Kar Chale Hum Fida Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Haqeeqat soldier's child photo
A fallen soldier carries a photo of his son during the Indo-China War of 1962 portrayed in the epic film Haqeeqat (1964)

Happy Independence Day, India! To celebrate this day, we recall the sacrifice and service of our men in uniform through the poetic call to action, “Kar Chale Hum Fida,” from the great war film Haqeeqat (1964). Starring Dharmendra, Jayant, Priya Rajvansh, and Balraj Sahni, Haqeeqat was the first film of its kind to bring audiences straight to the battlefield through the eyes of Indian soldiers (an obvious inspiration for its successful modern interpretation Border in 1997). Director Chetan Anand tells a self-described “mosaic” of a war freshly lost by India, but inspires confidence in the morale-shattered audiences with moving heroism and romance. Set in the ethereal realm of Ladakh along the border of India and China, Haqeeqat revives our hopes for the future of the still growing nation and glorifies the righteousness of Indian values even when defeated. The enemy are seen as scrawny, primitive beings with a limited vocabulary while the Indian fighters are tall, gorgeous, eloquent, and noble. Haqeeqat, meaning “reality,” portrays the real losses of the Indian army, complete with stunning battle re-enactments across the Himalayas, however, the poignancy of the film is how it turns losing a war with honor into a vastly more important moral victory.

“Kar Chale Hum Fida” bears a different kind of optimism than the “Mera Joota Hai Japani” anthem of post-independence India–an outlook now tempered by the marvels of technological and cultural advances with which the nascent country sought to keep pace and by the very real threat of encroaching communism. The song classically depicts the motherland as a new bride to be defended and death as a welcome sacrifice to preserve her honor. With godlike bravery and fortitude that surmounts all obstacles, the soldiers in “Kar Chale Hum Fida” transcend from life to death, from idealistic to divine. Hope is derived from the constant refrain that entrusts the responsibility of the nation to the next generation. Written in a flash of inspiration at 1 AM by Kaifi Azmi, the song’s tune arrived equally serendipitously to composer Madam Mohan the same night and was recorded the next morning.

Haqeeqat soldier death wife daydream editing sequence
The brilliant montage of a soldier’s death with his wife turning off their bedroom lamp in Haqeeqat (1964). Trace each shot and its mis-en-scene carefully from left to right to understand the genius of this editing sequence.

Before we further discuss the lyrics to what I believe is certainly one of Kaifi Azmi’s most beautiful poems, I need to talk about a moment earlier in the film that is one of the greatest moments in film history. Note that I wrote “film history,” not merely “Bollywood film history.” This sequence is incredible and deserves a full essay. There are some moments in the human experience that can only truly be expressed through the medium of film. These are rare and a gift to any director. Most stories can be well told in prose or acted in a theatre, but the true magic of cinema lives in moments like these that fuel a film director’s dreams. In this case, film editing is the star, the juxtaposition of distinct images harkens back to Soviet montage theory when filmmakers were first exploring the possibilities of the medium. Let’s walk through this together:

Ram Swaroop plays a soldier sent to the border with a tiny boxful of earth and seeds that his young bride tells him to plant in the barren lands of Ladakh. But he is wounded mortally in the crossfire and falls on his side to the ground in a medium close-up. CUT: A reverse shot* of his wife on their bed reaching to the lamp. She flicks the light off. CUT: Reverse reaction shot of Swaroop lying on the battlefield, he smiles at her. CUT: She smiles in return, flirtatiously switching the lamp back on. She turns it off again and moves closer to him. Her eyes close as if to sleep. CUT: A gunshot is heard and Swaroop falls dead in a close-up. CUT: Wide-shot of a Chinese soldier standing over Swaroop’s body with a warm gun. CUT: Close-up of the box of earth his wife had given to him, flung to the side.

What does it mean? In 2015, we take so much about film and our common constructs for granted. Here, a man and a woman completely separated by time and space are juxtaposed back-to-back and we as an audience immediately understand what is happening. How extraordinary, if you think about it. Swaroop is imagining that he sees his wife, recalling an earlier memory of them lying together in bed. We recognize that he is dying and the symbolism of her lamp flicking on-and-off is suddenly clear. When her lamps turns off and she falls asleep, he will never awaken. It is a tantalizing moment as we are both fearful of this inevitable poetic death, but also hypnotized by her flirtatious smile and playfulness with the light. The brilliance of the editing transports us suddenly from the cold battlefield to the warmth of a bedroom and the intimacy of a couple in love. It’s a reminder of what wars are truly being fought for. We want him to join her almost as much as we need him to remain alive. The close-up of earth after Swaroop’s murder assumes the wife’s logical next position in the editing of the sequence, invoking the classic symbolism of India as a new bride whose honor is worth dying for. This is the only medium that has the power to capture this. Take a second for me with this absolutely stunning sequence and just appreciate film–film as a medium, film as poetry.

*Note: For the film nerds among us, you’ll note that the shot of Swaroop’s wife is not technically a “reverse shot.” Classical Hollywood cinema and the 180 degree principle of continuity editing tells us that for a true reverse shot, the eye lines of the subjects must match (ie. his wife’s head should in principle be on the right looking to the left), a construct with which Chetan Anand is exceedingly familiar and employed throughout the film. However, he brilliantly chose to break this rule and instead mirrors (both literally and figuratively) the shot preceding it, thus presenting an entirely alternative reality rather than a simple continuation of ideas. Am I too obsessed?

Haqeeqat Prime Minister Nehru
Though criticized for his failure to anticipate Chinese attacks, Prime Minister Nehru himself blesses us with a brief cameo derived from archival footage in the delightfully pro-Indian government film Haqeeqat (1964).

Sorry for that huge stream of consciousness, but the filmmaker in me had to rave (as I simultaneously wipe away tears of appreciation). MOVING ON. Like the heart-wrenching “Aye Mere Watan Ki Logon,” “Kar Chale Hum Fida” effectively celebrates heroism rather than dwell on military strategic failures. We hope you remember some of the men and women in uniform in your life today as we celebrate their sacrifices with the lyrics and English translation of “Kar Chale Hum Fida” below. The video to follow along can be found here. Enjoy!

Kar Chale Hum Fida Lyrics and Translation:

Kar chale hum fidaa jaan-o-tan saathiiyo
We are finished sacrificing our lives and bodies, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Saa.Ns thamtii gayii, nabz jamti gayii, phir bhi baDhte qadam ko na rukhne diyaa
Our breaths kept halting, our pulses kept congealing, but we did not allow our advancing footsteps to pause
KaT gaye sar hamaare to kuch gham nahii.N, sar Himaalaya ka humne na jhukne diyaa
If our heads were cut, we felt no sorrow, for we did not allow the head of the Himalayas to bow
Marte marte rahaa baa.Nkpan saathiiyo
As we died, our chivalry remained, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Zindaa rahne ke mausam bahut hai.N magar jaan dene ki rut roz aati nahii.N
There are many seasons to live, however, the time to give your life does not come every day
Husn aur ishq dono.N ko ruswaa kare woh jawaanii jo khoo.N mei.N nahaatii nahii.N
What displeases beauty and love are youth that do not bathe in blood
Aaj dhartii bani hai dulhan saathiiyo
Today the earth became our bride, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Raah qurbaniyo.N kii na viraan ho, tum sajaate hii rehnaa naaye qaafile
Let the path of sacrifice not become barren, you must continue to adorn it with new processions
Fateh ka jashn is jashn ke baad hai zindagii maut se mil rahii hai.N gale
The celebration of victory is after this victory in which life and death are embracing
Baa.Ndh lo apne sar se qafan saathiiyo
Tie the funeral shroud upon your heads, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Khe.Nch do apne khuu.N se zameen par lakeer,* is taraf aane paaye na Raavan koi
Draw out a line upon this earth with your blood and do not let any demons come this way
ToD do haath agar haath uThne lage, chuu.N na paaye na Sitaa kaa daaman koii
Break the enemy’s hand if his hand raises [against you] and let no one dishonor Sita
Raam bhi tum, tum hii Lakshman saathiiyo.N
You are both Ram and Lakshman, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Kar chale hum fidaa jaan-o-tan saathiiyo
We are finished sacrificing our lives and bodies, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Glossary:

kar chalnaa: to depart; fidaa: sacrifice; jaan: life; tan: body; saathii: companion; [kisi ke] hawaale: [in someone’s] care; watan: country; saa.Ns: breath; thhamnaa: to stop; nabz: pulse; jamnaa: to solidify, to freeze; baDhnaa: to advance; qadam: footsteps; [kisi ko] rukhne diyaa: to allow [something] to stop; kaT; cut; sar: head; gham: sorrow; Himaalaay: Himalayan mountains; jhuknaa: to bow; marnaa: to die; baa.Nkpan: chivalry; zindaa rehnaa: to remain living; mausam: season; rut: time, season; roz: every day; husn: beauty; ishq: love; ruswaa: disgrace; jawaanii: youth; khoo.N: blood; nahaanaa: to bathe; dhartii: earth; dulhan: bride; raah: path; qurbaanii: sacrifice; viraa.N: barren, wasteland; sajaanaa: to decorate; qaafile: gathering, procession; fateh: victory; jashn: celebration; [kisi ke] baad: after [something]; maut: death; gale milnaa: to embrace; baa.Ndhnaa: to tie; qafan: funeral shroud; khe.Nchnaa: to pull, to draw; zameen: earth; lakeer: line; taraf: side, toward; raavaan: mythological demon of the Ramayan; toDnaa: to break; haath: hand; uThnaa: to raise; chuu.Nnaa: to touch (in this sense, referring to the dishonorable act of touching Sita’s garments); Sitaa: Queen of Ayodha, wife of Lord Rama; [kisi ka] daaman: end of [someone’s] skirt or garment, [someone’s] company; Raam: Lord Ram, King of Ayodha; Lakshman: brother of Ram, entrusted to protect Sita in the Ramayan

*This is a reference to the ancient myth of the Ramayana in which Lord Rama draws a white circle in the ground through which his enemy, Ravana, cannot pass. As long as his wife Sita, the embodiment of Indian womanhood, remained behind this line, she would remain safe (of course, she is tricked into leaving it or we wouldn’t have a story). Lakshman, Rama’s brother, protects Sita at her side while Rama is away. Both brothers, the offense and defense, are critical to preserving Sita’s honor in the Ramayana.

Haqeeqat
At the end of Haqeeqat (1964), the film fades to black over the battle-scarred face of a younger generation with the words, “THE END IS NOT YET.” Bold move, title card designer guy. Bold move.

This song is dedicated to my late grandfather, a Major-General in the Indian Army, who became an orphan at the age of 12, survived the Partition of India in 1947, fought on the fronts of the Indo-China War of 1962, and received the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for his service in the Corps of Military Intelligence during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. He eventually retired with 3 children and 5 grandchildren who still strive to be as elegant and brave a human being as him.

– Mrs. 55

Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Priya Rajvansh Heer Raanjha
Priya Rajvansh, as Heer, displays her usual limited range of emotion as a beautiful Panjabi maiden in Heer Raanjha (1970).

Today we showcase the full lyrics and English translation to “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” from Heer Raanjha (1970). Heer Raanjha tells the famous story of two star-crossed lovers, immortalized by the epic poem by Panjabi Sufi Waris Shah (1722-1798) . So handsome it hurts, Rajkumar is a perfect romantic hero as the charming Ranjha of the tale. When he falls for Heer, the daughter of a wealthy Jat family from a neighboring village (played by Priya Rajvansh), jealous relatives scheme to end their courtship. As she is married off against her will to another man, Rajkumar is overcome with devastation.

Like other great poems steeped in the Sufi tradition, Heer Ranjha has multiple layers of interpretation, one of which is man’s eternal quest for God. This is exemplified by the film’s most famous song, “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” sung by the great Mohammed Rafi. At once a song of lament for the love he has lost as well as an ode to yogic renunciation, “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” manages to express a yearning for a connection while embracing the search for a higher meaning.

The beautifully-written story of Heer Ranjha is a fundamental part of classical Panjabi literature, a poem my grandparents growing up in pre-partition Panjab were made to read and analyze in school. Waris Shah’s detailed and authentic description of rural Panjabi life around the turn of the 16th century is a pleasure to study today. To convert this leviathan of a poem to film was a daunting challenge met by the great modern Urdu poet, Kaifi Azmi. He wrote the entire script for the 1970 film entirely in verse. Every line gleams with ornamentation, and only Rajkumar with his characteristically mesmerizing dialogue delivery can lend it the stateliness it deserves. One of my favorite verses from the film is below:

Us se kehna ki tum meraa ek khwab ho, jo chamakta hai dil mei.N woh mahataab ho. [Tell her that you are a dream of mine, that you are the moonlight glittering in my heart.]

Us se kehna ki gehuyo.N ke kheto.N ka rang, tilmatii huii titliyo.N kii umang. [Tell her that she is the is the color of wheat fields, that she is the joy of the fluttering butterflies.]

Us se kehna ki jharno.N kaa chanchal shabaab, ghat ki taazgii, aabroo-e-janaab. [Tell her that she is the the playful youth of the waterfalls, the freshness of a mountain pass, and the honour of our elders.]

Us se kehna ki jhoolo.N kii angdaiyaa.N aur uDhte dupatto.N kii shenaiyaa.N. [Tell her that she is the movement of swings and the music of flying dupattas.]

Us se kehna ki chakki ke geeto.N kii aag, ladkhadatii jawaanii, machaltaa suhaag. [Tell her that she is the fire of the song of the mills, the trembling youth, the excitement of a wedding night.]

Us se kehna ki dulhano.N ke kaajal kii pyaas, pehle bauchhaar kii garam aur Thandii miithaas. [Tell her that she is the thirst of a bride’s kajal and the hot and cold sweetness of the first rain.]

Itnii ra.Nginiyo.N ko jab ek jaa kiyaa, Heer kudrat ne tab tujhko paida kiyaa. [When all this colors were made into one, then nature created you, Heer.]

Your heart’s fluttering, right? “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” also a brilliant example of the classic Bollywood cliche about men’s facial hair. The more manscaping that needs to be done, the more the hero has fallen out of touch with reality. Check it out:

Rajkumar 5 o'clock shadow
At first Ranjha displays an appropriately  manly 5 o’clock shadow. However, his depression takes a nosedive from bad…

Rajkumar lumbarjack beard
…to worse with a full on lumberjack look. This get-up quickly transitions to…

Rajkumar yogi beard
…WHAT THE…where did Ranjha go??!

But before you rush to give your own facial hair a much-needed trim, allow us to share our English translation and lyrics of “Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil” below! Follow along with the video and let us know how much you love a good song of self-pity in the comments!

Yeh Duniya Yeh Mehfil Lyrics and Translation:

Yeh duniyaa yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahii.N
This world and these people are not for me

Kisko sunaaoo.N haal dil-e-beqaraar kaa?
Whom should I tell the state of my restless heart?
Bujhtaa huaa chiraagh hoo.N apne mazaar kaa
I am the extinguished flame of my own mausoleum
Aye kaash bhool jaaoo.N, magar bhooltaa nahii.N
If only I could forget, but I am unable to forget
kis dhoom se uthaa thaa janaazaa bahaar kaa
with what uproar marched the funeral of Spring

Apnaa pataa mile, naa khabar yaar kii mile
I know neither my own whereabouts nor have I heard news from friends
Dushman ko bhii naa aisii sazaa pyaar kii mile
Even enemies do not receive such a punishment for love
Unko khudaa mile hai.N khudaa kii jinhe talaash
Others meet the God for whom they have searched
Mujhko bas ek jhalak mere dildaar kii mile
Let me have just one glance from my beloved

Saharaa mei.N aake bhii, mujhki Thikaanaa na milaa
Even as I enter the wilderness, I found no shelter
Gham ko bhoolaane kaa koii bahaanaa naa milaa
I found no pretense to erase the memory of my sadness
Dil tarase jis mei.N pyaar ko, kyaa samajhoo.N us sansaar ko?
What can I understand about the world in which my heart remains longing for love?
Ek jiitii baazii haar ke, mai.N DhuunDhuu.N bichhaDe yaar ko
Upon losing a winning gamble, I must search for my lost friend

Duur nigaaho.N se aa.Nsuu bahaataa hai.N koii
Far from my gaze, someone is shedding tears
Kaise na jaaoo.N mai.N, mujhko bulaataa hai.N koii
How can I resist going when someone calls to me?
Yaa TuuTe dil ko joD do, yaa saare bandhan toD do
Either let me mend this broken heart or let me break all ties
Aye parbat, rastaa de mujhe! Aye kaanto.N, daaman chhoD do!
Oh mountains, show me the path! Oh thorns, let go of my embrace!

Yeh duniyaa yeh mehfil mere kaam ki nahii.N
This world and these people are not for me

Glossary:

duniyaa: world, society; mehfil: company, gathering of people; haal: state, health; dil: heart; beqaraar: restless; bhujnaa: to extinguish; chiraagh: lamp; mazaar: mausoleum; kaash: if only, would that; bhoolnaa: to forget; dhoom: noise, uproar; janaazaa: funeral; bahaar: Spring; pathaa: whereabouts, address; khabar: news; yaar: friend; dushman: enemy; sazaa: punishment; pyaar: love; khudaa: God; [kisii kii] talaash: in search [of someone]; jhalak: glance; dildaar: beloved; saharaa: wilderness; Thikaanaa: shelter; gham: sadness; [kisi ko] bhoolaanaa: to make [something] forgotten; bahaanaa: excuse, pretense; [kisi ko] tarasnaa: to long [for something], samajhnaa: to understand; sansaar: world; baazi: a hand (ie. in a game of cards or a gamble); haarnaa: to lose; DhuunDhnaa: to search; bichhaDnaa: to be separated; duur: far; nigaahe.N: gaze; aa.Nsuu bahaanaa: to shed tears; bulaanaa: to call; yaa: either, or; TuuTaa: broken; joDnaa: to mend, to bring together; bandhan: tie, knot; toDnaa: to break; parbat: mountain; rastaa: path; kaa.Ntaa: thorn; daaman: embrace; chhoDnaa: to leave, to let go

Rajkumar yogi heer raanjha
Rajkumar goes rogue and renounces the world as a yogi upon learning that his beloved has married another. Epic shots like these earned Jal Mistry the Filmfare Award for Best Cinematography in 1971!

The line “mere kaam ki nahii.N” is particularly difficult to translate. The word “kaam” is in its simplest form translated as “work.” However, the word has numerous subtleties in Hindustani. With this line, Kaifi Azmi is expressing his dissatisfaction with and inability to function in the world and society as he has experienced them.

This song was requested by our fan Raju! Thank you for the brilliant Urdu treat!

– Mrs. 55

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rajesh Khanna’s Speech from Daag (1973):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Mrs. 55

Kuch Dil Ne Kaha Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Sharmila Tagore shines in her restrained portrayal of Uma in Anupama (1966)

Our next translation comes from Hrishikesh Mukherji’s Anupama (1966), a poignantly crafted film that narrates the story of a father who blames his daughter for his wife’s death during childbirth.  On the request of one of our readers Himadree, we have provided the lyrics and English translation for the song “kuchh dil ne kahaa” from this film below.

Sharmila Tagore plays the role of Uma, a reticient young woman who has maintained a painful and difficult relationship with her wealthy father (played by Tarun Bose) from a young age. Because Uma’s mother died in childbirth, Uma’s father harbors feelings of resentment that prevent him from fully loving his daughter as she grows up. Uma also assumes culpability for her mother’s death, and her self-repression becomes a coping mechanism to deal with her own guilt and her father’s anger toward her.

When Uma meets the handsome and sensitive writer Ashok (played by Dharmendra), her life seems to to take a turn for the better. Yet, as the two fall in love, it becomes apparent that Uma’s  troubles have not vanished completely: her father has already arranged her marriage with another man and will never not approve of a relationship with a man of Ashok’s social status. Hrishikesh Mukherji uses this situation to provide realistic and eloquent commentary on the complex interplay between love and class in Indian society. In this context, Kaifi Azmi’s lyrics in “kuchh dil ne kahaa” truly come alive. The lyrics express the conflict that characterizes Uma’s state of mind as she faces the most challenging decision of her life: should she pursue her romance with Ashok or should she push him away to appease her father? The essence of this dilemma is captured beautifully in many lines of this song. Although her heart has become restless with love for Ashok, Uma contemplates that it may be best  to suppress these desires: “letaa hai dil angaDaaiiyaa.n, is dil ko samjhaaye koii.”  Moreover, in spite of her outer appearances, Uma’s inner turmoil is a real and painful obstacle in her life (“dil kii tasallii ke liye jhuuThii chamak jhuuThaa nikhaarjiivan to suunaa hii rahaa, sab samjhe aayii hai bahaar”).

In addition to its unique lyrics, this song is a musical masterpiece that has been cherished by Hindi film lovers over the years (though it didn’t receive its due at the time of the film’s release!). Hemant Kumar crafts a serene melody in Raga Bhimpalasi that accentuates the melancholic beauty found in both the lyrics and the natural landscape where this song is picturized. Lata Mangeshkar, as usual, is par excellence here as she emotes softly with some beautifully restrained vocals. As an interesting tidbit, you may have noticed that Lata sings this melody at a lower pitch than is expected for a Bollywood soprano. When Lata repeats the line “aisii bhii baate.n hotii hai.n” in the mukhda, she hits an A3 (komal ni in the key of B), one of the lower notes of her range recorded during this period. Enjoy our translation of this under-appreciated gem below and continue to send us your requests and other messages–we love to hear from you all!

-Mr. 55
This song was filmed in Mahabaleshwar, a scenic hill station found in the state of Maharashtra. What a stunning landscape!

Kuch Dil Ne Kaha: Lyrics and Translation

kuchh dil ne kahaa, kuchh bhii nahii.n
My heart said something; yet, it was nothing at all.
kuchh dil ne sunaa, kuchh bhii nahii.n
My heart heard something; yet, it was nothing at all.
aisii bhii baate.n hotii hai.n
Such things happen in life.

letaa hai dil angaDaaiiyaa.n, is dil ko samajhaaye koii
My heart has become restless in anticipation of him; may someone please make it stop.
armaan na aa.nkhe.n khol de.n, rusvaa na ho jaaye koii
I hope that my desires do not cause my eyes to open and bring about disgrace,
palko.n kii ThanDii sej par sapno.n ki pariyaa.n sotii hai.n
For the dream-fairies remain asleep on the cool bed of my eyelids.
aisii bhii baate.n hotii hai.n
Such things happen in life.

dil kii tasallii ke liye jhuuThii chamak jhuuThaa nikhaar
For my heart’s satisification, I have adorned myself in this false glitter and shine.
jiivan to suunaa hii rahaa, sab samajhe aayii hai bahaar
Though it remains empty, everyone assumes that spring has arrived in my life.
kaliiyo.n se koii puuchtaa, hastii hai.n yaa ve rotii hai.n
Yet, no one has bothered to ask the flowerbuds whether they are smiling or crying.
aisii bhii baate.n hotii hai.n
Such things happen in life.

kuchh dil ne kahaa, kuchh bhii nahii.n
My heart said something; yet, it was nothing at all.

Glossary

angaDaaiiyaa.n: preparation, anticipation; armaan: hope, desire; rusvaa: disgrace; palko.n: eyelids; sej: bed; pariyaa.n: faires; tasallii: satisfaction, relief; chamak: glitter; nikhaar: glow, shine; bahaar: spring.

Sharmila Tagore rocks the classic beehive hairstyle that would later become her trademark.
The ever-handsome Dharmendra plays the role of a sensitive writer in Anupama (1966)

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