Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Clever Verse

One of my favorite songs these days is from Sudhir Mishra’s forthcoming Khoya Khoya Chand. What drew me to this song was that it had elements of qawwali (I have always been fascinated by this genre of music), and, more importantly, absolutely outstanding lyrics by Swanand Kirkire….

आज शब जो चाँद ने है रूठने की ठान ली
गर्दिशों में हैं सितारे बात हम ने मान ली
अन्धेरी स्याह ज़िन्दगी को सूझती नहीं गली
कि आज हाथ थाम लो एक हाथ की कमी खली

Aaj shab jo chand ne hai roothne ki thaan li
Gardishon mein hain sitare baat humne maan li
Andheri syaah zindagi ko soojhti nahin gali
Ki aaj haath thaam lo ki haath ki kami khali

The meter used in these lines, alternate long and short syllables, makes the rhythm easy to grasp and instantly appealing.

While listening to the song, I was quite stumped by one line:

क्यूँ तू आज इतना वहशी है मिज़ाज में मजाज़ है ऐ ग़म-ए-दिल

Kyun tu aaj itna vahshi hai mizaaj mein majaaz hai aye gham-e-dil

I just couldn't understand the usage of the word 'majaaz'. Of course, this word sits very well phonetically with the earlier 'mizaaj', but what did the line mean? Mizaaj means temperament/ disposition; Majaaz on the other has multiple meanings like metaphor, allowable, artifice. So this would translate as:

Why are you so mad today, there’s ‘metaphor’ in your temperament, O sorrow of the heart!

This does not make much sense, does it? I kept struggling to decipher this one, and even thought that the poet was trying to use a Ghalibian metaphor… Till I read a post on PFC, that made me understand this line and go “aha, that's a clever verse”.

The Majaaz in the line refers to the poet himself!

It seems that the lyrics of this song are inspired by a very famous nazm called Awaargi by the late poet Majaaz Lakhnawi (Javed Akhtar’s maternal uncle). One of the lines in this nazm goes:

ऐ ग़म-ए-दिल क्या करूँ, ऐ वहशत-ए-दिल क्या करूँ

Ae gham-e-dil kya karoon, Ae vahshat-e-dil kya karoon

But why would Majaaz the poet suddenly make an appearance in this song without a context? Actually there is a context. Just preceding this line is a chorus that describes the level of madness of the heart (vahshat-e-dil). It goes:

जी में आता है मुर्दा सितारे नोच लूँ
इधर भी नोच लूँ उधर भी नोच लूँ
एक दो का ज़िक्र क्या मैं सारे नोच लूँ

Jee mein aata hai murda sitare noch loon
Idhar bhi nooch loon udhar bhi nooch loon
Ek do ka zikar kya mein sare noooch loon

These lines are adapted from Majaaz’s original nazm.

Now everything falls into place:

First you have a description of the 'madness of the heart' in Majaaz’s words, and then you get this line that almost taunts the 'heart' for taking on a Majaaz-like temperament.

I would have loved it if for the chorus the lines from the original were used as is, instead of modifying them to fit the song’s metre; but maybe then it would have been simply 'Majaaz' and not 'Majaaz-like temperament'.

What an original way to pay tribute to a poet! I wouldn’t say that this line is great by poetic standards, but the cleverness of composition cannot be disputed. What else can you say about this…subtle hints of the original verse by use of the words vahshi and gham-e-dil, reference to the poet by his takhallus (nom-de-plume) that also literally has an affinity with poetry (i.e. metaphor), and the deliberate soundplay created by putting two similar sounding words (mizaaj and majaaz)…

What a clever verse, indeed!

P.S. Old Hindi Film Music buffs will recall that parts of this nazm have been immortalized in Talat Mahmood’s silken voice in a film called Thokar (composed by Sardar Malik) from the early 50s