Justiju Jiski Thi Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rekha plays the role of Umrao Jaan with elegance and sophisticated grace.


Muzaffar Ali’s Umrao Jaan (1981) is one of Bollywood’s most  treasured films in the courtesan genre. With Rekha in the starring role, this film narrates the tragic story of Umrao Jaan Ada, a poetess and tawaif from the Urdu novel of the same name written by Mirza Hadi Ruswa. In addition to Rekha’s touching performance of this role, this movie has been immortalized in the history of Hindi cinema for its music. The soundtrack composed by Khayaam and penned by Shahryar is almost exclusively filled with ghazals sung by the evergreen Asha Bhonsle. In a previous post, we discussed and translatedin aa.nkhon kii mastii,” on of this film’s unforgettable ghazals.  Today, on the request of one of our readers (shoutout to Vasuki!),  we will be taking a closer look at another gem from the same soundtrack: “justajuu jiski thii.”

While “in aa.nkhon kii mastii” showcases the playful and proud side of Umrao Jaan, this song takes a different route and depicts the tragedy that Umrao has endured as a fallen woman. The song “justajuu jiskii thii” is found in the film when Umrao is called upon to perform a mujra at a birthday celebration for the son of the begum of Kanpur. In an ironic twist of fate, the begum turns out to be Ram Dei, the girl who was kidnapped and sold at the same time as Umrao when they were both young. Deemed the less attractive of the two, Amiran (who would later become known as Umrao Jaan)  was sold to Khanum’s brothel while Ram Dei was sold as a slave to a wealthy family. As the two women share a moment together recalling the tragedies of their past, Umrao is greeted by a painful surprise: Ram Dei is actually married to Nawab Sultan, the man that Umrao fell in love with during her younger years. In the presence of the couple, Umrao sings “justajuu jiskii thii,” a ghazal whose lyrics beautifully express the tragedy of unfulfilled love.

Rita Rani Kaul, as Ram Dei, listens to Umrao’s heart-wrenching poetry in admiration.

Musically, the tune for this song is probably my favorite among all of the ghazals found in Umrao Jaan. I think it must have been the favorite of music director Khayyam as well–if you listen carefully, you’ll hear snippets of this melody used as background music at various points in the film. In fact, before the proper song starts, Umrao recites a shair for Ram Dei in the same tune: gardish-e-vaqt kaa kitanaa baDaa ahsaan hai aaj/ yah zamii.n chaa.nd se bahtar nazar aatii hame.n.”   The lyrics and tune of this song are remarkably beautiful, but the real star of the show here is Asha Bhonsle.  Asha excels throughout this soundtrack, but I feel that her rendition of this song is particularly outstanding for its emotional depth and maturity.  Asha was 48 years old when she recorded these songs in 1981, but her voice sounds impressive and fresh as ever.  An interesting tidbit about the songs from this film is that Khayyam had Asha sing them at a half-step lower than expected (in the key of C) to create a deeper, fuller sound. Regarding her renditions on this soundtrack, Asha has said:

‘I was skeptical about the results when Khayyam lowered my pitch by half a note. But I have always believed that the composer calls the tune, so I sang just as Khayyam wanted me to do.’

There was nothing to be skeptical about here! The Asha-Khayyam collaboration for the music of Umrao Jaan has been cherished ever since this film was released, and the songs are remembered today  as some of the finest examples of ghazals in Bollywood cinema. Enjoy our translation of “justajuu jiskii thi” with the glossary below, and remember to send in any requests for future posts!

-Mr. 55

Rekha excels at expressing the pain of a fallen woman through her role in Umrao Jaan (1981)

Justiju Jiski Thi: Lyrics and Translation

justajuu jiskii thii usko to na paayaa ham ne 
I did not get whom I desired,
is bahaane se magar dekh lii duniyaa ham ne 
Yet, on this quest, I have seen the entire world. 

tujhko rusvaa na kiyaa khud bhii pashemaan na hue
I did not disgrace you, nor did I bring shame to myself.  
ishq kii rasm ko is tarah nibhaayaa ham ne
In this manner, I fulfilled the vows of our love.  

kab milii thii kahaa.n bichhaDii thii hame.n yaad nahii.n 
I do not remember when we met or where we departed. 
zindagii, tujhko to bas khvaab me.n dekhaa ham ne 
Life, I have only beheld you in my dreams. 

ai adaa, aur sunaaye.n bhii to kyaa haal apanaa? 
What more shall I tell you of my state? 
umr kaa lambaa safar tai kiyaa tanhaa ham ne
I have resigned myself to traveling the long journey of life alone.  

justajuu jiskii thii usko to na paayaa ham ne 
I did not get whom I desired. 

Glossary

justajuu: search, quest; bahaana: excuse, pretext; rusvaa: disgraced; pashemaan: ashamed; rasm: ritual, vow; bichhaDnaa: to separate, depart; adaa: pen name for Umrao Jaan; safar: journey; tai karnaa: to settle; tanhaa: alone.

Farooq Shaikh, as Nawab Sultan, reminisces about his unfulfilled love in Umrao Jaan (1981)

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2 thoughts on “Justiju Jiski Thi Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

  1. Hi Mr. and Mrs. 55,

    First of all, thank you for such a well-written, informative and insightful post! Among all of Asha-ji’s ghazals penned by Shahryar and set to music by Khayyam for this eternal cinematic gem directed by Muzaffar Ali, “justju jiski thi” is my personal favourite.

    That being said, well done on the translation and transliteration, too! However, at the risk of sounding somewhat impertinent, I personally feel that there is a small gap in your discussion of this beautiful ghazal. While I am glad that you mentioned “gardish-e-vaqt ka kitna bada ehsaan hai aaj…” in your post, which most other bloggers have overlooked, there is yet another couplet that is also absent in the soundtrack version, sung way before “gardish-e-vaqt…” in the film version. Specifically, it begins in the flashback scene, when Ameeran (now Umrao Jaan) and Ramdei are separated in their girlhood, and ends in the present narrative, when the two are reunited as adults. If I am not wrong it goes more or less like this, “tujhse bichhade hai to aap, kisse milati hai humein/zindagi dekh yeh kya rang dikhati hai humein…”

    P/s Please excuse my flawed Urdu transliteration, because I usually remember the lyrics of old Bollywood songs phonetically and only then try to make sense of the texts with my threadbare working knowledge of Hindi/Urdu, which leaves my own comprehension of these songs vulnerable to gross misinterpretations, that is, without much-needed help from such dedicated and more knowledgeable enthusiasts as yourselves.

    I understand that this post was written some years ago and that my comment may be overlooked as a result, but I do hope that you get to read it nonetheless, because I was wondering if you could include both a translation and proper transliteration of the aforementioned first two couplets into your existing translation and transliteration of “justju jiski thi”.

    Again, a job well done and kudos on the lovely post. I am truly impressed with the depth as well as the poetic nuances of your writing. Keep up the good work and have a great week ahead.

    Much love from Malaysia,
    Gaby

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