A Beginner’s Guide to Bollywood Tree Courtship: The Best Tree Songs of Classic Films

Rajesh Khanna tree Mumtaz Aap Ki Qasam

Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz engage in a playful treeside encounter in Aap Ki Kasam (1974).

A tree is the ideal wingman. It’s an insider trick Bollywood heroes and heroines learned early on that rarely fails to end in matrimonial bliss. Many of the best songs of Bollywood occur in a forest, taking full advantage of that lovable prop whose stability is matched only by its generosity. In honor of Van Mahotsav, the annual Indian tree-planting festival taking place this week, we too would like to honor the cultural importance of the all-mighty tree in the greatest reflection of our society: film. Why a tree? Newcomers to classic Bollywood may ask with due naivite. The archetypal significance of entering the forest–delving deep into the mysteries of the mind and soul–do have some place in the escapism of romantic fantasy, but the logic of singing and dancing around a tree is actually quite simple.

sharmila tagore kashmir ki kali

Sharmila Tagore hugs a tree for emotional stability in Kashmir Ki Kali (1964).

In most romantic-dramas of the Golden Age, emotions are just brimming over with adorable intensity. With a tree as a wingman, you can simultaneously practice your moves with a literal tree hug while catching your breath from a potentially close encounter with the real object of your desire. See, the tree doesn’t judge. The tree doesn’t ask for a return favor next Friday. The tree is neutral ground–a seemingly innocent bystander in the forest of love to which both parties have full claim. Sometimes the woman peeks behind the tree, sometimes the man. As a friendly chaperone, the tree legitimizes everyone’s behavior in that bashful innocence of bygone romance. Yes, censorship laws may prevent you from making real moves on your loved one, but they won’t stop you from snuggling a tree.

Dilip Kumar Vijayantimala dil tadap tadap ke tree

Although Vijayantimala tightly embraces a forgiving tree trunk, it’s clear who she really wants to be hugging in Madhumati (1958).

Bollywood has been perfecting the tree ritual since time immemorial. It’s a cinematic institution, particularly for the benefits of discreet pans to the sunlit treetops or a calming mountainside when a love scene threatens to quickly advance from G to PG. We even emulated basic tree positioning in a photograph on our “About Us” page!

Enjoy our list of classic Bollywood’s best tree songs below. Study them thoroughly and know your part well before embarking on your next trip to the forest. While this list could honestly go on forever, we’ve chosen our top 15 tree songs based on creativity of tree choreography. Which of YOUR favorite tree numbers would you add? Share your thoughts in the comments!

1. Dekho Kasam Se (Tumsa Nahin Dekha 1957)

2. Dil Tadap Tadap (Madhumati 1958)

3. Deewana Mastana Hua Dil (Bombai Ka Babu 1960)

4. Do Sitaron Ka Zameen (Kohinoor 1960)

5. Abhi Na Jao Chod Kar (Hum Dono 1961)

6. Isharon Isharon Mein (Kashmir Ki Kali 1964)

7. Jaiye Aap Kahan Jaayenge (Mere Sanam 1965)

8. Baharon Phool Barsao (Suraj 1966)

9. In Baharon Mei.N Akeli (Mamta 1966)

10. Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe (Kanyadaan 1968)

11. Bekhudi Mein Sanam (Haseena Maan Jayegi 1968)

12. Jaane Jaan DhoonDta (Jawani Diwani 1972)

13. Suno Kaho Suna (Aap Ki Kasam 1974)

14. Is Mod Se Jaate Hain (Aandhi 1975)

15. Tune O Rangile (Kudrat 1981)

Shammi Kapoor Dekh Kasam Se

Shammi Kapoor coyly assesses the romantic situation from the comfort of his engraved tree in Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957).

Feeling like a pro already? Perhaps you’re ready for the big time: spitting game around a tree in the rain! Check out our compilation of Bollywood’s best monsoon songs, and you’ll be walking down the aisle in no time.

-Mrs. 55

Karvaten Badalte Rahe Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

 

RK

Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz frolic in pre-marital bliss in the title track from Aap Ki Qasam (1974)

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to the title track from Aap Ki Qasam (1974): karvate.n badalte rahe.n.  Directed by J. Om Prakash, this film stars Rajesh Khanna, Mumtaz, and Sanjeev Kumar in a story that illustrates how suspicion can be the ultimate enemy to marital bliss. 

As Mumtaz’s jealous husband, Rajesh Khanna begins to doubt his wife’s fidelity when his best friend Sanjeev Kumar comes into the picture. Although Mumtaz and Sanjeev Kumar share a platonic brother-sister friendship, Rajesh Khanna’s suspicion blinds him from reality until he destroys his own marriage.  Refusing to dignify the false accusations of infidelity placed on her with a response, Mumtaz leaves him and returns to her father’s home.  When she realizes that she is pregnant with Rajesh Khanna’s daughter, she enters a second marriage (with her father’s blessings!) so that her child can be raised in a loving home.  In the mean time, Rajesh Khanna comes to his senses and realizes that his suspicion towards his wife was misguided. Unable to apologize properly to Mumtaz for his unacceptable behavior, guilt drives Rajesh Khanna to become a homeless wanderer. Several years later, Mumtaz invites him to his daughter’s wedding where all parties receive closure of sorts. However, a tragedy strikes to create an ending that seeps with melodrama in true Bollywood fashion. 

Aap Ki Qasam is remarkable in its portrayal of marital suspicion for avoiding the chauvinistic bias present in similar films of this era. Typically, female characters accused of infidelity were vilified and forced to appease their husbands regardless of whether the accusations placed upon them were were valid or not. This film breaks the patii-parameshvar (husband is God) mold by supporting a woman’s right to leave an unhappy marriage in which she is treated disrespectfully by her husband. In particular, the support that Mumtaz receives from her father (played by Rehman) in divorcing her husband and entering a second marriage is unusually refreshing for this period of cinematic history. Although it can be argued that Mumtaz’s father makes much of the decisions for her, the fact that she is not compelled to beg for forgiveness at her husband’s feet is sufficiently progressive to merit attention. Indeed, valuing a woman’s dignity and self-worth over her duty to preserve a dysfunctional marriage is the ground-breaking message that makes Aap Ki Qasam stand out among other movies from this time.

In addition to being a cherished Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz hit, this film is remembered today for its fantastic soundtrack composed by R.D. Burman. Aside from the  Pahadi-based duet sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar presented here, this album contains the popular duets “suno, haa.n kaho,” “jai jai shiv sha.nkar,” “paas nahii.n aanaa,” the beautiful Lata solo “chorii chorii chup ke chup ke,” and the philosophical Kishore solo “zindagii ke safar me.n.”  Anand Bakshi’s lyrics in “karvate.n badalte rahe.n” are marked by simplicity in their expression of the romance and trust shared between two lovers as they yearn in separation. Moreover, the beautiful snow-filled Himalayan landscape and the on-screen chemistry exhibited by Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz add to the appeal of this duet. 

Finally, as an aside, the 1973 BBC documentary Bombay Superstar profiling Rajesh Khanna and his influence on Hindi cinema actually features a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Aap Ki Qasam through interviews with the superstar himself,  director J. Om Prakash, and co-star Mumtaz. My favorite part of this documentary is the scene that depicts the amount of work that went into picturizing a playback song for a Bollywood film (the filming of “suno, haa.n kaho” is shown in the documentary).  Check out the full documentary here on YouTube if you haven’t seen it yet! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
RK

The on-screen chemistry between Rajesh Khanna and Mumtaz allowed this pair to dominate the box office during the early 1970s.

Karvaten Badalte Rahe: Lyrics and Translation

karvate.n badalte rahe.n saarii raat ham
Tossing and turning in bed, I have been restless the entire night.
aap kii qasam, aap kii qasam
I swear by you.
gham na karo, din judaayii ke bahut hai.n kam
Do not be sad; the days of our separation are very limited.
aap kii qasam, aap kii qasam
I swear by you.

yaad tum aate rahe ek huuk sii uThtii rahii
As I remembered you, a sharp pain kept arising in my heart.
nii.nd mujhse, nii.nd se mai.n, bhaagtii chhuptii rahii
Sleep and I kept fleeing and hiding from each other.
raat bhar bairan nigoDii chaa.ndnii chubhtii rahii
The hostile, wretched moonlight continued to pierce through the entire night.
aag sii jaltii rahii, girtii rahii shabnam
A fire kept burning, as the dew continued to fall.
aap kii qasam, aap kii qasam
I swear by you.

jhiil sii aa.nkho.n me.n aashiq Duub ke kho jaayegaa
Your beloved will get lost by drowning in the loch of your eyes.
zulf ke saaye me.n dil armaan bharaa so jayegaa
Under the shadows of your tresses, his hope-filled heart will fall into slumber.
tum chale jaao, nahii.n to kuchh na kuchh ho jaayegaa
Please go away, or else something will happen between us.
Dagmagaa jaaye.nge aise haal me.n qadam
Our steps will falter out of control under these circumstances.
aap kii qasam, aap kii qasam
I swear by you.

ruuTh jaaye.n ham to tum ham ko manaa lenaa sanam
Should I sulk, please console me, oh beloved.
duur ho.n to paas ham ko tum bulaa lenaa sanam
Should you be far away, please call me to your side, oh beloved.
kuchh gilaa ho to gale ham ko lagaa lenaa sanam
Should I make a mistake, please embrace me in forgiveness, oh beloved.
TuuT na jaaye kabhii yah pyaar kii qasam
May this vow of love never be broken by us.
aap kii qasam, aap kii qasam
I swear by you.

Female lines in red are sung by Lata Mangeshkar. Male lines in green are sung by Kishore Kumar. Lines in black are sung together by Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar. 

Glossary

karvate.n badalnaa: to toss and turn in bed  (i.e. to be restless at night); qasam: a sworn oath or vow; gham karnaa: to be sad; judaayii: separation; huuk: a sharp pain; nii.nd: sleep; bhaagna: to flee; chhupnaa: to hide; bairan: hositle, cruel; nigoDii: wretched; chubhnaa: to pierce; aag: fire; shabnam: dew; jhiil: loch, lake; aashiq: beloved; zulf: tresses; saaye: shadows; armaan: hope; Dagmagaaanaa: to falter, stagger; haal: circumstances, state; qadam: steps, feet; ruuTh jaanaa: to sulk; manaa lenaa: to console; sanam: beloved; paas bulaa lenaa: to call to one’s side; gilaa: mistake; gale lagaa lenaa: to embrace; TuuT jaanaa: to be broken.

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The snowy Himalayan foothills provide the ideal backdrop for this romantic duet from Aap Ki Qasam (1974).

Phool Ahista Phenko Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Mumtaz is at her sassy finest on screen during this blazing duet from Prem Kahani (1975)

Our next translation comes from Prem Kahani (1975), a hit film set during the peak of India’s struggle for freedom from British rule that stars Mumtaz, Rajesh Khanna, and Shashi Kapoor in  another take on the archetypal Bollywood love triangle. Rajesh Khanna plays the role of an apolitical poet with aspirations of teaching literature who becomes involved in a revolutionary freedom fighter movement to avenge his brother’s murder during a peace protest. He engages in a passionate romance with Mumtaz; however, when she boldly asks to marry him, he turns her down. The reason? Knowing the risks that he will face as a revolutionary, he does not want Mumtaz to be subjected to the cruelties of becoming widowed. Deeply hurt by this rejection,  Mumtaz agrees to marry the man of her father’s choosing. In the mean time, Rajesh kills his brother’s murderer and becomes a fugitive highly sought after by the police. One day, while visiting his sister-in-law’s house, he is shot by police who arrive to search the premises. In order to recover from his wound, Rajesh flees to seek refuge at his best friend Shashi Kapoor’s place. When Rajesh arrives, he finds that it is the day of Shashi’s wedding! Rajesh meets the new bride, and — you guessed it — it is none other than Mumtaz.

In this context, the meaning of the lyrics in “phuul aahistaa phe.nko” come truly alive. The tension at home between Mumtaz and Rajesh Khanna is painfully palpable, and in the midst of this mess, the clueless Shashi calls for the start of an informal mushaira (poetry recital).  If you’re interested in the poetry preceding this song, you can listen to the back-and-forth of the witty retorts between Rajesh and Mumtaz at this link here.  The poetry leads seamlessly into the introduction of this memorable Lata-Mukesh duet, which was composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal and penned by Anand Bakshi. This gem is a perfect example of how songs in Bollywood films can be used  to express emotions that cannot be described as gracefully with dialogue alone.

Through these lyrics, Rajesh takes the opportunity to express his sorrow for letting Mumtaz go and playing with her heart. Mumtaz, with some sassy lines of her own, chides Rajesh for the way that he treated her. In order to fully understand these lyrics, it is important note that the thematic message of this song revolves around a key metaphor: the roses discussed here represent womankind. Like flowers, Indian women must grapple with a delicate and fragile fate as they endure the pain inflicted by the thorns of society’s constraining norms.  Thus, when Rajesh claims in the mukhDaa that roses must be plucked gently (phuul aahistaa phe.nko, phuul baDe naazuk hote hai.n), Mumtaz sarcastically questions the sincerity of his politesse during her antara (baDii khuubsuurat shikaayat hai yah, magar sochiye kyaa sharafat hai yah?). In her heart, she wishes Rajesh had not been overly concerned with her well-being so that their marriage could have occurred (in spite of her prospects of becoming widowed).  By channeling her emotions into anger, Mumtaz now hopes that the same kind of pain will ultimately afflict Rajesh so that he can understand the heartbreak she was forced to endure because of his decisions (jo rulaate hai.n logo.n ko ek din khud bhii rote hai.n).

As you can tell, this song is power-packed with emotional intensity and some beautifully crafted poetry–I highly recommend a listen if you have not received the opportunity to hear it yet. Follow along with our translation and glossary below, and as always, remember to send in your requests to themrandmrs55@gmail.com!

–Mr.55

Rajesh Khanna recites poetry that expresses deep regret for letting his beloved Mumtaz slip away in Prem Kahani (1975)

Phool Ahista Phenko: Lyrics and Translation

kahaa aap kaa yah bajaa hii sahii
What you have said is entirely correct: 
ki ham beqadar, bevafaa hii sahii
I am insensitive and unfaithful. 
bade shauq se jaaiye chhoD kar
With pleasure, you may leave me and go away.
magar sahan-e-gulshan se yuu.n toD kar
But, from the rose garden,

phuul aahistaa phe.nko, phuul baDe naazuk hote hai.n
Gently pluck the roses, for they are very delicate. 
vaise bhii to ye badqismatnok pe kaa.nto.n kii sote hai.n
Indeed, these ill-fated flowers must reside on the tips of thorns.

baDii khuubsuurat shikaayat hai yah
You have expressed quite a lovely grievance,
magar sochiye, kyaa sharaafat hai yah?
but please consider whether it is mere politesse.
jo auro.n kaa dil toDte rahte hai.n
Those who continue to break others’ hearts 
lage choT unko to yah kahte hai.n ki
say this when they become hurt themselves: 
phuul aahistaa phe.nko, phuul baDe naazuk hote hai.n
Gently pluck the roses, for they are very delicate. 
jo rulaate hai.n logo.n ko ek din khud bhii rote hai.n
Those who make others cry shed their own tears one day.

kisii shauk ko baagh kii sair me.n
During a stroll in the garden,
jo lag jaaye kaa.nTaa koii pair me.n
when a thorn pierces your foot,
khafaa husn phuulo.n se ho kis liye?
why do you become angry with the roses, oh beautiful one?
ye maasuum hai.n, bekhataa is liye
They are innocent and faultless.
phuul aahistaa phe.nko, phuul baDe naazuk hote hai.n
Gently pluck the roses, for they are delicate.
ye kare.nge kaise ghaayal? ye to khud ghaayal hote hai.n 

How can they hurt others? They are wounded themselves.

gulo.n ke baDe aap hamdard hai.n
You are quite sympathetic to the beauty of these roses.
bhalaa kyo.n na ho? aap bhii mard hai.n
And why not? You are also a man!
hazaaro.n savaalo.n kaa hai ek javaab
A thousand questions have this one answer.
fareb-e-nazar yah na ho, ai janaab
My dear, don’t let your eyes deceive you.
phuul aahistaa phe.nko, phuul baDe naazuk hote hai.n

Gently pluck the roses, for they are delicate.
sab jise kahte hai.n shabnam, phuul ke aa.nsuu hote hai.n
What people call dew drops are, in fact, the tears shed by roses

*Female lines sung by Lata Mangeshkar are denoted in red. Male lines sung by Mukesh are denoted in black.

Glossary

bajaa: correct; beqadar: insensitive; bevafaa: unfaithful; shauq se: with pleasure; sahan: courtyard; gulshan: rose garden; phe.nknaa: to pluck, throw; aahistaa: slowly, gently; naazuk: delicate; badqismat: ill-fated; nok: tip; shikaayat; grievance; sharaafat: politesse, decency; choT: injury, wound; shauk: thorn; baagh: garden; sair: promenade, stroll; khafaa: angry; maasuum: innocent; bekhataa: faultless; gul: rose; hamdard: sympathetic; fareb-e-nazar: delusion of sight; shabnam: dew drops.  

The handsome yet clueless Shashi Kapoor is unaware of the tumultuous history between his wife Mumtaz and best friend Rajesh Khanna in Prem Kahani (1975).