Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rekha Umrao Jaan Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston
Rekha stars as a courtesan with a heart of gold in Umrao Jaan (1981).

We next present the beautifully tragic lyrics and English translation of “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston” from Umrao Jaan (1981). Umrao Jaan is a heart-breaking film with depths more profound than the glittery tawaif dances it showcases. Based on the 1899 Urdu novel by Mirza Hadi Ruswa entitled, “Umrao Jaan Ada,” the 1981 film stays largely true to the original text.

Delving into the decadence of 19th century Lucknowi society, Umrao Jaan Ada portrays the rituals of a fascinating culture marked by luxury and oppression. I first read Ruswa’s novel during my junior year of college in Urdu class and fell in in love with the resilience of the story’s heroine.

Rekha in Umrao jaan 1981
Searching for a familiar face in a crowd of strangers, Rekha remains alone in Umrao Jaan (1981).

Interestingly, the framing of the 1981 Muzaffar Ali-directed film differs from the novel, told as a chronological account instead of a reminiscence. For me, this changes the tone of the film entirely: in the novel, the audience knows that although Umrao Jaan has suffered greatly in her lifetime, she eventually finds the peace and independence she deserves.

In the film, however, Umrao Jaan’s fate is unclear. We are left only with the stirring final image of her somber reflection in the mirror of her childhood home—an identity so long defined by others now confronted by its owner. Knowing these alternate endings colours the implications of Asha Bhonsle’s emotional “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston” preceding them.

Rekha Umrao Jaan 2
Rekha hides a tear as Umrao Jaan sings to a gathering in her hometown of Faizabad.

Just prior to the film’s finale, Umrao Jaan (portrayed by Rekha) is asked to perform a song in her own town of Faizabad where she is now regarded as a pariah or stranger. The poetry that results in “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston” evokes that sense of loss and confusion—a blameless fall from Eden with no path forward. As her own mother listens quietly outside the tent, Umrao Jaan’s addressing the unfamiliar gathering as “doston” becomes perhaps less ironic and more of an earnest plea.

Written by Shahryar with music by Khayyam, “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston” is a counterpoint to the film’s earlier musical gems “In Ankhon Ki Masti” and “Dil Cheez Kya Hai.” With no ulterior motives, Umrao Jaan at last sings and dances as herself, voicing the real emotions within her heart. Many consider this song to be the film’s greatest composition.

We hope you enjoy our lyrics and translation to the soulful swansong, “Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston” below! Let us know your favorite Umrao Jaan moment in the comments!

Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston Lyrics and Translation:

Yeh kyaa jagah hai dosto.N?
What place is this, friends?
Yeh kaunsaa dayaar hai?
What kind of world is this?
Had-e-nigaah tak jahaa.N, ghubaar hii ghubaar hai
Where, as far as the eye can see, there are only dust storms

Yeh kis maqaam par hayaat mujhko lekii aa gayii?
To what realm has life brought me?
Na bas khushii pe hai jahaa.N, na gham pe ikhtiyaar hai
In this place I have no control over my happiness, and no choice in my sorrow

Tamaam umr ka hissaa maa.ngtii hai zindagii
Life demands an account of all my years
Yeh meraa dil kahe to kyaa? Yeh khud se sharmasaar hai
What will this heart of mine answer? It is so ashamed of itself

Bulaa rahaa hai kaun mujhko chilmano.N ki us taraf?
Who is calling me from the other side of those blinds?
Mere liye bhi kyaa koi udhaas beqaraar hai?
Is anyone there for me who is restless in sorrow?

Yeh kyaa jagah hai dosto.N?
What place is this, friends?
Yeh kaunsaa dayaar hai?
What kind of world is this?
Had-e-nigaah tak jahaa.N, ghubaar hii ghubaar hai
Where, as far as the eye can see, there are only dust storms

Glossary:

jagah: place; dayaar: world, region; had-e nigaah tak: until the limits seen by the eye; ghubaar: dust storm; maqaam: realm; hayaat: life; bas: power; khushii: happiness; gham: sorrow; ikhtiyaar: choice, tamaam umr: whole life, all the years; hissaa: account; zindagi: life; khud: self; sharmasaar: embarrassed, ashamed; chilman: curtains made of reeds, blinds; udhaas: sorrow; beqaraar: restless

As I read the pages of Ruswa’s novel, I was so struck by his descriptions of the admirable training in classical arts given to students of the kothe. These talents that in today’s society would be so valued as the pinnacle of culture, instead branded these women for a lifetime of ignominy. Today such diligence in the study and practice of classical voice, dance, and poetry is so rare and impressive!

Rekha in Umrao Jaan Yeh Kya Jagah Hai Doston
Ethereal beauty Rekha yearns for acceptance from her long-lost family in Umrao Jaan (1981).

For the grammar junkies among us, you may wonder why the “jagah” in this song is pronounced to rhyme with “yeh” instead of “kyaa.” Strictly speaking, the Lucknowi pronunciation of the word is the long “aah,” however, for poetic fluidity, Asha Bhonsle pronounces it here in the alternate form. Regional variants exist in the Hindustani language for similar words such as subah and vajah!

– Mrs. 55

Advertisements

Dil Cheez Kya Hai Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rekha stars as a courtesan and poetess in Umrao Jaan (1981), based on an Urdu novel by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa

Today, we continue our series on Umrao Jaan (1981) by providing the lyrics and English translation to what is arguably the film’s most popular song: dil chiiz kyaa hai?  Based on Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa’s novel Umrao Jaan Ada, this film narrates the tragic tale of a young girl who is kidnapped and forced to become a tawaif (courtesan).

Through the course of this film, we witness the transformation of an innocent young girl Amiran as she becomes Umrao Jaan Ada, one of Lucknow’s most sought after courtesans. At the brothel, young Amiran receives training in classical voice, Kathak dance, and Urdu poetry–a forbidden world of art and education that the average Indian girl of this time period would never get the chance to explore. When the brothel’s madam Khanum feels that she has been sufficiently groomed, Umrao Jaan begins performing and attracting the attention of wealthy patrons all over Lucknow. Umrao’s first public performance as a courtesan is marked by the song dil chiiz kyaa hai?

This gem is considered to be one of Asha Bhonsle’s career-defining songs, and she was awarded a National Film Award for her performance of this ghazal along with the rest of her contributions to this soundtrack. Khayyam bagged a well-deserved National Film Award for his compositions in this film, and Rekha took home the National Film Award for Best Actress. From her performance in this mujra in particular, it is clear that Rekha is worthy of all the critical acclaim she received for her work in Umrao Jaan.  Although she may lack the technical precision of a trained Kathak dancer, she compensates with her compelling on-screen presence and natural elegance. With eyes like hers, would any man in Lucknow be able to resist the charms of Umrao Jaan Ada?

What is your favorite song from the Umrao Jaan soundtrack? Share with us in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
Rekha’s mujras in this film, especially dil chiiz kyaa hai?, are fan-favorites to this day.

Dil Cheez Kya Hai: Lyrics and Translation

dil chiiz kyaa hai? aap merii jaan liijiye
What is the heart worth? Take my life instead!
bas ek baar meraa kahaa maan lijiye
But just once, please accept what I say.

is a.njuman me.n aap ko aanaa hai baar baar
You must return to this gathering time and time again.
diivaar-o-dar ko ghaur se pahchaan liijiye
So, learn to recognize these surroundings carefully.

maanaa ki dosto.n ko nahii.n dostii kaa paas
I admit that friends may not always hold friendship in high regard.
lekin yah kyaa ki ghair kaa ahsaan liijiye?
Yet, does this mean you should accept kindness from strangers?

kahiye to aasmaa.n ko zamii.n par utaar laaye.n
If you ask for it, I shall bring down the sky to the ground. 
mushkil nahii.n hai kuchh bhii agar Thaan liijiye
No task is difficult if you pursue it firmly.

dil chiiz kyaa hai? aap merii jaan liijiye
What is the heart worth? Take my life instead!
bas ek baar meraa kahaa maan liijiye
But just once, please accept what I say.

Glossary

maan lenaa: to accept; anjuuman: gathering; diivaar-o-dar: walls and doors, surroundings; ghaur se: carefully; pahchaan lenaa: to recognize; dostii: friendship; paas: regard, consideration; ghair: stranger; ahsaan: favor, kindness; utaar laanaa: to bring down; Thaan lenaa: to pursue firmly.

A quick note regarding the word paas. Those of you familiar with its common use in the phrase kisii ke paas (next to someone/something) may be confused by the line “maana ki dosto.n ko nahii.n dostii kaa paas.” Here, a less common use of the word paas is used to mean regard or consideration. So, there is no relation to proximity here; the whole line would be translated as: “I admit that that friends may not always hold friendship in high regard.” Tricky, tricky.

As Umrao Jaan, Rekha seduces wealthy men in Lucknow with her most tempting asset: her eyes!

In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rekha gives a career-defining performance as a courtesan and poetess in Umrao Jaan (1981)

I recently rewatched Muzaffar Ali’s masterpiece Umrao Jaan (1981), a film that is so brilliantly crafted that it deserves multiple posts on this blog like Pakeezah and Mughal-e-AzamThe film is based on an Urdu novel written by Mirza Muhammad Hadi Ruswa that recounts the life of one of South Asia’s most influential literary figures: Umrao Jaan. Born in Faizabad, a young girl named Amiran is kidnapped and sold to a brothel in Lucknow. As she grows older, Amiran is grooomed by the brothel’s madam until she becomes Umrao Jaan (played by Rekha), one of Lucknow’s most desirable courtesans.  Misfortune after misfortune falls upon Umrao Jaan, but the film ultimately portrays her as a resilient woman whose beautiful mujras and poetry serve as a lasting legacy to her indomitable spirit.

In addition to Rekha’s stunning performance as the tawaif Umrao Jaan, this film is especially memorable for its portrayal of the richness of Lucknow’s cultural heritage. The indulgent life of nawaabs around the turn of 20th century is visually apparent in the film’s costumes, artwork, and set design, but the luxurious atmosphere in the film is taken to a new level by the soundtrack composed by Khayyam and penned by Shahryar. Here, I’ve chosen to translate one of the unforgettable mujra numbers from this film: in aa.nkho.n kii mastii.

She’s not lying when she says her eyes are intoxicating…

In this song, Umrao Jaan engages in some self-indulgent vanity. She mildly chides her lover Nawab Sultan (played by Farooq Shaikh) by saying there are thousands of other madmen in Lucknow that admire her charm and beauty. In the third verse, she continues to brag by saying that all the taverns in the world cannot serve wine as intoxicating as the wine that she serves from her glances. Finally, in the last verse, Umrao makes a warning against those that attempt to suppress her grandeur using a common symbol found in Urdu-Hindi poetry: the moth. Like moths to a flame, she claims that there are thousands of admirers in the city who would sacrifice their lives to protect her. The poetry in this song is not overly complex, but there is a subtle beauty to it that is enhanced by Asha Bhonsle’s beautiful rendition and Rekha’s graceful expressions on screen. I managed to find a very high-quality print of this song on YouTube, so please do watch the link provided above and follow along with the translation/glossary–enjoy!

–Mr. 55

P.S. Whatever you do, please do not waste three hours of your life (like I did) watching J.P. Dutta’s 2006 remake of this movie starring Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bacchan. It is a travesty of a film that completely disrespects the beauty of the original. I think one of the worst parts is the atrocious Urdu pronunciations. I mean, even I can get the guttural khe sound right when I say “khudaa haafiz,” and they don’t pay me the big bucks. Why can’t Aishwarya or Abhishek? And let’s not even get started on Anu Malik’s tired and stale soundtrack…

The camera adds to the meaning of the lyrics here by bringing candles into the shot when Rekha sings “is shamm-e-farozaa.n…

In Aankhon Ki Masti Ke Lyrics and Translation

in aa.nkho.n kii mastii ke mastaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The intoxicating beauty of these eyes attracts thousands of admirers. 
in aa.nkho.n se vaabastaa afsaane hazaaro.n hai.n
Indeed, there are thousands of stories associated with these eyes. 

ek tum hii nahii.n tanhaa ulfat me.n merii rusvaa
You are not the only one disgraced by your love for me, 
is shahar me.n tum jaise diivaane hazaaro.n hai.n
There are thousands of madmen like you in this city.

ek sirf ham hii mai ko aa.nkho.n se pilaate hai.n
It is only I who can serve you wine with my eyes, 
kahne ko to duniyaa me.n maikhaane hazaaro.n hai.n
Though it is said that there are thousands of taverns in this world.

is shamm-e-farozaa.n ko aa.ndhii se Daraate ho
Although you attempt to scare this bright candle with a storm,
is shamm-e-farozaa.n ke parvaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The light from this candle attracts thousands of moths. 

in aa.nkho.n kii mastii ke mastaane hazaaro.n hai.n
The intoxicating beauty of these eyes attracts thousands of admirers. 

Glossary

mastii: intoxication; mastaane: admirers; vaabasta: associated with; ulfat: love; rusvaa: disgraced; mai: wine; maikhaane: taverns; shamm-e-farozaa.n: bright candle; aa.ndhii: storm; parvaane: moths.

Farooq Shaikh, as Nawab Sultan, watches the mujra in admiration.