Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

KL Saigal in Shahjehan 1946

Pre-independance Indian actor and singer, K.L. Saigal plays a Mughal-era lover in in Shahjehan (1946).

Our next lyrics and English translation is of the ageless song “Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya” from Shahjehan (1946). Known widely as early playback singer K.L. Saigal’s swansong, “Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya” is a song close to my heart and family. K.L. Saigal was my great-great uncle through my Kashmiri Nani who grew up in Jammu near Saigal sahib‘s birthplace. It’s a song that defined a generation, and one that sadly, many of my generation have never known. The great K.L. Saigal’s voice was the voice of my grandparents–the voice of men and women who can remember a time before India gained independence, before the partition destroyed Punjab, and before Bollywood was redefined as a spectacle of the mass ornament. He was a superstar before there was Mohammed Rafi and before the rise of Lata Mangeshkar. For he lived and died in an era that did not know the glitter of Eastmancolor or the dazzle of expensive special effects. K.L. Saigal was an artist when poetry reigned supreme.

KL Saigal Devdas 1935

K.L. Saigal and co-star Jamuna by the riverbanks in the 1935 Hindi epic Devdas.

Like Al Jolson in America, K.L. Saigal revolutionized music in the 1930s and 1940s in the early days of “talkies” when the concept of a “playback singer” had not been born. He acted in his own films–including the famous 1935 Devdas that has been since remade by countless Bollywood thespians. You may not know his work, but you know his legacy. He left a profound stylistic impact on the great singers of the Golden era that would follow (think Mukesh’s “Dil Jalta Hai” from Pehli Nazar to understand how hard these artists sought to emulate Saigal sahib)! Perhaps you recall the song playing in background of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) as Simran’s father returned home–it was none other than K.L. Saigal’s “Gham Diye Mushtaqil,” meant to represent the traditions of an backward generation–but in my opinion that sells it unfairly short. K.L. Saigal’s masterpieces may seem old-fashioned now, but they were the hallmark of those who fought for civil rights and equality, who dreamed of romance and greater things than the dull lives they were trapped in, and who believed in a future better than their own. Perhaps his audience is not so different from today’s. Me, when I hear “Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya“, I am always reminded of my grandparents who used to sing this song at the most unexpected moments–for in its words are not just the roots of Bollywood as we know it, but of our own traditions.

KL Saigal

K.L. Saigal (1904-1947) passed away at the age of 43 after years of struggling with alcoholism. Someone tell me he doesn’t look straight from a German Expressionist film here–look at those piercing eyes!

I hope I can convince you to open your mind to the world of Hindi cinema before the Golden Age–at least this once! I think Saigal sahib‘s depth will surprise you–and perhaps you’ll recognize in the soulful lyrics of Majrooh Sultanpuri the many reincarnations of a similar theme that followed. In Shahjehan (1946), K.L Saigal plays a rejected lover involved in a complicated royal coup that ultimately ends in both a happy marriage for him and the construction of the Taj Mahal for eternity. Intriguing, no? Our lyrics and English translation to “Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya” are below. Follow along with the video, and do let us know your thoughts on this old school number in the comments!

Jab Dil Hi Toot Gaya Lyrics and Translation:

Jab dil hii TuuT gayaa
When my heart is broken
Ham jii ke kyaa kare.Nge?
What can I do by living?

Ulfat ka diyaa hamne is dil mei.N jalaayaa thaa
I lit the flame of love in my heart
Umiid ke phoolo.N se is ghar ko sajaayaa thaa
I decorated this house with the flowers of hope
Ek bhedii looT gaayaa
And one of my own stole everything
Ham jii ke kyaa kare.Nge?
What can I do by living?
Jab dil hii TuuT gayaa
When my heart is broken

Maaluum na thaa intii mushkil hai.N merii raahe.N
I was not aware that my paths would prove so difficult
Armaan ke bahe aa.Nsuu, hasrat ne bhari aahe.N
I shed tears of desire, unfulfilled wishes filled my sighs
Har saathii chhuuT gayaa
Every companion abandoned me
Ham jii ke kyaa kare.Nge?
What can I do by living?
Jab dil hii TuuT gayaa
When my heart is broken

Glossary:

ulfat: love; diyaa: flame, candle; umiid: hope; phool: flower; bhedi: an insider, one of your own; maalum: awareness; mushkil: difficult; armaan: desire; aa.Nsuu: tears; hasrat: unfulfilled wish; aah: sigh; saathii: companion

Did you know that at the age of 13, a young Mohammed Rafi actually met K.L. Saigal? According to a new biography, Rafi sahib got the chance to meet his idol at a K.L. Saigal concert in Lahore in which young Rafi spontaneously performed a Punjabi solo to the accolades of the crowd. K.L. Saigal was so impressed with the boy’s talent, he patted him on the head and declared he would be a great singer one day!

-Mrs. 55

Guru Dutt and the Struggle to Break Free of Convention

Guru Dutt’s poetic magnum opus, Pyaasa (1957), is often considered among the greatest cinematic achievements of all time, easily among the top 30 greatest Bollywood films ever made. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find someone more defensive of the genius that is Guru Dutt than yours truly. Pyaasa is an evocative film that explores one man’s search for humanism in the cold cynicism of post-independence Indian society. People often contrast Guru Dutt with his contemporary, famed actor and director Raj Kapoor, who shot hits like Shree 420 (1955)–a song-laden, fun rags-to-riches story with a clean happy ending. In contrast, the melancholic, disillusioned tone of Guru Dutt’s poetic films usually leave me feeling like my heart has been slowly torn out, but so beautifully done, I don’t even want it back anymore.

But I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and ask those who know and love both films, does it not seem that Pyaasa and Shree 420 both actually stemmed from the same reaction to the ideals of Nehru’s India under the “mandate of modernization?” Perhaps the creed of the heroic tramp of Shree 420 that spoke to the working masses is not so far from that of the starving poet of Pyaasa that stirred the minds of the intelligentsia. When Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt, or any contemporary film-maker for that matter, sought to fill a void in their country’s cinema, despite such seemingly different approaches, they represented the emotions and wants of the same people. When you look closely, in fact, Pyaasa falls into many traps of the very conventions Guru Dutt wanted to break.

According to Raj Khosla, Guru Dutt believed the soul of Pyaasa was contained in the lines of hero Vijay’s song of lament: “Jinhe naaz hai Hind par, woh kahaan hain?” (“Where are those who are proud of this India?”), and Prime Minister Nehru himself is rumored to have been quite upset upon hearing this line, a direct invocation to the government for change.

Appalled and disillusioned, Guru Dutt’s hero stands Christ-like in the doorway of a ceremony to honor his own death.

But if that’s the case, what the heck is the chintzy “Hum aapki aankhon mein” dream sequence in which hero Vijay and Meena sing and dance in a heavenly courtyard of swirling mist and starry skies doing in the film? Perhaps it is not entirely surprising to learn that the song was not originally intended to be in the film–it was only added in later to appease the distributors who believed it to be unmarketable without at least one glitzy, expensive Bollywood song. The other songs in his film mesh seamlessly into the narrative, as if they are not songs at all, but mere continuations of dialogue–a novel technique pioneered by Dutt.

A greater travesty is, did you know the film was actually supposed to end with the high-angle crane shot of Meena all alone in the grand room with papers flying everywhere after Vijay leaves? To me, the scattered pages are a symbol of Vijay’s poetry whose role as a commodity in the film is in turn a symbolic attack of the loss of romanticism in the realities of the industrialization process. It’s as if to say, society must also honor the man who breathes life into the poems, not merely the price of the written words.

But as Dutt’s assistant recalls, Guru Dutt, “changed the ending because of how the distributors reacted. They felt the ending was too heavy. The financiers requested, ‘Why don’t you have a happy ending?’” Now Pyaasa finishes with Vijay finding spiritual fulfillment with the companionship of Gulabo and the two making their way into the hopeful sunset. I mean, isn’t this the kind of “all’s well that ends well” of conventional cinema he wanted to fight against?

So ultimately, the very focus on wealth and profitability that Guru Dutt chastises in his film is actually the force that proved overpowering in its production. Though Guru Dutt himself wanted otherwise, the distributors, believing to represent the mass market, were able to convince Dutt to change his plans and take fewer risks. He becomes just another flaw in his own criticism against Nehru’s India, greatly compromising the effectiveness of Pyaasa’s commentary. Essentially, the “solution” presented in a film like Shree 420 to try to work the system as best as possible, is all that Pyaasa shows is possible–try to be “purposeful” (as Guru Dutt wanted) within the limitations of the system. Recalling Vijay’s own lines, “Isko hi jeena kehte hain, to yuhiin jee lenge,” (“If this is life, then this is how we’ll live,”) Pyaasa often invites a sentiment to conform to the status quo rather than fight or question it.

Or am I reading too much into this?

–Mrs. 55