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Kal Raat Zindagi Se

This song review is written by Mr. Gan Sharma

Mohd Rafi, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, Talat Mehmood

Mohd Rafi, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, Talat Mehmood

The reason modern Hindi songs lack the nuances, the twists and the folds of older numbers is simply that life itself has lost them. You cannot divorce poetry from life, and when life has grace, pain, fortitude, gentleness and a value system, poetry has them too. Today’s life, unfortunately, is all straight lines: clean-cut, neatly shaven, and artificially perfumed – and so today’s music is either just technical or cynical. In the days gone by, though, grace in daily life was important; restraint was important; bearing was important. Therefore, the poetry of those days was beautiful too.

I cry when I hear good poetry. Do I cry because the words are lovely, or because I yearn for a day when life is not so rushed, and there is time for politeness?

It’s not that grace and fortitude did not have a negative aspect to them – people had to live with some problems simply because tradition demanded that they grin and bear. This allowed for the creation of pathos-filled situations in many Hindi movies – it did not require villains!! Palki, made in 1967, was one of them. Set in Lucknow, against the backdrop of its graceful and yet hide-bound Muslim culture, the story of a talented poet who would not sacrifice his dignity for money was the perfect setting for good poetry, set to great music and some mesmerizing singing.

This poet, faced with unimaginable pain, shows a capacity for tremendous stoicism. In those days, a decent man was not one who won a battle, but who could show fortitude in the face of pain. One such song in Palki exemplifies this courage; it is steeped in pain.  Shakeel Badayuni wrote the lovely verses; Naushad gave it life, and Rafi saab immortalized it with the able support of two Rehmans on screen (one, the powerful male presence, and the other, Waheeda, the queen of grace) and was successful despite Rajender Kumar’s usual absence of histrionic ability.

“kal raat zindagi se mulaaqaat ho gayi” – that’s the first line of the song.

Today, it would be unmanly to dwell on the memory of a dead wife. In the times of the movie, there was no pride lost in wasting away because of the grief of widower-hood. When he (as he thinks at that time) sees his wife’s ghost, he comes face to face with what he is all about – his obsession, his grief; and how ironic, that a ghost should be described as “zindagi“, or life. Shakeel managed to tell an entire story in one that one line – and that was simply because people at that time lived an entire lifetime in one moment.

“lab thartharra rahe the magar baat ho gayi”

In those days, speechlessness was the language of the heart…and silence was eloquent; if a man, with trembling lips, could manage to say something to his beloved, he was not considered any less: it was the quintessence of manhood to be hesitant in love. That was the music Shakeel wrote and Naushad scored. And which Rafi sang with such feeling.

When I cry as I listen to these words, am I crying for the beautiful words? For the heartrending music? For Rafi’s soulful rendering of the song? Or for the loss of our essential guidance, for the loss of our grace? For the loss of true manhood, that can be unashamed of grief?

Mohd Rafi, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, Talat Mehmood

Mohd Rafi, Naushad, C. Ramchandra, Talat Mehmood

The poet W.H. Davies said, “What is this life, if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?” If true love is a form of keen attention, we probably don’t love our partners very much, for many of us could hardly describe them! In this beautiful song, though, look at the way Shakeel describes Waheeda Rehman! And when Rafi sings it, that verse comes alive; even the story line is forgotten; the pain of the singer is forgotten – all that is left is the lyrical quality of the description of an exceedingly beautiful woman. We don’t pay attention to the kind of detail Shakeel goes into. We have become a people who have to place everything in context; everything has to fit an objective; we are expected to work towards a goal, and not lose the forest for the trees. However, what is a forest? It is just an idea, a generalization that lies in our minds as a map whose territory we do not care to traverse. Unfortunately, beauty does not lie in these generalizations; it lies in our ability to savour the moment, to experience it fully. If all you had was five minutes with your beloved, you can either choose to rue the lack of sufficient time, or you could convert them into an eternity. See how Shakeel, Naushad and Rafi do the latter:

ek husn saamane tha qayaamat ke roop mein
ek khwaab jalvaagar tha haqeeqat ke roop mein
chehara vahi gulaab ki rangat lie hue
nazaren vahi payaam-e-muhabbat lie hue
zulfen vahi ki jaise dhundhalaka ho shaam ka
aankhen vahi jin aankhon pe dhokha ho jaam ka
!!!!

I can tell you this: if you can capture the spirit of those precious moments, live them fully – you don’t need any more. I’d rather have five minutes of reality than an eternity of ideology.

Only if you have spent those minutes living fully, can you understand the pathos in this line:

“kuch der ko tasallee-e-jazbaat ho gayi”

lab thartharra rahe …

Listen to how Rafi, the master, sings these lines. He screams in agony, melodiously! Screaming in deep agony is a cry of the heart – whereas screaming with dissatisfaction is a tantrum. The former is musical, the latter is piercing, in your face, and unpleasant. Only Rafi could bring out the inherent melody in piteous grief; because he was telling a story with his voice, and not merely singing a song.

Why do I cry when I hear these lines? Is it Rafi’s voice alone? Or is it because of the story of the heart he’s telling? Or am I missing that value system that values experience over accomplishment?

Shakeel saab was the master of describing pain. He produced henna with his words, that beautiful adornment of the bridal limb. You can say it in English, but it is only beautiful when said in Hindi – “patthar par ghisne ke baad, rang laati hai hina“. Shakeel did exactly that – he put his words through a mill powered by his imagination, and ground them into beauty before he put them on paper. This whole song is one where it was almost as if Shakeel wanted to add just one more line before finishing the verse, and yet he was not satisfied. The sheer mastery over the words he uses to describe a woman’s grief is evident in the way he has sculpted them, albeit with great care; and I don’t want to comment on them. I simply state the verse, for I cannot pretend to fathom the grief he must have personally felt as he wrote them – and if I did describe the beauty of the verse, then Shakeel’s spirit would slap me and say, “paayal ke gamon ka ilm nahin, jhankaar ki baaten karte ho?”

Only Rafi saab would be permitted to interpret Shakeel saab’s words through his vocal chords: to you and me, the message is simple: listen, and weep. That’s all we are allowed to do:

dekha use to daaman-e-ruksaar nam bhi tha
vallaah usake dil ko kuch ehasaas-e-gam bhi tha
the uski hasraton ke kazaane lute hue
lab par tadap rahe the fasaane ghute hue
kaante chubhe hue the sisakati umang mein
doobi hui thi phir bhi vo vafaao ke rang mein
dam bhar ko katm gardish-e-haalaat ho gayi
lab thartharra rahe …

In how many ways can you express the fact that you miss someone? Innumerable they may be, but today, each one of them will beg the question, “and what are you going to do about it?” Well, in days past, it was considered acceptable to say, “I miss her”, and accept the reality of it. It was not unmanly, and Rafi could bring out the sadness of that feeling – and which makes our heart go out to the actor on the screen. He changes the tonal quality of his singing in this verse; if you pay attention to it carefully, you’ll be compelled to feel sympathy:

ai meri rooh-e-ishq meri jaan-e-shaayari
dil maanata nahi ki tu mujhase bichhad gayi
maayoosiyaan hain phir bhi mere dil ko aas hai
mahsoos ho raha hai ke tu mere paas hai
samjhaan kis tarah se dil-e-beqaraar ko
vaapas kahaan se laaoon main guzri bahaar ko
majaboor dil ke saath badi ghaat ho gayi

Naushad finishes the song with a characteristic flourish, emphasizing the drama of the situation in the movie, but I am left with tears in my eyes.

I don’t know what I cry for…for the beauty of the poetry, for the soulfulness of the music, for the incomparable singing, or for the times when life was not ruled by a Blackberry, it’s red light signifying the arrival of yet another mail or message, of the need to stop savouring the moment and lurch towards the next – blindly, pointlessly.

In the end, does it matter?

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20 Blog Comments to “Kal Raat Zindagi Se”

  1. Gan Sharma says:

    Dear Vinatha, Anil saab, Narayan saab, Siva saab,

    Thanks you very much ofr the kind words. Vinatha, yes, that it is a Waheeda song made it extra special! Narayan ji, you hit the nail on the head!! Siva saab, glad that the review enhanced your enjoyment of the song!! Anil ji, thanks for the link, much appreciated.

  2. Anil Cherian says:

    Dear Ganji:
    What terrific writing. Please accept my compliments. Do keep on writing.
    I’m linking the song here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eX927uHmDw8

  3. Siva says:

    Dear Mr Gan Sharma
    Although I had listened to this song earlier , yesterday , after reading your excellent article I listened to this song and could really appreciate the beauty of this gem in a much better way. The antara appears to be deceptively simple but is really difficult to sing. Rafi sahab , Naushad & Shakeel have put in their soul into the song and you have made us all appreciate this by your well researched article. Thanks a million for enriching our musical journey in exploring Rafi sahab.

  4. Narayan says:

    Dear Mohan,
    Without any iota of exagerration your wonderful review should be learned by the youth of today and especially those interested in vintage Classics.
    It is a shame that no TV channels gives importance to song lyrics..of vintage era except perhaps the good old Doordarshan.
    May you give us avalanche of reviews to fulfill the cherished desire of all Rafi Lovers.
    Narayan

  5. Gan Sharma says:

    Devraj saab,

    Bahut shukriya…….very kind words indeed!!

    Mohan

  6. vinatha rao says:

    Hi Mohan,
    very very nice.Its been a real treat reading the review and this song was such a fav. that I remember going and buying the LP.The song was special because of Rafi and Waheeda.I had the song playing while i read the review so it was special.

  7. M V Devraj says:

    Dear Mohan:I have been trying to send this for the last three days but some problem with the site it is not recording it. My last attempt.
    Your brilliant commentary on this great song by the parallelless creative combo of Naushad/Shakeel/Rafi made me cry.Now I do not know whether I cried because of this ‘creation’ extraordinaire,or because such geniuses no longer tread in this world,or because of the literary flavour with which you had written this piece or because I was lamenting the fact that people no longer understand,experience and live beautiful poetic works as you have done.
    Thanks for this lovely post,Mohan.

    M V Devraj

  8. Gan Sharma says:

    Hi all,

    Many thanks for all your kind words. Not replying separately to each of you, but I am overwhelmed.

    Utthara, that was very elqouent praise!! Thank you. Your description of the beauty of the old and the relative lack in the new made wonderful reading!

    Anwar saab, point taken on the embedding song bit…and thanks for your kind words.

    Guru ji, great gyan as usual….always richer when one reads your wriitng!

    Anoopbhai, others, thank you so much! Girish ji, your comment on the “soul / sole” – good one!

    Gan

  9. girish says:

    gan sharmaji

    congratulations for a passionate article on one of the most soulful songs with the perfect blend of soulful music, soulful lyrics and of course soulful singing.
    The songs of today are mostly made for the shoe sole rather than the human soul.

  10. M V Krishnan says:

    Dear Mohan,

    Fantastic article written in style and substance, a la mohan style! Your word play and flow is unique and the grace and nuances of shakeel’s poetry are
    aptly portaryed in your excellent article. We know your writing prowess and now I am sure the Rafi bhakths from this site will be really treated to a feast of articles from the MIGHTY MOHAN pen. Congratulations!

    M V Krishnan

  11. Anoop KUlkarni says:

    Wah Mohanbhai!.. Laajawaab article.
    You have captured the essence and depth of this beautiful song, fabulous lyrics so well.
    Rafi Saab and only Rafi Saab could have done justice to this song, and probably, only you could do justice to the tribute paid to this masterpiece.
    Cheers
    Anoop

  12. chandan says:

    Mohan
    That was an excellent artilce. I want you to write more. Cannot explain in words and sentences how well this article has come out from you..congratulations. Please bring out more such articles from your heart out!!
    Chandan

  13. H.V.GURU MURTHY says:

    Mohanji,

    What a song? Except Rafi, no other Singer could have done justice to this song. Music by Naushad and lyrics by Shakeel were simply great. Though the antara was unusually long, still Rafiji could maintain the melody and pathos through out.

    The film produced by Naushad himself was a commerial flop, though it had some other lively songs like,

    1. Dile Betaab Ko – Rafi & Suman.
    2. Main Idhar Jaun Ya – Rafi, Asha & Mannadey.
    3. Jaanewale Tera Khuda Hafiz – Lata.
    4. Palki Chali Gayi – Rafi & Mannadey.
    5. Chehrese Apne Aap To – Happy vesion.
    6. Chehrese Apne Aap To – Sad vesion.

    In fact, the sixth song also had some wonderful lyrics by Shakeel like,

    “Utiye Khuda Ke Waaste
    Lag Jaayiye Gale
    Rasmo Riwaz Sharma Haya
    Sab Hatayiye”

    “Ye Kya Ke Hum Hi Badte Rahe
    Aapki Taraf
    Thodisi Door Aap Bhi
    Tashareef Layiye”

    What a golden period of music it was?

  14. Anwar-ul-Haque says:

    Dear Gan Sharma ji,

    A greatest article on a greatest song!!! What else I can say?

    You really touched this melodious song with such a softness which it deserves.

    Only one dicrepancy: The song should also be embedded / attached with the article, as the same has become a ritual for this kind of articles.

    Thanks and best regards.

    Anwar-ul-Haque

  15. N.MURTY says:

    Gan Sharmaji ,magnificent article.Really great.kudos to you for your well expressed thoughts on this great composition.Shakeel Badayuni, Naushad and Mohammed Rafi sahab had created several super hit songs. That magnificent era ended,sadly.

  16. Padmanabhan NR says:

    Mohan , congratulations on becoming part of larger audience. Rest elsewhere.

    Padmanabhan NR
    Rafi foundation, Hyderabad Chapter.

  17. Utthara says:

    Dear Mohan bhai, Did the song make you cry? Your passionate review of this lyrical gem brought tears, yes, but tears of joy, to me. Your loving outpouring is as poetic as the song you so soulfully described. Shakeel, Naushad and Rafi saab created pure magic. While the entire song is beautiful poetry, the first line touches my heart the most __ Kal raat zindagi se mulaqat hogayi. This song goes to show why we all regard Rafi saab as the best.
    In the golden days, every verse was a creation, the poet would bear the birth pangs, in fact, for each word unlike today’s `worse’ where it is nothing but a jumble of words, lyrical nonsense. The music too was a painstaking effort where every note would be put in its proper place and tuned to suit the mood and situation. The singer would add more life and lustre to the creations of the poet and the music maestro. it was a collective, dedicated, loving and joyful effort. No wonder those masterpieces stir our souls even today.
    You have brought out all these aspects while juxtaposing them with today’s fast-paced life where everything almost everything is `created’ without emotion, life or soul.
    You are a wordsworth who touches people’s hearts. Because you write dil se.
    Thank you very much for this wonderful treat. Yeh dil maange more.
    Cheers and love
    Utthara behen

  18. Gan Sharma says:

    Dear Murty saab,

    The kindness of your comments is only matched by the grace of your writing: your comment (and similarly, your articles, write-ups and emails) are review-worthy themselves. I like your description of these masterpieces as creations, and I do not indulge in flattery when I describe your writings as examples of that as well. Thank you, Murty saab, for being a fellow Rafi fan, and for who you are.

    Gan (aka Mohan)

  19. A S MURTY says:

    gan sharmaji first of all you deserve all the kudos for pouring your heart out on one of the greatest poetic creations of all times and explaining in your own way the niceties of almost each of the ‘alfaz’. that by itself is a painstaking effort. but then you are endowed with writing out your thoughts in such poetic facshion and it is therefore only apt that you should write on such a great song (i just cannot sum this up as a mere ‘song’, and revert back to my earlier reference of a ‘creation’). this is perhaps one of the several hundreds of instances when naushad sahab too would have been perplexed. the gayiki is simply incomprehensible and would rate as something being showered from the heavans. imagine, just imagine for once, did we ever have any other playback singer who could come anywhere even near the perfect blend of rendition that rafi sahab could dispense with. these are indeed craftly creations, sculpted to perfection to the last detail. such creations cannot be copied or imitated ever and they have the unmistakable stamp of the perfectionists. a fine poetry and a good composition can be lost if not supported equally by fine rendition. “kal raat zindagi se mulaqaat ho gayi” is therefore a benchmark of the highest order of composite creation. great expression in your thoughts too gan sharma ji and keep providing us with such insights on more of such masterpieces.

  20. s nawathe says:

    dear mohan bhai,

    what a description…wow….genius..i must say that NAUSHAD, SHAKEEL, RAFI are truly described by you. The depth of your knowledge and presentation are just unmatched. Compliments …for such a wonderful review..

    regards;

    shrirang nawathe

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