Bharat Vyas was quite a prolific lyricist from the 1940s till the 70s. He was one of the few lyricists of his time who used shuddh Hindi in his songs. The language he used was literary, without being overly difficult. His style was poetic and very ‘visual’. His choice of words, even when the word was being heard in a song for the first time, never sounded forced or out of place.
In my opinion, one of the highlights of Bharat Vyas’ work as a lyricist is his interpretation of Kalidas’s Meghdoot in the 1959 film Kavi Kalidas. To extract the essence of the original Sanskrit text and translate into a simple, yet poetic language in a film song is no mean achievement.
Meghdoot is a poem in Sanskrit that tells the tale of an exiled Yaksha who requests a cloud to take his message to his wife at Alkapuri. For most part of the poem, the Yaksha gives the cloud directions to Alkapuri, describing in detail the things that the cloud would encounter on its way.
I can vaguely imagine Bharat Vyas’s thought process when given the task of writing a song summarizing the Meghdoot. He would have first selected the lines of the original that capture the essence of the poem and then translated them into the simplest of language, without compromising on the central idea. To make it more visual and more amenable to a film song, he would have developed the scenario further so that certain things that are described in a few words, or at the most a line, get a ‘story’ of their own.
Now let’s examine this process. In one of the lines at the very start of the poem, Kalidas writes
आषाढस्य प्रथमदिवसे मेघमाश्लिष्टसानुं वप्रक्रीडापरिणतगजप्रेक्षणीयं ददर्श …
[on the first day of the month of Ashadh, (the yaksha) saw a cloud embracing the summit, which resembled a mature elephant playfully butting a bank]
This line is descriptive. The scenario in the film warrants that Kalidas is shown creating the epic, yet donning the role of the yaksha while singing the song. A descriptive line like this cannot be uttered by the Yaksha. So what does Bharat Vyas do? He conveys the fact that the yaksha sees the cloud on the first day of Ashadh, by making his address the cloud as:
ओ आषाढ़ के पहले बादल …
Bharat Vyas also takes the reference to a cloud resembling an elephant in one of the later lines of the song:
चल ऐसे ज्यूँ गगन मार्ग में चलता हाथी
As the Yaksha is describing the path, Kalidas writes:
मन्दं मन्दं नुदति पवनश्चानुकूल् यथा त्वां वानश्चायं नदति मधुरं चातकस्ते सगन्ध: ।
गर्भाधानक्षणपरिचयान्नूनमाबद्वमाला: सेविष्यन्ते नयनसुभगं खे भवन्तं बलाका: ॥१०॥
[just as the favourable wind drives you slowly onwards, this chaatak bird, you kinsman calls swiftly on the left. Knowing the mating season, the cranes, like threaded garlands in the sky, lovely to the eye, will serve you]
कर्तुं यच्च प्रभवति महिमुच्छिलीन्ध्रामवन्ध्यां तच्छ्रूत्वा ते श्रवणसुभगं गर्जितं मानसोत्का: ।
आ कैलासाद्विसकिसलयच्छेदपाथेयवन्त: संपत्स्यन्ते नभसि भवतो राजहंसा: सहाया: ॥११॥
[having heard your thunder, pleasing to the ear, and which causes the earth to be fruitful, the ‘royal geese’, yearning for lake Manas, bearing pieces of lotus roots as victuals for the journey, will fly as your companions in the sky, as far as Mt. Kailas]
Very heavy duty poetry, this one. Bharat Vyas simplifies it, takes the key elements of the chaatak bird, the cranes and the royal geese, and pens:
मंद पवन और बाएँ चातक बोल रहा है
बाँध कतार बगुलियों का दल डोल रहा है
राजहंस भी उड़ते हैं पंखों को ताने ...
Moving on, the yaksha in Meghdoot mentions that the cloud will find some country women on the way. See how Bharat Vyas describes this, and then paints an alternate scenario showing the women dancing (something not described in Meghdoot)
जाते जाते तुम्हें मार्ग में मिलेगा मानव देश
जहाँ मोहिनी मालिनियों का मधुर मनोहर वेश
Kalidas describes further:
ब्रह्मावर्तं जनपदमधश्छायया गाहमान: क्षेत्रं क्षत्रप्रधनपिशुनं कौरवं तद् भजेथा: ।
राजन्यानां शितशरशतैर्यत्र गाण्डीवधन्वा धारापातैस्त्वमिव कमलान्यभ्यवर्षन्मुखानि ॥५१॥
[Then, entering the district of Brahmavarta, accompanied by your shadow, you should proceed to the plain of Kurus, evocative of the battle of warrior, where the one whose bow is Gandiv, brought down showers of hundreds of sharp arrows, just as you bring down showers of rain on the faces of lotuses]
Bharat Vyas interprets this as:
आगे तुम को मित्र मिलेगी कुरुक्षेत्र की भूमि विशाल
महाभारत के महायुद्ध की जहाँ जली थी एक दिन ज्वाल
कोटि कोटि जहाँ बरस पड़े थे रिपु दल पर अर्जुन के बाण
कमल दलों पर बरसे ज्यूँ तेरी बरखा के अगणित बाण
And then another detail scenario of women dancing in the rain (not described in Meghdoot)
Moving further on, Kalidas describes:
शब्दायन्ते मधुरमनिलै: कीचका: पूर्यमाणा: संसक्ताभिस्त्रिपुरविजयो गीयते किंनरिभि:।
निर्ह्रादी ते मूरज इव चेत् कन्दरेषु ध्वनि: स्यात् सङ्गीतार्थौ ननु पशुपतेस्तत्र भावी समग्र: ॥५९॥
[The bamboo canes filled with the wind sound sweetly. Victory over the three cities is celebrated in a song by Kinnari demi-gods. If your rumbling like a muraj drum resounds in the cave, the theme of a concert for Shiva will be complete]
Bharat Vyas transposes this in the context of the song as:
चल आगे हिमगिरि शिखरों पर जहाँ बाँस के वृक्ष महान
जिनके तन को छूकर छेड़ें पवन हठीला मीठी तान
जिनकी तान में तान मिला कर गातीं किन्नरियाँ गान
उस संगीत के साथ जलद तू जागे पशुपतिनाथ महान
This is followed by the scenario of Kinnars dancing and singing in Shiva’s praise.
After reading this, don’t you feel that this seemingly simple translation is a master’s work?
Now see and hear this song:
REFERENCE: The Sanskrit text and the English translations are taken from this site.