Sunday, February 03, 2008

...That I Can Leave Angrez Behind: English Lyrics in Bollywood

In 1878, British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli gave a speech in the Parliament and in it, he referred to his bitter rival, William Gladstone.
So, why is this relevant to a piece on English lyrics in Bollywood songs?
Because Disraeli called Gladstone a 'sophisticated rhetorician intoxicated by the exuberance of your own verbosity'.
Exactly 100 years, Mr Anthony Gonsalves jumped out of an Easter egg with the same line. And of course, Mr Gonsalves did not stop there. He backed it up with important theories like juxtaposition of the haemoglobin in the atmosphere and the coefficient of linear expansion. No wonder, everybody called him Anthony-bhai in Bandra village!

As propounded in a scholarly manner earlier, only the Christians (and some times, Parsis) speak in English. So, some of the 'real' English songs came through characters of these religions. Unfortunately, the elegantly composed, well-written songs are extremely few and far between. Most of the times, the English lyrics are just crazy lines inserted for comic effect.
Probably because Bollywood has always presented the English speakers as a caricatures and hence the need to show them correctly (Christians speaking normal Hindi, for example) is not a high priority! On the other hand, it is rather easy to insert some English words in the chorus and try to create a rock-n-roll feel.
Anyways, who am I to sound like a serious commentator?

The most famous English song is, of course, the one sung by Julie in the eponymous film. It is a beautiful song, written by Harindranath Chattopadhyay and sung by Preeti Sagar. "My Heart is Beating" never fails to uplift your spirits with its simple words and tune. Harindranath was the brother of Sarojini Naidu so you could attribute the poetry to genetics. The tune is by Rajesh Roshan, who is the son of Roshan, so you could attribute the melody to genetics as well!
(Preeti Sagar sang the "Mera gaaon katha pare" song in Manthan, which - along with the above - would be in my list of favourite Hindi songs. There's something about her voice.)

Lagaan had lots of English dialogue and legitimately so. It also had a nice English interlude in the O Rey Chhori song - as Rachel Shelly and Gracey Singh sang their odes of love in parallel tracks. Vasundhara Das sung the English track with perfection and AR Rehman majestically merged the operatic flow of I Am In Love with the rustic melody of the O Rey Chhori.
I read somewhere that the English lyrics were written by Farhan Akhtar - but that might well be an urban legend.

While the legitimate English lyrics are few and far between, the zany ones are legion!

It started way back as Kishore Kumar and Nutan taught each other English in Dilli Ka Thug. C.A.T. Cat maaney billi. M.A.D. Mad maaney paagal.
In a slightly obscure film called Raaja Jaani, Hema Malini thwarted Dharmendra's efforts to teach her the alphabet by singing ABCD chhodo, naina se naina jodo...

In recent times, Dhooms 1 & 2 - to get the international feel - zoomed through easy-on-the-year English lyrics but somebody should tell them while Tata Young is fine, Uday Chopra singing My Name is Ali does not really qualify as international marketability!
In a film called Kuch Na Kaho (starring Abhishek and Aishwarya - before their paired days), Javed Akhtar wrote some clever stuff using English letters. ABBG. TPOG. IPKI. Tum POG. For those who have not read Chhinnamastaar Abhishaap, read the letters individually.

If I start listing down all the English lyrics in Hindi songs, we will be here till Jodhaa Akbar releases. So, I will quickly move to the conclusion and hope all of you will fill in!

In the annals of the English Bollywood Song (if one such exists in the first place), the person who would get the largest entry would be Annu Malik.
In Main Khiladi Tu Anadi, he intoned in the screechy tuneless monstrosity of his voice - "My Adorable Darling / I think of you every night, every morning..."
He followed it up with LML and GTH - Let's Make Love and Go To Hell respectively - in Hathkadi (starring Govinda and Shilpa Shetty).
And then, he delivered the knockout punch in the most inane and gratingly bad lyrics of Waqt: The Race Against Time - "Do me a favour / Let's play Holi".
Why? Why? Why? Why should we do anybody a favour and play Holi? Why doesn't Mr Malik do us a favour and remain chained to the sets of Indian Idol?

If anything, he should mix the strength of English lyrics with Indian gastronomical culture, as the legendary Bappi Lahiri did in a film called Rock Dancer (ah - English name!)...
You are my chicken fry / You are my mutton fry
Kabhi na kehna kudiye bye bye bye
You are my samosa / You are my masala dosa
Kabhi na kehna mundiye bye bye bye

Wait, where are you going? There's more...

You are my chocolate / You are my cutlet
Kabhi na kehna kudiye bye bye bye
You are my rosogolla / You are my rasmalai
Kabhi na kehna mundiye bye bye bye

What poetry! If he had heard all of these, Shelly (PB - not Rachel) would have drowned himself to death. Oh - he did?


Gorilla Bananas said...

In some English towns the lyrics would be:

You are my pot noodle, you are my oven chip

Anonymous said...

Beat me. But did you watch Kucch Na Kaho in last couple of days?

- You know who it is ;)

wanderlust said...

no, it's not an urban legend... javed akhtar said in an interview that he had locked both his kids farhan and zoya in their rooms and asked them to come up with a couple of lines each. it apparently took them an hour.

Aparna Vittal said...

Hi there,

Am addicted to your blog and must say you have a great one ! Delurking today, just to add that one of the oldest songs that I can remember is the song called "Meri Jaan, Sunday ke Sunday". It had words like.."hathon mein hath liye WALK kare hum; sweet sweet apas mein TALK kare hum ! Not sure which movie it is from, but is sure is one of my favourite numbers. Everytime I listen to it, the usage of English words in the song, never fails to amaze me.

the mad momma said...

oh come on.. dont make fun of it. chicken fry is my favouritest song in the whole wide world. wonderfully imaginative.

Anamika said...

One of my favourites is 'Mamma told me, don't be talking to a stranger, don't be talking to a stranger, stranger means danger...'.

Rimi said...

How could you miss "Mera naam chin chin chu... Hello mister how do you do!"??? How, how, how?

Also, I insist you mention the phrase 'mind blowin(g)'. It may be a Salman Khan trademark, but everyone who wants to be kewl says it at the shadow of a chance. There's even a number which goes "You are my mind blowing mahia". Starring *shudder* Ajay Devgan and The Younger Shetty.

Re. "You are my chicken fry": I first heard of it when Arnab quoted it in a conversation, and I immediately (and with complete justification, you must admit) suspected him of putting one over me. As it turns out, he had an unwitting witness just waiting in the sidelines to back him up. You JU Engg folks stick together, don't you...


Anonymous said...

There are also those random refrains that appear from nowhere in the middle of a song - "Ticket to Hollywood", "Kiss of love" or Just chill chill chill"..

Nikki said...

I can think of a couple more songs :

1. Dekho Dekho ..An evening in Paris

2. My name is Antony Gonsalves, mein duniya mein akela hun

3. Its not Bolly but I heard a Telugu copy of Fergie's "My humps".

March Hare said...

Though I absolutely forget which movie this is from (it had Raima Sen and Paresh Rawal and probably Sharman Joshi, and people go back and forth in time)..there was this song which went something like this -

I will T-A-K-E, take you,
To the P-A-R-K, park..
I will K-I-S-S, kiss you,
In the D-A-R-K, dark,
And then you will be,
M-I-N-E, mine.
Mine, you'll be mine..

and so on.

The name of the movie, anyone?

indhotguyind said...

the movie`s name is funtoosh

Anonymous said...

I think the lyrics to that song from Manthan are "Mhara gaon Kathiawarey" meaning my village in Kathiawar (district of Gujarat)!

dipti said...

Shout out loud funny post!!! THANK YOU

Shantanu said...

Just chanced upon ur blog! Govinda's song 'I am a street dancer!'

Khalil Sawant said...

Then we have Piyush Mishra's (who is very good at Hindi) Dance Maarey in Tashan :)