Sukhwinder Singh, Gulzar and the two Vishals – Dadlani and Bharadwaj combine to create “Dhan Ta Nan“. Powerpacked stuff. Just Mohit has posted the lyrics on his blog.

While the song has been around for some time, I really got to hear it properly last week as one was swamped with work. But maybe the overworked mind played a part to it – the song just blew my mind out and cleaned all the stress out.

So what does Dhan Ta Nan mean? Vishal Bharadwaj says in this interview that the phrase was a childhood one usually associated with games of cops and robbers. As kids one would come up from behind, point pistol like and say “Dhan Ta Nan”.

So he goes to Gulzar and says please write a song with this, reminiscent of how he got Gulzar to write Beedi. I am yet to see the film so I suppose there is a context of the lyrics with the film. So I do will an analysis of lyrics without the knowledge of what the film is about (and the specific context of the song).

Aaja Aaja Dil Nichode
Raat Ki Mataki Tode
Koi Good Luck Nikaale
Aaj Gullak Toh Phode

Dil Nichode will mean squeezing the heart out i.e. going full out; “raat ki matki” another Gulzar original metaphor – the unknown of the night, the black box so to speak; “Gullak” I think means treasure.

I would then proceed to translate the above lines as (forgive the break in rhyme)

Come, let’s put our full hearts out
To break the unknown of the night
Let’s find our own luck
And break the treasure chest.

Let’s move on

Hai Til Til Taara Dil Dildaara Mera Teli Ka Tel
Kaudi Kaudi Paisa Paisa Paise Ka Khel

Til = sesame, also a mole; Teli Ka Tel = ? Absolutely no idea (obviously something very oily but beyond that what?), one of Gulzar’s tantalising word plays. Kaudi Kaudi etc = obvious

My attempt at translating the above two lines falls here but for the second line re a game of extreme detail where every cowrie counts.

Aaja ki one way hai
yeh zindagi ki gali
ek hi chance hai
aage hava hi hava hai
agar saans hai to
yeh romance hai

Nice, no need to translate. Lots of Hinglish in the lines, typical of Gulzar in recent times, e.g. “Personal se sawaal karte hain

koi chaal aisi chalo yaar ab ke
samandar bhi pul pe chale
phir tu chale us pe ya mein chaloon
shehar ho apne pairon tale

kahin khabrein hain
kahin kabrein hain
jo bhi soye hain kabron mein
unko jagana nahi

This is, in my opinion, the most profound verse in the song.

Play the game of all games, Friend
So that we may bridge over the entire sea
Then whether you go or I go
Entire city will under us, under our feet.

There’s excitement (khabrein = news = gossip = scandal = excitement) on one side
There’s stillness (kabrein = graves = death = stillness) on the other
Those who lie asleep in the graves
Let sleeping dogs lie

That ends my study of Dhan Ta Nan. In the meantime, people have dug up some old video pertaining to VB-Gulzar doing one version of DTN back in the ’90s.

In sometime I will also write about another piece in the same soundtrack – “Fataak

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2 thoughts on “Dhan Ta Nan

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