Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil Lyrics & Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Biswajeet fedora bees saal baad

Biswajeet looks dapper in a fedora even as he is haunted by a ghost in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Happy Halloween! In honor of the ghostly holiday, today we are showcasing one of Bollywood’s spookiest songs “Kahin Deep Jale” from the film Bees Saal Baad (1962). Loosely based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Bees Saal Baad is a textbook film in the study of Hindi film noir. Ghungroo bells echo throughout a long-abandoned mansion. A sad woman’s song fills the night air. Something lurks deep within the marshes, beckoning the viewer closer with every haunting dolly shot through the tall grass. The scene set, Bees Saal Baad weaves an enticing murder mystery that torments us with the thematic imagery of shadows and light as chandeliers sway and silhouettes vanish into the night.

Like a moth drawn to a flame (note the classic Bollywood metaphor that plays a critical role in “Bees Saal Baad”), dapper Londoner Biswajeet cannot resist returning to his ancestral home in Chandangarh and seeking out the truth behind a series of crimes that has plagued the village for 20 years. As the mystery unravels, he falls in love with a local goat shepherdess (played by Waheeda Rehman) who is forbidden from marrying him due to the “curse” marring his family.

There are a number of shady characters who could be the culprit at the dark heart of this whodunnit. Is it the soft-spoken doctor who is next in line to inherit the family fortune? The bug-eyed servant? Or perhaps it is the creepy romantic rival with an oily mustache? None are more despicable than the hero’s own grandfather who had committed the far-reaching crime of raping a beloved village girl 20 years prior to the film’s main action. Vaguely intrigued? You should be.

"Kahin Deep Jale" opens with a beautifully framed overhead shot of Biswajeet playing the piano moodily, literally engulfed by the flames in the chandelier (above). The camera then floats to eye level as he hears the sound of a woman singing in the distance (below). 

“Kahin Deep Jale” opens with a beautifully framed overhead shot of Biswajeet playing the piano, symbolically engulfed by the flames in the chandelier (above). The camera then floats to eye level as he hears the sound of a woman singing in the distance (below).

“Kahin Deep Jale” is the film’s dangerous Siren song broken composed by Hemant Kumar in Ragaa Shivranjani. Other famous songs in this ragaa are Awaaz Deke, Dil Ke Jharoke Mein, and Mere Naina Saawan Bhado, and Shivranjani is a ragaa best performed at midnight (no kidding, right?). We compiled a list of the spookiest songs of classic Bollywood and “Kahin Deep Jale” rightfully made the top three (see which song made #1 here!).  Lyricist Shakeel Bayaduni and playback singer Lata Mangeshkar won the Filmfare award in 1962 for their work on “Kahin Deep Jale”!

Director Biren Nag would go on to make Kohra released 2 years later in 1964 (a remake of Hitchcock’s Rebecca), also starring Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet. Kohra is an even more gorgeously directed film that learned from the mistakes in timing and absent character nuance of Bees Saal Baad. I recommend you binge on all of these films today, we are not judging.

Waheeda Rehman Bees Saal Baad

Waheeda Rehman finds herself at the center of a decades old mystery in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

We hope you enjoy the Halloween festivities safely with friends and family! Set the mood by following along with the video here. Fans of the song may be fascinated to hear that parts of the orchestration used in the movie after the chorus that is a full octave lower than the one heard in the recorded version! I find the whole atmosphere becomes even more frightening as a result. Check out our lyrics and English translation to “Kahin Deep Jale” below!

Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil Lyrics & Translation:

kahii.N diip jale kahii.N dil…
Somewhere a candle burns, somewhere a heart…
zaraa dekh le aa kar, parvaane
Come closer and take a look, moth
terii kaun sii hai manzil?
Which destiny is yours?
kahii.N diip jale kahii.N dil…
Somewhere a candle burns, somewhere a heart…

meraa giit tere dil kii pukaar hai
My song is the calling of your heart
jahaa.N mai.N huu.N, wahii.N teraa pyaar hai
Wherever I am, your love is there
meraa dil hai terii mehfil
My heart is your only company
zaraa dekh le aa kar, parvaane
Come closer and take a look, moth
terii kaun sii hai manzil?
Which destiny is yours?
kahii.N diip jale kahii.N dil…
Somewhere a candle burns, somewhere a heart…

na mai.N sapnaa huu.N, na koii raaz huu.N
I am neither a dream nor a secret
ek dard bharii aavaaz huu.N
I am a voice filled with sorrow
piiyaa, der na kar, aa mil
Beloved, do not delay, come meet me
zaraa dekh le aa kar, parvaane
Come closer and take a look, moth
terii kaun sii hai manzil?
Which destiny is yours?
kahii.N diip jale kahii.N dil…
Somewhere a candle burns, somewhere a heart…

dushman hai.N hazaaro.N yahaa.N jaan ke
Here there are a thousand enemies of life
zaraa milnaa nazar pehchaan ke
Just make eye contact and recognize them
kaii ruup mei.N hai.N qaatil
Murderers come in many colours
zaraa dekh le aa kar, parvaane
Come closer and take a look, moth
terii kaun sii hai manzil?
Which destiny is yours?
kahii.N diip jale kahii.N dil…
Somewhere a candle burns, somewhere a heart…

Glossary:

diip: candle; jalnaa: to burn; dil: heart; dekhnaa: to look; parwaanaa: moth; kaunsii: which; manzil: destination; giit: song; pukarnaa: to call out; pyaar: love; mehfil: company, gathering; sapnaa: dream; raaz: secret; dard: pain; bharaa: full; awaaz: voice; piyaa: beloved; der karnaa: to delay, to be late; dushman: enemy; hazaar: thousand; jaan: life; nazar milnaa: to make eye contact; pehchaan karnaa: to recognize; ruup: colour; qaatil: murderer

Ghost Bees Saal Baad

A shadowy figure haunts the mansion and surrounding marshes of Biswajeet’s ancestral home in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Dying for a little more? The Bengali predecessor of “Kahin Deep Jale” from Jinghasa (1951) can be heard here, also composed by Hemant Kumar. There is a familiar echo of the eerie alaap that later made it to the Hindi version!

While “Bees Saal Baad” does have a handful of things that are scary for the wrong reasons (the bumbling detective hired to investigate the mystery, Waheeda Rehman’s cutesy village girl one-liners clearly written by a man, and the cheesy glove used in the murder scenes), the camerawork is mesmerizing and there is a legitimately satisfying plot twist at the end. Make sure to peruse our translation of Lata Mangeshkar’s creepy “Naina Barse” from that sublime noir film Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) if you dare!

– Mrs. 55

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Beqarar Karke Humen Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Waheeda Rehman Bees Saal Baad

Mysterious and beguiling, Waheeda Rehman catches the eye of Biswajeet, heir to a legacy of misfortune, in the film noir classic, Bees Saal Baad (1962)

Today we showcase the lyrics and English translation of Hemant Kumar’s “Beqarar Karke” from the film Bees Saal Baad (1962). We often talk about seductive songs and cabaret numbers in classic Hindi films, but invariably those songs are sung by bad girl Helen or a femme fatale who entices our hero down the wrong path. “Beqarar Karke” is different. Sung by that luscious and versatile vocal genius, Hemant Kumar, the song dangerously pulls our heroine into its spell of seduction in broad daylight. It’s not often that we get a song of temptation sung by a dude, and when we do, it’s heaven (no, literally, Hemant Kumar has the voice of God). The brilliance of Hemant Kumar’s composition are in its unexpected opening guitar chords. Set in the rural village of Chandanghat, the film’s atmosphere suddenly becomes infused with jazz and heart-pounding anticipation as Kumar’s voice dips through the first word of the song, leaving everyone as “beqarar” as he foretells. The surprising Western lilt marked Biswajeet as solid hero material! Bees Saal Baad was Biswajeet Bombay debut, and originally, it was Bengali superstar Uttam Kumar who had been the first choice as lead. Fortunately, singer-music director-producer Hemant Kumar lobbied for relative newcomer Biswajeet, and after working diligently to clean up his Bengali accent when speaking Hindi, launched his career!

Bees Saal Baad tells the eerie tale of a nobleman, played by the dashing Biswajeet, who returns to the village where his forefathers were mysteriously murdered. A staple of Bollywood film noir, Bees Saal Baad explores the darkness of the old feudal system with a satisfyingly sick twist ending. But no Indian film noir is complete without romance, and soon after arriving to his ancestral home, Biswajeet naturally falls for the coy village belle (acted superbly by Waheeda Rehman). Unused to his slick city ways, she falls hard for him when he surprises her with a flirtatious serenade in the countryside. With lyrics penned by Shakeel Badayuni, “Beqarar Karke” teases us with glimpses of innocent romance mingled with a fatalistic warning that defines the film. Biswajeet recalls:

I remember during the shooting of the song sequence, “Beqarar Karke Hame.N”, Biren Nag instructed me not to touch Waheeda Rehman, but ooze romance with my looks and smile. I followed him exactly and it was Waheeda Rehman’s regal and serene screen presence which lit up the silver screen during the shot.

Low Angle Shot Bees Saal Baad Bekarar Karke

Above: Director Biren Nag constructs a clever low angle shot of Waheeda Rehman teetering on the edge of a cliff as Hemant Kumar aptly croons, “Yuu.N qadam akele na aage baDhaaiye.” Below: Seconds later, Biswajeet smoothly slips in for the rescue hug, staring down at the viewers in triumph.

He sort of broke his rule there when he went in for the rescue hug, but we know you’re going to swoon over this song as much as Waheeda! Try to grab control of your beating heart and check out the video for “Beqarar Karke” here as you follow along with our English translation and lyrics below!

Beqarar Karke Humen Lyrics and Translation:

Beqaraar karke hame.N yuu.N na jaaiye
Please do not go away like this and make me restless
Aap ko hamaari qasam lauT aaiye
For my sake, please come back
Dekhiiye woh kaali kaali badaliyaa.N

Look at those small dark clouds above
Zulf kii ghaTaa churaa na le kahii.N
May they not steal away the clouds of your hair
Chorii chorii aake shokh bijliyaa.N
The mischievous lightening comes secretly
Aap kii adaa churaa na le kahii.N
May they not steal away your elegance
Yuu.N qadam akele na aage baDhaaiye
Do not walk forward alone like this
Aap ko hamaare qasam lauT aaiye
For my sake, please come back

Dekhiiye gulaab kii woh Daaliyaa.N
Look at those rose branches
BaDh ke chuum le na aap ke qadam
May they not come and kiss your feet as you walk
Khoye khoye bha.Nware bhii hai.N baagh mei.N
Bumblebees are also hidden in this garden
Koi aap ko banaa na le sanam
May one of them not make you their own
Bahakii bahakii nazaro.N se khud ko bachaaiiye
Save yourself from their roving gazes
Aap ko hamaare qasam lauT aaiye
For my sake, please come back

Zindagii ke raaste ajiib hai.N
The paths of life are strange
In mei.N is tarah chalaa na kiijiiye
Please do not walk across them like this
Khair hai isii mei.N, aap ki huzuur,
For your welfare, your majesty
Apnaa koi saathii DhoonDh liijiiye
Please find yourself a companion
Sun ke dil kii baat yuu.N na muskuraaiiye
Please do not smile upon hearing these words of my heart
Aap ko hamaare qasam lauT aaiye
For my sake, please come back

Beqaraar karke hame.N yuu.N na jaaiye
Please do not go away like this and make me restless
Aap ko hamaare qasam lauT aaiye
For my sake, come back

Glossary:

beqaraar: restless; yuu.N: like this, in this manner; [kisi ke] qasam: [for someone’s] sake; lauT aanaa: to come back; kaalii: dark; badalii: [small] cloud; zulf: hair; ghaTaa: cloud; churaanaa: to steal; chorii chorii: quietly, sneakily; shokh: mischievous; bijlii: lightening; adaa: elegance, style; qadam: footsteps; aage: forward; baDhaanaa: to advance; gulaab: rose; Daal: branch; chuum: kiss; khoyaa: lost; bha.Nwaraa: bumblebee; baagh: garden; bahakaa: flowing, roving; nazar: glance, gaze; khud: self; [kisii ko] bachaanaa: to save [someone]; zindagii: life; raastaa: path; ajiib: strange; is tarah: in this manner; khair: welfare, good; aap ki huzuur: my honor, your majesty; saathii: companion; DhoonDhnaa: to search; dil: heart; baat: words; muskuraanaa: to smile

A quick note for the Hindi-Urdu grammar aficionados: Did you know aap ki huzoor has the same significance as mere huzoor? Bizarre, right?! Both statements confer a title of respect and superiority, despite opposite possessive pronouns (similar to “your honor” versus “my lord”). Huzoor, deriving from the Arabic hudoor denoting royal presence and still written in Nasta’liq with a zuaad, is a formal address found in many Urdu lyrics of Bollywood’s golden age (remember “Huzoor-e-wala” from Yeh Raat Phir Na Aaayegi (1965)?).

Biswajeet Bees Saal Baad

Like a dark cloud in a black turtleneck, Biswajeet glistens against the sky in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Big shout-out to fans Ravi Shankar and Sundar who requested this game-spitting winner! For another inspiring Hemant Kumar composition and solo masterpiece, don’t miss “Tum Pukar Lo” from Khamoshi (1969).

– Mrs. 55

Spooky Songs of Classic Bollywood: The 15 Most Haunting Melodies of Yesteryear

Biswajeet Bees Saal Baad film noir kahin deep jale

Biswajeet is haunted by a mysterious voice singing of love and murder in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Happy Halloween! What better way to give yourself the creeps than with a vintage Hindi film song! Mr. 55 and I once hosted a Spooky Song-themed study break on-campus during which we projected old Hindi film noirs on a large screen, drank rooh afza and jammed nerdily to Lata’s high notes. Was it any surprise the two of us were the only ones really having an awesome time? Join us in our countdown to the spookiest song of classic Bollywood! When I say scary, I’m not referring to Vinod Khanna’s lime green tuxedo in Aan Milo Sajna (although it might give you nightmares). I’m talking about the real deal here. These are songs that will keep you up at night, that will haunt your waking moments as you grapple with the symbolism. And if you see a mysterious woman in a white-sari floating around your house this evening…well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

The Fifteen Scariest Songs from Old Hindi Films!

15. Tujhko Pukare Mera Pyar (Neel Kamal 1968)

Few things are scarier than being buried alive. Rajkumar haunts his Mughal-era lover through the ages even when she is reborn as a 1960s desperate housewife.

14. Gagan Jhanjhana Rah (Nastik 1954)

This song is a hidden gem. Hemant Kumar actually impersonates God in this song with a voice that booms from the heavens amidst a stormy apocalpyse. The chorus is so darn creepy in this song, you might feel real chills from the wind sound effects mixed into the song!

13. Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

What makes this song so spooky and yet so beautiful? It’s all in the lighting and the spectres lingering in the room–read our translation for more!

12. Jayen To Jayen Kahan (Taxi Driver 1954)

In our translation of this all-time creeper, we discuss the emptiness of the song’s mis-en-scene to heighten a feeling of abandonment, leaving you nothing but Dev Anand’s perfect pompadour to ease the pain.

11. Akele Hain Chale Aao (Raaz 1967)

While the movie Raaz may be a clunk, “Akele Hain” (that is reprised in a male and female version!) will certainly leave you clawing after your security blanket. Insider hint: Rajesh Khanna takes his shirt off later on in the movie if you can sit through the rest of the film.

10. Raat Andheri (Aah 1953)

In this heartbreaking social drama, Raj Kapoor plays a handsome tuberculosis patient unable to marry the girl of his dreams because of his illness. In the throes of self-pity, the minor key music haunts him as his own life slips away. Tragic, yes, but mostly just creepy.

9. Sau Baar Janam Lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad 1963)

Mohammed Rafi’s unearthly beautiful voice echoes through the mist in this song like a phantom from the other world. The woman in mourning seems ready to commit suicide at any moment during the song, keeping the audience on their toes!

8. Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

This gentle song of disillusioned love beckons you in like a tantalizing dream, and then drags you to perdition as you scream over the ethereal chorus. Our earlier translation of Dekhi Zamane discusses the transitions of the song from fantasy to absolute nightmare!

7. Koi Duur Se Aawaz De Chale Aao (Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam 1962)

One of my favorite songs in this genre, Guru Dutt is awakened in the middle of the night by a tender lament floating through the halls of the large empty mansion in which he works. Who is this mysterious and sad woman with the enchanting song? You HAVE to watch this genius star-studded film and find out!

6. Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din (Mera Naam Joker 1970)

Good thing I don’t have a fear of clowns or this song would have permanently wrecked my childhood. Raj Kapoor plays a circus performer who has lost all those he has ever loved. He enters a private Hell in which he is bound to perform in his clown garb to an unfeeling audience, always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. Brace yourself for several attempts at artsy camera tricks to make him float that could not be more creepy.

5. Gumnaam Hai Koi (Gumnaam 1965)

Based on the Agatha Christie novel “And Then There Were None,” Gumnaam is a kitsch-lovers delight. Drop-dead gorgeous (literally) Lata Mangeshkar’s voice haunts a group of travelers as they meander through a nameless forest. Newsflash! The “ghost” of this song actually chimes in with a high-pitch thrill when the music goes quiet, so listen carefully!

4. Naina Barse (Woh Kaun Thi? 1964)

One of the best examples of a femme fatale in Hindi films, “Naina Barse” is sung by a ghostly woman haunting her lover from a former lifetime. Her flowing white sari against the endless, crisp white snow of a Simla winter set the perfect stage for a nightmare. The woman in a white sari is a classic cliche–read more about its meaning here!

3. Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil (Bees Saal Baad 1964)

This song hardly needs an introduction, so famous is its eerie tune. One of the most brilliant shots is the slow crane down from above the chandelier to Biswajeet’s horrified stare at the piano. But has anyone else ever noticed the film version has the interlude violins playing an entire octave lower than in the recorded version?? It totally blew my mind when watching the film–and both ways are equally horrifying!

2. Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat (Kohra 1964)

Stylistic symbolism sets this creepster apart from its competitors. My favorite moment in this song is when the shadow figures do an interpretive dance in the sand, acting out the “choDo piyaa mera, choDo haath” line. I get chills every time I watch this–the cinematography is genuinely brilliant and haunting!

1. Aayega Aanewala (Mahal 1949)

Welcome to the spookiest song of Bollywood! Nothing will ever top the song that officially taught Bollywood everything it needed to know about horror. Don’t expect any corpses to pop out of the closet–this song is way to classy for that. See our translation of this unbeatable classic for more!

So…I know I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. What are your favorite spooky songs from Bollywood films? Tell us the scenes that have haunted your waking hours for years (think Sadhana declaring “Mujhe khoon achha lagtaa hai” on a rainy night)! Mr. 55 and I both hope you have a very Happy Halloween!

– Mrs. 55

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails...

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails…tie a chunni on your head.

The Glorification of Alcohol in Hindi Cinema

A study released in April of this year claimed that Indian adolescents aged 12-16 exposed to alcohol consumption in films were nearly three times more likely to drink than their peers who did not watch Bollywood movies. While this study most likely pertains to the movies released in the industry today, I would venture to say that the origins of this trend can be traced back to films from the Golden Era of Bollywood cinema. Indeed, the consumption of alcohol has been glorified on India’s silver screen for decades, especially through portrayal of sharaab (alcohol) songs in films. Here, I’ve compiled a list of my five favorite male and female sharaab numbers from the Golden Era–let’s take a closer look at these examples to examine how the consumption of alcohol has been portrayed cinematically and its implications on Indian culture.

“Girls Just Want To Have Fun”

In Bollywood’s earliest days, drinking alcohol in films was portrayed as a strictly masculine activity, à la Devdas and other Bollywood heroes who have famously drowned their sorrows in liquor. In contrast, the idealized image of the traditional Indian woman did not permit the depiction of female alcohol consumption in the media.  This trend began to change in the 60s when films depicted heroines and female actresses playing roles in which they partook in the consumption of the Devil’s nectar, just like their male counterparts. As you can see below, the contexts in which female characters drink vary from film to film: alcohol has been used by the women of Bollywood as a coping mechanism, a means of revenge, or just a way to have a good time.

na jaao saiyaa.n (Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, 1962): In this film based on a Bengali novel by Bimal Mitra, Meena Kumari gives one of her career’s best performances as Chhoti Bahu. Chhoti Bahu is married to young zamii.ndar (played by Rehman), who neglects his wife at home in order to take part in debauchery at local brothels on a nightly basis. In desperate need of her unfaithful husband’s companionship, she decides to take up drinking in order to keep him away from those pesky courtesans at night. In this heartbreaking song sung by Geeta Dutt, Chhoti Bahu drunkenly entreats her husband to stay at home and spend the night with her. In a truly unfortunate example of art mimicing real life, both Geeta and Meena would succumb to alcoholism as a way to cope with their unhappy marriages in the coming years. For those of you who enjoy this song, be sure to check out Hemant Kumar’s Bengali version of the same tune: “olir katha shune.

Meena Kumari, as Chhoti Bahu, tragically turns to alcoholism in Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam (1962).

piike hum tum jo chale aaye hai.n (Gumnaam, 1965): This film (reviewed by us here) is a suspense thriller loosely based on the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. The story revolves around seven vacationers who find themselves on a remote island in the middle of nowhere after a plane crash. One by one, they are murdered off and the big question is, of course: whodunnit? In the midst of all this tension, two of the vacationers, Miss Kitty (played by Helen) and Asha (played by Nanda), decide to loosen up and have some fun with a few drinks. In this comical duet sung by Asha Bhonsle and Usha Mangeshkar, the two actresses appear to be having the time of their lives in a drunken stupor on screen. I mean, who wouldn’t be having a good time if they were getting drunk with Helen?

Helen and Nanda get sloppy together in Gumnaam (1965). If you excuse the stumbling, Helen actually looks quite sophisticated in this scene because she’s not wearing one of her characteristically outrageous wigs/outfits.

aao huzuur tum ko (Kismat, 1968): This Asha-OP Nayyar collaboration is an all-time classic from the soundtrack of Kismat (along with “kajraa muhabbatvaalaa“). The film’s narrative is so outrageous that it’s not even worth summarizing here, but this song is picturized on the actress Babita, who is the mother of Karisma and Kareena Kapoor. Babita never managed to gain much success as a heroine, and that’s not surprising given that it’s unclear whether she is drunk or undergoing eplipetic fits in this particular scene. She certainly does make a statement though and manages to embarass the hero Biswajeet with her public intoxication at this party. Regardless of the picturization, Asha Bhonsle adds all the right expressions here to make this an unforgettable sharaab number on the basis of the song alone. Her vocal control in the extended introduction (“ham se raushan hai chaa.nd aur taare...”) before the song’s first stanza is especially commendable. 

Babita has probably had one too many in this scene from Kismat (1968)

kaise rahuu.n chup (Inteqaam, 1969): Inteqaam is an entertaining (but occaisionally illogical) thriller that stars Sadhana as a woman who seeks revenge against her former boss because he framed her for a theft that she did not commit. As part of her elaborate plan for revenge, she intends to marry her boss’s son (played by Sanjay Khan) and bring shame to his entire family by revealing that the new bahu is, in fact, a convicted criminal! In this song, Sadhana further embarasses her boss’s family by  acting extremely intoxicated under the influence of alcohol at a public gathering. (Technically, this might not be considered a genuine sharaab song because Sadhana is putting on a facade of being drunk without actually consuming, but I liked this song too much to pass up putting it on the list.) This soundtrack composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal is particularly memorable today because it casts a different light on Lata Mangeshkar, who was considered to be staunchly conservative and traditional in her playback output.  Lata surprises us all by agreeing to sing two sizzling cabaret numbers in addition to this drinking song for the film–listen to her nail those hiccups during the interludes!

Helen serves Sadhana another glass in Inteqaam (1969)

piyaa tuu ab to aajaa (Caravan, 1971): Asha Bhonsle and R.D. Burman come together to produce one of their biggest musical hits together with this classic item number from Caravan. Asha’s performance here solidified her status as the queen of cabaret singing in Hindi cinema. Furthermore, Helen’s portrayal of a nightclub dancer on screen during this song is considered the quintessential Bollywood cabaret performance. Helen’s dance moves are completely outrageous here but she makes it work somehow (see Mrs. 55’s step-by-step breakdown here). Given the ridiculousness of the situation here, you can’t really blame Helen for the heavy drinking…it certainly doesn’t stop her from completely owning the stage during her performance!

Helen gives one of the best cabaret performances of her career in Caravan (1971)

“Alcohol May Be Man’s Worst Enemy…”

Unlike their female counterparts, the men of Bollywood cinema have been imbibing alcohol since the industry’s earliest days. The most popular context for male drinking in Hindi films occurs when the hero resigns himself to heavy drinking in order to drown his sorrows, usually caused by woman-related heartbreak. While female characters are often stigmatized for their drinking and public intoxication, it is more acceptable for men of the silver screen to use alcohol consumption to deal with their grief.  Other contexts where actors are depicted consuming alcohol include scenes of male-male bonding (bromances, anyone?) and seduction of heroines and courtesans. Though Bollywood has glamorized the consumption of alcohol for both genders, the effect is far more pronounced for males, as evident in the examples I’ve selected below.

mujhe duniyaavaalo sharaabii na samjho (Leader, 1964): Even though its soundtrack is full of gems like “tere husn kii kyaa tariif karuu.n” and “ek shahanshah ne banvaa ke ek hasii.n taaj mahal,” Leader is one mess of a film starring Dilip Kumar and Vijayantimala. Dilip Kumar stars as a law graduate and aspiring political revolutionary who falls in love with a princess (played by Vijyantimala). The script has so many holes that it’s difficult to discern the overall message of this film, but there are some scenes of comic relief between Vijayantimala and Dilip Kumar that are worth remembering. By far, however, the main attraction here is the soundtrack composed by Naushad. In this particular number, an intoxicated Dilip Kumar claims that he has been forced to take up drinking to grapple with society’s evils.

Vijayntimala tries to stop a drunk Dilip Kumar from embarassing himself too much at this party in Leader (1964).

din Dhal jaaye (Guide, 1965): Where do I even begin with the praise for Vijay Anand’s Guide? Mrs. 55 and I both love everything about this film: the unique story written by R.K. Narayan, the stellar performances by Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, and of course, the unforgettable soundtrack composed by S.D. Burman. Each and every song from this film is an absolute gem. In this particular Rafi solo picturized on Dev Anand, the hero drowns his sorrows about lost love in alcohol. The melancholic expression that pervades throughout this scene is enhanced by the beautifully crafted lyrics and tune.

Dev Anand turns to the bottle when love goes sour in Guide (1965).

chuu lene do naazuk ho.nTho.n ko (Kaajal, 1965): With this Rafi number penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and composed by Ravi, Raaj Kumar tries to get Meena Kumari, his on-screen shaadi-shudhaa (virtuous) wife, to come to the dark side by having a drink. Alcohol glorification occurs is at its finest in these lyrics: it is referred to as “mubarak cheez,” or a blessed thing.  Meena Kumari excels, as usual, at looking incredibly uncomfortable and disturbed by Raaj Kumar’s advances in this scene.

A drunk Raaj Kumar tries to get Meena Kumari on his team in Kaajal (1965).

jo unkii tamanna hai barbad ho jaa (Inteqaam, 1969): This film certainly features a lot of alcohol consumption on screen. In addition to the drunk Lata number discussed above, this Rafi solo from Inteqaam is picturized on Sanjay Khan as he laments being a mere object in Sadhana’s plans for revenge. Rajinder Krishan’s lyrics are exquisite in their ability to capture the essence of being deceived in love.

Handsome Sanjay Khan turns to alcohol to get over Sadhana’s deception in Inteqaam (1969)

yeh jo muhabbat hai (Kati Patang, 1970): Directed by Shakti Samanta, this film features an evergreen soundtrack composed by R.D. Burman. This particular number sung by Kishore Kumar is one of Bollywood’s most treasured drinking songs, and it features a handsome and bitter Rajesh Khanna drinking the night away because he was stood up at the altar by his wife-to-be.  Asha Parekh watches from a distance, not yet aware of the fact that she is the woman responsible for his heartache.

Rajesh Khanna drinks another glass of liquid courage before singing about the pain of disloyal love in Kati Patang (1970).

What are some of your favorite sharaab/daaru songs from Bollywood films? Let us know in the comments! We’ll understand if your typing is a little bit off…
Mr. 55

Which Actor Did Hemant Kumar Sing For Best?

Hemant Kumar (1920-1989) was a legendary Hindi and Bengali film music composer and singer.

Hemant Kumar (1920-1989) was a legendary Hindi and Bengali film music composer and singer.

In classic Bollywood cinema, playback singers could make or break the career actor. Famous actor-singer pairings are legendary. The voice of the singer became the soul of the actor and once a perfect match was made, it was hard to separate them without upheaval. Who could imagine anything but the manly voice of Kishore Kumar with the face Rajesh Khanna? Or the playful sweetness of Mohammed Rafi with fun-loving Shammi Kapoor? When Mukesh passed away, Raj Kapoor (for whose career Mukesh lent his illustrious talent) famously burst into tears and announced, “I have lost my voice.”

But occasionally we find a rogue player in Hindi film music. Hemant Kumar stands out as a unique character, a difficult man to place in the rankings. For he was not merely a singer, but a legendary music director as well in both Hindi and Bengali cinema. Hemant Kumar was heavily influenced by Rabindrasangeet (like his contemporary S.D. Burman!), and first broke into the Bengali industry as a music director in 1947, the year of Indian independence. Hemant Kumar’s unmatched virtuosity led him to not only sing many of the hit songs of the 50s and 60s in Bombay himself, but he actually formed his own production company that made classics such as Bees Saal Baad (1962), Kohra (1964), and Khamoshi (1969). In the 70s he even dabbled as a film director with moderate success.

Hemant Kumar recording a song with Lata Mangeshkar

Hemant Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar during the studio recording of “Nain So Nain” from Janak Janak Paayal Baaje (1955).

But for me, it was as a singer that Hemant Kumar always shines and also the category in which history has given him the shaft. His voice was absolutely unlike any other in the industry–a deep and soulful richness that no one could touch. Interestingly, for a man whose talents were so diverse, Hemant Kumar never took to acting and singing his own songs on screen (à la Kishore Kumar). Instead, he sang for a myriad of rising and great actors across the decades–never branding himself with a single artist. Hemant Kumar remained a maverick, and for it, is often brushed aside.

So I now pose to you the question–which actor do YOU think Hemant Kumar sang for best? His voice graced the images of many men, but did it work for all of them? Your contestants are Guru Dutt, Dharmendra, Biswajeet, Dev Anand, and Shammi Kapoor. We present five songs below that illustrate some of Hemant Kumar’s finest collaborations with these actors and the cinematic chemistry that ensued.

1. Guru Dutt: Jaane Woh Kaise

The voice of tragedy, Hemant Kumar sings for Guru Dutt in this timeless lament from Pyaasa (1957). Guru Dutt, who often played the tragic poet, seems a natural choice for the resonant tones of Hemant Kumar in this song that has become iconic for all awkward dinner party songs.

2. Dharmendra: Tum Pukar Lo

Discussed in a previous post, Khamoshi (1968) is a heart-wrenching film about love, loss, and insanity. Although you don’t see much of Dharmendra’s face in this sequence, his subtle performance matches the song’s patient yearning with a hint of a Western flair. But to me, as an actor Dharmendra is somehow too shallow to be worthy of a Hemant Kumar solo. Maybe that’s just me?

3. Biswajeet: Yeh Nayan Dare Dare

A tender sequence from the film Kohra (1964), this song embodies the sweet side to Hemant’s voice that comes in the middle of a spooky film noir. I’m not going to pretend that Biswajeet is anything but a joke, but for me this pairing works–Hemant’s sweet vocals and Biswajeet’s confident, but appeasing motions to Waheeda are a pleasing combination.

4. Dev Anand: Yeh Raat Yeh Chaandni Phir Kahaan

God, I love it. I’ll be the first to tell you that no one sang better for Dev Anand than Mohammed Rafi, but this song is something else. I’ve discussed this sequence already in our earlier translation of the song, but let me just repeat that Hemant Kumar in a seductive mood blends beautifully with that longing gaze of Dev Anand’s. It’s just so exciting and rare, not to mention compliments Dev Anand’s semi-gravely voice in this film.

5. Shammi Kapoor: Aye Dil Ab Kahin Lejaa

This is another beautiful Hemant Kumar tragedy with a touch of mystery. Shammi is clearly giving it his all in this song, but somehow, I think it just doesn’t come together. Shammi Kapoor is too much of a hot mess for me to believe anything but Mohammed Rafi coming out of his mouth–the resonant voice of Hemant seems incongruous with those histrionics, despite its unarguable beauty.

And the winner is…?

I’m gonna have to say Guru Dutt–that song is just sublime on every level, but I’m open to discussion. Who do you think matched Hemant Kumar’s voice best? Let us know YOUR opinion in the comments!

-Mrs. 55

P.S. Wondering why we didn’t mention female playback singers here? It’s because the female side of things worked very differently, ie., it was Lata and Asha or bust. Every actress had them, and with the occasional Geeta Dutt or Shamshad interlude, there was no room for a “signature” playback artist per actress (although Lata will argue she “changed” her voice depending on the actress–more on this to come!)

Defining Bollywood Film Noir

Sadhana enters a graveyard as the femme fatale of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

In the U.S. historians and film theorists have debated for decades about the meaning of the elusive term: “film noir.” Although many of us conjure an image of a hard-boiled detective and a mystery made more mysterious by the femme fatale, few “film noirs” actually contain these elements. This so-called genre had its roots in German Expressionism with films like Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and in depression-era crime novels. But what does the term “film noir” mean as it applies to Hindi cinema? What are the hallmarks of this genre as it played out in Bollywood and how did it begin?

I will present five films that I propose to be in the genre of Indian film noir. This is no easy task. Just as the term is vague in the American lexicon, so too does it only hazily engulf a variety of Hindi films with low-key lighting. And so I shall begin with an illustrative example. We can debate the precise definition of the genre until the end of time, but I think I can safely say that whatever Indian film noir is, Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) is Indian film noir.

Woh Kaun Thi? has 4 main basic elements. The first is in its distinct cinematographic style and setting—low-key lighting throughout a mysterious mansion and slow unhurried shots with a somber film score to match. The film gives a sense of the world being trapped in a fatalistic dream, whether alone by a graveyard or in a crowd of dancing people.

The second is the film’s overall tone and pacing—there is an uncomfortable sense of being pursued, of an impending doom unless a mystery is solved in time by the hero. Unlike in American film noir, the hero is no cynic and there is no quick sardonic dialogue to off-set the dreary mood. The hero is instead a righteous and innocent man of affairs, an heir to a fortune who becomes a victim. Though mingled with occasional musical highs, the film spirals from a slow and deliberate set-up to a climax closer and closer to complete ruin.

An interesting element of many American film noirs is the flash-back structure, which takes on an interesting form in their Indian counterparts. Woh Kaun Thi? centers around a mysterious background that occurred in the protagonist’s past life. Because the audience of Hindi films was largely composed of practicing Hindus, the world of reincarnation narrative is able to begin on a new and creatively extremely fertile ground. The hero must revisit through song, hearsay, and secrets events that took place in a past life, but whose consequences (whether karma or otherwise) now haunt him. This is the third element.

Fourthly, the film does indeed revolve around the appearance and (mis)guidance of the femme fatale, who is heard singing alluring, tragic songs. The hero is never able to wholly communicate with her, but her intentions are clearly marked with a deadly undertone. The femme fatale remains an elusive character–sometimes he chases after her, sometimes she chases after him—when her story is fully told, only then can the mystery be solved.

The films below can be placed into the category of Indian film noir along with Who Kaun Thi?:

Mahal (1949): Perhaps the grandfather of this genre, Mahal tells of a man tortured and madly in love with an apparition who haunts his mansion and claims a connection from an earlier life. The film also features the haunting vocals of Lata Mangeshkar’s all-time hit Aayegaa Aanewaalaa.

Madhubala mesmerizes Ashok Kumar in Mahal (1949)

Madhumati (1958): This classic Vijayantimala-Dilip Kumar blockbuster is told in flashback to a previous lifetime of the murder of the woman the hero still loves. The gently alluring Aajaa Re Pardesi encompasses the film’s themes of love and debts spanning several lifetimes.

Vijayantimala is reincarnated to find her lover once more in Madhumati (1958)

Bees Saal Baad (1961): A rich man comes to live in his new mansion and must solve a tragedy and murder that occurred 20 years earlier. The film contains a brilliant surprise ending, and Lata Mangeshkar scores once again with the beautiful Kahin Deep Jale, Kahin Dil.

Biswajeet follows a mysterious voice in Bees Saal Baad (1961)

Kohra (1964): This twist on Hitchcock’s Rebecca is told through the eyes of a female protagonist, living in a large, unexplored mansion that is haunted by the apparition of her husband’s first wife. Waheeda Rehman must discover the true circumstances surrounding the first wife’s death before she is driven insane. The song of the femme fatale (Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat) is an absolutely genius and rare example of symbolic imagery in montage to create a feeling of horror from the song.

Waheeda Rehman sees a ghostly vision atop her mansion roof in Kohra (1964)

There are some films that contain one or more of the above elements that I have not classified as Indian film noir. These include Mera Saaya, Gumnaam, and Karz, for different reasons–often overall tone or cinematographic style. Additionally, others might argue that these films should not be categorized at all as Indian film noir, but rather as Indian gothic horror films or other such genres. Watch some of these classics and let us know your take on this chapter in cinematic history!

– Mrs. 55

Lata Goes Cabaret!

A true fan of old Bollywood movies is all too familiar with the wonderfully awkward genre of songs known as cabaret numbers. Don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Here at Mr. and Mrs. 55, we don’t judge our readers based on their taste – even if this includes a love for uncomfortably suggestive lyrics, flamboyant dance moves, and scantily clad B-grade actresses. Despite my initial aversion to these types of songs, I have learned to appreciate cabaret numbers for their showiness and sheer entertainment value.

Helen sizzles in her portrayal of "aa-jaan-e-jaa.n" on screen in Inteqaam (1969)

In terms of vocals, the queen of cabaret numbers in those days was the ever-versatile Asha Bhonsle. Asha’s voice was perfect for this type of song; she had the right combination of seduction, silkiness, and charm to execute cabaret songs with finesse.  In fact, Asha’s skill in performing cabaret numbers (think piiyaa tuu ab to aajaa from Caravaan and yeh meraa dil from Don) is one way in which she carved a niche for herself in the industry to emerge from the shadows of elder sister Lata Mangeshkar. However, although Asha was the dominating force when it came to the cabaret genre, you may be surprised to know that Lata also sung her fair share of vamp songs in films. Generally known for her conservative and purist reputation, Lata’s take on this genre is markedly different from her sister’s style: she avoids Asha’s over-the-top histrionics in favor of a more quiet (yet effective) seductive appeal. Let’s take a look at the following examples to see how Lata fares when she goes cabaret:

  1. aa jaan-e-jaa.n, aa meraa yeh husn jawaa.n.  This song from Inteqaam (1969) is perhaps the most well-known example of Lata singing cabaret, and she really nails the execution here by slowly and subtly seducing the listener with her enchanting vocals. Although Lata had an understanding with most music directors that she would not agree to sing cabarets, Laxmikant-Pyarelaal assured her that this song would not be problematic because it was composed with her style and artistic vision in mind. We’re grateful that Lata compromised here because, in my book, this song is one of the finest examples of cabaret singing in Hindi cinema.
  2. mehfil soyii, aisaa koii hogaa kahaa.n. Although this is the second lesser-known cabaret number by Lata in Inteqaam, it’s almost as good as the first. Like aa jaan-e-jaa.n, Lata’s silky vocals and understated seduction make this a cabaret to remember. The little stacatto “oh” that Lata adds to each antara is absolutely precious.
  3. is duniyaa me.n jiinaa ho, to sun lo merii baat. This song from Gumnaam (discussed earlier by Mrs. 55 here) might not qualify as a cabaret using a strict definition, but it’s certainly worth mentioning because it is one of Lata’s best songs picturized on Helen. In an otherwise grim and suspenseful thriller, this song composed by Shankar-Jaikishan provides some interesting contrast with its light-hearted, frothy spirit. The second line of this song’s mukhda has always confused me: “gham chhoD ke manaao rang-relii, man lo jo kahe kitty kelly.” Helen’s character is probably referring to herself in the third-person, but where the heck did this “Kitty Kelly” nickname come from?
  4.  jiinevaale jhuum ke mastaanaa ho ke jii. Penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and composed by Chitragupta, this rare number sung by Lata in Vaasna (1968) has a different feel to it from the typical cabarets we know and love. While its lyrics and music aren’t quite as sultry as the other cabarets here, this song is worth a listen as a strong example of music directors from this time period experimenting with Western fusion. I especially enjoyed the lilting interludes composed by Chitragupta, who was a music director from the Golden Age known for his stylish orchestration.
  5. mera naam rita christina. Though Helen was the undisputed diva of the vamp genre, there are the occasional instances where cabarets were picturized on other actresses. Saira Banu, looking stunning as ever in a red dress, seduces Biswajeet (watch him pretend like he doesn’t love it) with this fun number from April Fool (1964). I won’t say that this is one of Lata’s best renditions, but this song composed by Shankar-Jaikishan was immensely popular when it was released — so much so that it was banned by the Vividh Bharati radio station for being “culturally inappropriate.”

    Saira Banu in "mera naam rita christina" from April Fool (1964)

  6. aur mera naam hai jamiilaa. Before Laxmikant-Pyarelaal had composed the songs in Inteqaam that shot Lata to cabaret super-stardom, they wrote this song for her a couple years earlier in Night in London (1967). Supposedly, Laxmikant-Pyarelaal had traveled to London to become inspired by the locale while writing the music for this film. I’d say they did an excellent job of capturing the right spirit: Lata shines here with a cabaret that is tailored to suit her style. Even if you hate the song, be sure to watch the video for this one because I know you don’t want to miss out on Helen dancing scandalously while she’s surrounded by a gaggle of shirtless men.

After taking a listen to these examples, do you think Lata had what it took to pull off the cabaret genre? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @themrandmrs55.

–Mr. 55