan (Taxi Driver 1954)

In our translation of this all-time creeper, we discuss the emptiness of the song’s mis-en-scene to heighten a feeling of abandonment, leaving you nothing but Dev Anand’s perfect pompadour to ease the pain.

11. Akele Hain Chale Aao (Raaz 1967)

While the movie Raaz may be a clunk, “Akele Hain” (that is reprised in a male and female version!) will certainly leave you clawing after your security blanket. Insider hint: Rajesh Khanna takes his shirt off later on in the movie if you can sit through the rest of the film.

10. Raat Andheri (Aah 1953)

In this heartbreaking social drama, Raj Kapoor plays a handsome tuberculosis patient unable to marry the girl of his dreams because of his illness. In the throes of self-pity, the minor key music haunts him as his own life slips away. Tragic, yes, but mostly just creepy.

9. Sau Baar Janam Lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad 1963)

Mohammed Rafi’s unearthly beautiful voice echoes through the mist in this song like a phantom from the other world. The woman in mourning seems ready to commit suicide at any moment during the song, keeping the audience on their toes!

8. Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

This gentle song of disillusioned love beckons you in like a tantalizing dream, and then drags you to perdition as you scream over the ethereal chorus. Our earlier translation of Dekhi Zamane discusses the transitions of the song from fantasy to absolute nightmare!

7. Koi Duur Se Aawaz De Chale Aao (Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam 1962)

One of my favorite songs in this genre, Guru Dutt is awakened in the middle of the night by a tender lament floating through the halls of the large empty mansion in which he works. Who is this mysterious and sad woman with the enchanting song? You HAVE to watch this genius star-studded film and find out!

6. Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din (Mera Naam Joker 1970)

Good thing I don’t have a fear of clowns or this song would have permanently wrecked my childhood. Raj Kapoor plays a circus performer who has lost all those he has ever loved. He enters a private Hell in which he is bound to perform in his clown garb to an unfeeling audience, always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. Brace yourself for several attempts at artsy camera tricks to make him float that could not be more creepy.

5. Gumnaam Hai Koi (Gumnaam 1965)

Based on the Agatha Christie novel “And Then There Were None,” Gumnaam is a kitsch-lovers delight. Drop-dead gorgeous (literally) Lata Mangeshkar’s voice haunts a group of travelers as they meander through a nameless forest. Newsflash! The “ghost” of this song actually chimes in with a high-pitch thrill when the music goes quiet, so listen carefully!

4. Naina Barse (Woh Kaun Thi? 1964)

One of the best examples of a femme fatale in Hindi films, “Naina Barse” is sung by a ghostly woman haunting her lover from a former lifetime. Her flowing white sari against the endless, crisp white snow of a Simla winter set the perfect stage for a nightmare. The woman in a white sari is a classic cliche–read more about its meaning here!

3. Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil (Bees Saal Baad 1964)

This song hardly needs an introduction, so famous is its eerie tune. One of the most brilliant shots is the slow crane down from above the chandelier to Biswajeet’s horrified stare at the piano. But has anyone else ever noticed the film version has the interlude violins playing an entire octave lower than in the recorded version?? It totally blew my mind when watching the film–and both ways are equally horrifying!

2. Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat (Kohra 1964)

Stylistic symbolism sets this creepster apart from its competitors. My favorite moment in this song is when the shadow figures do an interpretive dance in the sand, acting out the “choDo piyaa mera, choDo haath” line. I get chills every time I watch this–the cinematography is genuinely brilliant and haunting!

1. Aayega Aanewala (Mahal 1949)

Welcome to the spookiest song of Bollywood! Nothing will ever top the song that officially taught Bollywood everything it needed to know about horror. Don’t expect any corpses to pop out of the closet–this song is way to classy for that. See our translation of this unbeatable classic for more!

So…I know I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. What are your favorite spooky songs from Bollywood films? Tell us the scenes that have haunted your waking hours for years (think Sadhana declaring “Mujhe khoon achha lagtaa hai” on a rainy night)! Mr. 55 and I both hope you have a very Happy Halloween!

- Mrs. 55

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails...

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails…tie a chunni on your head.

Chain Se Humko Kabhi Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Asha Bhonsle and O.P. Nayyar share a joyful moment together. Photo Credit: indianexpress.com

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to a soul-stirring melody composed by O.P. Nayyar and sung by Asha Bhonsle that has stood the test of time: chain se ham ko kabhiiAlthough this song was supposed to be included in Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1974) directed by S. Ali Raza, it never made the final cut! In spite of its prominent absence from a movie, this memorable composition has been treasured by Hindi film music lovers for years ever since it was released. While the profound beauty of this rare song never fails to earn universal appreciation, many fans may be surprised to learn about the behind-the-scenes drama surrounding the the making and release of chain se ham ko kabhii.

When Asha Bhonsle was 16 years old, she eloped with her elder sister Lata Mangeshkar’s 31-year-old personal secretary Ganpatrao Bhonsle against the wishes of her family. Over the course of an unhappy marriage, the allegedly abusive Ganpatrao grew suspicious of Asha’s faithfulness to their marriage and eventually cast her out of their home in 1960 . Pregnant with her third child, Asha left the Bhonsle household permanently in order to secure a better future for her children. A few years later, Asha and music director O.P. Nayyar began a nine-year romantic relationship in 1963 that quickly became the talk of the tabloids.  Although both Asha and O.P. were married legally to their spouses, they lived together for many years in O.P.’s penthouse flat at the Miramar building in Mumbai. During this period, the duo churned out a series of memorable musical hits that fans of Hindi film music still hold dear to their hearts: diivaanaa huaa baadal from Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), yeh hai reshmii zulfo.n kaa andheraa from Mere Sanam (1965), zaraa haule haule chalo more saajnaa from Sawan Ki Ghata (1966), yehii woh jagah hai from Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966), and aao huzuur tum ko from Kismat (1968), among many other gems.

Sadly, this musical power couple encountered a rough patch in their relationship around 1972. One account of this story claims that Asha decided to leave O.P. when she saw him raising a hand and slapping her grown daughter Varsha. Whatever the reason may have been for their break-up, the couple had one last piece of unfinished business to deal with as they separated: the songs they had made together for the film Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye. Recorded before the couple had decided to part ways, records of these songs had been released several months in advance of the film’s premiere in 1974. Following the tragic break-up, Asha used her clout in the industry to have chain se ham ko kabhii deleted from the movie before it was released in theaters. However, the song had gained such widespread acclaim on its own that it won Asha her sixth Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1975. Since Asha refused to go to the ceremony to receive this award, O.P. Nayyar accepted the trophy on her behalf. It is said that O.P. then tossed the trophy out the window on his car ride home, ending their relationship on a truly sour note.

To this day, Asha refuses to acknowledge O.P. Nayyar publically and does not credit him for her early successes in the playback singing industry. Interestingly, in his old age, O.P. Nayyar overcame the bitterness of the duo’s break-up and admitted that Asha was “the best person I’ve ever met.

Chain Se Humko Kabhi: Lyrics and Translation

chain se ham ko kabhii aap ne jiine na diyaa
You have never let me live in peace.
zahar bhii chaahaa agar, piinaa to piine na diyaa
Yet, even if I asked to die by poison, you would not let me drink it.

chand ke rath me.n raat kii  dulhan jab jab aayegii
When the Night arrives as a bride on the Moon’s chariot,
yaad hamaarii aap ke dil ko taDpaa jaayegii
memories of me will continue to cause you heartache.
pyaar ke jalte zakhmo.n se jo dil me.n ujaalaa hai
The light in your heart emanating from our love’s burning wounds
ab to bicchaD ke aur bhii zyaadaa baDhnevaalaa hai
will continue to shine more brightly now that we are apart.
aap ne jo hai diyaa, vah to kisii ne na diyaa
What you have given to me, no one else has been able to replicate.
zahar bhii chaahaa agar, piinaa to piine na diyaa
Yet, even if I asked to die by poison, you would not let me drink it.

aap kaa gham jo is dil me.n din-raat agar hogaa
To bear your sorrow in my heart all day and night,
soch ke yah dam ghuTataa hai, phir kaise guzar hogaa?
the very thought of this is suffocating. How can I endure it?
kaash na aatii apnii judaayiimaut hii aa jaatii
If only death had come to me instead of this separation,
koii bahaane chain hamaari ruuh to paa jaati
then, under this pretext, my soul could finally rest at peace.
ek pal ha.nsnaa kabhii dil kii lagii ne na diyaa
My heart’s emotions have never let me smile for a moment.
zahar bhii chaahaa agar, piinaa to piine na diyaa
Yet, even if I asked to die by poison, you would not let me drink it.

chain se ham ko kabhii aap ne jiine na diyaa
You have never let me live in peace.

Glossary

chain: peace; zahar: poison; rath: chariot; dulhan: bride; ujaalaa: light; sulagnaa: to smolder; dam ghuTnaa: to suffocate; guzar honaa: to endure, subsist; kaash: if only; judaayii: separation; maut: death; bahaanaa: pretext; ruuh: soul; lagii: emotion, feeling.

In the context of this tumultuous backstory, the lyrics of chain se ham ko kabhii (penned by S.H. Bihari) are aptly fitting as Asha’s final swan song under O.P. Nayyar’s baton. Thank you to our reader Tanushree for requesting a post on this beautiful song and its interesting history–keep those requests coming! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
Pran

A young Rekha stars in Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye (1964). Since the song was deleted from the released film, details surrounding the picturization of chain se ham ko kabhii remain a mystery to this day.

Mera Joota Hai Japani Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Raj Kapoor Shree 420 Charlie Chaplin

Raj Kapoor in his famous Charlie Chaplin incarnation from hit film Shree 420 (1955)

Today we showcase the lyrics and English translation of “Mera Joota Hai Japani” from Raj Kapoor’s Shree 420 (1955) to mark the occasion of India’s Independence Day! Shree 420 is truly a landmark film in Hindi cinema starring a legendary showman who became known from Bombay to Bulgaria. To understand the film and the ramifications of the enormously popular song of patriotism, “Mera Joota Hai Japani,” we turn to the context of the nation’s not-so-distant past.

When India awakened to independence from British rule in the summer of 1947, the country faced many barriers to united prosperity under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s integrated social programs. While the freedom for which it had fought for generations was now realized, the Partition divided the Northern boundary of the nation between Muslims and Hindus, bolstering a mutual fear and hatred that seeped into the many ethnically diverse major cities. There, in turn, a rapid industrialization ideologically distanced the surrounding villagers from the urbanites, and a booming economy further isolated and redefined the gentry and the working class. While the geographic and cultural bars of much of Southern India allowed for a lesser degree of revolution, the Northern states, especially in the metropolises like Bombay where Bollywood blossomed, underwent a dramatic change that was felt at some level by the majority of inhabitants. Some strove to achieve a balance between the traditions of old and the advantages of Westernization, others the romanticism of rural life versus modern city life, and as always, the penniless lower classes wished to close the widening economic gap between themselves and the teeming wealth of the industrialists. In this maze of contradictions and extremes, Nehru tried nobly to guide the nation into forming a unique identity of its own as it moved into the future.

Raj Kapoor phir bhi dil hair hindustani shree 420

Raj Kapoor famously reminds his audience that “Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani” in Shree 420 (1955).

The elaborate family dramas and mythologicals of pre-independence Bollywood, therefore, no longer completely satisfied the country’s cinematic needs. Raj Kapoor was among the major influential directors and actors that emerged in the early years of independence whose work changed the face of Indian film. With the surfacing of a new middle and lower class audience, he sought to restructure the accessibility and impact of Indian cinema. Raj Kapoor (whose self-proclaimed audience was the underdog and downtrodden) responded to the socio-economic tensions of Nehru’s India through highly stylistic proletariat films that glorified the virtuous poor. His Chaplin-esque comedic appeal and playful optimism made him an iconic figure domestically and across the Middle East and Soviet Union. As a director of many of the era’s greatest hits such as the classic comedy, Shree 420, he established in the 1950s what now seems to be the “formulaic” Bollywood film. His plots mingled wholesome entertainment with social tension, dramatic one-liners, catchy show tunes, and the invariable triumph of Indian purity in the poor over the decadent Westernized ways of the rich.

Shree 420 is the story of a young man, Raju, who wanders from the countryside to find opportunity in city society. With an innocent smile and optimism, he strolls down the street famously singing love for his homeland in “Mera Joota Hai Japani.” His humble cheerfulness and patriotic pride captures the spirit of Nehru’s hopes and ideals for the blooming nation of a newly independent India threatened by corruption. 420, the well-known number from which the film derives its title, is the Indian penal code for fraud and dishonesty, and foreshadows Raju’s discovery of the means to survive in “modern” society.

Raj Kapoor mera joota hai japani

Raj Kapoor hops on a camel with an old guy who doesn’t seem to mind in Shree 420 (1955)

Shree 420 was a milestone production under the R.K. Studios banner that was among the first to be produced, directed, and acted in by Raj Kapoor himself. The son of a widely respected and extremely wealthy actor of the previous era, Prithviraj Kapoor, Raj Kapoor was nurtured in the film industry and had little difficulty in starting his own company with a very liberal amount of freedom. Formed in 1946, R.K. Studios went on to create some of the most successful films of Indian cinema. With lyrics by Shailendra and the soulful voice of Mukesh, we hope you enjoy our English translation of the lyrics to one of the thespian’s most beloved solos, “Mera Joota Hai Japani!”

Mera Joota Hai Japani Lyrics and Translation:

Meraa juuta hai Japaanii, yeh patluun Englishtaanii
My shoes are Japanese, these pants are British
Sar pe laal topii Ruusi, phir bhi dil hai Hindustanii
On my head is a red Russian hat, nonetheless my heart is Indian

Nikal paDe hai khulii saDak par, apnaa seenaa taane
I set out upon the wide open road confidently
Manzil kahaa.N, kahaa.N ruknaa hai, uparwaalaa jaane
Where is my destination, where must I stop, only God knows
BaDhte jaaye.N hum sailaanii, jaise ek Dariyaa toofanii
We advance forward relentlessly, as if a hurricane in a river
Sar pe laal topi Ruusi phir bhi dil hai Hindustani
On my head is a red Russian hat, nonetheless my heart is Indian
Mera juuta hai Japaanii…

Uupar-niiche niiche-uupar, leher chale jeevan kii
High to low, low to high, the waves of life flow
Nadaa.N hai jo baiThe kinaare, puuchhe raah watan kii
Those who wait by the shore are naive, ask for the path toward the motherland
Chalna jeevan kii kahaanii, rukna maut kii nishaanii
Going is the story of life while stopping is a sign of death
Sar pe laal topi Ruusi phir bhi dil hai Hindustani
On my head is a red Russian hat, nonetheless my heart is Indian
Mera juuta hai Japaanii…

Ho.Nge raaje rajkanwar ham bigaDe dil shehzaade
I will become the prince of fallen hearts
Ham singhaasan par jaa baithe.N jab jab kare.N iraade.N
I will sit upon a throne whenever I desire
Surat hai jaani-pehchaanii, duniyaa walo.N ko hairanii
My face will become familiar, it will be a surprise to the world
Sar pe laal topi Ruusi phir bhi dil hai Hindustani
On my head is a red Russian hat, nonetheless my heart is Indian
Mera juuta hai Japaanii…

Glossary:

juuta: shoe; Japaanii: Japanese; patluun: pants; Englishtani: British; sar: head; laal: red; topii: hat; Ruusii: Russian; phir bhi: nonetheless; however; dil: heart; Hindustani: Indian; nikal paDnaa: to set out; khulii: open; saDak: road; seenaa taannaa: (literally) to puff out the chest with pride, confidently; manzil: destination; ruknaa: to stop; uparwaalaa: God, he who is above; sailaanii: relentlessly; Dariyaa: river; toofaan: hurricane; uupar: high; niiche: low; leher: wave; jeevan: life; nadaa.N: naive; foolish; baiThnaa: to sit; kinaaraa: shore; raah: path; watan: motherland; country; maut: death; nishaanii: sign, symbol; raajaa: king; rajkanwar: prince; bigaDnaa: to fall; shehzaadaa: prince; singhaasan: throne; iraadaa: desire; surat: face; jaan-pehchaan: familiar; hairaani: surprise

Rural India to city transition

Raj Kapoor elegantly transitions with a cross-fade from rural India to a bustling city at the end of “Mera Joota Hai Japani.”

In the 1960s Raj Kapoor would drop his former image of the lovable proletariat and direct movies that resonated as family dramas of the wealthy, an increasing surrender to commercialism. The socio-political atmosphere of India had changed, and with it, the wants of the people. Movies that emphasized the difficulties of the developing period of the nation, or the unforgiving nature of that society were not the sell-outs they once were. The transition to a new era was over.

- Mrs. 55

camel

My fiance and I camel-spotting à la Raj Kapoor on our journey from New Delhi to Agra in a recent trip! Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani, as they say…