Hamrahi 1963 starring Rajendra Kumar and Jamuna.png

Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo Lyrics & Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rajendra Kumar and Jamuna star in Hamrahi (1963).png
Rajendra Kumar and Jamuna share a fleeting side hug in a song entirely about hugging from Hamrahi (1963).

Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo” is one of classic Bollywood’s sweetest romantic duets from the 1960s, an unexpectedly magical collaboration between equal parts celestial being and hep cat Mohammed Rafi and the lesser-known Mubarak Begum. The highlight of the film Hamrahi (1963), “Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo” is the subject of today’s English translation and lyric analysis. After hearing this song, I have zero doubts that you will firmly preach the gospel of Mohammed Rafi to your co-workers bickering over Pandora stations, and that you’ll surprise yourself at how much you actually really like a female singer whose name doesn’t rhythm with “Mata Langeshkar.”

In Hamrahi, typically squeaky clean Rajendra Kumar reinvents himself by playing a playboy who flits from one gorgeous woman to the next. When he enters into an arranged marriage with Jamuna, he is appalled to find himself falling in love with her just as she rebukes him for his tainted past. He imagines her flinging her arms out and begging him to hug her on their honeymoon (hence this moderately awkward song sequence), but alas, the man-child’s dream is shattered and Rajendra Kumar must prove his worth to Jamuna before she accepts his love.

Jamuna hugs herself in
Unable to straight-on hug the hero due to tight censorship constraints, Jamuna hugs herself in “Mujhko Apne Gale” from Hamrahi (1963)

But I didn’t come here to talk about dream sequences and the less-than-dreamy looking couple who star in it. I intend to open your mind to female playback singer Mubarak Begum (1936-2016). A meatier alternative to Lata’s nymph-like vocals, Mubarak Begum falls shy of Shamshad Begum’s red-blooded gusto and Geeta Dutt’s sassiness, but is easily saccharine enough to be cast as a heroine.

Unfortunately, that never quite happened. Like Suman Kalyanpur and Minoo Purushottam whose ambitions were relegated to the side show, Begum’s career growth was also stunted permanently by the Mangeshkar sisters. Yet when Mubarak Begum was hospitalized toward the end of her life and in dire financial straits, it was none other than Lata Mangeshkar who offered emotional and monetary support to her and her family.

Yes, you may say, but like the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, was this all too little, too late? Or could it be viewed as a generous act by a supremely talented woman who had no choice but to play hardball in a man’s world? After all, can Lata really be blamed for playing to win?

You decide, gentle reader. And as you mull it over, enjoy our English translation of lyricist Hasrat Jaipuri’s “Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo” below! When you get to the part where Mohammed Rafi softly croons “dil se dil ke taar milaao,” disregard the sudden palpitations in your chest. They are an expected side effect.

Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo Lyrics & English Translation:

Begum: Mujhko apne gale lagaa lo, aye mere hamraahii
Take me in your arms, oh my fellow traveler
Tumko kyaa batalaauu.N mai.N? Ki tumse kitnaa pyaar hai?
What should I tell you? How much I love you?

Rafi: Mujhko apne gale lagaa lo, aye mere hamraahii
Take me in your arms, oh my fellow traveler
Tumko kyaa batalaauu.N mai.N? Ki tumse kitnaa pyaar hai?
What should I tell you? How much I love you?

Begum: Jab tum mujhse duur rahte ho, jiiyaa meraa ghabaraataa hai
When you stay far away from me, my soul feels restless
Nii.Nd aankho.N se uD jaatii hai, chaa.Nd agan barasaataa hai
Sleep flies from my eyes, the moon rains fire
Dono.N pahluu jal jaate hai, aag mei.N aag lagaataa hai
Both of our shadows burn, fire upon fire is lit
Jaise taDape bin jal machhalii, pyaar mujhe taDapaataa hai
Like a fish out of water, your love agonizes me
Oh! Pyaar mujhe tadapaataa hai
Oh! Your love agonizes me
Is uljhan se mujhko bachaalo, aye mere hamarahi
Oh save me from this entanglement, my fellow traveler
Tumko kyaa batalaauu.N mai.N? Ki tumse kitnaa pyaar hai?
What should I tell you? How much I love you?

Rafi: Jin raaho.N par ha.Nske chalo tum, phuul vahaa.N khil jaate hai.N
Flowers bloom upon those paths where you laugh and travel
Dam lene ko jahaa.N ruko tum, madhuushaale ban jaate hai.N
Wherever you stop to take a breath becomes filled with honey
Tumko chhuukar pavan jhakore, khushbuu lekar jaate hai
Upon touching you, the wind gusts and carries your sweet fragrance with it
Lekin hum to dekhe surat, dil thhaame rah jaate hai
Yet when I see your face, I stop to hold onto my heart
Dil thhaame rah jaate hai!
I stop to hold onto my heart!
Dil se dil ke taar milaalo, aye mere hamarahi
Let the strings of our hearts meet, oh my fellow traveler
Tumko kyaa batalaauu.N mai.N? Ki tumse kitnaa pyaar hai?
What should I tell you? How much I love you?

Begum: Jab tak tumko mai.N na dekhuu.N, chain mujhe kab aata hai?
When I do not see you, when would I find peace?
Khoj mei.N terii man ka pa.Nchhii duur kahii.N kho jaataa hai
In search of you, the bird of my mind becomes lost far away
Rafi: Jab tum mujhko mil jaatii ho, dard davaa ban jaata hai
When you meet me, all pain turns into medicine
Varnaa tum bin saaraa jiivan, suunaa ban kehalaataa hai
Otherwise without you, my entire life would be known as deserted forest
Sunaa ban kehalaataa hai
My life would be known as a deserted forest
Har manzil par mujhko sambhaalo, aye mere hamarahi
Take care of me at every destination, oh my fellow traveler
Tumko kyaa batalaauu.N mai.N? Ki tumse kitnaa pyaar hai?
What should I tell you? How much I love you?

Mujhko apne gale lagaa lo, aye mere hamraahii
Take me in your arms, oh my fellow traveler
Tumko kyaa batalaauu.N mai.N? Ki tumse kitnaa pyaar hai?
What should I tell you? How much I love you?

Glossary:

gale lagaanaa: to take in [your] arms, to hug; hamraahii: fellow traveler, partner; batalaana: to tell; pyaar: love; duur: far; jiiyaa: soul, life; ghabaraanaa: to worry, to become restless; nii.Nd: sleep; aa.Nkhe.N: eyes; uDnaa: to fly; chaa.Nd: moon; agan: fire; barsaataanaa: to rain; pahluu: image, shadow; jalnaa: to burn; aag lagaanaa: to light a fire; jaise: such as, like; taDapnaa: to yearn; jal: water; macchalii: fish; uljhan: entanglement; bachaanaa: to save; raah: path; ha.Nsnaa: to laugh; phuul: flower; khilnaa: to bloom; dam lenaa: to take a breath; ruknaa: to stop; madhuushaalaa: a place where honey or wine is found, a liquor establishment; chhuunaa: to touch, pavan: wind; jhakoraa: gust; khushbuu: sweet fragrance; surat: face; dil: heart; thhaam lena: to hold onto; taar: chord, string; chain: peace; khoj: search; man: mind; pa.Nchhii: bird; dard: pain; davaa: medicine; varnaa: otherwise; saaraa: entire; jiivan: life; suunaa: deserted; ban: forest; kehalaanaa: to call, to name; manzil: destination; sambhalnaa: to take care, to steady

Hamrahi 1963 starring Rajendra Kumar and Jamuna.png
Not afraid of mixing loud sartorial patterns, Rajendra Kumar gets super close to Jamuna in “Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo” from Hamrahi (1963), but fails spectacularly to make meaningful contact.

I bet you want to know if Jamuna ultimately forgives Rajendra Kumar for his unsavory prior behavior and they live happily ever after in arranged Hindu marriage bliss? Does this couple ever actually get to hug each other? Does Rajendra Kumar fire the poor soul who put him in that striped jacket??

You and I will only ever know the answers to the first two questions. The last will perhaps remain an eternal mystery.

– MRS. 55

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Yeh Mera Prem Patra Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Yeh Mera Prem Patra Sangam Rajendra kumar vijayantimala
Vijayantimala reads a love letter from her childhood sweetheart Rajendra Kumar in “Yeh Mera Prem Patra” from Sangam (1964).

Happy Valentine’s Day to all our fans! In celebration of this romantic holiday, we present the lyrics and English translation to one of our favorite love songs, “Yeh Mera Prem Patra” from the hit film Sangam (1964). Radha (played by Vijayantimala) and Gopal (played by Rajendra Kumar) play two childhood lovers who have kept their feelings hidden because of Kumar’s best friend, Sundar (played by Raj Kapoor), who has professed his unwavering devotion to Radha for years. Although Radha spurns Sundar’s love, Sundar begs his best friend Gopal to make sure no other man spoils his chances when Sundar is called to serve in the air force on the northern front.

But then! Sundar is killed while serving his country–and in their shared mourning, Radha and Gopal can finally express their undying love for one another. A shining moment in Mohammed Rafi’s career, “Yeh Mera Prem Patra” is their outpouring of uninhibited romance. With a heavenly chorus in the air that highlights the dream-like world in which the two now find themselves, Radha runs across an open meadow to Gopal as he writes her a love letter. In fact, she is so eager to discover what he has written, that her sari falls from her shoulder in her haste, revealing the front of her blouse.

Let’s pause right here. For anyone uninitiated to classic Hindi films, believe me when I say, this NEVER happens. The heroine in classic Bollywood would never let her sari fall so revealingly, and surprisingly, Radha makes NO moves to adjust it. The scene is filmed brilliantly–because of the camera’s position, the sari show is purely for the viewer to ponder–Gopal is facing the audience and cannot see what we have all noticed. It’s as if the director, Raj Kapoor, is telling us that the romance we are witnessing is not purely chaste. And indeed, the like the Radha-Gopal of Hindu mythology, the film’s two lovers are not to be destined for eternal bliss.

Yeh Mera Prem Patra sari tussle
ABOVE: Vijayantimala quietly approaches Rajendra Kumar with her sari having fallen off her shoulder. BELOW: Rajendra Kumar and Vijayantimala tussle for the end of her sari playfully while the low camera height emphasizes the beautiful open skies.

The song references the famous Ganga and Jamuna rivers from whose geographical confluence with the river Saraswati (sangam), the film derives its name. The triangular symbolism and references to the sangam is evoked throughout the film, with each character embodying one of the three ancient rivers. Sangam made history as Raj Kapoor’s first technicolour film and one of the first Bollywood films to be shot in exotic locals such as Venice, Paris and Switzerland.

But beneath all the glitter, did you know there’s actually true love story behind this sweet poem? At the age of 20, the famed Urdu lyricist of “Yeh Mera Prem Patra,” Hasrat Jaipuri, fell in love his own Radha, a young Hindu woman from hometown in Jaipur. Though they never married, she would inspire many of his greatest poems. Jaipuri later recalled fondly in an interview:

“Meri haveli ke samne, ek badi khoobsurat ladki rehti jiska naam tha Radha. Aur ishq ka mahzab se, zaat paat se, koi taaluq nahii.N. Kisi se bhi ho sakta hai, kisi se bhi kiya jaa sakta hai. To mera unse pyaar hua. Taalim maine sher-o-shayari ki, mere naanaa madhoom/manhoom se haasil ki?, lekin ishq ka sabak jo hai, woh Radha ne padhaayaa ki ishq kya cheez hai.”

[“Near my home a very beautiful girl lived named Radha. And neither religion nor caste and creed have any power over love. It can happen with anyone and it can happen to anyone. And so I fell in love with her. I may have trained in poetry from my grandfather, but the lesson of love was taught by Radha.”]

“Yeh Mera Prem Patra” is the very love letter that Jaipuri wrote to his real life Radha–more than 20 years before Raj Kapoor would use the same sweet poem in Sangam! So this Valentine’s Day, we at Mr. and Mrs. 55 recommend you do something old-fashioned and write your special someone a romantic love letter! For inspiration, soak up Hasrat Jaipuri’s shy, tender lyrics and our English translation to the sentimental love letter, “Yeh Mera Prem Patra” below!

Yeh Mera Prem Patra Lyrics and Translation:

Meherbaa.Nlikhuu.N? “Haseenaa” likhuu.N? Yaa “dilruubaa” likhuu.N?
Should I write “compassionate one”? Should I write “beautiful one”? Or should I write “beloved”?
Hairaan huu.N ki aap ko is khat mei.N kyaa likhuu.N
I am puzzled by what to write in this letter to you

Yeh meraa prem patra paDh kar, ki tum naaraaz na honaa
When you read this love letter of mine, may you not be angry
ki tum merii zindagii ho, ki tum merii bandagii ho
For you are my life, for you are my prayer

Tujhe mai.N chaand kehtaa thaa, magar us mei.N bhi daagh hai
I used to call you the moon, but in the moon are blemishes
Tujhe suraj mai.n kehtaa thaa, magar us mei.N bhi aag hai
I used to call you the sun, but in the sun is ablaze
Tujhe itnaa hii kehta huu.N ki mujhko tumse pyaar hai, tumse pyaar hai, tumse pyaar hai
I tell you only this that I love you, I love you, I love you

Tujhe Gangaa mai.N samajhuu.Ngaa, tujhe Jamunaa mai.N samajhuu.Ngaa
I will think of you as the Ganges River, I will think of you as the Jamuna River
Tu dil ke paas hai itnii, tujhe apnaa mai.N samajhuu.Ngaa
You are so close to my heart, I will think of you as my own
Agar mar jaauu.N ruuh bhaTakegii tere intezaar mei.N, intezaar mei.N, intezaar mein
If I die, my soul will wander waiting for you, waiting for you, waiting for you

Yeh meraa prem patra paDh kar, ki tum naraaz na honaa
When you read this love letter of mine, may you not be angry
ki tum merii zindagii ho, ki tum merii bandagii ho
For you are my life, for you are my prayer

Glossary:

meherbaa.N: compassionate one; likhnaa: to write; haseenaa: beautiful lady; dilruuba: lover; hairaan: puzzled, stunned; khat: letter; prem: love; patra: letter; paDhnaa: to read; naaraaz: angry; zindagii: life; bandagii: prayer; chaand: moon; daagh: flaw, blemish; suraj: sun; aag: fire; pyaar: love; Gangaa: Ganges River; Jamunaa: Jamunaa River; dil: heart; [kisi ke] paas: to be nearby [something]; mar jaanaa: to die; ruuh: soul; bhaTaknaa: to wander; intezaar: wait

romance in the garden
Rajendra Kumar and Vijayantimala romance each other in a sunlit garden in Sangam (1964). For once in his life, Rajendra Kumar’s outfit of choice adds to the ambiance rather than destroys.

One of my favorite moments both musically and cinematically in this song comes at the very end when Lata Mangeshkar picks up the chorus over a beautiful wide tracking shot of the lovebirds walking hand-in-hand in the Elysian forest. This heavenly moment can only be seen and heard in the movie, it was tragically cut from the record version we know so well!

Mrs. 55 wedding
As promised, here is a photograph of Mrs. 55 finally marrying her college sweetheart last December!
Mrs. 55 adab arz
Adab arz hai! This love poem is dedicated to my very romantic new husband and personal Bollywood hero!

Soon after this song, Sundar surprises the couple by returning from war alive! Sundar then marries Radha because his devoutly loyal friend Gopal is unable to tell him his true feelings (like a typical Bollywood bromance, don’t you just love how the woman has basically ZERO say in all this?). Inevitably, of course, the famous love letter is later discovered and Raj Kapoor is heartbroken. See our English translation of the epic self-pitying “Dost Dost Na Raha” for more of the drama that unfolds!

But let us temporarily forget all that on this lovely Valentine’s Day. This beautiful ode was requested by dedicated fan Inderjit Wassi! Thank you for the poetic request!

– Mrs. 55

Hum Tere Pyar Mein Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Meena Kumari expresses ultimate devotion to her husband through song in Dil Ek Mandir (1963).

Today, we provide the lyrics and English translation to a memorable song from C.V. Sridhar’s Dil Ek Mandir (1963): ham tere pyaar me.n .  Starring Meena Kumari, Rajendra Kumar, and Raaj Kumar, Dil Ek Mandir is a Hindi remake of the Tamil film Nenjil Ore Alayam (1962). Dil Ek Mandir was a box-office hit at the time of its release, and it even garnered Raaj Kumar a Filmfare Award for his performance in the film.

When oncologist Rajendra Kumar returns from abroad, he is shocked to learn that his former love Meena Kumari has been married off to another man in a cruel twist of fate. Grief-stricken, he devotes the rest of his life to caring for cancer patients at a nursing home. One day, Meena Kumari brings her husband Raaj Kumar to the nursing home because he has fallen critically ill. When she realizes that Rajendra Kumar will be his doctor, she wants to take her husband elsewhere out of fear that Rajendra Kumar will be unable to offer him unbiased medical care.  As Rajendra Kumar prepares to perform a technically demanding operation to save the life of his former lover’s husband, he is faced with an uncomfortable ethical dilemma: should he save Raaj Kumar’s life by performing the surgery to the best of his abilities or should he use this opportunity to rekindle his love with Meena Kumari after Raaj Kumar’s impending death? Watch the movie to find out if he does the right thing!

Placed into the context of this film, “ham tere pyaar me.n” is picturized on Meena Kumari singing to Raaj Kumar in reaction to his suggestion that she should marry Rajendra Kumar after his death. Staunchly adhering to the pativrata norms that defined ideal female behavior at the time, she rejects this proposal as immoral and absurd. In this song, she expresses ultimate devotion to her husband by declaring that she can only understand the true meaning of love through him. While devotion and commitment are certainly admirable, many would argue that the poetry of this song penned by Hasrat Jaipuri errs on the side of misogyny and anti-feminism. When a male poet makes a female protagonist start singing about loving cages instead of people (“yah pyaar kaa pinjraa man bhaayaa“) or about harboring a wish to die at her husband’s feet (“ab in charano.n me.n dam nikle, bas itnii aur tamanna hai“), you can’t help but think that something’s not quite right.

However, two things are definitely right about this song: Lata Mangeshkar’s angelic rendition and Shankar-Jaikishan’s exquisitely crafted melody. Even if the lyrics are too extreme for your liking, the artistic beauty of this song is still preserved in the way Lata’s voice drips with pathos as she navigates through this delicate tune. Meena Kumari’s on-screen portrayal is suitably melodramatic, and I am especially fond of the way in which the beautiful sitar interludes have been highlighted by including the instrument in the song’s picturization.

Finally, as an aside, some of you may remember that Sonu Nigam sang the mukhDaa of this song on the very first episode of SaReGaMa, the televised singing competition that went on to discover many notable talents such as Shreya Ghosal. This song is certainly an interesting choice to open a show with, and the rendition by a male singer casts a new light upon the discussion of this song’s underlying subtext of misogyny. Enjoy, and share your thoughts with us in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
Raaj Kumar won a Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a cancer patient in Dil Ek Mandir (1963)

Hum Tere Pyar Mein: Lyrics and Translation

ham tere pyaar me.n saaraa aalam kho baiThe hai.n, kho baiThe
I have lost the entire world by loving you. 
tum kahte ho ki aise pyaar ko bhuul jaao, bhuul jaao
Yet, you tell me to forget this love.

panchhii se chhuDaa kar uskaa ghar tum apne ghar par le aaye
You took a cage from the birds and brought it to your own house.
yah pyaar kaa pinjraa man bhaayaa, ham jii bhar bhar kar muskaaye
This cage of love pleased me, and I smiled to my heart’s content. 
jab pyaar huaa is pinjre se tum kahne lage aazaad raho
When I fell in love with this cage, you told me to remain free. 
ham kaise bhuulaaye pyaar teraa? tum apnii zubaa.n se yah na kaho
But how can I forget this love? Please don’t tell me this in your own words. 
ab tum saa jahaa.n me.n koii nahii.n hai, ham to tumhaare ho baiThe
No one else like you exists in this world, and I will remain yours forever. 
tum kahte ho ki aise pyaar ko bhuul jaao, bhuul jaao
Yet, you tell me to forget this love.

is tere charan kii dhuul se ham ne apnii jiivan maa.ng bharii
From the dust at your feet, I have marked the parting of my hair.
jab hii to suhaagan kahlaayii, duniyaa kii nazar me.n pyaar banii
When I considered myself a married woman, the world witnessed the creation of love.
tum pyaar kii sundar muurat ho aur pyaar hamaari puujaa hai
You are a beautiful idol of love, and love is my form of worship.
ab in charano.n me.n dam nikle bas itnii aur tamannaa hai
Indeed, I harbor one parting desire: I hope to die at your feet.
ham pyaar ke ganga jal se, balam jii, tan-man apna dho baiThe
My beloved, I have cleansed my body and soul with water from the Ganges of love.
tum kahte ho ki aise pyaar ko bhuul jaao, bhuul jaao
Yet, you tell me to forget this love.

sapno.n kaa darpan dekhaa thaa, sapno.n ka darpan toD diyaa
I saw a mirror of dreams, and then I shattered it.
yah pyaar kaa aa.nchal ham ne to daaman se tumhaare baa.ndh liyaa
I tied the end of this sari of love to the tail of your shirt.
yah aisii gaa.nTh hai ulfat kii, jis ko na koii bhii khol sakaa
This knot of romance is tied so tightly that no one can untie it.
tum aan base jab is dil me.n, dil phir to kahii.n na Dol sakaa
Since you began to reside in my heart, it has been unable to frolic elsewhere.
o pyaar ke saagar, ham terii laharo.n me.n naav Dubo baiThe
Oh, the ocean of love! I have drowned a boat in your waves.
tum kahte ho ki aise pyaar ko bhuul jaao, bhuul jaao
Yet, you tell me to forget this love.

ham tere pyaar me.n saaraa aalam kho baiThe hai.n, kho baiThe
I have lost the entire world by loving you.

Glossary

aalaam: world; chhuDaaanaa: to take, remove; pinjraa: cage; man bhaanaa: to please the mind; jii bhar kar:  wholeheartedly;  aazaad: free; zubaa.n: language, words; jahaa.n: world;  maa.ng bharnaa: to apply vermillion to the parting of a woman’s hair (a Hindu ritual signifying wedded status); suhaagaan: a married individual; kahlaanaa: to call oneself; dam nikalna: to lose one’s breath, to die; tamanna: desire; ganga: the Ganges, a sacred Indian river; tan-man: body and soul; darpan: mirror; aanchal: decorative end of a sari; Dolnaa: to frolic, to swing; daaman: tail of a garment; gaa.nTh: knot; ulfat: love; lahar: wave; naav: boat.

Meena Kumari’s image is reflected upon Raaj Kumar’s pupils in the picturization of this song. How melodramatic!

The Art of Urdu in Hindi Films: Losing A Poetic Legacy

Jan Nisar Akhtar and Sahir Ludhianvi
Legendary Bollywood lyricists Jan Nisar Akhtar (far left) and Sahir Ludhianvi (left center) enjoy a birthday celebration.

The language of Hindi films has evolved since the first talkie Alam Ara in 1931, based on a Parsi play.  The Golden Age of Hindi cinema that blossomed with the studio era of the 1950s and ebbed by the late 1970s is one of India’s greatest artistic achievements. During that time, Hindi films could hardly be called Hindi films. Rather, Hindustani, a mixture of Urdu and Hindi, was the lingua franca of the silver-screen—a reflection of a country unified by a fascinatingly diverse heritage with linguistic influences from Sanskrit, Farsi, Bengali, Arabic, Panjabi, and a myriad of others.

To anyone unfamiliar with the distinction between Urdu and Hindi—there are no hard and fast rules. What many call Hindi, others would call Urdu, but most everyone can appreciate their structural and grammatical similarity. Any attempt to divide them is based on the root origins of the vocabulary intermingled with what is generally a highly homologous syntax. “Urdu” vocabulary tends to draw upon words of Farsi or occasionally Arabic and Turkish origin and “Hindi” vocabulary is generally derived from Sanskrit or regional dialects. But don’t be fooled into thinking any word “belongs” to another language (or those of a particular religion)—Hindustani may vary speaker to speaker, community to community, but the language is all-encompassing.

Veteran Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi (left) with his daughter actress Shabhana Azmi (center), who married contemporary lyricist Javed Akhtar, and wife Shaukat Azmi (right).
Veteran Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi (left) with his daughter actress Shabhana Azmi (center), who married contemporary lyricist Javed Akhtar, and wife Shaukat Azmi (right).

The impact of Urdu in the Indian mainstream can be no better summed up by the famous words of our freedom struggle: “Inquilaab zindabaad!” or “Sarfaroshii kii tamanna ab hamaare dil mei.N hai.” Controversial arguments have been made relating the decline in popularity to links with Pakistan, which adopted Urdu as its official language. Yet in Hindi films for decades, the legacy of Urdu poetry continued to flourish in India as the pinnacle of culture and expression.

Indeed, despite enormous gaps in literacy across the country, some of the most popular songs of that era amazingly contain the most complex Urdu-based vocabulary. Perhaps one reason is that the Hindi film song-writers themselves were trained in the art of Urdu poetry. Many of the finest and most successful poets of Hindi film: Sahir Ludhianvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Gulzar, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Kaifi Azmi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, and Majrooh Sultanpuri to name but a few, began their careers in Urdu mushairaas, or poetic symposiums.

Gulzar lyricist
Record-breaking winner of 11 Filmfare awards for best lyrics, poet Gulzar (right) stands with actor Amitabh Bacchan (left) for whom he wrote hits from the dialogue of Anand (1971) to the modern dance number “Kajra Re” from Bunty Aur Babli (2006)

It would seem more than mere coincidence that these artists came to dominate film lyrics. Like many arenas, the Bombay film industry was an old boy network: Sahir Ludhianvi for example was close friends with Jan Nisar Akhtar, who became in-laws with Kaifi Azmi, who was a prominent member of the pre-partition Progressive Writer’s Movement with Majrooh Sultanpuri. And the music directors who often hand-picked their lyricists and made recommendations to film producers were also steeped in similar artistic traditions. Veteran composer Naushad grew up in the heart of Lucknowi culture, and Madan Mohan spent his childhood in the Middle East, eventually getting his break by joining the All India Radio in Lucknow. Yet connections in the film industry account for only part of its success—audiences had to maintain demand as well.

From the epic qawwali “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” from Barsaat Ki Raat (1961), the lilting ode, “Aap Ki Nazron Mein Samjha” from Anpadh 1962), to the playful duet “Deewana Hua Badal” from Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), Urdu in films was remarkably accessible—holding a place for any viewer in every genre. True, it is unlikely the entire audience understood each word in those songs. However, in this manner, film and music could be educational for those who did not–a unique way of preserving the culture they reflected back on. As parallel cinema diva Shabana Azmi aptly quipped,

“If you compare today’s songs with the songs of the 1960s and 1970s, then definitely today’s songs are according to the demand. But if you see, Hindi films used to protect the Urdu language as they used it, but it is slowly dying and I feel bad for it.”

The same extended to the dialogues of films themselves–and I don’t refer only to genre films like Pakeezah (1971) or Mughal-e-Azam (1961). Pure Urdu was ubiquitous in classic Hindi cinema, wafting equally through the sets of an urban crime drama and meandering through a village epic. The importance and sheer beauty of Urdu poetry in dialogues is highlighted in one of the most famous film speech’s of yesteryear. The stirring climax of Daag (1973) culminates in a speech given by Rajesh Khanna’s character for an award bestowed to him by his community. Notice how in this and so many other scripts, Urdu is an inextricable poetic catalyst for the Hindi speech:

Rajesh Khanna’s Speech from Daag (1973):

Aap.
Aap kya jaane mujhko samajhte hai.N kyaa?
Mai.N to kuch bhi nahii.N

“You.
I do not know what you make of me
For I am nothing

Is qadar pyaar itnii baDe bheed ka mai.N rakhuu.Ngaa kya?
Is qadar pyaar rakhne ke qaabil nahii.N
Mera dil, merii jaan…
Mujhko itni mohabbat na do, dosto.
Soch lo dosto…
Is qadar pyaar kaise sambhaaluu.Ngaa mai.N?
Mai.N to kuch bhi nahii.N

How can I carry such love from so great a crowd?
I am not worthy of such great love
My heart, my life…
Do not give me so much love, my friends
Think instead.
How will I bear such great love?
For I am nothing.

Pyaar.
Pyaar ek shakhs ko agar mil sake to badii cheez hai zindagi ke liye
Aadmi ko magar yeh bhi milta nahii.n
Yeh bhi milta nahii.n
Mujhko itni mohabbat milii aap se,
Mujhko itni mohabbat milii aap se…
Yeh mera haq nahii.N, merii taqdiir hai.
Mai.N zamaane ki nazro.N mei.N kuch bhi na thaa.
Merii ankho.N mei.N ab tak woh tasveer hai

Love.
If a man can receive love, it is a great thing in life
Yet many men do not even receive this
They do not even receive this
I have received so much love from you,
I have received so much love from you
This is not my right, it is my fate
I was once nothing in the eyes of the world
And in my eyes, that image remains

Izzate.N, shauharate.N, chaahate.N, ulfate.N, koi cheez duniya mei.N rehtii nahii.N
Aaj mai.N huu.N jahaa.N, kal koi aur thaa.
Yeh bhi ek daur hai, woh bhi ek daur thaa…

Respect, fame, desire, love, nothing remains in the world permanently
Today where I am, yesterday there was someone else
This is one generation, that was another generation…

Aaj itni mohabbat na do dosto.
Ki mere kal kii khatir ka kuch bhi rahe
Aaj ka pyaar thoDa bacha kar rakho
Aaj ka pyaar thoDa bacha kar rakho, mere kal ke liye

Today do not give me so much love, my friends
So that there may be some left for me tomorrow
Today, save some of that love
Today save some of that love for my days ahead

Kal.
Kal jo gumnaam hai
Kal jo sunsaan hai
Kal jo anjaan hai
Kal jo viiraan hai

Tomorrow.
Tomorrow which is anonymous
Tomorrow which is silent
Tomorrow which is unknown
Tomorrow which may be barren

Main to kuch bhi nahii.N huu.N
Mai.N to kuch bhi nahii.n”

I am nothing at all
I am nothing at all.”

With every thoughtfully chosen word, the pervasive Urdu “qaaf” is pronounced as delicately as the gentle “khe,” and the lines are delivered with the poetic overtures of a song lyric. These dialogues were written with poetry in mind, and indeed many song lyricists eventually took to writing entire film scripts (the script of Daag was written by immortal Urdu poet Akhtar ul Iman of Waqt and Gumraah fame).

Immortal lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri (right) with music director R.D. Burman and film director Nasir Hussain at a 1983 recording session.
Famed lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri (right) with music director R.D. Burman (center) and film director Nasir Hussain (left) at a 1983 recording session.

It would be impossible to summarize the incredible work of these poets in one post (hence why we’ve devoted much of our blog to it!). A small sampling of Filmfare award-winning lyrics are below:

“Chaudhvin ka chaand ho, ya aftaab ho? Jo bhi ho tum khudaa ki qasam laa-jawaab ho…” –Shakeel Badayuni (Chaudhvin Ka Chand 1961)

“Chaahuu.Ngaa mai.N tujhe saa.Nj saveN.re. Phir bhi kabhi ab naam ko tere awaaz mai.N na doo.Ngaa…”--Majrooh Sultanpuri (Dosti 1965)

“Bahaaro.N phool barsaao, meraa mehboob aayaa hai. Hawaao.N raagini gaao, meraa mehboob aaya hai…”--Hasrat Jaipuri (Suraj 1967)

“Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai ki jaise tujhko baanaayaa gaya hai mere liye…” –Sahir Ludhianvi (Kabhi Kabhi 1977)

“Aanewaalaa pal jaanewaalaa hai. Ho sake to is mei.N zindagii biTaado pal jo yeh jaanewalaa hai…” — Gulzar (Gol Maal 1980)

I was fortunate to have the chance to learn to read and write in Urdu from my grandparents who moved to New Delhi after the partition of Punjab. But this opportunity is so rare that I found after my grandfather passed away, I know few people to whom I can still write in Nasta’liq. Urdu is a language of romance—more beautiful than French and Italian, and more intricate than superficial political divides. The legacy of Urdu will continue to add to the allure and nostalgia of old films for generations to come. For the loss of Urdu is more than the mere loss of vocabulary. Without Urdu in Hindi films, we have lost our own andaaz–the manner with which we once communicated our thoughts and feelings, our decorum, and a rich, meaningful ornamentation in expressing ourselves that can never be replaced.

-Mrs. 55

Panchhi Banoon Udti Phiroon Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Nargis
Nargis frees a bird from its cage in a symbolic representation of her unfettered joy in Chori Chori (1956)

I have some good news to share with our readers: I was recently accepted to my top-choice medical school and I will be matriculating there this fall! To celebrate this momentous occasion in my life, I am providing the lyrics and English translation to one of Bollywood’s most memorable feel-good numbers from Chori Chori (1956): panchhii banuu.n uDtii phiruu.n. 

Adapted from Frank Capra’s It Happened One Night (1932), Chori Chori (1956) narrates the story of a wealthy socialite (played by Nargis) who flees her home when her father objects to her decision to marry a pilot with a reputation for womanizing and greed. En route to Bangalore, Nargis encounters Raj Kapoor, a journalist hoping to scoop this exciting story about an heiress on the run. Throughout the course of their journey, the initial bickering and animosity between Raj Kapoor and Nargis gradually transforms into love.  This film’s most memorable asset is the on-screen chemistry shared by Raj Kapoor and Nargis, who were involved in a real-life affair that became the talk of the town in the Bollywood industry during this era. 

Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable star in It Happened One Night (1932).

Placed into the context of the film, panchhii banuu.n uDtii phiruu.n sung by Lata Mangeshkar is picturized on Nargis as she basks in her newfound freedom after running away from home. Composed by Shankar-Jaikishan and penned by Hasrat Jaipuri, this song is inspired by a traditional Scottish standard calledComin’ Thro’ the Rye.” In addition to its Western influences, Hindustani classical music buffs may also argue that this melody is based on the pentatonic Raga Bhupali. Indeed, the diversity of musical influences found in the Chori Chori soundtrack make this one of Shankar-Jaikishan’s most treasured scores. From classical (“rasik balma“) to folk (“man bhaavan ke ghar“) to Western (“aajaa sanam madhur chaa.ndnii“), the compositions in Chori Chori are remarkable for their technical quality and popular appeal. It is no surprise that Shankar-Jaikishan received a well-deserved Filmfare Award for this soundtrack in 1957.

The exuberant essence of panchii banuu.n uDtii phiruu.n is undeniable: its exaltation of life brings a smile to my face with every listen. As I celebrate my acceptance to medical school, I hope to continue pursuing my dreams in the future with this spirit of joie de vivre always in mind. Until next time…

-Mr. 55
Nargis
The rural landscape accentuates Nargis’s liberated state of mind in Chori Chori (1956).

Panchhi Banoon Udti Phiroon: Lyrics and Translation

panchhii banuu.n uDtii phiruu.n mast gagan me.n
As a bird, I want to fly in the beautiful sky.
aaj mai.n aazaad huu.n duniyaa ke chaman me.n
Today, I have been liberated in the garden of the world.

(hillorii, hillorii)

mere jiivan me.n chamkaa saveraa
The morning light has shined brightly in my life.
miTaa dil se vah gham kaa andheraa
It has removed the darkness of sorrow from my heart. 
hare kheton me.n gaaye koii lahraa
Someone sings, billowing in the green fields. 
yahaa.n dil par kisi kaa na pahraa
Here, no one keeps guard over the heart. 
rang bahaaro.n ne bharaa mere jiivan me.n
The Spring has filled my life with color.
aaj mai.n aazaad huu.n duniyaa ke chaman me.n
Today, I have been liberated in the garden of the world.

dil yah chaahe bahaaro.n se kheluu.n
My heart desires that I play with the Spring. 
gorii nadiyaa ke dhaaro.n se kheluu.n
I shall frolic in the currents of the fair river. 
chaand suuraj sitaaro.n se kheluu.n
I shall play with the Moon, the Sun, and the stars. 
apnii baaho.n me.n aakaash le luu.n
I shall embrace the sky in my arms. 
baDhtii chaluu.n gaatii chaluu.n apnii lagan me.n
I shall forge ahead as I sing to my own tune. 
aaj mai.n aazaad huu.n duniyaa ke chaman me.n
Today, I feel liberated in the garden of the world. 

(hillorii, hillorii)

mai.n to oDhuu.ngii baadal kaa aa.nchal
I shall wear a shawl of clouds.
mai.n to pahnuu.ngi bijlii kii paayal
I shall wear an anklet of lightning rods.
chhiin luu.ngii ghaTaao.n se kaajal
I shall steal some kohl from the dark clouds.
meraa jiivan hai nadiyaa kii halchal
My life is like the movement of a river:
dil se mere lahre.n uThe.n ThanDii pavan me.n
waves arise from my heart in the cool breeze.
aaj mai.n aazaad huu.n duniyaa ke chaman me.n
Today, I have been liberated in the garden of the world.

panchhii banuu.n uDtii phiruu.n mast gagan me.n
As a bird, I want to fly in the beautiful sky.

*Female lines in red are sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Male lines in green are sung by Manna De

Glossary

panchhii: bird; mast: beautiful, incredible; gagan: sky; aazaad: liberated, free; chaman: garden; saveraa: morning; andheraa: darkness; haraa: green; khet: field; lahraanaa: to billow; pahraa: guard; rang bharnaa: to fill with color; goraa: fair; dhaar: current of a river; sitaaraa: star; aakaash: sky; baDhnaa: to advance, move forward; aa.nchal oDhnaa: to wear a shawl; pahnaa: to wear; bijlii: lightning; paayal: anklet; chiin lenaa: to steal; ghaTaa: dark cloud; kaajal: kohl; halchal: bustle, movement; lahar: wave; pavan: breeze, wind.

Nargis
The color version of this song released by UltraHindi offers modern vibrance to a timeless beauty.