Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rajesh Khanna Anand Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli
Dangerously attractive Rajesh Khanna proves that real men wear lavender in Anand (1971).

Next we showcase the lyrics and English translation of “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” from the sentimental mega-hit Anand (1971). Diagnosed with terminal lymphosarcoma of the intestine, Rajesh Khanna is determined to raise the spirits of those around him. With a smile, he explains his philosophy to his bewildered physician, Amitabh Bachhan:

“Babumushai, zindagii badii honii chahiye, lambii nahii.N.” [“Babumushai, life should be big, not long.”]

Brimming with rich symbolism from floating balloons to boatmen in the ocean, “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” explores the outlook of a man whose journey is approaching its destination. Rajesh Khanna give a tour de force performance as a character at peace with the mysteries of the world.

Rajesh Khanna gives out balloons at Juhu Beach
Rajesh Khanna buys out a lucky balloon-wala in “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” from Anand (1971).

The song begins with a distinctive, uplifting trumpet solo, establishing the tone. While other gorgeous songs of Anand such as “Kahin Door Jab Din” are sung by the gentle Mukesh, Manna Dey was chosen for “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli.” Known better for his masterful Hindustani classical numbers of the 1960s, Manna Dey’s film career began to falter with the rise of Kishore Kumar’s heroic romantic vocals. But his popularity revived in the 70s with Anand when Rajesh Khanna himself asked music director Salil Chaudhary for a chance to lip-sync a Manna Dey song. As Manna Dey recalled in a 2012 interview,

“I loved the way he [Rajesh Khanna] picturised music. The success of a song depends upon how an actor picturises it. He was the number one in picturising songs. I will ever be indebted to him.”

We hope you enjoy the lyrics and English translation of “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” from Anand (1971). Follow along with the video here while reflecting on film lyricist Yogesh’s philosophical poetry!

Zindagi Kaisi Paheli Lyrics and Translation:

Zindagii kaisii hai pahelii, haaye!
Oh, what a riddle life is!
Kabhii to ha.Nsaaye kabhi yeh rulaaye
Sometimes it makes us laugh, sometimes it makes us cry

Kabhii dekho man nahii.N jaage, peechhe peechhe sapno.N ke bhaage
Sometimes the mind does not awaken, it chases dreams
Ek din sapno.N ka raahii chalaa jaaye sapno.N ke aage, kahaa.N?
One day that traveler of dreams will go beyond the dreams, but where?

Jin hone sajaaye yahaa.N mele sukh dukh sang-sang jhele
Those who bring people together, they experience joy and sorrow together
Wohii chunkar khaamoshii yuu.N chalii jaaye akele, kahaa.N?
Those same people choose silence and depart alone, but where?

Glossary:

zindagii: life; pahelii: riddle, puzzle; haaye: oh, sigh; ha.Nsaanaa: to make [someone] laugh; rulaanaa: to make [someone] cry; man: mind; jaagnaa: to awaken; peechhe: behind; bhaagnaa: to run; ek din: one day; sapnaa: dream; raahii: traveler; aage: ahead, future; melaa sajaanaa: to arrange a fair (literal), to bring people together; sukh: happiness; dukh: sadness; sang-sang: together; jhelnaa: to experience; chunnaa: to choose; khamoshii: silence; akelaa: alone

Juhu Beach Rajesh Khanna Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Anand
“Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” was famously filmed at suburban Bombay’s Juhu Beach, made even more gorgeous by the delicate silhouette of Rajesh Khanna against the shoreline.

It’s hard to believe we lost a legend like Manna Dey 6 months ago, a little more than a year after losing Rajesh Khanna. The singer was 95 years old. This beautiful tribute to those dream chasers we wish were with us, “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli,” was requested by fan Ajay.

-Mrs. 55

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Classic Bollywood for Dummies: 15 Hidden Signs, Tricks, and Clichés

Classic Bollywood for Dummies
Scenes from classic Bollywood often make zero sense when taken out of context. In fact, much of classic Bollywood makes no sense even in context.

Bollywood is bursting at the seams with cliches. Do you remember your first old Bollywood film? Or worse, when you forced your previously uninitiated friend to watch a classic Hindi film with you? What about that game-changing moment when you realized you could predict the film’s outcome based solely on the simple fact that Lata Mangeshkar only sang for the real heroine and Asha Bhonsle always sang for the vamp?

We at Mr. and Mrs. 55 know how it goes. We understand the mass confusion that can ensue during a naive viewing party. The recovery can take years. You see, classic Bollywood movies have a secret language of their own. So we’ve put together a guide to old Bollywood films: a compilation of hidden signs, tricks, and cliches that make understanding any classic Hindi film WAY easier. Think of our list of 15 key cinematic tropes of Bollywood as a translation for what the director is really trying to tell you. Welcome to Classic Bollywood for Dummies.

1. A woman faints in the middle of a public gathering.

mother india faint pregnant
In her starring role as Mother India (1959), Nargis collapses after an agricultural celebration into a pile of hay. There can be only one explanation.

She’s pregnant. Is there a valid physiological explanation for this? Questionable. Did it happen to every single Indian woman who ever became pregnant in the 1950s-70s? Obviously. As far as the director is concerned, it sure beats filming an episode of morning sickness.

2. The camera pans from a couple making eyes at each other to the mountainside.

RK
Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna start to get uncomfortably close before the camera hurriedly pans away from the threatened PG moment in Aap Ki Kasam (1974).

Expect a baby soon. The scenic pan is one of the most classic tropes of Hindi cinema. When a camera pans away to nature’s beauty just before the money, it’s the director’s way of letting the audience know that everything we dreamed of happening is happening…only they can’t let you watch because of censorship law. The baby always shows up on cue a few scenes later . check out how it’s done in “Karvaten Badalte Rahe” from Aap Ki Kasam (1974).

3. If there are two (or three!) possible love interests, but only one is wearing traditional Indian clothes.

Nanda teen devian indian clothes
Framed by rural imagery with a white chunni billowing the wind, is it any surprise that corn-fed Nanda is the chosen one in Teen Devian (1965)?

He’s going to pick the more Indian one. Despite our hero’s love of the wild wild West, when it comes down to marrying someone he can proudly introduce to his mother, he picks the girl who consistently wears traditional Indian clothing. Equally ridiculous is the director’s oh-so-subtle hint that the film vamp has morally reformed when she at last dons a sari in place of her miniskirt.

4. The camera pans to a candle by the bed and the flame blows out.

aradhana saphal hogi teri
Sharmila Tagore comforts her ill father by convenient candlelight in Aradhana (1971).

Don’t expect that character to return in act II. I don’t know what it is about filming a death scene, that classic Bollywood actors and directors balked at the thought. They’ll usually cover you up until that very last breath–and then the camera will suddenly zoom-in on the candle by the bedside. When the candle blows out, it’s game over for our sick friend.

5. Fog enters the scene.

ghar aayaa mera pardesi fog awaara
In a sequence famously choreographed by French artist Madame Simki, Nargis appears in the moonlight shrouded by fog in Awaara (1951).

There is a 50/50 chance this is all just a dream sequence. Fog indicates that this scene is taking place inside someone’s (or a collective) imagination, but may have never really happened. Song sequences are particularly notorious for this maneuver, portraying fantasies that are not congruent with everyone’s real relationships in the scene immediately following. Take everything you see enhanced by a fog machine with a generous grain of salt.

6. A woman’s sindoor gets smudged.

sindoor smudge amar akbar anothony
Nirupa Roy’s sindoor gets smudged in the opening sequence of Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977). By the look on her face, it is clear she understands the cinematic implications.

Her husband is as good as dead now. The symbolism of the red sindoor (not to be confused with any old party bindi!) is well-understood by native audiences to denote that a woman is married. If you didn’t know that, and further didn’t know that the director likes to take artistic leaps of judgement, you would probably not understand the horrors of accidentally smearing your sindoor in a classic Bollywood film.

7. A male lead has distinctive shoeware.

dev anand shoe jewel thief
The integrity of Dev Anand’s feet is questioned in Jewel Thief (1967), demanding removal of his shoes at what is about to become a much more interesting house party.

He’s the secret villain. From having feet of two different sizes in Yaadon Ki Baarat (1973), missing toes in Jewel Thief (1967), or the white shoes of death in Humraaz (1967), footware has an important and sinister role in classic Bollywood. Beware the man who draws attention to his shoes. It may mean he has something hidden up his sleeve.

8. Someone’s photo suddenly has a garland around it and they’re nowhere to be seen.

nanda ek pyar ka nagma hai
Manoj Kumar keeps a garlanded photo of his deceased wife in Shor (1972).

That character is now dead. This subtle Indian custom has tricked many a naïve Bollywood viewer. Look specifically for a garland around the frame–it’s no mere decoration! A garland around someone’s photograph indicates that this beloved member of the troop has passed on to greater things. The director assumes you take this for granted as he does, so don’t let this prevent you from following the rest of the film, awaiting that character’s overdue return.  “Ek Pyar Ka Nagma Hai” from Shor (1972) pulls the rug out from under our feet masterfully with this textbook trick.

9. When anyone goes to touch an elder’s feet and they try to stop them.

kati patang touching elder's feet
Nasir Hussain awkwardly attempts to block Asha Parekh from touching his feet in their first encounter in Kati Patang (1971). He will prove solid from this point on.

That elder is a good person. We can count on them. The custom generally goes that when someone younger meets or takes leave of an elder, he or she bows down and touches their feet out of respect. You’ll only rarely see this formality taken to completion because if the elder is a good guy, they try to block you halfway, as if to indicate that they are not worthy of such a show of deference. Of course, even the elaborate blockage itself is a formality, but both parties have to give it their best shot. And if the elder successfully intercepts the feet-touching, he or she is officially going to be your friend for life.

10. A miracle occurs. Mom gets her eyesight back after a freak accident, or the lover you thought was dead returns to life.

Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony
No matter what your faith, Rishi Kapoor proves devotion pays in Bollywood by divinely igniting the temple lamps using nothing more than his boyish good looks in Amar Akbar Anthony (1977).

Someone has recently prayed. I dare you to point out a Hindi film in which the hero or heroine prays and God doesn’t listen. Usually, the opening line goes something like this, “Bhagwan, main ne tujhe aaj tak kuch nahin manga.” [God, until today I have not asked you for anything.] You would think miracles were a dime a dozen in the ’70s.

11. The nightclub has white people in it.

bramachari white people in nightclub
Mumtaz dazzles her fan-base with grooves even the white folk can’t keep up with in Brahmachari (1968). How many can you count boosting the decor of this hep cat joint?

This is a really, really fancy joint. The director is trying to let you know that hero must be super cool and this place is really fashionable. You get extra points if there is a white woman in the heroine’s posse of girlfriends. I don’t like it either, but these are just the rules of the game.

12. A woman is dressed in all white and sings.

Sadhana2_WohKaunThi
With sari white as snow, the mysterious femme fatale Sadhana creeps on Manoj Kumar in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

She might be dead. An all-white sari means she’s either a widow or dead, but you can narrow it down that if she’s singing a Lata song, she’s probably dead. The ghostly femme fatale is a hallmark of the Indian film noir genre.

13. Pran walks onto the set.

pran bhramachari
Oh, Pran. Did you never get your day in the sun?

Despite his obvious game, Pran will never get the girl. So don’t be too worried. I don’t care if he’s the richest, the suavest, or even the best looking guy in the film. His matrimonial prospects are always foiled. On a related note, if you see “And…Pran!” flash at the end of the opening titles, you know the film is going to be good.

14. Lymphosarcoma of the intestine is diagnosed.

amitabh bachan rajesh Khanna anand
Amitabh Bachhan diagnoses Rajesh Khanna with the dreaded lymphosarcoma of the intestine, sealing his fate in Anand (1971).

They will die. Kiss this character goodbye right now for death is inevitable. We dedicated an entire post to this bizarre Bollywood trade secret.

15. The hero grows a beard.

Rajkumar beard heer ranjha
Rajkumar’s suffering is so much more believable once he sprouts more hair in Heer-Ranjha (1970).

Things have really gotten bad. Tragedy has hit a new low. Young Indian men who have no place among the clergy do not grow beards without a reason. In classic Bollywood, that logical reason is misfired love. Once you spot the hero shirking his daily man-scaping duties, his romantic prospects have hit rock bottom.

Feeling like you’ve been struck by lightening? Our all-inclusive Classic Bollywood for Dummies is the first step toward enlightenment! Did we miss a key clue to classic Bollywood films you wish you had known? Add to our list in the comments!

– Mrs. 55

Lymphosarcoma of the Intestine: The Making of a Bollywood Legend

Your average non-Bollywood viewer will probably read “lymphosarcoma of the intestine” and feel nothing. They will also probably pronounce intestine with a normal emphasis on the second syllable and won’t make it rhyme with “shine.” But ask anyone on the streets of Bombay who knows a thing or two about life from the silver screen, and you’ll be amazed. For Hindi cinema, the dreaded diagnosis “lymphosarcoma of the intestine” is synonymous with unavoidable impending doom of a most serious and scientifically complex nature. How did this all start and Bollywood folklore aside, what is lymphosarcoma of the intestine? Let us step back in time to 1971 to the film Anand when the hysteria all began…

Amitabh Bachhan and Rajesh Khanna both can’t pronounce intestine in Anand (1971)

Anand is a film about a life-loving cancer patient whose optimism touches everyone he encounters. The film’s writer, Hrishikesh Mukherji, had majored in chemistry like his father before him, and started a career in Bollywood as a laboratory assistant in the film development process. Mukherji published the story himself—and was actually about his personal relationship to film great, Raj Kapoor (to whom the film is dedicated!) Kapoor used to call Mukherji babumushai when Kapoor had fallen quite ill himself, and the characters were based upon their interactions. I have discussed more about the songs and plot of the film here, but for now, I will highlight Anand’s unexpected, fatal diagnosis: lymphosarcoma of the intestine. At one point in the film, Anand is explaining his disease and jokes about the name that, “kisi viceroy ka naam lagta hai. Aadmi Vividh Bharati par announce kar sakta hai.” [It sounds like the name of some viceroy. It could be announced on the radio.]

So was the fancy sounding form of cancer just thrown in for the purposes of character development? Or was it perhaps actually the name of a disease he stumbled upon by chance many years ago as a chemistry student? Whatever the reason, clearly no one on their crew knew the correct pronunciation of the word “intestine” or the following it would develop. The tragic diagnosis then took on a cult status in Bollywood movies, memorable for its almost bizarre obscurity, and became de rigeur for anyone needing a terminal disease. It resurfaced most memorably in the smash-hit comedy Munna Bhai, MBBS (2003) about a Bombay thug-turned doctor who fights for the life of a patient with none other than…you guessed it, lymphosarcoma of the intestine! Surely, this was a nod to the original “patient-doctor” film Anand.

There’s probably a reason why you haven’t heard of lymphosarcoma of the intestine in real life.  A 1922 paper that discussed three cases of the disease in-depth in Annals of Surgery remained the definitive word for many years. The paper described it as an extremely rare and obscure condition about which current knowledge was lacking (this was well before the age of DNA). Also discussed is how towards the end of the illness, the patient presents with severe constipation or vomiting—both unpleasant effects that Mukherji failed to include (they probably would not have gone over well on screen). Nearly 100 years later, the term “lymphosarcoma” is obsolete–by definition all neoplasms of the lymphoid tissue are cancerous and simply termed “lymphoma.” So what was perhaps once called the mysterious lymphosarcoma of the intestine is now recognized as intestinal non-Hodgkin’s MALT B-cell lymphoma. Still, this particular form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma occurs infrequently (only 8% of B-cell lymphomas), but retains a good prognosis if a particular chromosomal mutation does not occur. It can be caused by chronic inflammation from the bacteria H. Pylori, in which case, antimicrobial agents could cure you. Unfortunately for Anand, H. Pylori would not be discovered until 1982. Still, surgery and chemotherapy were available options for these patients, neither of which seemed to have been advised for Anand. For him, lymphosarcoma of the intestine remained an unavoidable death sentence.

And now you’re saying, so what? So Hrishikesh Mukherji made melodrama from an obscure fatal disease and didn’t stick with its actual forms of progression and treatment, big deal? Well, I’m here to say, for whatever it’s worth, lymphosarcoma of the intestine became ingrained under false pretenses in the imagination of Bollywood when knowledge about something more realistic and with a higher incidence might have actually served some benefit. What if he was just dying from end-stage renal failure due to severe diabetes after a life of eating pure asli ghee? Yes, it’s a stretch. All right, a huge stretch. But someone had to say it.

Let me just end this with some fun trivia. Did you know that Amitabh Bachan and Rajesh Khanna were not originally intended to be cast in this film? I know it’s hard to imagine, but in reality Mehmood and Kishore Kumar were supposed to play their roles! Due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Kishore Kumar had a falling out, so new actors were brought in instead for the roles that would make their as well as lymphosarcoma of the intestine’s careers!

-Mrs. 55

Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

The next song in our series will be the lyrics and English translation of the sentimental “Kahin Door Jab Din Dhal Jaaye” from the film Anand (1971). Starring power duo Amitabh Bachhan and Rajesh Khanna, Anand tells the story of how one hardened doctor’s outlook is changed by the optimism and infectious laughter of his terminally ill patient, Anand. Dr. Banerjee faces an enormous dilemma when Anand becomes not merely another patient, but a true and close friend. Through Anand, he is inspired once more to fight desperately for the lives of his patients and must come to terms with when at last to let to go of circumstances beyond his control. The film explores the complex medical ethics of urging and struggling for life instead of palliative care when death is inevitable, as well as the difficulties in transcending the professional comforts of a normal doctor-patient relationship. While bubbly, laugh-a-minute Anand is at times over the top, his character remains always endearing.

Rajesh Khanna plays a vivacious cancer patient in Anand (1971)

“Kahin Door Jab Din” comes as one of the rare moments in the film when Anand displays a softer, introspective side to his character. The translation and lyrics of the song is deeply moving–a dying man watches the sunset, reflecting with a kind of loving wistfulness on his unfulfilled dreams. The beauty of these lyrics in the context of the film evokes a sense of what Japanese art has called mono na aware–a sensitivity to ephemera, a gentle sadness for the transience of things even as they occur (in this case, his own life). It should be noted, that although I have translated some lines as referring to a woman–I think this song can be read in many different ways. The lyrics may speak to the woman Anand once loved who is no longer with him, but the womanly embodiment of his longing may be also symbolic of all unknown experiences of life that Anand will miss, for like the setting sun, his life is slowly ebbing away. To me, “Kahin Door Jab Din” is beautiful, restrained, and one of the finest examples of Rajesh Khanna’s ability to move an audience without the crutches of his famous winking and dancing.

P.S. Some of you may be interested to discover the original Bengali version of this song sung by Hemant Kumar here!

Kahin Door Jab Din Lyrics and Translation:

kahii.N duur jab din Dhal jaaye
Somewhere far away when the day dulls
saa.Njh kii dulhan badan churaaye chhupke se aaye
The dusk sneaks up, shyly like a bride
mere khayaalo.N ke aa.Ngan mei.N
In the courtyard of my imagination
koii sapno.N ke diip jalaaye, diip jalaaye
Someone lights up the lamp of my dreams

kabhii yuu.N hii, jab huii, bojhal saa.Nse.N
Sometimes when my breathing becomes burdensome for no reason
bhar aayii baiThe baiThe, jab yuu.N hii aa.Nkhe.N
When my eyes well up just sitting around
tabhii machal ke, pyaar se chal ke
Then with a loving flutter
chhue koii mujhe par nazar na aaye, nazar na aaye
Someone touches me, but I cannot see her

kahii.N to yeh, dil kabhii, mil nahii.N paate
Somewhere these hearts are unable to come together
kahii.N se nikal aaye, janamo.N ke naate
But somewhere a connection emerges that transcends many lifetimes
ghanii thii uljhan, bairii apnaa man
The problem was deep and my own heart turned against me
apnaa hii hoke sahe dard paraaye, dard paraaye
By belonging to me, yet bearing the pain of another

dil jaane, mere saare, bhed yeh gahare
My heart knows all my deep secrets
ho gaye kaise mere, sapane sunahare
How my dreams became golden
yeh mere sapne, yahii.N to hai.N apne
These are my dreams, these alone belong to me
mujh se judaa na ho.Nge inke yeh saaye, inke yeh saaye
Even their shadows cannot be separated from me

kahii.N duur jab din Dhal jaaye
Somewhere far away when the day dulls
saa.Njh kii dulhan badan churaaye chhupke se aaye
The dusk sneaks up, shyly like a bride

Glossary:

saanjh: evening; aangan: courtyard; bhojal: burdensome; machal: flutter; janamo.n ke naate: connection of many lifetimes; uljhan: problem; paraaye: another person (stranger); bhed: secret; sunahare: golden; saaye: shadow

-Mrs. 55