Monday, December 28, 2015

Ghalib’s ‘Unpublished’ Ghazal - Mumkin Nahin …

Ghalib Unpublished

It was Ghalib’s 218th birth anniversary yesterday. I spent the day poring over some of his unpublished ghazals, which are available on Dr. Frances Pritchett’s site here. I focussed my attention on three ghazals that are written in the same pattern i.e. same meter, rhyme and refrain. Although the rhyme chosen by Ghalib for these ghazals is quite uncommon, through his sheer mastery on the language he came up with as many as 25 different verses in these three ghazals. It was interesting that while two of them were written during Ghalib’s heady days of youth around 1816, the third came at the fag-end of his life in 1867. The last one is the one I’ve chosen to write about today. The tone of this ghazal is quite sad, almost an expression of helplessness.

मुमकिन नहीं कि भूल के भी आरमीदा हूँ

मैं दश्त-ए-ग़म में आहू-ए-सय्याद-दीदा हूँ

Mumkin nahin ki bhool ke bhi aarameedah hoon

Main dasht-e-gham mein aahoo-e-sayyad-deedah hoon

(आरमीदा = relaxed; दश्त-ए-ग़म = forest of grief; आहू-ए-सय्याद-दीदा = deer that has seen the hunter)

In the opening verse, the poet sets the tone.for this ghazal - a lament about his condition, with strong overtones of self-pity at times. In this verse, the poet mentions that he is so grief-stricken that it is impossible for him to be relaxed and calm. His situation is like that of a deer who is so scared after seeing a hunter in the forest that he cannot stop running.

हूँ दर्दमन्द जब्र हो या इख़्तियार हो

गः नाला-ए-कशीदा गः अश्क-ए-चकीदा हूँ

Hoon dardmand jabr ho ya ikhtiyaar ho

Gah naalah-e-kusheedah gah ashk-e-chakeedah hoon

(दर्दमन्द = miserable; जब्र = force; इख़्तियार = liberty; गः = sometimes; नाला-ए-कशीदा = a long lament; अश्क-ए-चकीदा = oozing tears)

Continuing with a description of his misery, the poet says that he is always in a state of misery, whether perforce or by choice. Sometimes he is like a long-drawn cry of lament, and sometimes just like a drop of tear uncontrollably oozing out of the eye.

जाँ लब पे आई तो भी न शीरीं हुआ दहन

अज़ बसकि तल्ख़ी-ए-ग़म-ए-हिजराँ चशीदा हूँ

jaan lab pe aayi to bhi na sheereeN hua dahan

az-baskih talkhi-e-gham-e-hijraan chasheedah hoon

(जाँ लब पे आई = on the verge of death; शीरीं = sweet; दहन = mouth; अज़ बसकि = Inasmuch as; तल्ख़ी-ए-ग़म-ए-हिजराँ चशीदा = one who has tasted the bitterness of the sorrow of separation)

This verse involves wordplay among words having a strong affinity i.e. lab, dahan and chasheedah; talkhi and Sheereen. They say death is cure-all. A lifetime of suffering magically disappears at the time of death. However, the bitterness of the sorrow of separation is so strong that even arrival of death cannot sweeten it.

Addendum: U. V Ravindra has an interesting interpretation:

You suggest the meaning of "inasmuch as" for "az bas-kih", but I wonder if he hasn't actually employed it in the sense of "to the extent that, extremely" (इस हद तक).
The way I'm reading this couplet, this latter meaning seems to make for a rather interesting interpretation. I see a play on words here -- in addition to lab-dahan-chasheedan and talKhi-sheereen -- between hijraaN-AND-jaaN lab pe aanaa. One notes with considerable interest that, in Urdu poetry, death is all too often indistinguishably linked with visaal, and one contrasts that with hijr. At the same time, one also observes that "jaaN lab pe aana" is synonymous with the impending arrival of death, of _getting a taste of death_, if you will. With this, the picture now emerges of Ghalib telling us, "I have developed such a taste for the bitterness (talKhi) of the pain of separation (hijr), that even the promise of the sweet taste of union (sheereeni) I experience in the throes of death (visaal) holds no fascination for me."

The delectability of the contrast is in noting that the visaal is ostensibly going to be with the same beloved in whose hijr Ghalib is virtually at death's door, and yet, he's clinging to the hijr and rejecting the promised visaal because he prefers the delicious pain of the former to the untrustworthy (to him) pleasure of the latter. I don't know about you, but to me this multi-layeredness is quintessentially Ghalibian in its entire construction from beginning to end.

नै सुब्ह: से 'अलाक़ा न साग़र से वास्ता

मैं मा'रिज़-ए-मिसाल में दस्त-ए-बुरीदा हूँ

nai sub.h se ‘alaaqa na saaghar se wasta

main ma’ariz-e-misaal mein dast-e-bureedah hoon

(सुब्ह:= rosary; 'अलाक़ा = affinity; saaghar = wine glass; ma’ariz-e-misaal mein = as an example; dast-e-bureedah = amputated hand)

The poet laments the fact that he is no longer a master of his own free will. He can no longer choose either the path of piety or the pleasures of debauchery - like an amputated hand that can neither hold a rosary nor a cup of wine.

हूँ ख़ाकसार पर न किसी से है मुझको लाग

नै दाना-ए-फ़ितादा हूँ नै दाम चीदा हूँ

hoon khaaksaar par na kisi se hai mujhko laag

nai daana-e-fitaada hoon nai daam cheedaah hoon

(ख़ाकसार = ‘like dust’; लाग = enimosity/ love; दाना-ए-फ़ितादा = scattered seed; दाम चीदा = carefully laid trap)

This verse doesn’t resolve well in my mind. The connection between the two lines doesn’t appear seamless. This is further complicated by the ambivalence of the word ‘laag’ that can mean both love (attachment) and hatred (enmity). What the poet is probably saying is that he does not blame anyone for his lowly existence and holds no enmity. He might be lying in dust, but he’s neither like seeds that have fallen on the ground and can be used to catch birds, nor a carefully laid trap to ensnare them.

जो चाहिए नहीं वो मेरी क़द्र-ओ-मन्ज़िलत

मैं यूसुफ़-ए-ब-क़ीमत-ए-अव्वल ख़रीदा हूँ

jo chahiye nahin wo meri qadr-o-manzilat

main yusuf-e-ba-qeemat-e-awwal khareedah hoon

(क़द्र-ओ-मन्ज़िलत = dignity and value; क़ीमत-ए-अव्वल = first offer; ख़रीदा = bought)

This verse rests on the story of Joseph (Yusuf), where he was auctioned as a slave at the lowest possible price. The poet says that his true worth is not realized, much like Yusuf, who would eventually turn out to be a Prophet, was sold off very cheaply as a slave.

हरगिज़ किसी के दिल में नहीं है मेरी जगह

हूँ मैं कलाम-ए-नग़्ज़ वले ना-शुनीदा हूँ

hargiz kisi ke dil mein nahin hai meri jagah

hoon main kalaam-e-naghz vale naa-shunidaah hoon

(कलाम-ए-नग़्ज़ = a fine composition; वले = but; ना-शुनीदा = unheard)

This verse is like a continuation of of the earlier verse as the poet once again laments the fact that his worth is totally ignored by people. No one values him – he is like a rare and fine composition that no one has heard. There is another flavour to this verse if one assigns a boastful tone to it – Of course, no one values me! How can they, when they do not have the capacity or the refined taste to appreciate me!

अहल-ए-वर'अ के हल्क़े में हरचन्द हूँ ज़लील

पर ‘आसियों के ज़ुमरे में मैं बर-गुज़ीदा हूँ

ahl-e-vara’a ke halqe mein harchand hoon zaleel

par ‘aasiyon ke zumre mein main bar-guzeedah hoon

(अहल-ए-वर'अ = pious, chaste people; हल्क़े = circle; हरचन्द = although; ज़लील = disgraced, आसियों = sinners; ज़ुमरे – company; बर-गुज़ीदा = chosen one)

After complaining about bot being valued in the earlier verses, the poet unapologetically changes his stance with a defiant tone of ‘so what’? He says that although the pious might not find him worthy of his company, the sinners do give him an exalted place.

पानी से सग-गुज़ीदा डरे जिस तरह असद

डरता हूँ आईने से कि मर्दुम-गुज़ीदा हूँ

paani se sag-guzeedah dare jis tarah asad

darta hoon aaine se ki mardum-guzeedah hoon

(अहल-ए-वर'अ = pious, chaste people; हल्क़े = circle; हरचन्द = although; ज़लील = disgraced, आसियों = sinners; ज़ुमरे – company; बर-गुज़ीदा = chosen one)

Thiis final verse is a bit problematic. While the meaning is self-evident, the connection between the two lines appears very tenuous and unsatisfying. I hope someone helps me ‘understand’ this one. We all know that hydrophobia is one of the complications of rabies caused by dog bite. Ghalib is equating that with his own situation where he has been ‘bitten’ by men and that has led to a situation that he is scared of looking into the mirror. Now how does it relate to hydrophobia caused by dog bite? Is the first line talking about a dog contracting rabies and hence hydrophobia when another dog bites it? That might make some sense if the reason for the dog being scared of water can be ascribed to it seeing its own image in the water and mistaking the image to be of the other dog that bit it. In that case,  the second line links well with it i.e. A man ‘bitten’ by another man is scared of looking at the image of any man, including his own. Still, this seems like a very contrived analogy to me.

Addendum:  In a discussion on this she’r, U. V Ravindra gave his explanation, which made a lot of sense to me. I’m quoting it here verbatim:

“I think the "paani-aaina" pairing is used for the sake of ri'aayat-e-lafzi (economy of words), to depict, on the one hand, the similarity between the two as reflective objects, and, on the other, to throw light on Ghalib's misplaced anxieties. Just as hydrophobia is a symptom, not the cause, nor even the effect, of having been bitten by a rabid dog: the real cause being the inability to drink liquids, which gives rise to the irrational fear of liquids themselves, so also is spectrophobia, the fear of mirrors, the result of misplaced anxieties that are the symptom of Ghalib's having been "bitten" by 'that human' (or all men*): the real cause being his own inability to form a relationship (with 'that human', or all humans), which gives rise to the irrational fear of mirrors. The mirror is an apt allegorical device here as it is the object which he sees his own reflection.
The other interesting question is whether Ghalib is blaming himself (cf. aaina) for his affliction or 'that man' (cf. mardum.gazeedah).

*PS: "bitten by all men" seems an unlikely cause of Ghalib's misfortune here. I think he's specifically talking about one person. This is also in line with the image of rabies he's conjuring up, here: one doesn't need to be bitten by "all dogs", just one 'bad dog', to contract hydrophobia.”


  1. Deevan-e-Ghalib Kaamil Nushkha-e-Gupta Raza, Tareekhi Tarteeb Se by Kalidas Gupta ‘Raza’
  2. Index of Ghalib’s unpublished ghazals on Desertful of Roses by Frances Pritchett

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Remembering Pandit Shivram Krishna

I had co-authored this piece along with Ramaswamy Narayanan for the Guzra Hua Zamana series on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook.
Shivram Collage for GHZ_2
If one tries to think of music directors who gave music to films which had Hindu mythological stories, one can easily recall S. N. Tripathi, Avinash Vyas & Chitragupta. Another composer whose major work was mostly for such films, but is not remembered as much, is Pandit Shivram Krishna also known as Pandit Shivram, or simply Shivram.
tbcrPt. Shivram Krishna was born at Jodhpur on March 22, 1927. He started learning music at the age of 8 under the tutelage of his father Master Tulsidas, who worked with Marwar Record Company, Jodhpur from 1934 onwards. He was later employed in the court of the Maharaja of Jodhpur, Umed Singh as a singer/musician. It was the name and fame of Khemchand Prakash that inspired him to try his luck in films. At the age of 16, he went to Lahore where he worked under Pandit Amarnath and Master Ghulam Haider for around three years, only to return to Jodhpur at the time of partition. From the year 1948 till 1950 he worked as a music director with His Masters Voice in Lucknow, and then made his way to Mumbai in 1951.
At Mumbai, Pt. Shivram was given his first break by V. Shantaram, who signed him for two of his films – Teen Batti Chaar Raasta (1953) and Surang (1953). The music of both the films was appreciated and the films became silver jubilee hits. Besides these, V. Shantaram gave him two more films in 1960 - ‘Phool Aur Kaliyan’ and ‘Kaale Gore’, the first winning the National Award for Best Children film, while the second remained unreleased. He used the voices of V. Shantaram’s daughters Charusheela and Madhura in these children films.
Guzri Thi Raat Aadhi - Surang (1953) - Lata Mangeshkar - Shivram Krishna - Shevan Rizvi
Following the success of his initial films, Pt. Shivram caught the attention of Dhirubhai Desai and Nakhshab Jarchavi, who signed him for their next films, Oonchi Haveli (1955) and Raftaar (1955) respectively. The songs of these two films were also quite successful. Then came Sati Ansuya (1956), another film by Dhirubhai Desai that started the trend and literally sealed his fate as a composer of mythological films. Barring Naya Kadam (1958), a social drama, and Rangeela Raja (1960), a stunt film, and the two children films by V. Shantaram, all the films he got after Sati Ansuya were religious/ mythological films. In all, out of the 23 films he composed for, as many as 14 were religious/ mythological films.
Songs from Oonchi Haveli - Asha Bhosle, Mohd. Rafi, Shamshad Begum, Shivram & Parshuram - Shivram Krishna - Bharat Vyas
Despite composing some good songs for these films, the success he got with his initial films could not be repeated given the limited popularity of such films and similarity in the genre of songs. Barring a few songs from Shravan Kuman (1960), Kan Kan Mein Bhagwan (1963) and Sati Naari (1965), most of the songs are all but forgotten. ‘Tum Naacho Ras Barse’ by Mahendra Kapoor in Sati Naari fetched Pt. Shivram the Swami Haridas Award in 1966.
Tum Naacho Ras Barse - Sati Naari (1965) - Mahendra Kapoor - Pt. Shivram Krishna - Neeraj
mptyThe last two Hindi films of Pt. Shivram were Sampoorna Teerth Yatra (1970) and Mahapavan Teerth Yatra (1975), both of which have the unique distinction of featuring what could be the longest Hindi film songs, running 45 and 70 minutes respectively. Both these songs were about the various places of pilgrimage in India and were almost similar in tune and structure. Interestingly, he had also composed two more songs on similar lines in Durga Pooja (1962) and Kan Kan Mein Bhagwan (1963).
Pandit Shivram gave music for various regional languages such as Rajasthani, Bhojpuri, Punjabi, Haryanvi, etc. He was the default composer for Rajasthani films all through the 1960s, starting with the first Rajasthani film Babasa Ri Ladli (1961). He also composed for several Marwari and classical music non-film albums. As a proficient Harmonium player, he teamed with table-nawaaz Ustaad Nizamuddin Khan to produce a classical album. Pandit Shivram was as good a vocal artist as he was a harmonium player. He sang in films like Oonchi Haveli, Rangeela Raja, Sati Ansuya, Badrinath Yatra, etc.
Mr. Mizaji Aapa Chauraste Pe - Dhani Lugaai (Rajasthani, 1964) - Mukesh & Shamshad Begum - Shivram Krishna - Pt. Indra
The lyricists Pt. Shivram worked with were more or less decided by the films he worked in. While he worked with the likes of Asad Bhopali, Shevan Rizvi, Pyare Lal Santoshi, Nakhshab Jarchavi, etc. in his non-mythological films, predominantly ‘Hindi’ writers like Bharat Vyas, Kavi Pradeep, Neeraj, Madan Bharti and Pt. Indra wrote for his mythological films. Pt. Indra and Bharat Vyas were his prime contributors for Rajasthani films.
Pandit Shivram died in February 1980 leaving behind a family of musicians. His daughter Jayshree Shivram is a singer. Two of his sons, Jugal Kishore and Tilak Raj jointly composed for a few Hindi films, debuting with Bheegi Palkein (1983). His third son, Naveen Shivram had started his musical career with giving music for the serial Apnapan in 1999 and went to compose for a few small time Hindi films and some Rajasthani film and non-film albums as well. Another son, Mukesh, was also a composer and is no more.

Hindi Rajasthani (Partial)
  1. Teen Batti Chaar Raaste (1953)
  2. Surang (1953)
  3. Oonchi Haveli (1955)
  4. Raftar (1955)
  5. Sati Ansuya (1956)
  6. Shravan Kumar (1956)
  7. Jai Ambe (1957)
  8. Gauri Shankar (1958)
  9. Naya Kadam (1958) - with Narayan
  10. Kaale Gore (1960)
  11. Phool Aur Kaliyaan (1960)
  12. Rangeela Raja (1960)
  13. Durga Pooja (1962)
  14. Kan Kan Mein Bhagwan (1963)
  15. Mahasati Behula (1964)
  16. Sati Naari (1965)
  17. Shankar Sita Ansuya (1965)
  18. Shri Ram Bharat Milan (1965)
  19. Veer Bajrang (1966)
  20. Badrinath Yatra (1967)
  21. Qaatil (1970)
  22. Sampoorna Teerth Yatra (1970)
  23. Mahapavan Teerth Yatra (1975)
  1. Babasa Ri Ladli (1961)
  2. Nanibai Ko Mayro (1962)
  3. Baba Ramdev (1963)
  4. Dhani Lugaai (1964)
  5. Gangaur (1964)
  6. Gopichand Bharthari (1965)
  7. Gogaji Pir (1969)

  1. ‘Suvarnayugwaale Sangeetkar’ by Prof. Yogesh Yadav
  2. ‘Dhunon Ki Yatra’ by Pankaj Rag
  3. Information and picture from research work of P. S Chaudhury and writings by Murlidhar Soni (shared and validated by Pavan Jha)
  4. Information and pictures provided by Girdharilal Vishwakarma

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Legends of Parijat


Parijat, also known as Harsingar or Nyctanthes arbor-tristis or Night-flowering Jasmine or Shefali or Shiuli, is a flower that blooms at dusk and withers at dawn.

Legend, at least a version of it, has it that the Parijat tree was one of the things that emerged out of Samudra Manthan. The tree became the property of the Gods and found a place on Indralok. Once, when Krishna was visiting Indralok with one of his wives Satyabhama after killing Narakasur, Indra gifted a parijat flower to him. On his return to Dwarka, Krishna gifted the same to his other wife Rukmini. A jealous Satyabhama, instigated by Narad of course, demanded that Krishna bring the entire tree to her. Unwilling to part with the divine tree, Indra challenged Krishna to a battle. Indra was about to lose when Aditi (mother of the Gods) intervened and called off the fight. She also granted the tree to Krishna. In order to avoid any further disputes at home, he planted the tree in Satyabhama’s garden in such a way that although the tree was in her garden, its flowers fell on the side of Rukmini’s garden. And the two queens lived happily ever after, singing this song….

फूले पारिजात रे अँगना हमार रे

स्वर्गलोक का वृक्षराज ये, धरती पे आया है आज ये
द्वारिका के द्वार रे ...

सींचें मिल के दोनों रानी, प्रभुचरणों का निर्मल पानी
गायें गीत मल्हार रे ...

सोने की सुहानी डाली, पतियाँ रे मरकत वाली
छायेंगी घरबार रे ...

मूंगे की डंठल आयें, मोती की पंखुड़ियाँ आयें
अमृत की रसधार रे ...

फूल हमारे डोर तुम्हारी, हिलमिल गूंथें आओ दुलारी
पिया गले के हार रे ...

This song is from a Hindi-Marathi bilingual by Raja Paranjape - Shri Krishna Satyabhama (Hindi)/ Parijatak (Marathi)

Phoole Parijat Re – Shri Krishna Satyabhama (1951) – Malati Pande – Keshavrao Bhole – Pt. Mukhram Sharma

Another legend talks about why the tree only blooms during night time. A princess named Parijat fell in love with Surya, the Sun God, who did not reciprocate. Dejected, she committed suicide and the tree emerged from her ashes. Unable to bear the sight of the one who rejected her, the flowers wither as soon as the sun rises.

Here’s a song that talks about the nigh-blooming feature of this tree.

साँझ खिले भोर झरे फूल हरसिंगार के
रात महकती रही …

Sanjh Khile Bhor Jhare - Phir Bhi (1971) - Hemant Kumar & Ranu Mukherjee - Raghunath Seth - Dr. Harivansh Rai Bachchan

Friday, June 05, 2015

In Which Lily White Turns Emerald Green

Barnes Iqbal1

William Barnes was a 19th century English writer, poet, Church of England minister and philologist. He wrote more than 800 poems on a variety of subjects. One of his well-known poems is A Mother’s Dream (Mater Dolorosa), written around 1867. It is a poignant first person description of a mother’s dream about her lost son.

Allama Iqbal must’ve been touched by this poem, as he translated it in Urdu and included in his collection Baang-e-Dara (1924). The translation, called ‘Maan Ka Khwaab’ is extremely faithful to the source. The 24 lines of the original lead to 15 couplets (30 lines) in the adaptation. The extra lines by Iqbal, especially the ones corresponding to the last stanza of the original, add more emotion and poignancy to the mother’s lament. And the build up to the ending of the Urdu version packs a wallop that I find much more effective.

A Mother’s Dream (Mater Dolorosa)

William Barnes

Maa.N Ka Khwaab

Allama Iqbal

I'd a dream to-night
As I fell asleep,
O! the touching sight
Makes me still to weep:
Of my little lad,
Gone to leave me sad,
Ay, the child I had,
But was not to keep.

As in heaven high,
I my child did seek,
There in train came by
Children fair and meek,
Each in lily white,
With a lamp alight;
Each was clear to sight,
But they did not speak.

Then, a little sad,
Came my child in turn,
But the lamp he had,
O it did not burn!
He, to clear my doubt,
Said, half turn'd about,
'Your tears put it out;
Mother, never mourn.'

मैं सोई जो इक शब तो देखा ये ख़्वाब
बढ़ा और जिससे मेरा इज़्तिराब

ये देखा कि मैं जा रही हूँ कहीं
अँधेरा है और राह मिलती नहीं

लरज़ता था डर से मेरा बाल बाल
क़दम का था दहशत से उठना मुहाल

जो कुछ हौसला पा के आगे बढ़ी
तो देखा क़तार एक लड़कों की थी

ज़मुर्रद सी पोशाक पहने हुए
दिये सब के हाथों में जलते हुए

वो चुप चाप थे आगे पीछे रवाँ
ख़ुदा जाने जाना था उनको कहाँ

इसी सोच में थी कि मेरा पिसर
मुझे उस जमा'अत में आया नज़र

वो पीछे था और तेज़ चलता न था
दिया उसके हाथों में जलता न था

कहा मैंने पहचान कर मेरी जाँ
मुझे छोड़ कर आ गए तुम कहाँ

जुदाई में रहती हूँ मैं बेक़रार
पिरोती हूँ हर रोज़ अश्कों के हार

न परवा हमारी ज़रा तुमने की
गए छोड़ अच्छी वफ़ा तुमने की

जो बच्चे ने देखा मेरा पेच-ओ-ताब
दिया उसने मुँह फेर कर यूँ जवाब

रुलाती है तुझको जुदाई मेरी
नहीं उस में कुछ भी भलाई मेरी

ये कह कर वो कुछ देर तक चुप रहा
दिया फिर दिखा कर ये कहने लगा

‘समझती है तू हो गया क्या इसे
तेरे आँसुओं ने बुझाया इसे’

In one of the stanzas above, William Barnes describes that the mother in her dream sees a number of children dressed in ‘lily white’. But in Allama’s vision their apparel is emerald green. Just a seemingly simple change in the colour of the apparel, makes the poem resonate with cultural specificity. Given that both William Barnes and Allama Iqbal was religiously inclined, it would be safe to say that they chose the colour according to their faiths. In Christianity, white signifies purity, innocence and holiness; whereas the green occupies similar significance in Islam.

Another notable aspect of the Urdu version is that it is written in an extremely simple language, which I find quite uncharacteristic of Iqbal. However, the depth of expression is not compromised one bit. At the surface it can simply be taken as a mother’s lament for a dead child, and the dream providing her a sign for closure. It can also be about a son coming on his own and starting on a new life (symbolized by green), but who is unable to find his way (symbolized by the lamp which does not burn) as the attachments keep pulling him back. Following the path shown by others (other children with burning lamps) is the only thing he can do in such circumstances, and that makes him a laggard in the journey of life. In order for him to find his own identity and direction and not be left behind in the journey, he has to be assured that the mother is not mourning his absence.

Listen to this poem here:

Maa.N Ka Khwaab - Allama Iqbal (adapted from William Barnes)

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Shamsul Huda Bihari - A Forgotten Lyricist of Popular Songs

This article was written as part of the ‘Guzra Hua Zamana’ series on Sangeet Ke Sitare, a music group on Facebook.

S H Bihari SKS

Lyricists are the least remembered among all the contributors to film songs. You could find reams of paper written about composers, and terabytes of online space devoted to singers, but when it comes to appreciating the value of a lyricist, the world suddenly turns miserly. The situation assumes tragic proportions when one realizes that there are a few lyricists who have written some of the most popular songs of all time, but they are rarely discussed or even remembered. One such forgotten lyricist of popular songs is Shamsul Huda Bihari (S. H Bihari).

S. H Bihari was born in the Arrah district of Bihar in 1922. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from one the most prestigious colleges in the country of the time – Presidency College, Kolkata. It was in Kolkata that he developed an interest in sports and even played football for Mohun Bagan. However, his real passion was poetry and that brought him to his brother in Mumbai around 1947. In his initial Mumbai years, he worked as an assistant manager in a rubber factory.

It is said that S. H Bihari got his first break in films when Anil Biswas, who had a keen ear for fine poetry, heard one of his ghazals and took him on to write two songs for Laadli (1949). Around the same time he got a few more assignments to write a few songs for films like Aaiye (1949) and Duniya (1949). This trend continued for the next few years as he wrote one or two songs in some more films. While quantity remained elusive, this was the period when he got a chance to work with established great composers like Anil Biswas, Gyan Dutt, C. Ramchandra and Shyam Sundar. In some of his earlier films, he was credited as ‘H. S Huda’ or simply ‘Huda’.

Main Ik Chhoti Si Chingari _ Laadli (1949) - Meena Kapoor - Anil Biswas

The first film where he got to write most of the songs was Bhagwan’s Rangeela (1953). Nine of the eleven songs of this Jamal Sen composed film were written by him. One of the songs from the film went –

dil aaj mera gaane laga geet pyaar ke
lo dheere dheere aa hi gaye din bahaar ke

Dil Aaj Mera Gaane Laga - Rangeela (1953) - Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle - Jamal Sen

This proved prescient, as he would soon get his first major break that would take him on the path of success and make him known in the industry for his romantic songs. The film that brought in the sweet smell of success was S. Mukherjee’s Shart (1954). Sharing credits with Rajinder Krishan in this film, S. H Bihari wrote nine songs, including the two most romantic and well-remembered songs – ‘na ye chaand hoga na tare rahenge’, and ‘dekho wo chaand chhup ke karta hai kya ishaare’.

Na Ye Chaand Hoga - Shart (1954) - Geeta Dutt - Hemant Kumar

How he landed up with the Shart assignment has an interesting tale. At a time when he hardly had any work and daily sustenance itself was a huge challenge, he used to make the rounds of Filmistan just to get to meet S. Mukherjee once. Luck was not on his side, though. He would wait from morning till evening, but chances of meeting the doyen of Filmistan seemed remote. Once, by chance, he bumped into S. Mukherjee, who did not acknowledge his greetings but asked him casually, “kya bechte ho?” S. H Bihari was prompt in his response, “… dil ke tukde, magar wo nahin jinki tareef filmi geeton mein is tarah ki jaati hai – ‘ek dil ke tukde hazaar hue, koi yahan gira koi wahan gira’”. S. Mukherjee was suitably impressed and S. H Bihari got the assignment.

Vividh Bharti Interview - S. H Bihari

Shart established a partnership between Hemant Kumar & S. H Bihari that would result in almost 80 songs in 12 films, all in a brief period of 3 years. Barring a handful of exceptions, S. H Bihari worked almost exclusively with Hemant Kumar during this period. While this partnership could not repeat the success of the first film, it resulted in numerous gems like ‘chaand se poochho sitaaron se poochho’ (Daaku Ki Ladki, 1954), ‘chhupa le daagh-e-jigar’ (Bahu, 1955), ‘tum jo mile o sanam (Hamara Watan, 1956), ‘mohabbat ka nateeja’ (Arab Ka Saudagar, 1956), ‘dil chhed koi aisa naghma’ (Inspector, 1956), ‘ye hansta hua karvaan’ (Ek Jhalak, 1957), ‘nayi manzil nayi raahen’ (Hill Station, 1957), etc. It was around the same time that he also penned two Hindi songs for Hemant Kumar in the Marathi film, Nayikinicha Sajja (1957). The Hemant Kumar – S. H Bihari partnership came to an abrupt end in 1957. However, the two collaborated once again many years later in Bees Saal Pehle (1972), which came at a time when Hemant Kumar’s career in Hindi films was on its last leg, and S. H Bihari was again going through a rough patchy professionally thanks to a lower demand for romantic songs and better established partnerships of other lyricists with the successful composers in the 70s.

Dil Chhed Koi Aisa Naghma - Inspector (1956) - Lata Mangeshkar - Hemant Kumar

Interestingly, for S. H Bihari the next important partnership came about with Ravi, who probably worked closely with him while working as an assistant with Hemant Kumar. Together, Ravi and S. H Bihari produced 38 songs in 11 films. Again, this partnership lasted just a few years – from Ghar Sansar in 1958 to Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai in 1962, before appearing one more time in Sindbad Alibaba Aladdin in 1965. The combination resulted in some diverse genre of songs like the preachy ‘bhala karne wale bhalaai kiye ja’ (Ghar Sansar, 1958), the philosophical ‘isi ka naam duniya hai’ (Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai, 1962), the tipsy ‘ye mehfil ye botal ye rangeen paani’ (Isi Na Naam Duniya Hai, 1962), or even a comic song like ‘mooliram aur bhindimal ka nikal gaya hai diwala’ (Dulhan, 1958).

Mooliram Aur Bhindimal Ka - Dulhan (1958) - Mohd. Rafi - Ravi

That brings us to S. H Bihari’s most successful pairing with any music director – O. P Nayyar. After testing the waters with a song each in Basant (1960), Mitti Mein Sona (1960) and Hong Kong (1962), the collaboration gained steam with Ek Musafir Ek Haseena (1962) and continued through thick and thin till Bin Maa Ke Bachche (1980). This heady journey resulted in classics like ‘bahut shukriya badi mehrbaani’ (Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, 1962), ‘deewana hua baadal’ (Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964), ‘raaton ko chori chori’ (Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, 1966), ‘zulfon ko hata de chehre se’ (Sawan Ki Ghata, 1966), ‘yehi wo jagah hai’ (Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi, 1966) ‘kajra mohabbat wala’ (Kismat, 1968), and ‘chain se humko kabhi’ (Pran Jaye Par Vachan Na Jaye, 1974), along with a host of other popular as well as relatively lesser celebrated songs. In all, O. P Nayyar and S. H Bihari collaborated on 89 songs in 24 films.

Phir Miloge Kabhi - Ye Raat Phir Na Aayegi (1966) - Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle - O. P Nayyar

In a radio interview, S. H Bihari narrated an interesting incident when, while writing for O. P Nayyar’s Mohabbat Zindagi Hai, he encountered an extreme case of writer’s block that prevented him for coming up with the appropriate words for Rafi’s ‘tumhari mulaqat se mujhko’. The situation was so bad that it started a bout of self-doubt and his confidence took a severe beating. Seeing his predicament, Asha Bhosle took him out for tea and assured him that writing songs was his ‘baayen haath ka khel’. These seemingly simple words worked wonders for his self-confidence and he felt rejuvenated to write the song to perfection.

Tumhari Mulaqat Se - Mohabbat Zindagi Hai (1966) - Mohd. Rafi - O. P Nayyar

S. H Bihari was never a very prolific lyricist, but after 1972 his output declined significantly. A man who averaged around 14 songs a year in the twenty years from 1952-1972, wrote less than 5 songs per year for the next ten. But his career would soon see a revival, although for a very short period.

S. H Bihari’s last successful partnership came in the 1980s with Laxmikant Pyarelal. K. C Bokadia roped him in to write the story, dialogues and lyrics of Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985). The film was a runaway success, both at the box-office and musically. Once again, after a long time, songs written by S. H Bihari were playing everywhere. This led to a brief but substantial partnership with Laxmikant Pyarelal, arguably the most successful composers of that period. Although they had an already existing, very strong partnership with Anand Bakshi, Laxmikant Pyarelal worked with S. H Bihari in as many as 16 films over a short span of 3 years, many of which released after his untimely death on February 25, 1987.

Tumse Mil Kar - Pyar JHukta Nahin (1985) - Lata Mangeshkar & Shabbir Kumar - Laxmikant Pyarelal

In his career of close to 40 years, S. H Bihari wrote more than 420 songs for 32 composers in 114 films. He worked at least once with almost all the major composers of his era, with the notable exception of Naushad, S. D Burman and Salil Chowdhury.

If one quickly glances over the list of songs written by S. H Bihari, it is very obvious that love and romance was the predominant theme. While he did write songs of other genres, he was at his best while writing on themes of love. Whether it was an expression of unbridled joy at the realization of love in ‘ang ang mein umang’ (Bahu, 1955) or ‘mera akele jiya kaise laage re piya’ (Inspector, 1956); an expression of a man’s jealousy at the very prospects of an imaginary rival in ‘tumhara chahnewala’ (Kahin Din Kahin Raat, 1968); a description of the beloved’s beauty in ‘ye chaand sa roshan chehra’ (Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964); the very thought of probable separation in ‘zindagi kaise kategi’ (Meri Biwi Ki Shaadi, 1979); sadness of actual separation in ‘kabhi aansoo bahaate hain’ (Madhur Milan, 1955); or the bitterness following a messy break-up in ‘chain se humko kabhi’ (Pran Jaye Par Vacan Na Jaye, 1974); all moods and flavours of love and romance are evident in S. H Bihari’s songs.

Zindagi Kaise Kategi - Meri Biwi Ki Shadi (1979) - Lata Mangeshkar - Usha Khanna

Although lyric writing was his primary vocation, he also dabbled in other areas of film writing. Some of the films where he was involved with story, screenplay, and/or dialogue writing were Isi Ka Naam Duniya Hai (1962), Karate (1983), and Pyar Jhukta Nahin (1985).

At the time of his death, S. H Bihari was at the second peak of his career. Had it not been for his untimely death, it is very likely that would have enjoyed success for some more time. But who knows what compromises he would have had to make during this period when Hindi film music had reached its nadir and the scope of good lyrics was dwindling. It is best that we remember him for his limited, but good work.

List of Composers who Worked with S. H Bihari
  1. Anil Biswas
  2. Aziz Nazan
  3. B. N Bali
  4. Bappi Lahiri
  5. Basant Prakash
  6. Bulo C. Rani
  7. C. Arjun
  8. C. Ramchandra
  9. Chitragupta
  10. Ganesh
  11. Gyan Dutt
  12. Hemant Kumar
  13. Iqbal Qureishi
  14. Jagjit Singh
  15. Jamal Sen
  16. Kalyanji Anandji
  17. Laxmikant Pyarelal
  18. Madan Mohan
  19. Mohd. Shafi
  20. N. Dutta
  21. O. P Nayyar
  22. R. D Burman
  23. Ram Ganguly
  24. Ramchandra Pal
  25. Ravi
  26. Roshan
  27. Shankar Jaikishan
  28. Shaukat Haidari
  29. Shyam Sundar
  30. Snehal Bhatkar
  31. Sonik Omi
  32. Usha Khanna


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Angels & Prophets … and Ghalib

“Appreciation of poetry is a complex process, especially in the context of Urdu poetry. Besides a good understanding of the language, it is important for a reader to understand the cultural backdrop and conventions of Urdu poetry…”

Some years ago, I had written a short piece about how ‘Knowledge’ is essential to the understanding of ‘poetry’. I am reminded about that today in the context of how poets refer to historical/ legendary/ mythical characters in their poetry. And that takes me to an unpublished ghazal by Ghalib that abounds with references to Proper Nouns, especially Angels, Prophets and other references from the mythology of Abrahamic religions.

This ghazal per se is not very exciting in terms of themes covered. However it demands knowledge and understanding of religious texts, mythology and history. In order to make some sense of it, I had to refer to a lot of other material. If the usual thrill of breaking one’s head over deciphering the meaning(s) of the verses was missing, there was an excitement of trying to learn more about other religions and cultures.

What is unique about this Ghazal is that 4 out of the 6 verses have Proper Nouns that are crucial to the understanding of the verses. If one verse talks about the Horn of Archangel Raphael that signals the arrival of doomsday, another talks about the Prophet Jacob’s blindness on account of grieving for his son Joseph and the river Nile (Joseph was incarcerated in Egypt). One invokes the Crown of Archangel Gabriel, while another talks of the Evangel or gospel truth. The final verse, obviously, has another Proper Noun – the poet’s pen name. In addition, one must also know that in Persia, blue was the colour of mourning. And of course, what most Indians would be familiar with, that a black mark is meant to ward off the evil eye.

Here is the ghazal (written in 1821). I have tried to do a literal translation of it in English, but as we know, translating successfully  in another language is a are skill, which I certainly do not possess.

फूँकता है नाला हर शब सूर इस्राफ़ील की
हम को जल्दी है मगर तूने क़यामत ढील की

(नालह = lament; सूर = horn; इस्राफ़ील = Angel Raphael)

Phoonkta hai naala har shab soor Israafeel ki
ham ko jaldi hai magar tune qayamat dheel ki

Each night the lament blows the horn of Raphael
I’m impatient, but doomsday pays no heed

की हैं किस पानी से याँ याक़ूब ने आँखें सुफैद
है जो आबी पैरहन हर मौज रूद-ए-नील की

(याक़ूब = Jacob; सुफैद = white; आबी = like water, light blue; मौज = wave; रूद-ए-नील = River Nile)

Ki hain kis paani se yaaN Yaqoob ne aakhen sufaid
hai jo aabi pairahan har mauj rood-e-Neel ki

With what has Jacob washed his eyes clean
Every wave of Nile mourns in blue clothes

’अर्श पर तेरे क़दम से है दिमाग़-ए-गर्द-ए-रह
आज तनख़्वाह-ए-शिकस्तन है कुलह जिबरील की

(‘अर्श = skies; तनख़्वाह-ए-शिकस्तन = the reward of destruction; कुलह = crown; जिबरील = Angel Gabriel)

’arsh par tere qadam se hai dimaagh-e-gard-e-raah
aaj tankhwah-e-shikastan hai kulah Jibreel ki

The dust on the road feels proud that you step on it
the trampling is a reward as great as Gabriel’s crown

मुद्द'आ दर-पर्दा या'नी जो कहूँ बातिल समझ
वो फ़िरन्गीज़ादा खाता है क़सम इंजील की

(मुद्द'आ = complain; दर-पर्दा = aside; बातिल = permanent, truth; फ़िरन्गीज़ादा = British; इंजील = The New Testament)

Mudd’a dar parda ya’ani jo kahoon baatil samajh
wo firangizaada khaata hai qasam Injeel ki

“Forget everything else, whatever I say is the gospel truth”
So says the British lad, taking an oath on the Evangel

ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद हूँ अज़-बहरे दफ़'अ-ए-चश्म-ए-ज़ख्म
खेंचता हूँ अपनी आँखों में सलाई नील की

(ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद = well-wisher of the eyes; अज़-बहरे = on account of; दफ़'अ-ए-चश्म-ए-ज़ख्म = banish the wound of the eye i.e. evil eye; सलाई = needle; नील = black)

Khairkhwah-e-deed hoon az behr-e-dafa’-e-chashm-e-zakhm
kheenchta hoon apni aankhon mein salayi neel ki

I am a well-wisher of the eye, so to ward off the evil eye
I draw a black mark on the eye with a needle

नाला खेंचा है सरापा दाग़-ए-जुर'अत हूँ असद
क्या सज़ा हैं मेरे जुर्म-ए-आरज़ू तावील की

(नालह = lament; सरापा = completely; दाग़-ए-जुर'अत = guilty of courage; जुर्म-ए-आरज़ू तावील = crime of expressing the desire)

Naala khencha hai saraapa daagh-e-jur’at hoon Asad
kya saza hai mere jurm-e-aarzoo taaveel ki

Having expressed my lament, I’m guilty of intrepidity
Now, what is the punishment of my crime of expressing my desire?

I am not giving detailed explanation for this entire ghazal, but would want to highlight one couplet that I find the most interesting due to multiplicity of meaning.

ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद हूँ अज़-बहरे दफ़'अ-ए-चश्म-ए-ज़ख्म
खेंचता हूँ अपनी आँखों में सलाई नील की

The way one looks at the first word (ख़ैरख़्वाह-ए-दीद) would determine how the couplet unfolds itself. Let’s ask the question - well-wisher of whose eyes?

  1. I am a well-wisher my own eye, so in order to save it from evil’s eye, I draw a black mark on it.
  2. I am a well-wisher of your eyes… for this to make sense, one would have to look at the implied meaning i.e. I blind myself by pricking my eyes, so that I cannot cast my evil eye on your beautiful eyes.
  3. A third meaning emerges if the poet considers the harm caused by the evil eye to be much worse than that caused by blindness. As a well-wisher of his own eyes, he prefers to blind himself than let an evil eye fall on them.

I don’t think I have been able to capture the essence of नज़र लगाना in the above explication. But that’s the best I could.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Tune, Composer, Language - It’s All the Same

There is no shortage of instances where music composers have re-used their tunes across many songs, either as-is or with variations. A vast majority of such instances happen in the case of composers who work in multiple languages and freely port their tunes from one language to another. Composers like Salil Chowdhury, S. D Burman, R. D Burman, Hridaynath Mangeshkar, Ilaiyaraja, A. R Rahman, etc. would dominate this category. However, there have also been many examples where composers have done that within the same language.

In this post I am highlighting some examples where such re-use has happened within the same language. It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list, not only because such a list is very large, but also because it is not humanly possible to be aware of all such cases.  I have only tried to look at various categories of such re-use and tried to provide one example for each. I have also tried to cover a wide range of composers and time periods (1940s-90s).

So let’s dive in …

Masters of Re-use

No discussion on re-use of tunes within the same language can be complete without the mention of Pt. S. N Tripathi and Rahul Dev Burman who did this several times. Both belong to completely different schools of composing, which reflects in the way the re-use appears in their compositions.

S. N Tripathi 

Phulbagiya Mein Bulbul Bole - Rani Roopmati (1959) - Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd. Rafi - S. N Tripathi - Bharat Vyas
Been Baja Mere Mast Sapere - Naag Champa (1976) - Asha Bhosle - S. N Tripathi - Bharat Vyas

Rahul Dev Burman

Saajan Kahan Jaoongi Main - Jaise Ko Taisa (1973) - Lata Mangeshkar - Rahul Dev Burman - Anand Bakshi
Jahan Pe Savera Ho - Basera (1981) - Lata Mangeshkar - Rahul Dev Burman - Gulzar

Let’s now look at some categories in which one can classify re-use of a tune within the same language:

Exact Replica

What does a composer do when he loves a tune very much, but the film for which he composes that doesn’t reach the audience? He re-uses it of course. With the hope that it reaches more people the second time round. This is probably what happened with Aziz Hindi when he composed a song in Rajkumari’s voice in Dil Ke Tukde (1940s). The film did not get a release, so he created another song for Biwi (1950), which was an almost exact replica.

Kaali Kaali Raat Beeti Jaaye Barsaat - Dil Ke Tukde (Unreleased, 1940s) - Rajkumari - Aziz Hindi - Nazim Panipati
Birha Ki Raat Mose Kaati Nahin Jaat - Biwi (1950) - Asha Bhosle - Aziz Hindi - Nazim Panipati

Same Mukhda, Different Antaras

There are many instances where a composer uses just a portion of the tune of one song in another. Here is an example where S. Mohinder re-used the tune of the mukhda of one of his songs in another song. The antaras, however, were tuned differently. The lyricist was the same.

Husn Ki Mehfil Saji Saji - Sun To Le Haseena (1958) - Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle - S. Mohinder - Raja Mehdi Ali Khan
Raat Ki Dulhan Saji Saji - Captain Sheroo (1963) - Asha Bhosle - S. Mohinder - Raja Mehdi Ali Khan

Different Mukhda, Same Antaras

There have been instances where the composers have chosen the tune of an antara to be repeated. Like this case where the antara of a seductive song is lifted and dropped as-is into a romantic song.

Band Kamre Mein Ek Ladki - Agent Vinod (1977) - Asha Bhosle & Mahendra Sandhu - Raamlaxman - Ravinder Rawal
Ye Mausam Ka Jadoo - Hum Aapke Hain Kaun - Lata Mangeshkar & S. P Balasubramanyam - Raamlaxman - Ravinder Rawal

Parts Re-used in Different Songs

Some composers have re-used their tunes across different songs. Take this case for example. Laxmikant Pyarelal created a bhajan for Kala Aadmi (1978), which had the chorus singing one tune, and the mukhda was in another tune.

He Jagpaalak - Kala Aadmi (1978) - Manna Dey & Suman Kalyanpur - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Verma Malik

Around 13 years later, they reused the tune of the chorus portion of this song for the initial portion (Natkhat Bansiwale Gokul Ke Raja) of  this song from Saudagar (1991).

Radha Nachegi - Saudagar (1991) - Lata Mangeshkar & Mohd. Aziz - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Anand Bakshi

And the mukhda of the Kala Aadmi song resurfaced a few years later as the mukhda of this song from Bhairavi (1996)

Moh Maya Ko Tyag Re Praani - Bhairavi (1996) - Roop Kumar Rathod - Laxmikant Pyarelal - Amit Khanna

Re-created, then Dubbed!!

There have been a few curious cases where a composer re-use his tune from another language, but at the same time someone decided to dub the original film. So you end up with a tune appearing twice in one language without the composer intending to do so. A. R Rahman had created a brilliant song in the Tamil film Duet (1994). The tune was picked up for the Hindi film, Kabhi Na Kabhi (1997), but while the Hindi film was still being made, the Tamil film was dubbed in Hindi as Tu Hi Mera Dil (1995). And we got these two songs in Hindi, one with some really atrocious lyrics, and another where the singers were simply not able to catch up with the high notes. The recreated version, however, had a different arrangement and the antaras were also slightly different.

Anjali Anjali Pushpanjali - Tu Hi Mera Dil (1995) - S. P Balasubramanyam & Chitra - A. R Rahman - P. K Mishra
Mil Gayin Mil Gayin Wo Manzilen - Kabhi Na Kabhi (1997) - Alka Yagnik & Kumar Sanu - A. R Rahman - Javed Akhtar

Same Language? Not Quite…

There is at least one instance I am aware of where two similar songs are in the same language, but the films are in different languages. Sachin Dev Burman had composed a few Hindi songs for a Bengali film Chaitali (1969). He took the mukhda tune of one of them, made a few modifications, and turned into another song that turned out to be his swan song. The Hindi film was Deewangee (1976).

Paayal Baaj Gayi - Chaitali (1969) - Lata Mangeshkar - Sachin Dev Burman - Anand Bakshi
Chal Sapnon Ke Shahar - Deewangee (1976) - Kishore Kumar - Sachin Dev Burman - Anand Bakshi

Crossing the Borders

Now, the final category for this post. Same composer, same language… but the tune has travelled past national borders. Nisar Bazmi never got much success while he was composing for Indian films. He migrated to Pakistan in the early 60s, and became quite successful as a composer there. In this example, he reused one his tunes sung by Lata Mangeshkar in India (co-composed with Chic Chocolate) for a Noor Jehan song in Pakistan.

Balam Ji Bade Naadaan - Kar Bhala (1956) - Lata Mangeshkar - Nisar Bazmi & Chic Chocolate - Majrooh Sultanpuri
Nayanva Chalayen Baan - Anjuman (1969, Pakistan) - Noor Jehan - Nisar Bazmi