50 Best Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood

 

We’ve compiled a montage of the best film shots from classic Bollywood movies that we feel exemplify the splendor, allure, and excitement of Hindi movies from the Golden Age. Consider these 50 beautiful film shots a glimpse through a keyhole into a much grander world of cinematographic sublimity: behold the magic of classic Bollywood.

This project was kindled in part by my reaction to everyone who’s ever told me, “I love Bollywood!” I get that a lot. Being a film production major who’s worked in the Hindi movie industry, I hear the phrase, “I love Bollywood!” several times a month—from classmates, friends, and random people at parties. Bollywood has become a trend all over the globe—every hipster worth their organic sea salt is familiar with the term, and many have even seen a Hindi film or two themselves. Except I don’t really ever know what to say in reply. It’s not because loving Bollywood isn’t exactly what I look for in new friends (because believe me, it is), but because I don’t understand what that phrase even means.

Let me put this in perspective. To me, this can be the equivalent of someone in rural Punjab who’s seen the Bourne trilogy saying, “I love Hollywood!”

Think about that. What does it mean to love “Hollywood”? Are you saying you love American filmmaking and its history? Celebrity gossip? Or do you really mean to say, “I love action flicks and Matt Damon?” Because Hollywood is not just big-budget androcentric action flicks (although they are a cool part of a big genre). Ryan Gosling kissing Rachel McAdams in the rain is Hollywood. Orsen Welles fighting a smear campaign for governor is Hollywood. Judy Garland singing over a rainbow is Hollywood. And Jack Nicholas running amok in an insane asylum is Hollywood. It’s rare to find someone who knows and loves it all.

So when you say, “I love Bollywood!” to me, as a true lover of all things Bollywood, I don’t know what you’re really referring to. Often people who haven’t had much exposure tend to generalize that elusive term Bollywood to mean “pretty costumes!” or “crazy dancing!” This perception applies just as much to Indians from India as to non-Indians anywhere else. Because Bollywood is not just the melodramatic musical with half-naked women and a loose masala plot that is often stereotyped. Bollywood is Guru Dutt searching the streets of urban decay for a glimmer of humanity. Bollywood is Meena Kumari dancing kathak upon shattered glass in sorrow. Bollywood is Amitabh Bachhan’s fist meeting the jaws of his twenty adversaries with a satisfying smack. And yes, Bollywood is Aishwarya Rai and Shah Rukh Khan in glittery costumes declaring love in the moonlight. I often yearn to somehow share all the magic of classic Hindi cinema that comes to my mind when I think of Bollywood, because it is a well-hidden treasure for so many of my generation.

Now before someone throws a fit, I get it. Not everyone has the time or interest to become heavily familiarized with Bombay’s film output since the 1930s. Nor should they. All I’m saying is, I wish more people were aware of what Bollywood truly encompasses. When you exclaim, “I love Bollywood!” there is a reason why I can’t bring myself to reply, “OMG, totes!” but instead want to fill your ear with my reverence of the cinematography in Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959). Simply tell me you loved the movie Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) (because, seriously, who didn’t?), or that you thought Deepika Padukone’s outfits were beautiful in that one rom-com. Otherwise, we’ll both end up feeling awkward after I start on my spiel. Yes, I probably overthink this. Yes, most people probably don’t care one way or another. But I can’t imagine living a world without the enchantment of classic Bollywood films, and maybe there are people out there who would want in, if they only knew what they’re missing.

So this montage is the reply I wish I could give everyone, but I cannot articulate–a reply that must be seen to be believed. Because when I respond, “Really? I love Bollywood too!” this is what comes to my mind. This montage is why I love Bollywood. I hope that by watching these shots, you can get a peek into that hypnotizing world yourself, and that you’ll crave more. I hope that this might be a chance to understand that Bollywood is far richer, far more complex, and far more evocative than can be summed up by mere words or by viewing a single film.

Therefore, don’t just take my word for it. Watch the 50 Film Shots That Will Make You Believe in the Magic of Classic Bollywood, and I’ll bet that somewhere deep inside your heart, something faintly stirs in a way you never knew possible. And afterwards, I recommend starting with any of the movies that made our list of the Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time. I’ll get off my soap box now. Back to translating obscure old songs where I belong. But send us a comment if this montage resonates with you, and share it with anyone who may have never experienced the wonder of the films to which it pays homage.

Just don’t even get me started on Slumdog Millionaire.

– Mrs. 55

Final Shot from Mother India Nargis

An aged Nargis remembers the trials of her youth in the final shot of the Academy Award-nominated film Mother India (1957).

As a reference, the corresponding films to our 50 selected shots are below. The music playing during the montage is the “Title Music” from Pakeezah (1972).

50 Shots’ Film Names (in order of appearance):

  1. Bandini (1963)
  2. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  3. Pakeezah (1972)
  4. Aradhana (1969)
  5. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  6. Kohra (1964)
  7. Mother India (1957)
  8. Guide (1965)
  9. Shree 420 (1955)
  10. Sangam (1964)
  11. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  12. Chinatown (1962)
  13. Caravan (1971)
  14. Shree 420 (1955)
  15. Shree 420 (1955)
  16. Sholay (1975)
  17. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  18. Pakeezah (1972)
  19. Pakeezah (1972)
  20. Pyaasa (1957)
  21. Bombai Ka Babu (1960)
  22. Umrao Jaan (1981)
  23. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  24. Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971)
  25. Jab Jab Phool Khile (1965)
  26. Aradhana (1969)
  27. Khamoshi (1970)
  28. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  29. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  30. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  31. Mother India (1957)
  32. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  33. Guide (1965)
  34. Andaz (1949)
  35. Mughal-e-Azam (1960)
  36. Aradhana (1969)
  37. Pakeezah (1972)
  38. Jewel Thief (1967)
  39. Aan Milo Sajna (1970)
  40. Anand (1971)
  41. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  42. Awaara (1951)
  43. Amar, Akbar, Anthony (1977)
  44. Do Raaste (1969)
  45. Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959)
  46. Awaara (1951)
  47. Sholay (1975)
  48. Baazi (1951)
  49. Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)
  50. Mother India (1957)

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Sadhana

Sadhana excels in her role as the mysterious femme fatale of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Happy Halloween to our readers! What better way to celebrate with a classic ghost song featuring Lata Mangeshkar’s spooky vocals, Sadhana’s haunting beauty, and Madan Mohan’s soul-stirring composition? In the spirit of Halloween, we are sharing the lyrics and English translation to nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim from Raj Khosla’s suspense thriller Woh Kaun Thi? (1964).

In a previous post, we have discussed how Woh Kaun Thi? is the quintessential example of film noir being adapted for vintage Hindi cinema.  In this film, Dr. Anand (Manoj Kumar) encounters a mysterious woman (Sadhana) on a stormy night and offers to give her a ride in his car. After she makes a strange request to be dropped off at a local cemetery, he hears this woman sing the first part of nainaa barse – a song that continues to haunt him at various points throughout the film. Later in the movie, Dr. Anand is called to see a patient in an old mansion that is rumored to be haunted. When he arrives at this mansion, the patient has already died and she appears to be the same woman that he encountered on the stormy night. In an even more strange turn of events, Dr. Anand’s fiancee is murdered suddenly by a cyanide injection. To alleviate his grief and loneliness, Dr. Anand is set up by his mother to his marry a new woman named Sandhya. Much to his surprise, Dr. Anand finds on his wedding night that his new wife looks exactly like the supposedly dead woman he gave a ride to in the film’s opening scene! Like Dr. Anand, the audience is left confused as they grapple with the film’s eponymous question: Woh kaun thi? Who was she?

Throughout her career, Lata Mangeshkar earned a reputation for her haunting renditions of ghost songs in films. Some of her most influential and beautiful hits are used as ghost songs in their respective movies: aayegaa aanevaalaa from Mahal (1949), tuu jahaa.n jahaa.n chalegaa from Mera Saaya (1966), kahii.n diip jale kahii.n dil from Bees Saal Baad (1962), and gumnaam hai koii from Gumnaam (1965). In an interview for her 80th birthday, the melody queen humorously remarks about her career: mai.n ne sab se zyaadaa gaanaa gaaye hai.n bhuuto.n ke (I have sung the most songs for ghosts!).

An interesting and apt anecdote: when this song was being filmed in Kufri (near Shimla), Lata had not yet had the opportunity to record the song in the studio. Much to the surprise of the crowd that had gathered to watch the filming, actress Sadhana shot her scenes by lip-syncing to a version of this song rendered by music director Madan Mohan himself – perhaps a bit creepy but also a rare treat!

Did you know that Woh Kaun Thi? was inspired by a British play called The Woman In White (1859) written by Wilkie Collins? Raj Khosla’s mentor Guru Dutt had attempted to create a film based on the same story a few years earlier in 1959. He abandoned this project entitled Raaz in which he was supposed to play the male lead while Waheeda Rehman played the female lead. Interestingly, this film was supposed to have been R.D. Burman’s debut as a solo music director.

-Mr. 55
MK

Manoj Kumar plays a confused doctor who is recurrently haunted by a mysterious woman and her song in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Version 1): Lyrics and Translation

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved.
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

yeh laakho.n gham, yeh tanhaayii
Thousands of sorrows and this solitiude
muhabbat kii yeh rusvaayii
are all part of love’s disgrace. 
kaTii aisii kaii raate.n
I have spent several such nights
na tum aaye na maut aayii
where neither you came to me, nor my death. 
yeh bi.ndiyaa kaa taaraa
The star of my beauty spot
jaise ho a.ngaaraa
burns brightly like an ember.
mahandii mere haatho.n kii udaas
Even the henna on my hands is sullen.

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved.
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

MK

Manoj Kumar’s restrained and understated performance falls short in comparison to Sadhana’s dynamic portrayal of the leading character in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964).  

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Version 2): Lyrics and Translation

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved. 
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

adhuuraa huu.n mai.n afsaanaa
I am an incomplete story. 
jo yaad aauu.n chale aanaa
When you remember me, come back to me. 
meraa jo haal hai tujh bin
The state that I am in without you, 
voh aa kar dekhte jaanaa
come to me and see it for yourself. 
bhiigii bhiigii palke.n
My eyelashes are moist, 
chham-chham aa.nsuu chhalke.n
as my tears drip, sounding like the jingle of an anklet.  
khoyii khoyii aa.nkhe.n hai.n udaas
My eyes are lost and sullen.

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved. 
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

Sadhana

Sadhana’s dashing beauty shines against the backdrop of Shimla in the Himalayas in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Version 3): Lyrics and Translation

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved.
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

voh din merii nigaaho.n me.n
Those days remain in my eyes. 
voh yaade.n merii aaho.n me.n
Those memories remain in my sighs. 
yeh dil ab tak bhaTaktaa hai
This heart still wanders
terii ulfat kii raaho.n me.n
along the paths of your love. 
suunii suunii raahe.n, sahmii sahmii baahe.n
Along those empty paths, with my nervous arms, 
aan.kho.n me.n hai barso.n kii pyaas
my eyes carry a thirst unslaked for years.

nazar tujh bin machaltii hai
My sight wavers without you. 
muhabbat haath maltii hai
My love repents in desperation. 
chalaa aa mere parvaane
Please come to me, my moth. 
vafaa kii shamaa jaltii hai
The candle of faithfulness still burns brightly. 
o mere hamraahii, phirtii huu.n ghabraayii
Oh, my soulmate! I wander about afraid. 
jahaa.n bhii hai, aa jaa mere paas
Wherever you are, please come to me.

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved. 
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

Glossary

nainaa: eyes; barasnaa: to rain; rimjhim: onomatopoeia for the dripping noise of rain; aavan: return, arrival; aas: hope; adhuuraa: incomplete; afsaanaa: story; haal: state, condition; palak: eyelid, eyelash; chham-chham: onomatopoeia for the jingling noise of an anklet; chhalaknaa: to drip; udaas: sullen, gloomy; tanhaayii: solitude; rusvaayii: disgrace; maut: death; bi.ndiyaa: beauty spot; angaaraa: cinder, ember; mahandii: henna, nigaah: eyes; aah: sigh; sahmaa: nervous; baras: year; pyaas: thirst; nazar: glance, sight; machalnaa: to waver; haath malnaa: to repent; parvaanaa: moth; vafaa: faithfulness; shamaa: candle; hamraahii: soulmate, companion; phirnaa: to wander about; ghabraayaa: afraid.

Sadhana

     Those eyes! 

Spooky Songs of Classic Bollywood: The 15 Most Haunting Melodies of Yesteryear

Biswajeet Bees Saal Baad film noir kahin deep jale

Biswajeet is haunted by a mysterious voice singing of love and murder in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Happy Halloween! What better way to give yourself the creeps than with a vintage Hindi film song! Mr. 55 and I once hosted a Spooky Song-themed study break on-campus during which we projected old Hindi film noirs on a large screen, drank rooh afza and jammed nerdily to Lata’s high notes. Was it any surprise the two of us were the only ones really having an awesome time? Join us in our countdown to the spookiest song of classic Bollywood! When I say scary, I’m not referring to Vinod Khanna’s lime green tuxedo in Aan Milo Sajna (although it might give you nightmares). I’m talking about the real deal here. These are songs that will keep you up at night, that will haunt your waking moments as you grapple with the symbolism. And if you see a mysterious woman in a white-sari floating around your house this evening…well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

The Fifteen Scariest Songs from Old Hindi Films!

15. Tujhko Pukare Mera Pyar (Neel Kamal 1968)

Few things are scarier than being buried alive. Rajkumar haunts his Mughal-era lover through the ages even when she is reborn as a 1960s desperate housewife.

14. Gagan Jhanjhana Rah (Nastik 1954)

This song is a hidden gem. Hemant Kumar actually impersonates God in this song with a voice that booms from the heavens amidst a stormy apocalpyse. The chorus is so darn creepy in this song, you might feel real chills from the wind sound effects mixed into the song!

13. Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

What makes this song so spooky and yet so beautiful? It’s all in the lighting and the spectres lingering in the room–read our translation for more!

12. Jayen To Jayen Kahan (Taxi Driver 1954)

In our translation of this all-time creeper, we discuss the emptiness of the song’s mis-en-scene to heighten a feeling of abandonment, leaving you nothing but Dev Anand’s perfect pompadour to ease the pain.

11. Akele Hain Chale Aao (Raaz 1967)

While the movie Raaz may be a clunk, “Akele Hain” (that is reprised in a male and female version!) will certainly leave you clawing after your security blanket. Insider hint: Rajesh Khanna takes his shirt off later on in the movie if you can sit through the rest of the film.

10. Raat Andheri (Aah 1953)

In this heartbreaking social drama, Raj Kapoor plays a handsome tuberculosis patient unable to marry the girl of his dreams because of his illness. In the throes of self-pity, the minor key music haunts him as his own life slips away. Tragic, yes, but mostly just creepy.

9. Sau Baar Janam Lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad 1963)

Mohammed Rafi’s unearthly beautiful voice echoes through the mist in this song like a phantom from the other world. The woman in mourning seems ready to commit suicide at any moment during the song, keeping the audience on their toes!

8. Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

This gentle song of disillusioned love beckons you in like a tantalizing dream, and then drags you to perdition as you scream over the ethereal chorus. Our earlier translation of Dekhi Zamane discusses the transitions of the song from fantasy to absolute nightmare!

7. Koi Duur Se Aawaz De Chale Aao (Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam 1962)

One of my favorite songs in this genre, Guru Dutt is awakened in the middle of the night by a tender lament floating through the halls of the large empty mansion in which he works. Who is this mysterious and sad woman with the enchanting song? You HAVE to watch this genius star-studded film and find out!

6. Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din (Mera Naam Joker 1970)

Good thing I don’t have a fear of clowns or this song would have permanently wrecked my childhood. Raj Kapoor plays a circus performer who has lost all those he has ever loved. He enters a private Hell in which he is bound to perform in his clown garb to an unfeeling audience, always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. Brace yourself for several attempts at artsy camera tricks to make him float that could not be more creepy.

5. Gumnaam Hai Koi (Gumnaam 1965)

Based on the Agatha Christie novel “And Then There Were None,” Gumnaam is a kitsch-lovers delight. Drop-dead gorgeous (literally) Lata Mangeshkar’s voice haunts a group of travelers as they meander through a nameless forest. Newsflash! The “ghost” of this song actually chimes in with a high-pitch thrill when the music goes quiet, so listen carefully!

4. Naina Barse (Woh Kaun Thi? 1964)

One of the best examples of a femme fatale in Hindi films, “Naina Barse” is sung by a ghostly woman haunting her lover from a former lifetime. Her flowing white sari against the endless, crisp white snow of a Simla winter set the perfect stage for a nightmare. The woman in a white sari is a classic cliche–read more about its meaning here!

3. Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil (Bees Saal Baad 1964)

This song hardly needs an introduction, so famous is its eerie tune. One of the most brilliant shots is the slow crane down from above the chandelier to Biswajeet’s horrified stare at the piano. But has anyone else ever noticed the film version has the interlude violins playing an entire octave lower than in the recorded version?? It totally blew my mind when watching the film–and both ways are equally horrifying!

2. Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat (Kohra 1964)

Stylistic symbolism sets this creepster apart from its competitors. My favorite moment in this song is when the shadow figures do an interpretive dance in the sand, acting out the “choDo piyaa mera, choDo haath” line. I get chills every time I watch this–the cinematography is genuinely brilliant and haunting!

1. Aayega Aanewala (Mahal 1949)

Welcome to the spookiest song of Bollywood! Nothing will ever top the song that officially taught Bollywood everything it needed to know about horror. Don’t expect any corpses to pop out of the closet–this song is way to classy for that. See our translation of this unbeatable classic for more!

So…I know I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. What are your favorite spooky songs from Bollywood films? Tell us the scenes that have haunted your waking hours for years (think Sadhana declaring “Mujhe khoon achha lagtaa hai” on a rainy night)! Mr. 55 and I both hope you have a very Happy Halloween!

– Mrs. 55

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails...

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails…tie a chunni on your head.

Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Manoj Kumar Shokh Nazar Ki Woh Kaun Thi ice skating

Looking extra-special in a French beret, Manoj Kumar goes for a spin on the ice in “Woh Kaun Thi” (1964).

Today we present the lyrics and English translation to the playful wintertime number “Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyaan” in honor of the Winter Olympics 2014 figure skating competition! My life goes on temporary hold when the Winter Olympics rolls around. I always root vehemently for Team USA, especially in my favorite of all Olympic competitions: Women’s Figure Skating! Have you ever asked why India never participates in figure skating? Today’s showcased song “Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyan” will prove that it’s not because India lacks talent!

After suffering a series of severe shocks as the hero of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964), Manoj Kumar takes a trip to Simla with his co-worker Praveen Chaudhary to forget his woes. Praveen Chaudhary, who is not-so-secretly in love with him, takes the opportunity to seduce her man with a pair of skates in a way no woman had dared before. Enter Bollywood On Ice!

Praveen Chaudhary Manoj Kumar Woh Kaun Thi ice skating

Praveen Chaudhary playfully pushes Manoj Kumar around the Simla Ice Skating Club in Woh Kaun Thi (1964).

After watching her B-grade flirtatious efforts in this song and comparing them to heroine Sadhana’s subtle performance in “Lag Ja Gale” from the same film, it’s easy to discern which lucky lady Manoj Kumar ultimately chooses. To drive the point home, did you further notice how Praveen is wearing a garish “Western” outfit while Sadhana consistently dresses in saaris? Manoj Kumar may be no Evgeni Plushenko, but his moves always seemed to get all the girls!

“Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyan” was actually picturised on a famous ice-skating rink, the Simla Ice Skating Club, that is still popular in downtown Simla today! In fact, my own father fondly recalls his childhood in Simla, skating at this very rink where evidently they used to blast the gramophone record of Woh Kaun Thi through their speakers so the songs could be heard for miles around! My father also claims that the kid who adorably falls down in the middle of the song is none other than my own uncle, but this has been vehemently rebuked at many a family reunion.

random kids shokh nazar ki bijliyan woh kaun thi ice skating

Kid, if you ever stumble across this blog, write to us! Did you grow up to become a famous cardiothoracic surgeon? Are you a spoken word poet? Do you sell aloo-puri along the roads of Himachal Pradesh? I NEED TO KNOW what happened to you.

But enough chat. Join us in the spirit of the Winter Olympics with a little romantic ice-skating brought to you by Asha Bhonsle and music composer extraordinaire Madan Mohan. Watch the gold medal-worthy performance here, and follow along with our full English translation and lyrics to “Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyaan” below!

Shokh Nazar Ki Bijliyaan Lyrics and English Translation:

Shokh nazar ki bijliyaa.N dil pe mere giraaye jaa
Let the lightening bolts of your mischievous glances fall upon my heart
Meraa na kuch khayaal kar, tu yuu.N hii muskuraaye jaa
Do not worry about me, you keep on smiling

Jaag uThii hai aarzuu jaise chiraagh jal paDe
My desire has arisen as if a lamp has been lit
Ab to wafaa ki raah pe hum tere saath chal paDe
Now I have stumbled upon the path of loyalty with you
Chaahe ha.Nsaaye jaa hame.N, chaahe hume.N rulaaye jaa
If you want, you can keep making me laugh or you can keep making me cry

Chain kahii.N kisii ghaDii aaye na tere bin mujhe
Without you, I find no peace anywhere at any moment
Kaash mai.N is jahaa.N se chhiin luu.N ek din tujhe
If only I could steal you away from this world one day
Main tere saath saath hoon, chahe nazar bachaaye jaa
I am by your side, even if you keep avoiding eye contact

Manzil-e ishq duur hai, duur hi bahut duur hai
The destination of our love is far away, very far away
Aa meraa haath thaam le, ruuh thakan se chuur hai
Come, take my hand, my spirit is broken by fatigue
Apne jahaa.N ko chhoD kar, mere jahaa.N pe chaaye jaa
Leave your world, and keep staying in mine

Glossary:

shokh: mischievous, playful; nazar: glance, eyes; bijli: lightening; dil: heart; giraanaa: to let fall; khayaal: thought: yuu.N hii: in this manner, like this; muskuraanaa: to smile; jaag uThnaa: to wake up, to arise; aarzuu: desire; chiraagh: lamp, flame; wafaa: loyalty, faith; raah: path; [kisii ke] saath: by [someone’s] side, together; ha.Nsaanaa: to make laught; rulaanaa: to make cry; chain: peace of mind; ghaDii: moment; kaash: if only; jahaa.N: world; ek din: one day; manzil: destination; ishq: love; duur: far away; haath thaamnaa: to take [someone’s] hand; ruuh: spirit, soul; thakan: exhaustion; chuur: broken

mrs 55 ice skating rockefeller center nyc

Practicing my triple Lutz at the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink in New York City!

ice skatin grockefeller center

Me and some of my roommates (soon to be bridesmaids!), holding up ice skating rink traffic.

You may notice that there’s a discrepancy between the lyrics of the version you see in the video and the ones you may hear on your audio version. Each one has a different second stanza! This comes back to an old sore point I’ve made before about how record companies short-changed Hindi film songs when making the final LP!

-Mrs. 55

Lag Ja Gale Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Maybe only a hardcore fanatic like me would know this, but today (September 28th) is Lata Mangeshkar’s birthday! Mrs 55 and I would like to wish our favorite melody queen many happy returns of the day as she turns 83 years young.

Lata Mangeshkar (1929- )

Given this special occasion, I have decided to share one of my all-time favorite songs sung by Lata Mangeshkar: lag jaa gale from Raj Khosla’s classic film noir Woh Kaun Thi? (1964). I am often asked to name my favorite Lata song, but I find this request to be challenging because there are simply too many gems to narrow it down to one choice. Instead, I feel compelled to produce a list and I can say that this song consistently makes my top ten compilation of personal favorites rendered by India’s beloved nightingale.

Sadhana displays an ethereal beauty in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Penned by Raja Mehndi Ali Khan and composed by Madan Mohan, this song has been immortalized as a veritable gem of the Hindi film music industry. Through an expression of carpe diem philosophy, these lyrics encourage listeners to live in the moment and cherish their loved ones now before the opportunity escapes in the future. The beautiful simplicity of these lyrics is enhanced by a sublime melody crafted by Madan Mohan–one of his career’s finest. Lata Mangeshkar’s voice is also at its heavenly best here, and her flawless rendition takes this song to the next level. It is certainly no mystery why this song has survived the test of time as one of Bollywood’s most cherished musical numbers. As you follow along with our translation and glossary below, I hope that you enjoy this masterpiece whose beauty has brought joy to countless listeners (myself included!) over the years.

-Mr. 55

Lag Ja Gale: Lyrics and Translation

lag jaa gale ki phir yah hasii.n raat ho na ho
Embrace me, for this beautiful night may come no more. 
shayad phir is janam me.n mulaaqaat ho na ho
Perhaps, in this life, we may never meet again.

ham ko milii hai.n aaj ye ghaDiyaa.n nasiib se
We are fortunate to share these moments today.
jii bhar ke dekh liijiye ham ko qariib se
Wholeheartedly take a look at me from up close,
phir aap ke nasiib me.n yah baat ho na ho
As your fate may never hold this opportunity again.
shayad phir is janam me.n mulaaqaat ho na ho
Perhaps, in this life, we may never meet again. 

paas aaiye ki ham nahii.n aaye.nge baar baar
Come close to me, for I will not return again and again.
baahe.n gale me.n Daal ke ham ro le.n zaar-zaar
Wrapping my arms around your neck, I will continue to weep. 
aa.nkho.n se phir yah pyaar kii barsaat ho na ho
My eyes may never shed such a storm of love again. 
shayad phir is janam me.n mulaaqaat ho na ho
Perhaps, in this life, we may never meet again.

lag jaa gale ki phir yah hasii.n raat ho na ho
Embrace me, for this beautiful night may come no more. 

Glossary

gale lag jaanaa: to embrace; hasii.n: beautiful; janam: birth, life; mulaaqaat: meeting;  ghaDiyaa.n: moments; nasiib se: fortunately; nasiib: fate, destiny; jii bhar ke: wholeheartedly; qariib se: up close; baahe.n: arms; galaa: neck; zaar-zaar ro lenaa: to weep continuously; barsaat: storm.

Sadhana enchants Manoj Kumar with her mysterious allure in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Defining Bollywood Film Noir

Sadhana enters a graveyard as the femme fatale of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

In the U.S. historians and film theorists have debated for decades about the meaning of the elusive term: “film noir.” Although many of us conjure an image of a hard-boiled detective and a mystery made more mysterious by the femme fatale, few “film noirs” actually contain these elements. This so-called genre had its roots in German Expressionism with films like Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and in depression-era crime novels. But what does the term “film noir” mean as it applies to Hindi cinema? What are the hallmarks of this genre as it played out in Bollywood and how did it begin?

I will present five films that I propose to be in the genre of Indian film noir. This is no easy task. Just as the term is vague in the American lexicon, so too does it only hazily engulf a variety of Hindi films with low-key lighting. And so I shall begin with an illustrative example. We can debate the precise definition of the genre until the end of time, but I think I can safely say that whatever Indian film noir is, Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) is Indian film noir.

Woh Kaun Thi? has 4 main basic elements. The first is in its distinct cinematographic style and setting—low-key lighting throughout a mysterious mansion and slow unhurried shots with a somber film score to match. The film gives a sense of the world being trapped in a fatalistic dream, whether alone by a graveyard or in a crowd of dancing people.

The second is the film’s overall tone and pacing—there is an uncomfortable sense of being pursued, of an impending doom unless a mystery is solved in time by the hero. Unlike in American film noir, the hero is no cynic and there is no quick sardonic dialogue to off-set the dreary mood. The hero is instead a righteous and innocent man of affairs, an heir to a fortune who becomes a victim. Though mingled with occasional musical highs, the film spirals from a slow and deliberate set-up to a climax closer and closer to complete ruin.

An interesting element of many American film noirs is the flash-back structure, which takes on an interesting form in their Indian counterparts. Woh Kaun Thi? centers around a mysterious background that occurred in the protagonist’s past life. Because the audience of Hindi films was largely composed of practicing Hindus, the world of reincarnation narrative is able to begin on a new and creatively extremely fertile ground. The hero must revisit through song, hearsay, and secrets events that took place in a past life, but whose consequences (whether karma or otherwise) now haunt him. This is the third element.

Fourthly, the film does indeed revolve around the appearance and (mis)guidance of the femme fatale, who is heard singing alluring, tragic songs. The hero is never able to wholly communicate with her, but her intentions are clearly marked with a deadly undertone. The femme fatale remains an elusive character–sometimes he chases after her, sometimes she chases after him—when her story is fully told, only then can the mystery be solved.

The films below can be placed into the category of Indian film noir along with Who Kaun Thi?:

Mahal (1949): Perhaps the grandfather of this genre, Mahal tells of a man tortured and madly in love with an apparition who haunts his mansion and claims a connection from an earlier life. The film also features the haunting vocals of Lata Mangeshkar’s all-time hit Aayegaa Aanewaalaa.

Madhubala mesmerizes Ashok Kumar in Mahal (1949)

Madhumati (1958): This classic Vijayantimala-Dilip Kumar blockbuster is told in flashback to a previous lifetime of the murder of the woman the hero still loves. The gently alluring Aajaa Re Pardesi encompasses the film’s themes of love and debts spanning several lifetimes.

Vijayantimala is reincarnated to find her lover once more in Madhumati (1958)

Bees Saal Baad (1961): A rich man comes to live in his new mansion and must solve a tragedy and murder that occurred 20 years earlier. The film contains a brilliant surprise ending, and Lata Mangeshkar scores once again with the beautiful Kahin Deep Jale, Kahin Dil.

Biswajeet follows a mysterious voice in Bees Saal Baad (1961)

Kohra (1964): This twist on Hitchcock’s Rebecca is told through the eyes of a female protagonist, living in a large, unexplored mansion that is haunted by the apparition of her husband’s first wife. Waheeda Rehman must discover the true circumstances surrounding the first wife’s death before she is driven insane. The song of the femme fatale (Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat) is an absolutely genius and rare example of symbolic imagery in montage to create a feeling of horror from the song.

Waheeda Rehman sees a ghostly vision atop her mansion roof in Kohra (1964)

There are some films that contain one or more of the above elements that I have not classified as Indian film noir. These include Mera Saaya, Gumnaam, and Karz, for different reasons–often overall tone or cinematographic style. Additionally, others might argue that these films should not be categorized at all as Indian film noir, but rather as Indian gothic horror films or other such genres. Watch some of these classics and let us know your take on this chapter in cinematic history!

– Mrs. 55