23 comments on “Nukta Cheen Hai Gham-e-Dil

  1. Ghulam Mohammad’s score is better and so is Noorjehan’s voice. But I like the quality of Surraiya’s voice, even if her range was not so good.

  2. I suppose I’m slightly more biased towards Suraiya’s rendition – there’s just something about it that appeals to me a lot. Plus, I think Ghulam Mohammad’s music is fantastic. One thing, though, that I’ve always wondered whenever I’ve heard Suraiya’s version: why does the break in the first line come at the wrong place? (the break comes after “gham-e-dil” instead of after “nuktacheen hai”), which distorts the meaning of the song. And listening to Noor Jehan’s version, I noticed the same thing.

  3. I had a few comments about these in an earlier version, but I decided to delete them and just let the videos speak for themselves, maybe see what a couple of other people have to say. :)

    I guess in terms of the overall version this song, I like the Suraiya one just a little more. But Ava, you are right, Noor Jehan’s voice is better – it is the greatest… I listened to a bunch of her songs over the past couple of days, and I was just reminded again how much she is my number one favorite singer of all and how I don’t see that changing any time soon. I love that voice! And, of course, she has great range, etc.

    People have been posting a lot of Noor Jehan stuff on YouTube the past couple of days – and will be for a few more – because her tenth death anniversary is coming up this Thursday. I’ll give that some attention too. (Not meaning to turn this into a Death Anniversary Blog, but such events do provide a good reason for me to post about my favorite dancers and singers who are no longer around.)

  4. Dustedoff, regarding the break… Speaking for myself, I suspect in order to know what you are saying, I would need to know more. Could I get it from looking at the subtitles? Not clear about how the meaning is changed… But I guess other people would be. :)

  5. Richard, “Nuktacheen hai” means “He is indifferent”; “gham-e-dil usko sunaaye na bane” means “I cannot tell him the sorrow of my heart”. So, if you sing it with the break after “nuktacheen hai” it makes sense. But, if the break comes after “nuktacheen hai gham-e-dil”, it means “he is indifferent the sorrow of my heart” – which is really not quite right. I know I’m being nitpicking, but it just sounds a little weird.

  6. Wah! Wah!
    Urdu poetry at its best (though massacred by translation, no matter how good it is) and brought to glory by two such wonderful voices.

    Why did Noorjehan’s voice sound like that of a child…or is it from when she was one?
    I’m confused.

    Suraiya did falter at the higher notes (something Lata excels at (as I keep saying :)
    But I too liked Suraiya’s rendition better. Her voice sounds so rich and mellow.

    The couplets here play with the words ‘na bane’ (inability)…bataaye na bane, banaye na bane, bina aaye na bane, bujhaye na bane etc…showing helplessness this way or that way.

    As I understand, the meaning of nuktacheen means ‘complaint’ or ‘to find fault with’, depending on how it is used.

    The meaning (as I derive it) comes out in the complete couplet,

    nuktacheen hai gham e dil –
    the sorrowful heart has complaints

    usko sunaye na bane –
    is unable to tell her

    kya bane baat jahan baat banaye na bane
    .. *(it doesn’t matter because…)* nothing can happen there where you are unable to say anything

    * (it is the unspoken sense there)

    This is the general flow of the ghazal with the beautiful use of the words.
    It comes out best in the last couplet which is well known and was used in quite a few old films by a lovelorn hero.

    Ishq per zor nahin, hai yeh wo aatish ghalib, ke lagaaye na lage aur bujhaye na bane

    It describes love as fire which you cannot ignite at your will or extinguish at your will (again that inability).

  7. oops sorry! I got carried away with talking and talking about the couplets and the ghazal that I missed dustedoff’s point.

    Your point is an interetsing one.. Its all the difference that a comma can make to the sense of a sentence.

    I went over to youtube and listened to various singers singing this (KL Saigal, M Rafi, and a couple of other non filmi ones) and they all pause at gham e dil.

    Of course it could also mean (if one considers nuktacheen to mean indifferent…as one of its multiple meanings);
    she is indifferent and I’m unable to tell her the sorrows of my heart.

    In fact it even sounds good, but what to think of this pause on which I’m basing my meaning?

    So according to one interpretation it is ‘the sorrows of the heart’ and the other, ‘sorrowful heart’.
    It *is* a puzzlement.

  8. Thank you, Dustedoff and Pacifist, for the interpretations/translations of the Urdu. It is all very interesting. I wish I had learned Urdu sometime back. (I had a chance when I spent a lot of time with an Urdu-speaking person… But had some of my cultural interests (which she encouraged) developed back then as much as they did more recently, I might have been more insistent in my request… Ah, the sorrowful heart has complaints… )

    Pacifist, I think Noor Jehan was about 35 when she sang this song. :) I have heard the (very) occasional critical comment about her voice sounding childish (especially during the 25 or so years of her Golden Age movies), but I’ve heard it said about Lata too. I don’t think she literally sounds like a child. Noor’s voice does sound effortless when she reaches those high notes, in a way that Suraiya’s does not. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert in the technical qualities of the singing voice :) , but I think Noor Jehan was just as good on any of the high notes as Lata. Of course, Lata herself acknowledges Noor Jehan as a great influence and inspiration too…

    I love Lata’s voice in quite a few things, but I find Noor Jehan’s voice to be more consistently great during the period from the ’40s through the ’60s (slightly preceding, then overlapping with Lata’s heyday). As far as I can tell, both of them lost some quality in their singing later, starting in the (late?) ’70s, but I find Noor’s voice to be better much more often and still often awe-inspiring even up through the ’90s. (Notice I said “awe-inspiring”; I refuse to use the word “awesome.” :) )

    But I guess we’re getting a little off the track here… I thought we were comparing Suraiya with Noor Jehan on one song. Suraiya’s version does seem to have the edge, but maybe that’s because of Ghulam Mohammed.

    As I’ve said, I do really appreciate Suraiya’s voice for its unique qualities (as well as her screen presence), that’s why I just called her #2 on my favorites list. But maybe there’s a good reason she didn’t seem to stand out so much (at least not for me) in Anmol Ghadi. :)

  9. Pacifist, I just read your most recent comment. Yes, I was also thinking that Dustedoff’s comment amounted to where the comma should be placed. But I didn’t want to say that for certain, considering that I could be missing something in the translation. :)

  10. Vidur, thanks for the comment. I know you appreciate these two as much as I do. Though your attention seems to be shifting more to Shanta Apte (drifting even further back in time :) )…

  11. Richard, pacifist: Yes, I did mean to emphasise the fact that it all depends upon the placement of the comma. I’m not really taking any credit here for having figured that one out, though – my sister (who’s a bit of an expert on Ghalib, since he featured largely in her PhD) pointed that one out to me. In fact, she also told me (as pacifist mentions) that all the singers she has heard pause after gham-e-dil. She was pretty grumpy about that too, because it sends the meaning completely out of whack. ;-)

  12. Richard if you ask me.. I love both versions. I like the Ghulam Mohammad’s tune and quality of voice in Suraiya’s version… and singing better in Noor Jehan’s version. The music composer for Pakistani version is Tassaduq Hussain. Noor Jehan looks quite stunning in her swan film


    The film hasn’t been released yet on any formats and I hope they release it soon as each and every song of this film is a gem and treasure trove for Noor Jehan’s fans.

    If you hear Suraiya’s and Noor Jehan’ versions of Ghalib.. you will notice that Ghulam Mohammad has done a great job by bringing out the best out of Suraiya by keeping the tunes simple but very melodious. However, in the above song “Nukta cheen hai”, you must have noticed that Suraiya is having great difficulty when she sings “magar e jazba-e-dil” in higher notes. I don’t know why Ghulam Mohammed took her voice to higher notes, when there was no reason to do so.. other than that Suraiya’s rendition is perfect!

    Noor Jehan’s versions of Ghalib songs are very melodious too and tunes are more intricate as compared to Suraiya’s versions keeping Noor Jehan in mind. I remember how I was hooked to both Noor Jehan’s and Suraiya’s versions few years ago (and still am) when I first heard them.

    Isn’t it sad that after singing such melodious songs…. Mirza Ghalib was Suraiya’s LAST HIT film as an actress.. and Ghalib was Noor Jehan’s LAST film as a leading actress… :(

  13. Also because of the classically trained voice of Noor Jehan, she is very good with taking murkians (ebb and flow of the voice) and alaaps, while Suraiya, Mukesh etc have what you call “flat” voices.

    Anywayz, Suraiya voice is heavenly in this song and that for me gives her rendition a slight edge over Noor Jehan’s version.

  14. @Richard
    But I don’t find Noor Jehan’s voice childish in other songs (to my Indian ears both Lata and Noor Jehan don’t sound childish :)

    It’s just this one ghazal.
    I even thought the picture of Noor Jehan was of her girlhood.

    >it sends the meaning completely out of whack.
    But that’s what my long and elaborate interpretation wanted to say :) that it doesn’t sound out of whack the other way eiither.

  15. Pacifist, some of the criticisms I’d thought of about Noor Jehan or Lata sounding childish had come from people with “Indian ears.” :) One in particular was a very amusing review I saw quoted at Memsaab‘s from the ever-wrongheaded Barburau Patel, who says of Noor Jehan in the utterly gorgeous soundtrack to Dost (1944) that she “sings like a little child at its teething stage.” That review popped into my mind when you wrote your comment. :)

    Now, Mister Jinx, you are saying a bunch of stuff that I can completely agree with. :) Yes, I did hear Suraiya straining on those higher notes, but I still thought her version of this song was the best, and I still think both versions are great. And that is a very interesting point you brought up about Noor Jehan’s benefits from classical training in terms of “taking murkians” vs. the “flat” voices of Suraiya and Mukesh. I’m going to keep that stored in my mind. :)

    It is indeed sad that “Mirza Ghalib was Suraiya’s LAST HIT film as an actress.. and Ghalib was Noor Jehan’s LAST film as a leading actress…” Although it seems to me that Noor Jehan’s voice was the main attraction in quite a few films afterwards.

  16. @pacifist: I must admit to being still a little lost… if nuktacheen is taken to mean ‘indifferent’ (which is how I’ve always understood it) then nuktacheen hai gham-e-dil literally means “the sorrow of the heart is indifferent” and then usko sunaaye na bane means “I cannot tell it to him/her”. That last bit sounds okay, but I think the “sorrow of the heart is indifferent” doesn’t quite fit. Even if you try thinking about it in the original Urdu.

    Anyway, let’s agree to disagree on this! Ghalib’s too complex to absolutely understand, I guess.

  17. After listening to singers for many years, I do not much care about ornamentation (murkis etc.) or how effortlessly higher notes are sung. What matters to me now is how effectively the meaning of the lyrics is rendered. Most otherwise excellent singers are not so good in this dimension of singing. This is Ghalib’s poetry so the lyrics are all the more important. In that sense the ‘flat’ restrained rendering by Suraiya is just too much. The fact that her tonal quality is beautiful just adds to the effect. Her ‘Nuktacheen hai…’ is even better than Saigal’s, which you can listen to here:-


  18. I read somewhere that Suraiya’s ‘Socha Tha Kya’ was the most popular number of Anmol Ghadi. Nadira once said in an interview that when this movie was released her father saw it many times just for this song. As soon as this song got over he would walk out of the hall!!

  19. Himmat, thanks, that’s interesting info re. “Socha Tha Kya.” But was this song really more popular than “Jawan Hai Mohabbat” and “Awaz de Kaha Hai”? I have to say, when I saw Anmol Ghadi, I didn’t notice Suraiya much because my attention was so fixed on Noor Jehan. I think Noor definitely outshines Suraiya in this film.

    Since I am not a Hindi/Urdu speaker, the singer’s voice is almost always the first thing that impresses me about a Hindi or Urdu film song, separate from from how well it suits the meaning that the song is supposed to convey. Sometimes, if it’s well subtitled, I might be able to assess it somewhat in the way you describe. More often, I have to look up a translation of the poem afterwards. I can recognize a few words here and there now, but not to such a great extent… Of course, there is also visual/theatrical context, which might give a lot of clues regarding how the song should be sung. But in general, most often, it’s the sheer quality of the voice and how that voice generally affects me.

    To me, much as I have praised Suraiya, Noor Jehan’s voice sounds greater the vast majority of the time. I don’t know that much regarding the technicalities of vocal reach, etc., I just know that Noor Jehan’s voice reaches the greatest heights for me. :)

    But Noor Jehan is the one singer whom it would be unfair to compare anyone else to… She is still my favorite, above Suraiya and above Lata, Shamshad Begum, and all the rest.

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