15 comments on “Oh, what a world

  1. Dear Richard,

    About that first song from DO BIGHA ZAMEEN, it just goes to show that even great Directors such as Bimal Roy aided by a great Editor such as Hrishikesh Mukherjee also make blunders while filming songs.

    If you follow the song in its entirety, you’ll notice that Mehmood is sitting behind the lead singer in the beginning. Then at 01:49 he disappears, only to appear again at 02:04. He disappears again at 02:17 only to reappear at 02:27 and stays till the end of the song.

    If we do a detailed analysis of the song with some of the other characters, we may observe similar anomalies. Perhaps Roy/Mukherjee never expected Mehmood to rise to stardom, after all he was working then as a driver for Film Maker PL Santoshi.

    This not to take away anything from the greatness of Roy or Mukherjee – they were humans after all.

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

  2. Partha,

    Thank you for those very interesting observations! If there were yet more anomalies with some of the other actors, then this scene was a bit of a mess, wasn’t it? :)

    I don’t know if I ever would have caught those problems in the visuals. I was more caught up with the music of the song and the lyrics – with the help of English subtitles (even though you don’t see any in the clip that I posted – a problem that I just wrote about in some added comments above). But come to think of it, maybe if I had watched this a few more times WITHOUT subtitles, I would have been more likely to notice some of the glitches in this scene. :)

  3. These songs are so close to my heart, Richard, mostly because I’ve been thinking about these lately: they so reflect the current state of affairs. :-(

    Here’s another one which I posted on Facebook some days back. Aasmaan pe hai khuda aur zameen pe hum (Sahir Ludhianvi had a flair for being bitingly critical of the establishment):

    And Yeh kiska lahu hai kaun mara, from Dharamputra. Sahir again.

  4. Madhu, I am glad that the songs I posted were close to your heart – but sorry that it is because they apply so well to the current state of affairs. :(

    Thank you for the two songs you added above. Yes, they seem quite appropriate.

    Of course, my Hindi language skills are limited (unfortunately, they were probably better a few years ago and I need to catch up a little, even to the point where I was). So, I looked for some sources that could give me English translations.

    And though these scenes from the films aren’t subtitled anywhere, other clips with translations can be found…

    This is one for “Ye Kiska Lahu Hai Kaun Mara.” The lyrics are recited throughout the clip, and there are English subtitles at the bottom. There are contemporary scenes provided, too, but I don’t know what films (or programs?) they are from. The clip was posted less than a month ago, and on the screen at the end, it says (with some typos/errors that I am correcting here :) ), “Even though this poem was written during India and Pakistan Partition, it is still relatable to present day’s events.” Though it if it was written in 1961, it was written about Partition (not exactly during); also, maybe we should say that it is newly relatable to the present day’s events?

    And for the English translation of “Aasman Pe Hai Khuda,” the best I could find is Dr. K. Chaudhry’s “Video Karaoke.”

    Is this translation complete, more or less? This song’s a bit different – less an expression of direct outrage and more sardonic. And by the way, I really like Raj Kapoor’s (most appropriate) presentation in the film scene!

    P.S. I don’t recall receiving your post of this on Facebook, two weeks ago. I just looked for it over there now, and I added my “like.” :)

  5. Dear Richard,

    If “State of the World” is your Theme, then by extension, any problem which has been plaguing the world since time immemorial, would fill the bill , such as

    – exploitation of the poor and the oppressed and the weak (i.e. women)
    – poverty
    – trafficking and prostitution
    – extortion
    – wars

    etc etc

    It is difficult at this age to offhand recollect songs from half a century ago, but the human mind also has strange ways of digging up from the data bank.

    One song comes readily to mind, strange that most such songs are sung by Md. Rafi, mainly because of his ability to retain the pitch even at high volumes. Witness this one, subject entirely to your approval and acceptance, from the Film “OONCHI HAVELI” (1955) :

    And I wonder if these two songs depicting the anguish of exploited women will live up to the Theme :

    First the song from “MEHNDI” (1958) – this was the first of many Films on the character of UMRAO JAAN ; note that there is no instrumental backing for the song, perhaps the only one in Hindi Films :

    Next this song from “SADHNA” (1958) :

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

    (I tried my best to find sub-titled songs, but no luck)

  6. Partha,

    Thank you for the latest comment. I am going to answer it in two parts – one addressing the songs that you posted, and the next clarifying my theme related to “the state of the world.”

    Of course, I will have to find subtitles, at least for the first two songs. It is difficult to say much about the first one that you posted, except that, yes, it is very Rafi. :) He’s always a pleasure to listen to.

    The second one sounds beautiful! I am pretty certain that there had to be other a cappella songs in Hindi films, though I can’t recall any at the moment. It is nice to hear some of the great old singers singing without instrumental backing once in a while; I think this shows us how wonderful their singing skills can be.

    I have heard a few recordings of Noor Jehan without instrumental backing. The most memorable one was a rendition of the Faiz poem “Mujhse Pehli Si Muhabbat” (which she so famously adopted as part of her own repertoire – with Faiz’s glad approval). But there were more. Without instruments in the background, especially during her peak, her voice was possibly even more stunning than it was in all her film songs.

    Regarding the third song… Sadhna was one of the first films that I bought when I moved near all those “Bollywood DVD” stores in the Indian neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens, NY (for a few years) twelve years ago. I count it as one of the two DVDs that first turned me into an incurable fan of Golden Age films. (The other was Shree 420.) Of course, it was Vyjayanthimala’s dancing that did that. I’d been watching a lot of film dances and was already a fan of Padmini, whom I had seen plenty of in clips and films online (and in a TV clip once, going further back). But Vyjayanthimala helped to get me hooked on the DVDs. :) And Sadhna was very good in other was too…

    “Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko” is a great song and its criticisms still are relevant today, to a good extent. But I don’t see it as specifically addressing the things that I was thinking about when I wrote this post. As I said, I will go into that next. (I have the comment stored and will look over it and post it in a little while. I didn’t want to post it in the same comment as my response to your songs, because I am not sure how much you are going to want to read through it. LOL)

  7. Dear Richard,

    I hasten to point out that Mme Noor Jehan’s performances without instrumental backing were for private concerts or performances, not in a Film. The Original, as you know, was picturised on actress SHAMIM ARA in the Film “QAID” (1962) with full instrumental backing.

    Just as a matter of curiosity, which part of US are you presently located?

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

  8. Partha,

    Yes, I know that the Noor Jehan a cappella performances were for private concerts. There are a few audio clips of these on YouTube. And I have seen the scene in Quaid many times! (I have seen quite a few Noor Jehan films on YouTube with subtitles – both Indian and Pakistani. Tom Daniel has posted quite a few online, and there actually have been some available at the NY Public Library. And I’ve bought multiple copies of Anmol Ghadi. :) ) (They get scratched or end up going out on a permanent loan to someone or just lost, etc.)

    I am presently located in the Bronx, New York City. This is my home borough. I am actually in the neighborhood in the North Bronx where I lived as a teenager. It’s a long-ish story how I got back here, but I have to move out of here sometime soon. I would like to go back to the area of Jackson Heights, Queens; it was my favorite area to live in in New York City. (I have lived in all five boroughs.) During the times that I’ve done this blog, I’ve also lived in Staten Island and in Philadelphia for a brief while (I’ve returned to the place now and then; I went to college there long ago), and also in Ithaca, NY for six months (I lived in my sister’s house at the time, about eight years ago). These are the only parts of the U.S. where I’ve lived…unless you count six weeks in Seattle decades ago. I have visited different parts of New England a bunch and the West Coast a few times and the South (sort of), a long time ago.

  9. [And now the second part of my response, as promised above.]

    Partha, it is true that the problems you reflect upon go back to “time immemorial” in a general sense, but my theme is what I see as the social deterioration in India (and in some ways, the U.S. – to a lesser degree) due to the rise of reactionary forces. In India, this means the rise of Hindutva, which Indian and American friends alike recognize as a kind of fascism. More specifically, the rise of government oppression and destruction of the democratic principles in the constitution, crushing of civil liberties, and manipulated mob violence against ethnic and religious minorities. I don’t want to go into political critiques calling out specific names in my blog posts, because they don’t quite fit in. (It’s a sort of aesthetic judgment, I suppose.) But the biggest name to call out would be Modi. In the U.S., we have been plagued by Trump. So, in the U.S., also, we have had a ruling demagogue aiming to incite hate, bigotry, and a racist form of nationalism, but he is too narcissistic and incompetent to be as successful as Modi (and there are other, historical and cultural differences, of course).

    In the U.S., India, and many countries in the world, economic inequality has been surging. In the U.S., the stock market is at record-highs and official, highly inaccurate records tell us that we have “low unemployment,” but we have increasing homelessness, poverty, and “deaths of despair” (from drugs and suicide) that have actually caused a decrease in life expectancy (three years running now – just about unheard of for a “developed” nation). This is due in great part to a decrease in wages and working conditions and an increase in precarity.

    I have been in discussion on Facebook with a few friends who also comment on this blog sometimes, and they have confirmed my thoughts about the social/political conditions in India right now – in fact, some have told me in the recent past that it was worse than I realized (though I am realizing more fully now, I think, and, as I said, it is painful to see).

    Anyway, I hope I didn’t go off too much. :)

    But one more point (or two)… As I said, these Golden Age films showed a social conscience addressing many of the problems that I mentioned, in good part because they were inspired by socialism, and I’m socialist, too. Now in the U.S., that word “socialism” is actually becoming fashionable and mainstream in political discourse (for the first time in my lifetime), and I see that as a glimmer of hope in defeating the current ruling forces. In India, there has been an explosion of protest against the CAA and the NRC, which I also see as a big sign of hope.

    My understanding is that the films coming out of “Bollywood” in recent memory also have shown reactionary and/or jingoistic inclinations, as have more of the stars. But there have also been Bollywood stars recently wanting to organize their own protests against the CAA and the NRC (and possibly other things), so there is hope there, too.

  10. Richard, sorry for not having even looked for subtitled versions of those two songs in the first place! (On the other hand, you may consider that a compliment: I tend to forget that you’re not fluent in Hindi). :-)

    Yes, ‘newly relatable’ is perhaps a better term to use for Yeh kiska lahu hai kaun mara – it’s not as if communal riots have always been around. There are occasional spurts of violence in various parts of the country, but not sustained since Partition. (Incidentally, things are looking so bad in UP, for instance, that a Muslim friend of mine was saying the other day that a second Partition seems to be in the offing, because Modi will not let Muslims live in India.

    That version of Aasmaan pe hai khuda looks complete to me. It’s not a long song, but yes, it does have that sardonic bitterness about it which you mention.

  11. Madhu, I welcome the compliment of your forgetting that I am not fluent in Hindi, as long as you don’t go overboard the way one person did a couple of years ago, who refused to believe that I wasn’t fluent in Hindi, insisting that, for some reason, I had to be lying about it. :)

    Thanks for confirming my thought that “newly relatable” would be better in the description of “Yeh Kiska Lahu Hai Kaun Mara” and also confirming Dr. K. Chaudhry’s translation of “Aasman Pe Hai Khuda.” (By the way, similar to the discussion of whether or not we want to apply double vowels in transliterations, a discussion may be due regarding whether the song titles should be typed in initial caps. I guess this is an English-language tradition; I usually don’t see Indian people list them that way. :) )

    The thought from your Muslim friend in UP is not encouraging. Hopefully, the new outbreak of protests is showing that it is not quite as easy for Modi and the BJP to push this stuff through as they may have thought.

  12. “Hopefully, the new outbreak of protests is showing that it is not quite as easy for Modi and the BJP to push this stuff through as they may have thought.

    I know! That is the one heartening thing about all of this – the CAA/NRC legislation looks as if it might just be the last straw. Someone was remarking the other day that it’s heartening to see how people across India are uniting to protest against it.

    “who refused to believe that I wasn’t fluent in Hindi, insisting that, for some reason, I had to be lying about it. :)

    LOL! But this reminded me of something that happened several years back. My sister and I, along with my husband, had gone to visit the medieval fort of Firoz Shah Kotla in Delhi. It’s not a popular tourist destination, so we were the only people around, barring the Archaeological Survey of India’s local guard. My sister tried to ask him the way to approach a particular monument, and he stared at her, wondering how she knew Hindi. (Swapna is pretty fair, but not so fair that she’d be mistaken for Caucasian – and her Hindi and Urdu are, naturally, impeccable). No matter how Swapna phrased the question, all he did was gape at her and ask her, again and again, “How do you speak Hindi so well?” :-D

  13. That’s a funny story. I guess with some people, they just have to keep following their initial assumptions, even when the evidence in front of them obviously, repeatedly tells them that the assumptions are wrong. :)

  14. O what a world, indeed! Although after the protests I am hopeful that the march of fascism, at least in India, may get stalled.

    Love your selection of songs. I had a youtube playlist of similar songs till Dec last year. I heard them so often that youtube began to suggest some very appropriate additions! Here are some songs from my list:

    1. Aaj ke is insaan ko yeh kya ho gaya – sung by Pradeep for the film Amar Rahey Ye Pyar. I could not find a subtitled version of it. Pradeep (who also wrote the lyrics) is reprising his “what has happened to today’s humans” again – this time in the context of communal riots during the Partition of India.

    2. Jinhe naaz hai hind par woh kahan hain – another of my favorites from Pyaasa. The version I have posted below has a good translation. But for some reason “Hind” is translated to “Orient”

    3. Cheen-o-Arab humara from Phir Subah Hogi – more of Sahir’s biting satire. I could not find a subtitled version, but this blog post has a good translation.

  15. Hello, Bollyviewer. Thank you for your nice words about my selection. You say you had a similar playlist on YouTube but took it down in December. I wonder why… But December is also when I put up this post. So, hopefully, I am picking up where you left off. :)

    I also share your hope that with the protests going on, the march to fascism in India may get stalled. (This is something I was thinking about when I wrote, “Where there is resistance, there is hope.” Also, the fact that, finally, some current Bollywood actors have been speaking out against fascism, too.)

    Anyway, you posted some fine songs here.

    I will look for an English translation of “Aaj Ke Insaan Ko.” The images certainly are powerful, and the dramatic music complements them well. It is curious that the nightmare shadow images in this scene so closely resemble the ones in “Dekh Tere Sansar Ki Halat,” the song I posted from Nastik (which also referred to Partition). But the director and cinematographer are not the same. (Are these images unique to the films, or do they come from or refer to something else? Or was this just a convention that was used a lot at the time?) The music director is the same – the brilliant C. Ramchandra. And both films also star Nalini Jaywant! (Though she is not in this particular clip from Nastik; as I recall, she entered the film later.)

    All the songs from Pyaasa are so good! “Jinhe Naaz Hai Hind Par” is, too. This actually would be good on a list with one of the songs Partha posted, “Aurat Ne Janam Diya Mardon Ko.” :)

    And “Chin O Arab Hamara Hindustan Hamara” is great! That is an excellent blog post, too.

    I should add a note to everyone reading your comment that you can get to that blog post if you put your cursor directly over the phrase “this blog post.” :) That is one thing I don’t like about this WordPress template, in the comments: The underline showing that there is a link to a phrase does not show up until you put your cursor over the phrase. I don’t know why there is nothing to distinguish it when your cursor isn’t over the words! (At least nothing that I can see in my browser…)

    Anyway, I bet you did have a terrific list – thank you for sharing some of it!

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