50 Best Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood

 

We’ve compiled a montage of the best film shots from classic Bollywood movies that we feel exemplify the splendor, allure, and excitement of Hindi movies from the Golden Age. Consider these 50 beautiful film shots a glimpse through a keyhole into a much grander world of cinematographic sublimity: behold the magic of classic Bollywood.

This project was kindled in part by my reaction to everyone who’s ever told me, “I love Bollywood!” I get that a lot. Being a film production major who’s worked in the Hindi movie industry, I hear the phrase, “I love Bollywood!” several times a month—from classmates, friends, and random people at parties. Bollywood has become a trend all over the globe—every hipster worth their organic sea salt is familiar with the term, and many have even seen a Hindi film or two themselves. Except I don’t really ever know what to say in reply. It’s not because loving Bollywood isn’t exactly what I look for in new friends (because believe me, it is), but because I don’t understand what that phrase even means.

Let me put this in perspective. To me, this can be the equivalent of someone in rural Punjab who’s seen the Bourne trilogy saying, “I love Hollywood!”

Think about that. What does it mean to love “Hollywood”? Are you saying you love American filmmaking and its history? Celebrity gossip? Or do you really mean to say, “I love action flicks and Matt Damon?” Because Hollywood is not just big-budget androcentric action flicks (although they are a cool part of a big genre). Ryan Gosling kissing Rachel McAdams in the rain is Hollywood. Orsen Welles fighting a smear campaign for governor is Hollywood. Judy Garland singing over a rainbow is Hollywood. And Jack Nicholas running amok in an insane asylum is Hollywood. It’s rare to find someone who knows and loves it all.

So when you say, “I love Bollywood!” to me, as a true lover of all things Bollywood, I don’t know what you’re really referring to. Often people who haven’t had much exposure tend to generalize that elusive term Bollywood to mean “pretty costumes!” or “crazy dancing!” This perception applies just as much to Indians from India as to non-Indians anywhere else. Because Bollywood is not just the melodramatic musical with half-naked women and a loose masala plot that is often stereotyped. Bollywood is Guru Dutt searching the streets of urban decay for a glimmer of humanity. Bollywood is Meena Kumari dancing kathak upon shattered glass in sorrow. Bollywood is Amitabh Bachhan’s fist meeting the jaws of his twenty adversaries with a satisfying smack. And yes, Bollywood is Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan in glittery costumes declaring love in the moonlight. I often yearn to somehow share all the magic of classic Hindi cinema that comes to my mind when I think of Bollywood, because it is a well-hidden treasure for so many of my generation.

Now before someone throws a fit, I get it. Not everyone has the time or interest to become heavily familiarized with Bombay’s film output since the 1930s. Nor should they. All I’m saying is, I wish more people were aware of what Bollywood truly encompasses. When you exclaim, “I love Bollywood!” there is a reason why I can’t bring myself to reply, “OMG, totes!” but instead want to fill your ear with my reverence of the cinematography in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). Simply tell me you loved the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) (because, seriously, who didn’t?), or that you thought Deepika Padukone’s outfits were beautiful in that one rom-com. Otherwise, we’ll both end up feeling awkward after I start on my spiel. Yes, I probably overthink this. Yes, most people probably don’t care one way or another. But I can’t imagine living a world without the enchantment of classic Bollywood films, and maybe there are people out there who would want in, if they only knew what they’re missing.

So this montage is the reply I wish I could give everyone, but I cannot articulate–a reply that must be seen to be believed. Because when I respond, “Really? I love Bollywood too!” this is what comes to my mind. This montage is why I love Bollywood. I hope that by watching these shots, you can get a peek into that hypnotizing world yourself, and that you’ll crave more. I hope that this might be a chance to understand that Bollywood is far richer, far more complex, and far more evocative than can be summed up by mere words or by viewing a single film.

Therefore, don’t just take my word for it. Watch the 50 Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood, and I’ll bet that somewhere deep inside your heart, something faintly stirs in a way you never knew possible. And afterwards, I recommend starting with any of the movies that made our list of the Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time. I’ll get off my soap box now. Back to translating obscure old songs where I belong. But send us a comment if this montage resonates with you, and share it with anyone who may have never experienced the wonder of the films to which it pays homage.

Just don’t even get me started on Slumdog Millionaire.

– Mrs. 55

Final Shot from Mother India Nargis

An aged Nargis remembers the trials of her youth in the final shot of the Academy Award-nominated film Mother India (1957).

As a reference, the corresponding films to our 50 selected shots are below. The music playing during the montage is the “Title Music” from Pakeezah (1972).

50 Shots’ Film Names (in order of appearance):

  1. Bandini (1963)
  2. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  3. Pakeezah (1972)
  4. Aradhana (1969)
  5. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  6. Kohra (1964)
  7. Mother India (1957)
  8. Guide (1965)
  9. Shree 420 (1955)
  10. Sangam (1964)
  11. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  12. Chinatown (1962)
  13. Caravan (1971)
  14. Shree 420 (1955)
  15. Shree 420 (1955)
  16. Sholay (1975)
  17. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  18. Pakeezah (1972)
  19. Pakeezah (1972)
  20. Pyaasa (1957)
  21. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  22. Umrao Jaan (1981)
  23. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  24. Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)
  25. Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)
  26. Aradhana (1969)
  27. Khamoshi (1970)
  28. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  29. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  30. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  31. Mother India (1957)
  32. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  33. Guide (1965)
  34. Andaz (1949)
  35. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  36. Aradhana (1969)
  37. Pakeezah (1972)
  38. Jewel Thief (1967)
  39. Aan Milo Sajna (1970)
  40. Anand (1971)
  41. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  42. Awaara (1951)
  43. Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)
  44. Do Raaste (1969)
  45. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  46. Awaara (1951)
  47. Sholay (1975)
  48. Baazi (1951)
  49. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  50. Mother India (1957)
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Everything I Need to Know About Life, I Learned From Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)

Everything I need to know about life I learned from Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977).

We at Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! are getting tired of some of the recent unhinged political rhetoric being thrown around. Sometimes we have to take a moment to realize that not everyone was lucky enough to learn important life lessons as we were from classic Bollywood films.

Amar Akbar, Anthony (1977) is one of India’s most beloved masala films, telling the story of three brothers who are separated in childhood and eventually united after one is raised a Hindu, one a Muslim, and one a Christian. Let’s take a moment to reflect on what Vinod Khanna, Rishi Kapoor, and Amitabh Bachhan’s title characters would have to say about recent events.

3 Life Lessons From Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977):

1. We CAN all live in harmony.

Amar akbar anthony

Plurality makes us better. Families, communities, and countries are enriched because we embrace and learn from our differences.

2. A family that sings and dances together, stays together.

anthony gonsalves egg

On a related note, always, always have a giant Easter egg handy. Just trust me.

3. Karma is a b****.

Pran Amar Akbar Anthony

A really huge b****. If you insult a man when he’s down, you’re going to be that man soon. And everyone, even your kids, will hate you. Until, of course, you repent and join them in a group chorus (see rule #2).

Pass this along to friends, shady pharmaceutical executives, and bombastic political wannabes who don’t quite get it. And if your childhood was completely empty, you can now watch Amar, Akbar, Anthony online and subtitled here!

Your welcome.

– Mrs. 55

Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

 

asdf

Amitabh Bacchan and Zeenat Aman share a romantic moment during a glamorous gondola ride shot in Venice, Italy for The Great Gambler (1979).

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to an all-time hit song from The Great Gambler (1979): do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii. Directed by Shakti Samanta, this action film starring Amitabh Bacchan in a dual role takes the audience on a cosmopolitan journey through a variety of exotic locales including Cairo, Rome, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Egypt. While the film itself has not much to offer over other masala films released during this period of Hindi cinema, the soundtrack’s crowning gem do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii is cherished by audiences to this day. In fact, watch Asha Bhonsle (at the age of 80!) dazzle the audience with this song here accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra at The Hague in 2013.

do lafzon kii hai dil kii kahaanii can be considered a natural successor to previous boat songs directed by Shakti Samanta, such araat ke humsafar  (An Evening in Paris, 1967) and chingaarii koii bhaDke (Amar Prem, 1972). The exotic picturization as well as the exquisite lilting melody make this song a stand-out among the other lackluster items found on the film’s soundtrack, which was composed by R.D. Burman and penned by Anand Bakshi. To infuse a dose of authentic Italian charm, the lyricist has included a few words of Italian in the song’s introduction–I’m certainly not an Italian expert, but my attempt at translating these lines is also presented below.

While the choice of veteran songstress Asha Bhonsle as the playback singer for heroine Zeenat Aman is no surprise, the choice of Sharad Kumar as the voice of the gondolier is rather interesting. Sharad Kumar Bader is an actor/singer who achieved fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s for his imitative renditions of songs originally performed by the one and only Elvis Presley. In addition to touring the globe for concerts where he sang Elvis numbers decked out in The King’s trademark jumpsuits, Sharad also received a break in Bollywood as an actor in films such as Paisa Ya Pyar (1969) and Zameen Aasman (1972) with the support of Shobhana Samarth (mother of actresses Tanuja and Nutan).  After his brief stint in the film industry, Sharad moved to Canada where he worked as an insurance agent and opened a vegetarian Indian food company called Zara’s Gourmet Kitchen with his wife Gita Bader. A colorful career path indeed!

What is your favorite foreign destination featured in a vintage Bollywood song? Let us know in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
Venice

Venice’s Grand Canal and its rich tradition of gondoliering are featured prominently in this all-time fan favorite song.

Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani: Lyrics and Translation

Sharad Kumar: laa, laa, laa… amore mio, dove sei tu?
My love, where are you?
ti sto cercando, tesoro mio!
I am searching for you, my treasure!

Amitabh Bacchan: “amore mio, dove sei tu..”
ai kyaa gaa rahaa hai?
What is he singing?

Asha Bhonsle: apne pyaar ko yaad kar rahaa hai aur kah rahaa hai ki…
He is remembering his love and saying…

Amitabh Bacchan: na, na, na aise nahii.n! gaa ke sunaao na?
No, not like this! Sing it for me, won’t you?

Asha Bhonsle: gaa ke? acchhaa!
Sing it? Okay!

do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii
The tale of my heart is only two words long.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii
Is it love or is it youth?

Sharad Kumar: amore mio, il tempo vola
My love, time flies.
prendilo, prendilo, amore mio!
Catch it, catch it, my love!

Sdf

The on-screen chemistry shared by the leading pair serves as the backbone for this lighthearted, action-packed, and often nonsensical film.

Asha Bhonsle: dil kii baato.n kaa matlab na puuchho
Please don’t ask me the meaning of my heart’s words.
kuchh aur ham se bas ab na puuchho
Please don’t ask me anything now.
jis ke liye hai duniyaa diivaanii
What the world has gone mad for,
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii?
Is it love or is it youth?

yah kashTiivaalaa kyaa gaa rahaa thaa?
What was that gondolier singing about?
koii ise bhii yaad aa rahaa thaa
He was reminded of someone special
qisse puraane, yaade.n puraanii
along with old tales and old memories.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii?
Is it love or is it youth?

is zindagii ke din kitne kam hai.n
The days of this life are limited in number.
kitnii hai.n khushiyaa.n aur kitne gham hai.n
they are filled with so much joy and so much sorrow.
lag jaa gale se, rut hai suhaanii
So embrace me, in this beautiful season.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii
Is it love or is it youth?

do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii
The tale of my heart is only two words long.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii
Is it love or is it youth?

Glossary

lafz: word; kahaanii: tale; muhabbat: love; javaanii: youth; matlab: meaning; duniyaa: world; kashTiivaalaa: gondolier; qisse: tales; yaade.n: memories; khushiyaa.n: joy; gham: sorrow; gale se lag jaanaa: to embrace; rut: season; suhaanii: lovely, beautiful. 

venetian

A glimpse of Italy at The Venetian hotel from my recent vacation to Las Vegas.

gondola

Vegas’s replica of the Grand Canal–complete with gondolier and Italian serenades!

 

 

Neela Aasman So Gaya Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Amitabh Bacchan plays a writer who falls for Rekha’s timeless beauty in Silsila (1981)

Directed and produced by Yash Chopra, Silsila (1981) sparked controversy even before it was released. Rumors regarding the film’s casting spread throughout the industry, as its portrayal of a love triangle between Amitabh Bacchan, his wife Jaya Bacchan, and his alleged mistress Rekha was said to mimic reality. Today, we present the lyrics and English translation of a classic romantic ballad from Silsilaniilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa.

This film depicts a passionate romance between Amit (played by Amitabh Bacchan) and Chandni (played by Rekha) that cannot culminate in marriage due to unfortunate circumstances. After his brother (played by Shashi Kapoor) is killed in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Amit marries his brother’s pregnant fiancee in order to save her honor. Unable to pursue her love with Amit, Chandni marries Dr. Anand (played by Sanjeev Kumar). When Amit and Shobha are involved in a car accident (that causes Shobha to lose her baby), they are hospitalized and treated by Dr. Anand. Chandni sees Amit in the hospital, and this encounter triggers memories of their past love. Amit and Chandni give into their temptations and begin to rekindle their romance through clandestine meetings. The plot thickens when an evening rendezvous goes sour: Amit and Chandni must go to the police station after hitting a pedestrian while driving, and officer assigned to their case turns out to be Shobha’s cousin. How long can Amit and Chandni keep their adultery a secret? Will Amit and Chandni leave their spouses to be together? Silsila is worth a viewing to find out!

Although Silsila is not the first Bollywood film to depict extra-marital love, it is ground-breaking in its concrete portrayal of the consummation of adultery.  Indeed, this film compelled Indian audiences to think about extra-marital affairs and whether they can be cinematically romanticized in a way that appeals to the masses. Silsila offers some justification for the relationship between Amit and Chandni because they were a couple before Amit sacrificed his love to uphold his duty to his brother. However, the film portrays the tumultous decline of their extra-marital romance, eventually depicting Amit and Chandni as disloyal adulterers instead of righteous lovers. The uncomfortable subject matter is presumably the reason why this film failed to be a box office success. Regarding the audience’s reaction to Silsila, Yash Chopra has said:

 “The film had inherent tensions because of the casting coup. If I was confident of the project, it was because all the three artistes had individually assured me that there would be no problems at their end. And they kept their word. It was a film on extra-marital relationships and call it moral and societal pressures, but at the last minute, I developed cold-feet and thought that maybe the hero should come home to his wife. The original ended differently. When and why I changed the ending I don’t know, but I did so because I felt that the audience wasn’t ready. But the audience didn’t accept what we gave them either.”

Although audiences may not have reacted positively to its thematic content, the film has left a legacy of controversy that is still remembered today. The release of Silsila marked the end of the alleged affair between Rekha and Amitabh, but those associated with the Bollywood industry still discuss their love story more than 25 years later. At public events such as award functions, the media is unforgiving in keeping a close eye on how Amitabh, Jaya, and Rekha interact with each other!

Aside from its controversy, this film is also remembered for a number of special debuts. In Silsila, Yash Chopra introduced Shiv (santoor maestro Pt. Shivkumar Sharma) and Hari (flute maestro Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia) for the first time as composers of Hindi film music. Moreover, Javed Akhtar penned his first lyrics for a Hindi film in Silsila. The soundtrack for Silsila has a number of popular hits such as dekhaa ek khvaab and rang barse, but “niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa is especially noteworthy for its use of Amitabh Bacchan as a playback singer. Amitabh showcases his versatility as a performer by doing his own singing, which defied the conventions that had been established in the industry for years. Although he lacks the refinement of musical training, Mr. Bacchan can certainly hold a tune in his version of this ballad. A little bit past her prime, Lata Mangeshkar also offers a melancholic interpretation of the same song picturized on Rekha. Listen to both as you follow along with our translations, and let us know which version you prefer in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
AR

The first version of niilaa aasmaa.n showcases the passionate on-screen chemistry shared by Rekha and Amitabh Bacchan in Silsila (1981)

Neela Aasman So Gaya: Lyrics and Translation (Male)

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber.

os barse.n, raat bhiige, ho.nTh thharraaye.n
Dew falls, the night becomes drenched, and my lips quiver.
dhaDkane.n kuchh kahnaa chaahe.n, kah nahii.n paaye.n
Although my heartbeats desire to say something, they are unable to.
havaa kaa geet maddham hai
The breeze sings softly,
samay kii chaal bhii kam hai
while the time passes slowly.

merii baaho.n me.n sharmaate lajaate aise tum aaye
You came into my arms, shying away in embarassment, 
ki jaise baadalo.n me.n chaa.nd dhiire dhiire aa jaaye
like the Moon cautiously slipping into the clouds.
yah tanhaayii, yah mai.n aur tum
This solitude, you, and me. 
zamii.n bhii ho gayii gumsum
Even the Earth has fallen silent.

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber.

R

Rekha wallows in sorrow during the second version of niilaa aasmaa.n after Amitabh tells her that they cannot marry each other in Silsila (1981).

Neela Aasman So Gaya: Lyrics and Translation (Female)

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber. 

aa.nsuuo.n me.n chaa.nd Duubaa, raat murjhaayii
In my tears, the Moon has set and the night has withered. 
zindagii me.n duur tak phailii hai tanhaayii
Solitude has spread far into my life. 
jo guzre ham pe vah kam hai
What has happened to me thus far is a small beginning,
tumhaare gham kaa mausam hai
for I have just entered the season of sorrow for you.

yaad kii vaadii me.n guu.nje biite afsaane
Tales of the past resonate in the valley of memories. 
hamsafar jo kal the ab Thahare ve begaane
Yesterday’s companion is now a stranger. 
muhabbat aaj pyaasii hai
My love remains unquenched today.
baDii gahrii udaasii hai
I am overcome by a very deep sorrow.

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber.

Glossary

niilaa: blue; aasmaa.n: sky; os: dew; bhiignaa: to become drenched; tharraanaa: to quiver; dhaDkan: heartbeat; havaa: wind, breeze; maddham: dim, soft; samay: time; chaal: movement, passing; sharmaanaa: to shy away; lajaanaa: to be embarrassed; baadal: cloud; dhiire dhiire: cautiously; tanhaayii: solitude; gumsum: silent; murjhaanaa: to wither; phailnaa: to spread; yaad: memories; vaadii: valley; guu.njnaa: to resonate; afsaanaa: tale, story; hamsafar: companion: begaanaa: stranger; pyaasii: unquenched; gahraa: deep; udaasii: sorrow.

AJ

Amitabh Bacchan sacrifices his love for Rekha to marry his late brother’s pregnant fiance Jaya Bacchan in Silsila (1981).

 

Who Is Anthony Gonsalves?

anthonygonsalves amitabh

Amitabh Bachhan looks a befitting popinjay in top hat and monocle for the cult classic number “My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves.”

Who is Anthony Gonsalves? Even if you have but a fleeting knowledge of classic Bollywood, you’ll have come across the name before. Anthony Gonsalves is an enigma, a hero, and a forgotten figure in history. He is both legend and fact–a swashbuckling joker and a serious man of the world. But the truth is, few people appreciate the history while adoring the myth. His entrance into mainstream culture is unforgettable, one of the most famous scenes of the masala classic Amar Akbar Anthony (1977): It’s Easter Day and Parveen Babi has arrived at a friendly dance party with her bulging bodyguard. A mysterious over-sized egg is wheeled into the crowded room. Just when you think the spectacle is over, out bursts Amitabh Bachhan dressed as an Edwardian fop, complete with the astounding vocabulary of a deranged member of the House of Lords.

Anthony Gonsalves is a sacred tune in my house–our whole family loves the song, a particular favorite of my younger brother growing up. Everyone knows when to chime in with the sheepish “Excuse me, please!” or the womenfolk’s “Really?! WOW!” (pronounced, of course, “VOW!”) woven into the melody. But what many don’t realize is that Anthony Gonsalves nor his famously inane words are not entirely fiction.

anthony gonsalves egg

Amitabh Bachhan emerges from the life-sized party egg as a dapper Anthony Gonsalves in Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977).

Yes, folks, Anthony Gonsalves was real. Born in 1927 in the small Goan fishing village of Majorda, Anthony Prabhu Gonsalves was a genuine and highly influential figure in the Hindi film music industry of the 1950s. He worked as a violinist in the early 1940s with none other than great musical composer Naushad, and later taught violin to eager pupils R.D. Burman and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma (of Laxmikant-Pyarelal fame!) in his apartment in Bandra. It is in dedication to him, his old violin teacher, that Pyarelal composed this number and thereby immortalized one of the great unsung heros of the Bollywood music industry. Originally, Amitabh’s character was named “Anthony Fernandez” and Pyarelal personally requested director Manmohan Desai change the name to the now notorious “Anthony Gonsalves” to honor his teacher. The original Anthony Gonsalves orchestrated music for epics like Mahal (1949), Pyaasa (1957), and even founded the Indian Symphony Orchestra following his love for raaga-based music with a Western flair.

Tragically, Gonsalves passed away last year in 2012 after having left a legacy of Goan-Hindustani fusion jazz across the Indian continent. When Amar Akbar Anthony was released, the reclusive artist had already disappeared from the world of filmdom on a traveling grant from Syracuse University in NY. He remained in the states where he joined the American Society of Composers, Publishers, and Authors until a quiet return to Goa later in later years, his musical days long behind him. In 2010 a documentary entitled “Anthony Gonsalves: The Music Legend” based on his life and works won the Special Jury Award at the International Film Festival of India.

The real Anthony Gonsalves, musician

The real Anthony Gonsalves (1927-2012).

Still, most of us with forever associate the name “Anthony Gonsalves” with the blustering, idiotic, and highly endearing character played by Amitabh Bachhan in Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977). It’s impossible to brush by a song as outrageously absurd (and enjoyable!) as this one. Filled with trick photography and silly antics, the song does its best to grab the audience by the coattails and give them a good spin. You’ll probably wonder about the onslaught of random English words exploding out of Amitabh’s mouth between each stanzas. While most are indeed arbitrary 3-4 syllable English words intended to sound too fancy to bother comprehending (with disastrous and embarrassing results), the opening line shines above the others:

“Wait, wait wait! You see the whole country of the system is juxtapositioned by the hemoglobin the atmosphere because you are a sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity!”

True, that doesn’t mean anything in relation to this song or the film (and frankly the first part of that sentence doesn’t even mean anything to anyone who knows English), but let’s take a closer gander at that last bit. In 1878 British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli gave a speech in reference to his liberal rival and famous orator William Ewart Gladstone in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In the speech he spoke viciously of Gladstone as a “sophisticated rhetorician inebriated by the exuberance of his own verbosity”! Hmm..coincidence? I think not!

Parveen Babi My Name is Anthony gonsalves

Parveen Babi is totally buying all the crazy sauce Anthony Gonsalves has to sell at the Easter celebration in Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977).

So say what you want about the other lines (oh, that gosh darned country of the system), at least one was clearly influenced by something that at one point in time had been a logical thought. Perhaps we have Anand Bakshi to thank for that. Interestingly, a 2008 box office failure was released called “My Name is Anthony Gonsalves” based on the song, but its awfulness might attest to the fact that you can only get away with something as bizarre as this once. Check out the full video of the original to see what I mean here!

At last another Bollywood mystery solved–this one requested by loyal fan Neil! You may now sleep restfully at night once more! Until next time…

-Mrs. 55

Teri Bindiya Re Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Amitabh Bacchan marries a village girl with a golden voice in Abhimaan (1973)

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation of an evergreen duet from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Abhimaan (1975): terii bi.ndiyaa re . Starring Amitabh Bacchan and Jaya Bhaduri, Abhimaan narrates the story of an ill-fated love between two singers that eventually approaches it breaking point when a husband’s masculine ego suffers a wound from his wife’s overwhelming professional success.

Given that this film revolves around a playback singing couple, the composition of its soundtrack naturally demanded a music director par excellence. In this case, director Hrishikesh Mukherjee chose veteran composer S.D. Burman to do the job–and what a job he did! Aside from the duet presented here, the Lata solos “nadiyaa kinaare,” “ab to hai tum se,” and “piyaa binaa,” the Kishore solo “miit na milaa re man kaa,” and the Lata-Kishore duet “tere mere milan kii yah rainaa” are still cherished by fans today. S.D. Burman’s compositions in this film won him his last Filmfare Award for Best Music Director before his death in 1975.

The duet terii bindiyaa re is sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi at a point in the film where Amitabh Bacchan introduces his newly wedded wife Jaya Bhaduri at their wedding reception. In response to a request, they sing this duet for the guests at their party. Here, Majrooh Sultanpuri’s lyrics describe the allure of a woman’s ornaments, specifically her bi.ndiyaa (beauty spot), jhumkaa (earring), and ka.nganaa (bangle).  Voiced by Lata Mangeshkar on playback, Jaya Bhaduri offers an on-screen performance that illustrates a wife’s admiration and respect for her husband. Since this song takes place before Amitabh Bacchan’s tragic descent into insecurity, he is able to reciprocate with affection and warmth.  However, after this performance, a classical musician (played by David) in the audience recognizes that Jaya is the technically superior singer and expresses concern about the couple’s future…watch the film to see how the drama unfolds!

Those of you who are more musically inclined may have noticed that this song is based in rupak taal, a 7-beat rhythmic cycle that was used far less frequently by Bollywood composers than kaharva taal (8 beats) or dadra taal  (6 beats). Interestingly, S.D. Burman has also used this unconventional rhythmic pattern skillfully in the film’s other popular duet tere mere milan kii yah rainaa

What are some of your other favorite Hindi songs that describe female ornaments? Feel free to share with us in the comments! Until next time…

– Mr. 55

Jaya Bacchan gives a Filmfare Award-winning performance as a humble and talented singer whose success in the music industry ultimately hurts her husband’s ego.

Teri Bindiya Re: Lyrics and Translation

terii bi.ndiyaa re, re aay haay!
Your beauty spot, oh!
sajan, bi.ndiyaa le legii terii ni.ndiyaa
Oh beloved, my beauty spot will steal away your sleep.
re aay haay! terii bindiyaa re
Oh, your beauty spot!

tere maathe lage hai.n yuu.n jaise chandaa taaraa
It clings to your forehead like a star to the moon.
jiyaa me.n chamke kabhii kabhii to, jaise koii a.ngaaraa
It shines in my heart from time to time, as if it were a glowing ember.
tere maathe lage hai.n yuu.n
It clings to your forehead.
sajan, nindiyaa le legii, le legii, le legii merii bi.ndiyaa
Beloved, my beauty spot will steal away your sleep.
re aay haay! teraa jhumkaa re
Oh, your earring!
chain lene na degaa sajan tum kaa
It will not let you be at peace, beloved.
re aay haay! meraa jhumkaa re
Oh, my earring!

meraa gahnaa balam tuu, tose saj ke Doluu.n
You are my jewelry, beloved.  Adorning myself with you, I will dance.
bhaTakte hai.n tere hii nainaa, mai.n to kuchh na boluu.n
Your eyes wander, yet I say nothing at all.
meraa gahnaa balam tuu
You are my jewelry, beloved.
to phir yah kyaa bole hai, bole hai, bole hai teraa ka.nganaa?
Then, what is it that your bangle says?
re aay haay! meraa kanganaa re
Oh, my bangle!
bole re ab to chhuuTe na teraa a.nganaa
It says that it will not leave your courtyard.
re aay haay! teraa ka.nganaa re
Oh, your bangle!

tuu aayii hai sajaniyaa, jab se merii ban ke
Beloved, since you came to me and became mine,
Thuumak-Thuumak chale hai tu, merii nas-nas khanke
your strutting has made me feel a jitter in my veins.
tuu aayii hai sajaniyaa
Beloved, since you came to me.
sajan, ab to chhuuTe na, chhuuTe na, chhuuTe na, teraa anganaa
Beloved, it will not leave your courtyard.
re aay haay! teraa ka.nganaa re
Oh, your bangle!
sajan, ab to chuuTe na teraa a.nganaa
Beloved, it will not leave your courtyard.
re aay haay! teraa a.nganaa re
Oh, your courtyard!

*Female lines in red are sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Male lines in green are sung by Mohammed Rafi. 

Glossary

bindiyaa: beauty spot; nindiyaa: sleep; jiyaa: heart; chamkaanaa: to shine, glow; angaaraa: ember; jhumkaa: earring; sajan: beloved; gahnaa: jewelry; balam: beloved; tose: from you, an archaic form of ‘tujhse‘; sajnaa: to adorn; Dolnaa: to swing, dance; bhaTaknaa: to wander; nainaa: eye; kanganaa: bangle; chhuTnaa: to leave, forsake; a.nganaa: courtyard; sajaniyaa: beloved; Thumak-Thumak chalnaa: to strutter; nas-nas: veins; khanaknaa: to jitter.

In her first major non-vamp role, Bindu plays the ‘other woman’  as  a rich socialite who fawns over Amitabh Bacchan in Abhimaan (1973).

Meera Bhajans as Film Songs: The Saintlier Side of Bollywood

Meera-bai (c. 1498-1547 A.D) was a mystical poet and devotee of Lord Krishna

When most people think of Bollywood cinema, they usually think of extravagant costumes, seductive dance moves, and lots of melodramatic overacting. While all this extravagance is certainly an integral aspect of the industry, you may be surprised to learn about a saintlier side of Bollywood that I will discuss here today: the use of Meera-bai’s texts in Hindi film music.

Meera-bai was a 16th-century mystic whose devotion to Lord Krishna has been immortalized in Indian culture through her poetry and bhajans (religious songs). Meera, a Rajput princess, was married off to a prince at young age, but this marriage did not satisfy her as she already  considered herself the spouse of Lord Krishna. Her husband died in battle soon after their marriage and Meera became a widow at an early age. Meera transformed her grief into spiritual devotion and wrote many poems in praise of Lord Krishna.  In her texts, she worships Krishna from the perspective of a lover longing for union: romantic on one level and spiritual on another. Although her undying devotion to Krishna was initially a private matter, public moments of spiritual ecstasy soon outed her to society. Eventually, her brother-in-law became displeased with her excessive devotion for Krishna and made several attempts on Meera’s life. The most well-known story describes how he poisoned Meera’s prasad and made her drink it, but the Lord transformed the poison into amrit (spiritual nectar) to save her life.

Meera-bai’s texts express themes that are highly pertinent to  heroines in Hindi cinema from the Golden Era. Interpreting and contextualizing Meera’s love for Lord Krishna can be a challenging task, however, because of its apparently paradoxical relationship to acceptable gender norms for women at the time. On one hand, Meera could be considered the ideal Indian woman for the eternal devotion she displays toward her lover–in this case, Lord Krishna–in spite of all the obstacles placed in her way. The type of selfless devotion and sacrifice Meera-bai displays toward Krishna is the same type of devotion that Indian women in the chauvinistic climate of the ’50s and ’60s were expected to provide their husbands.  On the other hand, Meera-bai actually subverts the typical pativrata norms established by Indian society because her devotion is misplaced. Instead of serving her human husband, Meera devotes all of her love to Krishna, which is inconsistent with society’s expectations for the dutiful and virtuous Indian wife. This is further complicated by the fact that Meera, in her mind, actually considered herself to be the wife of Krishna (and supposedly conducted a marriage ceremony with a Krishna idol at a temple).

In any case, it is undeniable that Meera’s texts contain universal themes about love, pain, and devotion that have permeated several mediums of the South Asian cultural sphere. Here, let’s analyze a couple of examples in order to see how Meera’s words have been used in the context of Hindi film songs:

pag ghungruu bandh miiraa nachii re (Meera, 1947): Meera (1947) is a rare treat for lovers of Bollywood films because it is the only Hindi film ever made that features M.S. Subbulakshmi as both an actress and playback singer. M.S. Subbulakshmi, who was the first musician to be awarded the prestigious Bharat Ratna, is one of the most renowned vocalists in the history of the Carnatic musical tradition. Her singing is ethereal and sublime, and many people have praised her by saying she is modern-day personification of Meera-bai herself! Although she retired from films early in her career to pursue classical concert music, her portrayal of Meera in this film is remembered to this day for its natural and pure expression of spiritual divinity.  Words don’t do this woman justice, so just click the link and take a listen for yourself. I’ve selected one of about 20 Meera bhajans that are found in the film; in this particular poem, Meera uses the metaphor of dance to describe her love for the Lord. You may have noticed that the first line of this bhajan was used in another (much less saintly) Bollywood classic rendered by Kishore Kumar and composed by Bappi Lahiri from Namak Halaal (1982) decades later.

M.S. Subbulakshmi embodies the spiritual divinity of Meera-bai in the 1947 Hindi remake of the Tamil film Meera. 

ghunghaT ke paT khol re, tohe piiyaa mile.nge (Jogan, 1950): I have always thought that one of Geeta Dutt’s strengths as a singer was her rendition of bhajans. She shines here in this Raga Jaunpuri-based devotional composed by Bulo C Rani that has some beautiful words penned by Meera-bai. Literally, the first line translates roughly as  “remove your veil so that you can get a glimpse of your beloved.” However, on a deeper level, Meera-bai is using the veil as a metaphor for ignorance–she is asking us to remove our veils of ignorance so that we can be closer to the Lord.

erii mai.n to prem divaanii, meraa dard na jaane koii (Nau Bahar, 1952): Lata Mangeshkar is brilliant in her rendition of this Raga Bhimpalasi-based bhajan composed by Roshan and picturized on Nalini Jaywant  in Nau Bahar. Inspired by a Meera-bai poem, the words here describe how Meera’s devotion to the Lord can is best expressed through love, as she is unfamiliar with the traditional rites and rituals of worship.

 jo tum toDo piiyaa, mai.n naahii.n toDuu.n  (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, 1955):  V. Shantaram’s Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje was one of India’s first technicolor films when it was released in 1955.  In this Filmfare award-winning film, when the character played by Sandhya fears that she has destroyed her beloved’s (played by Gopi Krishna) dancing career, she becomes so depressed that she decides to reject all wordly pleasures and become an ascetic like Meera-bai. This Bhairavi-based bhajan composed by Vasant Desai is rendered beautifully once again by Lata, who succeeds in expressing the sentiment of Meera’s words about unconditional devotion to her Lord even if he is not faithful to her.

piyaa ko milan kaise hoye rii, mai.n jaanuu.n naahii.n (Andolan, 1977)Asha Bhonsle tends to employ a lot of over-the-top histrionics in her songs, but music director Jaidev manages to get Asha at her pure, unadulterated best with this soulful composition from Andolan picturized on Neetu Singh.

mere to giriidhhar gopaal, duusro na koii  (Meera, 1979): Directed by lyricist Gulzar, this film is yet another Bollywood biopic about Meera-bai, and Hema Malini takes the starring role here. Despite high hopes, this film achieved only moderate success at the box office. However, the film’s soundtrack of  compositions by sitar virtuoso Pandit Ravi Shankar has certainly left a memorable legacy. In this particular poem, Meera-bai’s words express her singular devotion to the Lord; there is no one else in the world for her except for her Lord Krishna. While Hema falls a little flat in her portrayal of Meera, Vani Jairam actually does a great job expressing the appropriate emotions needed in this rendition and in the rest of the songs on the soundtrack. However, as you may have suspected, Vani was not Ravi Shankar’s first choice of singer for this film–his first choice was none other than Lata Mangeshkar. Lata, however, turned him down, by using the following reasoning:

“How could I? I had already done Meera bhajans for my brother Hridaynath.”

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the non-filmi album of Meera bhajans released by Lata and Hridaynath. In fact, Lata’s rendition of a similar text  “mhara re giridhhar gopaal, duusra na koii” tuned by Hridaynath for this album is absolutely exquisite. However, her reasoning here doesn’t really make sense to me. Even before her album for Hridaynath, Lata had sung plenty of Meera bhajans for films (see above!) under the baton of other music directors, so I don’t see how this excuse constitutes a legitimate reason to refuse singing in this film. I suspect that her refusal had more to do with some lingering bad blood between her and Ravi Shankar from their prior collaboration on Anuradha (1960): apparently, tensions had flared between the two of them because Lata had failed to show up to a recording session of “saa.nvare saa.nvare” without prior notice. 

Hema Malini is way too attractive to pull off being an ascetic in Meera (1979)

 jo tum toDo piiyaa, mai.n naahii.n toDuu.n  (Silsila, 1981): Although this text is similar to the Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje song listed above, the melody is quite different because music directors Shiv-Hari have tuned this song to the Raga Chandrakauns, an underused raga that is quite rare in the filmi musical sphere. Lata, unfortunately, sounds a bit past her prime here, but this song is still memorable for Meera-bai’s words and their relevance to the contemporary situation at hand in the film. Similar to the real-life rumors that were rampant at this time, Jaya Bacchan’s character suspects that her husband (played by Amitabh Bacchan) is having an extramarital affair with another woman (played by Rekha). Meera-bai’s lyrics express the anguish and torment that Jaya feels in response to her husband’s infidelity, but she resolves to remain faithful to him even though he is not faithful to her. Interestingly, things also turned out this way in real life–Jaya stayed with Amitabh even though it was widely known within the film community that he had cheated on her with Rekha.

Jaya Bacchan laments her husband’s infidelity in Silsila (1981). Look at those eyes!

What are some of your favorite bhajans featured in Bollywood films? Let us know in the comments!
–Mr. 55