Rain songs have always held a special place in Bollywood cinema. From “pyaar hua iqraar hua” in Shree 420 (1955) to “ghanan ghanan ghir aayii badra” in Lagaan (2001), fans of Hindi cinema have been treated to a number of beautiful gems about the rain over the years. Today, I’ve translated an all-time classic rain song from the film Parakh (1960) directed by Bimal Roy (he won his third Filmfare Award for Best Director for this film!): “o sajna barkhaa bahaar aayii”. Parakh satirizes Indian democracy using a plot in which the postmaster (Nasir Hussain) of a village mysteriously receives a check for five lakh rupees to be given to an individual who is most well-equipped to benefit the village. When it is decided that an election will be held, influential characters in the village begin campaigning to persuade the village that they are the most deserving candidate to receive the check: namely, the impious postman (Motilal), the pious piest (Kanhaiyya Lal), the creepy rich man (Asit Sen), the greedy doctor (Rashid Khan) , the landlord (Jayant), and the well-respected schoolmaster (Vasant Chowdhury). Meanwhile, the postmaster’s daughter (Sadhana) begins to fall in love with the schoolmaster, and she sings “o sajna” as she pines for him in the rain.
This song is considered to be one of the finest compositions of the music director Salil Chowdhury (who also wrote the story for Parakh). Although Salil Chowdhury did not receive his due during his lifetime, he is undeniably one of the most talented and revolutionary composers from the Golden Era. His compositions are often remembered for their unusual melodies, rich orchestration, and integration of Western and Indian classical themes. Those of you familiar with Salil Chowdhury’s work in Bollywood may be surprised to know that he also composed songs for a wide variety of Indian languages, including Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telegu. Among these languages, Salil’s most prolific work was in his native tongue Bengali–he revolutionized the genre of the Bengali adhunik (modern) song with his musical compositions and self-written lyrics (what a multi-talent!). In fact, as is the case with many of his Hindi songs, the tune for “o sajna” was released in Bengali first in 1959 as “na jeo na.” This song was one of Lata Mangeshkar’s earliest hits in the Bengali music industry, and Bengalis have cherished the collaboration between Lata and Salil ever since this major musical milestone.
P.S: As an extra tidbit of trivia, it has been said that the only non-classical record found in the collection of renowned Hindustani vocalist Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan after his death was an LP of “na jeo na.” What an honor!
O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi Lyrics and Translation
o sajnaa barkhaa bahaar aayii
Oh, my beloved, the rain-filled season of spring has arrived.
ras kii puhaar laayii, a.nkhiyo.n me.n pyaar laayii
It has brought sprinkling droplets of nectar, it has brought love to these eyes.
tum ko pukaare mere man kaa papiiharaa
The cuckoo bird in my heart calls out to you,
miThii miThii aganii me.n jale moraa jiiyaraa
as my heart burns in a sweet fire.
aisii rimjhim me.n, o sajan, pyaase pyaase mere nayan
My eyes long for you, my beloved, in this light shower of rain;
tere hii khvaab me.n kho gaye
they have become lost in a dream of you.
saa.nvalii salonii ghaTaa jab jab chhaayii
When the beautiful dark clouds spread throughout the sky,
a.nkhiyo.n me.n rainaa gayii, nindiyaa na aayii
the night passed in my eyes, and I could not fall asleep.
o sajna barkhaa bahaar aayii
Oh beloved, the rain-filled season of spring has arrived.
barkhaa: rain; ras: nectar; puhaar: sprinkles, droplets; papiiharaa: pied-crusted cuckoo bird (associated with the monsoons in Indian mythology); jiyaraa: heart; rimjhim: light rain; saa.nvalii: beautiful; salonii: dark; ghaTaa: clouds; rainaa: night; nindiyaa: sleep.