Neela Aasman So Gaya Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Amitabh Bacchan plays a writer who falls for Rekha’s timeless beauty in Silsila (1981)

Directed and produced by Yash Chopra, Silsila (1981) sparked controversy even before it was released. Rumors regarding the film’s casting spread throughout the industry, as its portrayal of a love triangle between Amitabh Bacchan, his wife Jaya Bacchan, and his alleged mistress Rekha was said to mimic reality. Today, we present the lyrics and English translation of a classic romantic ballad from Silsilaniilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa.

This film depicts a passionate romance between Amit (played by Amitabh Bacchan) and Chandni (played by Rekha) that cannot culminate in marriage due to unfortunate circumstances. After his brother (played by Shashi Kapoor) is killed in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, Amit marries his brother’s pregnant fiancee in order to save her honor. Unable to pursue her love with Amit, Chandni marries Dr. Anand (played by Sanjeev Kumar). When Amit and Shobha are involved in a car accident (that causes Shobha to lose her baby), they are hospitalized and treated by Dr. Anand. Chandni sees Amit in the hospital, and this encounter triggers memories of their past love. Amit and Chandni give into their temptations and begin to rekindle their romance through clandestine meetings. The plot thickens when an evening rendezvous goes sour: Amit and Chandni must go to the police station after hitting a pedestrian while driving, and officer assigned to their case turns out to be Shobha’s cousin. How long can Amit and Chandni keep their adultery a secret? Will Amit and Chandni leave their spouses to be together? Silsila is worth a viewing to find out!

Although Silsila is not the first Bollywood film to depict extra-marital love, it is ground-breaking in its concrete portrayal of the consummation of adultery.  Indeed, this film compelled Indian audiences to think about extra-marital affairs and whether they can be cinematically romanticized in a way that appeals to the masses. Silsila offers some justification for the relationship between Amit and Chandni because they were a couple before Amit sacrificed his love to uphold his duty to his brother. However, the film portrays the tumultous decline of their extra-marital romance, eventually depicting Amit and Chandni as disloyal adulterers instead of righteous lovers. The uncomfortable subject matter is presumably the reason why this film failed to be a box office success. Regarding the audience’s reaction to Silsila, Yash Chopra has said:

 “The film had inherent tensions because of the casting coup. If I was confident of the project, it was because all the three artistes had individually assured me that there would be no problems at their end. And they kept their word. It was a film on extra-marital relationships and call it moral and societal pressures, but at the last minute, I developed cold-feet and thought that maybe the hero should come home to his wife. The original ended differently. When and why I changed the ending I don’t know, but I did so because I felt that the audience wasn’t ready. But the audience didn’t accept what we gave them either.”

Although audiences may not have reacted positively to its thematic content, the film has left a legacy of controversy that is still remembered today. The release of Silsila marked the end of the alleged affair between Rekha and Amitabh, but those associated with the Bollywood industry still discuss their love story more than 25 years later. At public events such as award functions, the media is unforgiving in keeping a close eye on how Amitabh, Jaya, and Rekha interact with each other!

Aside from its controversy, this film is also remembered for a number of special debuts. In Silsila, Yash Chopra introduced Shiv (santoor maestro Pt. Shivkumar Sharma) and Hari (flute maestro Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia) for the first time as composers of Hindi film music. Moreover, Javed Akhtar penned his first lyrics for a Hindi film in Silsila. The soundtrack for Silsila has a number of popular hits such as dekhaa ek khvaab and rang barse, but “niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa is especially noteworthy for its use of Amitabh Bacchan as a playback singer. Amitabh showcases his versatility as a performer by doing his own singing, which defied the conventions that had been established in the industry for years. Although he lacks the refinement of musical training, Mr. Bacchan can certainly hold a tune in his version of this ballad. A little bit past her prime, Lata Mangeshkar also offers a melancholic interpretation of the same song picturized on Rekha. Listen to both as you follow along with our translations, and let us know which version you prefer in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
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The first version of niilaa aasmaa.n showcases the passionate on-screen chemistry shared by Rekha and Amitabh Bacchan in Silsila (1981)

Neela Aasman So Gaya: Lyrics and Translation (Male)

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber.

os barse.n, raat bhiige, ho.nTh thharraaye.n
Dew falls, the night becomes drenched, and my lips quiver.
dhaDkane.n kuchh kahnaa chaahe.n, kah nahii.n paaye.n
Although my heartbeats desire to say something, they are unable to.
havaa kaa geet maddham hai
The breeze sings softly,
samay kii chaal bhii kam hai
while the time passes slowly.

merii baaho.n me.n sharmaate lajaate aise tum aaye
You came into my arms, shying away in embarassment, 
ki jaise baadalo.n me.n chaa.nd dhiire dhiire aa jaaye
like the Moon cautiously slipping into the clouds.
yah tanhaayii, yah mai.n aur tum
This solitude, you, and me. 
zamii.n bhii ho gayii gumsum
Even the Earth has fallen silent.

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber.

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Rekha wallows in sorrow during the second version of niilaa aasmaa.n after Amitabh tells her that they cannot marry each other in Silsila (1981).

Neela Aasman So Gaya: Lyrics and Translation (Female)

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber. 

aa.nsuuo.n me.n chaa.nd Duubaa, raat murjhaayii
In my tears, the Moon has set and the night has withered. 
zindagii me.n duur tak phailii hai tanhaayii
Solitude has spread far into my life. 
jo guzre ham pe vah kam hai
What has happened to me thus far is a small beginning,
tumhaare gham kaa mausam hai
for I have just entered the season of sorrow for you.

yaad kii vaadii me.n guu.nje biite afsaane
Tales of the past resonate in the valley of memories. 
hamsafar jo kal the ab Thahare ve begaane
Yesterday’s companion is now a stranger. 
muhabbat aaj pyaasii hai
My love remains unquenched today.
baDii gahrii udaasii hai
I am overcome by a very deep sorrow.

niilaa aasmaa.n so gayaa
The blue sky has fallen into slumber.

Glossary

niilaa: blue; aasmaa.n: sky; os: dew; bhiignaa: to become drenched; tharraanaa: to quiver; dhaDkan: heartbeat; havaa: wind, breeze; maddham: dim, soft; samay: time; chaal: movement, passing; sharmaanaa: to shy away; lajaanaa: to be embarrassed; baadal: cloud; dhiire dhiire: cautiously; tanhaayii: solitude; gumsum: silent; murjhaanaa: to wither; phailnaa: to spread; yaad: memories; vaadii: valley; guu.njnaa: to resonate; afsaanaa: tale, story; hamsafar: companion: begaanaa: stranger; pyaasii: unquenched; gahraa: deep; udaasii: sorrow.

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Amitabh Bacchan sacrifices his love for Rekha to marry his late brother’s pregnant fiance Jaya Bacchan in Silsila (1981).
 

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

Rabindranath Tagore’s Influence on S.D. Burman

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and S.D. Burman (1906-1975)

Due to my upbringing in a Bengali household, I am intimately familiar with Rabindra-sangeet: the genre of songs written and composed by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. As a composer, artist, novelist, playwright, poet, and philosopher, Tagore has left a lasting legacy on Indian culture through his vast collection of works in a variety of mediums. Although the purism and simplicity of Tagore’s style might suggest that Bollywood is an inappropriate forum to celebrate his art, several music directors from the Golden Age of Hindi cinema have been known to use Tagore songs as inspirations for their musical compositions. The music director who is most well-known for this practice is none other than the illustrious S.D Burman. S.D. Burman is one of the most succesful music directors in the history of the Bollywood industry, and his songs from films such as Bandini (1963), Guide (1965), Jewel Thief (1967), and Aradhana (1969) are still considered all-time classics today. His filmi compositions tend to draw upon inspiration from Bengali folk traditions (e.g. bhatiaalii, saari, etc. ), but here I’d like to draw your attention to a collection of S.D. Burman compositions that are derived from Rabindra-sangeet:

meraa sundar sapnaa biit gayaa (Do Bhai, 1949): From one of S.D. Burman’s first hit scores in the Bollywood industry, this song is considered to be Geeta Dutt’s breakthrough as a playback singer in Hindi films. The mukhDaa of this song is inspired by a Bilaaval-based Tagore composition called “radono bharaa e basonto.” Geeta does an excellent job of expressing the sorrow and pain of this song with her voice, and it is truly unfortunate that the lyrics here would become a reality for her during her tumultuous marriage to Guru Dutt in the next decade.

Playback singer Geeta Dutt (1930-1972) with her husband Guru Dutt (1925-1964)

nain diivaane (Afsar, 1950): This Pilu-based composition is skilfully rendered by Suraiyya, a leading singer/actress who became a huge sensation in Bollywood during the 1940s. Bollywood as we know it today relies on actors and actresses lip-syncing songs sung by playback singers; however, in its very early days, actresses like Suraiyya used to sing their own songs for films. In spite of their dual talents, singer-actresses were not able to survive the onslaught of the Mangeshkar monopoly in the 1950s, and the playback singing paradigm became the standard that is still maintained today in the industry. In any case, this song is based on an extremely popular Tagore composition called “sediin duujane duulechhiinuu bone.” S.D. Burman literally did a copy-paste job here, as the melody of the entire Hindi song is identical to the Bengali original. While loosely basing a mukhDaa on a previous composition is somewhat acceptable, recycling a whole song written by another composer begs the question: should S.D. Burman have given credit to Tagore for this composition?

Singer/actress Suraiyya (1929-2004)

 

 jaaye.n to jaaye.n kahaa.n? (Taxi Driver, 1954): S.D. Burman won his first Filmfare Award for Best Music Director for this song from Taxi Driver in 1954. As is often the case, the male version of the song (sung by Talat Mehmood) is more popular than the female version (sung by Lata Mangeshkar). Although S.D. Burman modified the raga of his composition to more closely resemble Jaunpuri, the first line of the mukhDaa is instantly recognizable as the main phrase from Tagore’s Bhairavi-based classic  “ he khoniiker otiithhii.” Note that the Tagore original that I have provided here is sung by Hemanta Mukherjee (a.k.a Hemant Kumar), who, in addition to achieving fame as a Hindi playback singer/music director, was known for his beautiful renditions of Rabindra-sangeet in Bengali.

jalte hai.n jiske liye: (Sujata, 1959): This probably qualifies as my favorite “telephone song” from a Hindi film. Here, Sunil Dutt woos Nutan over the phone with this gem as he croons to Talat Mehmood’s silky vocals on playback (notice the characteristic quiver that we know and love!). Although this composition is often considered an all-time classic song of romance, fans of this song may be surprised to know that the mukhDaa is taken directly from a Tagore composition named “ekodaa tumii priye.”

Sunil Dutt serenades Nutan over the telephone with “jalte hai.n jiske liye” in Sujata (1959)

meghaa chhaye aadhii raat (Sharmilee, 1971): Out of all the compositions listed here, the inspiration from Tagore is the most difficult to hear in this song because it does not involve the mukhDaa. Rather, S.D. Burman seems to have inserted a small segment of  laho laho tuule laho (0:26-0:40) into the antara of this raga Patdeep-based classic from Sharmilee. What a trickster, huh?

tere mere milan kii yeh rainaa (Abhimaan, 1973): By far, this is the most famous example where  S.D. Burman has been inspired by Rabindra-sangeet.  In his last hit film score (for which he won his second  Filmfare Award for Best Music Director), S.D. Burman recycles the mukhDaa from Tagore’s Mishra Khamaj-based “jodii taare nai chiinii go sekii?” in this evergreen duet of Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar. Burman’s antaras are a beautiful addition to the original composition, so we won’t give him too much trouble for his rehashing of Tagore here. Note that the Bengali original that I have linked to here is sung by Kishore Kumar, another Hindi playback singer who was famous for his renditions of Rabindra-sangeet in Bengal.

Amitabh and Jaya Bacchan sing the duet “tere mere milan kii yeh raina” on stage during the climax of Abhimaan (1973).

Although S.D. Burman was often inspired by Tagore in his compositions, he never recorded or sang a single piece of Rabindra-sangeet throughout his career. The reason behind this is, of course, family feuding–an unavoidable staple of all things related to Indian culture. Here’s the story: S.D Burman’s father Nabadwip Chandra Dev Burman was set to be the direct heir to the throne of Tripura when the current king passed away in 1862. However, the crown went to Nabadwip’s paternal uncle Birchandra Dev Burman due to some dirty palace politics. Because Rabindranath Tagore had a very close relationship with Birchandra Dev Burman, S.D. Burman avoided meeting Tagore throughout his lifetime and refused to perform Rabindra-sangeet out of principle. Nevertheless, in spite of this tiff, it is undeniable that S.D. Burman had a great deal of respect for Tagore as a musician given the influence of Rabindra-sangeet on his compositions.

–Mr. 55