16 comments on “Look, there is a Holi song in Pakistani films after all – and it’s a beauty!

  1. Richard,
    Apart from the chorus, there seems to be another singer. A quick search shows that there there are holi songs from Pakistan in Punjabi. Thanks for a nice video which I have not seen before.

  2. You’re welcome, Swarup. The other singer is Irene Perveen.

    Regarding those Punjabi Holi songs, are you sure they aren’t songs that use the word “holi” as a Punjabi word that means something else? :).

    For your reference, here is the comments section in which Harvey suggested a Punjabi song with the word “holi” in it, and a few of us pointed out that the word actually meant something else. (I knew because I’d seen a translation, and Ava and Bawa knew because they know Punjabi.)


  3. I am not sure about the meanings since i do not know either language. There is one from Nizam Daku on YouTube with the comment that it is a Holi song. The link is easy to find searching for Nizam Daku

  4. Oh, I see. Thanks. That’s from a later time, though – 1979, not quite like a classic, old B&W Holi song :) , and not nearly as nice as the one from the 1961 Gul Bakawali. (By the way, there is also a 1939 Gul Bakawali that featured Baby Noor Jehan! And I see there was a 1963 Gul Bakawali from Bollywood.)

    I also wish we could see how this other Holi song was picturized, but the only copy I found so far just has a still…unless you fund another one?

    Anyway, as you can see in the comments to the Holi post from last March, nobody thought there would be even one real Holi song coming out of Pakistan, so that’s why the one above was such a surprise.

  5. There is one from Patay Khan ‘Holi Holi ro mombatiye’. I wonder whether it is with the other meaning. You already blogged about that film and will have a better idea.

  6. I love quite a few of the songs from Patay Khan; it has a great soundtrack! But I don’t remember that one, and I can’t find it on YouTube. I do see it listed in Pakistani Film Magazine, and it is a Noor Jehan song. Next to the title, it says “(bol)” – which I believe is Urdu for “speak” (right?)… It could be the same in Punjabi, or it could be that the parenthetical part of the title is in Urdu, since both languages are spoken and sung in this film. (In fact, I know that both languages are sung in one single song by Noor Jehan – but it’s not this song.) Now, the other/Punjabi meaning of “holi” (or “hauli”) is “whisper.” So maybe that is the meaning of the word here. Of course, this is all just wild guessing…

    P.S. The entire film is on YouTube, but since it wasn’t subtitled, I didn’t watch it all the way through. (Earlier, I found a few scenes posted that were subtitled in English, but I don’t think they’re up anymore.) I suppose I can look through it sometime soon and see if there is a Holi scene. :)

  7. I saw this post long time back! But got time to watch it only today. It seems you not only got one Urdu Holi song from Pakistan but also many from Punjab. Thanks Richard, thanks Swarup!
    The song from Gul Bakwali intrigues me! Particularly the part after 1:23. I couldn’t really understand what she sings there, but whatever she sings, it is phenomenal! Fabulous!
    I thinks she refers to biblical characters like Moses and Nimrod. Wonder what is the context to it being sung in a Hindu (?) temple! Very intriguing!
    More intriguing is the switch to Indra’s court (?) at 2:58.
    Wonder if it has anything to do with Gulfam and sabz pari?

    Swarup, thanks for the Kartar Singh Holi song! Such a jovial troupe!

  8. From: http://www.jmionline.org/film_journal/jmi_09/article_02.php

    The first Oriental film Gul Bakawali was produced in Mumbai in 1924 by Kohinoor Film Co. and directed by Kanjibhai Rathod, the first professional director who was a Dalit. The film had Khalil in the lead, and introduced Zubeida. It also featured her mother Fatima Begum, the first woman film maker and studio owner.

    It is also to be noted here that Gul Bakawali was remade in the talkies in 1932 by Saroj (A. P. Kapoor) with Zebunissa and again by Rustom Modi (1947), Dhirubhai Desai (1957) and by Jugal Kishore (1963). Gul Bakawali also holds the honour of being the first oriental / costume talkie to be produced in Tamil and in Telugu. In Tamil it was produced by Tamilnadu Talkies in 1935 (S. Soundarrajan) and in Telugu the film was produced by Liberty Pictures (Sadashiv Rao, 1938). Gul Bakawali (Ramanna, 1955) was again produced by R. R. Pictures in Tamil and Hindi with M. G. Ramchandran and T. R. Rajkumari in the lead and in Telugu with the title Gul Bakawali Katha (1962) by N.A.T. (P) Ltd.

  9. Harvey,
    I found this article about why some folk themes persist interesting
    GulebakawaIi seems to have been made in Malay too in 1963, the director was Indian. I am reminded of ‘Three hundred Ramayanas’ with variants across India and South East Asia, though the changes may be much less in modern times.

  10. Thanks for doing all that research, Harvey and Swarup!

    Swarup, I am going to have to take some time to read that article fully soon. I just glanced at it for now, and I know about some of those stories from their frequent appearances in films. :) I am very familiar with ?Mirza Sahiban at this point… And by the way, the article lists the wrong year for Noor Jehan’s Mirza Sahiban. Maybe it was filmed during that year, but I am pretty sure that I read in a couple of places that this was Noor Jehan’s last Indian film, released in 1947 after Jugnu. (By the way, that is one slightly frustrating phenomenon that I’ve encountered when trying to do research on old Indian and Pakistani films, actors, etc.: So many articles and sites give different dates for the same thing, and often a wrong one gets repeated hundreds of times. :) )

  11. Richard,
    Unforrtunately, the sloppiness about dates etc is correct I think. There seems to be an emphasis from ancient days that what is important is how one lives and dates etc are not that important. Some of the ancient stories are quoted daily as guides to living; often they give contradictory guidance. Possibly some of the folk tales, particularly those coming from the MiddLe East are different but sometimes they are intermixed with the ancient stuff I think. These probably do not represent the views of the majority at any given time but are social spaces to still contray views and give some consolation to the rebellious and underprivileged. There are instances of traditional performances where the underpriviliged abuse the privileged and all people watch and enjoy. I am not surprised that there are elements of Hindu festivals etc in Pakistani films, since that was part of the common culture, but I expected them to get less with more centralized power and after the changes during Zia regime. I think that Noor Jehan is not anti- Hindu, it seems that Baburao Patel spoke to Morarji Desai about obscenity in one of her husband’s films and wanted it banned. The story goes that is what hastened their departure from Bombay. Generally filmi people seem more tolerant and open to people of other faiths; at least that is my impression of filmi personalities in Bombay around independence time.

  12. Very interesting thoughts there…

    Regarding Noor Jehan, my impression was that she was not at all anti-Hindu and not pro-partition, either. Yes, the sources I’ve seen have generally said that she moved to Pakistan for practical reasons related to her husband (in a marriage that, unfortunately, also turned out to be ill-fated).

    I also got the impression that Noor Jehan was a leftist at heart. When she talked about Faiz in an interview, she said something about how great things could have happened if Faiz’s vision had more influence on events in Pakistan (or something like that). She seemed to feel real comradeship with Faiz, and, of course, she sang his songs in defiance of the government ban.

    On the other hand, I am always puzzled by Noor Jehan’s prominent role in that ultra-patriotic song that I’ve seen/heard so many times – the one that came out during the 1965 war with India – with YouTube videos showing all the features of Pakistan’s military arsenal in action. Noor Jehan seemed to be proud of her role in “helping her country” there. Is that a contradiction, or maybe it isn’t because of the particular context of the times? (I honestly don’t know…)

    I have read the same things about filmi people being more tolerant of other faiths, and more dismayed by the hatred manifested during partition. Manto writes a good amount about that in Stars from Another Sky. There is also a curious scene showing other people being more tolerant or protective of filmi people of the other faith. There is a good scene in which Manto is in a car being driven by Ashok Kumar…into a Muslim neighborhood. Manto is terrified because Ashok Kumar is a famous Hindu and people are approaching the car…but as it turns out, they call Ashok “brother” and give him advice on how to get through town safely. Manto’s chapter on Shyam is very moving because of the emotional thoughts that it conveys regarding the tragic nature of partition.

    Actually, those were ultimately my favorite parts of the book – along with, maybe, the chapter on Nargis (which seemed to be more a chapter on Nargis’ mother, Jaddan Bai). I didn’t care for the chapter on Noor Jehan, even if it did have good information, because it was extremely, unfairly, unflattering. :)

  13. Richard, a very valuable discovery, so typical of you. Thanks. I should also thank Gaddeswaroop and Harvey for their contributions. With our common musical heritage, one should get many Holi songs especially in classical/semi-classical thumri genre. This has set me on a new search. Meanwhile I could get this by Abida Praveen – Aaj piya Holi khelan aya.

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