Dil Cheez Kya Hai Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rekha stars as a courtesan and poetess in Umrao Jaan (1981), based on an Urdu novel by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa

Today, we continue our series on Umrao Jaan (1981) by providing the lyrics and English translation to what is arguably the film’s most popular song: dil chiiz kyaa hai?  Based on Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa’s novel Umrao Jaan Ada, this film narrates the tragic tale of a young girl who is kidnapped and forced to become a tawaif (courtesan).

Through the course of this film, we witness the transformation of an innocent young girl Amiran as she becomes Umrao Jaan Ada, one of Lucknow’s most sought after courtesans. At the brothel, young Amiran receives training in classical voice, Kathak dance, and Urdu poetry–a forbidden world of art and education that the average Indian girl of this time period would never get the chance to explore. When the brothel’s madam Khanum feels that she has been sufficiently groomed, Umrao Jaan begins performing and attracting the attention of wealthy patrons all over Lucknow. Umrao’s first public performance as a courtesan is marked by the song dil chiiz kyaa hai?

This gem is considered to be one of Asha Bhonsle’s career-defining songs, and she was awarded a National Film Award for her performance of this ghazal along with the rest of her contributions to this soundtrack. Khayyam bagged a well-deserved National Film Award for his compositions in this film, and Rekha took home the National Film Award for Best Actress. From her performance in this mujra in particular, it is clear that Rekha is worthy of all the critical acclaim she received for her work in Umrao Jaan.  Although she may lack the technical precision of a trained Kathak dancer, she compensates with her compelling on-screen presence and natural elegance. With eyes like hers, would any man in Lucknow be able to resist the charms of Umrao Jaan Ada?

What is your favorite song from the Umrao Jaan soundtrack? Share with us in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55

Rekha’s mujras in this film, especially dil chiiz kyaa hai?, are fan-favorites to this day.

Dil Cheez Kya Hai: Lyrics and Translation

dil chiiz kyaa hai? aap merii jaan liijiye
What is the heart worth? Take my life instead!
bas ek baar meraa kahaa maan lijiye
But just once, please accept what I say.

is a.njuman me.n aap ko aanaa hai baar baar
You must return to this gathering time and time again.
diivaar-o-dar ko ghaur se pahchaan liijiye
So, learn to recognize these surroundings carefully.

maanaa ki dosto.n ko nahii.n dostii kaa paas
I admit that friends may not always hold friendship in high regard.
lekin yah kyaa ki ghair kaa ahsaan liijiye?
Yet, does this mean you should accept kindness from strangers?

kahiye to aasmaa.n ko zamii.n par utaar laaye.n
If you ask for it, I shall bring down the sky to the ground. 
mushkil nahii.n hai kuchh bhii agar Thaan liijiye
No task is difficult if you pursue it firmly.

dil chiiz kyaa hai? aap merii jaan liijiye
What is the heart worth? Take my life instead!
bas ek baar meraa kahaa maan liijiye
But just once, please accept what I say.

Glossary

maan lenaa: to accept; anjuuman: gathering; diivaar-o-dar: walls and doors, surroundings; ghaur se: carefully; pahchaan lenaa: to recognize; dostii: friendship; paas: regard, consideration; ghair: stranger; ahsaan: favor, kindness; utaar laanaa: to bring down; Thaan lenaa: to pursue firmly.

A quick note regarding the word paas. Those of you familiar with its common use in the phrase kisii ke paas (next to someone/something) may be confused by the line “maana ki dosto.n ko nahii.n dostii kaa paas.” Here, a less common use of the word paas is used to mean regard or consideration. So, there is no relation to proximity here; the whole line would be translated as: “I admit that that friends may not always hold friendship in high regard.” Tricky, tricky.

As Umrao Jaan, Rekha seduces wealthy men in Lucknow with her most tempting asset: her eyes!

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10 thoughts on “Dil Cheez Kya Hai Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

    • That site is very informative and educational for any students interested in learning more about Umrao Jaan and the language presented in the film. Thanks for sharing!

  1. One of my all time favorite songs of Asha, truly magical. She deserved the award. This was perhaps Asha’s counterpoint to Lata’s Pakeezah, both legendary musical and visual gems.

  2. Good post, as usual !

    No doubt this is a great song all round – lyrics, music, rendition, picturisation,… however, my personal favorite is ” Yeh kya jagah hai doston, yeh kaunsa mazaar hai ….”

    Incidentally, I always thought it was ‘dostii ka qaas/khaas’ ; thanks for the explanation on that one 🙂

    • Great choice! It is the last Asha solo that we have to cover from Umrao Jaan–I’m sure we’ll get around to it soon.

      That line with dostii kaa paas always confused me too. Mrs. 55 and I have both learned that precision with Urdu-Hindi goes a long way when trying to interpret Bollywood songs from the Golden Era!

  3. I was always confused whether the lyrics ‘dil chiiz kyaa hai? aap merii jaan liijiye’ meant how you have described it or – Please realize(come to know) what (a thing) my heart is , just for once, please listen to my voice/Opinion/request.
    There is a very subtle word play here. The word jaan is both life and knowledge!

    • It is the way I have described it because the line goes “aap merii jaa.n lijiye” where jaa.n is being used as a noun to mean life. If the line had been “aap mujhe/isko jaa.n lijiye” where jaa.n lenaa was being used as the verb to know, then the other interpretation would have been correct. Hope this clarifies the lyrics for you!

  4. My favourite ghazal from Umrao Jaan the movie is Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Dostoun, it just breaks my heart every time I hear it. The poignancy, the sadness, its gut-wrenching lyrics are enough to devastate anyone with a sensitive heart.

  5. Pingback: Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi | Mr. & Mrs. 55 - Classic Bollywood Revisited!

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