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The Catch-22 Songs

Posted on 15/05/2021 by Trivia – The Spice of Life

Haven’t we all been in a fix sometime or the other? Don’t we find it difficult to make a choice when confronted with options? The dilemmas can be of the first world or the more existential ones. There are several songs which espouse such conundrums. Love triangles, old commitments, child marriages, crimes like murder and kidnapping – all of them provide fertile ground for conundrums. But if you look at it threadbare, relationships are the main reason for many a dilemma. There is a choice to be made – whether to speak up or suffer silently, whether to confess or deny, whether to act on impulse or be patient.

Here, I have tried to showcase songs, largely of the golden era, which juxtapose options and thus, present dilemmas. Some are frivolous whereas the others are weighty. The words/phrases that suggest that there is a quandary are doraha (दोराहा), mushkil (मुश्किल) and uljhan (उलझन); interrogative phrases/sentences such as kise chunu (किसे चुनू), karun ya na karun (करूँ या न करूँ), kahun ya na kahun (कहूँ या न कहूँ) also convey the same. Each of the songs below presents a conundrum – which could be serious or silly – but there is one nevertheless. While in some songs, the mukhda sometimes begins with the dilemma, in others the thought is built through the song and is eventually expressed in the final antara.

1) Kisko Pyaar Karun (Tumse Achcha Kaun Hain, 1969) Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singer: Md.Rafi. This song hits the ground running as far as the theme of this post goes!! Rafi sings exuberantly for Shammi Kapoor. Shammi is flooded with phone calls with several girls wanting to date him. He is spoilt for choice. He is just not able to make up his mind as to whom to choose. After all, as he says he has only one heart (mere liye to ho gayi mushkil, kaise baantu ek mera dil). He is in a fix and hence this song. However, this is a club performance with this song as a mere distraction, for, some more important activity is played out behind the scenes.

Kis kis kis kisko kisko
kisko pyar karun, kaise pyar karun
tu bhi hain ye bhi hain vo bhi hain

2) Haal-e-Dil Main Kya Kahun (Uran Khatola, 1955) Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni; Music Director: Naushad; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This song from Uran Khatola is not one of the popular ones. It has Nimmi (disguised as a man) who is in love with Dilip Kumar, singing, even as Dilip Kumar is seated in front of her with the Rani (Surya Kumari), somewhat unwillingly though. As Nimmi is ordered to sing, she is in a fix. On one hand is the queen and the other the man she loves. And thus, the lyrics of the song beautifully explain her dilemma. The words josh and hosh have been used very aptly by the lyricist (Shakeel Badayuni)

Haal-e-dil main kya kahun, 
mushkil hain mere saamne
 bhole bhale rup mein
Qatil hain mere saamne

Josh kehta hain ke chal 
aur hosh kehta hain sambhal
kiska kehna maan lu

3) Mujhe Tum Mil Gaye Humdum (Love in Tokyo, 1966) Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This is a lovely song sung by Lata Mangeshkar. The lead pair Asha Parekh and Joy Mukherjee look like they are made for each other in the song. The slow shift in the mood of the song from ebullience to helplessness is worth noticing. What begins as a love song expressing Asha’s confidence in her lover turns into a song of dilemma. Right after the first stanza, the nephew of her fiancé is kidnapped from the party. She gets a phone call from the kidnapper – her villainous uncle – that she must marry Pran, a fiend and a partner in crime, to secure the safe release of the boy. The lyricist – Hasrat Jaipuri – has written the song very intelligently. The lyrics are so subtle and yet so revealing.

Meri aankhon mein aansu hain, 
magar aansu khushi ke hain
kise chhodu, kise paalu, 
ye rishtey zindagi ke hain

Udhar dil hain, idhar jaa hain, 
 ajab mushkil ka saamaaa hain
labon par muskurahat hain, 
magar saanson mein tufaan hain...

4) Apne Jeevan Ki Uljhan Ko (Uljhan, 1975) Lyricist: M.G.Hashmat; Music Directors: Kalyanji Anandji; Playback Singer: Sulakshana Pandit/Kishore Kumar. Uljhan – the title of the movie – means dilemma. This is a murder mystery where the husband (Sanjeev Kumar) is the investigating officer and the wife (Sulakshana Pandit) the murderess. It is therefore natural that as the plot thickens, both the wife and husband are thrown into a quandary. The wife cannot confide in her husband and the husband – who also dons the hat of the investigator – is unable to understand why his wife committed the murder. This is why there are two versions of the song – one from the wife’s perspective (sung by Sulakshana Pandit herself) and the other from the husband’s (sung by Kishore Kumar). Sulakshana sounds so very canorous.

Female Version (Sulakshana Pandit)

...Dil me aisa dard chhupa hain
mujhse saha na jaaye
kehna to chaahun apnon se main
phir bhi kahaa na jaaye
aansu bhi aankhon mein aaye
chupke se pee jaaun

Apne jeevan ki uljhan ko 
kaise main suljhaun
beech bhawar me naav hain meri 
kaise paar lagaun

Male Version (Kishore Kumar)

...Pyaar ke wade ho gaye jhuthe 
wafaa ke bandhan tute,
banke jeevan-saathi koi 
chain mera kyu lute
 aise jeevansaathi se
  kaise saath nibhaun

Apne jeevan ki uljhan ko 
kaise mai suljhaun
apnon ne jo dard diye hain 
kaise main batlaun

5) Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi ( Dil Apna Aur Preet Parayi,1960) Lyricist: Shailendra; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This is the title song of the movie. It sums up the dilemma of Meena Kumari, a nurse who is in love with the doctor (Raj Kumar) she works with but whom he does not marry because of his mother’s wishes. Meena Kumari has to constantly face Raj Kumar as she continues to work in the same hospital even after he gets married. It is this trauma that she suffers on a daily basis that makes her sing this song on the Diwali night, when the whole world is celebrating and she feels like venting her pent up emotions. While she loves Raj Kumar, she cannot express the same (openly) as he is now a married man. The agony gets compounded because Raj Kumar does not find his wife compatible.

Hain dard aisa ke sehna hain mushkil
duniya waalon se kehna hain mushkil
ghir ke aaya hain tufan aisa
bach ke saahil pe rehna hain mushkil

There is yet another song in the movie that presents a dilemma – a frivolous one at that. Helen, dancing in the club croons – Itni Badi Mehfil aur Ik Dil, Dil Kisko Dun – which of course does not stand a chance before the dilemma of Meena Kumari!

6) Jeevan Ke Doraahe Pe Khade (Chhoti Si Mulaqaat, 1967) Lyricist: Shailendra; Music Directors: Shankar Jaikishan; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This song is a lesser known one of a movie which had some memorable romantic songs. However, for the theme at hand, this is perfect. Vyjayantimala is married off as a child but her mother does not approve of this marriage. Thus, she is unaware of this fact. When she comes of age she falls in love with another man. It is then that she learns about her marital status. She is now in a dilemma as to whom to spend the rest of her life with and thus, this song. Shailendra’s lyrics explain her quandary very aptly.

Har mod pe deta hain ye sansar duhayi
har gam pe deta hain mera pyar duhayi..

Is raaste mandir hain to us raste dharam
jaaye to kidhar jaaye, 
jivan ke dorahe pe khade sochate hain ham

7) Kai Baar Yun Bhi Dekha Hain (Rajnigandha, 1974) Lyricist: Yogesh; Music Director: Salil Chowdhury; Playback Singer: Mukesh. This song from Basu Chaterjee’s movie ponders over life in fine quality, chaste Hindi. It talks of how, many a time, we end up pursuing mirages. The mind does not know where the limit is and so looks for new horizons and in the process occasionally ends up coming to grief as well. Here, there are old flames meeting after long. As Vidya Sinha, the heroine reminisces the past, she is unable to decide whom she should settle down with – her first love (Dinesh Thakur) or her present mate (Amol Palekar) – both being poles apart in terms of their outlook on life. This dilemma is what the song is all about. The magic of Salil Chowdhury’s music in the song complements the mood of the song wonderfully.

Jaanu na, jaanu na, uljhan ye jaanu na
suljhaun kaise kuchh samajh na paaun
kisko meet banaaun, kiski preet bhulaaun

kayin baar yun bhi dekha hain
ye jo man ki seema rekha hain
 man todne lagta hain
anjaani pyaas ke pichhe
anjaani aas ke pichhe 
man daudne lagta hain

8) Main Idhar Jaun Ya Udhar Jaun (Palki, 1967) Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni; Music Director: Naushad; Playback Singers: Md.Rafi, Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle. This Qawwali from the movie Palki spells out the dilemma of the protagonists – Rajendra Kumar and Waheeda Rehmaan – in no uncertain terms. They both are at cross roads. Waheeda is married to Rehmaan but loves Rajendra Kumar. When their paths cross after her marriage, a lot of water has flown down the bridge. But memories of old commitments linger. This is a Qawwali which all the three mutely witness; the Qawwali presents their respective dilemmas. Rafi gets the lion share of the male Qawwal’s part – voicing the dilemma of Rajendra Kumar – with Manna Dey’s voice hardly being heard. Asha presents the conundrum of Waheeda Rehmaan. Antonyms – idhar-udhar, josh-hosh, choodon-aabaad karun, shamme wafa-shamme haya, sabr-betaab – have been skillfully paired by the lyricist, Shakeel Badayuni.

Male Voice (Md. Rafi)
...Hazaaron shamme jalkar
dil ko kar deti hain deewaana
aur unke beech mein ghir kar
yehi kehta hain parwaana
main idhar jaaun ya udhar jaun

badi mushkil me hu ab kidhar jaun

Female Voice (Asha Bhosle)
....Zindagi mujhko sahaara de de,
daaman-e-sabr chhuta jaata hain

ik taraf khwaab-e-imaan hain mera,
ik taraf dil ka sanam khaana hain

kisko chhodoon kise aabaad karoon,

dil isi soch mein deewaana hain

udhar shamme wafaa meri,
idhar shamme hayaa meri
lagi dil ki zara
, tu hi bata,
marzi hain kyaa teri
main idhar jaaun ya udhar jaaun

9) Qaid Mein Hain Bulbul (Bedard Zamaana Kya Jaane, 1959) Lyricist: Bharat Vyas (Gulshan Bawra?); Music Director: Kalyanji Veerji Shah; Playback Singer: Lata Mangeshkar. This song, picturized on Jabeen Jalil, is a club song. Though I have not seen the movie, from the song it appears that Jabeen is being forced to dance in the club and she is helpless. She is doing it against her wishes. The lyrics reveal her dilemma. Though the lyricist is said to be Bharat Vyas, it is difficult to associate such Urdu lyrics with him. This movie had only Kalyanji directing music. Anandji – his brother – had not yet joined him. The movie had many other delightful songs.

Majboor hoon ke teri
mehfil mein aa gaye hain
mushkil yahi hain ab to
mushkil mein aa gaye hain

qaid mein hai bulbul 
saiyyad muskuraaye
kaha bhi na jaaye 
chup raha bhi na jaaye

10) Uljhan Suljhe Na Rastaa Sujhe Naa (Dhund, 1973) Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi; Music Director: Ravi; Playback Singer: Asha Bhosle. This is a lovely piano song from a movie which is a complicated murder mystery. The song is picturized on Zeenat Aman who looks very pretty. She is trapped in a loveless marriage with a cruel wheelchair bound husband (Danny). She does have a sympathizer in Sanjay Khan. She is however just not sure about what the future holds for her. She is in a fix as to how to get the better of her husband. This song has the stamp of Ravi, the music director and Sahir, the lyricist with Asha lending her voice.

Uljhan suljhe na rasta sujhe na
jaun kaha main jaun kaha

mere dil ka andhera huwa aur ghanera
kuchh samajh na pau, kya hona hain mera..

khadi dorahe par, yeh sochu ghabhrakar
jaun kaha main jaun kaha..

11) Farz Roke Mohabbat Bulaye (Padosi, 1971) Lyricist: Asad Bhopal; Music Director: Ravi; Playback Singer: Asha Bhosle. This is a song that I happened to come across while searching for the conundrum songs. There is hardly any information about the movie or its plot to put this song in perspective. However, since it is a rare gem with the video available and an apt song for this post, I decided to include it, even though it is the eleventh. It is picturized on Rehana Sultan, a promising actress of the 1970s who got typecast and soon faded into anonymity. Here, the conflict seems to be between duty and love. How love has come in the path of duty is not clear from the song, though.

Farz roke mohabbat bulaaye
kya karun kuch samajh mein na aaye

Aansuon se chalakne laga hain lahu
khakh mein mil gayi dil ki har aarzoo
zindagi ro rahi muh chipaaye
kya karun kuch samajh mein na aaye

Here ends my playlist of ‘catch-22 songs’. This post was a little tough to conjure up as the songs had to be put in perspective in order to understand what the dilemma actually was. I therefore ended up watching snippets of many a movie. Now, I know which movie to watch and which to avoid. There is no dilemma on that count!!

Disclaimer, claims no credit for any image, screenshots or songs posted on this site. The images and screenshots are the copyright of their original owners. The song links are shared from YouTube/ other platforms only to make the post audiovisual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

11 thoughts on “The Catch-22 Songs

  1. Anita,
    How our songs reflect the reality of our lives! ‘Catch 22’ is a universal situation we come across everyday. In your list ‘Main idhar jaaun ya udhar jaaun’ is a perfect Catch-22 song. I have a great favourite which fits here.

    Koi dil mein hain aur koi hai nazar mein from ‘Anurag’ (1956), lyrics Kaif Irfani, singer-music director Mukesh



    1. AKji, thanks for the lovely song! What a beautiful ghazal by Mukesh! The tune is somewhat similar to Mohabbat Ki Raahon Mein Chalna Sambhalke from Uran Khatola.In fact, I was searching for a song with Kashmakash(कश्मकश) for this is another word for dilemma. However, the only song I got to was Tang aa chuke hain kashmakash-e-zindagi se hum from Pyaasaa. The word कश्मकश is used in the sense of trials and tribulations in this nazm, so I gave it up.


  2. Good list and good concept.

    Badi mushkil hai by Lata Mangeshkar from Chingari. A lesser known, but one of my great favourites.

    A song from the 90s, perhaps you remember it.

    Naam na janu from Satwan Aasman



  3. Thanks, Anupji! The song from Chingari is lovely. I, however, feel that the word मुश्किल here means a predicament and not dilemma. There does not seem to be a choice that has to be made.

    I knew a couple of other songs from Saatwan Aasmaan. I hadn’t heard this one. Here too, I feel the song is more about wondering what the person is like and there is no dilemma or choice involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As always, a very interesting theme, and some wonderful songs. The song which had come immediately to my mind – Jeevan ke doraahe pe khade – you have already covered, so let me see, over the next few days, if I can come up with anything else that fits the bill!


  5. I am not sure if this song would fit wit the theme of the post, but it has a dilemma of one thing that is remembered and the other one is forgotten from the dream. The song so poignantly keeps listing pain of remebering this and forgetting the other.

    Sapne Mein Sajan Se DO baatein, Ek Yaad Rahi Ek Bhul Gaye – Gateway of India (1957) – Lata Mangeshkar – Madan Mohan – Rajinder Krishna


    1. Ashokji, thanks for reading and commenting! The song that you have mentioned is lovely. However, I feel that there is no dilemma as there is no choice that is to be made. If it were interrogative – as in kyaa yaad rakhu, kya bhool jaun, it would become a dilemma. I feel the emotion is more of helplessness.


    1. Maheshji, it is such a pleasant surprise to find you visiting my blog and commenting on a post! Thanks a lot!
      As far as the song from Chhoti Behen goes, I feel there is a problem but no dilemma; there are no two or more options. He wants to go to another world (उस पार).The उस पार that is talked about does not mention the two options. All he knows is that he is fed up with this world.


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