India is a land of abundance. It is not only natural wealth that our country has but also a wealth of languages. Each state/region has its own language with which is associated its own inimitable flavour. Sometimes you feel you can best express something only in your mother tongue – especially if you are very angry or upset.
I, for one, have always loved to learn languages. My linguistic identity is a mishmash. My mother tongue is Telugu, but I am married to a Tamilian (who speaks more fluent Marathi than Tamil!!). Having done my schooling and higher education in different states/cities of India – Bihar, Karnataka, Delhi – I managed to pick up Hindi and Kannada. And as destiny led me to work and settle down in a completely different state – Maharashtra – I have picked up functional Marathi as well. Thus, our home is almost a melting pot of languages. It is perhaps this affinity for the languages of India that has led me to write this post.
I am not including the songs which have dialects of Hindi. But given the trivia buff I am , I cannot stop myself from mentioning here that in the song Sun Bairi Balam Sach Bol Re, (Baawre Nain, 1950), Rajkumari sings Ib (इब) Kya Hoga instead of Ab (अब) Kya Hoga. Ib is how Ab is spoken in Haryanvi and the lyricist Kedar Sharma insisted that it should be sung as Ib and not Ab. It is these minor variations which add more zing to a song and render it more earthy.
Further, I am also excluding songs which are completely in a different language but find place in a Hindi movie. An example of this kind of song would be the (Bhangra) song Te ki Main Jhuth Boleyaa koi na from Jaagte Raho (1956) which is fully in Punjabi. This song was penned by Prem Dhawan, who was specially commissioned to write in chaste Punjabi, even as all the other songs of the movie were written by Shailendra. Apparently, Prem Dhawan also had a role in the music direction of the song. Multilingual songs like O Re O Poran Bandhu Re from Teen Batti Chaar Raasta (1953) too have been excluded.
There are quite a few songs of golden era Hindi film music that have a phrase or two or even an entire line which is from a different Indian language; but, the rest of the song is in Hindi. This post is dedicated to such songs which have a smattering of other regional languages. And yes, there are some typical expressions that we associate with certain languages. Aiyayyo, Aiga, Ayya – do these strike a chord? These expressions are so much a part of our colloquial conversation. So here’s my playlist of ten songs on the theme. The songs are of the golden era.
1) Aiga Aiga Aiga Yeh Kya Ho Gaya (Boyfriend, 1961). Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singers: Md.Rafi & Aarti Mukherjee. The expression to watch out for here is Aiga (आई ग) which is typically a Marathi exclamation that is uttered when one gets hurt. Aai in Marathi is ‘mother’. By saying or uttering आई ग, you remember your mother – the first person you can think of in distress. The exclamation is incorporated into the song because of what has just transpired before the melody. Shammi, who has his full attention, focused on his lady love – Madhubala – accidentally bumps into a Maharashtrian lady selling vegetables. The lady (along with her tokri of vegetables) crashes and so does Shammi. She gives him a mouthful in Marathi and then keeps uttering Aiga as she gathers herself together. Shammi latches on to the exclamation and so the song begins with Aiga. Rafi and Aarti Mukherjee (an underrated singer) sing this romantic melody very impressively.
2) O Meri Maina Tu Maan Le Mera Kehnaa (Pyaar Kiye Jaa, 1966). Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan; Music Directors: Laxmikant Pyarelal; Playback Singers: Manna Dey & Usha Mangeshkar. The rock and roll rhythm coupled with the spirited dancing make it a real fun song. In this song, Mehmood (of Wah! Wah! productions) is trying to show off his dancing skills to a prospective film financier. Mumtaz is the heroine of Mehmood’s movie. Both go the extra mile to impress the financier – Kishore Kumar – who is disguised as an old, rich gentleman. Manna Dey proves his versatility with this rock and roll number which is miles away from Hindustani Classical music. Usha Mangeshkar is equally good.
This rib-tickling dance number featuring Mehmood and Mumtaz has my favourite exclamation – Aiyyayyo. The way this expression is used as the interlude/refrain is amazing. Here the expression seems to suggest – Oh God, What Do I do?? Any South Indian worth his salt would at once relate to the expression. It is that expression that unites all the southern states. This is an expression used to convey myriad emotions – dejection, pity, fright. It has quietly crept into the English lexicon too! However, there is no way English can consummately explain what Aiyyayo means to a South Indian.
3) Aiyyaa Dil Vil Pyaar Vyaar (Shagird, 1967) Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri; Music Directors: Laxmikant Pyarelal; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This bubbly song from Shagird has Saira Banu going over the top. It has her enacting almost each word of the song. But what catches your attention is the Aiyyaa that is uttered when Joy (the hero) tries to get too close for comfort. Aiyyaa is a variant of the South Indian Aiyyo pretty much expressing the same sentiment – of surprise, shock, derision depending on the context. Saira plays the role of an innocent village belle and hence the Aiyyaa that is thrown liberally into the lyrics.
4) Aiyayya Karun Main Kya Suku Suku (Junglee, 1961) Lyricist: Shailendra; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singer: Md.Rafi. Who can forget this fun-filled mad song from Junglee which has both Helen (Ms.Suku) and Shammi Kapoor dancing with great enthusiasm? Shammi is trying to act as though he has gone cuckoo. The Aiyayya is the icing on the cake – meaning Oh My God! The usage of this colloquial expression when Ms.Suku is presenting a beautifully choreographed Western dance piece on an elaborately designed set, helps to drive home the point that Shammi is mentally unsound.
Now it is the turn of songs which have a smattering of other Indian languages.
5) Lara Lappa Lara Lappa (Ek Thi Ladki, 1949) Lyricist: Aziz Kashmiri; Music Director: Vinod; Playback Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Satish Batra/G.M.Durrani(?) and Md.Rafi. The flavour of the song is pretty much Punjabi-Himachali. The tune of this song is based on a Pahadi Punjabi song tune of Kangra District, where even today it is sung in festivals. The music director Vinod (or Eric Roberts), was a true Punjabi at heart and so he loved to use Punjabi words and music in his songs. Barring Lara Lappa and Adi Tappa, no other Punjabi words are used in the song. In Punjabi, Lara Lappa means to dilly dally and not keep one’s word and Aditappa means to pick up a fight for no reason. The English translation of the mukhda would be:-
laaraa lappaa laaraa lappaa laai rakhdaa aditappa aditappa laai rakhdaa dekar jhoothe laare
(My love) keeps making these false promises with embellishments again and again and makes me walk excitedly again and again (towards him) in expectation of fulfilment of promises which he never keeps.
One wonders which part of the song Rafi sings in the song. It appears that he sings or rather repeats just two words of the song – Beemariyan and Tayyarian – first sung by Satish Batra/ G.M.Durrani(?).
6) Govinda Aala Re Aala (Bluffmaster, 1963). Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan; Music Directors: Kalyanji Anandji; Playback Singer: Md.Rafi. This song, which is synonymous with the Dahi Haandi celebrations on the occasion of Janmashtami in Mumbai and elsewhere, nails the effect with the Marathi words Aala Re Aala (meaning he has come). It could have been Govinda Aaya Re Aaya but one can very well apprecaite the magic that this Marathi phrase has created. It immediately makes you reminisce the boisterous celebrations of Dahi-Haandi in Mumbai, where the youngsters are called Govindas. The song does not use any other Marathi phrase. Shammi Kapoor dazzles as a Govinda and Rafi as always sings fabulously for him.
7) Ramayya Vastavayya (Shri 420, 1955) Lyricist: Shailendra; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singers: Md.Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh. This evergreen melody from one of Raj Kapoor’s most popular films has the opening words Ramayya Vastavayya. These are words in Telugu respectfully referring to Lord Ram and reaffirming faith in the fact that he will return to his kingdom. According to me, going by the way it is sung, it is not Lord Ram being asked whether he will come back but an emphatic reconfirmation of the belief that he will return.
Barring these two opening words, the rest of the song is in Hindi. The raison d’etre for including these two Telegu words is rather ambiguous. But it is said that music composer Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi, who grew up in Hyderabad where Telugu is spoken, had been demonstrating his composition to director Raj Kapoor using placeholder Telugu lyrics. When Raj Kapoor heard the tune, he loved it so much that he wanted the Telugu title lyrics to be included in the final version! Perhaps, the parallel between Lord Ram returning (at last) to his kingdom and Raju (the hero, Raj Kapoor) finally coming back to his true home was apt.
8) Bathukamma Bathukamma (Shatranj, 1969) Lyricist: Kiran Kalyani; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singers: Md.Rafi and Sharada Rajan. Picturized on Mehmood and Helen, it has some mad dancing and some outlandish costumes. The song however, is quite a treat for a Telugu like me. The entire Mukhda is in (somewhat unsophisticated) Telugu. The song has a strong Hyderabadi/Urdu tinge too. The rest of the song is in Hindi. Bathukamma means “Mother Goddess come alive” in Telugu.
Also, Bathukamma is a nine day floral festival in Telangana coinciding with the Navratri. The festival represents the cultural spirit of Telangana, symbolizing the patron Goddess of womanhood. The words mean – O Bathukamma, where are you going? Come here. The woman replies in the same vein – O Yenkanna, (a rustic name of Lord Venkateswara) where are you going? Come here. Since Shankar Singh Raghuvanshi had spent his impressionable years in Hyderabad, he had imbibed the local culture and that explains this composition. Rafi’s diction of the Telugu part is understandably not up to the mark. Sharada, the female playback singer, is a tad better. The lyricist Kiran Kalyani has not penned many songs. There is hardly any information available about her. But it is heartening to note that a female lyricist was commissioned for the song because there aren’t many out there.
It would be interesting to point out here that another song of the Shankar-Jaikishan duo – Naach Re Man Bathukamma – from Rajkumar (1964) also refers to Bathukamma. In this song, the goddess is being worshipped by the women of the tribe.
Bathukamma Batukamma Batukamma
Yakkada potavu ra, yakkada potavu ra, ikkada ikkada ra
Yenkanna Yenkanna Yenkanna Yenkanna
Yakkada potavu ra, yakkada potovu ra, ikkada ikkada ra
Chinamma Chinamma Chinamma Chinamma
Yakkada potovu ra, yakkada potavu ra, ikkada ikkada ra
9) Aao Aao (Waango) Saawariya (Padosan, 1968) Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan; Music Director: R.D.Burman; Playback Singer: Manna Dey. The movie Padosan has the unique distinction of not only having a strong narrative and great performances but also out of the world music. Each song is a gem. Given the fact that Mehmmod (Master Pillai) plays the role of a South Indian music teacher, it becomes easy to weave both Carnatic music and some Tamil lyrics into the songs. This song too begins with Carnatic music; then there is tinge of Rabindra Sangeet; somewhere down the line, it turns into core Hindustani. Thus, Master Pillai, true to his roots, begins singing waango for aao which means come or aao in Tamil. Then, he whacks himself on the head exclaiming Aiyyayo and continues in Hindi. The Pancharatna Natak Mandali witnesses the entire performance with bated breath. He says Amma (when he finishes an entire string of swarams) – again a typical Tamil expression. The way the song tapers off in the end with him singing aipocchi – meaning it is over, in Tamil – is also delightful.
Mehmood’s lip syncing is impeccable. Manna Dey straddles both styles of classical singing with great aplomb. This is perhaps one of the most enjoyable songs of the movie.
10) Main Bangali Chhokra (Raagini, 1958) Lyricist: Qamar Jalalabadi; Music Director: O.P.Nayyar; Playback Singers: Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle. This hilarious song from the movie Raagini is about a Tamilian girl falling for a Bengali boy and trying to convince him that they can actually embark on a journey together. Kishore Kumar – the hero – is a Bengali and Padmini – the heroine – is a Tamilian. Padmini has a tough time trying to explain how accommodative she will be. Kishore Kumar, however, is far from being persuaded.
This song is a take on what cross – regional marriages entail. Love is blind but to make love sustain there is give-and-take that one has to be prepared for. Kishore sings with the perfect Bengali accent and Asha singing for Padmini tries to bring in the Tamil touch with some notes of Carnatic music. It is amazing that the music director (O.P.Nayyar) and the lyricist (Qamar Jalalabadi) were miles away from the cultural moorings of Bengal and Tamil Nadu. Yet, they come up with a rather insightful song with very creative lyrics.
One of the pet peeves of every South Indian is that all Indians south of the Vindhyas are referred to as Madrasis. (even in Aye mere Watan Ke Logon, the same word is used for South Indians). There is little effort made to understand that there are four different states (now five) in the south and there are four different languages spoken. The omnibus Madrasi term is in fact offensive.
Kishore uses some of the quintessential Bengali expressions in the song – Sotti Re (really?), more jaayi (worth dying for), ore baabaa (Oh My God!). There are entire lines in Bengali in the song in praise of Bengali cuisine and music –
luchir upor pore daal lokhi naache taale-taale khaaye sudhu machchhi jhaal khaaye go sudhu khaaye go.... sokhi go tomaay kemun kore paabo
With this I come to the end of my playlist. This post has been very educative for me. It demonstrates the fact that every person has his/her own linguistic baggage which becomes more enriched with time. When several such individuals from different linguistic regions of the country commingle, you have brilliant music being composed with some creative lyrics and colloquial expressions. The flip side, of course, is that clichés and biases associated with languages also creep in. But these too get ironed out with the passage of time. Since my knowledge is restricted to only a few of the languages of India, I have picked up songs associated with these alone. I am sure there must be many more. For now, it is Aiyayyo, Aiga, Ayya, Lara Lappa and Ore Baabaa. With this, post aipocchi !!
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