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

b_id_417645_ashabhosle-nayyar

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…

Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Priya Rajvansh Heer Raanjha

Priya Rajvansh, as Heer, displays her usual limited range of emotion as a beautiful Panjabi maiden in Heer Raanjha (1970).

Today we showcase the full lyrics and English translation to “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” from Heer Raanjha (1970). Heer Raanjha tells the famous story of two star-crossed lovers, immortalized by the epic poem by Panjabi Sufi Waris Shah (1722-1798) . So handsome it hurts, Rajkumar is a perfect romantic hero as the charming Ranjha of the tale. When he falls for Heer, the daughter of a wealthy Jat family from a neighboring village (played by Priya Rajvansh), jealous relatives scheme to end their courtship. As she is married off against her will to another man, Rajkumar is overcome with devastation.

Like other great poems steeped in the Sufi tradition, Heer Ranjha has multiple layers of interpretation, one of which is man’s eternal quest for God. This is exemplified by the film’s most famous song, “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” sung by the great Mohammed Rafi. At once a song of lament for the love he has lost as well as an ode to yogic renunciation, “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” manages to express a yearning for a connection while embracing the search for a higher meaning.

The beautifully-written story of Heer Ranjha is a fundamental part of classical Panjabi literature, a poem my grandparents growing up in pre-partition Panjab were made to read and analyze in school. Waris Shah’s detailed and authentic description of rural Panjabi life around the turn of the 16th century is a pleasure to study today. To convert this leviathan of a poem to film was a daunting challenge met by the great modern Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi. He wrote the entire script for the 1970 film entirely in verse. Every line gleams with ornamentation, and only Rajkumar with his characteristically mesmerizing dialogue delivery can lend it the stateliness it deserves. One of my favorite verses from the film is below:

Us se kehna ki tum meraa ek khwab ho, jo chamakta hai dil mei.N woh mahataab ho. [Tell her that you are a dream of mine, that you are the moonlight glittering in my heart.]

Us se kehna ki gehuyo.N ke kheto.N ka rang, tilmatii huii titliyo.N kii umang. [Tell her that she is the is the color of wheat fields, that she is the joy of the fluttering butterflies.]

Us se kehna ki jharno.N kaa chanchal shabaab, ghat ki taazgii, aabroo-e-janaab. [Tell her that she is the the playful youth of the waterfalls, the freshness of a mountain pass, and the honour of our elders.]

Us se kehna ki jhoolo.N kii angdaiyaa.N aur uDhte dupatto.N kii shenaiyaa.N. [Tell her that she is the movement of swings and the music of flying dupattas.]

Us se kehna ki chakki ke geeto.N kii aag, ladkhadatii jawaanii, machaltaa suhaag. [Tell her that she is the fire of the song of the mills, the trembling youth, the excitement of a wedding night.]

Us se kehna ki dulhano.N ke kaajal kii pyaas, pehle bauchhaar kii garam aur Thandii miithaas. [Tell her that she is the thirst of a bride's kajal and the hot and cold sweetness of the first rain.]

Itnii ra.Nginiyo.N ko jab ek jaa kiyaa, Heer kudrat ne tab tujhko paida kiyaa. [When all this colors were made into one, then nature created you, Heer.]

Your heart’s fluttering, right? “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” also a brilliant example of the classic Bollywood cliche about men’s facial hair. The more manscaping that needs to be done, the more the hero has fallen out of touch with reality. Check it out:

Rajkumar 5 o'clock shadow

At first Ranjha displays an appropriately  manly 5 o’clock shadow. However, his depression takes a nosedive from bad…


Rajkumar lumbarjack beard

…to worse with a full on lumberjack look. This get-up quickly transitions to…


Rajkumar yogi beard

…WHAT THE…where did Ranjha go??!

But before you rush to give your own facial hair a much-needed trim, allow us to share our English translation and lyrics of “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” below! Follow along with the video and let us know how much you love a good song of self-pity in the comments!

Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Lyrics and Translation:

Yeh duniyaa yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahii.N
This world and these people are not for me

Kisko sunaaoo.N haal dil-e-beqaraar kaa?
Whom should I tell the state of my restless heart?
Bujhtaa huaa chiraagh hoo.N apne mazaar kaa
I am the extinguished flame of my own mausoleum
Aye kaash bhool jaaoo.N, magar bhooltaa nahii.N
If only I could forget, but I am unable to forget
kis dhoom se uthaa thaa janaazaa bahaar kaa
with what uproar marched the funeral of Spring

Apnaa pataa mile, naa khabar yaar kii mile
I know neither my own whereabouts nor have I heard news from friends
Dushman ko bhii naa aisii sazaa pyaar kii mile
Even enemies do not receive such a punishment for love
Unko khudaa mile hai.N khudaa kii jinhe talaash
Others meet the God for whom they have searched
Mujhko bas ek jhalak mere dildaar kii mile
Let me have just one glance from my beloved

Saharaa mei.N aake bhii, mujhki Thikaanaa na milaa
Even as I enter the wilderness, I found no shelter
Gham ko bhoolaane kaa koii bahaanaa naa milaa
I found no pretense to erase the memory of my sadness
Dil tarase jis mei.N pyaar ko, kyaa samajhoo.N us sansaar ko?
What can I understand about the world in which my heart remains longing for love?
Ek jiitii baazii haar ke, mai.N DhuunDhuu.N bichhaDe yaar ko
Upon losing a winning gamble, I must search for my lost friend

Duur nigaaho.N se aa.Nsuu bahaataa hai.N koii
Far from my gaze, someone is shedding tears
Kaise na jaaoo.N mai.N, mujhko bulaataa hai.N koii
How can I resist going when someone calls to me?
Yaa TuuTe dil ko joD do, yaa saare bandhan toD do
Either let me mend this broken heart or let me break all ties
Aye parbat, rastaa de mujhe! Aye kaanto.N, daaman chhoD do!
Oh mountains, show me the path! Oh thorns, let go of my embrace!

Yeh duniyaa yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahii.N
This world and these people are not for me

Glossary:

duniyaa: world, society; mehfil: company, gathering of people; haal: state, health; dil: heart; beqaraar: restless; bhujnaa: to extinguish; chiraagh: lamp; mazaar: mausoleum; kaash: if only, would that; bhoolnaa: to forget; dhoom: noise, uproar; janaazaa: funeral; bahaar: Spring; pathaa: whereabouts, address; khabar: news; yaar: friend; dushman: enemy; sazaa: punishment; pyaar: love; khudaa: God; [kisii kii] talaash: in search [of someone]; jhalak: glance; dildaar: beloved; saharaa: wilderness; Thikaanaa: shelter; gham: sadness; [kisi ko] bhoolaanaa: to make [something] forgotten; bahaanaa: excuse, pretense; [kisi ko] tarasnaa: to long [for something], samajhnaa: to understand; sansaar: world; baazi: a hand (ie. in a game of cards or a gamble); haarnaa: to lose; DhuunDhnaa: to search; bichhaDnaa: to be separated; duur: far; nigaahe.N: gaze; aa.Nsuu bahaanaa: to shed tears; bulaanaa: to call; yaa: either, or; TuuTaa: broken; joDnaa: to mend, to bring together; bandhan: tie, knot; toDnaa: to break; parbat: mountain; rastaa: path; kaa.Ntaa: thorn; daaman: embrace; chhoDnaa: to leave, to let go

Rajkumar yogi heer raanjha

Rajkumar goes rogue and renounces the world as a yogi upon learning that his beloved has married another. Epic shots like these earned Jal Mistry the Filmfare Award for Best Cinematography in 1971!

The line “mere kaam ki nahii.N” is particularly difficult to translate. The word “kaam” is in its simplest form translated as “work.” However, the word has numerous subtleties in Hindustani. With this line, Kaifi Azmi is expressing his dissatisfaction with and inability to function in the world and society as he has experienced them.

This song was requested by our fan Raju! Thank you for the brilliant Urdu treat!

- Mrs. 55

 

Hindi Film Songs with Unnecessary English: Fusion Lyrics in Old Bollywood

Saira Banu looks on in disgust as Manoj Kumar ruins classic English songs with Panjabi dhamaka in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

Saira Banu is disgusted as Manoj Kumar ruins classic English songs with Panjabi dhamaka in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

Happy Fourth of July from Mr. and Mrs. 55! To honor this occasion, we would like to discuss that well-recognized, unsettling phenomena of classic Bollywood: Hindi film songs with unnecessary English. Yes, I know you just cringed. But recognition is the first step towards healing. Like those t-shirts your aunties used to bring back from the motherland with random English words sprawled across the front, these songs are the ones you tend to hide from your friends. Despite their heroic attempts at glamorous cross-over appeal, these adulterated lyrics explode messily in the face of linguistic purism.

If you thought this was a strictly modern phenomena, prepare to blow your mind. Indian lyricists have been playing this dangerous game since the 1950s! Why, God, why? You may ask. There are many reasons. In some instances, the use of English was directly pertinent to the plot, such as in Laxmi’s portrayal of an Anglo-Indian girl in Julie (1975) or even Shammi Kapoor’s Elvis-esque embodiment of a happening nightclub singer in Chinatown (1962). Yet other times, the English words were gratuitous with no contextual relevance, such as Joy Mukherjee’s boyish declaration of “Japan, love in Tokyo!” (1966). All of them represent a fashionable trend toward westernization, even exoticism to some extent, in Hindi music that evolved over the 50s through 70s. The lyrics reflected back on the changing Indian society and the growing popularity of interspersed English in spoken Hindustani.

One big happy Anglo-Indian family sings "My Heart is Beating" in Julie (1975).

Just another average evening at home for the big happy Anglo-Indian family singing “My Heart is Beating” together in Julie (1975).

I always find it ironic that as I cling to the idealization of the Indian culture glorified by films of the 50s and 60s, when I visit my cousins in India, they find it tiresome to sit through a Rajesh Khanna film (many hardly know who he is!), or insist on speaking English, while I desperately want to practice my Hindi. Ah, the joys of being an American Desi. These songs that straddle two worlds appall me just as much as they identify a crisis I know so well.

So let us celebrate India’s love of English today with our list of fusion lyrics from classic films! Each song on our list gets a verdict: a cheer or a cry.  Should you feel proud busting out these melodies in the shower, or should you try to hide your shame in the dark recesses of your filmi sub-conscious? Find out below! But be forewarned: this exercise was never meant to be done in public. Go home to the safety of a private room, shut all the windows and lock the doors. Some of the lines you are about to hear require a true devotion to classic Bollywood to survive!

15 Classic Hindi Film Songs with Unnecessary English:

1. All Line Clear (Chori Chori 1956)

Verdict: Cry

It’s not for blind enthusiasm that this song is lacking. Johnny Walker parades his family through the metropolis, rolling the ‘r’ like a Spaniard of what sounds way more like “killier” than “clear.” It’s meant to be comic, but it might reduce you to tears.

2. C-A-T, Cat…Cat Maane Billi (Dilli Ka Thug 1958)

Verdict: Cry

The title says it all. Don’t expect Shakespearean poetry from this song, you might do well on your next spelling bee thanks to Kishore Kumar.

3. Bolo Bolo, Kuch To Bolo (Dil Deke Dekho 1958)

Verdict: Cheer

Questionable line: “Pyaar ho to keh do ‘Yes!’ Pyaar nahii.N to keh do ‘No!'” It’s subtle, right? Just enough English to keep the audience on their toes, but not enough to overwhelm anyone. And the song is so catchy, it’s hard to hate.

4. April Fool Banaya (April Fool 1964)

Verdict: Cry

OMG, Saira, stop it. When she screeches “Yooooooooooou eeediot!” I think we all ask ourselves if we were not better off dead. His awkward reply of “Very good!” is as out of place as the hideous shirt on his back.

5. Baar Baar Dekho (China Town 1965)

Verdict: Cheer…and then cry

See, this song walks the line. It’s so catchy and Shammi looks so fly, that you could go through the entire song and not realize any words of English were actually spoken. Oh, but they were. The refrain he struts around to is actually the English fox-hunting cry “Tally ho!” I don’t understand.

6. Japan, Love in Tokyo (Love in Tokyo 1966)

Verdict: Cry

Just warning you, this song WILL get stuck in your head and won’t be released until you sing the refrain out loud in a public forum. The English here is purely gratuitous. First of all, why does he suddenly scream “Japaaaaaaaaan!”? Could there possibly be any confusion in the viewer’s mind about their location? And second, why must he declare there has been “love in Tokyo!” in English of all languages at this point? Who is his real target audience here?

7. An Evening in Paris (An Evening in Paris 1967)

Verdict: Cheer

They were really experimenting in this film. From Asha’s interesting interpretation of the French “Zou Bisou Bisou” to Mohammed Rafi’s inexplicable commemoration of his Parisien adventure in English, “An Evening in Paris” wins by sheer virtue of its kitsch factor. Can it get more exotic than this??

8. Baar Baar Din Yeh Aaye (Farz 1967)

Verdict: Cheer

This song is quintessential and needs no introduction. Of course, we all wish Bollywood had more to offer in terms of great birthday songs (and ones which were not specifically dedicated to women named Sunita), but we’ll take it. Rafi’s cuckoo-like “oh ho!” after each lilting “Happy Birthday to you!” is just one of many reasons why this song should never get played in front of your non-Indian friends.

9. The She I Love (Mohammed Rafi 1969, non-filmi)

Verdict: Cry

I debated a long time whether or not to put this song on this list. It wasn’t because the song is non-filmi, but rather, because my undying love for Mohammed Rafi held me back from sharing this little dark secret of his with the world. But it had to be done. We must learn from history’s mistakes. Sung vaguely to the tune of “Hum Kale Hain to Kya Hua,” this song is sure to kill the mood of any party.

10. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Purab Paschim 1970)

Verdict: Cheer

This song just wins hands-down. Saira Banu, as the blonde-wig sporting Londoner, takes on dhoti-clad Manoj Kumar in an East-meets-West sing-off of epic proportions. I love how he twists her straight-laced rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” into a completely Panjabi “Twinkle Twinkle Little Sitar” that is actually far more exciting than the original! The total irony, of course, is that when Asha Bhonsle sings the English lines as if she’s a blue-blooded English girl, her Indian accent is so thick, the effect is totally lost (but still kind of loveable).

11. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Caravan 1971)

Verdict: Cheer

Helen can literally get away with anything. I have zero problem with the pyscho in a toreador costume crying “Monica! O my darling!” from inside a jumbo birdcage.

12. Meri Soni Meri Tamanna (Yaadon Ki Baraat 1973)

Verdict: Cheer…but it’s borderline

This is song so good, it practically kills me that they threw in an English line just for giggles. It makes the whole thing awkward. Why can’t you just say “tumse pyaar hai” instead of “I low you”? Nope, I didn’t misspell. Listen to the line. I sure didn’t hear the ‘v’ in that sentence either.

13. My Heart is Beating (Julie 1975)

Verdict: Cheer

I know, I know. Bear with me here. I too stuck my head under a pillow and cried about the cruel and unusual punishment I was being served when I first heard this song. Part of it is her thick accent, part of it is the ridiculous caricatures of the members of the Anglo-Saxon family they portray. 100% of the lyrics are sung in English, which is a rare thing in classic Bollywood. Julie took fusion lyrics where no lyricist had dared go before. And I’ll be the first to say…it grew on me. It’s actually very melodious! Sure, Preeti Sagar is no Karen Carpenter, but this song did earn her the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1975!

14. My Name is Anthony Gonzalves (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)

Verdict: Cheer

This song theoretically makes some sense in the context of the film. Yes, Anthony Gonzalves was a real guy, and Amitabh Bachhan is supposed to be just another God-fearing Christian at an Easter party. When he starts spewing strings of random English words together, it’s clear he knows he’s just a buffoon trying to look smart and sophisticated to impress the ladies!

15. Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)

Verdict: Cry

It’s not that I hate this song, in fact, I love it. But I would have never known in a million years that Amitabh Bachhan is supposed to be saying “God promise, ham sach bolaa hai.” Excuse me, ‘God promise’? Who even SAYS that?? I know you’re supposed to be Christian and all that, but seriously, what is happening here.

We know this is a divisive issue in the obscure world of classic cinema and as constant mourners of the loss of Urdu in Hindi films, we want to hear YOUR thoughts! Do you love you a good Hinglish patois or do you cringe and die every time? Have we forgotten any potential gems that deserve a place on our list? Let us know in the comments!

- Mrs. 55