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!

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)

In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rekha gives a career-defining performance as a courtesan and poetess in Umrao Jaan (1981)

I recently rewatched Muzaffar Ali’s masterpiece Umrao Jaan (1981), a film that is so brilliantly crafted that it deserves multiple posts on this blog like Pakeezah and Mughal-e-AzamThe film is based on an Urdu novel written by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa that recounts the life of one of South Asia’s most influential literary figures: Umrao Jaan. Born in Faizabad, a young girl named Amiran is kidnapped and sold to a brothel in Lucknow. As she grows older, Amiran is grooomed by the brothel’s madam until she becomes Umrao Jaan (played by Rekha), one of Lucknow’s most desirable courtesans.  Misfortune after misfortune falls upon Umrao Jaan, but the film ultimately portrays her as a resilient woman whose beautiful mujras and poetry serve as a lasting legacy to her indomitable spirit.

In addition to Rekha’s stunning performance as the tawaif Umrao Jaan, this film is especially memorable for its portrayal of the richness of Lucknow’s cultural heritage. The indulgent life of nawaabs around the turn of 20th century is visually apparent in the film’s costumes, artwork, and set design, but the luxurious atmosphere in the film is taken to a new level by the soundtrack composed by Khayyam and penned by Shahryar. Here, I’ve chosen to translate one of the unforgettable mujra numbers from this film: in aa.nkho.n kii mastii.

She’s not lying when she says her eyes are intoxicating…

In this song, Umrao Jaan engages in some self-indulgent vanity. She mildly chides her lover Nawab Sultan (played by Farooq Shaikh) by saying there are thousands of other madmen in Lucknow that admire her charm and beauty. In the third verse, she continues to brag by saying that all the taverns in the world cannot serve wine as intoxicating as the wine that she serves from her glances. Finally, in the last verse, Umrao makes a warning against those that attempt to suppress her grandeur using a common symbol found in Urdu-Hindi poetry: the moth. Like moths to a flame, she claims that there are thousands of admirers in the city who would sacrifice their lives to protect her. The poetry in this song is not overly complex, but there is a subtle beauty to it that is enhanced by Asha Bhonsle’s beautiful rendition and Rekha’s graceful expressions on screen. I managed to find a very high-quality print of this song on YouTube, so please do watch the link provided above and follow along with the translation/glossary–enjoy!

–Mr. 55

P.S. Whatever you do, please do not waste three hours of your life (like I did) watching J.P. Dutta’s 2006 remake of this movie starring Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bacchan. It is a travesty of a film that completely disrespects the beauty of the original. I think one of the worst parts is the atrocious Urdu pronunciations. I mean, even I can get the guttural khe sound right when I say “khudaa haafiz,” and they don’t pay me the big bucks. Why can’t Aishwarya or Abhishek? And let’s not even get started on Anu Malik’s tired and stale soundtrack…

The camera adds to the meaning of the lyrics here by bringing candles into the shot when Rekha sings “is shamm-e-farozaa.n…

In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke Lyrics and Translation

in aa.nkho.n kii mastii ke mastaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The intoxicating beauty of these eyes attracts thousands of admirers. 
in aa.nkho.n se vaabastaa afsaane hazaaro.n hai.n
Indeed, there are thousands of stories associated with these eyes. 

ek tum hii nahii.n tanhaa ulfat me.n merii rusvaa
You are not the only one disgraced by your love for me, 
is shahar me.n tum jaise diivaane hazaaro.n hai.n
There are thousands of madmen like you in this city.

ek sirf ham hii mai ko aa.nkho.n se pilaate hai.n
It is only I who can serve you wine with my eyes, 
kahne ko to duniyaa me.n maikhaane hazaaro.n hai.n
Though it is said that there are thousands of taverns in this world.

is shamm-e-farozaa.n ko aa.ndhii se Daraate ho
Although you attempt to scare this bright candle with a storm,
is shamm-e-farozaa.n ke parvaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The light from this candle attracts thousands of moths. 

in aa.nkho.n kii mastii ke mastaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The intoxicating beauty of these eyes attracts thousands of admirers. 

Glossary

mastii: intoxication; mastaane: admirers; vaabasta: associated with; ulfat: love; rusvaa: disgraced; mai: wine; maikhaane: taverns; shamm-e-farozaa.n: bright candle; aa.ndhii: storm; parvaane: moths.

Farooq Shaikh, as Nawab Sultan, watches the mujra in admiration.