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
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Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaakar Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

The mehfil for the qawwali looks particularly vibrant in the recolored version of Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Directed by K. Asif, Mughal-e-Azam (1962) is one of the most cherished films in the history of Bollywood cinema. Although several films have been made around the same premise, Mughal-e-Azam is by far the most well-known depiction of the forbidden love story between Prince Salim and courtesan Anarkali.  We could write (and probably will) at least ten different posts to describe all the things we love about this movie: the intricate Urdu dialogue, the beautiful soundtrack composed by Naushad, the elaborate costumes and set design, the heartwrenching plot, and so on. Here, I’d like to  share the lyrics and translation for one of many gems found in this film’s soundtrack: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazmaakar.

This qawwali is set between Anarkali (played by Madhubala) and her chief rival Bahar (played by Nigar Sultana) as a musical debate on the nature of love. As both women fight for his affections, Prince Salim (played by Dilip Kumar) watches the performance and is supposed to give a rose to the winner of the debate at its conclusion.The back-and-forth debate style of these lyrics is quite a rare find in Bollywood cinema, and it is even rarer to encounter such lyrics (penned by Shakeel Badayuni!) as a female-female duet. Despite being a female-female duet, there is still a subtle division of gender roles if you pay close attention to the song. From her costume, mannerisms, and lines, it could be argued that Bahar is taking on the more masculine role in this qawwali. In fact, her singing part is rendered by the more masculine of the two voices:  Shamshad Begum.

Although the lyrics of this qawwali can be interpreted as universal statements about love, there are a couple of interesting things to point out here with the context of the film’s plot in mind. For example, Bahar introduces a pun on her name when she sings “bahaare.n aaj paigham-e-muhabbat leke aayii. hai.n” (the spring has brought a message of love). Moreover, Bahar snarkily calls attention to the secret love affair between Salim and Anarkali when she claims, “kisii din yeh tamasahaa muskuraakar ham bhii dekhe.nge” (we shall smile one day and watch this spectacle). Aware that her affair with Salim is unacceptable by society’s standards, Anarkali admits that love can be hard when she sings, “muhabbat hamne maanaa zindagi barbaad kartii hai” (we admit that love can destroy one’s life”). She then posits, however, that suffering for the sake of love is worth it because lovers can leave a lasting legacy on the world after they die: “yeh kyaa kam hai ki mar jaane pe duniyaa yaad kartii hai?” Even though she’s being a little dramatic with her lines here, it’s hard not to be rooting for Anarkali over Bahar.

Salim, played by Dilip Kumar, judges the musical debate between Anarkali and Bahar.

At the end of the qawwali, Salim actually declares Bahar the winner of the debate by giving her the rose. This isn’t really a genuine victory because we know that even though Bahar wins the rose, Anarkali has already won Salim’s heart. Also, who could really lose when you have Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar on your team at their peak of their careers? Come on, Salim, keep it real.

-Mr. 55

Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaakar Lyrics and Translation:

Shamshad: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 
ghaDii bhar ko tere nazdiik aakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall come close to you fleetingly and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Bahar, played by Nigar Sultana, being sassy as she sings a classic qawwali in Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Lata: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 
tere qadamo.n pe sar apanaa jhukaa kar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall bow our heads at your feet and watch this spectacle 

ajii haa.n ham bhi dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Madhubala charms all of us with her beautiful smile in Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Shamshad: bahaare.n aaj paighaam-e-muhabbat leke aayii hai.n
The spring has brought a message of love.
baDii muddat me.n ummiido.n kii kaliyaa.n muskuraayii hai.n
The flowerbuds of hope have smiled  after  a long time. 

gham-e-dil se zaraa daaman bachaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall protect ourselves from heartache and watch this spectacle.
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.   

 Lata: agar dil gham se khaalii ho to jiine kaa mazaa kyaa hai?
If the heart is empty of pain, then what pleasure can one find in living?
na ho khuun-e-jigar to ashq piine kaa mazaa kyaa hai?
If the heart does not bleed, then what pleasure can one find  in swallowing tears? 

muhabbat me.n zaraa aa.nsuu bahaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall shed a few tears in love and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Shamshad: muhabbat karnevaalo.n kaa hai bas itnaa hii afasaanaa
Such is the story of lovers: 
taDapnaa chupke chupke aahe.n bharnaa ghuT ke mar jaanaa
They quietly suffer; their eyes fill with tears; they  suffocate and die. 
kisii din yeh tamaashaa muskuraakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall smile one day and watch this spectacle.  

ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.   

Lata: muhabbat hamne maanaa zindagii barbaad kartii hai
We admit that love can destroy one’s life.  
yeh kyaa kam hai ki mar jaane pe duniyaa yaad kartii hai?
But, is it unworthy if the the world remembers lovers after they die? 
kisii ke ishq me.n duniyaa luTaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall sacrifice the world for someone’s love and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhi dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 

Glossary

qismat: fate;  aazamaanaa: to test; ghaDii bhar ko: fleetingly; nazdiik: close; qadam: feet; paighaam-e-muhabbat: message of love; baDii muddat me.n: after a long time; ummiid: hope; daaman bachaanaa: to protect; khuun-e-jigar: blood of the heart; ashq piinaa: to swallow tears; aa.nsuu bahaanaa: to shed tears; afasanaa: story; aahe.n: eyes; ghuTnaa: to suffocate; tamaaashaa: spectacle; barbaad: destroyed; luTaanaa: to sacrifice.

The Immortal Dialogue of Pakeezah and English Translation

Rajkumar Pakeezah 1971

Now we will explore some classic Pakeezah dialogue, quotes and their English translations from the timeless 1971 film. I think it’s pretty clear that we’re obsessed with this movie. We’ve discussed the making of the film and its songs, but let’s take a moment to appreciate Pakeezah’s dialogue for which there is truly no comparison outside of the ode to spoken Urdu poetry that is Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Aapke paaoo.N dekhe. Bahut haseen hai.N. Inhe zameen par mat utariiyega. Mele ho jaaye.Nge –Aapkaa ek humsafar…”

[“I have seen your feet. They are beautiful. Please do not place them on the ground. They will become dirty. –A fellow traveler…”]

I have to give a caveat: although we have provided a full English translation of these Pakeezah dialogues, I think the true poetry is lost outside of the Urdu language. Written by Kamal Amrohi himself, the exquisite dialogue of Pakeezah transports you to a languid surrealist fantasy. Among other questions, you may ask did people really talk like that? Do men as devastatingly charming as Raajkumar exist in real life? How fake is that blonde wig from the opening scene, seriously?

Although some of these will remain unanswered, let us now look closer at 3 of my favorite gems of Pakeezah dialogue and English translations that will be sure to get your heart rate up.

Ek har raat, teen baje. Ek rail gaadi apni patriyon se utar gayii, aur meri dil se guzarti hai...

[“Every night, when the clock strikes 3, a train leaves its rails and passes through my heart…”]

The first dialogue comes days after Pakeezah has received Rajkumar’s love letter. She is restless and can no longer focus on her work. Pakeezah confesses the reason for her behavior to her friend, who reacts famously against indulging such dreams. It’s a heartbreaking scene made artful by the grace of the Urdu language. Also please look at those sets and tell me there are architects in America who know how to build them.

PAKEEZAH: Bahut dino.N se, mujhe aisaa kuch lagtaa hai jaise mai.N badaltii jaa rahii hoo.N. Jaise mai.N kisi anjaane safar mei.N hoo.N aur kahii.N jaa rahii hoo.N. Sab kuch chuuTa jaa raha hai. Sahib Jaan bhi mujhse chuuT rahe hai.N, aur mai.N Sahib Jaan se duur hoti jaa rahi hoo.N.

[PAKEEZAH: For many days now, I feel as if I am changing. As if I am on an unknown journey and going somewhere. Everything is going away from me. Sahib Jaan is even leaving me, and I am going far from Sahib Jaan.]

SAHELI: Kaun hai yeh?

[SAHELI: Who is he?]

PAKEEZAH: Kaun?

[PAKEEZAH: Who?]

SAHELI: Yehii. Jisse mai.N pooch rahi hoo.N. Bataao!

[SAHELI: Him, whom I am asking about. Tell me!]

PAKEEZAH: Kya bataaoo.N kaun hai? Ek ajiib waaqaaya hai.

[PAKEEZAH: What should I say about who he is? It is a strange tale.]

SAHELI: Kya?

[SAHELI: What?]

 

PAKEEZAH: Ek har raat. Teen baje. Ek rail gaadi apni patriyon se utar gayii, aur meri dil se guzarti hai. Aur mujhe ek paighaam de jaati hai.

[PAKEEZAH: Every night at three o’ clock, a train leaves its rails and passes through my heart. And it gives me a message.]

SAHELI: Sahib Jaan, yeh paighaam tere liye nahii.N.

[SAHELI: Sahib Jaan, this message is not for you.]

PAKEEZAH: Kyaa? Nahii.N, nahii.N. Yeh mere hii liye hai. Is se mai.N ne apni hi paaoo.N mei.N rakhaa huaa payaa tha.

[PAKEEZAH: What? No, no, this is for me. It had been placed on my feet.]

SAHELI: Haa.N. Lekin us waqt tere paaoo.N mei.N ghungroo bandhe hue nahii.N ho.Nge. Agar ghungroo bandhe hue hote, to yeh kaise koi kahta ki paaoo.N ko zameen par mat rakhna? Maile ho jaaye.Nge? Merii jaan, yeh paighaam to hai. Lekin bhatak gayaa hai.

[SAHELI: Yes. But at that time, you’re feet were not bound by ankle bells. If they had been bound in ankle bells, how could anyone say “do not place your feet on the ground”? “They will become dirty”? My dear, this is certainly a message, but it is misguided.]

Tragic, right? My next favorite scene comes when Pakeezah has inadvertently landed inside Rajkumar’s own tent. She senses him approaching, and pretends to be asleep. Rajkumar bursts in with an appropriate flush of theme music to accompany him.

Rajkumar stares at sleeping Meena Kumari in Pakeezah (1971)

Pakeezah panics and the audience enters into her thoughts as she narrates her feelings in this beautiful moment of love and fear.

Pakeezah is unable to look at the mysterious man she loves in Pakeezah (1971)

“Allah! Woh mere paas khade hai.N. Aur meri jaan nikal jaa rahi hai. Aap yuu.N hii hairaan hairaan mujhe dekhte rehe.Nge. Mai.N taraste taraste, bina aapko ek nazar dekhe, mar jaaoo.Ngii. Aap hi ke samne, aap hi ke bistar par khatam ho jaaoo.Ngii. Zara muu.N phenk lijiye. Mai.N ek saa.Ns leloo.N! Ek chalak aapke dhekh loo.N!”

[“God! He is standing near me. And I feel as if I am dying. You will continue to stare at me in surprise, and I will slowly die without glancing at you even once. Beside you, on your bed itself, I will be finished. Please turn your face away so that I can take a breath! Let me take just a glimpse of you!’]

I can’t get enough of this scene–her words are so poetically expressed, but so vividly capture the anxiety of the moment!

Wondering what all the hype is about? Here are Meena Kumari’s exquisite feet in Pakeezah (1971)

“Afsos ki log duudh se bhi jal jaate…”

[“How unfortunate that people are burned even by mere milk…”]

The last epic dialogue I’ll discuss comes when Rajkumar brings Meena Kumari home for the first time. Do arguments really happen like that? In my house, an argument never devolves into an Urdu poem–but then again, we don’t have those outfits on.

D.K. Sapru plays a very scary Hakim Sahib in Pakeezah (1971)

HAKIM SAAB: Salim, woh kaun hai?

[HAKIM SAAB: Salim, who is this?]

SALIM: Woh ek gumnaam ladki hai.

[SALIM: She is a lost girl.]

HAKIM SAAB: To woh tumhaare saath hai?

[HAKIM SAAB: She is with you?]

SALIM: Jii.

[SALIM: Yes.]

HAKIM SAAB: Yaani?

[HAKIM SAAB: Meaning?]

SALIM: Yeh kaun hai, mai.N bhi nahii.N jaantaa. Yeh ek mazluum ladki ki jo apni aadaash kho chukhi hai. Aur itefaaqan woh meri panaah mei.N aa gayii hai.

[SALIM: Who she is, even I don’t know. She is an oppressed girl who had lost her memory. And by chance, she came into my care.]

HAKIM SAAB: Lekin, tumhaare is bayaan par, kaun yaqeen karegaa?

[HAKIM SAAB: But who will believe this tale of yours?]

Unnaturally handsome Rajkumar stands his ground against his family in Pakeezah (1971)

SALIM: Mujhe iski parva nahii.N

[SALIM: I am not worried about that.]

HAKIM SAAB: Tumhe nahii.N, lekin hame.N iski parva hai. Jo log duudh se jal jaate. Woh chaas bhi phoonk phoonk kar piite.

[HAKIM SAAB: You may not be, but I am. Those people who are burned by milk, drink even the froth with caution.

SALIM: Afsos ki log dhuudh se bhi jal jaate.

[SALIM: How unfortunate that people are burned even by mere milk.] Oh my God, such a good comeback! So poetic, so simple. I die.

HAKIM SAAB: Tum humse bahaz karna chaahte ho? Humse bahaz karne ki zaruurat nahii.N. Aisii ladkii jiskaa koi naam nahii.N, pathaa nahii.N, woh kyuu.N tumhaare saath hai?

[HAKIM SAAB: You want to argue with me? There is no need to argue. A girl with no name, no address, why is she with you?]

SALIM: Isliye ki woh merii panaah mei.N aayii. Aur yeh koi gunaah nahii.N.

[SALIM: Because she came under my care. And that is no crime.]

Meena Kumari grows more and more uncomfortable as she eavesdrops their argument.

HAKIM SAAB: Gunaah to nahii.N. Lekin ismei.N hamaarii badnaami hai.

[HAKIM SAAB: It is not a crime. But I could be dishonored from it.]

SALIM: Jii nahii.N, agar is mei.N koi badnaamii hai, to merii hai.

[SALIM: No, if anyone is dishonored, it is me.]

HAKIM SAAB: Tum kaun ho? Kya humko tumhaara koi rishtaa nahii.N?

[HAKIM SAAB: Who are you? Do you have no relation with me?]

SALIM: Jii hai. Lekin is maumle se aapkaa koi taluk nahii.N.

[SALIM: Yes, I do. But this matter does not concern you.]

HAKIM SAAB: Humaare koi taluk nahii.N?? Agar hamaaraa koi taaluk nahii.N. To phir tum apnii yeh badnaamii hamaare ghar kyuu.N le aaya ho?

[HAKIM SAAB: It does not concern me?? If it does not concern me, then why have you brought this dishonorable girl to my house?]

Rajkumar checks out Pakeezah for some inspiration and proceeds to storm out of the room in a flurry of Urdu poetry.

SALIM: Beshak mujhse ghalati huii. Mai.N bhuul hi gayaa tha. Is ghar ke insaano.N ko har saa.Ns ke baad doosre saa.Ns lene ki ijaazat aapse lenii padhtii hai. Aur aapki aulaad khuda ki banaaii hui zameen par nahii.N chaltii, aapki hatheli par rehti hai.N

[SALIM: Undoubtedly, I have made a mistake. I had forgotten that in his house, after every breath people must ask your permission to take the second. And that your children do not walk on the earth that God made, but live in the palm of your hand.]

Whoa. How do metaphors that awesome just come to you like that? I need to re-evaluate how I insult people. Why do these kinds of situations never happen to me?

As a small note, I just think the one-liner the head aunt says before the song “Chalte Chalte” is pretty sweet. When no one else shows up that night because the rich client has scared them all off, she graciously says to him,

“Log nahiin.N aaye, to na sahii. Sitaaron ki raat se, ek chaandni raat mei.N to kai zyaadaa roshni hoti hai.”

[“Other people did not come, so be it. In a moonlit night there is more radiance than in a night of stars.”]

Wah wah! The movie is teeming with pearls like this!

What is YOUR favorite dialogue from Pakeezah? Let us know in the comments! For more dialogues, check out our post on the beauty of Urdu in classic Bollywood film!

-Mrs. 55

Khudaa-E-Bartar Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi


Our blog probably seems like one huge Sahir Ludhianvi love-fest by now, but I couldn’t help myself from posting and translating this beauty from Taj Mahal (1963). This song is from the same movie as “jurm-e-ulfat pe,” which I translated here a little while ago. While “jurm-e-ulfat pe” tackles the theme of forbidden love, the lesser-known “khudaa-e-bartar” discusses something that doesn’t get much coverage in the world of Bollywood: war. By posing a series of questions, Ludhianvi uses universal and timeless words here to express the futility of war. While the song directly pertains to the Mughal battles depicted in the film, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the pacifism expressed in these lyrics is also Ludhianvi’s response to India’s losses in the Sino-Indian War, which had ended only a year before this film was released.

In addition to its unique thematic content, this song stands out for its nuanced use of language. Such elevated Urdu is truly a rare treat in Hindi cinema. Seriously, when was the last time you heard a song with the words like hidaayat, kibr-o-ghuruur, or fatah-o-zafar? Perhaps my favorite thing about this song is its use of izaafat, a grammatical construct borrowed from Persian where two nouns or a noun and adjective are linked together with the vowel -e- or -o-. When the -e- vowel is used between two nouns, it can generally be translated as “of.” When the -o- vowel is used, it is translated as “and.” This song makes extensive use of izaafat, as evident in compound phrases like rasm-e-jang-o-jadaal (rules of war and disputes) and jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang (celebration of arrows and rifles). Super fancy, no?

Since almost every other word here is a vocab word, you’ll have to take a close look at the glossary below while you follow along with the song. But I guarantee that you’ll learn some new Urdu if you do–enjoy and let us know your thoughts about this song in the comments!

–Mr. 55

P.S. For the classical music enthusiasts out there, this composition is also remarkable for being one of the finest examples of Raga Miyan ki Todi used in a film song.

Lyrics:
khudaa-e-bartar terii zamii.n par zamii.n kii khaatir, yeh jang kyo.n hai?
har ek fatah-o-zafar ke daaman pe khuun-e-insaa.n kaa rang kyo.n hai?

zamii.n bhii terii, hai.n ham bhii tere. yeh milkiiyat kaa savaal kyaa hai?
yeh qatl-o-khuu.n ka rivaaj kyo.n hai? yeh rasm-e-jang-o-jadaal kyaa hai?
jinhe.n talab hai jahaan bhar kii, unhii.n kaa dil itnaa tang kyo.n hai?

ghariib maao.n shariif bahno.n ko aman-o-izzat kii zindagii de
jinhe.n ataa kii hai tuu ne taaqat, unhe.n hidaayat kii roshnii de
saro.n me.n kibr-o-ghuruur kyo.n hai? dilo.n ke shiishe pe zang kyo.n hai?

qazaa ke raste pe jaanevaalo.n ko bach ke aane ki raah denaa
dilo.n ke gulshan ujaD na jaaye.n, muhabbato.n ko panaah denaa
jahaa.n me.n jashn-e-vafaa ke badle, yeh jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang kyo.n hai?

khudaa-e-bartar terii zamii.n par zamii.n kii khaatir, yeh jang kyo.n hai?

Glossary:
khudaa-e-bartar
: superior Lord; zamii.n: land, world; jang: war; fatah-o-zafar: victories and triumphs; daaman: foothills; khuun-e-insaa.n: human blood; milkiiyat: ownership; qatl-e-khuu.n: murders and blood; rivaaj: tradition; rasm-e-jang-o-jadaal: rules of war and disuptes; talab: need, desire; jahaan: world; tang: troubled; ghariib: poor; shariif: noble; aman-o-izzat: peace and respect; ataa karna: to bless; taaqat: strength, courage; hidaayat: guidance; roshnii: light; kibr-o-ghuruur: pride and arrogance; shiishaa: mirror; qazaa: death; bach ke aanaa: to escape; gulshan: garden; ujaD jaana: to be uprooted; panaah: shelter; jashn-e-vafaa: celebration of love; jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang: celebration of arrows and rifles

Rough Translation:
O superior Lord, why is there this war over land in your world? Why does human blood stain the foothills of every victory and triumph?

This land is yours, and we are yours. Then, what is this question of ownership and possession? What are these traditions of bloody murder? What are these rules of wars and disputes? Those who have a desire to rule the world, why are their hearts so troubled?

Give poor mothers and noble sisters a life of peace and respect. Give those whom you have blessed with strength and courage a light of guidance. Why are minds filled with pride and arrogance? Why are the mirrors of people’s hearts blemished by rust?

Give those who are headed on the road to death a way to escape. May the garden of hearts not be uprooted as you provide shelter to love. In this world, instead of a celebration of love, why is there a celebration of arrows and rifles?

O superior Lord, why is there war over land in your world?