Ya dil ki suno duniya waalon, yaa mujhko abhi chup rehne do….

Music or lyrics? I always ask people this question in today’s age of synthesized Hindi music where lyrics have taken the backseat. A friend once told me that playing music from The Doors guaranteed a cleared out room and an end to the party! Hindi film music today is like The Doors of the days gone by – wonderful music that accompanied lyrics like “There’s a killer on the road, his mind is squirming like a toad!” (Riders on the Storm). Today’s Hindi songs lose their luster within a few weeks, and it is not the musical composition but the words that are the culprit! Look at this from Sameer:

Jadoo se Jadoo kiya re
Uski yaadon mein,
Uske khwabon mein
Jhume jiya re! (quite nice IMO)

And then Crazy Kiya re? Followed by Sexy Lady on the Floor?

Sameer is of course an egregious offender with such lyrics:

Once time touch me like this
I like what you want
What you give its a risk
Two time touch me like this
Together wanna fasa d style the way tat a lover (WTF? and I am struggling for words here)
Three time touch me by far
Gets over here comes the crazy with me in my car

Lyrics that seem to have come straight out of the Hokey Pokey song-
put your left foot it,
pull your left foot out,
put left foot in
and shake it all about…..
Do the Hokey Pokey, and diddly diddly dum
That’s what its all about!

So what is wrong with lyricists today? Why do these songs sound like they are being peddled by wandering transvestite singers of yore? I think they lack sensitivity and soul because they have sacrificed these to the altar of Hinglish and chalu language. There are not many Gulzars today who can use Hinglish and everyday language to spin magic :

Aankhein bhi kamal karti hain
Personal se sawaal karti hain
Palkon ko uthati bhi nahin
Parde ka khayal karti hain

Or

Makke ki roti gud rakh ke
Misri se meethe lab chakh ke
Tandoor jalaa ke jhoom jhoom jhoom

There is an aggressiveness in the language and sentiments to keep in time with the modern age, but it is at the cost of the dreaminess and the symbolism that made us wonder and think about the verse, and come back to it again and again to sample the inherent mystery and allure in the song.

Gone are the days when the poet gently reminded his lover of their past connection:

Who jo hum mein tum mein qarar tha
Tumhe yaad ho ke na yaad ho
Wohi yaani vaada nibah ka
Tumhe yaad ho ki na yaad ho
…..
Kabhi hum mein tum mein bhi chaah thi
Kabhi humse tumse bhi raah thi
Kabhi hum bhi tum bhi the aashna
Tumhe yaad ho ki na yaad ho

(By the way Momin fans should try the Begum Akhtar version – it is divine

And this rare modern one is quite reminiscent of Momin’s gentle pleas (apologies for my Tamil spelling!)

Illei illei sollei oru ganam pothum
Illei yendra sollei thanguvathendral
Innum innum yennukor janamam vendum
Yenna solla pogirai…?

It only takes you a moment to say No.
To bear the hurt
I will have to be born again and again
Oh! What will your answer be…? (Kandukondain Kandukondain – by Vairamuthu)

Today the poet (Vishal) spurs the protagonist on to be bold and not hide his sentiments:

Kadakti heat mein ban jaa dheeth
Nainan se nain mila re,
Baat dil ki na chupa re,
Ho, aaja mujhko tu bata re!

And it not surprising that this occurs in a film where the leading lady whips out her undergarments and gives them to the hero to spread dry! No time for finesse, or obliqueness of any sort.

The biggest loss in the current age of cinema is that of the ghazal. Of course these were best seen in the films where the hero was a shareef Muslim male and expressed his love in most gentle and polite terms (Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam; Chaudavin ka chand ho ya aftaab ho, jo bhi ho tum khuda ki kasam laajawaab ho). But this poetry of rhyming couplets, was used in many contexts and not limited to Muslim themes. The 50 – 70s (and into the 80s or even 90s) saw lyricists like Shakeel Badayuni (yeh zindagi ke mele duniya mein kam na honge – afsos hum na honge; Suhani raat dhal chuki, naa jaane tum kab aaoge);

Majrooh Sultanpuri (Yaad aa gaayin woh nashili nigahen, yaaron thaam lena thaam lena meri baahein; Maana janab ne pukara nahin, kya mera saath bhi gawara nahin);

Sahir Ludhianvi (Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaayen hum dono; Jaane who kaise log the jinke pyaar ko pyaar mila; Choo lene do nazuk hothon ko, kuch aur nahin bas jaam hain yeh);

Hasrat Jaipuri (Tu kahan yeh bata is nashili raat mein, mane na mera dil deewana; Teri zulfon se judaii to nahin mangi thi, qaid mangi thi rihai to nahin mangi thi; and the seductive Tu mere samne hai, teri zulfein hain khuli, tera anchal hai dhala, main bhala hosh mein kaise rahoon);

Anand Bakshi (Tujhe dekha to yeh jaan sanam, pyaar hota hai deewana sanam; Dil kya kare jab kisi ko kisi se pyaar ho jaaye; Jadoo teri nazar, khushboo tera badan, tu haan kar ya naa ker, tu hai meri kiran; Tere mere beech mein kaisa hai yeh bandhan anjaana – the SPB version is to die for!);

Shailendra (Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna hai, aaj phir marne ka irada hai; Dost Dost naa raha. Pyaar pyaar naa raha)

They invoked poetry by their very names! And why are there not more poet who are known by their domicile? Is it a reflection of the mobile and fragmented society of modern times, an indication of unrooted people?

There was also the decline and disappearance of the qawwali. This qawwali had its roots in Sufi devotional music but was used in many different ways in Hindi cinema. From a true devotional experience – the kind of number one would see at a dargah (Maula Salim Chishti, Khwaja Salim Chishti – Garam Hawa) to celebrating a man’s love for his wife (Sahir’s Ai meri zohra jabeen, tujhe maloom nahin, tu abhi tak hai haseen aur main jawaan, tujhpe qurbaan meri jaan meri jaan! – Waqt), qawwalis turned into a competition between two friendly or warring factions. The verve and exuberance that could border on trance was utilized well in songs like Teri mahafil mein kismat aazamaa kar ham bhi dekhenge, Ghadii bhar ko tere nazadiik aakar ham bhI dekhenge (by Shakeel from Mughal-e-azam). Here the competition was the ultimate one – that for the love of a crown prince. The qawwali went into a decline and then recently resurfaced in the devotional form in Maqbool (Tu mere ru baru hai, meri aankhon ki ibadat hai), as a declaration of love in Veer Zaara (Aaaye tere dar pe deewana, tere ishq mein hai ise mar jaana), and as an impudent fusion with pop in Main Hoon Naa (Tumse milke dil ka hai jo haal kya kahen, ho gaya hai kaisa yeh kamala kya kahein). Then a few years later we see it in its purest trance inducing devotional form in Jodhaa Akbar (Khwaja mere khwaja, dil mein samaa jaa). It would seem that there is still some life in the qawwali, but the ghazals and geets are on the verge of gasping for breath!

So is all lost? I pray daily for the long life of Gulzar Saab and Javed Akhtar! They have managed to hold on to some standards and to modernize with class and style. Some modern classics from Gulzar:

1. (played out yes, but undeniably beautiful)
Woh yaar hai jo khushboo ki tarah
Woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah
Meri shaam raat meri qayanaat
Who yaar mera saiyyan saiyyan

(By equating the language of Urdu to poetry and that to the lady’s speech or zubaan, Gulzar forces us to leap from metaphor to metaphor with dizzying speed)

2. Kabhi ankhiyon se peena
Kabhi hothon se peena
Kabhi achcha lage marna
Kabhi mushkil lage jeena

Tez tha jhonka kya karoon, sisi karti main maroon
Dali bhar dala re dala re namak issk kaa

(The contrast that is love – marna/jeena, and the saltiness that flavors the sweetness of love)

3. Tu neel samandar hai, main ret ka saahil hoon
Aaagosh mein lele, main der se pyaasi hoon
Ek sauda raat ka, ek kaudi chand ki
Chahe to chum le tu ek todi chand ki
Ek chand ki kashti mein, chal paar utarna hai
Tu dheere dheera khena dariya na chalke!!

(row slowly, lest the water spill over – and the boat is the moon!)

And Javed Sahab comes close:

1. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga
Jaise Naachta Mor
Jaise Resham Ki Dor
Jaise Pariyon Ka Raag
Jaise Sandal Ki Aag
Jaise Solah Sighaar
Jaise Ras ki Fuhaar
Jaise Aahista Aahista Badhta Nasha!!

(seeing her was like a slowly growing intoxication – I think this is the most amazing analogy I have seen)

2. Yeh jo des hai tera swades hai tera
Tujhe hai pukaara
Miiti ki hai jo khushboo
Tu kaise bhulayega
Tu chahe khin jaaye
Tu laut ke aayega

(amidst all the earnest and sincere yet preachy desh bhakti songs, this one manges to stand out as straight from the heart and reaching into the heart)

3. Koi kahe kehta rahe
Kitane bhi humko deewana
Hum login ki
Thokar mein hai yeh zamaana

(if even a song captures truly the attitude of youth – the invincibility and cockiness and charm, this is it)

Some new names of note:

In Main Meri Patni Aur Woh, Rocky Khanna wrote:
Guncha koi mere naam kar diya…..
Saki ne phir se mera jaam bhar diya…
Tum jaisa koi nahi is jahaan mein
Subah ko teri zulf ne shaam kar diya
Mehfil mein baar baar idhar dekha kiye
aankhon ke zazeeron ko mere naam kar diya

and:
Aaj maine dil se
Badalon se mil ke
Sapno ki barish se
Kaliyaan saja ke
Mehki umango se khusboo churake
Halki se boodoon mein
Lehro ki gunjo mein
hey hey
gum ho jana re
Doob jana re
Mujhko doob jana re
Tere paas aana re
Mujhko doob jana re

In the recent Anwar, lyrics by Sayeed Quadri, Hasan Kamal were astonishingly beautiful:

Maula Mere, Maula Mere
Aankhein Teri, Kitni Haseen
Ki Inkaa Aashiq, Mein Ban Gayaa Hoon
Mujhako Basaa Le, Inme Tu

Mujhase Yeh Har Ghadi, Meraa Dil Kahe
Tum Hi Ho Usaki Aarzoo
Mujhase Yeh Har Ghadi, Mere Lab Kahe
Teri Hi Ho Sab Guftagoo
Baatein Teri Itni Haseen, Main Yaad Inko Jab Kartaa Hoon
Phoolon Si Aaye, Khushboo

For me lyrics are paramount. The combination of beautiful music and soulful lyrics can work simultaneously as an intoxicant and a stimulant! And when they fit well into the narrative, either by reflecting the sentiments on screen (Is mod se jaate hain kuch sust kadam raste, kuch tez kadam raahein – Andhi) or providing a certain edge to the narrative (Jadoo teri nazar, khushboo tera badan, tu haan kar YA NAA KAR! tu hai meri Kiran), then the songs stay with you for a long long time.

Jaya Bachchan could lead this fight to keep Hindi/Urdu alive and kicking in our music. And yes, no one denies that we use a LOT of English in our day-to-day conversation. So to keep that reality alive we should incorporate songs like those from Rock On – essentially translations of English lyrics into Hindi, and this time skip the translation. But if Farhan or Zoya get involved, someone strangle them before they write lyrics like – Lonely Mr. Kohli from Los Angeles, came to Punjab on one bent knee! No wonder people do not want to pony up money to buy music these days. Today I get a Race ST, and soon I want to shoot myself as I listen to Zarra Zarra Kiss me Kiss me. I think computers are immune from such suicidal thoughts.

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2 Responses

  1. The worst song I have ever heard in my life –

    Paisa Paisa karti hai
    Tu Paise pe kyun marti hai
    Mai baarish kar dun paise ki
    Jo tu ho jaaye meri

    One, I don’t know did the song ever match the film. Why was only Katrina Kaif’s character blamed of doing paisa paisa. Almost everyone was doing paisa paisa in the film including the person who was lip syncing the song – Akshay Kumar. Infact he was doing it the most.

    Two, this song sounds like it is murdering the word MUSIC.

    In the recent times, Piyush Mishra’s lyrics for Gulaal were the best. Wonderful poetry done by him. Will be very sad if he doesn’t get awarded for this. He deserves it more than Gulzar this year.

  2. Agree on Piyush for Gulaal! DDD had awful music – seems the norm for Priyan films, exception being Billu.

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