One would think that Hindi movies have obsession with Pyaar and Mohabbat (Love and Romance) and Yaad (Memory) and Chand (Moon). However, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Hindi movies’ biggest obsession is about Zindagi or Jeevan (Life). In a way it reflects we Indians’ fixation about unravelling the mysteries of Life; which, lightheartedly, is very different from an American’s fascination with Life: “Dad” asked the American son of his father, “Can I ask you something about Life?” Dad, expecting the embarrassing question, gingerly responds, “Go ahead, son; ask without fear.” And the son asks, “Why are we not subscribing to it (Life magazine) anymore.”
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Hindi movies and television, though, are refreshingly different about Zindagi (Life). You’d find songs covering every aspect of Life. Lets kick off with this 1956 movie ‘Jaagte Raho’ (Remain Vigilant). The great Shailendra was the lyricist. Shailendra hada long association with music directors Shankar Jaikishan (Punjabi-Gujarati duo) and the show man Raj Kapoor who liked his poetry in a mushaira (Poetry Recital Meet) in Mumbai when Shailendra was working in Indian Railways. This was in 1947 and Raj Kapoor immediately signed him for his 1948 film ‘Aag‘ (Fire). Jaagte Raho was produced by Raj Kapoor and he was the hero in the movie; but, the movie was directed by Amit Maitra and Sombhu Mitra. The song talks about Zindagi (Life) being a Khvaab (Dream) and hence there is no sach (truth) and no jhoot (lie). Mukesh, who sung almost all songs for Raj Kapoor sung this too. The music though is not by Shankar Jaikishan but Salil Chaodhary. The song is almost a satire on Life. The actor in the song, the one who is drunk, is Motilal:
Lets jump to 1972 movie ‘Piya Ka Ghar‘ (My Husband’s House) about Life in Mumbai (then Bombay) and the lack of privacy when large families stay in small flats with common bathrooms and toilets, and when water is so scarce (nothing has changed in Mumbai after so many years). The movie was a comedy directed by Basu Chatterjee starring Jaya Bachchan and Anil Dhawan. Anand Bakshi as lyricist and Laxmikant Pyarelal as music directors made the most popular hits in the Hindi movies without any extraordinary philosophy. However, the theme song of the movie had Life’s philosophy described in very simple terms: ‘Ye jeevan hai is jeevan ka yehi hai yehi hai rang roop; thode gham hain, thodi khushiyan hain, yehi hai yehi hai chhanv dhoop‘ (This is Life and this is its colour and face: some sorrows, some joys, here only you find sun and darkness):
Now, lets talk about what appear to be two opposite thoughts about Zindagi (Life). The one is by what I regard as the greatest lyricist of all times Shakeel Badayuni (Read ‘The Best of Old Hindi Songs: Rafi, Shakeel, Naushad and Dilip Kumar Together‘) writing these immortal lyrics for 1948 movie Mela (The Fair). The crux of the song is that we, as human beings, are too small entities in the Fair of Life; we are like drops in an ocean and whilst we give ourselves lots of importance, we must remember that the world can go on very well without us as it has done before and will do later. ‘Ye zindagi ke mele duniya mein kam naa honge, afsos hum na honge’:
The other is by the great Sahir Ludhianvi for the 1961 movie ‘Hum Dono‘ (Both of Us). Actually, if you pay attention to the lyrics, both mean the same. In Hum Dono, Dev Anand in this song thinks of Zindagi in the manner of Miller of Dee, ie:
There was a jolly miller once
Liv’d on the river Dee ;
He danc’d and he sang from morn till night,
No lark so blithe as he.
And this the burden of his song
For ever us’d to be
I care for nobody, no, not I,
If nobody cares for me.
Likewise, Sahir in this song says:
Jo mil gayaa usi ko muqaddar samajh liyaa – 2
Jo kho gayaa main usako bhulaataa chalaa gayaa
Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya.
(What I found, I thought of it as Destiny,
What I lost, I forgot about it
I gave full company to the Life)
What about Zindagi (Life) and Pyaar (Love)? The best on this theme is this Rajinder Krishan written song for the 1953 movie Anarkali () starring Pradeep Kumar and Bina Roy. Pradeep Kumar acted as Prince Salim who later became the emperor Jehangir. Salim revolted against his father, the Emperor of India Akbar over his love for a common girl Anarkali. C Ramchandra gave the music for the song. C Ramchandra was in love with Lata Mangeshkar, who, in order to teach him a lesson, was instrumental in ruining his career; even though he composed music for many songs sung by her including the famous ‘Ai mere watan ke logo’ Lata Mangeshkar though sang the song for Anarkali didn’t pay heed to the lyrics in relation to C Ramachandra: ‘Ye zindagi usi ki hai jo kisi ka ho gaya, pyaar mein jo kho gaya‘ (This Life belongs to the one who belongs to his love and is lost in such love):
Talking about Life devoted to Love, how can we forget the other immortal number of Anarkali by the same team of Rajinder Krishan and C Ramachandra. This one, though, is sung by my favourite singer Hemant Kumar. Hemant Kumar Mukhopadhyay or Hemant Mukherjee was a Bengali singer who was born in Varanasi. He sang for the All India Radio in Calcutta and his first movie as Music Director was the 1947 movie Abhiyatri. His first Hindi movie came in 1952, Anand Math. He was a leading exponent of Rabindersangeet. Most of his songs in Hindi movies have a special atmosphere built around them, eg, ‘ye raat ye chandni phir kahan‘ for the movie ‘Jaal’ and ‘yaad aa gayin vo nasheeli nigaahen’ for Manzil. This song for Anarkali brings out that even though Life of Love is short, but it is still a Life worth living. One can have crown, throne, and all the riches in the world; nothing is more precious than Love. “Zindagi pyaar ki do chaar ghadi hoti hai”:
When it comes to Life of Love, I don’t suppose one can find better words than the Pakistani lyricist Qateel Shafai for the 1973 Pakistani movie Azmat. I can be forgiven for this not going entirely with the songs from Hindi movies. However, one, the song is a composition beyond compare; and two, Mehdi Hasan, the gazhal singer is as well known in India as in Pakistan. His ghazals such as ‘Ranjish hi sahi dil hi dukhane ke liye aa‘ and ‘patta patta buta buta haal hamara jaane hai’ would set afire any mtiushaira in India. The strain of the ghazal below is: “Zindiagi mein to sabhi pyaar kiya karte hain; main to mar kar bhi meri jaan tujhe chahunga” (In their Lifetime many Love their beloveds; I am the one who’d love you beyond Life too.” It is worth listening to over and over again:
The next Zindagi song has its music composed by another great Bengali music composer Salil Choudhury who helped Hemant Kumar find his feet in the Hindi film industry. Salil’s genre is to have the music tune go up and down with the emotion of the song. His best, of course is from the 1960 movie Parakh: ‘O’ sajana barkha bahar aayi, ras ki fuhaar layi, akhiyon mein pyaar layi’ (Read ‘Rains And Our Songs’). His music literally pitter-pattered with the rain with the words: ‘aise rimjhim mein ho sanam, pyaase pyaase mere nayan; tere hi khvaab mein kho gaye’. In the 1970 unforgettable movie ‘Anand’, he brought out similar magic in this Zindagi song written by Yogesh: ‘Zindagi kaisi hai paheli hay, kabhi ye hasay, kabhi ye rulaaye‘ (Life, what a riddle it is; sometimes, it makes you laugh, at others, it makes you cry):
Whichever way you look at zindagi, whether as a love song or as a sea of sorrow, you have to live it. Here is some sane advice about zindagi given by the lyricist Sawan Kumar whose most popular song in the Hindi movies was ‘Teri galiyon mein na rakhenge kadam aaj ke baad’ for the 1974 movie Hawas. No one, therefore, can give him credit for great philosophy or emotions (eg, ‘shayad meri shaadi ka khyaal dil mein aaya hai’). However, surprisingly, he wrote this gem for the 1983 movie ‘Sauten’ (the other wife). Some credit for the song also goes to Usha Khanna as the music composer. Please pay attention to the lyrics whilst playing this; ‘Zindagi pyaar ka geet hai‘:
Zindagi, for some, though can be a painful episode and they pray to the one who has given them Life to cut it short for them and recall them. The first one on this theme is a song by one who wants God to terminate his Life. The song is from the 1953 movie ‘Dil-e-Nadaan’ starring Shyama and Talat Mehmood. Shakeel wrote the lyrics and Talat himself sang since he was the king of ghazals in India. It is plaintive cry to the Creator to hear that his heart is burdened by Life since here in this world he died whilst still living (this happens with those who lose everything in love) (Zindagi dene waale sun teri duniya se dil bhar gaya):
The other is about the one whose Life is being terminated prematurely by God due to a terminal disease like cancer: ‘Zindagi ka safar hai ye aisa safar, koi samjha nahin koi jaana nahin…..aise jeevan bhi hain jo jiye hi nahin, jinako jeene se pehle hi maut aa gayi’ (The journey of this life is such a journey that nobody knows, nobody understands….such lives are also there who haven’t really lived, who were visited by death even before living). Indeevar wrote these lyrics for the 1970 movie ‘Safar’ (Journey) and Kalyanji Anandji provided the music. It is a very soulful number sung by the great Kishore Kumar:
I end with the lyricist Shailendra writing these wonderful lyrics for the greatest music duo Shankar, Jai Kishan for the 1971 movie Andaaz. Once again Kishore Kumar sang the song. Kishore Kumar was born as Abhas Kumar Kanjilal Ganguly. His active career was nearly of four decades when he made his debut for ‘Ziddi’. He was the most versatile personality in the Hindi film industry: singer, actor, composer, producer, director, screen-writer and script-writer. His movie ‘Door Ka Rahi’ was a one man show in most of his avatars. The song has a sane advice (though given in flambuoyant style) that Death will any case get you in the end; why should you go through the journey of life by being anything but happy (‘Zindagi ik safar hai suhaana, yahan kal kya ho kisane jaana’):
What lesson do we take about Zindagi (Life) then? Is it a dream? Is it a moment of Love, of Sorrow, of Pain? Life goes on without stopping for us to pause and think. Perhaps, if we pay attention to poets as above we can have a few carry-home points how to live Life. There are many really good Zinadagi and Jeevan numbers I had to leave out. However, there is one poem I don’t want to leave out. It is so Lyrical: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s ‘A Psalm of Life’:
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
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