Hindi Film Songs with Unnecessary English: Fusion Lyrics in Old Bollywood

Saira Banu looks on in disgust as Manoj Kumar ruins classic English songs with Panjabi dhamaka in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).
Saira Banu is disgusted as Manoj Kumar ruins classic English songs with Panjabi dhamaka in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

Happy Fourth of July from Mr. and Mrs. 55! To honor this occasion, we would like to discuss that well-recognized, unsettling phenomena of classic Bollywood: Hindi film songs with unnecessary English. Yes, I know you just cringed. But recognition is the first step towards healing. Like those t-shirts your aunties used to bring back from the motherland with random English words sprawled across the front, these songs are the ones you tend to hide from your friends. Despite their heroic attempts at glamorous cross-over appeal, these adulterated lyrics explode messily in the face of linguistic purism.

If you thought this was a strictly modern phenomena, prepare to blow your mind. Indian lyricists have been playing this dangerous game since the 1950s! Why, God, why? You may ask. There are many reasons. In some instances, the use of English was directly pertinent to the plot, such as in Laxmi’s portrayal of an Anglo-Indian girl in Julie (1975) or even Shammi Kapoor’s Elvis-esque embodiment of a happening nightclub singer in Chinatown (1962). Yet other times, the English words were gratuitous with no contextual relevance, such as Joy Mukherjee’s boyish declaration of “Japan, love in Tokyo!” (1966). All of them represent a fashionable trend toward westernization, even exoticism to some extent, in Hindi music that evolved over the 50s through 70s. The lyrics reflected back on the changing Indian society and the growing popularity of interspersed English in spoken Hindustani.

One big happy Anglo-Indian family sings "My Heart is Beating" in Julie (1975).
Just another average evening at home for the big happy Anglo-Indian family singing “My Heart is Beating” together in Julie (1975).

I always find it ironic that as I cling to the idealization of the Indian culture glorified by films of the 50s and 60s, when I visit my cousins in India, they find it tiresome to sit through a Rajesh Khanna film (many hardly know who he is!), or insist on speaking English, while I desperately want to practice my Hindi. Ah, the joys of being an American Desi. These songs that straddle two worlds appall me just as much as they identify a crisis I know so well.

So let us celebrate India’s love of English today with our list of fusion lyrics from classic films! Each song on our list gets a verdict: a cheer or a cry.  Should you feel proud busting out these melodies in the shower, or should you try to hide your shame in the dark recesses of your filmi sub-conscious? Find out below! But be forewarned: this exercise was never meant to be done in public. Go home to the safety of a private room, shut all the windows and lock the doors. Some of the lines you are about to hear require a true devotion to classic Bollywood to survive!

15 Classic Hindi Film Songs with Unnecessary English:

1. All Line Clear (Chori Chori 1956)

Verdict: Cry

It’s not for blind enthusiasm that this song is lacking. Johnny Walker parades his family through the metropolis, rolling the ‘r’ like a Spaniard of what sounds way more like “killier” than “clear.” It’s meant to be comic, but it might reduce you to tears.

2. C-A-T, Cat…Cat Maane Billi (Dilli Ka Thug 1958)

Verdict: Cry

The title says it all. Don’t expect Shakespearean poetry from this song, you might do well on your next spelling bee thanks to Kishore Kumar.

3. Bolo Bolo, Kuch To Bolo (Dil Deke Dekho 1958)

Verdict: Cheer

Questionable line: “Pyaar ho to keh do ‘Yes!’ Pyaar nahii.N to keh do ‘No!'” It’s subtle, right? Just enough English to keep the audience on their toes, but not enough to overwhelm anyone. And the song is so catchy, it’s hard to hate.

4. April Fool Banaya (April Fool 1964)

Verdict: Cry

OMG, Saira, stop it. When she screeches “Yooooooooooou eeediot!” I think we all ask ourselves if we were not better off dead. His awkward reply of “Very good!” is as out of place as the hideous shirt on his back.

5. Baar Baar Dekho (China Town 1965)

Verdict: Cheer…and then cry

See, this song walks the line. It’s so catchy and Shammi looks so fly, that you could go through the entire song and not realize any words of English were actually spoken. Oh, but they were. The refrain he struts around to is actually the English fox-hunting cry “Tally ho!” I don’t understand.

6. Japan, Love in Tokyo (Love in Tokyo 1966)

Verdict: Cry

Just warning you, this song WILL get stuck in your head and won’t be released until you sing the refrain out loud in a public forum. The English here is purely gratuitous. First of all, why does he suddenly scream “Japaaaaaaaaan!”? Could there possibly be any confusion in the viewer’s mind about their location? And second, why must he declare there has been “love in Tokyo!” in English of all languages at this point? Who is his real target audience here?

7. An Evening in Paris (An Evening in Paris 1967)

Verdict: Cheer

They were really experimenting in this film. From Asha’s interesting interpretation of the French “Zou Bisou Bisou” to Mohammed Rafi’s inexplicable commemoration of his Parisien adventure in English, “An Evening in Paris” wins by sheer virtue of its kitsch factor. Can it get more exotic than this??

8. Baar Baar Din Yeh Aaye (Farz 1967)

Verdict: Cheer

This song is quintessential and needs no introduction. Of course, we all wish Bollywood had more to offer in terms of great birthday songs (and ones which were not specifically dedicated to women named Sunita), but we’ll take it. Rafi’s cuckoo-like “oh ho!” after each lilting “Happy Birthday to you!” is just one of many reasons why this song should never get played in front of your non-Indian friends.

9. The She I Love (Mohammed Rafi 1969, non-filmi)

Verdict: Cry

I debated a long time whether or not to put this song on this list. It wasn’t because the song is non-filmi, but rather, because my undying love for Mohammed Rafi held me back from sharing this little dark secret of his with the world. But it had to be done. We must learn from history’s mistakes. Sung vaguely to the tune of “Hum Kale Hain to Kya Hua,” this song is sure to kill the mood of any party.

10. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Purab Paschim 1970)

Verdict: Cheer

This song just wins hands-down. Saira Banu, as the blonde-wig sporting Londoner, takes on dhoti-clad Manoj Kumar in an East-meets-West sing-off of epic proportions. I love how he twists her straight-laced rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” into a completely Panjabi “Twinkle Twinkle Little Sitar” that is actually far more exciting than the original! The total irony, of course, is that when Asha Bhonsle sings the English lines as if she’s a blue-blooded English girl, her Indian accent is so thick, the effect is totally lost (but still kind of loveable).

11. Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Caravan 1971)

Verdict: Cheer

Helen can literally get away with anything. I have zero problem with the pyscho in a toreador costume crying “Monica! O my darling!” from inside a jumbo birdcage.

12. Meri Soni Meri Tamanna (Yaadon Ki Baraat 1973)

Verdict: Cheer…but it’s borderline

This is song so good, it practically kills me that they threw in an English line just for giggles. It makes the whole thing awkward. Why can’t you just say “tumse pyaar hai” instead of “I low you”? Nope, I didn’t misspell. Listen to the line. I sure didn’t hear the ‘v’ in that sentence either.

13. My Heart is Beating (Julie 1975)

Verdict: Cheer

I know, I know. Bear with me here. I too stuck my head under a pillow and cried about the cruel and unusual punishment I was being served when I first heard this song. Part of it is her thick accent, part of it is the ridiculous caricatures of the members of the Anglo-Saxon family they portray. 100% of the lyrics are sung in English, which is a rare thing in classic Bollywood. Julie took fusion lyrics where no lyricist had dared go before. And I’ll be the first to say…it grew on me. It’s actually very melodious! Sure, Preeti Sagar is no Karen Carpenter, but this song did earn her the Filmfare Award for Best Female Playback Singer in 1975!

14. My Name is Anthony Gonzalves (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)

Verdict: Cheer

This song theoretically makes some sense in the context of the film. Yes, Anthony Gonzalves was a real guy, and Amitabh Bachhan is supposed to be just another God-fearing Christian at an Easter party. When he starts spewing strings of random English words together, it’s clear he knows he’s just a buffoon trying to look smart and sophisticated to impress the ladies!

15. Humko Tumse Ho Gaya Hai (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)

Verdict: Cry

It’s not that I hate this song, in fact, I love it. But I would have never known in a million years that Amitabh Bachhan is supposed to be saying “God promise, ham sach bolaa hai.” Excuse me, ‘God promise’? Who even SAYS that?? I know you’re supposed to be Christian and all that, but seriously, what is happening here.

We know this is a divisive issue in the obscure world of classic cinema and as constant mourners of the loss of Urdu in Hindi films, we want to hear YOUR thoughts! Do you love you a good Hinglish patois or do you cringe and die every time? Have we forgotten any potential gems that deserve a place on our list? Let us know in the comments!

– Mrs. 55

Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujhpar Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Shammi Kapoor’s wistful gaze wins over hearts as he pines about unconditional love in Junglee (1961)

Our next translation is a truly special song from Subodh Mukherjee’s Junglee (1961): ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par. Junglee stars Saira Banu in her debut role as a stunning Kashmiri beauty who wins over a stoic, arrogant businessman played by Shammi Kapoor. This film was instrumental in launching Saira Banu’s career as a heroine and solidifying Shammi Kapoor’s image as a charming loverboy. As an aside, this film is also noteworthy because it ushered in an era of producing mainstream Bollywood films in Eastman color!

Composed by Shankar-Jaikishan and penned by Hasrat Jaipuri, this song ranks among my all-time favorites rendered by the inimitable Mohammed Rafi. This touching melody rooted in raga Yaman Kalyan with heartfelt words expressing the beautiful struggles of unconditional love is perfectly suited for Mohammed Rafi’s delicate, velvety vocals.  Shammi Kapoor’s on-screen portrayal–especially that sensual look in his eyes–adds to Rafi’s romantic rendition.

Lata Mangeshkar has done an apt job performing a second shorter “sad” version of this song in film. Yet it somehow lacks the magic and sensual ease of Rafi’s rendition, and this might be attributed to Shankar-Jakishan’s decision to have Lata sing this song in the same “male scale” as Rafi. For more on this phenomenon, please see our previous post on the role of the soprano voice in Hindi film music here.

Please enjoy this veritable gem of Hindi film music by reading the lyrics and our English translation provided below! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
16-year-old Saira Banu makes a stunning debut alongside Shammi Kapoor in Junglee (1961)

Ehsaan Tera Hoga Mujhpar: Lyrics and Translation

ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par
You would be granting me a favor 
dil chahtaa hai vah kahne do
if you permit me to reveal my heart’s desires. 
mujhe tum se muhabbat ho gayii hai
I have fallen in love with you. 
mujhe palko.n kii chaa.nv me.n rahne do
Please let me dwell in the shadows of your eyelashes.

tum ne mujhko ha.nsnaa sikhayaa
You taught me how to smile,
rone kahoge ro le.nge ab
yet I would cry now upon your request.
aa.nsuu kaa hamaare gham na karo
Please do not mourn for my tears.
ve bahte hai.n to bahne do
They have started to flow, so let them fall.
mujhe tum se muhabbat ho gayii hai
I have fallen in love with you.
mujhe palko.n ki chaa.nv me.n rahne do
Please let me dwell in the shadows of your eyelashes.

chaahe banaa do chaahe miTaa do
Whether you build me up or destroy me, 
mar bhii gaye to de.nge duaaye.n
I will give you my blessings even if I die. 
uD uD ke kahegii khaak sanam
Oh beloved, as they fly in the air, my ashes will say:
yah dard-e-muhabbat sahne do
“Let us bear the burden of this pain in love.”
mujhe tum se muhabbat ho gayii haii
I have fallen in love with you.
mujhe palko.n kii chaa.nv me.n rahne do
Please let me dwell in the shadows of your eyelashes.

ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par
You would be granting me a favor. 

Glossary

ahsaan: favor; muhabbat: love; palke.n: eyelids, eyelashes; aa.nsuu: tears; gham karnaa: to mourn; bahnaa: to flow; miTaa denaa: to destroy; duaaye.n: blessings; uDnaa: to fly; khaak: ashes; sanam: beloved; dard-e-muhabbat: pain in love; sahnaa: to endure, tolerate.

Junglee (1961) showcases the beauty of the Kashmiri countryside.

Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Manoj Kumar Purab Paschim
Manoj Kumar plays the righteous Mr. Bharat wooing a wayward Westernized girl in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

We now present the lyrics and English translation to the haunting love song “Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday” from Manoj Kumar’s cult classic Purab Aur Paschim (1970). The film was one of many patriotic hits by Manoj Kumar that etched his niche as a fighter of Indian values on screen that no other producer or actor could replace. Shot with an entirely overt pro-India agenda that is really more endearing than offensive, Purab Aur Paschim rides on the righteousness of traditional values over the decay and corruption of societies lost to drugs, sex, and disregard for elders. It’s the anti-thesis to Orientalism–a vibrant, exotic lens coloured by everything India wanted to believe existed in the wild, wild West. It’s a film that only Manoj Kumar in his quiet Nehru coats, quivering upper lip, and a sincere belief in the Indian way of life could truly pull off. While the exaggerations of  London decadence may seem heavy-handed at times, there’s a real heart in this film that will win you over. See our translation of “Mere Desh Ki Dharti” for more!

“Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday” is a haunting Mukesh solo that stands wonderfully alone without fancy back-up music or elaborate picturization. From the plucking of strings that mark its opening to the quietly fading finale, his song has a unique power. Plus, keeping in line with the extremist traditionalism, how often will you find hardcore Sanskrit-based Hindi films in lyrics like “hriday” or “kanwal“?!

All that said, you can’t ignore that the lyrics are borderline groveling–they are sung by a traditional Mr. Bharat who finds himself in “modern” London and unused to the fast and easy ways of the West. Manoj Kumar falls hard for smoking playgirl Saira Banu–blonde wig, miniskirt, and all–to the point that he proclaims he will wait for her until the end to reciprocate after her other lovers grow tired of her. Is this truly what the perfect Indian man is supposed to be? My former Urdu professor used to have a really negative reaction to Manoj Kumar putting up with a girl like that–and found it pathetic he accepted she had so many other men in her life! Is he really pathetic or just blindly in love? Perhaps Manoj Kumar is simply trying to express that the unconditional love and devotion of the Indian way of life will outlast the fickle West shifting back and forth from empty pleasure to pleasure.

Saira Banu Purab Paschim
Saira Banu feigns nonchalance with her painfully fake blonde bouffant in Purab Aur Paschim (1970).

But say what you want about the lyrics, the melody is beautiful and Mukesh’s rendition is filled with emotion that I adore every time. Enjoy our English translation and lyrics to “Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday” below! Follow along here on youtube and let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Koi Jab Tumhara Hriday Lyrics and Translation

Koi jab tumhaaraa hriday toD de
When someone breaks your heart
Tadaptaa huaa jab koii chhoD de
When someone leaves you in suffering
Tab tum mere paas aanaa priye
Then come to me, beloved
Meraa dar khulaa hai, khulaa hii rahegaa tumhaare liye
My door is open, and will always remain open for you
Koi jab tumhaaraa hriday toD de
When someone breaks your heart

Abhii tumko merii zaruurat nahii.N
At the moment you do not need someone like me
Bahut chaahanewaale mil jaaye.nge
You will meet many people who fall in love with you
Abhii ruup ka ek saagar ho tum
For now you are an ocean of beauty
Kanwal jitne chaahoge khil jaaye.Nge
As many lotuses as you desire will bloom for you
Darpan tumhe jab Daraane lage
When your own image in the mirror starts to scare you
Jawaanii bhi daaman chuDaane lage
When your youth begins to leave you
Tab tum mere paas aanaa priye
Then you will come to me, beloved
Meraa sar jhukaa hai, jhukaa hii rahegaa tumhaare liye
My head is bowed to you, and will always bow to you
Koi jab tumhaaraa hriday toD de
When someone breaks your heart

Koii shart hotii nahii.N pyaar mei.N
There are no conditions in love
Magar pyaar sharto.N pe tum ne kiyaa
But your love is based on conditions
Nazar mei.N sitaare jo chamake zaraa
Those stars in your eyes that glittered for a while
Bujhaane lagii aartii ka diiyaa
They have begun to extinguish the candles of devotion
Jab apnii nazar mei.N hii girne lago
When that image of yourself falls in your own esteem
Andhero.N mei.N apne hii ghirne lago
When your own darkness starts to surround you
Tab tum mere paas aanaa priye
Then you will come to me, beloved
Yeh deepak jalaa hai, jalaa hii rahegaa tumhaare liye
This light is burning, it will always remain burning for you

Koi jab tumhaaraa hriday toD de
When someone breaks your heart
Tadaptaa huaa jab koii chhoD de
When someone leaves you in suffering
Tab tum mere paas aanaa priye
Then come to me, beloved
Meraa dar khulaa hai, khulaa hii rahegaa tumhaare liye
My door is open, and will always remain open for you
Koi jab tumhaaraa hriday toD de
When someone breaks your heart

Glossary

hriday: heart, liver; priya: beloved; dar: door; zaruurat: need; ruup: beauty, saagar: ocean; kanwal: lotus; Darpan: mirror; Daraane: to scare; jawaanii: youth; sar jhuknaa: to bow your head; shart: condition; sitaaraa: star; chamaknaa: to sparkle, to glitter; aartii: a common Hindu devotional prayer; diiyaa: small clay candle; girnaa: to fall; ghirnaa: to cloud, to surround; andheraa: darkness; deepak: light

Note: Take careful note of the use of the verbs ghirnaa and girnaa that are found side-by-side in these lyrics. They sound extremely similar but mean different things!

Saira Banu reformed Purab Paschim
Yes, surprise surprise, Saira Banu reforms her wicked Western ways by the end of the film and bursts into a beautiful Lata rendition of aarti back in the motherland. Oh, looks like you forgot to remove and burn that blonde wig. Woops.

Did you know this song was actually filmed at Oxford University? Watch the video carefully–the trimmed lawns and elegantly gated deer are from none other than Magdalen college! I only wonder what all the hip 60s British college students must have been thinking as they watched the filming take place…

-Mrs. 55

Lata Goes Cabaret!

A true fan of old Bollywood movies is all too familiar with the wonderfully awkward genre of songs known as cabaret numbers. Don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. Here at Mr. and Mrs. 55, we don’t judge our readers based on their taste – even if this includes a love for uncomfortably suggestive lyrics, flamboyant dance moves, and scantily clad B-grade actresses. Despite my initial aversion to these types of songs, I have learned to appreciate cabaret numbers for their showiness and sheer entertainment value.

Helen sizzles in her portrayal of "aa-jaan-e-jaa.n" on screen in Inteqaam (1969)

In terms of vocals, the queen of cabaret numbers in those days was the ever-versatile Asha Bhonsle. Asha’s voice was perfect for this type of song; she had the right combination of seduction, silkiness, and charm to execute cabaret songs with finesse.  In fact, Asha’s skill in performing cabaret numbers (think piiyaa tuu ab to aajaa from Caravaan and yeh meraa dil from Don) is one way in which she carved a niche for herself in the industry to emerge from the shadows of elder sister Lata Mangeshkar. However, although Asha was the dominating force when it came to the cabaret genre, you may be surprised to know that Lata also sung her fair share of vamp songs in films. Generally known for her conservative and purist reputation, Lata’s take on this genre is markedly different from her sister’s style: she avoids Asha’s over-the-top histrionics in favor of a more quiet (yet effective) seductive appeal. Let’s take a look at the following examples to see how Lata fares when she goes cabaret:

  1. aa jaan-e-jaa.n, aa meraa yeh husn jawaa.n.  This song from Inteqaam (1969) is perhaps the most well-known example of Lata singing cabaret, and she really nails the execution here by slowly and subtly seducing the listener with her enchanting vocals. Although Lata had an understanding with most music directors that she would not agree to sing cabarets, Laxmikant-Pyarelaal assured her that this song would not be problematic because it was composed with her style and artistic vision in mind. We’re grateful that Lata compromised here because, in my book, this song is one of the finest examples of cabaret singing in Hindi cinema.
  2. mehfil soyii, aisaa koii hogaa kahaa.n. Although this is the second lesser-known cabaret number by Lata in Inteqaam, it’s almost as good as the first. Like aa jaan-e-jaa.n, Lata’s silky vocals and understated seduction make this a cabaret to remember. The little stacatto “oh” that Lata adds to each antara is absolutely precious.
  3. is duniyaa me.n jiinaa ho, to sun lo merii baat. This song from Gumnaam (discussed earlier by Mrs. 55 here) might not qualify as a cabaret using a strict definition, but it’s certainly worth mentioning because it is one of Lata’s best songs picturized on Helen. In an otherwise grim and suspenseful thriller, this song composed by Shankar-Jaikishan provides some interesting contrast with its light-hearted, frothy spirit. The second line of this song’s mukhda has always confused me: “gham chhoD ke manaao rang-relii, man lo jo kahe kitty kelly.” Helen’s character is probably referring to herself in the third-person, but where the heck did this “Kitty Kelly” nickname come from?
  4.  jiinevaale jhuum ke mastaanaa ho ke jii. Penned by Sahir Ludhianvi and composed by Chitragupta, this rare number sung by Lata in Vaasna (1968) has a different feel to it from the typical cabarets we know and love. While its lyrics and music aren’t quite as sultry as the other cabarets here, this song is worth a listen as a strong example of music directors from this time period experimenting with Western fusion. I especially enjoyed the lilting interludes composed by Chitragupta, who was a music director from the Golden Age known for his stylish orchestration.
  5. mera naam rita christina. Though Helen was the undisputed diva of the vamp genre, there are the occasional instances where cabarets were picturized on other actresses. Saira Banu, looking stunning as ever in a red dress, seduces Biswajeet (watch him pretend like he doesn’t love it) with this fun number from April Fool (1964). I won’t say that this is one of Lata’s best renditions, but this song composed by Shankar-Jaikishan was immensely popular when it was released — so much so that it was banned by the Vividh Bharati radio station for being “culturally inappropriate.”

    Saira Banu in "mera naam rita christina" from April Fool (1964)
  6. aur mera naam hai jamiilaa. Before Laxmikant-Pyarelaal had composed the songs in Inteqaam that shot Lata to cabaret super-stardom, they wrote this song for her a couple years earlier in Night in London (1967). Supposedly, Laxmikant-Pyarelaal had traveled to London to become inspired by the locale while writing the music for this film. I’d say they did an excellent job of capturing the right spirit: Lata shines here with a cabaret that is tailored to suit her style. Even if you hate the song, be sure to watch the video for this one because I know you don’t want to miss out on Helen dancing scandalously while she’s surrounded by a gaggle of shirtless men.

After taking a listen to these examples, do you think Lata had what it took to pull off the cabaret genre? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @themrandmrs55.

–Mr. 55