Ten of my favourite ‘classic poem’ songs

Several weeks back, a two-day festival called Dilli ka Apna Utsav was organised in Delhi. As part of the festivities was a heritage walk led by my sister, Swapna Liddle. This walk took us to buildings and landmarks associated with the poetry spawned in Delhi: famous venues for mushairas (like the Ghaziuddin Madarsa and the Haveli Razi-un-Nissa Begum), or places which were once residences, even if only briefly, of famous poets (Ahaat Kaale Sahib, Zeenat Mahal, Ghalib’s Haveli).

What connection does all of this have to Hindi cinema? Just that it got me thinking of the links between Hindi film songs and classic poets. I can’t think of too many classic poets (except Mirza Ghalib and Meera Bai) who have been made the central characters of Hindi films, but the works of famous poets crop up every now and then in Hindi film songs. Sometimes in their entirety, and very well-known, too (as in most of the songs of the Bharat Bhushan-starrer Mirza Ghalib).

Bharat Bhushan in and as Mirza Ghalib

More often, though, the works of classic poets appear only in part—one verse here, another fragment of poetry there—scattered across lyrics written specifically for film songs. Often, I’ve discovered—many years after I first heard them—that a couple of lines from a well-loved and popular song are actually not the creation of the lyricist to whom they’re attributed, but have been borrowed from a classic poet.

This post, therefore, lists ten songs that are, in whole or part, written by classic poets. And, although lyricists like Sahir Ludhianvi, Shailendra, Jaan Nisar Akhtar and Kaifi Azmi (and many others) have also been very well-respected poets, of verses other than those that appear in songs, I will restrict this post to only those poets who weren’t also lyricists. As always, these songs are all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen.

In no particular order:

1. Aah ko chaahiye ek umr asar hone tak (Mirza Ghalib, 1954; Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan ‘Ghalib’): Even though this post isn’t in any specific order, I had to begin with this song. Firstly, because it’s from one of the few films that’s actually based on the life of a poet. Secondly, because Mirza Ghalib—a Dilliwallah, like me—was, as he described himself—without equal (“kehte hain ke Ghalib ka hai andaaz-e-bayaan aur”). Thirdly, because Mirza Ghalib featured so many superb ghazals of Ghalib’s.

Choosing from all the wonderful Ghalib ghazals in this film was very difficult; I veered between Nuktacheen hai, gham-e-dil; Yeh na thhi hamaari qismat; and Aah ko chaahiye ik umr asar hone tak. I finally chose this one, because I love the rendition, the music, and the picturisation. Nehru is reputed to have told Suraiya, when he heard this song, that she had brought Ghalib to life. I think so, too.

Aah ko chaahiye ek umr asar, from Mirza Ghalib
2. Lagta nahin hai dil mera ujde dayaar mein (Laal Qila, 1960; Mirza Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Mohammad Bahadurshah ‘Zafar’): If one speaks of Ghalib, one should also remember his contemporary and patron, the last of the Mughal emperors, Bahadurshah ‘Zafar’. Bahadurshah ‘Zafar’, like his forebears, had been reduced to being a mere pensioner of the British, and this feeling of angst and helplessness dominates some of his best-known poems.

Laal Quila, while a fairly boring film (with only a passing nod to historicity), did have some good songs, especially ones borrowing from Zafar’s poetry. This one (written by Zafar as his own epitaph) is among the best of the lot, bemoaning the misery of an emperor looking at the ruins of an empire—and foretelling the even greater ruin that is to come. Ironically, the famous sher—Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar; dafn ke liye do ghaz zameen bhi na mili ku-e-yaar mein—is almost a prophecy; the exiled Zafar died and was buried in Rangoon rather than in his hometown of Delhi.

Lagta nahin hai dil mera, from Laal Qila
3. O mere shah-e-khubaan (Love in Tokyo, 1966; Momin Khan ‘Momin’): In a slight shift, a song that isn’t all from the pen of a classic poet, but which does borrow a couple of famous lines from one. If you watch the mushaira shown in Mirza Ghalib (1960), you’ll see Ghalib’s fellow poet, Momin Khan ‘Momin’ reciting one of his shers: Tum mere paas hote ho goya, koi doosra nahin hota. Legend has it that Ghalib was so entranced by this verse that he offered to exchange his entire corpus—the Diwan-e-Ghalib—in return for it.

Hasrat Jaipuri, who wrote the lyrics for this two-version (male and female) song for Love in Tokyo, balances the rest of the song beautifully with Momin’s immortal words, making this one of my favourite love songs: very, very romantic.

O mere shah-e-khubaan, from Love in Tokyo
And, another little bit of trivia: another sher from this same ghazalHaal-e-dil yaar ko likhoon kyunkar, haath dil se judaa nahin hota—was also used in a film song: it’s part of the qawwali Phir tumhaari yaad aayi ae sanam, from Rustom Sohrab.

4. Zindagi khwaab hai (Jaagte Raho, 1956; Kabir): Like O mere shah-e-khubaan, another instance of a song that borrows from a classic poet, then goes the way of a lyricist. Zindagi khwaab hai begins with one of Kabir’s wittiest couplets: “Rangi ko naarangi kahein, bane doodh ko khoya; chalti ko gaadi kahein, dekh Kabira roya”. Shailendra then takes up the thread, weaving a song that further expounds on the illogicality of mankind, and ends up being one of Hindi cinema’s most cynical-yet-fancy-free songs.

And, yes. Even in the picturisation, there’s a very definite nod to Kabir.

Zindagi khwaab hai, from Jaagte Raho
5. Raat yoon dil mein teri (Jaanwar, 1965; Faiz Ahmed Faiz): From Kabir, back to a later generation, and, like Ghalib, Zafar and Momin, an Urdu poet. Faiz Ahmed Faiz, known primarily for his revolutionary poetry (he was part of the Progressive Writers’ Movement), has the occasional line of verse appearing now and then in Hindi cinema. In the song from Chiraag (1969), for example, the line Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai was originally by Faiz.

Four years before Chiraag, however, in the Shammi Kapoor-Rajshree starrer Jaanwar, there was an entire song—almost no music, but beautifully sung by Rafi and Asha Bhonsle—which was a poem by Faiz. I love the breathtaking beauty of Raat yoon dil mein teri: it’s so gentle, so romantic, so full of love. An absolute classic.

Raat yoon dil mein teri, from Jaanwar
6. Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai (Shaheed, 1965; Ram Prasad ‘Bismil’): Like Faiz, Bismil too was a revolutionary poet, though most people today know of him more for the role he played in India’s freedom movement than for his poetry.

With one exception—Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai, a motivational poem that is invariably associated with revolutionary freedom fighters like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad. No wonder, then, that Sarfaroshi ki tamanna has been used in patriotic songs in various films, all the way from The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) to Rang de Basanti (2006). And, in my favourite form, in Shaheed (1965). The quietly powerful tone of this rendition, sung by Rafi, Manna Dey, Rajendra Mehta and Prem Dhawan, makes for a stirring song.

Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamaare dil mein hai, from Shaheed
7. Vande mataram (Anand Math, 1952; Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay): I can almost hear grumbles from people who aren’t Urdu- or Hindi-speaking: where is the poetry from other parts of the country? Not that it’s strange, after all, since Hindi cinema would use Hindi and Urdu as its primary language.

And, at times, Sanskrit. This song—of which the first two verses were adopted as India’s national song—was written by Bengali author and poet Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay as part of his revolutionary novel, Anand Math. Set in 1771, during the Bengal famine, Anand Math was a huge success as a novel, and the song (written in Bengali and Sanskrit) was first sung (in a political context) by Rabindranath Tagore in 1896.

This version, set to music by Hemant, is a superb, stirring rendition—and goes beyond the well-known two verses that comprise the Indian national song.

Vande mataram, from Anand Math
8. Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya (Baiju Bawra, 1952; Meera Bai): Sadly, the only female poet in this list. But, to compensate, a poetess on whose life at least two films were based: one, a 1945 Tamil version starring MS Subbulakshmi, and a 1979 version starring Hema Malini. While the 1979 version does use several of Meera’s bhajans as songs, it’s outside the ambit of this blog as far as period is concerned—but Meera’s bhajans, or bits of them, do appear here and there.

In Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya (Baiju Bawra) for instance, where the song begins with “Jo main aisa jaanti preet kiye dukh hoye, nagar dhindora peetti preet na kariyo koye”—a couplet from Meera. This wasn’t the first time this particular piece of poetry had been used in Hindi cinema; the Shamshad Begum song Nirmohi bansiwaale (Veena, 1948) also included this in its lyrics. I have a fondness for Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya, though: Lata sings it beautifully, and the beginning—where Meera’s words are sung—gives me gooseflesh.

Mohe bhool gaye saanwariya, from Baiju Bawra
9. Saare jahaan se achcha (Bhai-Bahen, 1959; Mohammad Iqbal): Back to the Urdu poets, and this time with a poet—and a song—that is very well-known to most Indians. Mohammad Iqbal (also known as Allama Iqbal) is Pakistan’s national poet, but he was the one who wrote the almost ubiquitous-in-India Saare jahaan se achha Hindostan hamaara, a song sung everywhere from school assemblies to the Republic Day Parade.

Saare jahaan se achha (its formal name is Tarana-e-Hind) has more than one connection to Hindi film songs. It was parodied by Sahir Ludhianvi in his hard-hitting and cynical Cheen-o-Arab hamaara (Phir Subah Hogi, 1958), and it’s appeared every now and then in scenes and instrumental versions in films up to Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013) This version, however, from Bhai-Bahen, is my favourite: the lyricist (Jan Nisar Akhtar, himself a stalwart) uses the beginning of Tarana-e-Hind, gently tweaks some of the following lines, and adds some of his own—but retains the patriotic flavour of the original poem.

Saare jahaan se achcha, from Bhai-Bahen
10. O yaar zulfon waale (Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena, 1962; Amir Khusro Dehlavi): I began with a Delhi poet, Mirza Ghalib; and I’ll end this list with another Delhi poet. Amir Khusro, who predated Ghalib by over 500 years (and whose tomb, coincidentally, is within a stone’s throw of Ghalib’s). Khusro was a prolific poet in Arabic, Persian and Hindavi; is considered the father of the qawwali; and is also believed to have been the inventor of the tabla and the sitar.

Khusro’s poetry is very much a part of Hindi film music (Zehaal-e-miskeen, from Ghulaami, 1985, draws from one of Khusro’s poems; and Kaahe ko byaahi bides—used in a song from Suhaag Raat, 1948 and sung also in Umrao Jaan, 1981—are examples). A lot of sufi music still draws from Khusro.

And there is this, a verse in a peppy song that doesn’t sound like what one associates with Khusro. When I first heard Zabaan-e-yaar-e-man Turki, I was a child and thought it was nonsense verse. It was only much later that I learnt that these two lines were actually written by Khusro, addressed to his dear friend, Nizamuddin Auliya: Zabaan-e-yaar-e-mann Turki o mann Turki na mee daaanam (“The language of my friend is Turkish, and I understand no Turkish”). It has a somewhat tenuous connection to the rest of the song (lyricist Shevan Rizvi does bring in the concept of love knowing no boundaries, but that’s about it). Still, a rather enjoyable song.

O yaar zulfonwaale, from Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena
Please add to this list!


145 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite ‘classic poem’ songs

  1. Khusrau the poet was different from Khusrau the sitar inventor, I believe. Let me see if i can hunt up one of the academic sources where i read it.


    • I know that there were two Amir Khusros, but I keep getting confused between who was responsible for what… do let me know if you find the answer to that bit about the sitar.


  2. Madhu,
    This is a very interesting and informative post. Thanks a lot. One can’t help noticing that while classical poets of Urdu, including contemporary ones, figure in film songs, in the case of Hindi it has been largely confined to Bhakti poets. One reason for 20th century literary poets missing from films songs is that very soon Hindi poetry discarded the traditional style of writing in rhyme and metre, so much so that today anyone writing in that style would be looked down upon as indulging in mere tukbandi. In Urdu too, though free verse is being used as it frees the poet from the constraints of fitting his thoughts in a rigid structure, ghazal remains a vibrant genre, with its formal rules of radeef and kaafia, which makes it amenable to composing to a tune. Another reason obviously is ghazal’s one of the main occupations being ishq, mohabbat, shama, parwana etc.

    Another film version of Sare jahan se achcha is in the film Dharmputra, again composed by N Datta in the same tune. But another tune, which is probably more commonly known, is the marching tune used by the armed forces’ bands.

    A very well known Faiz ghazal used in films is Mujhse pahli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang by Noorjehan in a Pakistani film(?) for Shamim Ara. The reason I am mentioning is that it appeared so familiar that I always thought she must have sung it pre-1947. It has the familiar lines Aur bhi dukh hain zamane mein mohabbat ke siwa and Teri ankhon ke siwa is duniya mein rakha kya hai.


    • AK, thank you for that very insightful observation about how Hindi ‘literary’ poets seem to be completely missing from Hindi film songs. True, free verse isn’t usually conducive to being put to music. The more traditional rhyming metre, of some of the older Hindi poets – the sort I had to study in school back in the 80s – is more easily adapted to songs. For instance, I remember a very good adaptation of Makhanlal Chaturvedi’s Pushp ki abhilasha, which used to air on Doordarshan:

      And I’ve always thought Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s Jhansi ki Rani would make for a brilliant revolutionary song.

      Thanks, also, for Mujhse pehli si. I’ve heard (and seen) it earlier – Richard’s posted it, if I remember correctly, on Facebook.


    • I have a question: were all these poems written by Neeraj and later set to music, or were they written as lyrics in the first place? If the second, then (even though Neeraj was a very highly respected poet), I wouldn’t include them in the list, because I’ve specifically mentioned that this list is about poets who were not also lyricists. Which is why Sahir Ludhianvi is conspicuous by his absence. Sahir, after all, was a highly acclaimed poet before he arrived in the cinema industry – but, because he also became a lyricist, I did not include him in the list.


        • Yes, apparently very loosely based on what Meera actually wrote. It seems to have turned into a folk song down the ages, and Harivansh Rai Bachchan picked it up – but did he write it only for the movie, or was it a poem of his?


  3. Wasn’t Patta patta boota boota haal humara jaane hai also from a classic Urdu poet? I remember an onscreen Ghalib rhapsodizing over the couplet.

    In the Bhakti tradition, there is Om jai jagadeesh hare and Raghupati raghav raja ram. (Considering the source film, I wouldn’t include it any favorites’ lists, though!) I thought Vaishnav jan to also made it to films, but I cannot find it.


      • And thank you, again! I haven’t seen Street Singer, so I couldn’t include Baabul mora, but I was so hoping that one of my readers would suggest it, because it’s a special favourite of mine. My favourite Saigal song, and one that never fails to give me gooseflesh.

        Incidentally, I was also reminded of this song when I added Lagta nahin hai dil mera to this list – similar situations, what with Wajid Ali Shah being exiled and ‘Zafar’ being on the verge of exile (even if he hadn’t known it back then). And both rulers too. And good poets.


    • Oh, good girl, Bollyviewer! You’ve unearthed another famous Urdu poet. Patta-patta boota-boota is by Meer Taqi Meer. Here is the poem:


      And here is the song:

      A very nice song, indeed. :-)

      Oh, I agree re: the two bhajans you’ve mentioned. Yes, considering the source film – which was an utter pain, wasn’t it? – perhaps we should just mention those songs and not go listening to them. Or, worse, watching.

      I hadn’t known Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye je was in a film. Can’t find any occurrences on Youtube, though.


  4. DO this is absolutely fantastic. I’m in a hurry but had to write my appreciation. I’ll be back later. Would this song qualify with one line of – chalti ko gaadi


    • Yes, of course it would qualify. :-) I didn’t include it since Zindagi khwaab hai scores over it by including the entire doha, not just that little bit! Interestingly, this doha inspired the names of two films – Chalti ka Naam Gaadi (of course) and Dekh Kabira Roya, both great comedies.


  5. This is such a fantastic idea for a post, Madhu! It should have been an obvious idea, considering the wealth of Urdu poetry that has been used in Hindi films, but equally obviously, it took you to make a post out of it! Take a bow, my girl. :)

    Off the top of my head, some poetry/songs to add to your wonderful list…
    This one from Bazaar is a poem by Mir Taqi Mir, lovingly rendered by Lata.

    From Faiz Ahmed Faiz – Mujhse meri pehli si muhobbat from Qaidi SInger: Noor Jehan

    One of my favourites: Ek chameli ke mandve tale from Cha Cha Cha riffing off Maqdoom Moiuhuddin.

    and how can I forget this? Sham-e-gham ki kasam from Footpath. The poet is Ali Sardar Jafri. (And Majrooh, of course.)

    I’ll be back to see what the commentariat adds to the mix. Off to listen to the songs you listed. Thank you for such a lovely start to the day. :)


    • Anu, thank you so much! Yes, AK (Songs of Yore) had added Mujhse pehli si mohabbat, while AK (not Songs of Yore!) had mentioned Ek chameli k mandve tale. I had absolutely no idea that Dikhaayi diye yoon was Meer’s, or that Shaam-e-gham ki kasam was by Ali Sardar Jafri – both among my favourite songs. Especially the latter; it’s so utterly lovely.


  6. Excellent post! From song #1 to #10 are my favorites.I was unaware about “O mere shah-e-khubaan” ‘s connection to Momin. A special mention goes to Vande mataram from Anand Math, as it is song of “veer” rasa.It gives you gooseflesh as you hear it and you get carried away with it.As I have watched the song and is evident from screenshot #8;the tears in Geeta Bali’s eyes are spontaneous(she was not pretending),and I get the same vibes while hearing this great song. “Raat yoon dil mein teri” from Jaanwar is another classic gem.”Zabaan-e-yaar-e-man Turki” is an absolute favorite of mine as it is picturised on my favorite actors.Khusrau’s original lines are “Zabaan e yaar e man Turki, wa man Turki na mi daanam
    Che khush boodi, gar boodi zabaanash dar dahan e man”;is often considered as conveying two meanings by scholars-as spiritual one and other conveying material pleasures when translated.
    The first song that came to my mind on this theme was “Babul mora naihar chooto jaye” by by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah that is already mentioned above by bollyviewer. The song that comes to my mind now is “Main dekhoon jis aur sakhi ri ” from Anita as it suggests strong influence of Meerabai’s devotional poetry( althoughI am not sure enough if it suits the criteria)


    • coolone160, thank you! I am so happy you liked all the songs. :-) And I agree with you about Vande mataram – it’s such a stirring song, I’m not surprised that Geeta Bali looks so sincerely affected by it. Even thinking about it gives me gooseflesh.

      I’m not sure about Main dekhoon jis or… it would qualify only if it was absolutely certain that it had, indeed, been written by Meera (or another poet). It does sound a lot like Meera’s devotional poetry, but then so do songs like Aaj sajan mohe ang lagaa lo and Aan milo aan milo


    • Oh, absolutely. Several of the songs in my post have only a couple of lines by a poet – O mere shah-e-khubaan or Yaar zulfonwaale, for instance. I’m so glad you could suggest not one, but two songs that draw from a work that’s not Hindi! Thank you for that. :-)


      • Just realised that I have said Rind Poshmaal is also by Pt Dinanath Nadim. It is in fact a lovely love poem by a mid 19th century poet of Kashmir, Rasool Mir.
        He was also called the Keats of Kashmir and is known for his evocative love verses


  7. DO, the songs in your list are all in my favourite songs list. Very apty you started with Mirza Ghalib. Each an every song is a gem. I love them all.
    I agree the film Lalquila is boring, but the song is worthy.
    I would never have known about the Love in Tokyo and janwar songs.
    Meera’s couplet at the start of bhool gaye sanwariya indeed gives me goosebumps too as also the Anandmath’s vandemataram

    Talking of Khusro, some dohas of his were taken for a couple of songs in main tulsi tere aangan ki which use his ‘dohas’;

    “Apni chhab banaikay, jo main pi kay paas gayi
    Chhab dekhi jab piyu ki so apni bhool gayi.”


    • Then there is;
      “Lakdi jal koyla bhai
      Aur koyla jal bhayo raakh
      Main papan aisi jail
      So koyla bhai na raakh”
      also by Amir Khusrau


      • *slaps forehead*

        How could I forget this? Of course. Such a famous couplet – and I’ve watched Chhoti-Chhoti Baatein. My only excuse is that for me, Kuchh aur zamaana kehta hai drives every other song from that film out of my mind. Such a sublime song. :-)

        I am inclined to suspect that if we dug deep enough, we’d probably find more dohas used in this manner in some of the older films.,,


    • Chaap tilak is a very famous work of Khusro’s, isn’t it? I had completely forgotten that it was part of this song, even though I’ve seen Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki.

      Am so glad you liked the post, pacifist! I must admit I love all the songs on this list. Not just superb words (of course – such great poets!), but also such good music and so well rendered.


      • I missed this the first time. Only saw it now. I don’t think I’ve ever heard Maati kahe kumhaar se before, but I agree completely: the words are excellent. (Incidentally, before I began listening to the song, I thought: “Is this a doppelganger of Dharti kahe pukaar ke?” :-D


      • Are you, by any chance, clued into Rahim’s dohas, pacifist? When I was writing the bit about Amir Khusro’s tomb being within a stone’s throw of Ghalib’s, I also remembered that another famous poet is buried not too far from them both – in fact, just across the road: Rahim. I tried thinking of a song with a Rahim doha, but nothing came to mind.


        • In school I always found it easier to learn Kabir ke dohe. Rahim ke dohe were rather difficult. :-/
          Kabir had some fun ones to remember. Like:
          Kabira khada bazaar mein, maange sab ki khair
          Na kahu se dosti, na kahu se baer

          I found the visual of ‘khada bazaar mein’ schoolgirlishly funny.

          Then there was;
          bada hua toh kya hua, jaise ped khajoor
          panthi ko chhaya nahin, phal lage ati door

          This was funny because of ‘bada hua toh kya hua’ which I often said to my older brothers, and ‘phal lage ati door’ also tickled me. I don’t know why. :-)
          I’m surprised I still remember a few, some only a line here and there,
          but Rahimdas was a different story :-/


          • I remember a fair number of Kabir’s dohas because they were easy-to-remember examples of poetic embellishments, like alliteration, metaphor, simile, etc. And their laye and taal was always so good (and the thought so wise), that they sank rapidly into one’s brain.

            I hadn’t known Rahim was known also as Rahimdas – somehow all our schoolbooks always listed him only as ‘Rahim’ (it was only years after I’d left school that I realised who he actually was). A couple of his dohas I still remember, one being this example of one word meaning three different things in three different contexts:

            Rahiman paani raakhiye, bin paani sab soon;
            Paani gaye, na oobre, moti, maanas, choon


  8. Out of the ordinary post Madhu, congrats.I will take the liberty of fraying beyond 70s
    because we have some beautiful work post 70s too.Pardon me.
    Here I go, A R Rahman and Irshad Kamil using Baba Farid couplet Kaga sab tan khaiyyo chuun chun kkhaiyyo mas at 4.6

    next is Maqdo0m sahab in Gaman

    Mir Taqi Mir in Bazaar


    • Thank you! And do feel free to go well beyond the 60s in the comments – that’s one area where I do not impose my restrictions. :-)

      I have to admit I’d never heard Naadaan parindey ghar aaja, though I’m familiar with that particular couplet of Baba Farid’s – I find it very memorable.

      I’m glad, too, that you provided Aap ki yaad aati rahi: another reader mentioned that Gaman had songs by Makhdoom Mohiuddin, but wasn’t able to specify which ones. This was lovely, thank you. Have heard it (of course! – it was very popular at a time when Hindi film music was going through a pretty bad phase). Dikhaayi diye yoon is probably my favourite of all the ones you’ve listed. Even Anu has mentioned it in her comment.


  9. I am late so naturally everybody beat me to it. The moment I saw the theme of your post my natural choice was the songs from ‘Bazaar’, I just love them, though I confess I do not understand the language, I just love the sound of the songs. There is one song though which I think could make it to your list and that is,mohe panghat pe from ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. Though Majrooh Sultanpuri got the credit for the song from what I have read it was originally written by some Hindi poet.

    then there is the song from ‘Bandini’ mat ro mata this was inspired from a song written by young freedom fighter Khudiram Bose before he went to the gallows.. The lyrics is different but the inspiration from the Bengali song ek baar bidayee de ma is discernible.


    • Aye gham-e-dil kya karoon is such a lovely song (I’m biased, of course, since I’m so fond of Talat). Hadn’t known that it was written by Majaaz.

      Ah. I am so glad someone finally mentioned Dil dhoondta hai. A few days back, after it was announced that Gulzar had been awarded the Dadasaheb Phalke, Amul released one of their classic newspaper ads commemorating the event – and the headline of the ad was Dil dhoondta hai. So ironic that the song they chose out of Gulzar’s huge corpus of very good lyrics was one which wasn’t wholly Gulzar’s!


    • Ah! Only last evening, I was trying to remember which song had a series of dohas. I remembered the tune, but absolutely nothing else. Thanks for posting this! Akhiyon ke jharokhon se is outside my time limit, but Bade badaai na karein certainly deserves a mention in the comments.


  10. and this from junoon…the ghir aayi is definitely folk …perhaps khusrau (not sure ) and the english poem/song ..again i dont know the poet..but a lovely song


    • Saawan ki aayi bahaar re is a nice song, yes, but if we aren’t sure whether it’s Khusro, then I don’t think it should be here. I also can’t tell what Jennifer Kendall and Nafisa Ali are singing, except for stray words here and there – the audio is a little scratchy. Don’t know if that’s a poem, either, or actually just an English folk song.


    • This is quite something. I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch Heer-Ranjha (neither Raj Kumar nor Priya Rajvansh are among my favourites), but Doli chadhte Heer na bane is lovely. Weren’t this entire film’s dialogues in verse?


  11. A most interesting article, Madhu! I’ve learned so much AND listened to some wonderful songs. Since I can’t read Urdu or Hindi I’m a complete zero when it comes to poetry in either language. Nevertheless, here are a few more instances of classic poetry used in Hindi film songs:

    The title song of Main nashe mein hoon begins with a couplet that is attributed to Ghalib (some say Daag Dehlvi):
    Zahid sharaab peene de masjid mein baith kar
    Ya wooh jahan bata de jahan par Khuda na ho

    Jal Ke dil khak hua from Parichay begins with a couplet allegedly by poet Mehtaab Rai Tabaan:
    dil ke phaphole jal uthe seene ke daag se
    is ghar ko aag lag gayi ghar ke chiraag se

    The Farid couplet can also be heard at the start of Piya milan ki aas:

    Kalidas was another Indian poet to have a Hindi film made on him, but I’m not sure if any of the songs use his poetry. I think this one is inspired by Kalidas’ Ritusamhara but don’t know if actually uses his words.


    • I’ve only now had the time to read your comment and listen to the songs you’ve suggested, Shalini. For someone who claims to not be able to read Hindi or Urdu, that’s an impressive selection indeed. :-) And beautiful songs, too. I’ll confess I was only familiar with the Main nashe mein hoon song. The song from Kalidas is nice, but (like you) I can’t tell whether it’s originally by Kalidas, or just based on his work (perhaps Meghdoot?). i’m inclined to think it’s just inspired from his work.


    • No, no-one’s mentioned Ae ri main toh prem diwaani yet. Thank you – this had been on my longlist of songs for this post, but since I hadn’t seen Naubahar, i had to drop it from the list. A lovely song.


  12. Very nice topic DO and a nice selection. I would like to add two more separated by time as it were. A poem by Makhdoom Moinuddin who has already been mentioned upthread. This particular anti war poem was written by him when he saw Indian peasants who had been conscripted into the British Army off to fight in Burma. Here it is set to music by Salilda.

    I have an album with Sumangala Damodaran singing it. Here is a clip where she talks about the album and the song.

    Since you mentioned Anand Math, this particular song is taken from Jayadeva’s Geet Govinda. It is an exposition of Vishnu’s dashavatars. The song starts with “hare murare …calling Krishna’s names and the launches into the Matsya avatar..
    Pralaya prayodhijale….keshava dhrut meen sharir…jaya jagdish hare.
    The song does not mention the Kurma, Varaha, Narasimha avatars but proceeds straight to Vamana and the last four avatars.


    • SSW, thank you!

      Even though I’ve watched Anand Math, it’s been so many years, I’d forgotten about Jai jagdish hare – good to hear it again. and to read what you had to say about it. I am pretty sure I’d have missed the omission of some of the avatars if you hadn’t mentioned it.

      Jaanewaale sipaahi se poochho is a wonderfully stirring song – patriotic, yet in a poignant sort of way. Lovely. I hadn’t known it was Makhdoom Mohiuddin’s.

      Another patriotic song which had been on my shortlist for this post was the INA’s (now the Indian Army’s) regimental quick march, Kadam-kadam badhaaye jaa, written by Pandit Bansidhar Shukla. It appears in Samadhi:

      (Unfortunately, I cannot find any online information about Pandit Bansidhar Shukla – no idea if he was a full-time poet or not. But yes, this song was certainly a well-known one before Rajinder Krishan adapted it for use in this film).


      • Yes kadam kadam badhaye jaa was an inspiring song .
        By the way in the Anand Math song, to be more accurate the verses describing Parasurama (Bhrigupati) and Balarama (hala dhara the plough bearer) avatara’s are also left out.. Perhaps too long for the film.


  13. I was offline for a fortnight and you have put up an outstanding post! Great selections, and some lovely suggestions too!
    Classical music as a genre had some wonderful adaptations in Hindi music.
    Some fantastic ones are “Garjat Barsat” , “Mohammad shah rangile re”, and many others by Sadarang. Some traditional ones like “E ri jane na doongi”, “Phool gendwa na maro”, “laga chunari me daag” AND last but not the least, “Jhumka Gir Re”, a thumri. The list is of thumris quite exhaustive.
    One non filmy composition of Majrooh, adapted by Madan Mohan

    Check this delightful one out from the same movie (the original is so beautiful)


    • Karthik, lovely selection of songs, thank you! (And I’m wondering why I never even thought of Hum hain mata-e-kucha-o-bazaar – I couldn’t have included it in my list, because I’ve not seen the film, but I should at least have remembered it).

      Would you know who the poets of the songs you’ve listed – Jhumka gira re and Laaga chunri mein daag, for example – are? By the way, would Inhi logon ne also fall into the same bracket? I’ve heard numerous versions of that – I think the earliest picturised on Yaqub – too.


  14. Back again,
    Achchha unhen dkha hai bimar hui aanken
    I am positive this beautiful couplet is a classic sher but do not who the writer is? can some body enlighten me?
    Here are two versions


  15. Awesome post.. In my view, your best since the lesser known composers post.. I was thinking of adding Tagore’s Ekla chole re and Kavi pradeep’s Chal Akela from sambandh, but then realised that Ekla chole re is a song and so might not fight into the ‘poem’ category..

    Well, here is one,though it is from post-1970 era. Infact it is a song from the year 2009!! But nonetheless its a beautiful song and ranks among my all time fav songs- Aaj din Chadheya from Love Aaj Kal where Irshad Kamil uses the hook line from a famous poem of Shiv Kumar Batalvi..Here’s the song-


    • I would include Ekla chole re – even if it was a song and not a poem originally; the point was that it should have originally been written by someone who wasn’t a lyricist too. (And I must admit that I have a particular fondness for that song – it was the first piece of Rabindrasangeet I must have heard).

      Ajj din chadheya was new to me. Thank you!


  16. Back once again
    This time Gulzar is with Amir Khusrow’s verse.Zey hal e mishkil.
    .I remembered Ghulami’s song last week when I heard Sabri brothers sing this qawwali.
    Hers is the Ghulami song followed by Sabri brother’s qawwali.


    • I know the number of comments in this post make it very difficult to see which songs have already been listed, but this one I remember – because I hadn’t known it was an Amir Khusro song, but happened to hear it just the very day I published this post. And then proceeded to discover who had written it!


  17. Insha Allah Khan Insha (court poet of Sa’adat Ali Khan, Nawab of Lucknow), opening Rekhti song in Mandi, “Chubhti hai yeh to nigodi meri bhaari angiya.”


  18. it is also said that, jhoom jhoom ke nacho aaj ,gao khushi ke geet, was also a song written by someone else, and majrooh took the lines for andaz 1949


  19. also tang aa chuke hai kashama kash e zindagi se hum
    is also a ghazal by sahir not exactly written for a movie,
    but was taken in 2 films, Pyasa and Light House

    this also may qualify!


    • Sahir is one of the rare exceptions, of course – not just a great lyricist, but also a great poet in his own right. The Rafi version of this poem happens to be one of my favourite songs. It’s hauntingly poignant.


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