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पन्छी : An aviary of Songs

Tags: song film bird

Bird-watch in the Songs of Yore

Wishing Happy New Year to all the readers with guest article by Shalan Lal

(Once upon a time there were birds around us and they were a part of our lives, songs, mtyths and legends. When the crow cawed we knew it was advance intimation of a guest coming; when the koel cooed in the monsoon rains it pierced the heart of the lonely lady pining for her lover who was away; when the papiha sang far away the lovers knew the night was only half left; when Shakaracharya heard a parrot uttering deeply metaphysical aphorisms like स्वतः प्रमाणं परतः प्रमाणम्‌ he knew he had reached the house of Pandit Mandan Mishra; and when Valmiki heard the heart-rending cry of a crane whose partner was killed by a hunter’s arrow during mating, from his grief-stricken heart came out the first verse of the mankind that made him the आदि कवि.

If you think about it, the once familiar birds are becoming rarer. Songs of Yore heralds the New Year remembering these birds with this guest article by Shalan Lal. Shalan has discovered SoY late, but has since become its avid follower. Besides the very learned comments she posts on the blog, she often sends me long comments as she catches up with the old posts when she feels these may appear outdated on the blog. Our interaction has led to several interesting ideas that can develop into articles. While we were discussing some other topics, I was pleasantly surprised to get this beautifully written piece in mail.

Shalan is based in London where she works with women’s issues. She is widely travelled, she has had academic association with the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and some other universities. Her interests range from politics to literature to religion. This article bears out her wide-ranging inetersts and international outlook.

Thank you Shalan for this article and welcome to SoY as a guest author. – AK)

BirdThis is a bird’s eye view of the Songs of Yore over the Hindi films. In the English culture often the word Bird was used for a young girl by the male youths in the sixties and seventies. I was young then. There were other words for the young girls used in those days as well for example “a doll”, a babe and the vulgar term “a crumpet” as well. There could be more.

During the last April I went along with some friends to see the arrival of the New Yorker Hudsonian migratory birds called “Godwit”, who were supposed to be flying back to Canada, just a journey about two hundred miles from New York. But their magnetic field in their heads changed due to too much electrification in New York and they got in a different current of the air (AK also noticed this in his reading of the news and mentioned it in his email to me on another matter) and made a non-stop four thousand miles journey to England. Some say they got unwittingly in another caravan of migratory birds and made off-beam and very wide of the mark journey.

The Godwit bird has spotted brown feathers and black feathered tails. This one is called Hudsonian as it nests during the nesting season along the Hudson River in New York State and the City as well. The migratory birds nowadays are satellite-tagged for the information of ornithology, hence their wide of the mark migration was immediately noticed and the ornithologists and the amateur bird watchers got information and their arrival in Britain was anticipated.

Here are two pictures of them from the internet Wikipedia.


Here they are in flight and later when they arrived at the Somerset Bird Sanctuary in Britain

In India there is a variety of the Godwit birds who live in the Himalayan regions but they migrate to the rest of the warm regions of India during December to March and then they return to the Himalayan area.

The experience was thrilling for me to watch these brave hero birds that flew nonstop four thousand miles over the Atlantic Ocean. This made me to sojourn into the bird songs in the Hindi films. Here you will find some songs and my comments and their ambience trivia.

1. Main băn kī chidiyā băn ke, băn băn, bolōōn rė¬
मैं बन की चिड़िया बन के बन बन बोलूं रे |

Movie: Achhut Kanya; Singer(s): Ashok Kumar, Devika Rani; Music Director: Saraswati Devi; Lyricist: JS Kashyap ‘Natawa’; Year/Decade: 1936, 1930s

This song has more meanings than one. This is a song from the film made by Bombay Talkies. Bombay Talkies was a film company based in Bombay’s undeveloped suburb part called Malad. Today it is no more a suburb but there is an area of studios called Film City. At present, Bombay is not Bombay but Mumbai and it has grown as big as New York or Hong Kong with high rising estate buildings consortiums and a population more than 20 millions.

Bombay Talkies was created by Himanshu Rai with his partner and wife Devika Rani Chaudhari related to Tagore’s mother and father. In the film making of that period three Studio-based companies were popular. The other two were The New Theatres in Calcutta and the Prabhat in Poona. Devika Rani was the first Indian actor to be professionally trained from RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) London. Himanshu Rai started making films in England with his first film A Throw of Dice in English. Just before Achhut Kanya was made, Devika Rani gallivanted with her co-star Najm-ul-Hassan in a film called Jeevan Naiya. This rocked the whole company, Himanshu Rai got a heart attack and he remained ill until his agonising death. Shashdhar Mukherji who was a manager decided on an untrained laboratory assistant and his nephew Ashok Kumar as the lead actor for the Devika Rani film Achhut Kanya. The story was of a young Brahmin boy and an untouchable girl falling in love without knowing the social, religious and political constrains and complications. Their affair ends in the death of the daughter of the Untouchables. (Note: Please see Raunak’s comment #33 in this regard. – AK)

Both Ashok and Devika played innocent lovers like the two birds in the woodland and the song depicts it very well with their childlike behaviour. But some lines are more related to the free spirit of Devika Rani who was an irrepressible rebel in the then Indian society. Read these lines and listen to them again with the above understanding.

दे: मैं बन की चिड़िया बन के बन बन बोलूं रे
अ: मैं बन का पन्छी बन के संग संग डोलूं रे – २

दे: मैं डाल डाल उड़ जाऊँ
नहीं पकड़ाई मैं आऊँ  – २
अ: तुम डाल डाल, मैं पात पात;
बिन पकड़े, कभी न छोड़ूँ

In this song the image is of universal human (mis)understanding of the birds that they are free spirits and human beings are not so. The ornithologists would dispute this “understanding”.

Some more added meaning: The song was composed by Sarswati Devi a Parasee lady born as Khorshed Minocher-Homji, the first female composer of the filmy world who came under pressure from her community to give up working for the films as they were sleazy, squalid professions. Himanshi Rai gave her Hindu Name to protect her from the harassment from her community. She was a graduate of Morris Music College in Lucknow. This and its sister college in Lahore and one in Bombay were created in the early twentieth century by Bhatkhande, which brought in renaissance in the Indian classical music. Bhatkhande did deep research in the Indian classical music and created a graduated system to pursue the musical art. Talat Mahmood was also the graduate of this school. The readers of SoY are now aware that two iconic songs Koi humdum na raha (Jhumroo; 1961; Kishore Kumar) and Ek chatur naar kar ke singar (Padosan; 1968; Kishore Kumar & Manna Dey) are both adapted from their original versions sung by Ashok Kumar for Bombay Talkies movies, composed by the great Saraswati Devi. Here is the original version of Koi humdum na raha (Jeevan Naiya; 1936; Ashok Kumar), with introduction by Ashok Kumar describing KK’s fascination for this song since he heard it at the age of five in his brother’s voice and his desire to sing it better than his Dada. Here is the original version of Ek Chatur Naar (Jhoola; 1941; Ashok Kumar), which has been transformed so brilliantly by Kishore Kumar-Mehmood (Manna Dey)-RD Burman. (Note: The latest accepted information suggests that Saraswati Devi was preceded by Jaddan Bai for “Talaash-e-Haq” (1935) and Ishrat Sultana a.k.a Bibbo for “Adal-e-Jahangir” (1934), making her third in the line of female composers. However, she is effectively the first female composer to be counted among the greats and whose songs have become immortal.AK)

The words चिड़िया and पन्छी are synonymous and mean just the bird though चिड़िया stands for the meaning of the sparrow. But in Hindi often the chidiya stands for the birds in general like in the phrase Chidiya chŭn or chŭk gayi khet meaning the bird has devoured the crop or the bird has missed the crop.

बन बन बोलूं रे – this line can mean that they will go on singing in all the woodlands they will travel through and also go on talking and loving each other. The Indian word Bol means talk as well as sing. In the language of music Bol means lyric. The poet J.S. Kashyap has shown his clever craft in writing this lyric and also was clever to write in the hidden affair of Devika. He was a regular lyricist in the team of Bombay Talkies. Further on, please notice the clever pun on the word “बन”. Here the meanings, the bird of woodland and transferring into a bird and flying through many kinds of woodland suggesting that all ups and downs of life are concentrated in the lyric.

2. Panchhi bāwărā: पंछी बावरा

Movie: Bhakt Surdas; Singer(s): Khursheed; Music Director: Gyan Dutt; Lyricist: D N Madhok; Actors/Actresses: Khursheed, K L Saigal, Monica Desai; Year/Decade: 1942, 1940s

This song uses the Indian belief that is associated with the bird Chakor and its relationship with the moon and the moon rays. The Chakor in the Hindu literatures chases the rising moon riding on its rays and eventually dies. So its passion for the moon is an impossibility and ridiculousness of the achievement. This was a recurring theme in  many songs of yore.

The following lines of the lyric emphasise the wastage of love’s labour using the images of both the Chakor bird’s self-maddening and the moon’s waning state and being shining white phony attraction. See the use of the opposing words प्रीत बढ़ायेगा तू, त्यूँ-त्यूँ वो घट जाए. Good use of Alankar Shastra (i.e.Sanskrit Poetics). From the tenth century onwards many books were written on the poetics in Sanskrit that dominated the writers in Sanskrit as well as Prakrit languages and then on other languages that originated from Sanskrit:

कौन बताये तुझे चकोरा
गोरे मन के काले
ज्यूँ-ज्यूँ प्रीत बढ़ायेगा तू
त्यूँ-त्यूँ वो घट जाए
चाँद से प्रीत लगाये
पंछी बावरा …

The film is based on the story or rather the legend of Surdas the saint poet in the middle ages who was an intense devotee of the Lord God Krishna and wrote songs of praises of the childhood stories of Krishna that he sang. His writing and his legend influenced most of the Indian languages though he wrote in Braj Hindi. Braj Hindi was spoken around Mathura and Braj was the part of the childhood of Krishna. His songs are a must for the singers of the classical singer as Surdas was an accomplished artist in the classical music. Hence many classical musical ditties (Cheese) are in Brajbhasha.

This song is a landmark in the SoY of the Hindi films and also known as a definitive voice of Khursheed a singing actor. It looks as if she had poured her heart into this song. She stood firm in the face of the rising popularity of N00rjehan. Hindi music lovers mourned over as she went to Pakistan and into the oblivion after the partition of India. There is plenty of information about her. AK has written an excellent post on her titled The Doyenne of Vintage Era.

Some of the songs in the early films of Khursheed were also very popular. I heard them in a family who came from East Africa. They are as under:

Shaadi (1941) Bhigoi mori saree re, Hari ke gun gaaun main and Ghir ghir aayi badaria, Pardesi (1941) Pahley jo mohabbat se inkaar kiya hota and Mori ataria hai sooni.

Khursheed acted in 42 films and sang songs in most of them.

The lyric of this song is written by Pandit Dina Nath Madhok who was a Kashmiri writer and poet. Kahmiri Pandits were and are most respected in India as they were natural writers and the custodians of the Sanskrit classical and Vedic literatures. And it is because of them that the modern Indians and world at large have an access to the Sanskrit Literature. In the early Hindi talkies Kashmiri Pandits contributed richly. The musicians like Husnlal and Bhagatram and their brothers were Kashmiri Pandits. The actors like Sapru, Chandrmohan, Jeevan and many others were Kashmiri as well. Presently this noble race is in ruins because of the political mistakes made by the last king of Kashmir, Hari Singh and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, both Kashmiri themselves.

There are fifteen songs in the film Bhakt Surdas and they all are as sweet as seedless grapes or one can say Mathurai Mithaai – the sweetmeats of Mathura.

3. Pănchhī jā pīchhė răhā hai bachapan mėrā
पंछी जा पीछे रहा है बचपन मेरा

Movie: Sharda; Singer(s): Suraiya; Music Director: Naushad; Lyricist: D N Madhok; Actors/Actresses: Ulhas, Nirmala, Mehtab, Wasti; Year/ Decade: 1942, 1940s

This song could be the first song of Suraiya who was then hardly thirteen years. Naushad was the music director of Circo Productions’ Nai Duniya (1942), which was directed by AR Kardar. When Kardar set up his own Kardar Productions, he asked Naushad to be the Music Director of his first film Sharda. Strangely he asked Suraiya to give her voice to an older actress Mehatab in the film. Whatever Suraiya sang since her debut she sang sweetly. AK has done a few posts on Suraiya’s singing and that completes her story. (It is now generally accepted that Suraiya’s first song was “Boot karun main polish babu” from “Nai Duniya” in the same year, 1942. – AK)

In this song the word bird is used without denoting which bird, but the lyrics seems to suggest a migratory bird. The characters find it difficult to express their feelings and they needed a go-between to express their matters of the heart. As the migratory birds return from their journey, one phase is finished. So here the lyricist has very cleverly used the bird as a mediator. Moreover the lyric is about a girl’s coming of age, and the children who are supposed to be growing up with birds and flowers and other animals. That phase of life is now finishing here and the girl has tasted the adult life that is enjoyable to her at present. She is still inebriate with that influence. This kind of feeling has been expressed by Kalidas in his play Abhgigyan Shakuntalam where Shakuntala undergoes that feeling of changes in her life, who has been brought up by the birds as her name Shakuntala denotes. This lyric had been composed by Pandit Madhok, who had Sanskrit literature at his figure tip. See the construction of the verse:

मैं सोई वो छोड़ गया
क्या जाने प्रीत निभानी
आँख खुली लेती अंगड़ाई
देखी मस्त जवानी
बोली आ

The arrival of the youth is yawning at the parting childhood.  In this song she is telling her birdlike childhood to part sweetly and be prepared for the pangs of love. Suraiya does full justice to all this in sweet notes and she tells all this without any needles and pins of pains of too much indulgences of the classical notes. This she must be undergoing herself.

Note on the “Dōōr Papiha Bola”

Suraiya’s another song Dōōr Papiha Bola has been nicely brought up to the notice of the readers by AK as the tributes to both Anil Biswas and Suraiya.

Here I want to say about that song in the film Gajre that it seems to be in a very complex situation as there is a triangle of two women and one man. But the song clearly depicts the Ashta-Nayika situation where the Nayika goes out in the later part of the evening to meet her lover. Here Suraiya is both Abhisarika – the one who has gone to see her lover. And Vasakasajja i.e. that is all dressed up to please her lover. The song she would sing is usually in Bhupali rāginai or in Todi rāg according to the Raagmalika or Natyashastra. Perhaps Mr Subodh Agarwal may throw some lights if there are those elements in the song Door papiha bola.

Here the Nayika has to conclude the rendezvous under duress making her Virahotkanthita i.e. distraught by the separation, unsatisfied and the Papiha is telling her that it is the time to terminate the meeting.

Here the bird seems to be a time keeper. However the word Papiha is poetic, the night watchman is really an owl bird. It appears so in many of Shakespeare’s plays. But in the Indian culture owl is an inauspicious bird and is hardly used apart from the Nītī Kathā. Its ridiculous use as Ulluu gives a bad name to this great bird. Whenever I was in India and slept on the terrace of the house I kept looking for the owl invariably, and I was often lucky to see the white barn owls and brown owls as well. Sadly the Indian culture is not fair to many birds and animals by associating them to good or bad feelings in the culture. For example in Munimji (1955) a joke is created by giving Pran a donkey-like voice meaning donkey’s voice is bad and out of tune. In fact the donkey is a hardworking and mild animal and should be loved as an animal without any association.

पंछी जा
पीछे रहा है बचपन मेरा

4.  Bulbulo mat ro yahaan, aansu bahaanaa hai manaa
बुलबुलो मत रो यहाँ आँसू बहाना है मना उसको जा के  ला

Movie: Zeenat; Singer(s): Noorjahan; Music Director: Hafiz Khan; Lyricist: Naqshab Actors/Actresses: Noorjahan; Year/Decade: 1945, 1940s

This song uses the image of the bird “Bulbul” which is very popular in the pan-Islamic world. The bird itself is a sparrow variety and has various shapes not much larger than the sparrow with variable colours and feathers styles. It is also found in India from the Himalayan regions to the tip of India in the south. It was probably called “Bolo-Bolo” and in the east from Burma to Korea and in the Indonesia, Malaysia etc. Its cry is of four notes singing so it has been caged and used as the caged pet bird.

All over the world from the ancient times to the present the poor birds are caged for the amusement of human beings. What a cruel idea that human beings take pleasure in the imprisonment of the little birds? I have seen in America old Chinese take their cage-birds to the parks to make them feel that they are in the nature and for fresh air and to have conversations with the fellow cage-birds.

Here is a powerful poem called “Sympathy” of the Afro-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). The poet died of T.B. as it was common at that time.

I KNOW what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opens,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

The term Afro-American is the politically correct wording for the former slaves of America and when Paul was dying this term was just coming in the American language. We cannot say the same thing about the word Harijan or Achhut, or Scheduled Caste and the way they have been treated in India.

We have got some verses in the lyric of Bharat Vyas from the film Bedard Zmana Kya Jaanè (1959) called “Qaid mein hai bulbul”.

Majbur hun ki teri mehfil mein aa gaye hain
Musqil yahi hai ab to musqil mein aa gaye hain
Qaid me hai bulbul sainyyad muskuraye
Qaid me hai bulbul sainyyad muskuraye
Kaha bhi na jaye chup raha bhi na jaye
Qaid me hai bulbul sainyyad muskuraye
Kaha bhi na jaye chup raha bhi na jaye
Qaid mein hai bulbul

Kaisi hai duniya kaisi reet hai
Aanhko me aansu hothon pe geet hai   etc etc.

There are many other lyrics expressing similar feelings by many lyricists.

In freedom a Bulbul lives on the insects and the blossoms of the trees and plants. It is not frightened by the human atmosphere. One can see it coming into the house and pecking at foods and fruits.

The “Bulbul” is very popular in the old and modern Persian language and literature. Hence it is popular with the Islamic poets of the sub-continent. Its poetic imagery is variable as happy in Iqbal’s political poem “Sarè jahan sè achha Hindostan hamara, hum bulbulè hain isakè woh gulistan hamara.”

In the song of the film Zeenat it is not the image of the bird but the singer-actor is telling her sad state that otherwise she could not express because of her circumstances. She is enforcing on the bird that is free as the bird but in her circumstance the bird must not sing as she has been accused of illicit sexual intimacy with someone other than her husband who had gone away on the night of their married night. So the social custom demands that she must not enjoy normal life but keep on mourning her blemished state. This film and other similar films in the period were called Muslim Socials. There appeared during this period a “Progressive Muslims” movement that boldly criticised the customs and traditions which treated women as inferior to men. There are still some remnants of this movement in the form of the children of Jan Nisar Akhtar.  Otherwise it is now drowned in the post-Ayatollah’s Iranian Islamic revolution. Mehboob also belonged to the Progressive Muslim movement. His film Elan showed that. But he did not dwell deep in this area as the Partition storm swayed all good Muslims. He was happy to use the Hindu ethos to make his pictures without realizing that the Hindu temples are not the temples of Justice but are the sanctuaries for worships, meditations and to be with the divinity, and not as wrongly as Insaf Ka Mandir insisted in the film “Amar.”

बुलबुलो मत रो यहाँ आँसू बहाना है मना
इन क़फ़स के क़ैदियों को ग़ुल मचाना है मना

छोड़ कर तूफ़ाँ में ये मल्लाह कह कर चल दिया
डूब जा मझधार में साहिल पे आना है मना

मैं हूँ वो फ़रियाद जिस का सुनने वाला चल बसा
मैं हूँ वो आँसू जिसे दामन पे आना है मना

In the present England and Europe the above state of women is tried to be cured by giving women free housing, job, medical access and other priorities. Also the stigma is removed and now women are not seen as fallen angles or devils, that was the view of the Victorian times. But all cultures are not with the mainstream of this social acceptance of them, especially the Muslim and Indian still practise the stigma heavily even when they have been living for three or more generations in the U.K.

The song made Noorjehan “Bulbul-e-Hind” and later on with the songs of Anmol Ghadi she became Malika-e-Tarranum.

AK’s last post on Anmol Ghadi is predominantly on Noorjehan. He has also written a long piece on Lata Mangeshkar versus Noorjehan.

5. Papīhā rė, mėrė piyā se kahiyo jāy: पपीहा रे, मेरे पिया से कहियो जाय

Movie: Kismat; Singer(s): Pradeep, Parul Ghosh; Music Director: Anil Biswas; Lyricist: Pradeep; Actors/Actresses: Ashok Kumar, Mumtaz Shanti, Chandraprabha; Year/Decade: 1943, 1940s

In the songs of the Hindi films often the actors and the situations for the songs come to such a stage that they do not express directly to their lovers and ask for a medium – a go-between to tell their feelings. Usually the birds come in handy. They use this literary device from the ancient times. In the Mahabharat there is an episode about the King Năl and Damaynti. Năl falls in the love with the princess Damayanti. But he had no courage to tell her that. So he catches a Royal bird called Rāj-Hăns who goes to the chamber of the princess and tells the power and glory of Năl to her. So using a go-between is as ancient as the Mahabharat.

The Hans – the Indian swan birds and the Saras birds are migratory birds. They come to India from their home near the Mansarovar or lake in Tibet. The Mansarovar is a sacred water lake for the Hindus and the Buddhists.

This song is not shot on the lead actress but on Chandraprabha who plays the sister of Mumtaz Shanti. Chandraprbha was a sister of Music Director Saraswati Devi. Chandraprabha was a name given to her by Himanshu Rai to protect her from the harassment of her parents. She appeared in minor roles in many films of the Bombay Talkies. She is in love with the brother of Ashok Kumar in the film Kismat.

Saraswati Devi was the official composer and music director of the Bombay Talkies. By this time Ashok Kumar became a major partner of the Bombay Talkies along with his maternal uncle Shashadhar Mukharji. A settlement was going to be done for Devika Rani who lost all interest in the film making and Bombay Talkies. So Ashok Kumar invited Anil Biswas to be the composer and music director of this film. Anil Biswas brought in his sister Parul Biswas who later on married Pannalal Ghosh. She was a second singing voice. This song is sung by Parul.

Here the go-between bird पपीहा is Bulbul or more so like the Koel bird- a song bird that arrives from the south to the north during the spring time. In India from the ancient time the quality of some birds’ migration is seen as they could become messenger birds. It is called पपीहा because its singing sounds like the word पपीहा. The word has three syllables प –पी –हा. When the English colonialists were in India they had heard the notes of this bird as “Brain Fever”. There are three syllables in the name “Brain Fever” as Brai-(n) Fe-ve-(r). Perhaps this “Brain Fever” name for the bird they had selected was out of the irritation due to the Indian summer heat. The colonialists getting mad about the heat would go to the Devolali Cantonment near Nasik in the present Maharashtra near the cool Godavari river to cure themselves. Hence in English at that time the word “devolali” meant madness. The phrase is often heard among the upper classes of English people as in “Papa has gone devilali.”

The bird पपीहा is very popular in many songs of yore.

The male voice at the beginning of this song is that of the lyricist Pradeep.

पपीहा रे
मेरे पिया से कहियो जाय
मैं हूँ कितनी पास पिया के
फिर भी कितनी दूर
एक नदी के दो किनारे
मिलने से मजबूर

This song is less known in the film because the other songs got publicity out of proportion. It was a very good decision of Ashok Kumar to take the playback voice of Arun Kumar as the music directors in the forties were going to demand more musical-ability from the singers and the playback singing started developing progressively.

In the same film there is a word “Bulbul” in the duet song of Amirbai and Arun Kumar “धीरे धीरे”. The word “Bulbul” has a slang meaning of male “Lingum”. It is not just in the sub-continental culture or limited to the pan-Islamic world but in the English and European cultures as well.

धीरे धीरे आ रे बादल धीरे आ रे
बादल धीरे धीरे जा
मेरा बुलबुल सो रहा है शोर-गुल न मचा

On the old winding phonograph this song was played on the 78 r.p.m. record, by my wily, secretive old uncle who would smile and his big bushy mustachio would shake to control the laughter when I was a child.

When I grew up he told me that when he saw the film Kismat the first time, it was believed that the sissy actor Ashok Kumar sang the above lines, and the audience in the pit would roar with laughter and would yell at the image of him and say “Shake it and awaken it, Beta”.

6.  Do dilon ko ye duniyaa: दो दिलों को ये दुनिया

Movie: Chand; Singer(s): Manju; Music Directors: Husnlal-Bhagatram; Lyricist: Qamar Jalalabadi Actors/Actresses: Prem Adeeb, Begum Para, Balakram; Year/Decade: 1944, 1940s

Manju was a child actor in the Prabhat film company. She did her best in the Film Aadmi which was a film noir based on the German film Blue Angel (1930). This film became a vehicle for the great German actress Marlene Dietrich who migrated to the U.S.A and ruled the roost for many decades in Hollywood and show business. Shantaram was very much impressed by this film and went on making many versions or using the elements of this film in his many films. His life was influenced by this film as he was entangled in love affairs with two filmy ladies Jayshree and Sandhya.

Manju got good popularity in the film Rattan along with Swarnalata and Karan Dewan. She sang her songs like Angadai teria hai bahana etc. Karan Dewan married her off the screen. Incidentally, AK wrote the New Year post last year on Rattan.

दो दिलों को ये दुनिया मिलने ही नहीं देती
आशाओं की कलियों को खिलने ही नहीं देती

इक बाग़ में क्या देखा बुलबुल वहां रोता था
और पास खड़ा माली कुछ हार पिरोता था
दिल चीर के इक फूल का ख़ुश कितना वो होता था
बुलबुल था तड़प जाता जब सूई चुभोता था
दुख सह न सका बुलबुल कुछ कह न सका बुलबुल
फिर बहने लगे आँसू और कहने लगे आँसू
क्या ?
दो दिलों को ये दुनिया …

तुम मुझ से ये फूछोगे क्या फूल की हालत थी
रूठा हुआ माली था बिगड़ी हुई क़िस्मत थी
आँखों में तो आँसू थे बेचैन तबीयत थी
सुनसान था दिल उसका बरबाद मुहब्बत थी
बुलबुल से जुदा हो कर माली से ख़फ़ा हो कर
कांटों में लगा रहने और फूल लगा कहने क्या?
दो दिलों को ये दुनिया…

The relationship of the bird and the Bāgwān or Māli has been used by a few other lyricists, not in about the reality of Bulbul’s life, but the cruel way human beings behave. Here it is used as an image to express the feelings of the characters involved in the situation. A story is told in the song that reflected the state of the unrequited love of the hero and heroine which was a recurring theme of most of the Hindi films.

7. Kaahe koyal shor machaaye Re: काहे कोयल शोर मचाये रे

Movie: Aag; Singer(s): Shamshad Begum; Music Director: Ram Ganguli; Lyricist: Behzad Lakhanavi; Actors/Actresses: Raj Kapoor, Nargis Prem Nath; Year/Decade: 1948, 1940s

The film Aag flopped at the Box office in its first run but after the success of Barsaat this film became doubly successful. It is retrospectively seen as an Art-film, a genre that became more popular in the later decades. R.K. went on make three more art-films Jaagate Raho, Ab Dilli Door Nahin and Boot Polish. His film Mera Naam Joker was also seen as an art-film.

The film Aag was loosely based on the lifelong passion of making a Theatre of his own by Prithviraj Kapoor. That passion was later on fulfilled by Shashi Kapoor, the child star in the film Aag.

There are many anecdotes told about the film Aag and the most interesting of them was how Raj Kapoor went to the home of Jaddanbai and asked for Nargis who was frying pakodas and had flour all over face and in her hair, to act in his film. Nargis was not very popular at that time and was just fifteen going on sixteen. (To complete the trivia, Raj Kapoor used that image of a girl, with flour smeared on the face and hair, opening the door, on Dimple Kapadia in the film Bobby. – AK)

This song is shot on Nargis who plays a character of a refugee girl from the holocaust of partition of India. RK as the director, in search of good casts for his theatre-play, asks this girl, “Where do you come from?” She answers, “From the hell”. But when this film opened the refugees in Bombay made an angry protest. So this line was taken off from the film. But the song is for the character of the film who had been raped in the partition and it was directed by RK. To understand this song more deeply it is necessary to know the feelings about the aftermath of the partition of India. Prithviraj was very much concerned about the partition. His plays like Deewar, Gaddar, and Pathan were more or less on the political issues of the time. But RK as the producer of the film could not mention them for obvious reasons.

This song goes under the name of Ram Ganguli who was then the musician of the Prithvi Theatre Company, and RK and his brothers and Premnath and his brothers were actors in the company.

काहे कोयल शोर मचाये रे मोहे अपना कोई याद आये रे
कह दो कह दो कोयल से न गाये रे हो मोहे अपना कोई याद आये रे

उसने काहे को नैन फिराये रे ओ कोई जाके उसे समझाये रे
मेरे दिल से जो निकले हाय रे कोई दोष मेरा बतलाये रे

मोरे नैनों में नीर भर आये रे मोहे बीते वो दिन याद आये रे
हाये आग लगी हिरदय में हो कोई हिरदय की आग बुझाये रे

The melody of this film is very Punjabi folkish and probably based on some Pahādi tune. Given plenty of leeway to the skills of Ram Ganguli it still could not be perceived that he would have been able to create a melody or the orchestration for the song and the music of the whole film.

RK often mentioned if he would not have been a maker of the films or actor or director he would have been a composer of melodies and an accomplished music director. He certainly could sing songs. On his first tour to the U.S.S.R he sang his Āwārā and other songs with the musicians. Before entering into the films he was a Hindi song singer on the Bombay Radio.

Considering that Ram Ganguli did not do much in the film world I could safely say that most of the melodies including the above song RK himself had composed and the orchestration, recording etc work was done by SJ who also worked for the Prithvi Theatre and were assistants in Aag. Ram Ganguli’s name was given in lieu of a payment deferred for his work in the Prithvi Theatre.

In this song the sharpened image of the Koyal bird is used. Usually when the Koyal is mentioned it is to announce the arrival of spring. In England the “Times” still publishes a letter of a person who spots a Cuckoo bird in March end or in April.

The fields breathe sweet, the daisies kiss our feet.
Young lovers meet, old wives a-sunning sit
In every street these tunes our ears do greet
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo
Spring!  The sweet Spring!
By T. Nashe

This is the last verse from the Nashes’s poem that appeared first in the Palgrave’s Golden Treasury that became popular from the Victorian times to date in the English speaking world. Thomas Nashe was a contemporary of Shakespeare and many scholars believe he wrote parts of many of Shakespeare’s plays. Note the English cuckoos do not “Cůk (Hindi word for) Koohu, Koohu” of the Koyal bird. It does “jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo”

Both the English cuckoo and the Indian Koyal are migratory birds. The English ones come from the South West of Africa and the Indian ones come from the South Islands and South East Africa. They both lay their eggs in the other birds’ nests and enjoy their freedom all through the summer and when their babies grow strong enough to fly they join the parent birds instinctively and fly back to the south.

In the Aag song the image of the Koyal is sharpened for showing the extreme pain and inflammation of the girl who has lost everything but the memory of her lover in the fire of the Partition. For the girl the sound of the Koyal is not sweet but a very dead agony. How the same thing becomes opposite of its original meaning? In the epic poem of Kalidas one of the forefathers of Ram called Dilip mourns when he realizes his wife died of the scented garland that turned into a snake.

There are many songs in the Hindi films that refer to or are based on the Koyal’s sounds. The next song is the archetypal song about the Indian understanding of the Koyal.

8. Kŭhū kŭhū bole koyaliyā: कुहूकुहू बोले कोयलिया

Movie: Suvarna Sundari; Singer(s): Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammad Rafi; Music Director: P. Ādi Narayan Rao; Lyricist: Bharat Vyas; Actors/Actresses: Anjali Devi and Nageshwar Rao; Year/Decade: 1958, 1950s

The film Suvarn Sundari is a fantasy film based on many stories from the Puranas and similar religious literatures. Kathasaritsagar (कथासरितसागर) written in the times of ancient Kashmiri Kings and goes under the name of Kshemendra as the author was a source of many popular creative stories in many Indian languages. This book literally translated as the “Ocean of the rivers of the stories” is a compendium of the stories in the classical Sanskrit. The ancient traders and travellers who wanted to spread Buddhist religion told them wherever they went to the West and East outside India. Hence the story telling art grew up all over the world. This claim is also accepted by the the Victorian European scholars in Sanskrit language and literature. They also found that the ancient Greek and Latin, Persian and Scandinavian languages have close relationship with Sanskrit language.

The Dradividian languages – Tamil, Telugu, Kannad and Malayalam, though written in different scripts than Devnagari, uphold Sanskrit language and literature and are more conservative than the northern Brahmins are about the Sanatan Dharm. Because of the spice trade from the ancient times the South India is richer than the North India.

When the film art arrived in India and especially in Bombay and Poona, the South Indian films were made in early part of the twentieth century in Poona at the Prabhat Studio. Then the great enterprisers like Vasan and Meiyapam, Anjali Devi and many others created film studios in Madras and Andhra Pradesh. The popular actors in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu dominated politics and public life as seen in the restoration of Jayalalitha for many decades. This is beyond the dreams of Bollywood greats like Dev Anand, Amitabh Bacchan, Raj Babbar, Sunil Dutt etc who dabbled in Indian politics.

Anjali Devi married Aadi Narayan Rao in the forties and together they produced hundreds of the films in Telgu, Tamil and Kannad and some in the Hindi language. Most of the films were based on the religious stories. Anjali Devi  was noticed by the Hindi audience for the first time in the Hindi film Ladaki along with Kishore Kumar and Vyjayanthimala (1953). Then she appeared again in Devata along with Gemini Ganeshan and Vyjayanthimala, which had music by C Ramchandra who gave a beautiful song Kaise jaaun Jamuna ke teer and many other sweet songs. Then she appeared in Suvarna Sundari (1958) which was a Hindi remake of Telugu Film of 1957. Both were hit films. The story, script and music were by her husband Aadi Narayan Rao. The Hindi version has 13 songs, all of which became popular, and one instrumental Tarana.

Anjali Devi, Vyjayanthimala, Jamuna, Pandharibai, Padmini, Ragini, B. Saroja Devi, Hema Malini and Sridevi, all Southern belles, made Hindi Fillumwallahs run after them with open cheque books. Remember the famous wire sent by Raj Kapoor to Vyjaynthimala,”Bol Radha, Bol, Sangam Hoga Ki Nahin?” Later on he asked his lyricists to compose words and melody suggested by him and handed over the wire to Shankar Jaikishan.

But sadly still the South Indians have a feeling that the North does not do justice to them, as the Hindiwallahs have a similar reaction that the Hollywood does not recognise them. But why waste troubles over the unrequited love? Just think that you are not alone. England and the Continent that is Scandinavia, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Japan etc. go through similar melee. Moreover both South and North India have so huge audiences that they have their own world and oysters as well.

When the “Kuhu, Kuhu” became a hit and an award winning song, many thought it was not composed by Aadi Narayan but by C.Ramchandra who was very famous as the MD in the South Indian films. But Laxmikant Pyarelal gave assistance to make it more popular in Hindi as the song existed in the Telgu version. Bharat Vyas, a Rajasthani Sanskritist, created a divine image of the Koyal love song and drenched it in the Shringar Ras. He is Sanskritist because he uses motifs and words predominantly from the Sanskrit in his lyrics.

Aadi Narayan was a prolific composer in Telugu and Tamil and also in Kannad as well. So I would say it is his song and nobody should take the credit for it. And Lata excelled herself in singing it.

Why the song is an iconic song for the use of the Koyal image? This song is constructed in many elements of many Ragas in one song. The voice of Rafi adds male quality and still remains in the shadow of Lata who dominates the melodic sweetness and classicalness to the apex. Lata has done many filmy classical songs and hardly anyone could match her though in Baiju Bawara Rafi is Tansen of the classical singing, yet whenever Lata gets opportunity she shows her lightening quality. It is sad that Lata was not given matching opportunity by Naushad in Baiju Bawara as Khemchand Prakash had given to Khursheed in Tansen. Mr Subodh Agarwal probably will have more liquorish and final remarks about this. Of all the classical songs in the films this song is more near to the great songs in Sanskrit and near to the verses in the play called Mrichhkatikam which was written in ancient time by an Andhra King called Shudrak.

कुहू-कुहू बोले कोयलिया
कुंज-कुंज में भंवरे डोलें
गुन-गुन बोलें … कुहू …
सजा सिंगार ऋतु आई बसंती
जैसे नार कोई हो रसवंती
सा नी दा मा दा नी सा, गा मा गा मा दा नी सा
रे Sआ नी दा नी सा रे सा नी सा रे सा नी
दा नी नी दा नी नी दा नी, मा दा दा मा दा दा मा दा
सा रे गा मा दा ना
सजा सिंगार ऋतु आई बसंती
जैसे नार हो रसवंती
डाली-डाली कलियों को तितलियाँ चूमें
फूल-फूल पंखड़ियाँ खोलें, अमृत घोलें, आ …

काहे घटा में बिजुरी चमके
हो सकता है मेघराज ने बादरिया का
श्याम-श्याम मुख चूम लिया हो
चोरी-चोरी मन पंछी उड़े, नैना जुड़े आ …

चंद्रिका देख छाई, पिया, चंद्रिका देख छाई
चंदा से मिलके, मन ही मन मुस्काई
छैइ चंद्रिका देख छाई
शरद सुहावन, मधु मनभावन
विरही जानों का सुख सरसावन

छाई-छाई पूनम की घटा, घूँघट ह

This post first appeared on Songs Of Yore - Old Hindi Film Songs, please read the originial post: here

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