Kora Kaagaz Tha Lyrics & English Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rajesh Khanna Sharmila Tagore Aradhana kora kagaz

Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore clasp hands against the beautiful Darjeeling countryside in the film Aradhana (1969).

Today we present the lyrics and English translation of one of Bollywood’s favorite love duets “Kora Kaagaz Tha” from Aradhana (1969). The song is a welcome introduction to Autumn, filmed on location on the hilltops of Darjeeling where the only thing cozier than a view of the snow-capped mountains in the distance is Rajesh Khanna in a red turtleneck.

Aradhana has rightfully earned widespread acclaim as a monumental Bollywood masala flick that really epitomizes India’s Golden Age of filmmaking. Songs like “Kora Kagaz Tha” remind us how romance could once be spun from the magic in the air rather than from the dwindling lengths of the heroine’s skirt or from 6,000,000 back-up dancers bumping to an added techno beat. Very few love duets get everything right like this one does, immersing their audience in the beauty of India’s natural landscapes while allowing the Urdu and music to speak for themselves. Sharmila Tagore with her dimpled smile and Rajesh Khanna winking his legendary wink are pure, no-added-hormones or preservatives-required bliss. I can think of a few other songs that defrost my lifeless heart similarly: “Deewana Hua Badal” from Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) and “Abhi Na Jao Chhod” from Hum Dono (1961) come to mind.

Sharmila Tagore Aradhana kora kagaz

Sharmila Tagore’s spotlight-hogging wig takes no prisoners in Aradhana (1969).

Film director Shakti Samanta famously recalled that after pitching the brief summary of Aradhana to lyricist Anand Bakshi, Bakshi was inspired to write the lyrics to “Kora Kagaz Tha” within seconds. Who would’ve guessed almost 50 years later, those same poetic ideas would be resurrected in mainstream American pop music with Taylor Swift’s popular “Blank Space“? (OK, maybe T. Swizzle has never seen Aradhana before…but I bet if she did, her eyeliner would drip onto the floor from happy tears.)

The best advice I can give you is to put on your best plaid flannel, wrap a wool throw around you and the one you love, and take a long sip of cider before starting this one. I have your back, trust me. And as you listen, soak in the full glory of the Urdu “ghain” that punctuates Kishore Kumar’s “kaaghaz” or the blissful pop of the Urdu “qaaf,” adorning Lata Mangeshkar’s “mulaaqaat.” These are elegant linguistic subtleties that are fast disappearing from Bollywood music today. Lyrics and English translation to “Kora Kagaz Tha” are below!

Kora Kaagaz Tha Lyrics & English Translation:

KISHORE: Hey hey (hey hey) aahaa hmm hmm (hmm hmm) aahaa haa (haa) haa haa (hmm hmm)

Koraa kaaghaz thaa yeh man meraa (meraa meraa)
My mind was a blank sheet of paper 
Likh liiyaa naam is pe teraa (teraa teraa)
Until I wrote your name upon it

Koraa kaaghaz thaa yeh man meraa
My mind was a blank sheet of paper
Likh liiyaa naam is pe teraa
Until I wrote your name upon it

LATA: Suunaa aa.Ngan thaa jiivan meraa
My life was a lonely courtyard
Bas gayaa pyaar is mei.N teraa
Until your love resided within it

KISHORE: TuuT na jaaye sapne mai.N Dartaa huu.N
I am afraid that my dreams may shatter
Nis din sapno.N mei.N dekhaa kartaa huu.N
I keep seeing you in my dreams all day and night
Nainaa kajraa re, matvaale yeh ishaare
Oh, those kaajal-lined eyes, those intoxicating signals
Khaalii Darpan thaa yeh man meraa
My mind was an empty mirror
Rach gayaa ruup is mei.N teraa
Until your beauty manifested within it

LATA: Koraa kaaghaz thaa yeh man meraa
My soul was a blank sheet of paper
Likh liiyaa naam is pe teraa
Until I wrote your name upon it

LATA: Chain ga.Nvaayaa mai.N ne, ni.Ndiiyaa ga.Nvaayii
I lost all peace of mind, I lost sleep
SaaDii saaDii raat jaaguu.N, duu.N mai.N duhaayii
I remain awake all night long and I pray
Kahuu.N kyaa mai.N aage? Nehaa laage, jee na laage
What should I say next? I have fallen in love, my soul is restless
Koii dushman thaa yeh man meraa
My soul was an enemy
Ban gayaa miit jaa ke teraa
Until it became your beloved

KISHORE: Koraa kaaghaz thaa yeh man meraa
My soul was a blank sheet of paper
Likh liiyaa naam is pe teraa
Until I wrote your name upon it

KISHORE: Baagho.N mei.N phuulo.N ke khilne se pehle
Before the flowers bloomed in the gardens
LATA: Tere mere naino.N ke milane se pehle
Before your and my eyes met
KISHORE: Kahaa.N thii yeh baate.N?
Where were words like these?
LATA: mulaaqaate.N?
Meetings like these?
KISHORE: aisii raate.N?
Night like these?
LATA: TuuTaa taaraa thaa yeh man meraa
My soul was a shooting star
KISHORE: Ban gayaa chaa.Nd hoke tera
It turned into a moon when I became yours

BOTH: Koraa kaaghaz thaa yeh man meraa
My soul was a blank sheet of paper
Likh liiyaa naam is pe teraa
Until I wrote your name upon it

LATA: Aa aa aaa aa
KISHORE: Aaa aa aaa
LATA: O hooo hoo hoo
KISHORE: O hooo hoo hoo
LATA: Hmm hmm mmm mmm
KISHORE: Hmm hmm mmm mmm

Glossary:

koraa: blank; kaaghaz: piece of paper; man: mind; likhnaa: to write; naam: name; suunaa: lonely, empty; aa.Ngan: courtyard; jiivan: life; basnaa: to reside, to settle; pyaar: love; TuuTnaa: to break; sapnaa: dream; Darnaa: to be afraid; nis-din: day and night; nainaa: eyes, kajraa: black eye-liner, re: an expression of emphasis, such as “oh!”; matvaalaa: intoxicated; ishaaraa: signal; khaalii: empty, Darpan: mirror; rachnaa: to create, to manifest; ruup: beauty; chain: peace of mind; ga.Nvaanaa: to waste, to ruin; ni.Ndiiyaa: sleep; saaDii: entire, whole; jaagnaa: to awaken; duhaaii denaa: to pray, to request; aage: next, future; nehaa: love; dushman: enemy; miit: loved one; baagh: garden; phuul: flower; khilnaa: to blossom; milnaa: to meet; baat: words; mulaaqaat: meeting; TuuTaa taaraa: shooting star; chaa.Nd: moon

Rajesh Khanna Aradhana mountain echo

Why, hello, cozy red turtleneck. Rajesh Khanna (of perfect human being fame) induces a sense of lightheadedness that the mountain’s altitude could never achieve alone.

Aradhana takes a turn for the spicy a few scenes later with Kishore Kumar’s solo “Roop Tera Mastana” because, after all, you can’t make a masala film without the masala. But those who would forever rather stick to the old fashioned tree-frolicks of classic Bollywood, stay here in safe territory with me as long as the season lasts.

– Mrs. 55

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Aye Dil-E-Nadaan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

 

As many of our readers may already be aware, today marks the 86th birthday of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. In commemoration of this special day, we would like to present the lyrics and English translation to one of the most exquisitely beautiful songs sung by the Nightingale of India during her long and illustrious career: ai dil-e-naadaa.n from Razia Sultan (1983).

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Hema Malini stars as a 13th century empress of Delhi in Razia Sultan (1983)

Directed by Kamal Amrohi (of Mahal and Pakeezah fame), Razia Sultan narrates the story of the only woman to ascend the throne of Delhi and her alleged love affair with Abyssinian slave-turned-warrior Jaml-ud-Din Yaqut. Hema Malini stars in the title role, while her real-life beau Dharmendra plays the role of her love interest Yaqut. When Sultan Altamash decides that his beloved daughter Razia shall be the successor to his throne instead of his trouble-making son Ferozshah, the kingdom erupts in an uproar over the possibility of being ruled by a woman. After her father’s passing, Razia proves herself to be a compassionate and brave ruler who leads with an eye toward justice like her late father. Over time, Razia is accepted as the first female emperor of the kingdom until gossip spreads among the royal court about an affair between Razia and her former slave Yaqut. Although Yaqut is now a free man and army commander, the relationship between him and the empress is highly scandalous due to his roots as a dark-skinned African slave. When this controversy reaches its peak, Razia must make a choice between her kingdom and her love. In the end, in true Bollywood style, Razia makes the ultimate sacrifice for her love.

Although this film had the potential to provide a compelling view on the complexities of race and gender politics, it fails to meet the mark in many respects and was unable to achieve commercial success at the time of its release. It is likely that the heavy-handed use of formal Urdu made it difficult for audiences to understand many parts of the film’s dialogue. The pace drags in many scenes, and the starring duo provide few memorable moments throughout the film. Those familiar with this period of history will also note that many liberties were taken to create a fictionalized narrative suitable for presentation in a Bollywood movie.

The aspect in which director Kamal Amrohi has shined, as he has done in his previous productions, is in the selection of the music for the film’s soundtrack. Khayyam’s sublime and minimalistic compositions come together with Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s reticent yet expressive poetry to create a memorable album that is probably the single most redeeming quality of Razia Sultan. The crowning jewel of this soundtrack is ai dil-e-nadaa.n rendered flawlessly by the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar. Her voice captures the mysticism and tranquility of the poetry with remarkable ease. Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s poetry is beautiful in its simplicity as it probes the nature of human desire and the inevitable suffering that it causes. No discussion of this song would be complete without mention of the santoor interludes interspersed with moments of silence, which provide gentle accompaniment to the serenity evoked by Akhtar’s words and Lata’s ethereal voice.

AA

The elaborate costumes and sets used to shoot Razia Sultan (1983) make it one of the most expensive productions of its time. [Source]

A couple of anecdotes from key players involved in the making of this song to round out our discussion today:

Khayyam explains how he was inspired by the story of Razia Sultan during the composition of ai dil-e-naadaa.n: “

The caravan of Razia Sultan came to India from Turkey through a long and tortuous route traversing many countries. If you listen carefully, the tune and orchestration reflects the musical influences of all the regions she traveled across. The song is about the duel in her mind- the woman inside her is deeply in love with a black slave but the princess inside her is all too aware of her duty. The song depicts that dilemma in her mind. [Source]

Lata Mangeshkar has always ranked this song has one of the best of her career and included it in her An Era in An Evening concert that took place in Mumbai in March 1997 (see link above). In her own words, she says:

“Khayyam’s ai dil-e-naadaa.n from Razia Sultan is among the best songs I’ve sung. The way Kamal (Amrohi)-saab explained it to me,  I could actually visualise the situation. I was very satisfied by the way I rendered the number. Kamal-saab found my Urdu pronunciation clear and chaste. The lyrics of ai dil-e-naadaa.n written by Javed Akhtar’s father Jaan Nisar Akhtar, were inspiring. I have sung several songs written by him.” [Source]

Are you wondering why Lata’s voice sounds so heavenly in this song even though it was past its prime at the time of the film’s release in 1983? That’s because Khayyam had this song recorded by Lata nine years earlier in 1974. After just two rehearsals, she had recorded the entire song in one take! Khayyam recollects how the popularity of this song helped him be selected as the music director for other major films in the 1970s like Kabhie Kabhie (1976):

“Actually the reason, I got Kabhie Kabhie was the song ai dil-e-naadaa.n. For Razia Sultan, I had recorded Lata-ji’s ai dil-e-naadaa.n and also Qabban Mirza’s aayii zanjiir kii jhankaar as early as in 1974. ai dil-e-naadaa.n had then created such a stir that practically everyone in the film industry was talking about that song. That fame had reached to Yash Chopra and one evening, when I returned after a Razia Sultan sitting at Kamaalistan, I found Yash-ji and Sahir-saab waiting for me. They told me that they were making a film about a love-story of a poet and they wanted me as a composer. I immediately said, ‘Yes’.” [Source]

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In spite of a solid portrayal of the lead character by Hema Malini, Razia Sultan (1983) failed to achieve success at the box office. [Source]

Aye Dil-E-Nadaan Lyrics and Translation:

ai dil-e-naadaan
Oh, my naive heart!
aarzuu kyaa hai? justujuu kyaa hai?
What do you desire? What do you seek?

ham bhaTakte hai.n, kyo.n bhaTakate hai.n dasht-o-sehraa me.n?
Why do I wander alone in this deserted wilderness?
aisaa lagtaa hai mauj pyaasii hai apne dariyaa me.n
It seems as if I am a wave thirsty for water in its own river.
kaisii uljhan hai? kyo.n yeh uljhan hai?
What is this turmoil? Why is there this turmoil?
ek saayaa-saa ruuh-ba-ruuh kyaa hai?
What is this shadow that stands face-to-face before me?

kyaa qayaamat hai! kyaa musiibat hai!
What a disaster! What misfortune!
keh nahii.n sakte kiskaa armaa.n hai
I am unable to say whom it is that I desire.
zindagii jaise khoyii-khoyii hai, hairaa.n-hairaa.n hai
It seems as if my life itself is lost and confused.
yeh zamii.n chup hai, aasmaa.n chup hai
The earth lies quietly, while the sky remains in silence.
phir yeh dhaDkan-sii chaar-suu kyaa hai?
Yet, what pulsates around me in every direction?

ai dil-e-nadaan aisii raaho.n me.n kitne kaa.nTe hai.n
Oh, my naive heart! There are many thorns along the path of love.
aarzuuo.n ne har kisii dil ko dard baa.nTe hai.n
The pursuit of desires has given pain to every heart.
kitne ghayal hai.n, kitne bismil hai.n
Many hearts are wounded; many hearts are sacrificed.
is khudaayii me.n ek tuu kyaa hai?
In the face of divinity, who are you alone?

ek tuu kyaa hai, ek tuu kyaa hai?
Who are you alone?
ai dil-e-naadaan, ai dil-e-nadaa.n
Oh, my naive heart!

Glossary:

naadaa.n: naive, foolish; aarzuu: desire; justujuu: search, pursuit; bhaTaknaa: to wander; dasht: desert; sehraa: wilderness; mauj: wave; pyaasii: thirsty; dariyaa: river; uljhan: turmoil, confusion; saayaa: shadow; ruuh-ba-ruuh: face-to-face; qayaamat: disaster, crisis, Day of Judgment: musiibat: misfortune; armaa.n: desire, hope; khoyii: lost; hairaa.n: confused, distressed; zamii.n: earth, land; chup: quiet, silent; aasmaa.n: sky; dhaDkan: pulse, heartbeat; chaar-suu: all around, in all four directions; raah: path; kaa.nTe: thorns; dard: pain; baa.nTnaa: to allocate, to distribute; ghayal: wounded; bismil: wounded, sacrificed; khudaayii: divinity, world.

The use of the word bismil adds a unique spiritual dimension to the lyrics of this song. Bismil means wounded or sacrificed and originates from the Islamic ritual of sacrificing animals as an offering while uttering bismillah (in the name of God).

-Mr. 55

Intimate scenes between Hema Malini and Parveen Babi (particularly during the song khvab ban kar koii aayegaa) sparked some controversy at the time of this film’s release. [Source]

The Art of Urdu in Hindi Films: Losing A Poetic Legacy

Jan Nisar Akhtar and Sahir Ludhianvi

Legendary Bollywood lyricists Jan Nisar Akhtar (far left) and Sahir Ludhianvi (left center) enjoy a birthday celebration.

The language of Hindi films has evolved since the first talkie Alam Ara in 1931, based on a Parsi play.  The Golden Age of Hindi cinema that blossomed with the studio era of the 1950s and ebbed by the late 1970s is one of India’s greatest artistic achievements. During that time, Hindi films could hardly be called Hindi films. Rather, Hindustani, a mixture of Urdu and Hindi, was the lingua franca of the silver-screen—a reflection of a country unified by a fascinatingly diverse heritage with linguistic influences from Sanskrit, Farsi, Bengali, Arabic, Panjabi, and a myriad of others.

To anyone unfamiliar with the distinction between Urdu and Hindi—there are no hard and fast rules. What many call Hindi, others would call Urdu, but most everyone can appreciate their structural and grammatical similarity. Any attempt to divide them is based on the root origins of the vocabulary intermingled with what is generally a highly homologous syntax. “Urdu” vocabulary tends to draw upon words of Farsi or occasionally Arabic and Turkish origin and “Hindi” vocabulary is generally derived from Sanskrit or regional dialects. But don’t be fooled into thinking any word “belongs” to another language (or those of a particular religion)—Hindustani may vary speaker to speaker, community to community, but the language is all-encompassing.

Veteran Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi (left) with his daughter actress Shabhana Azmi (center), who married contemporary lyricist Javed Akhtar, and wife Shaukat Azmi (right).

Veteran Urdu poet Kaifi Azmi (left) with his daughter actress Shabhana Azmi (center), who married contemporary lyricist Javed Akhtar, and wife Shaukat Azmi (right).

The impact of Urdu in the Indian mainstream can be no better summed up by the famous words of our freedom struggle: “Inquilaab zindabaad!” or “Sarfaroshii kii tamanna ab hamaare dil mei.N hai.” Controversial arguments have been made relating the decline in popularity to links with Pakistan, which adopted Urdu as its official language. Yet in Hindi films for decades, the legacy of Urdu poetry continued to flourish in India as the pinnacle of culture and expression.

Indeed, despite enormous gaps in literacy across the country, some of the most popular songs of that era amazingly contain the most complex Urdu-based vocabulary. Perhaps one reason is that the Hindi film song-writers themselves were trained in the art of Urdu poetry. Many of the finest and most successful poets of Hindi film: Sahir Ludhianvi, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan, Gulzar, Hasrat Jaipuri, Shakeel Badayuni, Kaifi Azmi, Jan Nisar Akhtar, and Majrooh Sultanpuri to name but a few, began their careers in Urdu mushairaas, or poetic symposiums.

Gulzar lyricist

Record-breaking winner of 11 Filmfare awards for best lyrics, poet Gulzar (right) stands with actor Amitabh Bacchan (left) for whom he wrote hits from the dialogue of Anand (1971) to the modern dance number “Kajra Re” from Bunty Aur Babli (2006)

It would seem more than mere coincidence that these artists came to dominate film lyrics. Like many arenas, the Bombay film industry was an old boy network: Sahir Ludhianvi for example was close friends with Jan Nisar Akhtar, who became in-laws with Kaifi Azmi, who was a prominent member of the pre-partition Progressive Writer’s Movement with Majrooh Sultanpuri. And the music directors who often hand-picked their lyricists and made recommendations to film producers were also steeped in similar artistic traditions. Veteran composer Naushad grew up in the heart of Lucknowi culture, and Madan Mohan spent his childhood in the Middle East, eventually getting his break by joining the All India Radio in Lucknow. Yet connections in the film industry account for only part of its success—audiences had to maintain demand as well.

From the epic qawwali “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” from Barsaat Ki Raat (1961), the lilting ode, “Aap Ki Nazron Mein Samjha” from Anpadh 1962), to the playful duet “Deewana Hua Badal” from Kashmir Ki Kali (1964), Urdu in films was remarkably accessible—holding a place for any viewer in every genre. True, it is unlikely the entire audience understood each word in those songs. However, in this manner, film and music could be educational for those who did not–a unique way of preserving the culture they reflected back on. As parallel cinema diva Shabana Azmi aptly quipped,

“If you compare today’s songs with the songs of the 1960s and 1970s, then definitely today’s songs are according to the demand. But if you see, Hindi films used to protect the Urdu language as they used it, but it is slowly dying and I feel bad for it.”

The same extended to the dialogues of films themselves–and I don’t refer only to genre films like Pakeezah (1971) or Mughal-e-Azam (1961). Pure Urdu was ubiquitous in classic Hindi cinema, wafting equally through the sets of an urban crime drama and meandering through a village epic. The importance and sheer beauty of Urdu poetry in dialogues is highlighted in one of the most famous film speech’s of yesteryear. The stirring climax of Daag (1973) culminates in a speech given by Rajesh Khanna’s character for an award bestowed to him by his community. Notice how in this and so many other scripts, Urdu is an inextricable poetic catalyst for the Hindi speech:

Rajesh Khanna’s Speech from Daag (1973):

Aap.
Aap kya jaane mujhko samajhte hai.N kyaa?
Mai.N to kuch bhi nahii.N

“You.
I do not know what you make of me
For I am nothing

Is qadar pyaar itnii baDe bheed ka mai.N rakhuu.Ngaa kya?
Is qadar pyaar rakhne ke qaabil nahii.N
Mera dil, merii jaan…
Mujhko itni mohabbat na do, dosto.
Soch lo dosto…
Is qadar pyaar kaise sambhaaluu.Ngaa mai.N?
Mai.N to kuch bhi nahii.N

How can I carry such love from so great a crowd?
I am not worthy of such great love
My heart, my life…
Do not give me so much love, my friends
Think instead.
How will I bear such great love?
For I am nothing.

Pyaar.
Pyaar ek shakhs ko agar mil sake to badii cheez hai zindagi ke liye
Aadmi ko magar yeh bhi milta nahii.n
Yeh bhi milta nahii.n
Mujhko itni mohabbat milii aap se,
Mujhko itni mohabbat milii aap se…
Yeh mera haq nahii.N, merii taqdiir hai.
Mai.N zamaane ki nazro.N mei.N kuch bhi na thaa.
Merii ankho.N mei.N ab tak woh tasveer hai

Love.
If a man can receive love, it is a great thing in life
Yet many men do not even receive this
They do not even receive this
I have received so much love from you,
I have received so much love from you
This is not my right, it is my fate
I was once nothing in the eyes of the world
And in my eyes, that image remains

Izzate.N, shauharate.N, chaahate.N, ulfate.N, koi cheez duniya mei.N rehtii nahii.N
Aaj mai.N huu.N jahaa.N, kal koi aur thaa.
Yeh bhi ek daur hai, woh bhi ek daur thaa…

Respect, fame, desire, love, nothing remains in the world permanently
Today where I am, yesterday there was someone else
This is one generation, that was another generation…

Aaj itni mohabbat na do dosto.
Ki mere kal kii khatir ka kuch bhi rahe
Aaj ka pyaar thoDa bacha kar rakho
Aaj ka pyaar thoDa bacha kar rakho, mere kal ke liye

Today do not give me so much love, my friends
So that there may be some left for me tomorrow
Today, save some of that love
Today save some of that love for my days ahead

Kal.
Kal jo gumnaam hai
Kal jo sunsaan hai
Kal jo anjaan hai
Kal jo viiraan hai

Tomorrow.
Tomorrow which is anonymous
Tomorrow which is silent
Tomorrow which is unknown
Tomorrow which may be barren

Main to kuch bhi nahii.N huu.N
Mai.N to kuch bhi nahii.n”

I am nothing at all
I am nothing at all.”

With every thoughtfully chosen word, the pervasive Urdu “qaaf” is pronounced as delicately as the gentle “khe,” and the lines are delivered with the poetic overtures of a song lyric. These dialogues were written with poetry in mind, and indeed many song lyricists eventually took to writing entire film scripts (the script of Daag was written by immortal Urdu poet Akhtar ul Iman of Waqt and Gumraah fame).

Immortal lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri (right) with music director R.D. Burman and film director Nasir Hussain at a 1983 recording session.

Famed lyricist Majrooh Sultanpuri (right) with music director R.D. Burman (center) and film director Nasir Hussain (left) at a 1983 recording session.

It would be impossible to summarize the incredible work of these poets in one post (hence why we’ve devoted much of our blog to it!). A small sampling of Filmfare award-winning lyrics are below:

“Chaudhvin ka chaand ho, ya aftaab ho? Jo bhi ho tum khudaa ki qasam laa-jawaab ho…” –Shakeel Badayuni (Chaudhvin Ka Chand 1961)

“Chaahuu.Ngaa mai.N tujhe saa.Nj saveN.re. Phir bhi kabhi ab naam ko tere awaaz mai.N na doo.Ngaa…”--Majrooh Sultanpuri (Dosti 1965)

“Bahaaro.N phool barsaao, meraa mehboob aayaa hai. Hawaao.N raagini gaao, meraa mehboob aaya hai…”--Hasrat Jaipuri (Suraj 1967)

“Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai ki jaise tujhko baanaayaa gaya hai mere liye…” –Sahir Ludhianvi (Kabhi Kabhi 1977)

“Aanewaalaa pal jaanewaalaa hai. Ho sake to is mei.N zindagii biTaado pal jo yeh jaanewalaa hai…” — Gulzar (Gol Maal 1980)

I was fortunate to have the chance to learn to read and write in Urdu from my grandparents who moved to New Delhi after the partition of Punjab. But this opportunity is so rare that I found after my grandfather passed away, I know few people to whom I can still write in Nasta’liq. Urdu is a language of romance—more beautiful than French and Italian, and more intricate than superficial political divides. The legacy of Urdu will continue to add to the allure and nostalgia of old films for generations to come. For the loss of Urdu is more than the mere loss of vocabulary. Without Urdu in Hindi films, we have lost our own andaaz–the manner with which we once communicated our thoughts and feelings, our decorum, and a rich, meaningful ornamentation in expressing ourselves that can never be replaced.

-Mrs. 55

Khudaa-E-Bartar Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi


Our blog probably seems like one huge Sahir Ludhianvi love-fest by now, but I couldn’t help myself from posting and translating this beauty from Taj Mahal (1963). This song is from the same movie as “jurm-e-ulfat pe,” which I translated here a little while ago. While “jurm-e-ulfat pe” tackles the theme of forbidden love, the lesser-known “khudaa-e-bartar” discusses something that doesn’t get much coverage in the world of Bollywood: war. By posing a series of questions, Ludhianvi uses universal and timeless words here to express the futility of war. While the song directly pertains to the Mughal battles depicted in the film, I’ll go out on a limb and say that the pacifism expressed in these lyrics is also Ludhianvi’s response to India’s losses in the Sino-Indian War, which had ended only a year before this film was released.

In addition to its unique thematic content, this song stands out for its nuanced use of language. Such elevated Urdu is truly a rare treat in Hindi cinema. Seriously, when was the last time you heard a song with the words like hidaayat, kibr-o-ghuruur, or fatah-o-zafar? Perhaps my favorite thing about this song is its use of izaafat, a grammatical construct borrowed from Persian where two nouns or a noun and adjective are linked together with the vowel -e- or -o-. When the -e- vowel is used between two nouns, it can generally be translated as “of.” When the -o- vowel is used, it is translated as “and.” This song makes extensive use of izaafat, as evident in compound phrases like rasm-e-jang-o-jadaal (rules of war and disputes) and jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang (celebration of arrows and rifles). Super fancy, no?

Since almost every other word here is a vocab word, you’ll have to take a close look at the glossary below while you follow along with the song. But I guarantee that you’ll learn some new Urdu if you do–enjoy and let us know your thoughts about this song in the comments!

–Mr. 55

P.S. For the classical music enthusiasts out there, this composition is also remarkable for being one of the finest examples of Raga Miyan ki Todi used in a film song.

Lyrics:
khudaa-e-bartar terii zamii.n par zamii.n kii khaatir, yeh jang kyo.n hai?
har ek fatah-o-zafar ke daaman pe khuun-e-insaa.n kaa rang kyo.n hai?

zamii.n bhii terii, hai.n ham bhii tere. yeh milkiiyat kaa savaal kyaa hai?
yeh qatl-o-khuu.n ka rivaaj kyo.n hai? yeh rasm-e-jang-o-jadaal kyaa hai?
jinhe.n talab hai jahaan bhar kii, unhii.n kaa dil itnaa tang kyo.n hai?

ghariib maao.n shariif bahno.n ko aman-o-izzat kii zindagii de
jinhe.n ataa kii hai tuu ne taaqat, unhe.n hidaayat kii roshnii de
saro.n me.n kibr-o-ghuruur kyo.n hai? dilo.n ke shiishe pe zang kyo.n hai?

qazaa ke raste pe jaanevaalo.n ko bach ke aane ki raah denaa
dilo.n ke gulshan ujaD na jaaye.n, muhabbato.n ko panaah denaa
jahaa.n me.n jashn-e-vafaa ke badle, yeh jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang kyo.n hai?

khudaa-e-bartar terii zamii.n par zamii.n kii khaatir, yeh jang kyo.n hai?

Glossary:
khudaa-e-bartar
: superior Lord; zamii.n: land, world; jang: war; fatah-o-zafar: victories and triumphs; daaman: foothills; khuun-e-insaa.n: human blood; milkiiyat: ownership; qatl-e-khuu.n: murders and blood; rivaaj: tradition; rasm-e-jang-o-jadaal: rules of war and disuptes; talab: need, desire; jahaan: world; tang: troubled; ghariib: poor; shariif: noble; aman-o-izzat: peace and respect; ataa karna: to bless; taaqat: strength, courage; hidaayat: guidance; roshnii: light; kibr-o-ghuruur: pride and arrogance; shiishaa: mirror; qazaa: death; bach ke aanaa: to escape; gulshan: garden; ujaD jaana: to be uprooted; panaah: shelter; jashn-e-vafaa: celebration of love; jashn-e-tiir-o-tafang: celebration of arrows and rifles

Rough Translation:
O superior Lord, why is there this war over land in your world? Why does human blood stain the foothills of every victory and triumph?

This land is yours, and we are yours. Then, what is this question of ownership and possession? What are these traditions of bloody murder? What are these rules of wars and disputes? Those who have a desire to rule the world, why are their hearts so troubled?

Give poor mothers and noble sisters a life of peace and respect. Give those whom you have blessed with strength and courage a light of guidance. Why are minds filled with pride and arrogance? Why are the mirrors of people’s hearts blemished by rust?

Give those who are headed on the road to death a way to escape. May the garden of hearts not be uprooted as you provide shelter to love. In this world, instead of a celebration of love, why is there a celebration of arrows and rifles?

O superior Lord, why is there war over land in your world?