Mere Naina Sawan Bhado: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rajesh Khanna rainy guitar mere naina sawan bhado

Rajesh Khanna soaks his blue bell bottoms as he croons to Hema Malini in the rain in Mehbooba (1976).

Today we highlight the lyrics and English translation of “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” from Mehbooba (1976). Starring Hema Malini and Rajesh Khanna, Mehbooba is a dramatic reincarnation (punar-janam) love story that can only exist in Bollywood. When contemporary pop singer (played by Rajesh Khanna) is gifted an antique sitar for his birthday, he begins to unravel the mysteries of his past life and search for the woman whose musical talent once mesmerized him (played by the lovely Hema Malini). Mehbooba journeys from hip city life of 1970s Bombay to a countryside royal court of the 1800s where a court musician and dancer fall in love despite the misgivings of society.

First sung by Hema Malini in their past life when she believes Rajesh Khanna has deceived her, the female version of “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” is a tragic rendition, bursting with lovely alaaps that befit the classical nature of that period’s music. “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” is reprised later in the film in the modern day as Rajesh Khanna seeks to remind Hema Malini (now reincarnated as a local village belle) of their former bond. The male version is…well, steamier, in one sense of the word.

One of Mehbooba‘s most iconic scenes occurs when Rajesh Khanna begins to sing “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” in the middle of a raging stormy night, luring Hema Malini from her sleep to discover the mysterious voice filling the air. Lightening flashes menacingly, everyone’s hair is blowing wildly, and still the guitar plays on (check out more on Bollywood rain songs here!). While the male version sung by Kishore Kumar is arguably more popular (Kumar himself ranked this song in his top ten personal favorites!), the female version sung by Lata Mangeshkar is as hauntingly beautiful and enhances our understanding of the former.

Hema Malini Mere Naina Sawan Bhado Mehbooba

Hema Malini’s memories of a past life are stirred when she hears “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” from Mehbooba (1976).

Mehbooba was written by Gulshan Nanda who also wrote the screenplay of Neel Kamal (1968)–a film about a woman who visits an old palace where she discovers she was a court dancer in her previous life and that her former lover is still searching for her. Sound kind of familiar? We all see what you did there, Gulshan. Mehbooba will also literally carry a sense of deja-vu for to anyone who has seen Kudrat (1981), conveniently also starring Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini caught in a punar-janam love tangle. However, Kudrat is a darker film with flashes of expressionist inspiration that elevate the entire genre and likely contributed to its greater commercial success.

With music by R.D. Burman and lyrics by Anand Bakshi, “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” is a passionate tribute to old memories. We hope you appreciate the lyrics and learn from our English translation of both versions of “Mere Naina Sawan Bhado” below!

Mere Naina Sawan Bhado Lyrics and English Translation:

Male version:

Mere nainaa saawan-bhaado.N
My eyes are like the monsoons
Phir bhii meraa man pyaasaa
Yet still my mind remains thirsty

Aye dil diiwaane, khel yeh kyaa jaane?
Oh crazy heart, what does it know of this game?
Dard bharaa yeh giit kahaa.N se
From where does this pain-filled song
In ho.NTho.N pe aaye? duur kahii.N le jaaye
come to these lips? Take me far away
Bhuul gayaa kyaa? bhuulke bhii hai
What have I forgotten? Even though I forget
Mujhko yaad zaraa saa, phir bhii meraa man pyaasaa
I remember a little, yet still my mind is thirsty

Baat puraanii hai, ek kahaanii hai
This is an old conversation, this is a story
Ab sochuu.N tumhe.N, yaad nahii.N hai
Now I think you do not remember
Ab sochuu.N nahii.N bhuule woh saawan ke jhuule
Now I think you could not forget those swing sets of the rainy season
Rut aaye, rut jaaye deke
I saw the seasons come and go
JhuuThaa ek dilaasaa, phir bhii meraa man pyaasaa
This lie is a consolation, yet still my mind is thirsty

Baraso.N biit gaye, hamko mile bichhaDe
Ages have passed since we met and were separated
Bijurii bankar, gagan pe chhamke
We were like lightening that sparkled in the sky
Biite samay kii rekhaa, mai.N ne tumko dekhaa
But that line of time has passed since I saw you
Man sang aa.Nkh-michaulii khele
Playing hide and seek with my mind
Aashaa aur niraashaa, phir bhii meraa man pyaasaa
(were) hope and despair, yet still my mind is thirsty

Female version:

Mere nainaa saawan-bhaado.N
My eyes are like the monsoons
Phir bhii meraa man pyaasaa
Yet still my mind remains thirsty

Ghungharuu kii chham-chham, ban gayii dil kaa gham
The sound of the dancing bells become the sadness of my heart
Duub gayaa dil, yaado.N mei.N
My heart drowned in memories of you
Ubharii berang lakiire.N, dekho yeh tasviire.N
Only to emerge as colorless sketches, look at these portraits
Suune mahal mei.N naach rahii hai
In a lonely palace, still dancing
Ab tak ek rakkaasaa, phir bhii meraa man pyaasaa
Even now is a performer, yet still my mind is thirsty

Glossary:

nainaa: eyes; saawan-bhaado.N: the 5th and 6th months of the Panjabi (Nanakshahi) calendar that comprise the monsoon season; man: mind; pyaasaa: thirsty; dil: heart; diiwaanaa: crazy; khel: game; dard: pain; bharaa: filled; giit: song; kahaa.N: where; ho.NTh: lips; duur: far; bhuulnaa: to forget; yaad: memory; puraanii: old; kahaanii: story, legend; sochnaa: to think; bhuulnaa: to forget; jhuulaa: swing set; rut: season; jhuuThaa: lie; dilaasaa: consolation; baras: age, years; biitnaa: to pass; milnaa: to meet; bichhaDnaa: to be separated; bijuri: lightening; gagan: sky; chhamaknaa: to sparkle; samay: time; rekhaa: line; aa.nkh-michaulii: hide-and-seek; aashaa: hope; niraashaa: despair; gham: sadness; Duubnaa: to drown; ubharii: raised; berang: without color; lakiraaa: line; tasviir: picture; suunaa: lonely, mahal: palace; naachnaa: to dance; tak: until; rakkaasaa: dancer

Rajesh Khanna Mehbooba guitar mere naina sawan

Smooth-operator Rajesh Khanna executes his devastating wink mid-guitar pluck, completely obliterating anyone’s initial repulsion at his haircut.

Did you know Rajesh Khanna actually sings the first antra of the song in a separate scene that takes place in broad daylight? He opens with his famous wink that still manages to induce swoons despite his distractingly dated ‘do! Think I’m the only one obsessed with the hair and outfits in these films? This week our local independent movie theatre happened to be doing a Bollywood series (obviously, I soaked up every moment), including a special screening of Om Shanti Om (2007). During the song “Main Agar Kahoon,” something felt eerily familiar…check out Shah Rukh Khan’s outfit below to see what I mean! It’s one of the many subtle meta classic film references that make Om Shanti Om such a brilliant work!

Shah Rukh Khan imitates Rajesh Khanna's unforgettable blue ensemble with a rainbow top in Om Shanti Om (2008).

Shah Rukh Khan imitates Rajesh Khanna’s scarring unforgettable blue bell bottom ensemble with a rainbow top in Om Shanti Om (2007).

– Mrs. 55

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Aye Dil-E-Nadaan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

 

As many of our readers may already be aware, today marks the 86th birthday of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. In commemoration of this special day, we would like to present the lyrics and English translation to one of the most exquisitely beautiful songs sung by the Nightingale of India during her long and illustrious career: ai dil-e-naadaa.n from Razia Sultan (1983).

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Hema Malini stars as a 13th century empress of Delhi in Razia Sultan (1983)

Directed by Kamal Amrohi (of Mahal and Pakeezah fame), Razia Sultan narrates the story of the only woman to ascend the throne of Delhi and her alleged love affair with Abyssinian slave-turned-warrior Jaml-ud-Din Yaqut. Hema Malini stars in the title role, while her real-life beau Dharmendra plays the role of her love interest Yaqut. When Sultan Altamash decides that his beloved daughter Razia shall be the successor to his throne instead of his trouble-making son Ferozshah, the kingdom erupts in an uproar over the possibility of being ruled by a woman. After her father’s passing, Razia proves herself to be a compassionate and brave ruler who leads with an eye toward justice like her late father. Over time, Razia is accepted as the first female emperor of the kingdom until gossip spreads among the royal court about an affair between Razia and her former slave Yaqut. Although Yaqut is now a free man and army commander, the relationship between him and the empress is highly scandalous due to his roots as a dark-skinned African slave. When this controversy reaches its peak, Razia must make a choice between her kingdom and her love. In the end, in true Bollywood style, Razia makes the ultimate sacrifice for her love.

Although this film had the potential to provide a compelling view on the complexities of race and gender politics, it fails to meet the mark in many respects and was unable to achieve commercial success at the time of its release. It is likely that the heavy-handed use of formal Urdu made it difficult for audiences to understand many parts of the film’s dialogue. The pace drags in many scenes, and the starring duo provide few memorable moments throughout the film. Those familiar with this period of history will also note that many liberties were taken to create a fictionalized narrative suitable for presentation in a Bollywood movie.

The aspect in which director Kamal Amrohi has shined, as he has done in his previous productions, is in the selection of the music for the film’s soundtrack. Khayyam’s sublime and minimalistic compositions come together with Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s reticent yet expressive poetry to create a memorable album that is probably the single most redeeming quality of Razia Sultan. The crowning jewel of this soundtrack is ai dil-e-nadaa.n rendered flawlessly by the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar. Her voice captures the mysticism and tranquility of the poetry with remarkable ease. Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s poetry is beautiful in its simplicity as it probes the nature of human desire and the inevitable suffering that it causes. No discussion of this song would be complete without mention of the santoor interludes interspersed with moments of silence, which provide gentle accompaniment to the serenity evoked by Akhtar’s words and Lata’s ethereal voice.

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The elaborate costumes and sets used to shoot Razia Sultan (1983) make it one of the most expensive productions of its time. [Source]

A couple of anecdotes from key players involved in the making of this song to round out our discussion today:

Khayyam explains how he was inspired by the story of Razia Sultan during the composition of ai dil-e-naadaa.n: “

The caravan of Razia Sultan came to India from Turkey through a long and tortuous route traversing many countries. If you listen carefully, the tune and orchestration reflects the musical influences of all the regions she traveled across. The song is about the duel in her mind- the woman inside her is deeply in love with a black slave but the princess inside her is all too aware of her duty. The song depicts that dilemma in her mind. [Source]

Lata Mangeshkar has always ranked this song has one of the best of her career and included it in her An Era in An Evening concert that took place in Mumbai in March 1997 (see link above). In her own words, she says:

“Khayyam’s ai dil-e-naadaa.n from Razia Sultan is among the best songs I’ve sung. The way Kamal (Amrohi)-saab explained it to me,  I could actually visualise the situation. I was very satisfied by the way I rendered the number. Kamal-saab found my Urdu pronunciation clear and chaste. The lyrics of ai dil-e-naadaa.n written by Javed Akhtar’s father Jaan Nisar Akhtar, were inspiring. I have sung several songs written by him.” [Source]

Are you wondering why Lata’s voice sounds so heavenly in this song even though it was past its prime at the time of the film’s release in 1983? That’s because Khayyam had this song recorded by Lata nine years earlier in 1974. After just two rehearsals, she had recorded the entire song in one take! Khayyam recollects how the popularity of this song helped him be selected as the music director for other major films in the 1970s like Kabhie Kabhie (1976):

“Actually the reason, I got Kabhie Kabhie was the song ai dil-e-naadaa.n. For Razia Sultan, I had recorded Lata-ji’s ai dil-e-naadaa.n and also Qabban Mirza’s aayii zanjiir kii jhankaar as early as in 1974. ai dil-e-naadaa.n had then created such a stir that practically everyone in the film industry was talking about that song. That fame had reached to Yash Chopra and one evening, when I returned after a Razia Sultan sitting at Kamaalistan, I found Yash-ji and Sahir-saab waiting for me. They told me that they were making a film about a love-story of a poet and they wanted me as a composer. I immediately said, ‘Yes’.” [Source]

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In spite of a solid portrayal of the lead character by Hema Malini, Razia Sultan (1983) failed to achieve success at the box office. [Source]

Aye Dil-E-Nadaan Lyrics and Translation:

ai dil-e-naadaan
Oh, my naive heart!
aarzuu kyaa hai? justujuu kyaa hai?
What do you desire? What do you seek?

ham bhaTakte hai.n, kyo.n bhaTakate hai.n dasht-o-sehraa me.n?
Why do I wander alone in this deserted wilderness?
aisaa lagtaa hai mauj pyaasii hai apne dariyaa me.n
It seems as if I am a wave thirsty for water in its own river.
kaisii uljhan hai? kyo.n yeh uljhan hai?
What is this turmoil? Why is there this turmoil?
ek saayaa-saa ruuh-ba-ruuh kyaa hai?
What is this shadow that stands face-to-face before me?

kyaa qayaamat hai! kyaa musiibat hai!
What a disaster! What misfortune!
keh nahii.n sakte kiskaa armaa.n hai
I am unable to say whom it is that I desire.
zindagii jaise khoyii-khoyii hai, hairaa.n-hairaa.n hai
It seems as if my life itself is lost and confused.
yeh zamii.n chup hai, aasmaa.n chup hai
The earth lies quietly, while the sky remains in silence.
phir yeh dhaDkan-sii chaar-suu kyaa hai?
Yet, what pulsates around me in every direction?

ai dil-e-nadaan aisii raaho.n me.n kitne kaa.nTe hai.n
Oh, my naive heart! There are many thorns along the path of love.
aarzuuo.n ne har kisii dil ko dard baa.nTe hai.n
The pursuit of desires has given pain to every heart.
kitne ghayal hai.n, kitne bismil hai.n
Many hearts are wounded; many hearts are sacrificed.
is khudaayii me.n ek tuu kyaa hai?
In the face of divinity, who are you alone?

ek tuu kyaa hai, ek tuu kyaa hai?
Who are you alone?
ai dil-e-naadaan, ai dil-e-nadaa.n
Oh, my naive heart!

Glossary:

naadaa.n: naive, foolish; aarzuu: desire; justujuu: search, pursuit; bhaTaknaa: to wander; dasht: desert; sehraa: wilderness; mauj: wave; pyaasii: thirsty; dariyaa: river; uljhan: turmoil, confusion; saayaa: shadow; ruuh-ba-ruuh: face-to-face; qayaamat: disaster, crisis, Day of Judgment: musiibat: misfortune; armaa.n: desire, hope; khoyii: lost; hairaa.n: confused, distressed; zamii.n: earth, land; chup: quiet, silent; aasmaa.n: sky; dhaDkan: pulse, heartbeat; chaar-suu: all around, in all four directions; raah: path; kaa.nTe: thorns; dard: pain; baa.nTnaa: to allocate, to distribute; ghayal: wounded; bismil: wounded, sacrificed; khudaayii: divinity, world.

The use of the word bismil adds a unique spiritual dimension to the lyrics of this song. Bismil means wounded or sacrificed and originates from the Islamic ritual of sacrificing animals as an offering while uttering bismillah (in the name of God).

-Mr. 55

Intimate scenes between Hema Malini and Parveen Babi (particularly during the song khvab ban kar koii aayegaa) sparked some controversy at the time of this film’s release. [Source]

The Best Holi Songs of Classic Bollywood Movies

Hema Malini Sholay holi

Hema Malini dances with joyful abandon in Sholay’s famous holi number “Holi Ke Din.”

The festival of Holi is among Bollywood’s favorite celebrations–an occasion at last as colorful as the country of its origin. Indeed Holi, a Hindu spring festival, is commonly known as the Festival of Colors. It is both a religious celebration signifying the triumph of Good over Evil, as well as a cultural one commemorating the onset of a new Spring season. It is marked by the throwing of colorful powders, the lighting of bonfires, and the strengthening of bonds between all individuals in colorful merriment. Its spirited catchphrase “Buraa na maano, Holi hai!” (Don’t bear any ill-feelings, it’s Holi!”) speaks to the underlying theme of the day – the burning of negative forces or ill-will, a sort of spiritual purging. The smearing of colors represents the deconstructing of identities and the breaking of social barriers, as all rejoice and participate together, regardless of social class. At the very least, it is a day to settle old scores and move on. Indeed, everyone is welcome and everyone is pardoned for his or her revelry. Thus, we mortals celebrate Holi today with fun and games, colors and powder, and Bollywood takes this grand opportunity to ignite romance.

Rajesh Khanna asha parekh holi

Rajesh Khanna woos Asha Parekh with color at the Holi celebration of Kati Patang (1970).

There’s something inherent to the playful tag-style nature of Holi that lends itself so conveniently to flirtation and a male-female dichotomy. We discussed the appalling lack of Diwali-associated songs in classic Bollywood previously, and hazarded the guess that the festival is far less conducive to overt flirtation and bumping dance grooves like Holi invariably is. Whether wooing the mourning lover into a literal rainbow of joy or painting your sweetheart with a visible mark of your flirtatious overtures, Holi delivers the goods for Bollywood every time.

Mother India holi

Even the old school epic Mother India takes a drama break for the holi festivities!

Below is our list of the 10 greatest Holi songs of classic Bollywood cinema. Happy Holi to all our readers–and if you’re stuck in a huge snowstorm like we are, here’s hoping Holi will usher in the Spring at last!

1. Rang barse (Silsila 1981)

The ultimate old school Holi hit, this song will force anyone to get in the mood and join the festivities! Say what you want about Amitabh and Rekha’s clandestine affair, this dance number will get you on board in no time!

2. Aaj na chodenge (Kati Patang 1970)

This song is easily my favorite Bollywood holi song! Besides the fact that I grew up on the Kati Patang soundtrack, does it get much better than Rajesh Khanna-Asha Parekh shy seduction? Lata and Kishore are delightful, but don’t get me started on the bizarre chorus act that chops up the number like barbarians on holiday.

3. Holi Aayi Re Kanhaayi (Mother India 1957)

Oh, there’s no school like the old school! Bring it back Nargis-style with this classic song from Mother India that just overflows with romance and sass! The only thing better than a Holi song is a Holi village dance-off.

4. Tan rang lo ji (Kohinoor 1960)

While this royal gem may be shot in black-and-white, you can practically see the colors flying in this fantastic Mohammed Rafi-Dilip Kumar celebration that invites the entire kingdom for a Holi song-and-dance sequence!

5. Holi Ke Din (Sholay 1975)

Retro flirting Queen Hema Malini proves to Dharmendra that she’s more than just a loud mouth in Sholay–her moves and dancing steal the show in this colorful song!

6. Are Ja Re Hat Natkhat (Navrang 1959)

Classical dancer Sandhya wows the audience with this traditional stage performance, alternating as both the male and female character complete with ghungroo! Asha Bhonsle’s Hindustani vocals balance out Mahendra Kapoor’s mainstream sway in a Holi number that is well-known even today for its stunning classical choreography.

7. Piya Tose Naina (Guide 1965)

Looking for something a little classier? Go no further than this Waheeda Rehman semi-classical piece from the great philosophical Guide. Watch her prance around with so much joie de vivre, you’ll ignore how gaudy the stage is decorated and your feelings for high-pitched female choruses of the 1960s.

8. Nadiya Se Dariya (Namak Haram 1973)

This song is just plain cute. While not a roaring shoulder-shaking dance off like some of these others, the song is playful and full of shy passion for Rajesh Khanna, which we always approve of.

9. Baghi Re Bhagi Brij Bala (Rajput 1982)

I think this hidden jewel is under-appreciated by historians. While something of a repeat of previous Hema Malini-Dharmendra magic, Vinod Khanna holds his own in this fast-paced duet that once again brings an entire kingdom to the palace to party Holi-style!

10. Kaikhe Paan Banaraswala (Don 1978)

OK, so this isn’t technically a Holi song per se, but it’s arguably the unofficial anthem! There’s something about a traditional, rich beat coupled with Kishore’s absolutely unabashed vocals that set the tone of a celebration and throwing inhibitions to the wind!

While Holi was born in India, it’s popularity was carried across the diaspora and is celebrated around the world each year with full force! The picture below is from my freshman year at Harvard where Holi was played on the Mac quad! Can you spot me in the pigtails with the orange-yellow face?

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– Mrs. 55

Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Dev Anand gazes longingly at Hema Malini through the kitsch 1970s windows of her living room in Johnny Mera Naam.

Next we present the lyrics and full English translation to “Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi,” a timelessly catchy Dev Anand jingle from the 1970 blockbuster Johnny Mera Naam. The film became the highest grossing film of Bollywood in the 1970s, and the soundtrack rose with it to glory bringing hits like this playful Kishore solo, the duet “O Mere Raja,” and Lata’s “O Babul Pyaare.” Johnny Mera Naam is an action-thriller-mystery with a splash of glamour by the gorgeous Hema Malini and a touch of class from Pran. Those were the golden days when the name “Johnny” in Bollywood implied the height of suavity, second perhaps only to the villainous sophistication of “Robert!” While the film’s storyline does not quite match up to the genius and spectacle of his earlier films of a similar genre like Jewel Thief (1967), Johnny Mera Naam delivers good clean fun for the whole family.

“Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi” is one of the all-time cutest songs picturized on screen. Besides the fact that Hema Malini probably wears a saari better than any actress of yesteryear, I love the set design. Hema Malini has to literally shut every single window and blind in the house to keep Dev Anand from singing to her from outside, and the designer was forced to get really creative! I love the painting that’s actually a hidden window and the the strangle holed wall that Dev Anand uses as handcuff props. It’s adorable how he tries to woo her throughout the song, begging her to just pretend to love him–and then the clever zinger of an ending where he throws it back in her face! It’s also one of the last Dev Anand films where I feel like he is still pulling off acting the hero and flirting with younger women. As much as we love him, we wish he had not acted in too many films past this…but that’s another story.

Hema Malini cleverly disguises a window with a traditional oil painting in the wacky fun house of the Johnny Mera Naam (1970) sets.

Below enjoy our English translation of this ever-popular Kishore Kumar song. Did you know that this song was even featured at the end of a Simpsons episode in 2006 entitled, “Kiss Kiss Bangalore”? You’re killing me, people.

Pal Bhar Ke Liye Koi Lyrics and Translation

Pal bhar ke liye koii hume.N pyaar kar le
Let somebody give me momentary love
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if it is false
Do din ke liye koii iqraar kar le
Somebody say yes for a couple of days
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if it is false
Pal bhar ke liye koii hume.N pyaar kar le
Let somebody give me momentary love
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if it is false

Hum ne bahut tujhko chhup chhupke dekhaa
I have often viewed you secretively
Dil pe khiichii hai tere kaajal kii rekhaa
The darkness of your eyeliner is etched on my heart
Kajal kii rekhaa banii Lakshman kii rekhaa
That line has become a line of control now
Ram mei.N kyuu.N tuu ne Raavan ko dekhaa?
Why did you mistake Ram for Raavan?
KhaDe khiDkii pe jogii, swiikar kar le
At your window stands a Yogi, accept him
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if your acceptance is a lie
Pal bhar ke liye koii hume.N pyaar kar le
Let somebody give me momentary love
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if it is false

Hiire se jaDe tere nain baDe
Your big eyes were embedded with diamonds,
Jis din se laDe tere Dar pe paDe
The day our eyes made contact, I was floored,
Sun sun kar terii “nahii.N nahii.N”
Listening to your constant no’s,
Jaa.N apnii nikal jaaye.N na kahii.N
My life may slip away
Zaraa haa.N keh de, merii jaa.N, keh de
Just say yes, my love, say it
Merii jaa.N keh de, zaraa haa.N keh de
Call me “my love,” just say yes
Jab rain paDe ,nahii.N chain paDe
When night falls I have no peace
Nahii.N chain paDe jab rain paDe
I have no peace when night falls

Maanaa tu saare hasiino.N se hasii.N hai
I agree you are the prettiest of the pretty
Apnii bhii surat burii to nahii.N hai
But my face isn’t too bad either
Kabhii tu bhii humaaraa diidaar kar le
Why don’t you sometimes take a look at me?
JhuTaa hii sahii
Even if you are faking
Pal bhar ke liye koii hume.N pyaar kar le
Let somebody give me momentary love
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if it is false

Pal bhar ke pyaar pe nisaar saare jeevan
For a moment of your love, I would sacrifice my entire life
Hum woh nahii.N jo choD de teraa daaman
I am not someone who would leave your embrace
Apne honto.N kii ha.Nsii hum tujhko de.Nge
I will give you the laughter from my lips
Aa.Nsoo tere apni aa.Nkho.N mei.N le.Nge
And I will take the tears from your eyes
Tuu humaari wafaa kaa ek baar kar le
Believe in me just once
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if I’m just lying!

Pal bhar ke liye koii hume.N pyaar kar le
Let somebody give me momentary love
JhuTa hii sahii
Even if it is false

Glossary

jhuuTaa: untrue; iqraar: acceptance; chhup chhupke: secretively; kaajal: eyeliner; Lakshman ki rekha: the circle of protection and control drawn by Lakshman for Sita in the Ramayana; Raavan: the villain of the Ramayana into whose hands Sita temporarily fell (until Raam saved the day once more); khiDkii: window; jogii: yogi; swiikar karna: to accept; hiire: diamonds nain: eyes; Dar: doorstep; jaa.N: life; rain: night; chain: peace of mind; maanaa: agree; hasiino.N se hasii.N: the most beautiful of the beautiful; suurat: face; diidaar: glimpse; nisaar: sacrifice; damaan: embrace; ho.Nto.N: lips; ha.Nsii: laughter; aa.Nsuu: tears; wafaa: faith, belief

Note that I’ve translated “JhuuTaa hii sahii” in many slightly different ways throughout the song’s translation, to match the meaning in each stanzas particular context. But he’s basically always just saying if it’s a lie, that works too.

Hema Malini stops lying to herself and joyfully sings along to Dev Anand’s catchy “Pal Bhar Ke Liye” from Johnny Mera Naam (1970).

My favorite line from the song is from the final antra is: “Pal bhar ke pyaar pe nisaar saaraa jeevan.” Nisaar is such a fabulous Urdu vocabulary word that works so poetically right here before the word saaraa. Unfortunately, this stanza is often missing from most recordings that people have of the song (see our post on songs with hidden stanzas for more!) And without this final stanza in which initially Kishore’s voice becomes the most sweet and sincere of the whole film, you miss the whole surprise ending where Dev Anand shows that he can be just as sassy! Such a shame.

This song request came from one of our absolute favorite readers Bhuvesh! Always, if you have a request for a translation or post, be sure to send us a message!

-Mrs. 55

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

Jani O Jani Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Next we will discuss the lyrics and translation of the nostalgic Kishore Kumar song “Jani O Jani.” However, this post is going to be a little different since something a little different happened to me this month. My wonderful boyfriend of 2 years proposed to me! We met when he was recruited by a friend to be an extra in the 1950s Bollywood film tribute I was shooting for my thesis at Harvard. The deal was essentially sealed when I realized he had heard more than half the songs on my 60s Mohammed Rafi playlist. Two years later, he planned a surprise engagement proposal straight from a Bollywood dream sequence! I was reminded immensely of an old Kishore Kumar gem, “Jaani O Jaani” from Raja Jani (1972). There is something both nostalgic and hopeful about this song that I love.

Raja Jani (1972) is actually an incredibly fun film–basically the 70s Bollywood version of the American feature-length cartoon Anastasia (1997). It’s colorful, upbeat, and filled with exciting drama at its predictable best. The story is written by the highly-talented Nabendu Ghosh, who also wrote more somber-toned philosophical works like Bandini (1963) and Teesri Kasam (1967).

We don’t often translate Kishore Kumar songs on this site because of my obsession with Mohammed Rafi and Mr. 55’s obsession with Lata (surprise surprise—Mr. 55 and I are just friends!). But this song is special. It’s picturized on Dharmendra driving through the Delhi streets and evokes that sense of travel and beginning a journey found in many of Kishore other great hits (eg. “Musafir Hoo.N Yaaro.N”, “O Maaji Re”, etc.). Very appropriate for the occasion of starting a new life together (oh, give me a break).

Dharmendra and Hema Malini exchange uber cute glances in Raja Jani (1972)

Lyrics and Translation:

Jani O jani
Darling, oh darling
Jaldi se aaja miljaa ke biit jaaye yeh jawaanii
Come meet me quickly because our youth slips away

Bigda naseeba banne ke liye
To correct my misguided fate
Ek ishaaraa tere kaafi hai
Just one signal from you is enough
Aashiq ke jiine marne ke liye
To make the choice between life and death for a lover
Itna sahaara tera kafi hai
That is all the support that is needed
Tujh pe lutadoonga mitadoonga mai.N yeh zindagaani
For you, I would throw away and wipe out this life of mine
Jaani O jaani jaani O jaani
Darling, oh darling

Aankhon mei.N teri tasveer liye
Carrying your picture in my eyes
DhuunDh raha hoo.N tujhe raste mei.N
I search for you along the way
Teri galii mei.N teraa diiwaanaa
In your street, that man who is crazy in love with you
Bech rahaa hai dil saste mei.N
Is selling his heart to you cheaply
Karle yeh sauda leja deja raani dil ki nishani
Accept this bargain and let us exchange, my queen, tokens of our hearts
Jaani O jaani
Darling, oh darling

Glossary:

jaani: darling, sweetheart; jaldi se: quickly; jawaani: youth; naseeba: fate; ishaaraa: signal; aashiq: lover; sahaaraa: support; zindagaani: life; tasveer: picture; sauda: bargain, exchange

I know, I know, this is obnoxious, but I really had to put a picture of my engagement ring here. Is the teal box in the background a subtle enough clue that it’s from Tiffany’s?! Was the complimentary teal background over-doing it?

Why yes, it’s a flawless Tiffany solitaire engagement ring.

OK, OK, I’m done now.

-Mrs. 55