Monday, April 30, 2007

Ye duniyaa agar mil bhi jaaye to kyaa hai?

A few years ago, film-maker Shashi Anand and I discussed the idea of bringing out a book (in English) of selected Hindi film songs.

Hindi film songs used to combine outstanding poetry, melody, vocal and instrumental virtuosity, choreography / picturisation, and social and cultural communication. They formed an important part of the education of millions of Indians from all walks of life.

We wanted to celebrate and pay tribute to Hindi film songs as exemplars of social integration, and to share our own intensive appreciation of many songs. We thought that through our book, a heightened appreciation of Hindi film songs would be awakened, besides reaching out to many others who are otherwise indifferent or lukewarm to this art form.

Apart from basic information on the singer, film, music director, director etc, there would be an accompanying commentary on each song to enhance readers’ appreciation of the meaning and significance of the songs.

Well, that was another project that remains unrealized.

But one of the songs that would have been high on the list is “Yeh duniyaa agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai?” This is from the film Pyaasa (1957), directed by Guru Dutt.

With lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi, and the music composed by Sachin Dev Burman, the song is sung by the immortal Mohammed Rafi.

The title of the song means: Even if this world is attained – so what?

Who gives a damn for this rotten world?

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The lyrics in Hindi text are accessible here.



ye mahalon, ye takton, ye taajon kii duniyaa / This world of palaces, of stages, of crowns
ye inasaan ke dushman samaajon kii duniyaa / This world of societies that are enemies of humans
ye mahalon, ye takton, ye taajon kii duniyaa / This world of palaces, of stages, of crowns
ye inasaan ke dushman samaajon kii duniyaa / This world of societies that are enemies of humans
ye daulat ke bhuukhe rivaazon kii duniyaa / This world of wealth-craving rites
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?

har ek jism ghaayal, har ek ruh pyaasii / Every body wounded, every soul thirsty
nigaaho mein uljhan, dilon me udaasii / Sight confused, hearts sorrowful
ye duniyaa hai yaa aalam-e-badhavaasii / Is this a world or a beacon of an ill-wind?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?

yahaan ek khilaunaa hai inasaan kii hastii / Here man is a puppet
ye bastii hai murdaa-paraston kii bastii / This is a place of necrophiliacs
yahan to jo jiivan se hai maut sastii / Here cheaper than life is death
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?

javaanii bhatakatii hai badkaar banker / Youth goes astray by transgression
javaan jism sajte hain baazaar banker / Marketplaces arise and young flesh adorns itself
jahaan pyaar hotaa hai vyaapaar banker / Where loving mutates into commerce
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?

ye duniyaa jahaan aadamii kuchh nahiin hai / This world where people count for nothing,
vafaa kuchh nahiin, dostii kuchh nahiin hai / Honour is nothing, friendship is nothing,
ye duniyaa jahaan aadamii kuchh nahiin hai / This world where people count for nothing,
vafaa kuchh nahiin, dostii kuchh nahiin hai / Honour is nothing, friendship is nothing,
jahaan pyaar ki kadr hii kuchh nahiin hai / Where respect for love is itself non-existent
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?

jalaa do, ise bhunk daalo ye duniyaa / Burn down, raze this world
jalaa do, jalaa do, ise bhunk daalo ye duniyaa / Burn down, burn down, raze this world
mere saamane se hataa lo ye duniyaa / Remove this world from my sight
tumhaarii hai tum hii sambhalo ye duniyaa / Its yours, you take care of it
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?
ye duniyaa agar mil bhii jaaye to kyaa hai / Even if this world is attained – so what?

14 comments:

Rahul Banerjee said...

pyasa along with kagaaz ke phool are the only two other indian films apart from satyajit ray's apu trilogy to have made it to the 100 greatest films of the twentieth century list. pyasa is the story of the ultimate lost cause hero. venkat you revel in anti-stories but i revel in the anti-establishmenter within a well told story. and pyasa is just gripping. all the songs are brilliant. i myself favour hemant kumar's jaane woh kaise more but yeh duniya too is fabulous. i have seen pyasa so many times (many more in fact than any other film. it is followed in my list of great films by casablanca.) and yet it never becomes old. you know my love and respect for you has gone up by leaps and bounds after this post of yours. in a very profound way we are kindred souls!

Holden Caulfield said...

There's no honor, friendship, love, respect in this world. And the solution is easy: burn down and raze down.

The only saving grace is the opening phrase: Ye duniyaa agar mil bhi jaaye to kyaa hai? At least that's a question, and there is some scope for a discussion. And there's an allusion to hope in renunciation. Everything else in the poem is negative.

Wonderful.

Rahul Banerjee said...

there's lot more to the film than just this poem which comes at the climax. the poem mirrors the tremendous sense of being let down that the radical left felt after independence when all the dreams of an egalitarian India were quickly crushed in the first decade of independence. that is why it is important to see the film to savour the beauty of this poem. venkat there is an interesting musico-cinematic ploy in the film in that every time Mala Sinha comes into the picture she is accompanied by a small tune played on the harmonica by none other than rahul dev barman.

bhupinder said...

Not sure if it is my favourite movie, but is certainly the one that I have watched maximum number of times.

Thanks for that trivia about the harmonica, Rahul.

For me, besides that supreme intertwining between the self and society that comes out in this song, the movie is memorable for its very piercing lyrics throughout the movie with the entire movie encapsulated in the open stanzas of 'Yeh hanste hue phool..'

The other one is that scene where Majaz and Jigar recite their nazms, with Majrooh looking on- perhaps the only time such great literary figures were captured on cinema.

I have wondered, though, every time I watched it, why an Urdu poet happened to be a Bengali (his mother actually calls him "Bejoy" in one place).

Sorry, have to break off now, need to watch the movie again....

rama said...

Hullo friends, thanks for the dialogue.

I first saw the film when I was 15, and was quite blown by this "realist" Hindi film, and the situation-picturisation-song-lyrics-drama-sentiment...

Rafi saab - is a major factor in the "mature" appreciation of this song. (Just the fact that he has sung so many awesome songs - will ensure that for aeons these will touch, stimulate, ignite, inflame, awaken, cultivate and nourish people.)

Guru Dutt - grew up in Calcutta. He was 4 years older than my father and used to drop my father at school. Being in Calcutta in the 1930s and 1940s - Guru Dutt got a good grounding / exposure in the "progressive" and leftist intellectual / political currents of those times.

So many Bengalis - and Punjabis, and NWFP-ites - went to Bombay to seek their fortunes. Being from Calcutta, Guru Dutt became part of the "Bengali" stream. But he was also a "south Indian", a Konkani. His surname was Padukone. There was also a fusing of Bengali-Punjabi-Brahmo-nationalist-progressivism-leftism. For instance the remowned palaeontologist, Birbal Sahni, was Brahmo. There was a small, intellectual-cultural-progressive Bengali community in Lahore pre-47. So the film can also be seen as a document of various streams and currents of 20th century Indian consciousness.

It could have been a Bengali film, about a Bengali poet. But Guru Dutt put this into a "national" canvas, through Hindi-Urdu. So it had to be an Urdu poet. Of course put in Urdu, it becomes related to Urdu poetry, which is something else altogether. (In Bengal, poetry is an elite phenomenon. As is Tagore. Urdu poetry is a mass phenomenon.) So Guru Dutt is fusing into the hero's personality, various different things, from different parts of the country.

Holden - thanks for your comment. What you say - can be your reading. But one could also differ.

Despising something and calling for its destruction - would be seen as destructive only by those who feel threatened. By the status quo. A call for destruction - can be about destruction of something specific, which is unwholesome and evil. Implicit in this is a plea for something better. Things like, love, honour, friendship, humanity etc - are actually explicit in the lyrics.

One can never feel and empathise with the rage of the underdog - unless one becomes an underdog. Till then one could go on railing against "destructivists".

But Holden, thanks to your interjection - it struck me that today one can also ask the question - yeh duniya agar nahi mila, to kya hai?! And thus could become a critique - existential - of capitalist-consumerist-materialist-exclusivist mores.

bhupinder said...

Now that you explain it, it makes perfect sense for Bejoy to be speaking Urdu.

And like Rahul, just this post has made me move your blog to the list of the blogs that I read daily, though of course I have been following it intermittently for quite sometime.

bhupinder said...

Rama, this post has inspired me to write a quick one on an actor whom I hugely admire.

ankurindia said...

its really nice idea to launch a book. go ahead with it

Hasnain said...

The poet of this song Sahir needs a special mention for writing some unforgettable nazms for Pyasa. Without his contributions the film would not have been what it is considered to be now.

He was born as Abdul Hayee in Ludhiana on March 8, 1921. His father was a feudal landlord fond of both wine and women. He had many wives but only one son. He dumped Abdul Hayee's mother when the child was only 8 months old, but later he wanted possession of the child. Nothing doing, said the wife. The matter went to court. At one point, the 'ayyaash' father also threatened to kill the boy. The mother sold her last piece of jewelry and got her son protected.

The boy went to school somehow, but parental discord had hurt his psyche deeply. Deprivation was also making him pensive. He started writing a bit to give vent to his thoughts. Then he went to Government College, Ludhiana, where he wrote much more, and where they began to admire his writing spark. His poems were mostly about the ills that afflicted the society. Soon he gave himself a pseudonym, 'Sahir' (magician). He fell in love, but his feelings were not reciprocated by the lady, perhaps due to his financial condition. He developed unconventional ideas and these soon snowballed with the result that he was asked to leave the college.

He went to Lahore and did small odd jobs to keep both him and his mother going. He wrote and edited Urdu magazines, `Savera', `Shaahkaar' and `Adab-e-lateef'. His first recognition came in 1945 with `Talkhiyaan' (`Bitterness'), the Lahore publication of his collection of poems. Here he wrote the beautiful Taj Mahal, Chakley (brothels) and other poems. Taj Mahal spoke in favour of not only hapless and resourceless lovers, but also about the thousands of artisans who had actually put the architectural marvel up.

One stanza from the poem run thus:

Anginat logon ne duniya mein muhabbat ki hai
Kaun kehta hai ke sadiq na the jazbe unke?
Lekin unke liye tasheer ka saamaan hi nahin
Kyoonki woh log bhi apni hi tarah muflis the.

(Countless people have been in love,
Who says their emotions were not sincere?
They didn't have the resources to make a proclamation
Because, like me, they too were poor.)

Chakley had the stanza that he modified for the film `Pyaasa':

Yeh kooche, yeh neelaam ghar dilkashi ke
Yeh lut-te hue kaarwaan zindagi ke
Kahaan hain, kahaan hain muhafiz khudi ke?
Jinhen naaz hai Hind par woh kahaan hain?

(These lanes and these houses of pleasure
These lives, wasted and abused
Oh where are the guardians of honour?
Where are those that are proud of India?)

Sarcasm is an essential component of Sahir's armory of social criticism.

Swamiji your book on hindi songs should celebrate poets like Sahir who provided so much respectibility to filmi songs.

rama said...

Many thanks dear friends for this wonderful discussion. This morning I met Shashi Anand and showed him my post. He is a walking encylopaedia of Hindi cinema. Were he to start a blog sharing his stories and perspectives - that would be an exquisite resource. Shashi too told me about the song "Jinhe naaz hai hind pey". Sahir had written this much earlier, and then used it in a modified form for "Pyaasa". Though in "Pyaasa" the song ("Jinhe naaz hai") is supposedly set in Calcutta's Sonagachi (red light quarter), Shashi felt Sahir must have based his poem on Heera Mandi of Lahore. Shashi's father was a friend of Sahir's, through the IPTA etc. Apparently he remained unmarried all his life, though he had some relationships, including with Amrita Pritam. Shashi also shared the very amusing story that during the 1971 war with Pakistan, when some Pakistani posts in the western sector were captured by the Indian Army, they were named "Sahir Ludhianvi No 1", "Sahir Ludhianvi No 2" etc!

rama said...

Talking about Guru Dutt's genius, Shashi asked me to find on YouTube the mujra scene from "Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam", with the song "Saakhiyaan aaj mukhe neend nahi ayegi". We found it, and he showed me that in the dance picturisation, the dancers (extras) accompanying the principal dancer (Mini Mumtaz, Mehmood's sister) are always in shade, their faces never visible. Shashi said it must have been a herculean task filming this. Apparently when Guru Dutt was asked about this, whether this was a style statement, he replied that he did this merely to obscure the ugly faces of the extras!

rama said...

Shashi just informed me that the original poem on which "Jinhe naaz hai" is based - did not have the line "jinhe naaz hai hind pey kahaan hai". The poem was in quite chaste Urdu, and this has been simplified for the film song. Instead of asking ""jinhe naaz hai hind pey kahaan hai", the poet asks "where are those who speak of Eastern wisdom". Something like:
sanah qwaneh taqdir se-mashriq kahaan hai".

bhupinder said...

An introduction to Sahir written by Parkash Pandit, it can be read here.

Rahul Banerjee said...

sahir was a tortured soul as have been most of the literary greats of the world. trying to reflect on what exactly it is in pyasa that makes me like it so much i feel that it is this intense suffering of the sensitive individual that appeals to me the most. if one has been born in this world it is not to enjoy but to suffer. if one has not suffered then one has not lived! - gham se ab ghabrana kya gham sou baar mila