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29 November 2020

My Favourites: Ghazals in Films

I’ve been fascinated by Urdu as a language for as long back as I can remember. Like many others, it’s my immersion in Hindi films and film songs that first introduced me to the beauty of the language. An interest in languages spurred me to discover what words and phrases meant, and the script fascinated me – but I couldn’t find someone to teach me.

Then one day, a friend called us over for lunch. As we chatted, my friend mentioned that her husband was learning the tabla from an Ustad in Lucknow. My ears perked up – perhaps the teacher would know someone who taught Urdu? The wheels were set in motion and before I knew it, I’d signed on for Urdu lessons.

My teacher, Abhishekji, is a young bank officer, and an upcoming contemporary Urdu poet. More importantly, he’s a born teacher – a man blessed with abundant patience, a deep devotion to the propagation of Urdu, and a commitment to ensure that every single person in our group learnt not just to read and write, but also a new appreciation of the nuances of a very beautiful language. To that end, we discussed Urdu literature, poetry and of course, ghazals.

Coming to India from Arabia via Persia, the ghazal is not, as is generally assumed, characterised by its accompanying music. It is a form of lyric poetry meant to be recited in the oral traditions of many cultures. It is, therefore, strange then that ghazals in Hindi films are associated with certain directors such as Madan Mohan, instead of the poets/lyricists who wrote them. As an example, Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le from Baazi is a ghazal in its poetic structure. However, you wouldn’t think to hear it, because SD Burman set it to a distinctly westernised tune.

Also, a ghazal’s structure has to follow certain rules: in general, a ghazal has a minimum of five couplets, each couplet complete in itself. (A nazm, on the other hand, has a connecting theme that runs through its couplets.)  Each couplet ends in the radiif (the refrain which may be a word or a phrase) which is immediately preceded by the qaafiya, the rhyming word. It is the qaafiya and the radiif that connect the couplets.

By that token, Rang aur noor ki baraat kise pesh karoon from Ghazal, which I’d always considered a ghazal is actually not one. If you ever paid attention to the lyrics, you would notice that they are not in two-line verses at all. Its sister song – Naghma-o-sher ki saugaat kise pesh karoon, however, is a ghazal.

Strangely enough, or perhaps not so strangely considering how little people seem to know about what constitutes a ghazal and what doesn’t, many Hindi songs that appear on Ghazal collections aren’t ghazals at all. [The general impression seems to be that if the song appears in a Muslim social, and is romantic, it has to be a ghazal.]

I’m still new to ‘identifying’ a ghazal simply by listening to it, so I won’t pretend a knowledge I do not have. I will try – as a practice for my Urdu class – to find the qaafiya and the radiif in whichever couplet from the ghazal I choose to quote.

At the very beginning, let me mention two ghazals that have been my perennial favourites – Sahir’s Tang aa chuke hai kashmakash-e-zindagi se hum from Pyaasa and Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s Raat yun dil mein from Janwar. These give me goosebumps any time I listen to them. But below is a selection of my favourite ‘filmi’ ghazals [ones that I can positively identify as such – which made me drop yet another one of my favourites, Mere mehboob tujhe meri mohabbat ki kasam].

Zinda hoon is tarah
Aag (1948)
Singer: Mukesh
Music: Ram Ganguly
Lyrics: Behzaad Lakhnavi
 
Ghazals were originally considered conversations with a beloved. As the form became popular, the themes began to encompass all its aspects, including yearning and separation, loss and pain. This is one of the best examples of the latter, every word of Behzaad Lakhnavi’s dripping with the anguish of a life torn apart, of a man’s inability, nay, unwillingness to move on from the loss of his beloved. 
Aane ko aa chukaa tha kinaara bhi saamne

Khud uske paas meri nayya gayi nahiin
(The shore, it appeared before me
But my boat refused to approach near) 
 
If you look at the verses, you would soon spot the radiif – in this case, a single word, ‘nahiin’. The qaafiya in this couplet is ‘gayi’, which rhymes with roshnii, bujhii, dillagi, and dilkashi in the other couplets.
 
Aah ko chaahiye ek umr asar hone tak
Mirza Ghalib (1954)
Singer: Suraiya
Music: Ghulam Mohammed
Poet: Mirza Ghalib 
Based on poet Ghalib’s life, this was a film that was filled with one enticing ghazal after another. Who can forget the wonderful Talat Mahmood-Suraiya duet, Dil-e-nadaan tujhe hua kya hai, or other Suraiya solos like Ye na thi hamari qismat and Nuktacheen hai gham-e-dil? But I rather liked the description of a sigh needing a lifetime to take effect.
As I do this couplet:
Hum ne maana ki taghaaful na karoge lekin 
Khaak ho jaayenge hum tum ko khabar hone tak
 (I’d thought you wouldn’t neglect me, but
I’ll turn into ashes before you even notice)

Here, the radiif is the phrase ‘hone tak’ while the qaafiya is ‘khabar’, which rhymes with ‘asar’, ‘khoone-e-jigarand ‘sahar’ in the other couplets.

Yun hasraton ke daag
Adalat (1958)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajendra Krishan 
Yet another film that was filled with ghazals was Adalat. Un ko ye shikaayat hai is a particular favourite but this one – the lament of a woman forced to become a tawaif is particularly poignant. Madan Mohan richly deserved all the encomiums showered on him, and there was a certain sweetness in his compositions for his muse, Lata. 
Honthon ko sii chuke to zamaane ne ye kaha

Yuun chup sii kyun lagii hai aji kuchh to boliye
(When I finally kept quiet, the world chided
Why are you so silent, please say something) 
In theme and ‘voice’ this is a sister song to ‘Un ko ye shikaayat hai’, especially the part about remaining silent. In that song, she sings, ‘Kuch kehne pe tuufaan utha leti hai duniya, ab is pe qayaamat hai ki hum kuch nahin kehte’.
 
The radiif in this song, is only ‘liye’; the qaafiyaa interestingly enough, is just part of the word in some cases – ‘ro’, ‘ho’, ‘toliye’ and ‘boliye’.  
 
Lagta nahin hai dil mera ujde dayaar mein
Lal Qila (1960)
Singer: Mohammed Rafi
Music: SN Tripathi
Poet: Bahadur Shah Zafar 
As a film, Lal Qila was, unfortunately, not worth watching. We seem incapable of making good historicals (but that’s a rant for another day). However, this film had two outstanding ghazals, sung/recited by Mohammed Rafi. This, and the more famous Na kisi kia ankh ka noor hoon, both composed by Emperor Bahadur Shah ‘Zafar’ in captivity in Rangoon, where he breathed his last. In Lagta nahiin hai dil mera, away from his beloved land, the emperor bemoans his captivity in a foreign land, begging his hopes and desires to find elsewhere to reside, since there’s no place for them in his broken heart. He has no complaints, he writes, either of the gardener or the hunter – as a nightingale, he’s destined to be held captive, even in Spring.
It’s the last couplet however that moves me to tears:
Kitna hai bad nasiib ‘zafar’ dafn ke liye
Do gaz zamiin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein
(How unfortunate art thou, Zafar, for your interment
You couldn’t avail of two yards of land in your beloved’s land)
 
Check out the radiif here – it’s the simple ‘mein’ or ‘in’, while ‘kuu-e-yaar’ is the qaaifya in this couplet, rhyming with ‘aalam-e-na-paaedaar’, ‘dil-e-daagh-daar’, ‘bahaar’ and ‘fasl-e-bahaar in the previous couplets. 
 
Tum apne ranj-o-gham
Shagoon (1964)
Singer: Jagjit Kaur
Music: Khayyam
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi 
Love has many shades. Here, it is an offering of solace, of comfort, from a woman whose love is not requited. But she asks for nothing in return, just offers a shoulder for him to lean on. Shagoon was a train wreck of a movie, as regressive as it could be, but the songs written by Sahir Ludhianvi and set to tune by Khayyam were stellar.
Main dekhuun to sahii duniya tumhen kaise sataati hai

Koi din ke liye apnii nigehbaani mujhe de do
(Let me see how the world troubles you
For a day, at least, allow me to protect you
 
Mujhe de do’ becomes the refrain, and the words before the phrase, ‘viiraani’, ‘hairaani’, ‘nigehbaani’, ‘pashemaani’ are the rhymes or qaafiyas.

Hain sabse madhur woh geet
Patita (1953)
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: Shankar Jaikishan
Lyrics: Shailendra 
A ghazal in pure Hindustani with nary a hint of Urdu – Shailendra was past master at describing the most complex concepts in the simplest possible language. Make no mistake however, his poetry was exemplary. Here, taking inspiration from a couple of lines from his favourite poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley – ‘Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought’ – Shailendra writes, ‘Hain sabse madhur woh geet jinhe hum dard ke sur mein gaate hai’.
It’s a song offering solace and comfort to a partner, one who has suffered much, and cannot still believe her luck in getting a second chance at love. And life. 
Jo gham ka andhera gir aaye, samjho ke savera duur nahiin
Har raat ki hai paighaam yahii, tare bhi yahii dohraate hai
(When the darkness of grief engulfs you, know that dawn is nigh
This is the message of the nights; it is what the stars echo)
 
The refrain, the radiif, is the simple ‘hai’ and ‘gaate’, ‘aate’, ‘jaate’, dohraate’, jalaate’ are the rhymes. 
 
Rehte the kabhi jinke dil mein
Mamta (1966)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Roshan
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri 
Rehte the kabhi jinke dil mein’ bears many similarities to ‘Yun hasraton ke daag’ – both are sung by women who have been trapped in the oldest profession; both lament lost loves. But while one laments the need to keep quiet despite having much to say, Rehte the kabhi jinke dil mein is a stinging condemnation of a lover’s thoughtless betrayal – one that not just broke her heart but ruined her life. It’s not enough that he has no tears to ease the smouldering ache of years of ignominy; it is that when he does offer solace, it is to add insult to injury. Her words are pointed, sharpened by the grief she has endured.
Daava tha jinhen hamdardii ka khud aake na puuchha haal kabhii

Mehfil mein bulaaya hai hum pe hansne ko sitamgaaron kii tarah
(Those who professed their sympathies came not to ask my plight
Calling me instead to a gathering, to laugh, like oppressors might) 
 
Kii tarah’ is the radiif, while ‘pyaaron’, ‘gunahgaaron’, ‘sitamgaaron’, ‘angaaron’, and ‘diivaaron’ form the qaafiyas.
 
Ae dil mujhe aisi jagah le chal
Arzoo (1950)
Singer: Talat Mahmood
Music: Anil Biswas
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpur
If Madan Mohan was considered a master in the art of setting ghazals to tune, Talat Mahmood had the distinction of being considered a master in singing them. His soft, melodious voice definitely added to the beauty of the compositions. Here, Talat sings for mentor, Anil Biswas – a soft ode to a broken heart, lending pathos to the journey of a man who desires nothing more than to be left alone with his pain.
Jaa kar kahin kho jaauun main, neend aaye so jaauun main
Duniya mujhe doondhe magar mera nishaan koyi na ho
(If I could find somewhere to lose myself, if only slumber would let me sleep
So this world, if it ever looks for me, would find nary a sign of me)
 
This is a small ghazal – just three couplets (or a mukhda and two antaras). ‘Koyi na ho’ is the refrain. ‘Jahaan’, ‘nishaan’, ‘karvaan’ form the qaafiyas.
 
Koi humdum na raha
Jhumroo (1961)
Singer: Kishore Kumar
Music: Kishore Kumar / Saraswati Devi
Lyrics: Majrooh Sultanpuri 
Another unlikely ghazal, Koi humdum na raha was originally composed by Saraswati Devi for Jeevan Naiyya (1936). The original lyrics were written by Jamuna Swarup Kashyap; and Majrooh borrowed just the mukhda for this version, and spun his magic on the antaras. (Kishore copied the original melody, note by note, and while it is said he took his brother’s permission to use the song, he failed to credit Saraswati Devi.) Majrooh’s verses described the loneliness of a man who has lost something.
Shaam tanhaii ki hai aayegi manzil kaise

Jo mujhe raah dikhaaye wohi taara na raha
(Evenings of loneliness, how will this journey end
When the lodestar who guides me is nowhere to be seen)

The refrain here is ‘na raha’, while ‘sahara’, ‘tara’ ‘tumhara’ and ‘ishaara’ form the rhymes in the various verses. 

Chalte chalte
Pakeezah (1972)
Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
Music: Ghulam Mohammed
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi 
A courtesan, who dies giving birth to a daughter. A young girl trapped within the constraints of a kotha. A chance meeting with a stranger who is fascinated by a glimpse of her feet. A love that’s forbidden by the rules of polite society but one that she can’t forget. Even while she’s dancing for a client whose wealth and status demand that she focus on him. Her yearning is evident in Kaifi’s eloquence, one that paints her wistful desire that she might see him once more, before her life comes to an end.
Shab-e-intezaar aakhir kabhi hogi mukhtasar bhi

Ye chiraag bujh rahe hai mere saath jalte jalte
(This night of waiting will soon be curtailed
These lamps are dying, burning along with me)
 
 
It’s only a part of the last word here that becomes the radiif – chalte-chalte, dhalte-dhalte, talte-talte, jalte-jalte. The qaafiyas are simple – raat, baat, saath. 
 
There are other ghazals, of course, that I love very much, from later films like Rasm-e-ulfat ko nibhaayen to nibhaayen kaise (Dil ki Raahein), Ye kya jagah hai doston (Umrao Jaan), Ruke ruke se qadam (Mausam), Hoshwaalon ko khabar kya (Sarfarosh), Dikhaayi diye yun (Bazaar). What are your favourites? 

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