Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se Lyrics & Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman in Ek Anjabi Haseena Se
Sauve but poor boy Rajesh Khanna woos rich girl Zeenat Aman in “Ajnabee” (1974) as her family plots to break up the romance.

Today we showcase the lyrics and English translation of “Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se” from the 1974 Rajesh Khanna-Zeenat Aman film Ajnabee, whose evergreen soundtrack far outshined its earnings at the box office. The film initially follows the well-worn Bollywood playbook of a poor boy falling for a rich girl, fighting against her greedy, scheming family.

As the first song in the film, “Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se” sets the bar incredibly high for the musical numbers to follow. With Kishore Kumar’s strong vocals, R.D. Burman delivers one of the most charming ballads of the 1970s. In “Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se,” Rajesh Khanna weaves the tale of how he met and fell in love with a stranger in the middle of party attended by said “stranger.” Tension rises during the song as she wonders if he will publicly give her away as the object of his love (I mean, what could be more humiliating for a conservative Bollywood heroine)?

So naturally, halfway through the song, he makes all the women line up, bend over, and he circles behind them to pin a handkerchief on the one he is singing about.

Umm

What the…?

Rajesh Khanna Ajnabee 1974
Rajesh Khanna charms the crowd by singing “Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se” from Ajnabee (1974). I can’t say I love the pentagonal shape of Rajesh Khanna’s hair for most of the 1970s, but obviously I’ll still take it.

Oh, you read that correctly. The ensuing game of “pin the tail on the party guest” is every moment as bizarre as you imagine. Luckily, after these flirtatious antics, the couple eventually does get together and the film pivots in its second half to a more sophisticated tone. The film makes a nice attempt to tackle changing gender roles in a modern marriage, and even broaches the subject of the right to choose (regarding abortion). Not at all what you were expecting, right??

With romantic lyrics by Anand Bakshi, this song smoothly overcomes the brief lapse in sanity of its picturization. Check out our English translation and lyrics of “Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se” from Ajnabee (1974) below:

Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se Lyrics & English Translation:

Ek ajnabii hasiinaa se yuu.N mulaaqaat ho gayii
I met a beautiful girl this way
Phir kyaa huaa, yeh na puuchho, kuch aisii baat ho gayii
Do not ask what happened next, something like this happened

Woh achaanak aa gayii, yuu.N nazar ke saamne
She came suddenly before my eyes 
Jaise nikal aayaa ghaTaa se chaa.Nd
As if the moon had emerged from a cloud
Chehre pe zulfe.N bikharii hui thii
Her hair billowed across her face
Din mei.N raat ho gayii
And day turned into night

Jaan-e man jaan-e jigar, hotaa mai.N shaair agar
Life of my soul, life of my heart, if I had been a poet
Kehtaa ghazal terii adaao.N par
I would recite poems about your grace
Mai.N ne yeh kaha to mujhse khafaa woh
I told her this, but she became angry with me
Jaane hayaa ho gayii
Who knows what shame she felt

Khuubsurat baat yeh, chaar pal kaa saath yeh
These are beautiful words, but this was a fleeting union
Saari umar mujhko rahegaa yaad
Those memories will stay with me my whole life
Mai.N akelaa thaa magar, ban gayii woh hamsafar
I was alone, but she became my life companion
Woh mere saath kho gayii
We became lost together

Ek ajnabii hasiinaa se yuu.N mulaqaat ho gayii
I met a beautiful girl this way
Phir kyaa huaa, yeh na puuchho, kuch aisii baat ho gayii
Do not ask what happened next, something like this happened

Glossary:

ajnabii: stranger; hasiinaa: beautiful woman; mulaaqaat: meeting; phir: then, next; puuchhnaa: to ask; achaanak: suddenly; nazar: gaze, eyes; nikal aanaa: to come out, to emerge; ghaTaa: cloud; chaa.Nd: moon; chehraa: face; zulf: hair; bikharnaa: to billow; din: day; raat: night; man: soul; jigar: liver (I wrote ‘heart’ above for simplicity, but technically, this is a Farsi-derived term for liver, another vital organ and term of endearment); shaair: poet; ghazal: couplet; adaa: grace, style; khafaa: angry; hayaa: shame; khuubsurat: beautiful; chaar pal: a few moments (four moments); saaraa: entire; umar: lifetime; yaad: memory; akelaa: alone; hamsafar: fellow traveler, companion; saath: together; kho jaanaa: to become lost

Ek Ajnabee Haseena Se awkward game
In this uncomfortable and wholly unnecessary party game, Rajesh Khanna acts as though he’s about to pin the tail on the donkey, I mean, on his secret crush…?? UGH. Why.

We know monsoon season has come to an end, but it’s worth noting that these two had another famous moment in this film that made our list of the top 15 Bollywood rain songs! It’s mildly awkward for other reasons, but after watching this number, I know you’ll be ready.

– Mrs. 55

Zeenat Aman pretending to play guitar in Yaadon ki Baraat

Chura Liya Hai Lyrics & Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Zeenat aman chura liya hai asha bhonsle
Zeenat Aman opens “Chura Liya Hai” with a perfectly harmonious clanking of bar goblets in Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973). R.D. Burman achieved this sound by actually clanking a spoon against a glass!

Today we showcase the lyrics and English translation to “Chura Liya Hai” from retro classic Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973).

The robust musical composition of “Chura Liya Hai” is nothing short of genius: its instrumental experimentation and rich layers of orchestral nuance are what made R.D. Burman such a radical revolutionary in the industry. But first we must start by discussing the comical opening sequence of Zeenat Aman fake guitaring. I’m sorry, but this can’t be ignored, nor can anyone’s feelings about it be overstated.

Have you ever seen someone play the guitar, Zeenat? Does the timing of when you pluck strings and when the guitar emits sound make sense to you? Or were you rushing through the scene because Elvis was calling and wanted his white jumpsuit back?

Zeenat Aman pretending to play guitar in Yaadon ki Baraat
Abandoning all pretense, Zeenat Aman gives her guitar a hug in Yaadon ki Baraat (1973).

I’ll move on. Director Nasir Hussein’s hit film Yaadon Ki Baraat plays upon the classic Hindi film trope of three-brothers-separated-in-childhood who reunite as adults and serve up some nice cold justice on a platter. I’m waiting for someone to remix this as a sister story with a welcome whiff of feminism, but it’s fine. While I would argue Waqt and Amar, Akbar, Anthony made far more note-worthy contributions to cinema, Yaadon Ki Baraat was a formulaic commercial success despite the gauche performance by its leading man Vijay Arora. And yes, I have strong feelings about those protruding ruffles on his tuxedo shirt, but I’ll spare you.

Vijay Arora in Chura liya hai.png
Vijay Arora casually throws the guitar he does not know how to hold over his shoulder in “Chura Liya Hai” from Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973). In doing so, Zeenat realizes she has found someone who truly understands her.

Vijay Arora plays one of the three brothers who falls for the wealthy daughter of his adoptive father’s employer (played by Zeenat Aman). With vocals that have reached peak Rafi perfection (just years before his voice took a turn for the husky), Vijay easily lands the girl by transforming “Chura Liya Hai” into a flirtatious duet when he pipes up mid-way through the number.

We hope you enjoy our lyrics and English translation to “Chura Liya Hai” below! God bless you, Majrooh Sultanpuri. Punjabi words like lahuu never make it to mainstream Bollywood songs.

Chura Liya Hai Lyrics & English Translation:

ASHA: Churaa liyaa hai tumne jo dil ko
If you steal my heart
Nazar nahii.N churaanaa, sanam
Do not steal your gaze away from me, my beloved
Badal ke merii tum zindagaanii
Even as you change my life
Kahii.N badal na jaanaa, sanam
Do not go and change yourself, my beloved

Ho! le liyaa dil, oh! Haaye meraa dil!
Oh you have taken my heart! Oh, sigh, my heart!
Haaye, dil lekar mujhko na behlaanaa
Sigh, as you take my heart, do attempt to pacify me

Churaa liyaa hai tumne jo dil ko
If you steal my heart
Nazar nahii.N churaanaa, sanam
Do not steal your gaze away from me, my beloved
Badal ke merii tum zindagaanii
Even as you change my life
Kahii.N badal na jaanaa, sanam
Do not go and change yourself, my beloved

Bahar banke aauu.N kabhii tumhaarii duniyaa mei.N
I will become the Spring and enter your world
Guzar na jaaye yeh din kahii.N issii tamannaa mei.N
Let my days not disappear with this desire
Tum mere ho, ho! tum mere ho, aaj tum itnaa waadaa karte jaanaa
You are mine, oh! You are mine, today you can only leave if you promise me this

Churaa liyaa hai tumne jo dil ko
If you steal my heart
Nazar nahii.N churaanaa, sanam
Do not steal your gaze away from me, my beloved
Badal ke merii tum zindagaanii
Even as you change my life
Kahii.N badal na jaanaa, sanam
Do not go and change yourself, my beloved

RAFI: Ho! sajaau.Ngaa luT kar bhi tere badan ki Daali ko
Oh! I would destroy myself to decorate the branches of your body
Lahuu jigar ka duu.Ngaa hasii.N labo.N ki laalii ko
I will give the blood from my heart for the rouge of your lips
Hai wafaa kyaa is jahaa.N ko, ek din dikhlaa duu.Ngaa mai.N diiwaanaa
One day, this crazy man will show the world what a true promise is

Churaa liyaa hai tumne jo dil ko
If you steal my heart
Nazar nahii.N churaanaa, sanam
Do not steal your gaze away from me, my beloved
Badal ke merii tum zindagaanii
Even as you change my life
Kahii.N badal na jaanaa, sanam
Do not go and change yourself, my beloved

Ho! le liyaa dil, oh! Haaye meraa dil!
Oh you have taken my heart! Oh, sigh, my heart!
Haaye, dil lekar mujhko na behlaanaa
Sigh, as you take my heart, do attempt to pacify me

Churaa liyaa hai tumne jo dil ko
If you steal my heart
Nazar nahii.N churaanaa, sanam
Do not steal your gaze away from me, my beloved
Hmmm hmmm hmmmm
Hmmm hmmm hmmmm

Glossary:

churaanaa: to steal; dil: heart; nazar: gaze; sanam: beloved; badalnaa: to change; zindagaanii: life; behlaanaa: to pacify; Bahaar: Spring; duniyaa: world; guzaar jaanaa: to pass; tamannaa: desire; waadaa: promise; sajaanaa: to decorate; luT: ruin, destruction; badan: body; Daalii: branch; lahuu: blood [Panjabi]; jigar: liver/heart; hasii.N: beautiful; lab: lips; laalii: redness; jahaa.N: world; din: day; dikhlaanaa: to show; diiwaanaa: crazy (in love), a la Beyonce

Vijay Arora and Zeenat Aman in Yaadon Ki Baarat.png
Zeenat Aman and Vijay Arora  act all like they didn’t notice the other one is singing straight at them in “Chura Liya hai” from Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973).

You guys might recall that album “You’ve Stolen My Heart” by the Kronos Quartet and Asha Bhonsle in 2005. It features this song…and let’s just say, my heart didn’t get stolen. To me, this song could not be improved upon–and I rarely ever question the absolute sublimity of a Rafi-Lata duet. Here, I have come to appreciate what Asha uniquely brings to this song–a kind of vivacity and playfulness that Lata would have done very differently–and I wouldn’t change it even if I could!

-Mrs. 55

Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

 

asdf
Amitabh Bacchan and Zeenat Aman share a romantic moment during a glamorous gondola ride shot in Venice, Italy for The Great Gambler (1979).

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to an all-time hit song from The Great Gambler (1979): do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii. Directed by Shakti Samanta, this action film starring Amitabh Bacchan in a dual role takes the audience on a cosmopolitan journey through a variety of exotic locales including Cairo, Rome, Lisbon, Amsterdam, and Egypt. While the film itself has not much to offer over other masala films released during this period of Hindi cinema, the soundtrack’s crowning gem do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii is cherished by audiences to this day. In fact, watch Asha Bhonsle (at the age of 80!) dazzle the audience with this song here accompanied by the Metropole Orchestra at The Hague in 2013.

do lafzon kii hai dil kii kahaanii can be considered a natural successor to previous boat songs directed by Shakti Samanta, such araat ke humsafar  (An Evening in Paris, 1967) and chingaarii koii bhaDke (Amar Prem, 1972). The exotic picturization as well as the exquisite lilting melody make this song a stand-out among the other lackluster items found on the film’s soundtrack, which was composed by R.D. Burman and penned by Anand Bakshi. To infuse a dose of authentic Italian charm, the lyricist has included a few words of Italian in the song’s introduction–I’m certainly not an Italian expert, but my attempt at translating these lines is also presented below.

While the choice of veteran songstress Asha Bhonsle as the playback singer for heroine Zeenat Aman is no surprise, the choice of Sharad Kumar as the voice of the gondolier is rather interesting. Sharad Kumar Bader is an actor/singer who achieved fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s for his imitative renditions of songs originally performed by the one and only Elvis Presley. In addition to touring the globe for concerts where he sang Elvis numbers decked out in The King’s trademark jumpsuits, Sharad also received a break in Bollywood as an actor in films such as Paisa Ya Pyar (1969) and Zameen Aasman (1972) with the support of Shobhana Samarth (mother of actresses Tanuja and Nutan).  After his brief stint in the film industry, Sharad moved to Canada where he worked as an insurance agent and opened a vegetarian Indian food company called Zara’s Gourmet Kitchen with his wife Gita Bader. A colorful career path indeed!

What is your favorite foreign destination featured in a vintage Bollywood song? Let us know in the comments! Until next time…

-Mr. 55

Venice
Venice’s Grand Canal and its rich tradition of gondoliering are featured prominently in this all-time fan favorite song.

Do Lafzon Ki Hai Dil Ki Kahani: Lyrics and Translation

Sharad Kumar: laa, laa, laa… amore mio, dove sei tu?
My love, where are you?
ti sto cercando, tesoro mio!
I am searching for you, my treasure!

Amitabh Bacchan: “amore mio, dove sei tu..”
ai kyaa gaa rahaa hai?
What is he singing?

Asha Bhonsle: apne pyaar ko yaad kar rahaa hai aur kah rahaa hai ki…
He is remembering his love and saying…

Amitabh Bacchan: na, na, na aise nahii.n! gaa ke sunaao na?
No, not like this! Sing it for me, won’t you?

Asha Bhonsle: gaa ke? acchhaa!
Sing it? Okay!

do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii
The tale of my heart is only two words long.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii
Is it love or is it youth?

Sharad Kumar: amore mio, il tempo vola
My love, time flies.
prendilo, prendilo, amore mio!
Catch it, catch it, my love!

Sdf
The on-screen chemistry shared by the leading pair serves as the backbone for this lighthearted, action-packed, and often nonsensical film.

Asha Bhonsle: dil kii baato.n kaa matlab na puuchho
Please don’t ask me the meaning of my heart’s words.
kuchh aur ham se bas ab na puuchho
Please don’t ask me anything now.
jis ke liye hai duniyaa diivaanii
What the world has gone mad for,
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii?
Is it love or is it youth?

yah kashTiivaalaa kyaa gaa rahaa thaa?
What was that gondolier singing about?
koii ise bhii yaad aa rahaa thaa
He was reminded of someone special
qisse puraane, yaade.n puraanii
along with old tales and old memories.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii?
Is it love or is it youth?

is zindagii ke din kitne kam hai.n
The days of this life are limited in number.
kitnii hai.n khushiyaa.n aur kitne gham hai.n
they are filled with so much joy and so much sorrow.
lag jaa gale se, rut hai suhaanii
So embrace me, in this beautiful season.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii
Is it love or is it youth?

do lafzo.n kii hai dil kii kahaanii
The tale of my heart is only two words long.
yaa hai muhabbat, yaa hai javaanii
Is it love or is it youth?

Glossary

lafz: word; kahaanii: tale; muhabbat: love; javaanii: youth; matlab: meaning; duniyaa: world; kashTiivaalaa: gondolier; qisse: tales; yaade.n: memories; khushiyaa.n: joy; gham: sorrow; gale se lag jaanaa: to embrace; rut: season; suhaanii: lovely, beautiful. 

venetian
A glimpse of Italy at The Venetian hotel from my recent vacation to Las Vegas.

gondola
Vegas’s replica of the Grand Canal–complete with gondolier and Italian serenades!

 

 

Dum Maro Dum Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Zeenat Aman Dev Anand Dum Maro Dum
Zeenat Aman becomes shamelessly intoxicated in front of her brother Dev Anand in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971). More importantly, can someone please burn that hideous floppy straw hat?

Our next lyrics and English translation is the epitome of youthful rebellion and psychadelic glamour: “Dum Maro Dum” from Dev Anand’s 1971 Hare Rama Hare Krishna. The translation could not have come at a more appropriate time–as many of you know, as of 2 weeks ago, medical marijuana is now legalized in Massachusetts. So to all the Harvard seniors getting ready to graduate in a few months, this song is for you! When people think of Asha Bhonsle at her craziest, “Dum Maro Dum” is often the song that comes immediately to mind. It’s seductive, eccentric, and exhibits her full range from those bizarre, unexpected high notes to the fabulous embodiment of character as only Asha knew how. It’s one of incomparable music director R.D. Burman’s greatest works for the ground he broke–putting illicit drugs and societal defiance to the forefront in a youth-targeted song that was so instantly catchy no one could brush it off. Let’s face it, with this song, Zeenat may represent everything we don’t want in our loved ones, but God, does she make it look appealing.

Zeenat Aman Hare Rama Hare Krishna
Gorgeous Zeenat Aman sports a pair of show-stopping 70s shades as a drug addict in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).

Shot in one of Dev Anand’s favorite locations, Kathmandu (remember Jewel Thief, anyone?), Hare Rama Hare Krishna is a politically-driven film against the subversive hippie culture that our hero believes to be distorting the true message of the Hindu ideals it pretends to preach. Dev Anand hunts down his long-lost sister in such a hippie camp and tries to extricate her with tragic results. The film delivers a powerful message without feeling like Manoj Kumar-eqsue patriotic propaganda. I really applaud Dev Anand for making such a bold film that critiques a subject so ignored by his contemporaries and so popular among the masses who bought into it–with a delightfully satirical name like Hare Rama Hare Krishna, the film was a risk and it paid off.

So enjoy our English translation and lyrics to “Dum Maro Dum” below! Follow along with the video and let us know your thoughts on this controversial smash hit in the comments! You know how Zeenat starts the song with a little “Hush!” just before the music starts? I can’t exactly explain why, but I always feel really awkward when I hear it.

Dum Maro Dum Lyrics and Translation

Dam maaro dam miT jaaye gham
Take another hit, all your worries will disappear
Bolo subah shaam hare krishna hare raam
From morning until night sing, “Hare Krishna Hare Ram!”

Duniyaa ne hum ko diyaa kyaa?
What has the world given us?
Duniyaa se hum ne liyaa kyaa?
What have we taken from the world?
Hum sab kii parwaa kare.N kyo.N?
Why should we worry about anyone?
Sab ne humaaraa kiyaa kyaa?
What has anyone does for us?
Dam maaro dam miT jaaye gham…

Chaahe jiye.Nge, mare.Nge
Whether we want to live or to die
Hum na kisii se Dare.Nge
We won’t be afraid of anyone
hum ko na roke zamaanaa
The world won’t be able to stop us
Jo chaahe.Nge hum kare.Nge
For we will do what we want

Dam maaro dam miT jaaye gham
Take another hit, all your worries will disappear
Bolo subah shaam hare krishna hare raam
From morning until night sing, “Hare Krishna Hare Ram!”

Glossary:

dam maarnaa: to take a hit [of marijuana]; miT jaanaa: to disappear; gham: sadness, worries; subah shaam: from morning to night; Hare Krishna Hare Raam: a chant of the Hare Krishna sect popularized by the hippie culture in the 60s and 70s; duniyaa: society, the world; parwaa: worry; zamaanaa: the world

Zeenat Aman Dum Maro Dum
Zeenat Aman suddenly remembers her idyllic drug-free childhood with an emotional outburst of regret in Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971).

For the sake of completeness, I feel compelled to include a translation of Dev Anand’s great comeback to the moral disorder he witnesses among the Hare Krishnas: “Dekho O Diwaano.” “Dekh O Diwano” and indeed the film Hare Rama Hare Krishna, is not a direct attack on the actual Hare Krishna movement, but rather the hippie culture that traveled with it in the 60 and 70s–and by blending the two, confused and disheartened many a contemporary conservative Hindu. Dev Anand makes some brilliant comparisons through example in this song–by drawing upon classic Hindu literature such as the Ramayan story of Lord Ram’s banishment to the forest (“Ram ne ha.Ns kar sab sukh tyaage“) and Krishna’s explanation to Arjun of the meaning of karma in the timeless battlefield of the Mahabharat (“Krishna ne karm ki riit sikhaayi“), Dev Anand makes a clear distinction between lip service and actual belief.

Dekho O Deewano Lyrics and Translation:

Dekho O deewano, tum yeh kaam na karo
Look, Oh crazy people, do not behave like this
Raam kaa naam badnaam na karo
Do not bring dishonor to the name of Ram

Raam ko samjho, Krishna ko jaano
Understand Ram, know Krishna well
Nee.Nd se jaago, O mastaano
Wake up from this sleep, Oh intoxicated ones
Jeet lo man ko paDh kar Geeta
Win back your mind by studying the Geeta
Man hii haaraa, to kyaa jeetaa?
For once you’ve lost your mind, what is there to win?

Hare Krishna, Hare Ram
Hare Krishna, Hare Ram
Jeevan ko nashe ka tum ghulaam na karo
Do not make your life a servant to intoxications
Raam kaa naam badnaam na karo
Do not bring dishonor to the name of Ram

Raam ne ha.Ns kar sab sukh tyaage
With a smile, Ram renounced all his joys
Tum sab dukh se Dar ke bhaage
But you are scared and run away from every grief
Krishna ne karm kii riit sikhaaii
Krishna taught us the tradition of righteous action
Tum ne farz se aa.Nkh churaayii
But you avoid your duties

Hare Krishna, Hare Ram
Hare Krishna, Hare Ram
Jeevan naam hai kaam kaa aaraam na karo
The meaning of life is work, do not rest
Raam kaa naam badnaam na karo
Do not bring dishonor to the name of Ram

Glossary:

badnaam: dishonored; tyaagnaa: to renounce; nee.Nd: sleep; Geeta: the Bhagavad Gita, a religious text within the epic poem the Mahabharat; jeevan: life; nashe: intoxications; ghulaam: servant; riit: culture, tradition; farz: duty; aa.Nkh churaanaa: to avoid; aaraam karna: to rest

While Zeenat Aman and her fellow groupies waste their minds and lives to drugs in the name of Lords Ram and Krishna, Dev Anand reminds the audience of the wrong of even inaction as discussed in the Gita. Classical Hindu dharmic responsibility is not passive, but active and tempered–with no stake in the outcome whether happiness or sadness. It is an ancient theme that you may recall Dev Anand explored years earlier in his 1965 legend Guide. Sadly, Zeenat Aman eventually succumbs to her addiction, and in the end the story returns briefly to the heart of many a great film: a tale of a broken family reunited.

These themes can certainly be pretty volatile subjects, and it’s not our intention to spark a political or religious debate on this forum. So we shall end with a grammar lesson instead: do you know why the “deewaano” and “mastaano” are used instead of simply “deewaane” or “mastaane”? The vocative as used here is a special case! The nasalization “o.N” used in the oblique (eg. “dosto.N ke saath”) is not to be confused with the vocative “o” (eg. “suniye, dosto”) used to address a group directly! People commonly make this sloppy Urdu mistake–so rise above the masses!

But don’t go that high, if you know what I mean. Have fun, Massachusetts.

-Mrs. 55

Plagiarism in Hindi Film Music: Is Imitation the Most Sincere Form of Flattery?

Music directors in the Bollywood industry today are often accused of plagiarizing songs without giving proper credit to the original sources. Pritam Chakraborty, in particular, comes to mind as a composer who has been subjected to such accusations in recent times. Yet, lifting tunes is not a new trend in the industry: its origins can be  traced back to the industry’s earliest days when music directors of the Golden Era composed melodies heavily inspired by unattributed sources. Below, let’s take a listen to some plagiarized works composed by five of the greatest music directors of yesteryear: R.D. Burman, S.D. Burman, Shankar-Jaikishan, Salil Chowdhury, and O.P. Nayyar.

 R.D. Burman

Among the music directors of his time, R.D. Burman was perhaps the most notorious for composing inspired tunes.  Within the list that I’ve provided below, the magnitude of plagiarism varies from song to song. Some numbers below are direct lifts from their originals, such as the cult classic “mahbuubaa mahbuubaa” from Sholay (1975). Others represent more subtle variations of plagiarism: for instance,  the Kishore Kumar classic “dilbar mere kab tak mujhe” only takes it mukhDaa from “Zigeunerjunge” but has original antaras and interludes.  As a musician, I personally feel that the latter form of lifting is somewhat justifiable because it still reflects a level of creativity and originality on the part of the composer. The direct copying of tunes, however, raises ethical concerns and may have even placed music directors like R.D. Burman in legal trouble had such songs been released today.  Regardless of your opinion on this issue, what is universally striking about the list of songs below is the diversity of sources from which R.D. Burman drew his inspiration.  Collectively, the original melodies come from a smorgasbord of musical genres from all over the world: traditional folk, American pop, Greek, German, French, and even Iranian rock!

aao twist kare.n (Bhoot Bangla, 1965)  / “Let’s Twist Again” (Chubby Checker, 1962)
churaa liyaa hai tum ne  (Yaadon Ki Baraat,  1973) / “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (Bojoura, 1969)
teraa mujhse hai pahle kaa naataa koii  (Aa Gale Lag Ja, 1973)/ “The Yellow Rose of Texas” (Traditional)
mahbuubaa, mahbuubaa (Sholay, 1975) / “Say You Love Me” (Demis Roussos, 1974)
mil gayaa ham ko saathii (Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, 1977) / “Mamma Mia” (ABBA, 1975)
jahaa.n terii yah nazar hai (Kaalia, 1981) / “Heleh Maali” (Zia Atabi, 1977)
kaisaa teraa pyaar (Love Story, 1981) / “I Have A Dream” (ABBA, 1979)
dilbar mere kab tak mujhe (Satta Pe Satta, 1982) / “Zigeunerjunge” (Alexandra, 1967)
kahii.n na jaa  (Bade Dilwala, 1983) / “La Vie En Rose” (Edith Piaf, 1955)
tum se milke  (Parinda, 1989) / “When I Need You” (Leo Sayer, 1977)

Zeenat Aman sizzles in “churaa liyaa tum ne” from Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973)

S.D. Burman

Like his son, S.D. Burman has also composed melodies that reflect marked inspiration from foreign sources.  Although we have already investigated the influence of Tagore’s music on S.D. Burman in a previous post, we now observe how his compositions also were inspired by non-Indian genres.  For a composer who was rather traditional in his musical output, who would have imagined that he lifted material from Mexican, Italian, and American country melodies?

chaahe koi khush ho (Taxi Driver, 1954) / “Tarantella” (Traditional)
jiivan ke safar me.n raahii
 
(Munimji, 1955) / “Mexican Hat Dance” (Traditional)
ek laDkii bhiigii bhaagii sii (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, 1958) / “Sixteen Tons” (Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1955)
ham the vah thii (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi, 1958) / “Watermelon Song” (Tennessee Ernie Ford, 1957)
yah dil na hotaa bechaaraa (Jewel Thief, 1967) / “March” (Bridge on the River Kwai, 1957)
saalaa mai.n to sahab ban gayaa (Sagina, 1974) / “Chella Lla” (Renato Carosone, 1959)

The ever-versatile Kishore Kumar stars in a comic role in Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1955)

Shankar-Jaikishan

In my opinion, Shankar-Jakishan were the quintessential music directors of Bollywood’s Golden Age. They combined the authenticity of traditional Indian music with the modern sophistication of Western influences to produce songs that appealed to the masses. It’s not surprising that some of their tunes reflect inspiration from foreign influences, but what is remarkable is that several of the songs listed below are remembered today as some of this duo’s most treasured gems.  Two songs from Chori Chori (1956), two songs from Gumnaam (1965), and the title track of Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai (1961) — among many other hits — were heavily inspired by existing Western numbers. I think you’ll be surprised to see some of your favorites on the list below…

ghar aayaa meraa pardesii (Awaara, 1952) / “Al Balad El Mahboub” (Umm Kulthum)
aajaa sanam madhur chaa.ndnii me.n ham (Chori Chori, 1956) / “Tarantella” (Traditional)
panchii banuu.n uDtii phiruu.n (Chori Chori, 1956) / “Coming Through The Rye” (Traditional)
aigo aigo yah kyaa ho gayaa?
(Boyfriend, 1961) / Stupid Cupid” (Connie Francis, 1958)
jiyaa ho jiyaa kuchh bol do  (Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, 1961) / “Broken-Hearted Melody” (Sarah Vaughan, 1959)
sukuu sukuu (Junglee, 1961) / “Sucu Sucu” (Ping Ping, 1961)
dekho ab to kis ko nahii.n hai khabar (Janwar, 1964) / “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles, 1963 )
gumnaam hai koii (Gumnaam, 1965) / “Charade” (Henry Mancini and Orchestra, 1963)
jaane chaman sholaa badan (Gumnaam, 1965) / “Autumn Leaves” (Nat King Cole, 1956)
le jaa le jaa meraa dil (An Evening in Paris, 1967) / “Man of Mystery” (The Shadows, 1960)
kaun hai jo sapno.n me.n aayaa? (Jhuk Gaya Aasman, 1968) / “Marguerita” (Elvis Presley, 1963)

Rajendra Kumar definitely breaks conventions of automobile safety during the picturization of “kaun hai jo sapno.n me.n aayaa?” from Jhuk Gaya Aasman (1968).

Salil Chowdhury

Salil Chowdhury’s compositions always reflect an intelligent and sophisticated mastery of music that set him apart from his peers in the industry.  Instead of describing the songs listed here as cases of plagiarism, I would be more likely to categorize them as adaptations. When Salil Chowdhury used another Western melody as an inspiration, he always managed to make it his own by adding something special that would resonate with Indian audiences. Take, for example, the evergreen Talat-Lata duet “itnaa mujhse tu pyaar baDhaa.” Although the mukhDaa is clearly inspired by Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, Salil composes new antaras that beautifully complement the original melody.  As another example, consider “bachpan o bachpan” from Memdidi (1961).  Inspired by the children’s rhyme “A Tisket, A Tasket,” Salil takes the melody to a new level of complexity by inserting operatic interludes sung by our beloved diva Lata Mangeshkar.  Bravo!

dharti kahe pukaar ke (Do Bigha Zameen, 1953) / “Meadowlands” (Lev Knipper, 1934)
halke halke chalo saa.nvare (Tangewaali, 1955) / “The Wedding Samba” (Edmund Ros and Orchestra,  1950)
dil taDap taDap ke (Madhumati, 1957) / “Szla Dziewczka” (Traditional)
zindagii hai kyaa, sun merii jaan  (Maya, 1961) / “Theme from Limelight [from 3:27] ” (Charlie Chaplin, 1952)
itnaa na mujhse tu pyaar baDhaa (Chhaya, 1961) / “Molto allegro” from Symphony No. 40 (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1788)
bachpan o bachpan (Memdidi, 1961) / A Tisket, A Tasket” (Traditional)
aa.nkho.n me.n tum ho (Half-Ticket, 1962) / “Buttons and Bows” (Dinah Shore, 1948)

Vijayantimala coyly hides behind a tree in the picturization of “dil taDap taDap ke” from Madhumati (1957)

O.P. Nayyar

O.P. Nayyar is known for his characteristically Western-inspired approach to crafting melodies for Hindi films, but his contribution to our list of directly plagiarized songs is relatively small in comparison to some of his peers in the industry. The most well-known example here is, of course,  the Rafi-Geeta duet “yah hai bambaaii merii jaa.n” which has been lifted from its predecessor “My Darling Clementine.”

baabuujii dhiire chalnaa (Aar Paar, 1954) / “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas(Trio Los Panchos, 1947)
yah hai bambaii merii jaa.n (C.I.D., 1955) / “My Darling Clementine” (Traditional)
lakho.n hai.n yahaa.n dilvaale (Kismat, 1968) / Red River Valley” (Traditional)

Biswajeet hams it up for Babita during the picturization of “lakho.n hai.n yahaa.n dilvaale” in Kismat (1968)

What is your opinion on plagiarism in Hindi film music? Was it acceptable for music directors of this time to lift material from Western sources in order to introduce musical diversity to Indian audiences? Or, is it unethical for such plagiarism to occur without giving credit to the original musicians who created the songs in the first place? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to share any examples that go along the theme of this post!

-Mr. 55