Shammi Kapoor Asha Parekh Teesri Manzil.png

O Mere Sona Re Lyrics & Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Shammi Kapoor Asha Parekh in O Mere Sona Re Teesri Manzil
Asha Parekh flirts with Shammi Kapoor by poking hay in his ear during “O Mere Sona Re” from Teesri Manzil (1966).

Today we showcase the lyrics and English translation of “O Mere Sona Re” from the film Teesri Manzil (1966). This playful duet is one of many gems in R. D. Burman’s crowning soundtrack for this memorable film.

Teesri Manzil opens as a dark murder mystery when Asha Parekh’s sister falls to her death off the balcony of the third story of a hotel. Seeking revenge on her sister’s ex-lover Rocky whom she believes to be the culprit, Asha travels to Deradhun where Rocky is the lead singer in a band. However, she’s (almost literally) derailed by a train ride meet-cute with Shammi Kapoor, transforming the film into a slapstick romantic-comedy. Smooth operator Shammi Kapoor and corny, but savage Asha Parekh exchange a biting repartee that builds a perfect synergy between the two notoriously over-the-top actors.

After a misunderstanding about Shammi’s romantic, but honorable intentions, Asha leaves him in the lurch only for him to be beaten up by goons before her eyes–a consequence she deeply regrets. Asha cajoles him with the energetically flirtatious “O Mere Sona Re” on a sunny hillside. The song has particular significance in the film as she had hitherto refused to call him by his nickname “Sona.” Although she now uses this term of endearment for romantic effect, the joke is on her because the audience knows something he has been desperately hiding from her: Sona is actually Rocky!

Shammi Kapoor Asha Parekh Teesri Manzil.png
Asha Parekh and Shammi Kapoor create Vaudevillian chemistry in Teesri Manzil (1966).

Can you hear that single-note high-pitched violin? It’s the sound of your interest being piqued. We hope that you love our English translation of the beloved “O Mere Sona Re” below–it’s one of the most fun Asha-Rafi duets from that era! And we both know you never hit “skip” when it pops up on your iTunes shuffle.

O Mere Sona Re Lyrics & Translation:

O mere sonaa re, sonaa re, sonaa re
Oh my beloved, my beloved, my beloved
de duu.Ngii jaa.N judaa mat honaa re
I will give you my life, but let us not be separated
mai.N ne tujhe zaraa der mei.N jaanaa
I took some time to get to you know better
huaa qusuur khafaa mat honaa re
It was my fault, but do not become upset
O mere sonaa re, sonaa re, sonaa …
Oh my beloved, my beloved, my beloved…

o merii baaho.N se nikal ke, tu agar mere raste se haT jayegaa
Oh if you escape from my arms and leave my path
toh laharaake ho balkhaake, meraa saayaa tere tan se lipaT jaayegaa
Then swaying and billowing, my shadow will wrap around your body
Tum chhuDaao laakh damaa.N
You may release yourself from a hundred thousand of my embraces
chhoDte hai.N kab yeh armaa.N?
But when will you let go of these desires?
Ki mai.N bhii saath rahuu.Ngii rahoge jahaa.N
For I will stay together with you wherever you are

O mere sonaa re, sonaa re, sonaa…

O miyaa, hamse na chhipaao, woh banaavaT kii saarii adaaye.N liye
O gentleman, do not hide from me with all your artificial graces
Ki tum is pe ho itaraate, ki mai.N piichhe huu.N sau iltijaae.N liye
Why must you flaunt so much when I am behind you pleading a hundred times?
jii, mai.N khush huu.N, mere sonaa
Yes, I am happy my beloved
jhuuTh hai kyaa? Sach kaho na!
Is this a lie? Tell me the truth!
Ki mai.N bhii saath rahuu.Ngii rahoge jahaa.N
For I will stay together with you wherever you are

O mere sonaa re sonaa re sonaa…

O phir hamse na ulajhnaa, nahii.N laT aur uljhan mei.N paD jayegii
Oh, do not entangle me again, for if not, your hair will become even more tangled
O pachtaaogii kuch aise, ki yeh surakhii labo.N kii utar jaayegii
Oh, you will regret so much that the redness of your lips will disappear
yeh sazaa tum bhuul na jaanaa
Do not forget this punishment
pyaar ko Thokar mat lagaanaa
Do not knock down love again
ki chalaa jaau.Ngaa phir mai.N na jaane kahaa.N
For I will leave then, I do not know where

O mere sonaa re sonaa re sonaa…

Glossary:

sonaa: beloved (literally: gold/golden one); jaan: life; judaa: separation; der mei.N: late; qusuur: fault; khafaa: angry; baahe.N: arms; nikalnaa: to come out, to emerge; raastaa: path; haT jaanaa: to get out; laharaanaa: to sway, to wave; balkhaanaa: to billow; saayaa: shadow; tan: body; lipaT jaanaa: to wrap around, to twist; chhudaanaa: to release, to disengage; laakh: one hundred thousand; daamaa.N: embrace; chhodnaa: to let go of, to release; armaa.N: desire; miyaa: gentleman; chhipaanaa: to hide; banaavaT: artificial, fake; adaa: grace, style; itaraanaa: to flaunt, to show off; piichhe: behind; iltajaa: plea; khush: happy; jhuuTh: lie; sach: truth; phir: again, then; ulajhnaa: to bother, to entangle; laT: locks of hair; pachtaanaa: to regret; surakhii: redness; lab: lips; utarnaa: to get off, to descend; sazaa: punishment; bhuulnaa: to forget; Thokar: knock;

Shammi Kapoor O Mere Sona Re
His pompadour ruffled irreparably, Shammi Kapoor reproaches Asha Parekh at the end of “O Mere Sona Re” from Teesri Manzil (1966).

You may now be asking yourself, what is poetic genius Majrooh Sultanpuri really saying on a deeper level with the whole “pachtaaogii kuch aise, ki yeh surakhii labo.N kii utar jaayegii“?

Like…are we just talking about lipstick getting smudged here…by her love interest perhaps? Or is she going to lose that red color because she grows pale from iron deficiency anemia? Will there be actual blood loss?

So many ways to interpret this. I leave it to you, O, gentle reader.

This winner was requested by superfan Shiraz. We love getting great requests like this one!

– Mrs. 55

Awaaz Deke Humen Tum Bulaao Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Shammi Kapoor awaaz deke professor
Collar fully popped with emotion, Shammi Kapoor hears his lover’s voice echo to him through the mountains in “Awaz Deke” from Professor (1962).

Today we present the haunting duet “Awaaz Deke” from the crowd-pleasing dramedy Professor (1962), starring Shammi Kapoor, Kalpana Mohan, and Lalita Pawar. There is a charm to this film, enhanced by the scenic woods of Darjeeling, that surmounts its kitsch basis and the sprinklings of Tuntun as comic relief. Shammi Kapoor plays a young educated man in desperate search of a job as a teacher when his mother is diagnosed with the dreaded…wait for it…tuberculosis! [cue: sad violin solo and unnecessarily exuberant coughing spell]. You were expecting lymphosarcoma of the intestine, no? In order to pay for her treatment at a sanitorium, Shammi accepts a post as a professor to four orphaned children living with their domineering aunt. However, because the aunt (played in her usual court martial fashion by Lalita Pawar) mistrusts men and specifically requested a professor older than 50, Shammi cleverly dons a goatee and spectacles and attempts to pass as an elderly scholar. The comedy of errors that ensues forms the basis of a delightful, albeit sometimes face-palm-inducing, two and a half hours of singing and prancing around the picturesque Darjeeling countryside.

“Awaaz Deke” is among my favorite Lata-Rafi pairings, boasting a soul-stirring melody that rises above the rest of the film. I remember when I was younger hearing this song before ever seeing the movie, and being struck by the song’s unusual saxophone theme. I love the juxtaposition of the traditional Indian percussion that gives the song its sense of urgency with the beauty of the jazz staple, played in a way I had never experienced a saxophone before: haunting and pure. Composed by Shankar-Jaikishen in one of their favorites ragas, Shivaranjani, “Awaaz Deke” is a diamond of the Professor album that won the 1963 Filmfare Award for best music direction. That stunning high F5 that Lata nails in the antra, while not her highest note on record, will make you wonder how there can exist people in the world who have never known the majesty of Hindi film music.

Kalpana Mohan awaaz deke professor
Kalpana Mohan searches for her estranged lover in a cute fur coat “Awaz Deke” from Professor (1962).

As pleasant a face as our leading lady possesses, director Lekh Tandon had harsh words for Kalpana Mohan when filming his directorial debut Professor. Because of her inexperience before a camera, he was forced to shoot multiple takes before achieving the performance he wanted–a costly endeavor in the days before digital film! A Kashmiri native, Kalpana was trained in Kathak dancing before she received her first break in Bollywood as the playful heroine of Professor. She virtually disappeared from the film industry following her marriage shortly after her successful role in Teen Devian (1965), and died tragically of cancer almost 3 years ago. She is remembered today by fans for the mesmerizing twinkle in her eyes you can see in all her films.

We hope you enjoy the English translation and lyrics to “Awaz Deke” below. This would be a perfect song to burst into the next time you and your significant other are having a lover’s tiff, right? I can think of no better way to break the tension. You can follow along with the video on youtube here!

Awaaz Deke Hamen Tum Bulaao Lyrics and Translation:

LATA: aawaaz deke hame.N tum bulaao
Lend me your voice and call out to me
Mohabbat mei.N itnaa na hamko sataao
Do not torture me so much in our love

LATA: Abhii to merii zindagii hai pareshaa.N
Now my life is filled with worry
Kahii.N mar ke ho khaak bhii na pareshaa.N
If I die somewhere, may my ashes be not so distraught
Diye kii tarah se na hamko jalaao
Do not light me on fire like a candle
Mohabbat mei.N itnaa na hamko sataao
Do not torture me so much in our love

RAFI: aawaaz deke hame.N tum bulaao
Lend me your voice and call out to me
Mohabbat mei.N itnaa na hamko sataao
Do not torture me so much in our love

RAFI: Mai.n saa.Nso.N ke har taar mei.N chhup rahaa huu.N
I am hidden in every chord of your breath
Mai.N dhaDkan ke har raag mei.N bas rahaa huu.N
I inhabit every melody of your heartbeat
Zaraa dil kii jaanib nigaahe.N jhukaao
Just lower your gaze toward your heart
Mohabbat mei.N itnaa na hamko sataao
Do not torture me so much in our love

LATA: na ho.nge agar ham to rote rahoge
If I was not here, then you would cry forever
Sadaa dil kaa daaman bhigote rahoge
You would forever drench the fabric of your heart
Jo tum par miTaa ho use na miTaao
Do not destroy the person who is already destroyed for you
Mohabbat mei.N itnaa na hamko sataao
Do not torture me so much in our love

RAFI: aawaaz deke hame.N tum bulaao
Lend me your voice and call out to me
Mohabbat mei.N itnaa na hamko sataao
Do not torture me this much in our love

Glossary:

awaaz: voice; [kisi ko] bulaanaa: to call out [to someone]; mohabbat: love; sataanaa: to torture; abhii: now; zindagii: life; pareshaa.N: worried, distraught; kahii.N: somewhere; marnaa: to die; khaak: ashes; diyaa: candle; [kisi] ki tarah se: in the manner [of something], like [something]; jalaanaa: to light on fire; saa.Ns: breath; taar: chord, string (of an instrument); chhup: silent, hidden; dhaDkan: heartbeat; raag: melody (in Hindustani classical music, a strict set of notes upon which a melody is based); basnaa: to settle, to inhabit; zaraa: a little; dil: heart; [kisii kii] jaanib: toward [something]; nigaahe.N: gaze; jhuknaa: to bow, to lower; ronaa: to cry; sadaa: always, forever; damaan: the end of a saari or skirt; bhigonaa: to drench; miTnaa: to disappear: miTaanaa: to erase, to make disappear

As a side note, this song is another great and tragic example of how the legacy of Hindi film music has been distorted by the constraints of the LP–you probably have been listening to an abbreviated version that removes the first line repetition of each stanza! It’s a small detail, but critical if you’re as obsessed with soaking in every drop of this masterpiece as I am. Two other great songs from this film, “Aye Gulbadan” and “Khuli Palak Mein,” suffered the loss of an entire stanza each when facing the LP cutting board! I can’t even handle this travesty.

Shammi Kapoor Professor outfit glasses hat
Shammi Kapoor pretends to be an elderly professor complete with round spectacles and a dubious goatee in Professor (1962).

This translation was requested by fan Jayawanth Bharadwaj! Thanks for reading and giving us a chance to translate such a beautiful duet!

– Mrs. 55

Mera Kuch Saamaan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Anuradha Patel plays an impetuous and free-spirited woman who haunts her former lover and his current wife with her gift for poetry. in Ijaazat (1987)
Anuradha Patel plays an impetuous and free-spirited woman who haunts her former lover and his current wife with her gift for poetry in Ijaazat (1987).

Released in 1987, Gulzar’s Ijaazat starring Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha, and Anuradha Patel is a film that falls outside of the time period traditionally associated with the “Golden Era” of Hindi cinema. Although we tend to feature films from the 1950s-1970s on this blog, an exception must be made for this film because of its timeless soundtrack composed by R.D. Burman, penned by Gulzar, and sung by Asha Bhonsle. Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to an ever-haunting gem from Ijaazat (1987): meraa kuchh saamaan

Based on the Bengali story Jatugriha by Subodh Ghosh, this film presents the classic love triangle trope often used to excess in Bollywood in a refreshingly subtle and poignant manner that reflects the high caliber of Gulzar’s artistry as a poet-turned-director. The story in this film revolves around the relationships among three main characters: Mahinder (Naseeruddin Shah), Sudha (Rekha), and Maya (Anuradha Patel). Mahinder, a young photographer, has been engaged to his childhood friend Sudha for five years in an arrangement made by his grandfather (Shammi Kapoor). In spite of this arrangement, Mahinder falls passionately in love with the impulsive and free-spirited Maya, but he is too afraid to confide the truth to his grandfather. When pressured to go through with the wedding, the conflicted Mahinder reveals his true feelings to Sudha. However, when Maya suddenly disappears from his life, Mahinder decides to honor his grandfather’s wishes and marries Sudha after all. Even at the end of the film, a lingering question remains: why would Sudha agree to marry a husband who did not truly love her?

Rekha struggles deeply as she is forced to grapple with her husband's history with Anuradha Patel and its effects on their marriage in Ijaazat (1987)
Rekha offers an understated performance as a vulnerable wife forced to grapple with her husband’s history with an ex-lover and its devastating effects on their marriage in Ijaazat (1987)

As the companionship between Sudha and Mahinder begins to grow, the underlying presence of Maya as an unwanted third party in their marriage inevitably leads to marital discord. Mahinder’s unresolved feelings for Maya and Sudha’s awareness of these feelings gradually creates tension that escalates once Maya re-appears in their lives and rekindles a friendship with Mahinder through letters, phone calls, and poems. Mahinder indulges Maya’s attention-seeking actions at each opportunity, deepening the rift that already exists between him and his wife. Despite many efforts to adjust to the very tangible presence of Maya in their lives, Sudha comes to realize that she will never be able to live happily with Mahinder and decides to walk away from her marriage. The turmoil and tragedy of this film goes on to culminate in a conclusion that is surprisingly positive and heart-warming–without completely spoiling the ending here, I will just say that fans of Shashi Kapoor will not be disappointed!

In spite of its portrayal of a relatively ordinary story, Ijazaat stands out from other films in the same vein because of its evocative dialogues, nuanced character development, and, of course, the beautiful music and poetry found in its soundtrack. In the context of the film, meraa kuchh saamaan is a poem addressed to Mahinder from Maya that captures the essence of their troubled relationship with remarkable finesse and sophistication. In this poem, Maya asks Mahinder to return her things back to her–these requests are not for the return of physical objects but rather for memories of their time spent together. Gulzar’s evocative poetry in an unusual free verse format earned him the National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist in 1988, while Asha Bhonsle won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for her soulful rendition of this song.

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Anuradha Patel’s character is unique to the version of Jatugriha that is presented in Ijaazat (1987), as the original story depicted the woes of a troubled marriage between a husband and wife without the “other woman” character.

Those of you familiar with this classic already may have wondered why Gulzar chose to use the number 116 in the last stanza of this song to describes the number of moonlit nights spent together by the protagonists. Some have suggested that 116 nights may indicate that Maya and Mahinder were involved in a relationship four months in duration (with four new moons), while others have suggested it is a reference to the number of phases of the moon found in ancient Indian literature. Interestingly, when asked in an interview about the interpretation of this number, Gulzar said: It’s not the number which is important, it’s important that somebody kept the count of the moonlit nights of which they spent together.”  This number went on to carry special significance for Gulzar as he recounts in a 2005 interview that he has written lyrics for exactly 116 of R.D. Burman’s songs during his career. 

Lyrics and Translation:

mera kuchh saamaan tumhare paas paDaa hai
Some of my belongings remain with you.
saavan ke kuchh bhiige bhiige din rakhe hai.n
A few wet monsoon days,
aur mere ek khat me.n lipaTii raat paDii hai
and a night folded into one of my letters.
voh raat bujhaa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Extinguish that night, and return my things to me.

patjhaD hai kuchh, hai na?
It was autumn then, no?
patjhaD me.n kuchh patto.n kii girane kii aahaT
The rustling whispers of leaves falling in autumn.
kaano.n me.n ek baar pahan ke lauT aayii thii
I had brought back those whispers once by wearing them as earrings.
patjhaD kii voh shaakh abhii tak kaa.np rahii hai
A branch of autumn still trembles in the breeze.
voh shaakh giraa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Make that branch fall down, and return my things to me.

ek akelii chhatrii me.n jo aadhe-aadhe bhiig rahe the
When we both became drenched in the rain under a single umbrella,
aadhe giile aadhe sukhe, sukhaa to mai.n le aayii thii
half of our things became wet. I had brought the dry half back with me that day.
giilaa man shayad bistar ke paas paDaa ho
But perhaps my drenched heart remained next to the bed.
voh bhijvaa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Send that back, and return my things to me.

ek sau solaah chaa.nd kii raate.n, ek tumhaare kaa.ndhe kaa til
One hundred and sixteen moonlit nights, and the single mole on your shoulder.
giillii maha.ndii kii khushbuu, jhuuTh-muuTh ke shikve kuchh
The fragrance of wet henna, and some fake tantrums.
jhuuTh-muuTh ke vaade bhii sab yaad karaa duu.n?
Shall I remind you of all the false promises too?
sab bhijvaa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Send all of them back, and return my things to me.

ek ijaazat de do bas, jab isko dafnaauu.ngii
When I bury these these things, just grant me the permission
mai.n bhii vahii.n so jaauu.ngii
To lay myself to sleep among them.
mai.n bhii vahii.n so jaauu.ngii
To lay myself to sleep among them.

Glossary

saamaan: belongings, things; saavan: monsoon; bhiigaa: drenched, wet; khat: letter; lipaTnaa: to wrap, fold; bujhaa denaa: to extinguish; lauTaa denaa: to return; patjhaD: autumn; pattaa: leaf; giranaa: to fall; aahaT: whisper, faint noise; pahanna: to wear; shaakh: branch; giraa denaa: to make something fall; chhatrii: umbrella; aadhaa: half; giilaa: wet; sukhaa: dry; bistar: bed; bhijvaanaa: to have something sent; ek sau solaah: 116; kaa.ndh: shoulder; til: mole; maha.ndii: henna: khushbuu: fragrance; jhuuTh-muuTh: fake, false; shikvaa: complaint, tantrum; vaadaa: promise: yaad karaa denaa: to remind; ijaazat: permission; dafnaanaa: to bury: so jaanaa: to sleep.


In 2005, Asha Bhonsle in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet reprised several of her old songs as a tribute to her late husband R.D. Burman in the album You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman’s Bollywood. In recognition of her work on this album, Asha received her second Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary World Music. When asked to name her favorite song from the album, she said it was meraa kuchh saamaan because it “is very close to my heart as it transports me back into time when I was with Pancham.” (Source).

 -Mr. 55

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

Shammi Kapoor, the Elvis of India: Realities of a Rockstar

Shammi Kapoor Teesri Manzil
Shammi Kapoor plays a lovable rockstar in Teesri Manzil (1966).

Bollywood actor Shammi Kapoor (1930-2011) was popularly known as the Elvis of India. I just got back from a road trip with my fiancé down to Graceland, home of the original King. Despite jamming out to “That’s All Right Mama” as we toured around, I couldn’t help but think of Bombay film legend Shammi Kapoor and the famous media comparison. I’m a diehard Elvis Presley fan, and my love for his Indian counterpart is no less. But is it even fair to correlate the two?

When I first heard of the comparison of yesteryear Bollywood actor Shammi to American rock-and-roll legend Elvis, I needed a little convincing. All right, I needed a lot of convincing. Nothing short of blasphemy is on the line when you start comparing yourself to the King. I grew up listening to Elvis and had seen Shammi Kapoor films like an Evening in Paris (1967), Brahmachari (1968), Prince (1969) and Andaz (1971). The slightly overweight Bollywood thespian with heavy pancake makeup and tight pants was a far cry from the jailhouse rocking Elvis Presley I knew so well. After all, anyone can wear a pair of tight pants in public, but not everyone should.

So why then do we call Shammi Kapoor the Elvis of India? To begin to answer this, we must go back in time. We return to Shammi Kapoor’s earliest hits films in the days before even the rip-roaring success of Junglee (1961): movies like Tumsa Nahin Dekha (1957) and Dil Deke Dekho (1958). Suddenly, the similarities in appearance are clear. Sure in later colour films Shammi Kapoor didn’t look much like Elvis, but let’s face it, by the time the 70s rolled around, Elvis didn’t look much like Elvis either.

Elvis Presley Shammi Kapoor
Unintentional twins, Elvis Presley (left) and Shammi Kapoor (right) revolutionized the entertainment industry complete with popped collars and pompadours.

But the comparison of the two entertainment icons goes beyond mere appearance. Elvis brought with him a cultural revolution in the midst of a tumultuous political atmosphere in the U.S. Shammi Kapoor, I would argue, brought that same youthful rebellion to India. Before Shammi Kapoor, no actor had ever so deliberately and daringly sought to appeal to the “modern youth” audience on-screen. Before the Shammi revolution, popular actors like Ashok Kumar, Guru Dutt and even Raj Kapoor appealed to a more traditional, elder protagonist who often encountered a modern society—but did not speak for it. Shammi was different.

elvis shammi kapoor car
Both Elvis (left) and Shammi (right) pose with their convertibles, hands on hips and one button too many unbuttoned.

With edgy attire, a boyish charm to mask his sharp tongue and a irreverent eye for the ladies, Shammi burst onto the Bombay scene with never-before-seen sex-appeal. He voiced the thoughts and emotions of a new generation who didn’t play by the rules of their fathers—Shammi flirted shamelessly in his movies, played the drums like a rockstar in his songs, and never failed to bring a sleek pompadour ‘do to the set to balance the party happening in his hips. Before Shammi, such actions would have been downright villainous, reserved only for the drunk antagonist of the film who would never win the pure-hearted girl. But Shammi changed the game.

He oozed that James Dean sense of self-confidence so despised by the older generations and so adored by young women everywhere. Watch his peacock strut in “Baar Baar Dekho” from Chinatown (1962), and the way Mohammed Rafi throws in a suave “Tally ho!” into the mix as Shammi coolly slams his guitar. Those signature hip gyrations would have done the King proud!

Elvis Presley Shammi Kapoor
Elvis Presley and Shammi Kapoor strike similar poses in even more similar outfits. Left: Elvis performing “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957. Right: Shammi Kapoor swinging to “Dilruba Meri Neeta” in Dil Deke Dekho (1959).

The heart of the revolution, of course, lay with the music. Elvis combined his Southern gospel routes with African-American rhythm and blues to create a whole new catchy sound that caught the country by storm. It was a wave that Shammi Kapoor brought to Bombay. Through radical compositions that drew upon rock-and-roll themes, sassy lyrics, and Mohammed Rafi’s energetic and versatile vocals, Shammi Kapoor too changed the face Bollywood music, ushering an era of fusion-inspired hits from “Bolo Bolo Kuch To Bolo” to “Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyaar Tera.”

As Shammi Kapoor said in a Times of India interview before his death:

“My style was unique, but it would have come to nothing had it not been for such brilliant music directors like O. P. Nayyar and Shankar-Jaikishan. I was this supremely macho guy and within me lay dormant an incredible energy that was screaming for expression. Luckily for me, my directors sensed the potential in me and allowed me to unleash my creativity. I guess I also had this very innocent way of looking at girls that heightened the romance element in my films.”

Graceland Elvis Presley
My visit to Graceland, home of the King of Rock and Roll. Left: Boarding one of Elvis’ private jets named for his daughter Lisa Marie. Right: Giving the King a little help holding up a gold record!

The truth of the matter is, Shammi Kapoor never said he modeled himself off of Elvis and never mentioned him in any interviews. Although their legacies share some similarities, the two men never met nor made any attempt to do so. The parallels that link their names together are those that we their fans imagined as observers. The late Shammi Kapoor did not achieve fame in an era where concert videos of Elvis could be watched or copies of the King’s films reviewed over and over again. Shammi insisted that all his choreography was extempore, straight from his heart. In fact, the only direct Bollywood copy of an Elvis hit was “Marguerita” (1963) picturised as “Kaun Hai Jo Sapnon Mein Aaya” by Rajendra Kumar in 1968.

So ultimately, perhaps it is an injustice to say that Shammi Kapoor imitated Elvis Presley’s style. After all, many men around the world knew how to shake their hips and puff their hair, but how many could bellow “YAHOO!” to the object of their affection and get away with it?

Perhaps it would be better to call Elvis the Shammi Kapoor of America.

– Mrs. 55