Rediscovering Shailendra

One treasure of the Internet is the RMIM Usenet group and its more user-friendly compiled archive. One of my favourite pastimes over the years has been to open random articles from the archive, read about the songs there while making a playlist of the songs discussed in the thread. It’s one thing to listen to these songs. But the additional notes posted by the knowledgeable RMIM community along with the painstakingly compiled lyrics base of Giitaayan and Smriti.com create a totally different engagement.

Recovering from an illness at home, with lots of time to spare, I went back to the archive. I found this 1997 article by Amla Mazumder, daughter of lyricist Shailendra. Ms Mazumder writes a touching tribute of her father and presents the ideas and world views that went into many of Shailendra’s songs. She closes the article with a list of 11 songs – these are songs of Shailendra which Shailendra considered his favourites.

It is a remarkable list. When a writer (or any artist for that matter) picks his favourites from his own works, the list in a way showcases what the writer really wants to say to the world. They represent his view of the world and the writer feels these works communicate them better than any other. The writer finds himself in his true form in these selections.

I immediately made a playlist of this and spent a whole day listening to them. It has triggered many thoughts which I am putting down here below.

First, here are the 11 songs in chronological order

  1. Awara hoon (Mukesh, Awara, 1951, Shankar Jaikishen)
  2. Mera Joota Hai Japani (Mukesh, Shree 420, 1953, Shankar Jaikishen)
  3. Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke (Manna Dey & Lata Mangeshkar, Do Bigha Zameen, 1953, Salil Chowdhury)
  4. Sab Kuch Seekha Humne (Mukesh, Anari, 1959, Shankar Jaikishen)
  5. Mat Ro Maata (Manna Dey, Bandini, 1963, SD Burman)
  6. Ab Ke Baras Bhaiya Bhejon (Asha Bhonsle, Bandini, 1963, SD Burman)
  7. Koi Lautade Mere Beetein Huen Din (Kishore Kumar, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964, Kishore Kumar)
  8. Jin Raaton Ki Bhor Nahin Hai (Kishore Kumar, Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein, 1964, Kishore Kumar)
  9. Aaj Phir Jeene Ki Tamanna Hain (Lata Mangeshkar, Guide, 1965, SD Burman)
  10. Sajanwa Bairi (Mukesh, Teesri Kasam, 1966, Shankar Jaikishen)
  11. Sajanre Jhooth Mat Bolo (Mukesh, Teesri Kasam, 1966, Shankar Jaikishen)

Here is a YouTube playlist that I have made. If you want to listen to the songs, then I can suggest something. Pour yourself a nice shot of your favourite drink, settle into your recliner, dim the lights, quieten down everything and then press play. You don’t need to see the visuals (though there is some breathtaking black and white camerawork  and scene design by the masters), just engage with the songs word by word.


Now, to put down a few words that have been evoked by this list.

 

Language of the commoner

One of the first things that one notices is the simplicity of language. All songs form a vocabulary that a common person on the street can use. To some extent, the nature of the characters for whom these songs were written plays a part in the construction of the vocabulary. There’s a tramp, there are paddy farmers, women convicts and bullock cart drivers. Of course, there are a couple of urban, sophisticated characters like an engineer, a dancer and an army officer. But even for them, Shailendra keeps it simple. One can contrast this with “labz” play that other writers indulge in – Gulzar with his sargoshians and satrangis, for example. If you follow some of better modern songwriters, people like Irshad Kamil, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Swanand Kirkire,etc, you’ll see their songs dripping with some really sophisticated, esoteric words – khanabdoshiyan, sukun ka zazira, chand ki firaaq, etc.

One of SD Burman’s personal quality control habits was to test his tunes with his servants and various tradespeople like the laundry man, the security guard, etc. If he found them catching on and humming the tune repeatedly, he knew he had a winner. All his legendary folkish sounding tunes went through that QC. It appears Shailendra might have, mentally if not actually, done the same – test his lines with common people.

One example is the villager calling out to Shambhu as he walks to the city looking for a job. In order to reclaim his land, Shambhu has to go, his situation demands it but the villager knows this is a point of no return. So he says,

“Apni kahani chhod ja
Kuch to nishani chhod ja
Kaun Kahe is or tu phir aaye na aaye

Just two big words of three syllables. Every other word is a single or at most two syllables long. Easy on the tongue, easy to remember, easy to hum. You probably use these words everyday when chatting with friends over coffee. And yet such depth. Contrast with a similarly placed song, Kabira by Amitabh Bhattacharya

Ae Kabira maan ja, ae fakira maan ja
Aaja tujhko pukare teri parchhaiyya
Ae Kabira maan ja, ae fakira maan ja
Kaisa tu hai nirmohi, kaisa harjaaia

Lovely writing, meant for an urban, elite character – the effort of constructing sentences using inherently deep meaning words like fakira or nirmohi is praiseworthy. But it enhances, in a way, the charm of how Shailendra, in simple words, describes the same emotion of seeing someone close leave and go away.

Social themes – migration, alienation, boundaries

Let’s look at some of the themes covered in these songs. How do they convey Shailendra’s view of society? As Ms Mazumder mentions in her article, there’s a lot of Shailendra in these songs, even if they explicitly refer to the on-screen characters.

If you start with Awara, the first big idea is one of social alienation – the alienation that a poor orphan feels in modern urban society.

Sunsaan nagar, anjaan nagar ka pyaara hun
Awaara Hun

There is a metropolis outside but for the individual, he is as good as living in “Empty Ville”. Shailendra considered himself an orphan after his mother’s death. When he moved to Bombay for work, he found himself in a strange land. All that comes out in these lines. There is a story that when Raj Kapoor first met Shailendra (he heard a poem of Shailendra and wanted to buy it for his film), he asked him to say something about himself. Shailendra replied, awara hun, is gardish mein aasman ka tara hun. RK was floored.

Then we come to the the emotions and trauma of migration. In the 1950s, in newly independent India, people had new hope. This hope drew them to the cities where they would find new careers as engineers, craftsmen, scientists, etc. Shree 420 begins with this hope. A young man is off looking for new opportunities. But Shailendra has a twist.

Naadaan hai jo baith kinaare
Puuchhen raah vatan ki
Chalana jivan ki kahaani,
Rukanaa maut ki nishani

These lines can be read in two ways (at least I am reading them in two ways). One, it’s a good, philosophical rule of life to keep moving. Stagnation is death. The other way is a sly bit of trolling by Shailendra, if I may say so. The country is moving forward and everyone needs to catch up. If you don’t, it’s death. These lines raise questions on the inclusiveness of growth and change. People take their time to sense the new ideas and make their decisions to join the movement. However, in reality, there is always some coercion, some collateral damage of  any change. One can say that the need to migrate as a consequence of progress is an unfortunate but real phenomenon.

But the overall mood in Mera Joota Hai Japani is positive and optimistic and let’s keep it that way for now. For real, serious stuff, we need to see the next one, Dharti Kahe Pukar Ke.

One of Shailendra’s greatest abilities was to capture the essence of the film or the story in the song, and specifically in one or two lines.

This song does that. Do Bigha Zameen as a film describes how a landed family who have their goals and plans worked out and are steadily working their way towards them end up becoming landless roadside dwellers in the city with no hope of anything. It is the story of migration, of the impact of urbanisation on rural families, treating them, making them homeless nomads. About this, Shailendra writes

Dharti kahe pukaar ke,
Beej bichhaa le pyaar ke
mausam bitaa jaay, mausam bitaa jaay

Shailendra tells the migrant that to plant some roots else there may be no return. He will be left with nothing. And what is it that is really lost. It’s the social goods – the community, the collective love and support from everyone during harvesting, festivals, or anything that happens in the village. The seeds of love that you sow in a place, the migrant will miss that. He has to now start all over again in the city.

Tilt then, the poet gives the migrant a tip to maintain his humour.

Nila ambar muskaaye,
Har saans taraane gaaye
Haay tera dil kyon murjhaye

Man ki banshi pe
Tu bhi koi dhun bajaa le bhaai
Tu bhi muskuraa le

Relationship Themes – separation and breakups

There are three songs which are about separation – Ab Ke Baras Bhejo, Sajanwa Bhairi, Sab Kuch Seekha. Each one highlights a different cause of separation

In Ab Ke Baras Bhejo, a woman is serving her time in jail. She prays for someone from home to come and see her. She recalls the joys of the monsoon and the greenery and energy that came with the rain winds. It’s interesting that the lady keeps mentioning her “baabul”. She is in jail and euphemistically, a jail is often called a “sasural”. As a prisoner, she has been separated from her family and they seem to have abandoned her.

Baabul ki main tere naazon ki paali
Phir kyon huii main paraaii
Bite re jag koii chithiyaa na paati
Na koii naihar se aaye, re
Ab ke baras bhej bhiyako baabul

The stigma of being a convict has broken all relations.

Then we come to separation triggered by deceit and betrayal inAnari. Here, we see some very personal anguish infused in the words

duniyaa ne kitanaa samajhaayaa
kaun hai apanaa kaun paraayaa
phir bhii dil kii choT chhupaa kar
hamane aapakaa dil bahalaayaa

Shailendra had many incidents of people not keeping their commitments – film directors, actors, music directors. These include those who were supposedly very close to him and had great regard for him. The above lines bring out some of that angst.

The last of the separation songs deals with marital separation. The husband (Sajanwa) has become a stranger

Jaae base parades balamavaa sautan ke bharamaae
Naa sandes naa koI khabariyaa, rut aae rut jaae
Naa koi is paar hamaara
Naa koI us paar

The lines are quite explicit and clear.

Personal Themes – Nostalgia, loneliness and a second chance

There are two songs from Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein. Shailendra was Kishore Kumar’s favourite by far and he got some absolute gems as songs. If Pyaasa was Sahir expressing himself, DGKCM is Shailendra expressing himself in the voice of Kishore. Koi Lautade Mere Beetein Huen Din is very clearly about the old days. Again, it touches on changes in people’s lives and the havoc it causes.

Main akelaa to na tha, the mere satha\i kai
Ek aandhi si uthii, jo bhi tha leke gai
Aaj main dhundhun kahaan, kho gaye jaane kidhar

The nature of the storm is part of the film. But there may be some autobiographical element in here. Shailendra lost his mother early and that had long lasting effect on him. His daughter tells us that Shailendra brought out that angst in many of his songs. The descriptions of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness caused by such events came from his own personal life. The other song from DGKCM is even more depressing.

Raat ke taaron tum hii bataao
Meri vo manzil hai kahaan
Paagal banakar jisake liye main
Kho baithaa hun dono jahaan

Utter hopelessness. When someone loses all purpose.

We are talking 1960s now when Shailendra’s health has worsened, physically and mentally. He died in 1966. In these last years, he seemed to have decided on his second life. The last three songs are all about journeys and possible rebirth.

The first one is a death row convict being led to the gallows. It’s a fait accompli but the convict says he is only getting liberated.

Ho hanskar mujhako aaj vidaa kar
Janam safal ho meraa
Rotaa jag me.n aayaa
Hansataa chalaa ye baalak teraa
Mat ro maataa laal tere bahutere
Mat ro

Ho kal main nahin rahugaa lekin
Jab hogaa andhiyaaraa
Taaron men tuu dekhegii
Hansataa ek nayaa sitaaraa
Mat ro maataa laal tere bahutere
Mat ro

Then there is Heeraman, the bullock cart driver, making what appears to be a smuggling trip but is unaware of it. To further highlight the irony, he is singing

Tumhaare mahal chaubaare, yahii.n rah jaae.nge saare
akad kis baat ki pyaare
akad kis baat ki pyaare,
ye sar phir bhi jhukaanaa hai

Incidentally, the mukdha of this song comes from the original story i.e. it’s written by Phaniswarnath Renu. Shailendra took the two lines from Renu and added the rest. The certainty of mortality is presented thus and it puts a frame on the crime that’s happening on the screen.

Then there’s Rosie. She had tried to commit suicide but was saved. Now she is looking forward for a new life, a new career. Aaj phir jeene ki tamanna is probably, in my view, the only positive, optimistic song in the list, relatively of course.

Infinite Sadness

10 out of the 11 songs convey different forms of sadness. This is what Shailendra picks as his favourite. He has written lots of fun songs, mind you. But he seems to prefer these. In the words of his daughter,

“For me   there is  a Shailendra song   for  any emotion,   any situation, from birth to death, such  was his versatility. Millions of listeners feel this way about his work.”

Yet  the spectre  of death  always haunted him.   He   was obsessed by death. There was no fear involved, but a kind of helplessness drew him towards it.”


 

I shall close this article with a song which I thought should have been in the list. Here is the final song of Bandini where he explains the life story of Nutan’s character

“Main bandini piya ki,
main sangini hoon saajan ki”

 

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The Golden Gaans of Bappi Lahiri

Back in the 1980s when the primary sources of entertainment were Vividh Bharati and Doordarshan’s Chitrahaar, it was quite typical to wake up in the morning to neighbourhood radios playing the latest Hindi film music interspersed with advertisements and the soothing announcements of Ameen Sayani et al. The radio and TV announcers would mention the credits diligently – singer, lyricist and music director. In the latter case, there were three names that were repeated all the time – Laxmikant Pyarelal, RD Burman and Bappi Lahiri. In some of the programs which were request based (Jhumritalaya se Sonu, Monu, Deepak aur saathi farmayish karte hain…), RD Burman and Bappi Lahiri generally got more mentions. It is this upbringing, if I may say, that leads me to pick my favourite music directors of all time – RD and Bappida.

In the case of the former, there is a lot of literature by his legion of fans. Bappida always seemed to get subaltern treatment from so-called critics who were more influenced by his appearance, inarticulateness and general demeanour. Not that it matters, but those who have heard Bappida beyond the overplayed disco songs will know that he was a much bigger talent than otherwise perceived. In this post, I will list 10 songs which I don’t think most people would have heard of, let alone heard. Once you hear these songs, we can then talk.

Song #10: Jalta Hai Jiya Mera, Zakhmee (1975)

The film, according to reports, did relatively well. 1975 was the year of Deewar and Sholay, so the word “relatively” is the keyword. Produced by Tahir Hussain, brother of Nasir Hussain and father of Aamir Khan, the movie was a typical multi-starrer convoluted story based film. But like all Nasir Hussain films, this film had good music – by Bappi Lahiri. This was his first major hit score.

In the 1980s, Bappi Lahiri scored a number of films of Jeetendra which involved, what people like to call, “raunchy” song sequences. These sequences involved Jeetendra cavorting with the likes of either Sridevi or Jayaprada singing songs with “suggestive” lyrics. But, back in 1975, in his only third year of his career, he did this song featuring Rakesh Roshan and Reena Roy.

Songs #9: Main Deewani Radha Tumhari, Shikshaa (1979)

A young man, with a privileged upbringing, drives around showing off his fancy wheels. He runs over someone killing that person. When the police come to arrest him at home, his privileged surroundings intervene and the driver steps up to take the cosh. The driver goes to jail and the young man is back on the road. This does sound familiar. And very recent too. Writer M Balaiah and director S Ramanathan might well be pre-cogs when they weaved this story into their 1979 film Shikshaa. Raj Kiran plays the young man. The film did moderately in the matinee shows and faded away. With films like Mr Natwarlal and Kaala Patthar anchored by the Big B doing the rounds, this film had no chance. But we may remember this film for two songs.

It was always difficult for any singer, especially female, to break into Hindi playback singing in 1950s and 1960s when Lata Mangeshkar was around. The occasional song offered by Hemant Kumar and Salil Chowdhury notwithstanding, Arati Mukherjee would be a less familiar name for most listeners. Though popular in Bengali cinema sharing space with Sandhya Mukherjee for the coveted honour of doing playback for Suchitra Sen, Arati Mukherjee found fame in 1982 when she won the Filmfare and National Award for Do Naina Ek Kahani in Masoom. Here, she is singing this lovely Gita Govinda style song (poetry where Radha sings of her love for Krishna).

Song #7 & #8: Humse Tum Mile & Zid Na Karo, Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979)

This Mahesh Bhatt film starring Vinod Khanna was a reasonable hit but is notable for a more than significant role for Helen which got her a Filmfare award for best supporting actress. An interesting casting choice was to have Danny Dengzonpa as the son of Helen, suggesting some realistic film making techniques rather than pandering to box office formula on casting. There are two very interesting songs – a gem by Yesudas (I could not find the original film scene featuring the song. There is a Lata Mangeshkar version also).

The lyrics are by Farukh Kaiser, a lyricist who started song writing in the 1950s itself but his best work were in the late 1970s-1980s). Again, we see a lot of poetry in the songs. The second song from this film that I will direct you to is performed by Danny Denzongpa and Chandrani Mukherjee. Danny was a very competent singer with a unique voice.

Song #5 & #6:  Aawaz Di Hai & Kisi Nazar Se, Aitbaar (1985)

Mukul Anand had a brief but extremely exciting 12-15 year film making career. He started with the remake of the 1962 Gregory Peck film Cape FearKanoon Kya Karega in 1984. One year later, he took a Hitchcock classic Dial M For Murder and made a very competent remake – Aitbaar. Dimple Kapadia, Raj Babbar and Suresh Oberoi come together in this thriller and Raj Babbar as the insidious husband puts in a fine performance. The trio were however topped by Danny Denzongpa as a coughing Inspector Barua providing the denouement

Suresh Oberoi plays a ghazal singer and Bappi Lahiri produced a couple of ghazals for the film. Written by Hasan Kamaal, these two songs show the range that Bappi Lahiri was capable of. 1985 was bang in the middle of the decade and Disco Dancer, Sharaabi, Namak Halaal, etc had already made Bappi the leading contender in discos, pubs and parties everywhere. Here he was suddenly breaking the trend and producing these two gems.

Both the songs are duets featuring Bhupinder and Asha Bhonsle. I must say that Bhupinder’s voice does not quite cast well with Suresh Oberoi’s hamming. It may even be distracting. I suggest you listen to the audio and forget about the hamming.

One of the features of Bappi Lahiri’s songs is the fine poetry in his songs. While they cannot rival the greats like Shailendra, Sahir and Majrooh, Bappi Lahiri had the likes of Gauhar Kanpuri, Anjaan and Hasan Kamaal pen some fine words.

This stanza from one of the songs captures relationship between the three main characters, from the point of view of the woman. It also brings out the essence of the film’s story to follow.

Kabse khadi thi baahein pasaare
Is dil ki tanhaaiyaan
Duniyaa se kah do na ham ko pukaare
Ham kho gaye hain yahaan

Song #4: Pyaar Chahiye, Manokamna (1979)

Can we have a list of Bappida songs without Bappida singing? For that we pick a film starring Raj Kiran and Kalpana Iyer. I am not too sure anyone saw this film. I can’t find any review of this film online. This particular song, with lyrics by Indeevar, is filmed along Juhu Beach.

Song #3: Jaana Kahan Hai, Chalte Chalte (1975)

Incidentally, there are a whole lot of Bappi songs filmed on beaches. Like this one from Chalte Chalte. Vijay Anand moves in front of the camera and tries to work his elder brother’s charms.

Song #2: Zindagi Hai Zindagi, Shart (1986)

Ketan Anand, song of Chetan Anand, was a long time fan of Bappi Lahiri and had him as a music director in many films. Shart starring Naseerudding Shah, Shabana Azmi and Kanwalijit is an interesting film inspired by the Jack The Ripper story. Yesudas gives voice to this song.

Song #1: Mana Ho Tum, Toote Khilone (1978)

It is quite revealing to see the number of songs that Yesudas has sung for Bappi Lahiri. One normally associates the great singer with Salil Chowdhury or Ravindra Jain. I have already played two Yesudas songs earlier. Here is by far the best song from the duo. The film, directed by Ketan Anand, is notable for featuring Shekhar Kapur in the lead role. Not much of an actor, thankfully he was better off as a director.

And just to round it off, here is Sonu Nigam recreating Yesudas’ song.

 

 

 

 

Appreciating Gulzar – Masoom

As I continue to listen to Gulzar’s songs, old and new, every time one hears a song, there is a new meaning that one discovers. Today I was listening to songs from Masoom, Shekhar Kapur’s first Hindi film as a director.

Each one of the songs is a delightful piece by itself, besides the music of the LoRD. Let’s have a few sample lines from the different songs.

One of my favourite songs, not just of this movie, but of all time is the one sung by Arati Mukherjee – Do Naina Aur Ek Kahani.  This song in the film is picturised as a lullaby sung by the mother Shabana Azmi for her two daughters. The lines are ostensibly a story for the kids. But there is something deeper in it. Have a look. There is antara which goes like this

chhotee see do jheelon mein wo
bahatee rahatee hai
o chhotee see do jheelon mein wo
bahatee rahatee hai
ko_ii sune yaa naa sune
kahatee rahatee hai
kuchh likh ke aur kuchh zubaani

Between two lakes (jheelon – tear drops? remember the song starts Do Naina aur Ek Kahani) flows the story (story of life?). Whether any one listens to it or not, the story goes on and on, sometimes in letters sometimes in voice.

The rest of the song you will see borders on distress and sadness.

Another favourite song, also with explicit nonsense lyrics, reminiscent of Sukumar Ray’s Aabol Taabol is Lakdi Ki Kathi. Song sung by kids having fun. Gulzar has done this many times. Earlier was one in Kitaab – remember VIP underwear banian?

ghodaa thaa ghamandee
pahunchaa sabjii mandee
sabjee mandee baraf padii thi
baraf mein lag gai thandee

The arrogant horse reaches the market, the market is covered with snow, in the snow the horse catches a cold. To what end was the arrogance? Only to catch a cold? Nice.

Finally I will end with Huzur Is Kadar.

koi manachalaa gar pakad legaa aanchal
zaraa sochiye aap kyaa kiijiyegaa
lagaa dein agar badhake zulfon mein kaliyaan
to kyaa apanii zulfein jhatak diijiyegaa

This song was one of those drinking songs when one is a little elevated from the ground.

(All lyrics taken from http://www.smriti.com and due credit to all respective contributors)

Fataak

After Dhan Ta Naan, I will now take up another brilliant song from Kaminey, Fataak

There’s a clear message about AIDS and unsafe sex and all that. However, it is not preachy unlike most others. In fact, there is a subtle hint of sarcasm at Indian attitudes. I will focus more on the use of a few words or phrases.

“bhavra” – a bee, no doubt. What is a bee doing here?  I have two guesses a) the “sting” of the virus floating around human habitat and b) “bhavra” a better way to say “bhadva” i.e. a pimp – some one who tempts you in to lust. By a fair stretch of imagination, “bhavra” could mean your own death warrant in the form of a debilitating disease.

ke bhavra bhavra aaya re,
gun gun karta aaya re,
sun sun karta galiyon se
ab tak koi na bhaaya re

fatak, fatak..

sauda kare saheli ka
sar pe tel chameli ka
kaan mein ittar ka phaya re

fatak, fatak

ke bhavra bhavra aaya re,
gun gun karta aaya re

Trying a free verse translation

The bee flies in
Buzzing through the streets
Still looking for its prey

Fatak, Fatak

Lo, here he trades off a friend
Who has come with hair glistening with Jasmine oil
And ears doused with the scent of roses

The verses that follow describe the different consequences and manifestations post the sting.

Dhan Ta Nan

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