Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Directed by the renowned lyricist Gulzar, Aandhi stirred up quite the controversy after the film was released in 1975. Shortly after the release of Aandhi, India found itself in the midst of a national state of emergency instituted by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in response to the deep-seated political unrest and instability that had emerged across the nation. The 21-month Emergency of 1975-1977 is often viewed as one of the darkest eras in the political history of post-independence India: corruption, censorship, and the suspension of civil liberties threatened to compromise the basic principles upon which the nation’s democracy had been built. In this context, it’s not surprising that Aandhi was banned by the government during the Emergency on the grounds that the film’s protagonist bore an inappropriate resemblance to Mrs. Gandhi. As a result, certain scenes depicting the protagonist drinking and smoking were re-shot and an extra scene in which the protagonist tells her father that she idolizes Indira Gandhi (“ye hii to mere ideal hai.n“) was included to separate the film from real life. Although the parallels in appearance, mannerisms, and even the film’s title (Aandhi, meaning storm, rhymes with Gandhi) are undeniable, Gulzar explains in an old Filmfare interview that he never intended to base this film on the life of Indira Gandhi:

“Contrary to popular opinion, my story wasn’t based on Indira Gandhi’s life. It had nothing to do with Indira-ji. She was just the role model for the lady politician. Frankly, who better could there be? She was such a dynamic lady.”

SuchitraSen_Aandhi_IndiraGandhi

Suchitra Sen tells her father that she idolizes Indira Gandhi in a flashback scene that was added to Aandhi (1975) after the film was initially banned by the government.

With inspiration from a novel titled Kali Aandhi by Hindi author Kamaleshwar, Aandhi (1975) depicts the story of Aarti Devi (portrayed by Suchitra Sen) as she struggles to balance her professional ambitions with her quest for personal gratification while navigating through the volatile world of Indian politics. While traveling on the campaign trail, Aarti is caught by surprise when she runs into her estranged husband JK (portrayed by Sanjeev Kumar), who happens to be the owner of the hotel where she is staying currently. Nine years ago, the call to public service compelled Aarti to eschew her domestic duties and leave her husband and daughter in order to pursue her dreams of becoming a politician. After their unexpected reunion, Aarti and JK cultivate a tender but awkward relationship as they reminisce about memories from their past and come to realize that they still have unresolved feelings for each other after all these years. Through an artistic use of flashbacks, we learn about the development of Aarti and JK’s early romance, the disapproval of their marriage by Aarti’s father, and the eventual breakdown of their relationship. Their domestic conflict evolves into an Abhimaan-esque clash of egos and personalities, and they eventually decide to part ways after several failed efforts to maintain a happy marriage.

Su

Suchitra Sen sports Indira Gandhi’s trademark silver streak in Aandhi (1975).

Ultimately, Aandhi illustrates the complexities of an evolving relationship between two individuals who share mutual respect and affection for each other but are unable to reconcile their differences to converge seamlessly on the same path. In addition to providing a mature and realistic view of human relationships, Aandhi sheds light on the unique challenges that confront Indian women in positions of power as they attempt to balance their professional and personal lives. Although Aarti wins her election at the conclusion of the film, this victory is made bittersweet as she grapples with an unfortunate reality: professional success and domestic bliss were often mutually exclusive for Indian women of her time.

SK

The Martand Sun Temple near Anantnag, Kashmir serves as a gorgeous backdrop for this classic song from Aandhi (1975).

In addition to Gulzar’s skillful direction and the captivating performances delivered by Suchitra Sen (her diction is excused!) and Sanjeev Kumar, Aandhi is remembered most often today for its soundtrack of stunning songs composed by R.D. Burman using Gulzar’s poetry. Each Lata-Kishore duet is a gem and serves to illustrate a different facet of Aarti and JK’s relationship in the film. In particular, the classic “tere binaa zindagii se koii” is a tender and wistful expression of regret and lost love. Without the frills of an elevated vocabulary, this song boldly questions: can living life without the one you love be considered a life at all?

Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikwa: Lyrics and Translation

tere binaa zindagii se koii shikvaa to nahii.n, shikvaa nahii.n
I have no complaints against a life without you.
tere binaa zindagii bhii lekin zindagii to nahii.n, zindagii nahii.n
Yet a life without you is not a life at all.

kaash aisaa ho tere qadamo.n se
I wish that, from your footsteps,
chunke manzil chale.n aur kahii.n, duur kahii.n
we could find a new destination; somewhere else, somewhere far.
tum gar saath ho manzilo.n kii kamii to nahii.n
With you by my side, there is no shortage of destinations for us to reach.

SK: suno Aartii, ye jo phuulo.n kii bele.n nazar aatii hai.n na?
Listen Aarti, do you see those things that look like flower vines?
darasal ye bele.n nahii.n, arabii me.n aayate.n likhii.n hai.n.
In fact, they are not vines. They are verses written in Arabic.
ise din ke vaqt dekhnaa chaahiye, bilkul saaf nazar aatii hai.n.
We should see them during the day. They can be read very clearly.
din ke vaqt yah saaraa paanii se bharaa rahtaa hai.
During the day, this whole place is filled with water. 
din ke vaqt jab ye phuvaaare

During the day, when these fountains…

SS:  din kii baat kyo.n kar rahe ho? kahaa.n aa paauu.ngii mai.n din me.n?
Why do you keep talking about the day? How will I come here during the day?

SK: yah jo chaand hai na? ise raat main dekhnaa.
Do you see this Moon? Watch it at night.
yah din me.n nahii.n nikaltaa.

It does not come out during the day. 

SS: yah to roz nikaltaa hogaa.
But the Moon comes out every night.

SK: haa.n, lekin biich me.n amaavas aa jaatii hai.
Yes, but the dark fortnight comes in between.
vaise to amaavas pandrah din kii hotii hai.
The dark fortnight usually lasts 15 days.
lekin is baar bahut lambii thii.
But this time, it felt much longer.

SS: nau baras lambii thii na?
It felt as if it were nine years long, no?

jii me.n aataa hai tere daaman me.n
I yearn to seek refuge in your bosom
sar chhupake ham rote rahe.n, rote rahe.n
to hide my face as I continue to weep.
terii bhii aa.nkho.n me.n aa.nsuuo.n kii namii to nahii.n
Are your eyes not clouded by the mist of fresh tears, too?

tum jo kah do to aaj kii raat
If you say so tonight,
chaa.nd Duubegaa nahii.n, raat ko rok lo
even the Moon will not wane. Please stop the night from passing!
raat kii baat hai, aur zindagii baaqii to nahii.n
We only have tonight, for the rest of our lives will not be shared together.

tere binaa zindagii se koii shikvaa to nahii.n, shikvaa nahii.n
I have no complaints against a life without you.
tere binaa zindagii bhii lekin zindagii to nahii.n, zindagii nahii.n
Yet a life without you is not a life at all.

*Female lines in red are sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Male lines in green are sung by Kishore Kumar.  The dialogue takes place between Sanjeev Kumar (SK) and Suchitra Sen (SS). 

Glossary

shikvaa: complaint; qadam: footstep; chunnaa: to select; manzil: destination; kamii: shortage, dearth; bele.n: vines; darasal: in fact; aayate.n: verses; phuvaare: fountains; amaavas: dark fortnight; pandrah: fifteen; baras: year; daaman: lap, bosom; aa.nsuu: tear; namii: moistness; chaa.nd: Moon. 

SK

After rumors circulate regarding her nightly meetings with Sanjeev Kumar, Suchitra Sen reveals to the public that she has been meeting her estranged husband in Aandhi (1975).

Did you know that this song was based on a Bengali melody originally composed by R.D. Burman for a Durga Puja album in the 1970s? Listen to “jete jete pathe holo deri” to hear this melody sung by the composer himself! When Gulzar heard R.D. Burman working on this song with Bengali lyricist Gauriprasanna Mazumdar, he enjoyed the song so much that he wrote Hindi lyrics for the tune so it could be included in Aandhi. When Gulzar inserted the iconic “nau baras lambii thii, na?” dialogue in between antaras of this song, he reports in the same interview that R.D. Burman was not pleased:

“So we kept the original tune for the mukhda, and he composed something else for the antara. But when I inserted some dialogue into the lyrics, Pancham scolded me, “’Do you have any idea of sur and taal? You cut in with your dialogue anywhere you want. It’s not done!”’ But we did it!”

They certainly did something right, as this song has become immortalized as one of Hindi film music’s most treasured creations. Thanks to our reader Raju for requesting this post! Until next time…

-Mr. 55

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Bollywood’s Beloved Sopranos: Lata and Asha’s Highest Notes

I feel like we’ve all been in this situation at some point: one of your favorite aunties steps up to the microphone at the annual Diwali function, and you have a sinking fear in your heart that she’s going to embarass herself by butchering another Lata classsic on stage. As she struggles through the sky-high notes of the antara, you cringe and ask yourself why you’re here again, subjecting yourself to this torture…

Well, it turns out it’s not entirely her fault. The reality of the situation is that Bollywood songs from the Golden Era tend to be pitched at extremely high scales for the average female singer. Unless a woman is a veritable soprano like Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhonsle, it is going to be quite a challenge for them to sing many of the classic songs from this period in their original keys. The high-pitched soprano female voice has become a hallmark of Hindi film music, and I’d like to explore this phenomenon in greater detail with this post.

Two sisters who changed playback singing forever: Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.

Why are Bollywood songs for females from the Golden Era pitched at astronomically high scales? I don’t know for sure, but I definitely have a few ideas that could explain this trend. First, the high-pitched female voice is consistent with the image of the ideal Indian woman that was prevalent during the 1950s and 60s. The soprano register suggests innocence and purity, which enhanced the traditionally feminine perceptions of heroines advanced by film directors of the time. Lata Mangeshkar  is the ultimate example of this phenomenon; her voice, with its ethereal purity, has been considered the traditional female voice of India for decades. However, this explanation is less pertinent to Lata’s younger sister Asha Bhonsle. The voice of Asha, who was widely known for her experimentation with non-traditional genres such as the cabaret, is not a national emblem of purity in the same way as her elder sister’s. For this reason, an alternative explanation is needed to describe the popularity of the soprano female voice in Bollywood, and I would venture to say that this alternative explanation is rooted in musical origins. Before the arrival of the Mangeshkars onto the filmi musical scene, female singing in Hindi films was dominated by artists with heavy, nasal voices, such as Suraiyya and Shamshad Begum. Once music directors had the opportunity to work with the Mangeshkars, things changed forever: the nasalized heavy female voices were out and the delicate soprano voices were here to stay. After Lata and Asha became established as playback singers, I would argue that  music directors of the time pushed the boundaries of their compositions in terms of range to test and showcase the virtuosity of these two exceptional talents.

Before we take a listen to some of Lata and Asha’s highest highs throughout Bollywood’s musical history, explaining a little bit of musical nitty-gritty is necessary to fully appreciate the gist of what’s going on here. From my experiences with transcribing and performing many songs from this era, I would estimate that the vast majority (perhaps 90%?) of songs composed for Lata and Asha max out at F5 or F#5 (two F/F#’s above middle C on the piano) as their highest note. Therefore, in the brief list  of high notes that I’ve compiled below, I’ve only chosen to include those rare songs that surpass the typical upper limit of  F#5. Songs for both singers are listed in order of ascending pitch of the composition’s highest note.

Keyboard labeled with note names and frequencies. C4 is taken as middle C. The high notes listed here range from G5 to C6.

Lata Mangeshkar: Selected High Notes

 jhuumta mausam mast mahiinaa (Ujala, 1959):  In this Lata-Manna duet composed by Shankar-Jakishan, Lata nails a G5 (taar komal ga in the key of E) when she repeats the “yalla yalla” line in the taar saptak (high octave) at the end.

ajii ruuThkar ab kahaa.n jaayiega?  (Aarzoo, 1965): Shankar-Jaikishan is once again the culprit here: listen as Lata reaches an Ab5 (taar shuddh ma in the key of Eb) in the antara of this gem picturized on Sadhana from Aarzoo. Regarding the high pitch of this song, Lata has said:

“I remember “ajii ruuThkar ab kahaa.n jaayiegaa” in Aarzoo (1965). What a high pitch that was! My ears reddened when I sang it. But I stubbornly sang at that impossible scale, refusing to admit defeat to any range. I would get very angry and sing at any range without complaining. Composers would take full advantage of my silence and keep raising the scale. In fact, I used to have arguments with Jaikishan. I would ask him, “kyaa baat hai, aap merii pariksha le rahe hai.n? mai.ne aap kaa kyaa bigaDaa hai jo aap meraa kaan laal kar rahe hai.n? (What’s the matter? Why are you testing me? What have I done that you should trouble me so much to redden my ears?)’

jiyaa o jiyaa kuch bol do (Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, 1961): The tandem effect described below with “ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par” is also observed here. Lata gives it her all as she reaches a Ab5 (taar komal ni in the key of Bb) in the antara of the female tandem version of the fun Rafi classic from Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai.

rasik balmaa (Chori Chori, 1957):  This Raga Shuddh Kalyan-based Shankar-Jakishan composition is one of my all-time favorites! Lata hits a G#5 (taar shuddh ga in the key of E) when she sings the antara.

Nargis in a melancholic mood as she sings “rasik balma” from Chori Chori (1957)

ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par (Junglee, 1961):  The Rafi version of this number is an all-time classic. Although the Lata version is less popular, it is still beautiful in its own right and brings up an interesting point about scales in tandem songs from this era. In almost all cases that I can think of, music directors made the female singer of a tandem song sing her versions in the same key as the male verion. Because men tend to be more comfortable in the higher register of their voices than women, this practice often put the female playback singer at a disadvantage when it came to hitting the highest notes of the composition. But who else would be up for the challenge of adjusting to the “male scale,”  if not Lata Mangeshkar? She hits a G#5 (taar shuddh ga in the key of Ein the antara of this evergreen Shankar-Jakishan composition based in raga Yaman. Regarding the difficulties of singing tandem songs, Lata has remarked:

Actually, “ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par” was only meant to be sung by Rafi. But the film’s hero, Shammi Kapoor, suddenly decided that the heroine should sing it as well. It was picturised with Rafi’s voice on Saira Banu and later dubbed by me. So I had to sing it in the same sur as Rafi. The same was done with “jiyaa o jiyaa kuch bol do.

tere baadalo.n kii khair (Champakali, 1957): This Bhairavi-based composition composed by Hemant Kumar and picturized on Suchitra Sen is not as well-known as the rest of the songs on this list, but it’s worth mentioning for the A5 (taar ma in the key of E) that Lata hits  at its conclusion.

ahaa rimjhim ke yeh pyaare pyaare geet  (Usne Kaha Tha, 1960):  Salil Chowdhury was known for his incorporation of ideas of Western classical music into his Indian compositions. As an example, he has Lata sing an operatic-style counterpoint passage here in which she reaches an Bb5 (atitaar sa in the key of Bb) against Talat’s rendering of the mukhda at the end of this composition. Subtle, but exquisite!

aa ab laut chale.n (Jis Des Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960): Shankar-Jaikishan score another point here with this patriotic composition from Jis Des Mein Ganga Behti Hai. Mukesh and Lata both sing this song, but it is not structured as a prototypical romantic duet. Mukesh takes the main lines while Lata provides a few supporting lines and interesting background vocals, including the virtuosic glide in which she nails an Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Eb) with finesse.

aaja bha.nvar/jhananana jhan baaje paayalia (Rani Roopmati, 1957): Both of these drut bandishes based in Raga Brindavani Sarang and composed by S.N. Tripathi from Rani Roopmati are truly virtuosic by Bollywood standards. Lata sounds so impressive when she nails the Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Bb) at the end of both “aaja bha.nvar” and “jhananana jhan.” In addition to showing off her range, Lata also showcases her classical training and vocal dexterity as she navigates through a host of intricate taans in both songs. I have to say Lata’s virtuosity leaves Rafi in the dust in the duet here (sorry, Mrs. 55!).

Nimmi sings “aaja bhan.var” in Rani Roopmati (1957)


ham ramchandra kii chandrakala me.n bhii
 
(Sampoorna Ramayana,
1961): The Mangeshkar sisters team up here to sing a duet from Sampoorna Ramayana composed by Vasant Desai. It’s somewhat interesting to note that the song here is actually picturized on two pre-pubescent boys, who are receiving playback from female singers. At the end of the song, there is a dramatic ascent in the melody until both sisters climax at a powerful  Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Eb).

ai dil kahaa.n terii manzil
 (Maya, 1961): Salil Chowdhury makes another contribution to our list with this composition rendered by Dwijen Mukherjee (a noted Bengali singer with a voice similar to Hemant Kumar’s) and Lata. Like “aa ab laut chale.n,” this duet is not structured traditionally; rather, Dwijen sings the main lines and Lata provides background support. Lata sounds heavenly as she hits a Bb5 (taar shuddh dha in the key of Db) in one of Salil’s signature opera-inspired vocal passages.

woh ek nigaah kyaa milii 
(Half-Ticket, 1962): To the best of my knowledge, Salil Chowdhury wins the contest for having recorded Lata’s voice at its highest pitch in the history of Bollywood cinema with this composition.  In this duet with Kishore Kumar picturized on Helen, Lata manages to hit  the elusive soprano C6 (taar shuddh dha in the key of Eb) in the second staccato sequence of the interlude played between stanzas. Her voice is so high here that it blends in naturally with the instrumental piccolo parts.  Nailing a staccato passage in the soprano register like this is incredibly impressive for a vocalist trained in the Indian tradition (in which the emphasis is not placed on vocalizing at the extremes of one’s range)–brava, Lata, brava!

Asha Bhonsle: Selected High Notes

sakhii rii sun bole papiihaa us paar (Miss Mary, 1957): You get the opportunity to hear some some sibling rivalry in this Hemant Kumar composition loosely based on Raga Tilang from Miss Mary! Lata (on Meena Kumari) and Asha (on some rando actress I can’t recognize) duke it out at the end with some intricate taans, but Asha actually takes the more complex passages and touches an Ab5 (taar shuddh ma in the key of Eb)in her last taan here. For those keeping score, Lata also hits the same note in her taan right before.

Meena Kumari in a rare non-tragic role in Miss Mary (1957)

dil na kahii.n lagaanaa (Ghunghat, 1960): I hadn’t heard this Ravi composition picturized on Helen before doing research for this post, but it’s quite special. The song is divided into several differents segments with lyrics in four different languages: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali (a cover of Geeta Dutt’s classic “tumi je amar“), and Punjabi. During in an alaap in the final Punjabi segment, Asha manages to hit an A5 (taar shuudh re in the key of G).

tarun aahe ratra ajunii (Non-Film):  This composition by Hridaynath Mangeshkar is a Marathi bhavgeet, so I guess it technically doesn’t belong on the list. Even though I don’t understand the Marathi lyrics, this is one of my favorite Asha songs because the tune and rendition are simply sublime. Here, the line “bagh tula pusatos aahe” begins on Bb3 and climbs up to A5 (taar shuddh ni in the key of Bb) with the ornament Asha sings on the words “gaar vaaraa.” In the span of one musical line, Asha covers nearly two octaves of vocal range–wow!

suunii suunii saa.ns kii sitaar par (Lal Patthar, 1971): This Shankar-Jakishan composition picturized on Rakhee from Lal Patthar is a beautiful example of the use of Raga Jayjayvanti in filmi music. In a passage towards the end of the song (beginning at 3:13), Asha touches a Bb5 (taar komal ga in the key of G). She also finishes the song off with some powerful taans. For comparison, see Shankar-Jakishan’s Jayjayvanti beauty from Seema sung by Lata (note the exquisite taankari at the end!): manmohana baDe jhuuThe

daiyaa mai.n kahaa.n aa pha.nsii (Caravan, 1971): This song from Caravan is probably remembered more for Asha Parekh’s crazy dance moves than its musical underpinnings, but this song is composed in a manner that is rather unique for Bollywood music. Most songs in Bollywood are sung at a fixed tonic (sa), but R.D. Burman experiments with a musical technique all too familiar to those who listen to 90s Western pop: the key change. He goes wild here by changing the tonic of the song by half-steps multiple times, and Asha hits a Bb5 during a transition at the very end.

Asha Parekh hides herself on stage during the performance of “daiyaa mai.n kahaa.na aa pha.nsii” in Caravan (1971)

aa dekhe.n zaraa (Rocky, 1981): Despite my aversion to Bollywood music from the 80s, I still decided to include this song on the list for the Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Eb) that Asha manages to yell out at around 2:20.

nadii naa re na jaao shyaam (Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963): In the alaap of this Jaidev composition picturized on Waheeda Rahman, Asha nails a G#5 and briefly touches a B5 (taar pa in the key of E) before descending to pitches that are more comfortable for the average mortal.

tu mi piaci cara (Bewaqoof, 1960):  This cute S.D. Burman composition sung by Asha and Kishore features an opening line in Italian. Maybe it was the Italian lyrics that inspired S.D. Burman to have Asha sing some background operatic passages in addition to her normal lines. During one of these passages before the second-last antara, Asha hits a B5 (taar ma in the key of F#).

jo mai.n hotaa ek TuuTaa taaraa (Chhupa Rustam, 1973): This composition by S.D. Burman rendered by Asha and Kishore features some more opera-like passages at its conclusion. Asha is impressively comfortable as she nails a B5 (ati-taar sa in the key of B)  several times in a row as counterpoint against Kishore’s rendering of the mukhda!

o merii jaa.n maine kahaa (The Train, 1970): You wouldn’t expect this fun item number composed by R.D. Burman and picturized on Helen from The Train to be particularly virtuosic in terms of vocals, but Asha actually hits the a B5 (ati-taar sa in the key of B) in the song’s opening line with her leap on the word “kahaa.” For those of you listening very carefully, it’s important to keep in mind that the film version appears to be transposed a half-step higher than the album version of this song.

If you’ve managed to pay attention so far and take a listen to some of these songs, you may have noticed some interesting trends when comparing the high notes rendered by our two beloved Bollywood divas. After taking a look at the years I’ve listed next to each song, you’ll notice that all of Lata’s highest notes on this list span a range of nine years from 1956 to 1965, while Asha’s highest notes range over 24 years (!) from 1957 to 1981. The broad range of years in which Asha hit her high notes might provide evidence to those who support the notion that Asha’s voice aged better than Lata’s over the decades. But there is one caveat: the manner in which these two divas produce their high notes is distinct and may play a role in mediating this trend. If you listen carefully, you can hear that Lata always employs her “chest voice” to belt out the notes of a composition, even at the highest registers. On the other hand, Asha often employs her “head voice,” the more commonly used technique by female singers to access high notes. Head voice has a softer, gentler sound because it resonates around the nasal cavity instead of the chest during vocal production. This technique of singing is traditionally forbidden in the Indian classical tradition, so purists might consider some of Asha’s highest highs as “cheating”–head voice is sometimes even referred to as naqlii avaaz (fake voice). I’m not so much of a purist that I would discredit Asha for using her head voice in these compositions, but I will venture to say that, if asked to do so, she would not be able to hit the notes of the high soprano register in her later years using her chest voice as gracefully as Lata did during her peak.

Another interesting trend to note is how different music directors composed differently to suit the individual styles of  Lata or Asha. Although all the music directors on this list have worked extensively with both sisters, the music directors who asked Lata to sing at her highest range are not the same as the music directors who asked the same of Asha. Shankar-Jaikishan and Salil Chowdhury, by far, contribute to Lata’s highest record pitches whereas R.D. Burman and S.D. Burman seem to have saved their highest notes for Asha. Just some food for thought.

R.D. Burman teaches Asha Bhonle during a rehearsal session.

Please let us know if you find any more examples of Lata and Asha’s highest highs that are not on this list! I have attempted to find the best examples, but given the vast repertoire of Bollywood film music, I may have naturally missed out on some that are worth mentioning. Also, if you enjoyed this post, let us know in the comments and I’ll try to do some similar-themed posts in the future–perhaps next, we can take a listen to Lata and Asha’s lowest recorded notes or a an analysis of the Bollywood tenor’s highest highs? The possibilities are endless!

-Mr. 55

O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Sadhana wistfully enjoys the rain in "o sajna barkhaa bahaar aayii" from Parakh (1960). Because she plays the role of a village girl here, she was instructed to get rid of the characteristic "fringe" hairstyle seen in her later movies in order to avoid looking too glamorous!

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.

A musically timeless duo: playback singer Lata Mangeshkar and music director Salil Chowdhury

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.

–Mr. 55

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.

Glossary

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.