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Metaphors for the Lover in Songs

Posted on Trivia – The Spice of Life on 05/03/2022

The strong oral tradition of India is acknowledged world wide. Be it the Vedas, the Ramayana or the Mahabharata, all of them were transmitted orally for generations before they were actually reduced to writing. Michael Witzel who has written on the oral tradition in Hinduism says that it was something like a tape-recording. Not just the actual words, but even the long-lost musical (tonal) accent has been preserved up to the present. The fact that you tend to remember the lyrics of film songs once you hear them, especially if they strike a chord, probably takes off from the same premise. If the same lyrics were written in prose, they would hardly have any recall value. The rhyme scheme coupled with the vivid imagery that is conjured up by the use of literary devices (such as metaphors, similes, personification, alliteration etc.) is what makes it easy to recollect lyrics of film songs. Research too has proven this.

A majority of songs in films are an exposition of love in its myriad forms with the most popular sub-category being the love between a man and woman. While espousing this kind of love, various figures of speech are used by lyricists to drive home the point. The use of such devices embellish the songs and elevate the standard of their lyrics.

It is interesting to note that of the various literary devices that are adopted to describe the lover in film songs, the most common figure of speech used is the metaphor. In a metaphor, a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them. Metaphors aid the lyricist in drawing the attention of the readers to his perception of what is being described. Metaphors whet the imagination of the readers/listeners as they try to place themselves in the shoes of the lyricist.

This post is dedicated to metaphors that are used for the lover in films songs, largely of the golden era. Several songs are duets; thus, there is the use of words main and tum (मैं /तुम) or hum and tum (हम/तुम). However, there is no tu tu main main (तू-तू मैं-मैं means an altercation or a squabble) at all in these songs. It is all about mutual love and admiration. I have deliberately shortlisted songs where both the lady and the gentleman use metaphors. Even if the song is a solo, metaphors have been used to describe both of them. Such metaphors thus establish complementarity and an organic holism. May I also add here that the metaphors suggest interdependence, co-existence and subservience too sometimes. There are some common metaphors such as bhawra-phul (भवँरा-फूल), shama-parwana (शमा – परवाना), chaand – chaandni (चाँद चाँदनी) which figure in many a song. There are also some not so common ones which I shall dwell upon. Here is my list of ten, arranged in no particular order.

1) Tum Gagan Ke Chandrama (Sati Savitri, 1964) Lyricist: Bharat Vyas; Music Directors : Laxmikant Pyarelal; Playback Singers : Lata Mangeshkar & Manna De. This song of Bharat Vyas is nothing but a string of outstanding metaphors. There is strange divinity in this song. It is all about tum and main. It is a duet where the Bharat Vyas tries to place Savitiri and Satyavaan on an equal footing towards the end of the song. Though Savitiri says tum gagan ke chandrama ho, main dhara ki dhool hun‘ (meaning you are the shining moon of the sky and I am just dust on the earth), Satyavaan counters her with a more lofty comparison – tum sudha main pyaas hun (meaning you are the sweet nectar that bestows immortality, [probably literally, going by the story(!!)] and I am thirst). This play on words by Bharat Vyas is subtle but impressive. I also love the slight quiver in Manna De’s voice when he sings the word pyaas the second time. Many websites wrongly mention the lyrics as pralay ke devta‘ (god of destruction!!) in line 3 below which makes no sense in this context; it’s actually pranay ke devta (or god of love). The first antara is where Savitri sings praises of her spouse; in the second, Satyavaan comes back with a strong repartee (of metaphors).

Tum gagan ke chandrama ho
Main dhara ki dhool hun
Tum pranay ke devta ho
Main samarpit phool hun

Tum ho pooja main pujari
Tum sudha main pyaas hun

tum mahasagar ki seema, 
main kinare ki lahar
tum mahasangit ke swar,
 main adhuri saans(?) bhar
tum ho kaaya main hu chhaya, 
tum kshama main bhul hu

2) Main Bhawra Tu Hain Phool (Mela, 1948) Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni ; Music Director: Naushad; Playback Singers : Mukesh & Shamshad Begum. This song – from a tragedy – is a song of happier times. Both Nargis and Dilip Kumar are on a bullock cart, returning from the milanpur mela. Shakeel Badayuni uses quite a few metaphors in the lyrics to show how the lovers feel that they are made for each other. The bhawra – phool is a very common metaphor – that of the honeybee and the nectar bearing flower. The other metaphors used in the song are suraj-ujiyaara (sun and sunlight) and Radha – Shyaam (Radha and Krishna).

main bhanwara tu hain phool
yeh din mat bhool
jawaani laut ke aaye na
tu suraj main ujiyaara.....
...tu mera hain main teri
saajan main raadha tu shyaam...

3) Humsafar Mere Humsafar (Purnima, 1965) Lyricist: Gulzar ; Music Directors: Kalyanji Anandji; Playback Singers : Mukesh & Lata Mangeshkar. Featuring Dharmendra and Meena Kumari, this is a melodious romantic duet, filled with mutual appreciation. Gulzar uses the metaphor of wings and flight (पंख – परवाज़) for the lady and the man respectively, to show how inseparable they are. This is not a very commonly used metaphor. Another rare one that he uses is naazneen and naaz (beautiful and beauty). The whole song emphasises complementarity.

Humsafar mere humsafar  
pankh tum parwaaz hum   

4) Tu Chanda Main Chandni (Reshma Aur Shera, 1971) Lyricist: Balkavi Bairagi ; Music Director: Jaidev; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. Penned by Balkavi Bairagi a popular Hindi poet, the metaphors in this song are rather unique. The tempo of the song too keeps altering though it is never very fast. The music support is minimum and the voice of Lata dominates. Jaidev’s minimalism in this song does not compromise on the melody in any way. Chanda – Chaandni, taruvar-shaakh (tree and branch), baadal – bijuri (clouds and lightning) , pancchi – paakh (bird and wings). The song is shot vey tastefully in the desert amidst the shifting sands; the starlit night, the ship of the desert and the bright coloured clothes add to the overall aura. Jaidev has used the santoor and flute for the prelude and interlude music very effectively.

Tu chandaa main chaandni
tu taruvar main shaakh re
tu baadal main bijuree
tu panchhi main paakh re

5) Piya Main Hu Patang Tu Dor (Raagini, 1958) Lyricist: Jaan Nisar Akhtar; Music Director: O.P.Nayyar; Singers : Kishore Kumar & Asha Bhosle. This film had some memorable songs. There was also a classical music based song where Rafi gave his voice for the on-screen Kishore Kumar. This lovely, lilting duet composed by O.P.Nayyar is one of his lesser heard songs. The song features Kishore Kumar and Jabin Jaleel. The metaphor used is of the kite and string (patang aur dor), both of which again go together and have little use individually.

Piya main hu patang tu dor 
main udti chaaron or

6) Yamma Yamma Yamma Tu Parwana Main Shamma (China Town, 1962) Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri; Music Director: O.P.Nayyar; Playback Singers : Asha Bhosle & Md.Rafi. This dance number from China Town has some foot tapping music and fast beats. Helen is at her best, dancing with great aplomb. Shammi Kapoor jumps in towards the end, with the tune of the song suddenly changing. The tune of the part sung by Rafi is similar to a song from Bewaqoof. The metaphor here is one that is very commonly used in Urdu poetry – that of the shamma and parwana. The luscious yellow-white flame of a candle is the shamma; parwana is the beautiful moth/insect which gets attracted to the light. It keeps hovering over the light. Shamma is akin to the woman and parwana to the man. Both are always used together in poetry and song lyrics (jis mehfil mein shama ho, parwana jaayega!).

Yammaa yamma
tu parwaanaa mein shamma

7) Tumhe Dekhti Hun To Lagta Hain Aise (Tumhaare Liye, 1978) Lyricist: Naqsh Llyalpuri; Music Director: Jaidev; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. This gem of a song sung by Lata is from a movie that is completely bizarre and nonsensical. Centred round rebirths, despite a good star cast and outstanding music, it tanked. This song featuring Sanjeev Kumar and Vidya Sinha has the latter trying to talk the former (who is a Sanyasi) back into the householder fold. The metaphors used by Naqsh Llyalpuri are very effective – saagar- pyaasi nadi (sea and the river), saawan-jalti kali (rain and a parched(?) bud).

Tumhe dekhti hu to lagata hain aise
ke jaise yugon se tumhe janati hun

agar tum ho saagar, main pyaasi nadi hun
agar tum ho saawan, main jalti kali hun
piya tum ho saagar

8)Tu Mohan Mera Main Murli Teri (Murliwala, 1951) Lyricist: Bharat Vyas; Music Director: Sudhir Phadke; Playback Singer : Lata Mangeshkar. This song is from a mythological movie. The video of the song is not available. Bharat Vyas comes up with apt metaphors for the lovers – Mohan – murali (Krishna and the flute), deepak-baati (the lamp and the wick), baadal – bijli (the cloud and lightning), saagar – sarita (the sea and the river). All of them are complementary.

Tu Mohan mera main murali teri....
tu deepak mera main baati teri....
tu baadal mera main bijli teri....
 tu saagar mera main sarita teri....

9) Saaz Ho Tum Aawaaz Hun Hain (Saaz Aur Awaaz, 1966) Lyricist: Khumar Barabankvi; Music Director: Naushad; Playback Singer : Md. Rafi. If the music director is Naushad, there is bound to be a classical raag based song, more so if the movie is called Saaz aur Awaaz (the musical instrument and the voice). This song based on Raag Patdeep, is perhaps the title song of this movie. Joy Mukherji is an accomplished singer and Saira a gifted dancer. Joy throws a challenge at her to resist the temptation to dance as he sings. She obviously loses. The metaphors used are – saaz aur awaaz (instrument and voice), veena aur taar (the veena and its strings).

Saaz ho tum aawaaz hoon main,
tum veena ho main hoon taar

10) Main Pyaasa Tum Saawan (Faraar, 1975) Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan; Music Directors: Kalyanji Anandji; Playback Singer : Kishore Kumar/ Lata Mangeshkar. As the name of the movie suggests, it is about an absconder but a kind hearted one at that. This is an Amitabh starrer with Sharmila as his love interest. This song written by Rajinder Krishan has multiple versions. The metaphors used by Rajinder Krishan to denote inseparability are delightful – pyaasa – saawan (thirsty – rain), dil-dhadkan (heart and heartbeat), parchhai – darpan (reflection and mirror).

Main pyaasaa tum saawan
main dil tum meri dhadkan..
...main to ek parchaayi hoon
 tum hi ho mere darpan...

With this ends my playlist on metaphors for the lover. While the keynote is inseparability in these songs, the one from Sati Savitri borders on subservience, probably because of the subject of the movie. Many a metaphor is derived from nature be it the the sea and the river or the bird and its wings. It would not be wrong to say that love and nature are after all two sides of the same coin. I am sure there are many more songs which can be added. Please do add them.

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 Daily Motion, YouTube and other platforms only to make the post audio visual. The copyright of these songs rests with the respective owners, producers and music companies.

17 thoughts on “Metaphors for the Lover in Songs

  1. Very nice selection of songs, and I especially love the Reshma aur Shera song. Here’s another one, a little offbeat for a romantic song, but I think it meets the metaphor requirement. 🙂 O meri maina.


  2. A good post to enjoy on a Saturday eve.
    Good song selection!
    Off hand I could think of

    Main hoon saqi tu hai sharabi, though it is not a perfect fit for the theme or so I guess.



      1. Yes,
        To call one’s lover a drunkard sounds not romantic at all. That’s why I was not sure of its inclusion.
        Another song that I like and fits the theme is,
        Main Suraj hoon tu meri Kiran from DNPYK.


  3. Anita,
    On the surface the theme seems too common. But looking at your write-up and selection of songs, I have to say this is very creative. Congratulations. Off-hand I can’t think of any songs. In comedy films, there must be some funky metaphors.


      1. Yes! Incidentally, whether or not you put this song in the list depends upon what version of the song you hear. 🙂 There’s a second version, which is a male version. Oddly enough, it’s sung by a character who could not possibly have overheard the duet.


  4. An interesting post, Anitaji, with a good choice of songs.
    I could see many of my favorites here.

    Tu Chanda main chandni reminded me of Tu mera chand main teri chandni from Dillagi (1949)

    And I always recollect some from the 90s:

    Tu sawan main pyaas piya – Parampara (1993)

    Tu jhoomta hua sawan main morni teri – Mr. Azaad (1994)

    Main pyasi nadiya hoon main udta badal hoon – Hasti (1993)


    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Dr.Deshpande. Since the song from Dillagi was quite similar to the one from Reshma and Shera, I discounted it. Thanks for mentioning it! Not all the songs from the 1990s are familiar to me but they fit perfectly.


  5. Lovely songs as usual, Anita ji, many of which I had not heard before. The one from “Saaz aur Awaaz” is especially beautiful (music and picturization both). One song that came to mind for me was “Main Matti Ka Gudda,Tu Sone Ki Gudiya” from “Ajooba,” which I loved so much as a kid. It’s different from the ones you have mentioned in that the metaphor describes the couple as being a difficult/unequal match, rather than complementary.


    1. Thanks, Shelomit! The song you mention has metaphors but as you have added, its does not speak of complementarity. It is more of class differences that is being alluded to. But then the song from Sati Savitri is also about self-deprecation of a different kind. So, I will give it to you!!


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