Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

balraj sahni aye meri zohra jabeen waqt

Balraj Sahni plays a wealthy, family-loving merchant whose good fortune takes a disastrous turn in Waqt (1965).

We now present the lyrics and English translation to “Aye Mere Zohra Jabeen” from Waqt (1965). Young at heart Balraj Sahni plays a loving father of three young children who celebrates his business success with pomp and splendor. So overjoyed by where he believes Fate is taking his family, he dedicates a love song to his wife at a party. The film’s hit opening number “Aye Mere Zohra Jabeen” brims with a sense of carpe diem in the lives of a couple whose youth is coming to an end. Achala Sachdev plays the gentle wife fittingly embarrassed by the attention, but clearly loving the compliments. Their picture-perfect world is too wonderful to last–and before the night is over, tragedy strikes that separates the family. And from there unfolds one of the best Hindi masala films of the 60s!

The well-known opening line carries the Urdu vocabulary lover’s favorite, “zohra jabeen.” The meaning of this term has confused many a Hindi film goer over the ages. Actually a combination of two separate words, zohra and jabeen, the term is used loosely to mean “beautiful one,” but the true definition is far more fascinating. Zohra is the Arabic term for the Roman goddess of beauty, Venus, and also the planet easily identifiable as a shining star in the sky. Jabeen translate literally as forehead, a delicate part of the woman’s face to which praise has been given for centuries of Urdu ghazalry. So when addressing your sweetheart as zohra-jabeen, you are implying that her face shines with the beauty of Venus! Pretty flattering, right?

shy achala sachdev aye meri zohra jabeen

With the coyness of a young bride, Achala Sachdev blushes at her husband’s public display of affection in Waqt (1965).

In an interview on Bangalore’s Radio City in 2005, Manna Dey recalls being requested for the number by music director Ravi with surprise:

“When Ravi called me to sing “Aye meri zohra-jabeen” for Waqt, I asked him, ‘Why me? You use only Rafi or Mahendra Kapoor.’ Ravi said it was Balraj Sahni’s personal request that I sing.”

Although Mahendra Kapoor and Rafi do indeed sing the other fabulous songs of the film, none ever became as famous than this Manna Dey chart-buster. Sung at almost any sangeet or wedding, “Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” endears listeners across generations with excitement and sentimentality. Although often categorized as a qawwali, the song does not quite fit into the genre–despite its best attempts at synchronized group clapping. Check out the video to see class act Balraj Sahni get into character and witness one of the only Bollywood love songs uniquely targeted at couple of any age! Cutie-pie Achala Sachdev would later play Kajol’s grandmother’s in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge where the song was memorably revived!

We hope you enjoy the evergreen Sahir Ludhianvi lyrics and our full English translation to “Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” below:

Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen Lyrics and English Translation:

Aye merii zohra-jabeen
Oh, my beautiful one
Tujhe ma’aluum nahii.N
You are not aware
Tuu abhii tak hai hasii.N
that you are still lovely
Aur mai.N jawaa.n!
and I am still young!
Tujhpe qurbaan merii jaan merii jaan!
I would sacrifice my life for you!

Yeh shokhiyaa.N yeh baa.Nkpan jo tujh mei.N hai kahii.N nahii.N
This coyness, this attractiveness of yours is nowhere else
Dilo.N ko jiitne kaa fan jo tujh me hai kahii.N nahii.N
The art of winning hearts that you possess is nowhere else
Mai.N terii! maii.N terii aankho.N mei.N paa gayaa do jahaa.N!
In your eyes, I have found my heaven and earth!
Aye merii zohra jabeen…

Tuu miiThe bol, jaan-e-man, jo muskuraake bol de
If you speak sweet words to me, my love, and smile
To dhaDakano.N mei.N aaj bhii sharaabii ra.Ng ghol de
Then even today, you infuse my heartbeats with an intoxicating colour
O sanam! O sanam mai.N teraa aashiq-e-jaavedaan!
Oh darling, I am your lover for eternity!
Aye merii zohra jabeen…

Glossary:

zohra-jabeen: beautiful (literally zohra: Venus and jabeen: forehead = beautiful one with the face that glows like Venus); ma’aluum: aware, information; hasii.N: beauty; jawaa.N: youth; qurbaan: sacrifice; jaan: life; shokhiyaa.N: coyness; baa.Nkpan: attractiveness; fan: art; do jahaa.N: two worlds, heaven and earth, realm; miiThaa: sweet; bol: words; jaan-eman: beloved; muskuraanaa: to smile; dhaDkan: heartbeat; sharaabii: intoxicating, drunken; ra.Ng: colour; ghol: mixture, infusion; sanam: beloved; aashiq: lover; jaavedaan: eternal, never-ending

handkerchiefs waqt

When the flirty handkerchiefs come out, there’s really no going back. I think we all have uncles who have pulled this flamboyant dance move at parties, much to their wives’ chagrin.

Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” is actually based on a musical composition by Afghanistan’s Abdul Ghafoor Breshna (1907-1974), a famous painter, poet, director, and musician who also composed the national anthem for the Republic of Afghanistan just before his death. “Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” was requested by two fans, Kuldip Babbar and Hema Fonseka! Thanks for the fantastic suggestion, and keep those requests coming!

– Mrs. 55

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Chaudavin Ka Chand Ho Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Guru Dutt compares the beauty of his beloved Waheeda Rehman to the full moon of the night sky in Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960).

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to the title track from Mohammed Sadiq’s Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960).  After Kaaghaz Ke Phool (1959) proved to be a box office disaster, Chaudavin Ka Chand salvaged Guru Dutt’s production studio by garnering  widespread commercial success at the time of its release. Reflecting on the failure of Kaaghaz Ke Phool and the success of Chaudavin Ka Chand, Guru Dutt said,

 “Life me.n, yaar, kyaa hai? Do hii to chiize.n hai.n: –kamiyaabii aur failure. There is nothing in between.”

Although the success of Chaudavin Ka Chand as a comeback film for Guru Dutt Productions can be attributed to number of factors, one of the most important is the film’s outstanding musical score. Composed by Ravi and penned by Shakeel Badayuni, this soundtrack is full of memorable gems like the sassy Asha-Shamshad qawwali sharmaa ke ye kyo.n sab pardaanashii.n and the pain-filled badle badle mere sarkaar (Lata Mangeshkar’s only foray into singing for Guru Dutt Films!).

Among these gems, the film’s title track chaudavii.n ka chaa.nd ho steals the show as one of the most beautiful expressions of love in Hindi film music. Tuned to Raga Pahadi, Shakeel Badayuni’s Filmfare Award winning Urdu poetry abounds with metaphors to describe the film’s heroine Waheeda Rehman. Reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), the the poet employs natural imagery to characterize his beloved’s beauty through references to the full moon (chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd), the sun (aftaab), a lotus (ka.nval), wine (sharaab), and more. Ultimately, the poet concludes that his beloved is so beautiful that her beauty is beyond comparison to any object (jo bhii ho tum khudaa kii qasam laajavaab ho).

No discussion about chaudavii.n ka chaa.nd ho can be complete without giving credit to Mohammed Rafi for his magical rendition. Here, Rafi offers a technically brilliant performance but it is the warmth, passion, and soul in his voice that renders this song a timeless masterpiece. About fifteen years following his Bollywood debut, Rafi received his first well-deserved Filmfare Award for this song in 1961.

Did you know that the Censor Board objected to chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd ho when Guru Dutt re-released a version of the song shot in color? As the color version was being filmed, Waheeda Rehman’s eyes became irritated from the heat of the high-powered lights used during the shoot. Upon seeing the red color of the heroine’s eyes, the Censor Board claimed that the colored picturization of the song contained suggestive and lustful implications inappropriate for audiences. What a bizarre and unfair objection placed on such an innocently romantic song! Don’t let it stop your from enjoying this classic gem along with our lyrics and translation below. Until next time…

-Mr. 55
WR

Sleeping in a white dress, Waheeda Rehman’s angelic beauty shines in Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960).

Chaudavin Ka Chand Ho: Lyrics and Translation

chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd ho yaa aftaab ho?
Are you the full moon of the night or the sun of the day? 
jo bhii ho tum khudaa kii qasam laajavaab ho

Whatever you are, I swear by the Lord that you are incomparable.

zulfe.n hai.n jaise kaandho.n pe baadal jhuke hue
Your tresses are like dark clouds sloping down your shoulders.
aa.nkhe.n hai.n jaise mai ke pyaale bhare hue
Your beautiful eyes are like wine-filled goblets.
mastii hai jis me.n pyaar kii tum vah sharaab ho
You are the wine that abounds with the intoxication of love.

chaharaa hai jaise jhiil me.n ha.nstaa huaa ka.nval
Is your face like a smiling lotus in the brook,
yaa zindagii ke saaz pe chheDii huii ghazal?
or like an ode tuned to the music of life?
jaan-e-bahaar tum kisii shaayar kaa khvaab ho
My beloved, you are a poet’s dream.

ho.nTho.n pe kheltii hai.n tabassum kii bijliyaa.n
The current of your bright smile runs through your beautiful lips.
sajde tumhaarii raah me.n kartii hai kahkashaa.n
Even galaxies lay prostrate with reverence in your path.
duniyaa-e-husn-o-ishq kaa tum hii shabaab ho
 Only your youthful splendor shines in this world of love and beauty.

chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd ho yaa aftaab ho?
Are you the full moon of the night or the sun of the day?

Glossary

chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd: moon of the fourteenth night, full moon; aftaab: sun; laajavaab: incomparable; kaandhaa: shoulder; mai: wine; pyaalaa: goblet; mastii: intoxication; sharaab: wine, alcohol; jhiil: brook; ka.nval: lotus; saaz: musical instrument; ghazal: song, ode; jaan-e-bahaar: beloved; shaayar: poet; khvaab: dream; tabassum: smile; bijlii: current; sajde karnaa: to lay prostrate; kahkashaa.n: galaxy; duniyaa-e-husn-o-ishq: world of love and beauty; shabaab: youth.

GD

Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman’s on-screen chemistry in Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960) reflected their passionate off-screen affair.

Nigahein Milane Ko Jee Chahta Hai Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Who wouldn’t want to exchange glances with those eyes?

If I had to name my favorite actress from the Golden Era of Bollywood cinema, I think that I would pick Nutan.

As one of the beloved goddesses of India’s silver screen, Nutan starred in many evergreen films from the 1950s and 1960s, including Paying Guest (1957), Anari (1959), Bandini (1963), and Milan (1967), just to name a few. In my opinion, there’s something special about Nutan’s performances that sets her apart from her peers. She played her roles with a dignified beauty, a restrained grace, and an acute intelligence that was difficult to find in other actresses of the time. Here, I’ve chosen to translate a song from Dil Hi To Hai (1963), a charming Bollywood romance that is enjoyable to watch even though it is one of Nutan’s lesser-known films.

Nutan stars in Dil Hi To Hai as Jamila, the beautiful daughter of a wealthy London-based banker. Here, Raj Kapoor departs from the image established in his previous films by playing a comic double role as Jamila’s love interest Chand and Jamila’s aged music teacher Khan Sahab. While the film features some memorable performances by Nutan and Raj Kapoor, this film is probably even more memorable today for its soundtrack composed by music director Roshan. Two gems from this soundtrack have survived the test of time. The first is the Bhairavi-based classical number “laagaa chunarii me.n daag,” which is regarded as one of the best songs of Manna De’s career. The other gem is Asha Bhonsle’s exquisitely rendered Yaman qawwalinigaahe.n milaane ko jii chahtaa hai,” which I have translated here.

Penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, this qawwali centers around a woman’s desire to exchange glances with her beloved. The romanticization of eyes and sight is a common theme found in Bollywood films, and the poetry in this song is one of this era’s most cherished portrayals of this theme. The song’s charm is enhanced by the use of Urdu vocabulary (e.g. tahumat and tamhiid) and Asha Bhonsle’s immaculate rendition. Don’t you just love the way she owns those octave glides during the sargam passage?

Mrs. 55 and I actually performed this qawwali at Harvard during the annual South Asian cultural show Ghungroo two years ago. One thing that we noticed after listening carefully to these lyrics during rehearsal is that there is some ambiguity in gender. While most of the song appears to be from a female perspective, we thought that lyrics take on a masculine role for the line starting with “jab kabhii mai.ne teraa chaand-saa chahraa dekhaa…” (Whenever my eyes have fallen upon your moon-like face…). In addition to the fact that the moon is traditionally used by males to describe feminine beauty (e.g. Mohammed Rafi’s “yeh chaa.nd-saa roshan chahraa“), Nutan’s gestures and body language become more masculine in nature in this segment of the song. In fact, as she sings these two lines, Nutan begins to walk with a manly gait and and then flirts with a female friend as if she is her male lover. We may have totally made this up in our heads, but it was not uncommon for such gender-bending to occur in Bollywood songs–a full post on this trend will be coming up soon! In any case, please enjoy this timeless qawwali while following along with our translation/glossary provided below, and remember to send us your requests for any other songs that you would like translated.

-Mr. 55

Nutan takes on the masculine role for a few lines in this qawwali

Nigahein Milane Ko Jee Chahta Hai Lyrics and Translation

raaz kii baat hai, mahfil me.n kahe yaa na kahe?
It is a secret matter; shall I share it in this gathering?
bas gayaa hai koii is dil me.n, kahe yaa na kahe?
Someone has begun to reside in my heart; shall I reveal this here?

nigaahe.n milaane ko jii chahtaa hai
I yearn to exchange glances with my beloved. 
dil-o-jaa.n luTaane ko jii chahtaa hai
I yearn to give away my heart and soul to him.  

woh tahumat jise “ishq” kahtii hai duniyaa
The allegation that the world calls “love,”
woh tahumat uThaane ko jii chahtaa hai
I yearn to accept that allegation.  

kisii ke manaane me.n lazzat woh paayi
Although I have experienced the pleasure of being appeased,   
ki phir ruuTh jaane ko jii chahtaa hai
I yearn to once again engage in a lovers’ tiff. 
 
woh jalvaa jo ojhal bhii hai saamne bhii
The splendor that vanishes and reappears in love, 
woh jalvaa churaane ko jii chahta hai
I yearn to steal that splendor.  
 
jis ghaDii merii nigaaho.n ko terii diid huii
The moment when our eyes first met,  
woh ghaDii mere liye aish kii tamhiid huii
That moment served as a prelude to happiness for me.  
jab kabhii mai.ne teraa chaa.nd-saa chahraa dekhaa.
Whenever my eyes have fallen upon your moon-like face, 
Eid ho ya ki na ho mere liye Eid huii
it is as if I am celebrating the holiday of Eid.  

ni re ga, ga re ga ni re ma, ma ga ma ni re ga
ga re ga ni ga re, re ga, ga ma, ma dha ni
sa sa ni ni dha dha pa pa ga re
sa ni dha pa ma ga re,
ni dha pa ma ga re sa ni, re ga 

mulaaqaat
kaa koii paighaam diije
Please send me a message about our next rendez-vous, 
ki chhup-chhup ke aane ko jii chahtaa hai
Because I yearn to visit you secretly, 
aur aake na jaane ko jii chahtaa hai
And upon visiting you, I hope to never leave.  

nigaahe.n milaane ko jii chahtaa hai
I yearn to exchange glances with my beloved. 


Glossary

raaz: secret; mahfil: gathering; nigaahe.n: eyes; dil-o-jaan: heart and soul; tahumat: allegation; manaanaa: to appease; lazzat: pleasure; jalvaa: splendor,charm; ojhal: vanished; diid: sighting, gaze; aish: joy, happiness; tamhiid: prelude, preamble; Eid: Islamic festival celebrating the end of Ramadan; mulaaqaat: meeting, rendez-vous; chhup-chhup ke: secretly; paighaam: message.

Nutan leads the chorus with an enchanting smile in Dil Hi To Hai (1963)

Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaakar Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

The mehfil for the qawwali looks particularly vibrant in the recolored version of Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Directed by K. Asif, Mughal-e-Azam (1962) is one of the most cherished films in the history of Bollywood cinema. Although several films have been made around the same premise, Mughal-e-Azam is by far the most well-known depiction of the forbidden love story between Prince Salim and courtesan Anarkali.  We could write (and probably will) at least ten different posts to describe all the things we love about this movie: the intricate Urdu dialogue, the beautiful soundtrack composed by Naushad, the elaborate costumes and set design, the heartwrenching plot, and so on. Here, I’d like to  share the lyrics and translation for one of many gems found in this film’s soundtrack: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazmaakar.

This qawwali is set between Anarkali (played by Madhubala) and her chief rival Bahar (played by Nigar Sultana) as a musical debate on the nature of love. As both women fight for his affections, Prince Salim (played by Dilip Kumar) watches the performance and is supposed to give a rose to the winner of the debate at its conclusion.The back-and-forth debate style of these lyrics is quite a rare find in Bollywood cinema, and it is even rarer to encounter such lyrics (penned by Shakeel Badayuni!) as a female-female duet. Despite being a female-female duet, there is still a subtle division of gender roles if you pay close attention to the song. From her costume, mannerisms, and lines, it could be argued that Bahar is taking on the more masculine role in this qawwali. In fact, her singing part is rendered by the more masculine of the two voices:  Shamshad Begum.

Although the lyrics of this qawwali can be interpreted as universal statements about love, there are a couple of interesting things to point out here with the context of the film’s plot in mind. For example, Bahar introduces a pun on her name when she sings “bahaare.n aaj paigham-e-muhabbat leke aayii. hai.n” (the spring has brought a message of love). Moreover, Bahar snarkily calls attention to the secret love affair between Salim and Anarkali when she claims, “kisii din yeh tamasahaa muskuraakar ham bhii dekhe.nge” (we shall smile one day and watch this spectacle). Aware that her affair with Salim is unacceptable by society’s standards, Anarkali admits that love can be hard when she sings, “muhabbat hamne maanaa zindagi barbaad kartii hai” (we admit that love can destroy one’s life”). She then posits, however, that suffering for the sake of love is worth it because lovers can leave a lasting legacy on the world after they die: “yeh kyaa kam hai ki mar jaane pe duniyaa yaad kartii hai?” Even though she’s being a little dramatic with her lines here, it’s hard not to be rooting for Anarkali over Bahar.

Salim, played by Dilip Kumar, judges the musical debate between Anarkali and Bahar.

At the end of the qawwali, Salim actually declares Bahar the winner of the debate by giving her the rose. This isn’t really a genuine victory because we know that even though Bahar wins the rose, Anarkali has already won Salim’s heart. Also, who could really lose when you have Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar on your team at their peak of their careers? Come on, Salim, keep it real.

-Mr. 55

Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaakar Lyrics and Translation:

Shamshad: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 
ghaDii bhar ko tere nazdiik aakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall come close to you fleetingly and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Bahar, played by Nigar Sultana, being sassy as she sings a classic qawwali in Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Lata: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 
tere qadamo.n pe sar apanaa jhukaa kar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall bow our heads at your feet and watch this spectacle 

ajii haa.n ham bhi dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Madhubala charms all of us with her beautiful smile in Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Shamshad: bahaare.n aaj paighaam-e-muhabbat leke aayii hai.n
The spring has brought a message of love.
baDii muddat me.n ummiido.n kii kaliyaa.n muskuraayii hai.n
The flowerbuds of hope have smiled  after  a long time. 

gham-e-dil se zaraa daaman bachaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall protect ourselves from heartache and watch this spectacle.
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.   

 Lata: agar dil gham se khaalii ho to jiine kaa mazaa kyaa hai?
If the heart is empty of pain, then what pleasure can one find in living?
na ho khuun-e-jigar to ashq piine kaa mazaa kyaa hai?
If the heart does not bleed, then what pleasure can one find  in swallowing tears? 

muhabbat me.n zaraa aa.nsuu bahaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall shed a few tears in love and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Shamshad: muhabbat karnevaalo.n kaa hai bas itnaa hii afasaanaa
Such is the story of lovers: 
taDapnaa chupke chupke aahe.n bharnaa ghuT ke mar jaanaa
They quietly suffer; their eyes fill with tears; they  suffocate and die. 
kisii din yeh tamaashaa muskuraakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall smile one day and watch this spectacle.  

ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.   

Lata: muhabbat hamne maanaa zindagii barbaad kartii hai
We admit that love can destroy one’s life.  
yeh kyaa kam hai ki mar jaane pe duniyaa yaad kartii hai?
But, is it unworthy if the the world remembers lovers after they die? 
kisii ke ishq me.n duniyaa luTaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall sacrifice the world for someone’s love and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhi dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 

Glossary

qismat: fate;  aazamaanaa: to test; ghaDii bhar ko: fleetingly; nazdiik: close; qadam: feet; paighaam-e-muhabbat: message of love; baDii muddat me.n: after a long time; ummiid: hope; daaman bachaanaa: to protect; khuun-e-jigar: blood of the heart; ashq piinaa: to swallow tears; aa.nsuu bahaanaa: to shed tears; afasanaa: story; aahe.n: eyes; ghuTnaa: to suffocate; tamaaashaa: spectacle; barbaad: destroyed; luTaanaa: to sacrifice.

Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Bharat Bhushan Barsaat Ki Raat qawwali
Bollywood Qawwali Barsaat Ki Raat Shyama Ratna

Ratna (left) and Shyama (right) lead the qawwali “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” from the hit Bollywood film Barsaat Ki Raat (196)

For our next post, we provide an English translation of “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” qawwali (and its prelude “Na to Caravan ki Talaash Hai“) from the all-time classic film Barsaat ki Raat (1960). For anyone familiar with the beautiful lyrics of this Sahir Ludhviani masterpiece, you know that “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” is the crowning jewel of the qawwali genre. The ultimate in lyrical poetry, allusions, wit, and transcendent symbolism, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” was no easy task to translate and dissect. Sahir Ludhviani, who also later penned the gems from films like Taj Mahal (1963), wrote an album of love poetry for Barsaat Ki Raat--from “Zindagi Bhar Nahii.N Bhoolegi” to “Mai.N Ne Shaayad Tumhe” to la pièce de résistance, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai.”

Bharat Bhushan Barsaat Ki Raat qawwali

Bharat Bhushan jumps in to save the girls’ qawwali team in “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” from Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)

Through this culmination piece of the film’s ongoing qawwali competition, both hero (Bharat Bhushan) and the heroine (Madhubala) are reunited after a long and painful separation. Mohammed Rafi, Asha Bhonsle, and Manna Dey vie to out-do each other in this clever, powerful discussion of the meaning of love, but at the song’s climax Rafi brings the qawwali to a heart-stopping triumphant finish that wins his team the competition. It is a real pleasure to appreciate the many levels on which the qawwali can be understood–from religious, to romantic, to quite literal–after singing “ilaaj koi to maut hai,” Shyama literally falls sick to her deathbed, or as Bharat Bhushan croons, “nikalii Radha saj ke,” Madhubala appears miraculously at the doorway from the prison of her house. Come follow along with our translation of this epic qawwali and it will be clear why “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” made Bollywood film history!

Madhubala Barsaat Ki Raat

Madhubala hears Bharat Bhushan on the radio and decides to find him in Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)

Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai Lyrics and Translation

MALE:

Na to caaravaan ki talaash hai
I am not in search of a caravan
Na to humsafar ki talaash hai
I am not in search of a fellow traveler
Mere shauq-e-khaana kharaab ko teri rehguzar ki talaash hai
That ruined place of my desire searches for the path that leads to you

FEMALE:

Mere naamuraad junoon ka hai ilaaj koi to maut hai
If there is any cure for my unfortunate obsession, then it is death
Jo davaa ke naam pe zehar de
Give me that medicine whose name is poison
Usi chaaraagar ki talaash hai
I am in search of such a healer

Tera ishq hai meri aarzoo,
Your love is my desire
Tera ishq hai meri aabroo,
Your love is my honor
Dil ishq, jism ishq hai, aur jaan ishq hai
My heart is love, my body is love, and my life is love
Imaan ki jo poochho to imaan ishq hai
If you ask for faith, then that is love too
Tera ishq mai.N kaise ChhoD doo.N?
How could I ever leave your love?
Meri umr bhar ki talaash hai
That love is what I have been searching for all my life

MALE:

Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love
Jaan-soz ki haalat ko jaan-soz hi samjhegaa
Only one in torment can understand the condition of a fellow sufferer
Mai.N shamaa se kehta hoo.N mehfil se nahii.N kehta
I am speaking to the flame, not to the company gathered here
Kyonki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

FEMALE:
Sahar tak sab ka hai anjaam jal kar khaak ho jaana
By dawn, everything will burn and be reduced to ashes
Bhari mehfil mei.N koi shamaa yaa parvaana ho jaaye
Everyone in this gathering shall became either flame or moth
Kyo.N ki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

MALE:

Vehshat-e-dil rasn-o-daar se roki na gayi
Love is not stopped by the madness of the heart or ropes and the gallows
Kisi khanjar, kisi talvaar se roki na gayi
It is not stopped by any dagger, by any sword
Ishq Majnu ki woh aavaz hai jiske aage koi Laila kisi deewaar se roki na gayi,
Love is that voice of Majnu’s which Laila followed and which no barrier could stop
Kyo.N ki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

Woh hanske agar maa.Nge.N to hum jaan bhi dede.N,
If she laughs and asks, then I would even give my life
Haa.N yeh jaan to kya cheez hai? Imaan bhi dede.N!
Yes, after all what is this life? I would even give up my faith!
Kyo.N ki yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

Naaz-o-andaaz se kehte hai.N ki jeena hoga,
I am told that I must live with my fate gracefully
Zehar bhi dete hai.N to kehte hai.N Ki peena hoga
They give me poison, and say I must drink
Jab mai.N peetaa hoo.N to kehte hai.N ki marta bhi nahii.N,
But when I drink it, then they say I won’t die
Jab mai.N martaa hoo.N to kehte hai.N ki jeenaa hogaa
When I am dying, they say I must live
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
For this is love, this is love, this is love

Mazhab-e-ishq ki har rasm kaDi hoti hai,
The laws and customs of love are very strict
Har qadam par koi deewaar khaDi hoti hai
At every step, there is a barrier standing
Ishq aazad hai, Hindu Na Musalmaan hai ishq,
Love is free, love is neither Hindu nor Muslim
Aap hii dharm hai aur aap hii imaan hai ishq
Your own duty and your own faith alone is love
Jis se aage nahii.N shekh-o-Brahaman dono.N,
Both Hindu and Muslim religious men cannot surpass this
Us haqeeqat ka garajtaa hua ailaan hai ishq
The reality of that thundering proclamation is love

(FEMALE in Panjabi):

Ishq na puchhe deen dharm nu, ishq na puchhe jaataan
Love does not ask your religion or creed, love does not ask your social class or caste,
Ishq de haatho.N garam lahu vich doobiyaan laakh baraataan ke
Love has drowned thousands of wedding revelers in its fiery blood
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love

MALE:
Raah ulfat ki kaThin hai ise aasaan na samajh
The path of love is dangerous, do not think it easy
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love

FEMALE:
Bahut kaThin hai Dagar panghat ki
The path to the riverside is very dangerous
Ab kya bhar luau.N mai.N Jamuna se matki?
Now how can I fill my jug with water from the banks of the Jamuna River?
Mai.N jo chali jal jamuna bharan ko dekho sakhi ji mai.N jo chali jal jamuna bharan ko
As I was on my way to fill my jug with water from the Jamuna,
Nand kishor mohe roke jhaadon
The young boy of Nanda [Krishna] stopped me
To kya bhar luau.N mai.N Jamuna se matki?
So how can I fill my jug with water from the banks of the Jamuna River?

MALE:
Ab laaj raakho more ghoonghat pat ki
Now protect my honor, this veil of mine
Jab jab Krishn ki bansi baaji,
When Krishna played his flute
Nikali Raadhaa saj ke
Radha emerged, dressed up
Jaan ajaan ka dhyaan bhulaa ke,
Forgetting all she was taught
Lok laaj ko taj ke
She left the honor of society
Haaye ban ban Doli Janak dulaari,
The darling child of King Janak [Sita] swayed into the forest
Pehenke prem ki maalaa
And wore a garland of love
Darshan jal ki pyaasi Meera
Meera thirsty for her a glimpse of her Lord
Pii gayii vishh ka pyaalaa aur phir araj kari
Drank a glass of poison and then pleaded
Ke laaj raakho raakho raakho, laaj raakho dekho dekho,
Protect my honor, protect my honor, protect my honor
Yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
This is love, this is love, this is love

Allah rasool ka farmaan ishq hai
The commands of God and Mohammed are love
Yaanii Hadith ishq hai, Quraan ishq hai
The teachings of Mohammed are love, the Quraan is love
Gautam kaa aur Maseehaa kaa armaan ishq hai
The wishes of Bhudda and Christ are love
Yeh kaayanaat jism hai aur jaan ishq hai
This material existence and this life are love
Ishq sarmad, ishq hii mansoor hai
Love is everlasting, love alone is victorious
Ishq Moosa, ishq Koh-e-Toor hai
Love is Moses, love is Mt. Sinai
Khaaq ko but, aur but ko devtaa karta hai ishq
Love turns clay into idols, and idols into Gods
Intahaa yeh hai ke bande ko khuda karta hai ishq
The pinnacle is that love has the power to turn a man into a revered God
Haan.N yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq, yeh ishq ishq hai, ishq ishq
Yes, this is love, this is love, this is love

Glossary:

caravaan: caravan; talaash: search; humsafar: fellow traveler; shauq-e-khaana; desires, hobbies; barbaad: ruined; rehuguzar: pathway; naamuraad: unfortunate; junoon: obsession; ilaaj: cure; maut: death; davaa: medicine; zeher: poison; chaaragar: one who treats you, doctor, healer; aarzuu: desire; aabruu: honor; jism: body; imaan: faith; jaansoz: torment, soul-burning; sahar: the time before dawn; anjaam: conclusion; khaak: ashes; parvaanaa: moth (used allegorically as one blinded by love); vehshat: madness; rasn: rope; daar: gallows; khanjar: dagger; talwar: sword; LailaMajnu: legendary ill-fated lovers; awaaz: voice; deewaar: barrier, wall; cheez: thing; naazoandaaz: pride and style, grace; mazhab: law; kaDi: strict, harsh; qadam: step; azaad: free; dharm: Hindu religious duty; haqeeqat: reality; garajnaa: to thunder; ailaan: proclaimation; deen: Islamic obedience; jaataan: caste; lahu: blood; ulfat: love; kaThin: dangerous; aasaan: easy; Dagar: pathway; maTki: jug, pot; Nand kishor: young Krishna laaj: honor; ghuunghat: veil; bansi: type of flute; dhyaan: meditation; lok: people, society; ban: forest; Dolna: to sway; Janak Dulari: The darling daughter of the mythological King Janak [Sita]; prem: love; maalaa: garland; darshan: glimpse of a deity; pyaasi: thirsty; vish ka pyaalaa: glass of poison; araj: plea; rasool: messenger [of God, Mohammed]; farmaan: commands; hadith: a report of the deeds and the teachings of Muhammed, Gautam: Buddha; Maseehaa: Jesus Christ; kaayanaat: material creation; sarmad: everlasting; mansoor: victorious, Moosaa: Moses; Koh-e-Toor: Mt. Sinai; khaaq: clay; but: idol; devtaa: God; intahaa: pinnacle, culmination

Yes, that glossary was a mouthful. Even as it is, I must warn that many of these words have a far deeper religious meaning to them that cannot be summed up in the one or two words as I have defined them. But no one said the Hindustani language was easy, and this song is just loaded with Arabic-based and Sanskrit-based vocabulary as well as references from both Hindu and Islamic traditions. It’s part of why Urdu-Hindi is such a complex, beautiful and absolutely fascinating language. Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of these lines:

  • “Ishq Majnu ki woh awaaz hai…” according to the Arab legend, similar to Romeo and Juliet, Laila and Majnu (whose nickname means “madly in love”) were two star-crossed lovers from rival families. However, Laila fled from her house to be with the one she loved and it is said that as Majnu was caught and whipped, their love was so strong that Laila screamed and blood appeared to flow from Laila’s skin instead.
  • “Bahut kaThin hai Dagar panghat ki…” is actually a line from the great Amir Khusrau qawwali written during the 13th century. The qawwali refers in one sense to the risks of dishonor faced by Radha as she attempted to fetch water, another sense explores the risks of standing up for religious beliefs (in Khusrau’s case, an allegiance to Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya.) The line has now become a sort of idiomatic warning to not underestimate the burden of any difficult task.
  • “Jab jab Krishna ki bansi baaji…” refers to the tales of Hindu folklore of childhood lovers Krishna and Radha, the latter of whom risked familial honor and suffered teasing and torment from her girlfriends in her love for the young Lord.
  • “Janak dulari ban ban Doli…” is a reference to the Ramayan in which Sita, upon learning of her husband Ram’s banishment to the forest, renounced her title as well. Sita, it should be recalled, had a very lavish upbringing as she was the daughter of King Janak, so this was no simple sacrifice to live in the dangerous jungle. But Sita’s love was unparalleled, and although she was not otherwise compelled to accompany Ram to the jungle, did indeed join him out of pure devotion.
  • “Darshan jal ki pyaasi Meera…” refers to the legend of Krishna devotee and Rajput Princess, Meera Bai of the 16th century. Her zealous worship and love of Krishna inspired not only many famous bhajans we know and sing today, but the resentment of her brother-in-law who frowned upon her actions (eg. mingling with the poor, ignoring her husband, etc.) He made several notorious attempts to kill her, including forcing her to drink a glass of poison that Lord Krishna is said to have transformed into nectar and saved her when she pleaded for the Lord to protect her honor.

As you can probably tell, I LOVE this qawwali. I discover new things every time I enjoy it (for example, anyone else notice how the background clappers only start shrugging their shoulders cliched bhangra-style ONLY when Ratna starts singing in Panjabi? Coincidence? I think not!) The song indeed transcends all religious and material loyalties, bringing the audience a dazzling, other-wordly experience. For anyone who’s tired of all the allegories and vocabulary quizzes, here’s the long-awaited behind-the-scenes gossip:

Did you know Bharat Bhushan actually got married in real life to Ratna (who ironically played the only character in the film NOT in love with him!) Surprise, right!? She was his second wife, and some even say that later mild-mannered Bharat Bhushan had had an affair with none other than Meena Kumari. Did the scandals never end in this town?

For more Urdu bliss, check out our post on the beauty of Urdu poetry in Hindi films!

-Mrs. 55

Ratna Barsaat Ki Raat

Ratna, wife of Bharat Bhushan, plays a sassy side-kick in the film Barsaat Ki Raat (1960)

The Best Qawwalis of Bollywood Films

Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali
Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali

Rishi Kapoor charms his audience singing the famous qawwali “Pardah Hai Pardah” from Amar Akbar Anthony (1979).

The qawwali from films has a hallowed place in the history of the Hindi music industry. A mystic tradition more than 700 hundred years old, the qawwali gained prominence in Bollywood initially through 1950s Muslim social dramas and grew so much in popularity that its influences became mainstream–even continuing to live on today. We present our list below of the best qawwalis of Bollywood films.

But let us first define what precisely is a qawwali? The great Indian poet Amir Khusrau (d. 1326) is considered the founding father of the qawwali genre, having composed songs for the first time in this style to celebrate the death of his spiritual guide Nizamuddin Aulia. The qawwali is the authentic Sufi spiritual song that transports the mystic toward union with God. For centuries, Sufi communities in the Indian subcontinent have sustained this musical tradition in the mahfil-e-sama, or assembly for listening. The qawwali was a religious experience for both listener and performer: as the listener hopes for a spiritual experience of intensity and immediacy to transcend his or her conscious striving, the trained performer seeks to present in song a vast treasure of poetry that articulate and evoke a mystical experience for the audience.

Madhubala impresses the Mughal prince in the classic qawwali “Teri Mehfil Mei.N Qismat” from Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

The qawwali performance usually begins after the evening and may last all night until the morning prayers. The word qawwali means “words” worthy of remembrance, and as such the qawwali traditionally has a devotional aspect in praise of God. Even most “secular” qawwalis found in popular Bollywood movement can be read in this way, although superficially the lyrics have another literal meaning. The harmonium has replaced what was traditionally a sitar as musical accompaniment, but equally important are the tabla and the signature qawwali cyclic hand clapping that increase in speed during the performance. The tarz or tune of the qawwali is normally identified by the first line of the text, which is often a part of the refrain couplet. Although the qawwal was traditionally male, both men and women have enjoyed and excelled at performing the modern qawwali.

Rishi Kapoor dazzles his audience as a popular qawwal in the 1979 blockbuster Amar Akbar Anthony.

Unlike in Hindustani classical music, while taal and raagaa usage is the same, the qawwali places a greater emphasis on the poetic text and the delivery of its message than on musical ornamentation. In many of its vast incarnations within Bollywood, the qawwali became synonymous with a musical debate, a verbal battle (often between the sexes) to outwit the other side on topics that usually boil down to love or the pain of love. That kind of screen chemistry, as you can imagine, is prime Bollywood flirting territory just waiting to be sung.

Let’s take a look at how this genre evolved in mainstream Bollywood into one of the most beloved musical genres of the industry. Here are some highlights:

Humen To Loot LiyaAl Hilal (1958):

One of the first qawwalis to hit the silver screen, no list is complete without this retro low-budget gem. The music is really quite simple, but extremely catchy.

Yeh Ishq Ishq HaiBarsaat Ki Raat (1960):

This qawwali is an Urdu-lover’s paradise. Filled with complex words and allusions you’ll never use in real life, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” set the stage for classy performance duels between men and women that is still considered the greatest Bollywood qawwali for its poetry (see our post for a full English translation!)

Sharma Ke Yeh Kyo.NChaudhvin Ka Chand (1960):

A fun twist on the traditional qawwali, two women sing (Asha Bhonsle and Shamshad Begum) with the latter taking the masculine side and the former taking the feminine.

Teri Mehfil Mei.N QismatMughal-e-Azam (1960):

Oh, does it get any better than this? Every moment of Mughal-e-Azam is a poetic dream and this briliant qawwali is no less. Shamshad Begum battles Lata Mangeshkar for the Prince’s approval of their take on love, each lyric outwitting the last. See our translation with glossary for more!

Nigahe.N Milane KoDil Hi To Hai (1963):

Asha Bhonsle’s greatest contribution to this genre, this qawwali has some beautiful Urdu and probably the most thrilling sargams you’ll find in any of her songs. See our translation with glossary here!

Tumhe Husn Dekhe – Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963):

OK, so sure, this qawwali is not particularly memorable for its musical ingenuity (you may or may not cringe the entire way), but how often are you going to behold Shammi and Shashi Kapoor on screen at the same time?! This fascinating qawwali is worth a watch if only for its star value! Kudos to Geeta Bali for holding her own!

Mehengai Maar GayiRoti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974):

This qawwali has a unique flavor–taken from one of Manoj Kumar’s popular Indian propoganda films, the lyrics carry an interesting social message outside the realms of romantic love.

Pardah Hai PardahAmar Akbar Anthony (1979):

A Mohammed Rafi gem, this qawwali ranks among the best of the best. After watching Rishi Kapoor’s enthusiastic performance, you’d believe he was born to be a qawwal. The song is a must-see for anyone interested in the genre.

And just to throw in the contemporary, here’s a picture of me performing the qawwali at last year’s Harvard Ghungroo!

At a Harvard Ghungroo performance of Asha Bhonsle’s “Nigaahe.N Milane Ko.”

-Mrs. 55