Today is the birth centenary of one of Hindi cinema’s greatest lyricists, the very prolific and versatile Hasrat Jaipuri. Born in Jaipur on April 15, 1922, ‘Hasrat’ was named Iqbal Hussain, and took to writing poetry fairly early in life. In 1940, not even 20 years old, Hasrat moved to Bombay, where, though he attended mushairas and wrote (and recited) a good deal of verse, he was also obliged to take up a job as bus conductor. This job helped him make ends meet for the next 8 years, when Hasrat had the good fortune to be noticed by none other than Prithviraj Kapoor at a mushaira. Kapoor was so impressed by the young poet, he recommended Hasrat to his son Raj, who was then in the midst of planning Barsaat (1949). Hasrat was taken on to write songs for the film, and that was the start of a very long association with RK Films—Hasrat wrote lyrics for all of Raj Kapoor’s films for the next two decades and more, invariably alongside fellow lyricist Shailendra.
Of course, Hasrat also wrote for many other film-makers and many other films, his songs running the gamut from comic songs to philosophical ones, from songs of hope and of dreams, to pure romance. Love songs, indeed, were Hasrat’s forte, and there are many who believe that if Sahir Ludhianvi was the doyen of revolutionary songs and Shailendra of sad songs, it was Hasrat who commanded the love song.
In commemoration of Hasrat’s birth centenary, therefore, ten of my favourite songs written by him. A transcription of these songs, along with a translation, is available here. As always, these songs are in no particular order, and are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve watched.
1. Is rang badalti duniya mein (Raj Kumar, 1964): One of my absolutely favourite love songs, this one combines several of my favourites: Shammi Kapoor and Sadhana for one, Mohammad Rafi at his heart-meltingly best for another, and superb music by Shankar-Jaikishan. But where would this song be without Hasrat’s fabulous lyrics? Don’t tempt everybody, this lover tells his beloved: your beauty will sway just about all, since this world cannot be relied upon.
After he’s told her how the intentions of everybody and everything are suspect—from the storm to his own heart—comes the icing on the cake: Main kaise khuda haafiz keh doon, mujhko toh kisi ka yakeen nahin; Chhup jaao hamaari aankhon mein, bhagwaan ki neeyat theek nahin. How can he say goodbye (khuda haafiz, literally ‘God keep you safe’) to her; he cannot even trust God. Hide within my eyes, he urges her; for I suspect even the intentions of God.
2. Panchhi banoon udti phiroon (Chori Chori, 1956): A paean to freedom, this song is picturized on Nargis, playing the poor little heiress, whose every move and every minute is spent surrounded by, stifled by, the restrictions and guards set about her by her doting and very wealthy father. Restrictions that hem her in so badly, when she finally breaks free, she must celebrate that freedom by racing into the countryside, running through the fields and singing of the independence that is finally hers. Superb music (Shankar-Jaikishan) and a beautiful rendition (Lata Mangeshkar), but look at the lyrics too: how Hasrat evokes nature coming together to surround this young woman; how she becomes one with the breeze, the sky, the lightning, the clouds. How she seems to leave the overcrowded world behind and unshackle herself from all her cares.
3. Yeh meri zindagi ek paagal hawa (Ziddi, 1964): Another woman, also singing of freedom—but freedom of a different kind, a woman and a situation of a different style. Asha Parekh’s character in Ziddi, changed from a tomboy to a sati Savitri because of love, realizes that the only way she can bring joy to those around her is by sacrificing her love (yes, well…). So she sets out to prove, to her beloved (played by Joy Mukherji) and others that she’s a ‘bad girl’. A girl who knows no faithfulness, no commitment; a wild wind, staying never still, never in one place. Yeh meri zindagi ek paagal hawa is an interesting blend of metaphors on its own, but juxtaposed with Panchhi banoon udti phiroon, it’s even more intriguing, because you see how skillfully Hasrat uses the same (or similar) elements of nature—the open sky, the wind, the seashore—but in such a way that they fit the message of impermanence, of something fleeting. Not quite the freedom of the previous song, but a sort of negative looseness, of not being tied down even by bonds of love.
4. Haal-e-dil hamaara jaane na (Shriman Satyawadi, 1960): Raj Kapoor, in the course of a long career as both actor and director, played several characters that spouted philosophy in verse. In Anari, in Shree 420, in Teesri Kasam and many more films, he sang of seizing the day, of being kind and good, of honesty, of love towards all. And more.
In this song, his character sings of the pain and anguish of being poor, of being rejected: but at the same time, of carrying on. Of not letting adversity crush one’s spirit or loneliness make one despondent. Hasrat uses several different poetic styles to get the message across, but my favourite is the imagery contained in that last stanza: Hum zameen ki khaaq sahi, aasmaan par chhaayenge. How evocative.
5. Ichak daana bichak daana (Shree 420, 1955): I think one hallmark of a great song is that it becomes a part of local culture to the extent that one forgets its origins. I remember, through all my childhood, the popular riddle Hari thhi mann bhari thhi, laakh moti jadi thhi… if riddles were mentioned, that one was the first on anybody’s list. It was only many years later that I realized it’s actually part of a song, and one, too, that is all about riddles. Hasrat Jaipuri, in this absolutely delightful song, channels his inner Amir Khusro and creates a stunning bunch of riddles that hit the nail on the head. Each time. From a peacock to a red chilli, from a pomegranate to an ear of maize, a quartet of four everyday things that are immortalized in one song.
6. Dil mera ek aas ka panchhi (Aas ka Panchhi, 1961): It’s interesting to see how Hasrat puts a different spin on the same trope, keeping in mind different situations. The bird, flying free in the sky, takes on a different symbolism in this song, when compared to Panchhi banoon udti phiroon. The bird of Panchhi banoon udti phiroon is merely rejoicing in its freedom, in the happiness that comes from being unchained. It has no aim, no destination. The bird of Dil mera ek aas ka panchhi, however, is not aimless: this one flies up with a goal in mind. The sky is where it’s headed, as high as it will go. An inspiring song, and one where the music and the rendition really add to the lyrics.
7. Yaad kiya dil ne kahaan ho tum (Patita, 1953): A love song, but one with a difference. This is not the sizzling romance of an Is rang badalti duniya mein or the dreaminess of a O mere shah-e-khubaan; this is the love that comes as salvation. Usha Kiran’s character, repressed and exploited, left pregnant by a brutal rapist, finds herself utterly bereft and alone—but into her life comes this man (Dev Anand) who loves her for who she is, and who does not (unlike the rest of the world) hold her responsible for her misfortunes. His love turns her life around, and this is what comes through in this comforting, warm song of a love that is truly deep, truly supportive. While it’s hardly surprising that she should regard him with a certain level of gratitude, what I love is that he reciprocates that feeling: he is grateful to her for coming into his life.
8. Raat aur din diya jale (Raat aur Din, 1967): Nargis’s last role (?) had her playing a schizophrenic woman, part of the time a docile, ‘good’ wife and daughter-in-law, the rest of the time a fashionably Westernized, dancing-drinking-singing woman out painting the town red. As the conflicted Baruna, trying desperately to find her way through the mists of her own mind, Nargis put up a fine performance—and this song is an insight into what this character is going through. I like the way Hasrat manages to portray, through the lyrics, the sense of bootlessness, of loss and confusion that Baruna feels. An emotion, too, for which she herself cannot account.
9. O mere shah-e-khubaan (Love in Tokyo, 1966): For me, this is one of the most romantic songs in Hindi cinema. Part of that, of course, has to do with Mohammad Rafi’s fabulous rendition of O mere shah-e-khubaan. Part, too, owes itself to the fact that the setting (a Japanese garden) is lovely, Asha Parekh and Joy Mukherji provide much eye candy, and the situation oozes romance: she doesn’t know he has seen through her disguise, and has been weeping over a lost love…
But if you look beyond the music, Rafi’s voice, and the picturization, Hasrat’s lyrics too are sublime. The companion who is always beside the lover, through the wilderness and the desert. Whose beauty and love light up his life; like whom there is none other… Momin Khan Momin was the one who had come up with that classic ‘Tum mere paas hote ho goya, jab koi doosra nahin hota’ (in exchange for which Ghalib was ready to give up his entire corpus of poetry), but Hasrat is the one who takes up that thought and weaves a song out of it that breathes romance in every line. Stunning.
10. Woh chaand khila woh taare hanse (Anari, 1959): And, to end this list, another romantic song. While the refrain of this song (and the entire picturization of it) is playful, teasing, the lyrics of the song make it clear that Nutan’s character, while she does pull the leg of her rather naïve beloved, also loves him a lot. Besides being a wonderful love song, this is also one of the most exquisite descriptions of a night that I’ve come across: the imagery (‘taaron ka jaal’, ‘chanda ki chaal mastaani’, etc) is memorable—and all of it ties in so beautifully with the theme of love.
Happy birthday, Hasrat. May your words never be forgotten.