50 Best Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood

 

We’ve compiled a montage of the best film shots from classic Bollywood movies that we feel exemplify the splendor, allure, and excitement of Hindi movies from the Golden Age. Consider these 50 beautiful film shots a glimpse through a keyhole into a much grander world of cinematographic sublimity: behold the magic of classic Bollywood.

This project was kindled in part by my reaction to everyone who’s ever told me, “I love Bollywood!” I get that a lot. Being a film production major who’s worked in the Hindi movie industry, I hear the phrase, “I love Bollywood!” several times a month—from classmates, friends, and random people at parties. Bollywood has become a trend all over the globe—every hipster worth their organic sea salt is familiar with the term, and many have even seen a Hindi film or two themselves. Except I don’t really ever know what to say in reply. It’s not because loving Bollywood isn’t exactly what I look for in new friends (because believe me, it is), but because I don’t understand what that phrase even means.

Let me put this in perspective. To me, this can be the equivalent of someone in rural Punjab who’s seen the Bourne trilogy saying, “I love Hollywood!”

Think about that. What does it mean to love “Hollywood”? Are you saying you love American filmmaking and its history? Celebrity gossip? Or do you really mean to say, “I love action flicks and Matt Damon?” Because Hollywood is not just big-budget androcentric action flicks (although they are a cool part of a big genre). Ryan Gosling kissing Rachel McAdams in the rain is Hollywood. Orsen Welles fighting a smear campaign for governor is Hollywood. Judy Garland singing over a rainbow is Hollywood. And Jack Nicholas running amok in an insane asylum is Hollywood. It’s rare to find someone who knows and loves it all.

So when you say, “I love Bollywood!” to me, as a true lover of all things Bollywood, I don’t know what you’re really referring to. Often people who haven’t had much exposure tend to generalize that elusive term Bollywood to mean “pretty costumes!” or “crazy dancing!” This perception applies just as much to Indians from India as to non-Indians anywhere else. Because Bollywood is not just the melodramatic musical with half-naked women and a loose masala plot that is often stereotyped. Bollywood is Guru Dutt searching the streets of urban decay for a glimmer of humanity. Bollywood is Meena Kumari dancing kathak upon shattered glass in sorrow. Bollywood is Amitabh Bachhan’s fist meeting the jaws of his twenty adversaries with a satisfying smack. And yes, Bollywood is Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan in glittery costumes declaring love in the moonlight. I often yearn to somehow share all the magic of classic Hindi cinema that comes to my mind when I think of Bollywood, because it is a well-hidden treasure for so many of my generation.

Now before someone throws a fit, I get it. Not everyone has the time or interest to become heavily familiarized with Bombay’s film output since the 1930s. Nor should they. All I’m saying is, I wish more people were aware of what Bollywood truly encompasses. When you exclaim, “I love Bollywood!” there is a reason why I can’t bring myself to reply, “OMG, totes!” but instead want to fill your ear with my reverence of the cinematography in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). Simply tell me you loved the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) (because, seriously, who didn’t?), or that you thought Deepika Padukone’s outfits were beautiful in that one rom-com. Otherwise, we’ll both end up feeling awkward after I start on my spiel. Yes, I probably overthink this. Yes, most people probably don’t care one way or another. But I can’t imagine living a world without the enchantment of classic Bollywood films, and maybe there are people out there who would want in, if they only knew what they’re missing.

So this montage is the reply I wish I could give everyone, but I cannot articulate–a reply that must be seen to be believed. Because when I respond, “Really? I love Bollywood too!” this is what comes to my mind. This montage is why I love Bollywood. I hope that by watching these shots, you can get a peek into that hypnotizing world yourself, and that you’ll crave more. I hope that this might be a chance to understand that Bollywood is far richer, far more complex, and far more evocative than can be summed up by mere words or by viewing a single film.

Therefore, don’t just take my word for it. Watch the 50 Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood, and I’ll bet that somewhere deep inside your heart, something faintly stirs in a way you never knew possible. And afterwards, I recommend starting with any of the movies that made our list of the Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time. I’ll get off my soap box now. Back to translating obscure old songs where I belong. But send us a comment if this montage resonates with you, and share it with anyone who may have never experienced the wonder of the films to which it pays homage.

Just don’t even get me started on Slumdog Millionaire.

– Mrs. 55

Final Shot from Mother India Nargis

An aged Nargis remembers the trials of her youth in the final shot of the Academy Award-nominated film Mother India (1957).

As a reference, the corresponding films to our 50 selected shots are below. The music playing during the montage is the “Title Music” from Pakeezah (1972).

50 Shots’ Film Names (in order of appearance):

  1. Bandini (1963)
  2. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  3. Pakeezah (1972)
  4. Aradhana (1969)
  5. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  6. Kohra (1964)
  7. Mother India (1957)
  8. Guide (1965)
  9. Shree 420 (1955)
  10. Sangam (1964)
  11. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  12. Chinatown (1962)
  13. Caravan (1971)
  14. Shree 420 (1955)
  15. Shree 420 (1955)
  16. Sholay (1975)
  17. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  18. Pakeezah (1972)
  19. Pakeezah (1972)
  20. Pyaasa (1957)
  21. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  22. Umrao Jaan (1981)
  23. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  24. Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)
  25. Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)
  26. Aradhana (1969)
  27. Khamoshi (1970)
  28. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  29. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  30. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  31. Mother India (1957)
  32. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  33. Guide (1965)
  34. Andaz (1949)
  35. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  36. Aradhana (1969)
  37. Pakeezah (1972)
  38. Jewel Thief (1967)
  39. Aan Milo Sajna (1970)
  40. Anand (1971)
  41. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  42. Awaara (1951)
  43. Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)
  44. Do Raaste (1969)
  45. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  46. Awaara (1951)
  47. Sholay (1975)
  48. Baazi (1951)
  49. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  50. Mother India (1957)

The Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time

The top 30 greatest classic Bollywood films have been selected. Which films made the list of Bollywood’s best?

Greatest Bollywood Films of All Time Guru Dutt Waheeda Rehman

Introduction

Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! at last present our definitive list of the Bollywood classics you absolutely must see before you die. Hundreds of films were scored and ranked across multiple dimensions of Bollywood cinema including: story, direction, performances, musical composition, as well as cultural impact and legacy. We included Hindi-language films made between the period of 1949-1979 on our list of the best classic Bollywood films ever made. Some on the list are beloved favorites of the industry, while others may surprise you.

Among the winners are directors Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor–names synonymous with masterpiece Indian cinema–each with multiple films among Bollywood’s all-time greatest. Always wondered why a couple of young Harvard students like us love old Indian films so passionately? No matter what you think you know about Bollywood, the movies on this list will change your understanding of Indian films like never before. From village epics that grapple with our national identity to the nostalgic poetry of sudden disillusionment, classic Bollywood films transport us from the enchanting glamour of Bombay nightlife to the majestic gardens of Kashmir. They carry our souls through hardship and loss and revive our spirits with redemption.

This is cinema the way it was meant to be. This is classic Bollywood.

The top 30 Films from 30 years of classic Hindi cinema (1949-1979):

1. Pyaasa

Pyaasa Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt, 1957

Pyaasa, or “thirst,”is the story of one man’s search for compassion in the cold cynicism of post-independence Indian society. Vijay is an unpublished poet, dismissed by his own family and scorned by socialites and his colleagues. After befriending a prostitute who shelters him, Vijay is believed dead and his poetry “posthumously” lionized. He becomes an overnight sensation, mourned by fans across the country, and the true Vijay is labeled an imposter. India entered its golden age of filmmaking in the 1950s when its long-awaited freedom from England and the hopes of a new government created a social tinderbox of great expectations and disillusionment. Pioneering the technique of utilizing song lyrics as direct extensions of the film’s dialogue, Guru Dutt as the writer-producer-director-star paints a stirring portrait of the commodification of humanity.

2. Mughal-e-Azam

Mughal-e Azam K. Asif

Karimuddin Asif, 1961

At the turn of the 17th century, Prince Salim falls in love with the court dancer Anarkali and wages war against his own father, Emperor Akbar, in order to marry her. Director K. Asif’s enormous cast, opulent sets, intricately designed costumes and extravagantly staged battle scenes made the film the most expensive ever produced in India at the time. But despite of all the grandeur, the film has a warm heart, and the dangers of the romance between Salim and Anarkali are infused into each glance they share. Although the love story is the backbone of the film, it is Emperor Akbar, from whom the film derives its name (“the Great Mughal”), who takes center stage as he is torn between love for his only son and the unforgiving demands of the Mughal Empire. Every line of dialogue is written with the ornamentation of poetry, casting an elegance to Mughal-e Azam‘s thunderous power.

3. Pakeezah

Pakeezah Kamal Amrohi

Kamal Amrohi, 1971

In the grandeur of Muslim Lucknow at the turn of the century, Pakeezah is a courtesan and dancer who dreams of leaving her life behind when a stranger falls in love with her in a train compartment, not knowing her true profession. With swirling romanticism and languid, dream-like cinematography, Pakeezah instantly became one of the most extraordinary musicals ever made. Perfectionist director Kamal Amrohi, who also wrote the script and some of the lyrics, effectively transports the viewer into a wistful age of bygone formality and luxury. Each of Pakeezah‘s popular semi-classical songs illustrates the duality of a courtesan’s poetry, at once glamorizing the elaborate rituals of love and destroying the institutions that upheld them.

4. Mother India

Mother India Mehboob Khan

Mehboob Khan, 1957

With tragedy strikes her family, newlywed village belle Radha is determined to weather a crucible of social and personal adversities without compromising her honor. In doing so, she reinvents herself as a heavy-handed symbol of India’s own pride as an ancient culture and a new democracy. A defining film in the history of Bollywood, director Mehboob Khan’s iconic Mother India set the pattern for the more than 60 years of Bollywood film that followed it. A mythologization of traditional values and an homage to the beauty of Indian heritage, Mother India‘s unabashedly epic glorification of self-sacrifice and female empowerment was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1958.

5. Guide

Guide Vijay Anand

Vijay Anand, 1965

A corrupt businessman is transformed into a spiritual guide after a misunderstanding that leads to his idolization by a village besieged by drought. Based on the R.K. Narayan novel of the same name and bolstered by a stunning soundtrack, Guide explores a fundamental Vedic transformation from materialism to a release from worldly attachments in an extremely unlikely hero. A scandalous love story settles into the background as director Vijay Anand boldly deconstructs social taboos, from adultery and non-traditional gender roles to religious fraud, in a film that stirringly evolves into a philosophical awakening greater than the circumstances it portrays–a brilliant reflection of the double entendre intended by its title.

6. Kaaghaz Ke Phool

Kaagaz Ke Phool Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt, 1959

In the 1950s at the height of India’s golden age of film-making, a celebrated movie director feels uninspired by the tinsel-lined glitz of studio era Bollywood. When he discovers a new actress, innocent to the corruption of the industry, he believes he has found a muse to ease his restlessness. A elegiac behind-the-scenes film about film-making, Kaaghaz Ke Phool became a cult classic following the eerie semi-autobiographical death of its director Guru Dutt. Trapped in a world of pretense, Guru Dutt illustrates a kind of yearning that softly and slowly erodes the soul–a desperate hunt for a human connection. The real triumph is in the film’s stunning camerawork, gracefully gliding through the empty studio sets like a beautiful spectre of Dutt’s own shattered desires.

7. Awaara

Awaara Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1951

A female lawyer is determined to prove her lover’s innocence in a murder attempt on the life of a respected judge. Structured in medias res, the film’s flashback reveals the injustice of her lover’s past when the very judge who condemns him proves to be his own father: a man who threw his wife onto the streets when he believed a criminal had raped her. Echoing the dark lessons of the ancient Ramayana, Awaara shatters the nature versus nurture debate with a showman’s flair and surrealist fantasy, including the film’s legendary dream sequence evoking a descent into Hell. Awaara launched Raj Kapoor’s famous Chaplin-esque hero for the first time, who resonated immensely across the Soviet Union and Communist China as the voice of a new generation.

8. Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam

Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt/Abrar Alvi, 1962

Desperate to save her marriage, the younger daughter-in-law of a wealthy family sacrifices her moral boundaries to win over her alcoholic husband. A nostalgic glimpse into the decaying Bengali feudal system, Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam unravels a dazzling murder mystery at the heart of its progressive view of societal redemption. Seen from the perspective of a young factory worker lured into a stately mansion as an ally of its young mistress, Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam hauntingly opens the doors to the hollowness of exterior splendor. Spiraling against her will with the collapse of Calcutta’s landed aristocracy, Meena Kumari’s portrayal of the tormented wife is forever considered among the most magnificent on-screen performances of Bollywood history.

9. Aradhana

Aradhana Shakti Samanta

Shakti Samanta, 1971

When her lover dies at war, an unwed mother gives up her son up for adoption, vowing to watch over him in secrecy as he grows up in the house of another. Her poignant worship, or aradhana, of her dead fiancé and their son became immortalized in the Indian cinematic psyche as an audacious struggle of traditional society confronted by changing modern values. Boasting one of the all-time greatest soundtracks of Indian cinema, Aradhana epitomizes the versatility and creativity of the era’s leading music directors. From the youthful joy of “Mere Sapno Ki Rani” to the grim Bardic undertones of “Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana” to the notoriously seductive “Roop Tera Mastana,” the film is as much remembered for its luminous performances as for exemplifying the golden age of Bollywood music.

10. Do Bigha Zameen

Do Bigha Zameen Bimal Roy

Bimal Roy, 1953

A farming family fights to save their ancestral land from a cunning mill owner. Do Bigha Zameen follows the father and son’s trip to Calcutta from their idyllic village to earn enough money to pay their debts–only to discover the miseries of urban poverty instead. Inspired by the work of Italian neorealism, Do Bigha Zameen pioneered early parallel cinema with a deliberate attention to the “everyday,” and the feeling of an invisible, unhurried camera whose shots and mis-en-scene are both carefully constructed and effortlessly fluid. Directed by Bengali auteur Bimal Roy, the film’s nationalistic electricity hit a broader audience, becoming the first Indian film to win the Prix Internationale at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.

11. Bandini

bandini bimal roy

During the British Raj of the 1930s, a prison doctor falls in love with a convict who reveals the story of her tumultuous connection to a freedom fighter.

12. Madhumati

Madhumati Bimal roy

Bimal Roy, 1958

On a rainy night, a man enters an abandoned mansion where he is confronted by unfulfilled visions of his past life.

13. Shree 420

Shree 420 Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1955

A country boy travels to Bombay to make his fortune where he is lured from the path of virtue into a thrilling life of deceit.

14. Sholay

sholay ramesh sippy

Ramesh Sippy, 1975

After his family is murdered by a notorious bandit, a former police officer enlists the help of two outlaws to capture him.

15. Ankur

shyam benegal Ankur

Shyam Benegal, 1974

The social hierarchies of rural India are disrupted when a landowner begins an affair with a poor farmer’s wife.

16. Hum Dono

Hum Dono vijay anand

Amarjeet, Vijay Anand (1961)

After returning from war, a soldier begins to lead a double-life when his doppelgänger’s family welcomes him home.

17. Barsaat (1949)

Barsaat raj kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1949

Two men with different ideals of love search for answers with the coming of the monsoons.

18. Amar Akbar Anthony

Amar Akbar Anthony manmohan desai

Manmohan Desai, 1977

Three brothers are separated in childhood and eventually unite after one is brought up a Christian, one a Hindu, and one a Muslim.

19. Anand

Anand hrishikesh mukherjee

Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1971

A doctor recounts the story of a terminally ill man who wishes to his live life to the fullest and spread happiness to those around him.

20. Haqeeqat

Haqeeqat chetan anand

Chetan Anand, 1964

A platoon of Indian soldiers leave their homes and loved ones to encounter the harsh realities of battle in the Indo-China War of 1962.

21. Don

Don 1978 chandra barot

Chandra Barot, 1978

A simpleton is trained to infiltrate the underworld by impersonating a criminal leader who has been killed in a police chase.

22. Mahal

Mahal kamal amrohi

Kamal Amrohi, 1949

A young lawyer is haunted by a ghostly woman in his new house, where the builder and his fiancée died shortly after it was built.

23. Sangam

Sangam raj kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1964

An Indian Air Force Officer leaves for the Kashmiri front, entrusting his wife to the care of his best friend who has secretly always loved her.

24. Dosti

Dosti satyen bose

Satyen Bose, 1964

A penniless orphan makes the unexpected friendship of a blind boy who teaches him survival on the streets of Bombay.

25. Waqt

Waqt yash chopra

Yash Chopra, 1965

Natural disaster separates the members of a close-knit family who re-connect in a series of dramatic entanglements years later.

26. Deewar

Deewar yash chopra

Yash Chopra, 1975

A mother attempts to reunite her two estranged sons: one, a leading criminal of the underworld, and the other, an uprighteous policeman.

27. Kati Patang

Kati Patang shakti samanta

Shakti Samanta, 1970

As a promise to raise the child of her dying friend, a young woman risks starting a new life under a false identity.

28. Aandhi

Aandhi gulzar

Gulzar, 1975

A powerful politician struggles to reconcile her position with secrets from her past.

29. Purab Aur Paschim

Purab Aur Paschim major kumar

Manoj Kumar, 1970

East clashes with West when a traditional Indian student encounters swinging London society for the first time.

30. Bombai Ka Babu

Bombai Ka Babu Raj Khosla

Raj Khosla, 1960

A small-time thief is forced into a deadly web of deception when he gains the trust of his victim’s family.

Read more about these and other classic Bollywood films on our film pages! Which films do you consider among classic Bollywood’s all-time best and why? Leave us a comment and let us know!

– Mrs. 55

Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

old man Guru Dutt Kaagaz Ke Phool 7

Guru Dutt reflects on his life as a once-great Bollywood director in the semi-autobiographical epic Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957).

The lyrics and English translation of Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari are among the most beautiful you can find. The very soul of Guru Dutt can be found in the lyrics of Dekhi Zamaane Ki Yaari. The song is the heart of his masterpiece Kaagaz ke Phool (1957), and I contend contains the most passionate poetry you will ever find in a Bollywood song. Mohammed Rafi brings legendary Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics to an unheard of, feverish of climax that evokes a tragedy much deeper and more painful than any normal loss. Indeed, Kaagaz ke Phool tells a story of a different kind, and not one often explored: the slow destruction of an unfulfilled artist. I have already discussed some of the autobiographical parallels in this film in my translation of Waqt Ne Kiya, and will now present the actual story alongside the lyrics. It is one of the most haunting and powerful songs of that era.

Dekhi Zamaane ki Yaari reprises at different chapters in the film. The first starts in the opening as Guru Dutt plays an aged, dying film director who has returned to his old studio set before dawn. He sits up in the rafts and looks down on the empty world of show business below him. The song begins.

Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari Lyrics and Translation:

Dekhi zamaane ki yaari
I have seen what goes for friendship in this world
Bichhade sabhee, bichhade sabhi baari baari
Everyone disperses,  one by one they all leave
Kya le ke mile.N ab duniya se? Aa.Nsuu ke siva kuch paas nahii.N
What will I take with me now to greet this world? Besides tears I have nothing
Ya phuul hi phuul the daaman mei.N, ya kaanto.N ki bhi aas nahii.N
I was either embraced by flowers, or other times did not even aspire to thorns
Matlab ki duniya hai saari
The whole world is selfish
Bichhade sabhee, bichhade sabhi baari baari
Everyone disperses,  one by one they all leave

The old man flashes back to younger days, when he was at the height of his career as a studio Bollywood director. The flashback transitions through a watery image of a lotus flower and a series of dutch-angled shots of eager fans. The high chorus interlude of the music inspires a sense of the divine, but when coupled with the teetering shots of the silent mob, also foreshadows something unnatural.

Guru Dutt smokes contemplatively on a balcony as fans await him below in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957).

Waqt hai maherabaan, aarzuu hai javaan
During generous times, desires are young
Fikr kal ki karen, itni fursat kahaa.N
There is no leisure to worry about tomorrow
Daur yeh chaltaa rahe, rang uchaltaa rahe
Let this cycle continue, these colors keep splashing
Roop ko badalta rahe, jaam badalata rahe
Let the attractions keep changing, the intoxicants keep changing

Fans crowd Guru Dutt for signatures on empty pieces of paper that embody the theme of his film.

And here Guru Dutt masterfully transitions, for this is a story that is more than merely a tragic fall from societal grace. He shows us a character who has always felt alone–both when the world stood with him and when it abandoned him, searching for meaning in the dazzling lights of his own studio. It’s the kind of tragedy that doesn’t scream and doesn’t cause a colorful sensation. It’s one that softly and slowly erodes the soul–a desperate hunt for a human connection.

Guru Dutt comes home to a perpetually empty house in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957)

Raat bhar mahamaan hai.N bahaare.N yahaa.N
Here, Spring is our guest the entire night
Raat gar dhal gayi, phir ye khushiyaa.N kahaa.N
But if the night ends, where do these joys go?
Pal bhar ki khushiyaa.N hai.N saari
All of these joys are only momentary
Badhane lagi beqaraari, badhane lagi beqaraari
And then restlessness begins to grow, restlessness begins to grow

Falling down a spiraling slope, he finds love at last and loses not only her, but his chance at happiness with his daughter, his friends, a wife, and his work. No producer will hire him, no actors will work with him. Everything these people once said and did for him was false. He returns years later to his old studio and sees Waheeda Rehman, the woman he loved and runs away in horror. Mohammed Rafi cries out with a violent passion in this segment–a ferocious plea to society and a desperate call to the suffering of his being. It is here that the meaning of “kaagaz ke phool” is explained–that dangerous unfeeling world of pretense. As the song comes to an end, Rafi gently sings the line, “Yeh khel hai kab se jaaari…” [“This game has been played so long…”] In his voice is the awful beauty of true resignation. You feel how tired this man is.

Utterly defeated, Guru Dutt looks back for a final time at the woman he loved and the world that once belonged to him in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957).

Ud jaa! Ud jaa pyaase bha.Nvare! Ras na milega khaaro.N mei.N
Fly away thirsty bumblebee! You will not find nectar in these thorny shrubs
Kaaghaz ke phuul jahaa.N khilte hai.N, baiTh na un gulzaaro.N mei.N
Do not sit in those gardens where flowers of paper bloom
Naadan tamanna reti mei.N, ummiid ki kashti khaiti hai
In the sands of innocent desire, the boat of hope struggles to stay afloat
Ek haath se deti hai duniyaa, sau haatho.N se le leti hai
What the world gives with one hand, it takes away with one hundred
Yeh khel hai kab se jaari…
This game has been played for so long…
Bichhade sabhee, bichhade sabhi baari baari
Everyone disperses,  one by one they all pull away

Returning to the director’s chair, Guru Dutt bids farewell to society in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957)

Then the flashback ends. He is an old man again hiding in the alcoves of his former studio. With careful decision, he sits down once more in the director’s chair in the center of the set.

Dekhi zamaane ki yaari
I have seen what goes for friendship in this world
Bichhade sabhee, bichhade sabhi baari baari
Everyone disperses,  one by one they all leave

Light floods the empty set. Dawn has broke and the crew enters to find an old unfamiliar man who has died sitting in the director’s seat.  The producer yells for his body to be removed so shooting can begin. And the cycle continues.

Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957) finishes over the blurred image of studio lights.

Glossary:

yaari: friendship; aa.Nsuu: tears; matlab: selfish (a homonym translates as “meaning”); duniyaa: society, world; waqt: time; aarzuu: desire; fikr: worry; fursat: leisure; daur: cycle, generation; rang: colour; uchalnaa: to splash, to scatter; jaam: intoxicant; mahamaan: guest; beqaraari: restlessness; bha.Nwara: bumblebee; ras: nectar; khaar: thorny shrub; kaaghaz: paper; gulzaar: garden; naadaan: innocent; reti: sand; ummiid: hope; kashti: boat; khel: game

-Mrs. 55

Waqt Ne Kiya Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

For our next song, we discuss the lyrics and English translation of Waqt Ne Kiya, an evergreen song by Geeta Dutt from Kaaghaz Ke Phool (1957). Although nearly everyone has grown up watching movies, few people have an understanding of what the production of a film entails. I don’t mean just the technical aspects of constructing a shot—I refer to that way of life, to the tinsel-lined world of glamour and infamy, of triumph and ruin, and of the battle for self-respect that challenges a director. Guru Dutt’s final film, Kaaghaz Ke Phool (1957), is an intimate and haunting tragedy that shows the audience just that—a glimpse into the vanished studio era of 1950s Bollywood.

Waheeda Rehman pays a price for her fame in Kaaghaz Ke Phool (1957)

Following in the mesmerizing footsteps of Sunset Boulevard (1950) and The Blue Angel (Der blaue Engel, 1930), Kaaghaz Ke Phool reveals another side to the world of show business through the rise and spiraling downfall of a great director.  It examines the price of the soul of an artist, and is a harsh critique of contemporary values (even including the social condemnation of divorce!). In an ironic twist, the film was a flop at the box office when first released, leading to events in Guru Dutt’s personal life that mirrored the story of his own film. Eerily autobiographical, the film has now achieved a cult status in the history of Indian cinema.

The famous song “Waqt Ne Kiya” comes at a time in the film when the hero and the love of his life both come to an unspoken understanding that they must let each other go. As for the picturization, it is a cinematographer’s dream. Look at the lighting in these shots—at the rich blacks of the shadows, and how the dust from the overhead spotlights is captured floating ethereally in the air. The camera dollies in slowly to each character as they stare at one another and at their unfulfilled dreams enacting before them in the spotlight. There is actually very little movement by the actors—the real player is the camera itself, gracefully gliding through the empty set like a spectre of their own shattered hopes.

Enjoy the lyrics and full English translation of the masterpiece “Waqt Ne Kiya” below:

Waqt Ne Kiya Lyrics and Translation:

Waqt ne kiya kya hasee.N sitam
What a beautiful tragedy time has wrought
Tum rahe na tum
You are no longer you
Hum rahe na ham
I am no longer me
 
Beqaraar dil is tarha mile
Our restless hearts met in such a way
Jis tarha kabhi hum judaa na the
As though we were never apart
Tum bhi kho gaye
You became lost
Hum bhi kho gaye
I was lost too
Ek raah par chalke do qadam
As we walked a few footsteps on the same path
Waqt ne kiya…
 
Jaaye.Nge kahaa.N sujhta nahii.N
We cannot see where we are going
Chal paDe magar raastaa nahii.N
We set forward despite there being no path
Kya talaash hai
For what do we search?
Kuch pataa nahii.N
I do not know
Bun rahe hai.N dil khaab dam ba-dam
With every breath, my heart grows another dream
Waqt ne kiya…

Glossary:

Waqt= time, sitam= tragedy, torture; beqaraar= restless; tarha=manner judaa= apart; qadam= footsteps, talaash= search; dam ba-dam= with every breath

For anyone interested in gossip, the song is sung by Geeta Dutt—wife of none other than director and actor Guru Dutt himself. A major star on her own right, Geeta shot to fame at the age of sixteen when she wowed audiences with her uniquely rich and emotional voice (becoming S.D. Burman’s favorite!) But she too later suffered a personal tragedy from the well-known affair between her husband and his favorite actress, Waheeda Rehman—who actually lip-syncs “Waqt Ne Kiya” and plays the role of “the other woman” in the film! As I said, talk about life mimicking art. For more on Guru Dutt’s films, check out our earlier post on Pyaasa!

-Mrs. 55