7 Soulful Lyrics from Bollywood Songwriter Irshad Kamil – Part 1
1. Pattakha Guddi (Male and Female version – Highway (2014)
This collaboration between Punjabi poet/lyricist Irshad Kamil and the Mozart of Madras AR Rahman is pure gold. Lyrics of Rahman’s songs aren’t a necessary component to make his songs memorable. His music is besotting enough. But his songs don’t miss an opportunity to enrich the listeners’ world.
In the context of the film, Irshad weaves a perfect metaphor for the girl finding freedom in captivity:
Mitthe paan di gilauri,
Lathha suit da Lahori,
Fatte maardi billori,
Jugni mel mel ke, kood faand ke,
Chakk chakaute jaave.
A sweet preparation of betel leaf,
A length of Lahori (ladies’) suits’ cloth
The kitten having fun
The firefly, jumping and meeting all,
goes here and there in a moment.
Veera (Alia Bhatt) has turned into a fearless young woman since her destiny is in someone else’s hands. Irshad Kamil beautifully constructs Mahabir’s (Randeep Hooda) protective instinct towards Veera as God Himself gaurding her. Such layered lyrics are rare to find and Irshad rewards the listener with every word.
Tu to paak rab da baanka bachha
Raj dulara tu hi,
paak rab da baanka bachha uska pyaara tu hi
Maalik ne jo chinta di to, door karega wo hi
I have left the strings to You [So You will take care, O Lord]
You are a fearless kid of holy God, His very dear kid
Fearless kid of holy God, You are his beloved kid
The tension God has given, He only will end it.
In the second stanza, Irshad addresses the fear that such a naïve and innocent kid will not survive in this harsh real world.
Jugni rukh pippal da hoi,
Jis nu pooje ta har koi, *
Jisdi fasal kisi na boyi
Ghar bhi rakh sake na koi..
Jugni has become a face of the Peepal (tree),
that is worshipped by everyone,
Yet no one has seeded this plant,
and no one can keep her at home. [as in, in their control]
Rasta naap rahi marjaani,
Patthi baarish da hai paani,
Jab nazdeek jahaan de aani,
Jugni maili si ho jaani.
The darned girl is roaming a lot,
The kid’s like rainwater,
When she comes near the real world,
She will be a little dirty…
Irshad Kamil subtly hints at the childhood trauma and abuse Veera has suffered at the hands of her family members and how her life ought to have been innocent and fun like when she is with Mahabir.
In essence, Patakha Guddi narrates Veera’s story in a subtle, understated style which is the hallmark of Irshad Kamil.
2. Bhaage Re Mann – Chameli (2004)
There is an unerring similarity between Bhaage re Mann and Patakha Guddi that hits you only when you realize that both the lyrics are penned by Irshad Kamil. Where Veera is having unabashed fun in her kidnapping, Chameli too has her moment of freedom. Although, in the bigger picture, she is still a prisoner of prostitution. Irshad’s lyrics remind us of the basic liberty of thought that many of us assume a prostitute might not have.
Behta hai mann kahin,
Kahaan jaante nahi,
Koi rok le yahin,
Bhaage re mann.
Irshad keeps the words simple which are in complete harmony with an uneducated prostitute like Chameli. Her life is hard and hence these moments with a kind man (Rahul Bose) who has no ulterior motives towards Chameli, give her the privilege to enjoy her life to the fullest for once.
Hai aisa samaan,
Phir hoga kahaan,
Jee lo mein ise khul ke,
Saawan mein zara khul ke.
Irshad makes us empathize with a character that belongs to the most downtrodden parts of the society. It helps us realize that her core emotions aren’t too different from what most of us feel. Such simple and effective writing elevates both the context and mood of the film.
3. Aaj Din Chadheya – Love Aaj Kal (2009)
The charming old school love story set in the 1950s is the best part of Love Aaj Kal. Irshad’s words set up this love story in the most intense yet adorable way possible. Aaj Din Chadheya, tere rang varga which translates to my day has risen to the color of your love, is a beautiful ode to the yesteryear charm.
The first stanza of the song is a plea to God in the hope that he gets his sweetheart. Ready to give up all shenanigans and with a slight complaint that everyone else has, we instantly relate to the characters. And the emotions strike a chord with words like:
Wo jo mujhe dekh ke hase,
Paana chahu raat din jise,
Rabba mere naam kar use,
Tenu dil da vaasta.
The second stanza is more of an outburst. The character’s frustrations turn into a taunt towards the almighty as he calls him powerless. Irshad keeps it smart as the character is just coaxing God into giving him what he loves. It’s his way of making it a win-win scenario with God when he says:
Jeeti rahe sultanat teri,
Jeeti rahe aashiqui meri,
De de mujhe zindagi meri,
Tenu dil da vaasta
The lyrics are so endearing and honest, that you can’t help fall in love with this silly but earnest hope of love and longing. Irshad’s expertise in keeping this deep love light hearted makes it a great song.
4. Hawa Hawa – Rockstar (2011)
Irshad Kamil adapted the classic Czech folklore named Sleepy John into the lyrics of this song. It shows how well Irshad researches his movie setting and tries to blend in the context of the films into his songs.
Sleepy John is a tale of a Czech boy who can magically visit places he wishes. In order to win the king’s reward, he tracks down the queen who wears out a dozen pair of shoes every night. Irshad’s lyrics start the song in the same vein:
Rani phir nau do gyara,
Rani to ghis ke aati ek din mein joote baara,
Raja ka chadh gaya paara, khabri ko paas pukara,
Ye kya hai manjara….
The beauty of Irshad’s lyrics is in the fact that the story perfectly resembles Heer’s situation in the film. Unhappy in her married life, Heer finds happiness with Jordan much like the queen who dances her heart out every night outside the castle.
Aaj se tera band bahar jaan,
Ye sunkar raani muskayi boli oo raja,
Sone ki deewarein, mujhe khushi na ye depaaye,
Aazadi de de mujhe mere khuda…
The Czech tale of the queen dancing every night with the devils doesn’t directly allude to any unhappiness on the queen’s part. Irshad takes the artistic liberty of applying his own interpretation and spin to the tale. He, in his lyrics, sets the queen free to dance as much as she wants whereas in the original story, she is swallowed by earth as per her wish.
Irshad gives us a delicious combination of Hindi language and Czech cultural influence with lines like:
Phir machalke, talo se khulke,
Mana kiya tha kiya gande mande bando mein,
Thi malang wo, apne rang ghoome phir jhume naache wo,
Gore se pav…..
The Gande Mande bando refers to the devils that the queen dances every night with. There is possibly a sexual undertone somewhere in the folklore that Irshad subtly hints at, leaving it open for interpretation. It’s genius how it all fits into the film.
5. Chaahu Main Ya Na – Aashiqui 2 (2013)
Irshad wonderfully captures the tender uncertainty of attraction in this lovely song. We’ve all felt that yearning for confirmation of love from our crush and Irshad weaves magic with words.
Tu hi ye mujhko bata de, chaahun mein yaana,
Apne to dil ka pata de, chaahun mein aana
He presents a distinct perspective of both male and female characters in the two stanzas. In the first, Rahul (Aditya Roy Kapoor) acknowledges a completely new feeling of love and admits he is confused what this truly means. The craving for clarity and assurance is very apparent in the lines below.
Aisi kabhi pehle, hui na thi khwaahishen,
Kisi se bhi milne ki na ki hi koshishe,
Uljhan meri suljhaade, chaahun main yaana.
In the second stanza, Aarohi’s simple dreams and earnest but shy attempts at assuring Rahul that the attraction is indeed mutual comes to the fore. Irshad gives a spin to the traditional thought of inability to live without your beloved in these words:
Abhi main na dekhu khwaab wo,
Jinme na tu mile,
Le khoole hoont maine,
Ab tak the jo sile.
There is a wonderful sense of closure where no immature games are played by Aarohi as she trusts Rahul more than anyone and confesses her love for him.
Poochungi tujhko kabhi na,
Chaahun main yaa na,
Tere Khwabon mein ab jeena,
Chaahun main kyun na.
Simplest words sometimes can have big meanings. Irshad keeps it light and connects beautifully with his listeners.
6. Jag Ghoomeya – Sultan (2016)
Irshad flexed his poetry and vocabulary muscles in his comfort zone with these lyrics, creating one of the best songs of 2016. With words like khusboo suhani, chehra noorani (illuminated), Akhiyaan ruhani (soulful), hasna rumani (romantic) and sajri (beautiful) jawani, Irshad paints a supremely beautiful picture of a loved one brim with honesty.
His mastery of the haryanvi language captures the essence of the region perfectly, lending a classic rural feel to it. The refreshing thought of liking a person for who one is, is told in a complete, simplistic manner with jag ghoomeya, thaare jaise na koi.
Irshad steers clear of the oft-repeated metaphors and resorts to refreshingly original ones.
Baarishon ki mausamo ki bheegi hariyali tu,
Sardiyon mein gaalon pe jo aati hai wo lali tu,
Raato ka sukoon bhi hai, subah ki azaan hai
The theme in the second stanza is that of contentment despite the trials and tribulations a couple may face in their lives. Keeping promises in tough times forms the basis of relationships and Irshad ends on a positive note with memorable lines.
Teri milti nishani kahin,
Jo hai sabko sunani kahi,
Tu to jaanti hun marke bhi,
Mujhe aati hai nibhani kahi
The lyricist manoeuvres between complex words and simple sentences organically and gives us a lovely song to cherish. Neha Bhasin’s rendition is my personal favorite.
7. Phir Se Udd Chala – Rockstar (2011)
This is by Irshad’s own admission the most difficult tune he has ever written for. It was a bold move on Imtiaz and AR Rahman’s part to go ahead with such a unique and difficult tune. It was even more difficult for Irshad to fill in words in the tune that seemingly soared higher and faster just like Jordan’s journey from a loser guitarist to an acclaimed Rockstar.
The song doesn’t have a traditional structure, and hence the lyrics just go on without interruptions of music for an extended period of time. It’s a thoroughly original composition and Irshad imbues it with appropriate emotions of submitting to fate and the almighty: the small things that remind us of our dreams, and the regrets of not finding our true self which in turn push the limits of our creativity.
Phir se udd chala,
Udd ke choda hai jahaan niche mein tumhare ab hun hawale o rab
Are koi badly kabhi kahi kar de tan gila ye, bhi na ho
Kisi manzar par mein ruka nahi, kabhi khud se bhi main mila nahi
Ye gila to hai mein khafa nahi
Jordan’s rise to stardom is not a function of his efforts, but his unfailing passion which pulls him even when he doesn’t want to go. His love for Heer and the will to find her again takes him through a self-destructive journey.
Mitti jaise sapne ye kitna bhi palko se,
Jhaado phir aa jaate hai,
Kitne saare sapne kya karun kis tarah se maine, tode hai chode,
Phir kyun, mere saath chale, mujhe leke ude ye kyun
Jordan’s madness reaches a uniquely meditative state towards the end of the song where he just floats in the colors of music. Irshad rose to the occasion and pulled off a feat that requires immense talent and perseverance.
Phir Se Udd Chala is a fascinating creation by Rahman and Irshad Kamil who went into a risky territory and came up with something special and unforgettable.
By Shridhar Kulkarni