I learnt my English from Hindi films.
Hailing from a middle class Hindi medium school belonging to a middle class Hindi medium town belonging to a middle class Hindi medium India, I always found English to be the alien language that it is. I grew up in an era where knowing English did not mean reading and flaunting a Chetan Bhagat book, but shaking the limbs in our stone-washed jeans to ‘Won’t you take me to Funky Town’, the lone English song that all the cassette players could recognize. We actually felt very cool humming along whatever we could decipher of the song, genuinely believing that we totally had it in us to win over the world, starting with our cousins from Delhi. Wontchu tekmetwo funkeeey taaaaown. Ah, bliss. I can feel equal to all my English medium counterparts all over again right now.
Hindi cinema was what gave fillip to our attempts to empower ourselves with this authority, expertise, knowledge and interest around English. Yes. Had it not been for our exposure to the Hindi film songs in various states of undress, showcasing their wonderful English interiors, we would have never been able to appreciate the nuances of the Queen’s lingo. Or Funky Town.
Bollywood was very quick to recognize the importance of the English language, and it took it upon itself to ensure that the minions had a fair share of the same. Sample Hello Hello Gentleman from the 1948 film Actress. Hello hello gentleman. Milaate kyun nahin humse nain. Tabeeyat kaisi hai, kaisi hai, kaisi hai. Hello Hello Hello Hello Hello. Shamshad Begum and Lata Mangeshkar kill it by exhorting the Indians to be and behave Indians post the British rule. No prizes for guessing the chosen language of communication. Hat to hamne phenk diya, tum phenko necktie. Chala gaya Angrez, keh do inn sab ko good bye. English cheezen kar do ban. Be an Indian if you can. Hello hello gentleman. That’s what I am talking about! Be an Indian if you can, preferably in English.
And we are not just talking pidgin English here. There are quite a few pure English songs which have featured in Hindi films, and some of them may just delight the listeners. Shanta Apte sang Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life in Duniya Na Maane way back in 1937. Iqbal Singh rocked it like Elvis with Beautiful Baby of Broadway in Ek Phool Char Kaante (1960). Usha Uthup became a mini industry singing English songs for the likes of Bindu, Padma Khanna and Aruna Irani. Of course, the vamps/ nightclub dancers sang in English because it underlined on their western and therefore wayward values. Further case in point: Sharon Prabhakar’s My Body Has A Surging Fire from the 1982 release Apmaan. Then there were the Goans, the Anglo Indians, the D’Costas and the D’Mellos with their Christian affiliations, who sang in chaste My Heart Is Beating English if one of them was called Julie (1975). There have also been random entries like I And You Just You And I from the 1985 film Unchi Uraan, and the 80s, for some inexplicable reasons, offered quite a bit of such randomosity. In recent times, long portions of English lyrics, including rap, have made smooth entries into the regular Hindi songs’ space. But rap, by itself, could not quite earn a place of its own in isolation, despite Amitabh Bachchan mouthing the BNB rap way back in the 2005 release Bunty Aur Babli.
Having said all of the above, for the purpose of this research, I have decided to demonstrate only the songs that have appropriated the English language as a home-grown product; as an almost parallel and natural counterpart to Hindi. Er, so I guess we ARE talking pidgin English here. PS: I feel good using the word “research” for my inanities. Just to prove a point, I may faux-quote Ananda Coomaraswamy in my delirious state.
So without further ado, ‘hello friends’!
The biggest contribution of the Britishers was not just the English language, but the niceties that came with the language. Thanking you. With warm regards. Yours Faithfully. Only, the last phrase happens to be an Asha Bhosle-Kishore Kumar song from the 1986 film Begaana. Picturised on Rati Agnihotri and Kumar Gaurav on a surreal set of an over-sized office, complete with a giant typewriter, gigantic envelopes and a gargantuan telephone, the song is an elegant celebration of culture and politeness. Dear Sir, aapko main bahut chaahti hoon. Zindagi bhar rahungi, yours faithfully. The benevolent boss replies with as polite an affirmation of his love. Dear Madam, aapko main bahut chahta hoon. Zindagi bhar rahunga, yours faithfully. Awww. Everybody loves a love story. Especially when it is about a boss sleeping with his secretary.
Ever wondered how they hire such people who agree to stay yours faithfully all their lives? Simple. They conduct a Love Interview as they did in the Suneil Shetty-Shilpa Shirodkar starrer Raghuveer (1995). Kal ka kya program hai? Kuch zaroori kaam hai. Phir miloge kab? Jab waqt milega tab. Kab aur kehan kitne baje milna hai kaho sanam? Love interview. Love interview. Poornima, Kumar Sanu and the divine chorus girls give this love interview all that they have. I would not be surprised if this song was the only sex Sanu got in a long time.
Contrary to popular beliefs, it is not just chemistry that gets two people together. A lot of it is also mathematics. Knowing the general lack of love in our lives, I am absolutely certain half of you would not know what Tum Into Main, Main Into Tum is equal to? If you don’t know the answer, ask Sridevi and Jeetendra, who croon this Asha-Kishore number from the 1987 film Majaal, teaching us a few key lessons of life. Tum into main. Main into tum. Equal to pyaar ke sau saal. Reh ke juda, hum kuch nahin. Mil jaayen toh bemisaal. Shehzada, khwabon ka tu shehzada.
What do you do when you fall in love? You fall in love with Love Letter. Or so would SP Balasubramaniam and Asha Bhosle have us believe in Dev Anand’s 1993 release Pyaar Ka Tarana. Love letter love letter love letter. Tujhko pyaara, mujhko pyaara love letter. Issko pyaara, ussko pyaara, humko pyaara, sabko pyaara love letter. Love letter love letter love letter. I can quite understand the excitement since I suspect that by the 90s when he got into his 90s, the only love letters Dev Saab was getting were the ones he was writing to himself. Jissko mil jaaye love letter, woh kehlata hai lucky lover. Tum issko daak se bhejoge ya karoge hand deliver? Zara kar lo intezaar. You keepaan guessing dear. For those not in the know, this film saw the debut of Mink Singh. There is a joke hidden in that somewhere, I promise you.
Look I have been waiting for you for a long time. Please tell me whether you love me or not. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that I love you very much, yes my darling… I love you. If you are head over heels in love and totally smitten, this is how you should go about expressing your feelings. The only pre-condition is that you need to get Shabbir Kumar to sing Dil Dil Dil from the 1986 film Pyaar Ho Gaya for you. In theory, the song is in Hindi, with the regular samplings of dil, pyaar, neel gagan, takreeban, tanhai, pagla kahin ka and a count from dus, bees, tees, chalis to sau, but in its heart, the song is in pure-bred English. As far as I am concerned, I can tell you that the Hindi is just a façade.
Next time you hear Remo Fernandes ruing about the music scene in India, just utter seven golden words to him. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. He would be transmogrified into something else in no time. This is why. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. You are my sajni. I am your diwana. You are my diwani. Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni. I am your sajni. You are my diwana. I am your diwani. Let’s sing together. Let’s dance together. Let’s sing together. Let’s dance together. Impressed already? Well, Indeevar, the lyricist, does not just stop at this. He converts this Kamal Sadanah-Ritu Shivpuri song from the 1995 release Rock Dancer into high art with what follows. Yeh toh kaho darling love hua kab se? Dekha tumhen jab se. Yeh toh kaho darling, love karoge kab tak? Sooraj mein fire hai jab tak. Aa ha. Honth tere laal hai. Aa ha. Kaale tere baal hai. Aa ha. Teri kya chaal hai. Aa ha. Tera kya face hai. Aa ha. Tera kya grace hai. Is my future bright? Yes darling, alright! Waah, kya scene hai. I saw ‘grace’ somewhere in the lyrics. That’s the word I was looking for. Indeed.
Here’s a little tip for all you boys in love. Don’t refer to your girl as ‘baby’. Ever. Because if you do, Sapna Mukherjee is going to hunt you down and subject you to this loud appeal of hers from the 1989 film Kahan Hai Kanoon. Don’t Call Me Baby. No, sir. If you thought ‘baby’ was a term of endearment, you couldn’t have been any farther away from the truth. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me baby. Jawaan ho gayi main, jawaan ho gayi. Baby ab main rahi kahan, ang ang ho gaya jawan. Mere labon par angaare, mere seene mein toofan. Don’t call me baby. Don’t call me baby. Smoldering embers on her lips. Violent tempests in her tits. Fair enough.
Roses are red. Violets are blue. You love me. I love you. This was the first exposure to real poetry that I had had, with all my notebooks littered with lines like these for girlfriends that did not exist. It was fun while it lasted. Which must have been all my school and college life. Guess the lyricist Madan Pal was my pal, because that’s how his song from the 1994 release Zaalim starts. But before you even begin castigating him or the Kimono-wearing extras prancing in this song with a “You shut up, Gutt lost!”, you would find Alisha Chenoy ready with an innocent apology on behalf of Pal. Aayi Yai Ya, Sorry Sorry. Koi jo maange dil, inkaar karti hoon jaanam. Meri kitaab mein tasveer teri rahti hai. Aayi yai ya, sorry sorry. This song succinctly teaches you that most relationship spats give an opportunity to resolve conflicts. And make slutty baby-girl sounds. I know you are khafa. Darling main kya karun. You know that I love you. Tum pe hi main marun. Main gar jo kho gayi. Phir na milungi main. You will then search for me. Phir na rahoongi main. Aaaaaah!
Alisha, of course, must be honored by the Linguistic Society of India for her contribution to the languages. Because nobody else could have done as much justice to the extreme lyrics of LML Baba LML from Hathkadi (1995). LML baba LML. LML baba LML. Hone de baba LML. Shaam subah LML. Saaton din LML. Sunday to Monday LML. Monday to Sunday LML. LML? LML? Kya hota hain LML? Let’s make love, baybee. Don’t be shy, baybee. It took the genius and talent of an Anu Malik to come up with the well thought-through and right retort to Alisha’s LML. GTH baba GTH. Hone de baba GTH. Shaam savare DTH. Saaton din GTH. Sunday to Monday GTH. Monday to Sunday GTH. GTH? GTH? Kya hota hai GTH? Go to hell, baybee. Go to hell, baybee. When Ananda Coomaraswamy said ‘the man incapable of contemplation cannot be an artist, but only a skillful workman’, Anu Malik sure was watching him. <smug expression>
If you found GTH offensive, trust me, it was all in jest. Boys do this to their girls. What is important to know is that whatever name-calling the boys may do, eventually, girls are john-um. Tina tin tinna tin. Tina tin tinna tin. Read on. You Are Paglam. You are chiklam. You are jhagram. You are lafdam. You are bigdam. You are chidiyam. You are budiyam. You are motiyam. You are bambam. You are chitkam. You are pampam. You are tikdam. You are chakram. You are nakhram. But you are johnam. Ha ha ha ha ha. Haaaaaan. Gali Gali mein paani hai. Tu ladki deewani hai. Tu hai four twenty. Tu hai khatre ki ghanti. Tu kab de jaaye dhokha. Nahin teri guarantee. Tina tin tinna tin. Tina tin tinna tin. This Bappi Lahiri-Vinod Rathod song from the 1994 movie Juaari gains even more significance when you realize that it was picturized on Armaan Kohli. The Arman Kohli. But let’s not be very loud about it, else his father would relaunch him as a hero all over again.
Enough sparring. Need some love back in our lives. In any case, Where Is The Time To Hate, especially when there is so little time to love. I have included this song from the 1992 film Saatwan Aasman only for the rather perverse pleasure that I get listening to Udit Narayan sing in English along with Preeti Uttam. Where is the time to hate, when there is so little time to love. Come on let’s sing sing sing. Come on let’s dance dance dance. Come on have fun fun fun. Meri jaan. <Insert racist comment on Udit Narayan here.>
Since I am being allowed to indulge, here’s Kumar Sanu singing Oh Laila Hum Tumpe, Dil Jaan Se Marta Hai in the 1994 release Chhoti Bahoo. Oh laila hum tum pe dil jaan se marta hai. Ban ke aashiq hum peechhe peechhe phirta hai. So far, so natural. Nadeem-Shravan, Sameer and Sanu being their regular frustrating selves. And then, BAM, the angrez in Sanu takes over. Oh laila I want to marry you. Oh laila I want to marry you. I can so visualize Sanu contorting his face, raising his eyebrows, shutting his eyes, flaring his nostrils, dancing his fingers, moving his limbs, smiling into oblivion… uhm, I think I should shut up before I make this uncomfortable and weird for myself.
Not that there haven’t been any cute songs with a smattering of English in Hindi films. Anand Prayag and Jerry Adolfe do a sweet job in the Kalyanji-Ananji number Pretty Pretty Priya from the 1970 film Priya. She’s very pretty. She’s very pretty. She’s very very very very pretty. Pretty pretty Priya. Jalal Agha and friends sing this for Tanuja. And they are so totally correct. She really is very very very very pretty. :)
We Are Made For Each Other, Suno Ai Jaane Jigar from the 1991 release Love must be the most philanthropic love song ever. Because the love in this SP-Chitra song is not only restricted to the girl and the guy, but is distributed equally amongst Garden saris, Vimal suitings, Colgate toothpaste, Old Spice aftershaves and Nivea creams. Trust me, I am not making this up. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. Ki pehen ke sajoongi main. Garden ki sari balam. Tere pyaar mein pehnoonga. Suiting Vimal ki sanam. Hamein ban ke deewana dekhega zamana jane jaana. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. Dekh dekh ek dooje ko muskarayenge. Colgate se phir hamare daant chamchamayenge. Jab subah ko milegi, gul se bulbul chehek ke. Hum mehekte phirenge Old Spice ki mehek se. Nivea laga ke hum. Kya lagenge socho sanam. Hamein ban ke deewana dekhega zamana jaane jaana. We are made for each other. Suno ai jaane jigar. My faith in humanity just got restored.
PS: WHAT do you mean I am crying!? There is just something in my eyes.
Don’t get bogged down by the passion and the power of love that you have been witnessing so far. Falling in love is actually a Step By Step process. Really. Amit Kumar and Asha Bhosle sum it up in the 1989 film Dost. Ek hum hue jaaneman kis tarah. Ho tan mein jaan, jaan mein tan jis tarah. First step. Haath mile. Second step. Aankh mili. Third step. Dil mile. Fourth step. Pyaar hua. Step by step. If you miss any of the above mentioned steps, it is not love.
Technically speaking, this next song should not be in the list because it is from the dubbed 1977 film Meethi Meethi Baatein. But that cannot take away the learning that this song imparts to the listeners. Hello. Hellooo. Hello My Dear Wrong Number. Hai iswar sundar toh kya ho tum? Kisliye milte nahin phir hum? Tadpaaye kyun ai sanam? Tu mujhe mukh dikhla de. Hellooo. Hello my dear wrong number. Hai machal gaye tum sun ke sargam. Aayenge saamne tere na balam. Na mera mukh chand sa, na nazar matwaali hai. Hello. Hello my dear, wrong number. If you wanted to master telephone etiquette, this is the song for you.
Okay. Pop Quiz now. Guess the lines that come before and after these: Mehsoos karoon mehfooz teri baahon mein. Main naaz karoon chale saath tu jab raahon mein. Don’t let the mehsoos and mehfooz fool you. We are not talking Mughal-e-Azam here, though I would not blame you if you already are conjuring images of Hasrat Jaipuri. Try shifting focus to Kimi Katkar in a Spiderman costume and Govinda in Bridget Jones undies. The year is 1988. The film is Dariya Dil. And the song is Tu Mera Superman. Tu mera superman, main teri lady. Ho gaya hai apna pyaar already. Very intense, very Justice-League-meets-Avengers lyrics, if you get the drift. If you don’t, you aren’t missing much.
Talking of Superman, here’s another flying object which continues to be an inspiration. Love Bird Kehte Hain Mujhko. Said Shadaab Khan in the 1997 anti-hero film Raja Ki Ayegi Baraat. There were many reasons why the debut film of Rani Mukherji sank without a trace. But this Vijay Benedict song surely wasn’t one of them. Love bird kehte hain mujhko. Baga ding dong dig dung. Love bird kehte hain mujhko. Har ik ladki lovely lovely. Beautiful aur crazy crazy. Mujhse bole touch me touch me. Touch me touch me. Such has been the impact of this song that there are men all over the world who consider it the theme song of their lives. And this when they haven’t even heard the song.
Deewanon ka ghar hai romance road par. Parwanon ka daftar hai romance road par. Hoti hai aankh micholi romance road par. Hai sab ki tabiyat doli romance road par. Yeah, we get it, but I think we have been far too long on the Romance Road. Need to switch to other spaces now. Like national integration. Contemporary poet and philosopher Bali Brahmbhatt hits the nail totally on the head in this Dharmendra and Aditya Panscholi starrer, Mafia (1996). Money doesn’t matter on romance road. You gotta deal with the subject of humanity. Rule out insanity. This is reality. In all sincerity. To the Hindu, the Muslim, the Sikh, Isaai. Don’t say bye bye. Say bhai bhai. On ro ro ro ro romance road. On romance road. What intensity. And what a message.
Dil tujhe de chuke tujhpe jaan denge. Hum tere vaaste har imtehaan denge. I am sure most of you are thinking this to be another love ballad. And this is why Arnab Goswami yells at you every night at nine. Because the definition of My First Love can be different for a few people. Not all young men of the country are just your regular deewana-parwaana-mastaana variety, only concerned about the frivolous things in life like girls. Dil tujhe de chuke tujhpe jaan denge. Hum tere vaaste har imtehaan denge. My First Love. My nation. Nation nation. Great nation. The song from the 1995 film Param Vir Chakra has been picturized on three cadets dancing on the stage at some Army festival. Seriously. If General VK Singh grew up on songs like these, I would not judge him any more for being seen with Ramdev at public rallies.
From a pure sociological point of view, English has always had this elitism attached to it. It has been the first language of capitalism and authority, especially in the context of the third world countries. Expectedly, the working knowledge of English elevates you to a more powerful, smarter position. And then you practice the smarts at red light areas. Anjaan pens How Are You Munnibai for the 1983 film Laalach, and Mahendra Kapoor sings it for Pran. How are you, how are you, Munnibai, how are you? Don’t tell lie. Don’t feel shy. Tell me why. You like I. I like your kotha. I like your kotha. How are you, how are you, Munnibai how are you? Don’t know who I should feel sorrier for, Pran, Mahendra Kapoor or Munnibai. :|
Our acknowledgment and celebration of English language in Hindi cinema cannot be complete without talking about the mammoth contribution of Professor Bappi Lahiri. His definition of Rock Dancer (1995) can make the most sincere and the most severe rock aficionados leave rock forever to join the Bappi cult. Ladies and gentlemen. Rock dancer kya hota hai, zara dekhen. R se hota hai rhythm. O se orchestra. C se hota hai concert. K se keyboard. D se hota hai drummer. A se audience. N se number. C se chorus. E se intertainment. R se? Rock. Rock. Rock. Rock. Dil ka cheque advance kar. Pyaar ka fee-nance kar. Mere sang sang dance kar. Aaja tu romance kar. Rock is love. Love is rock. Oh my love. Rock Rock Rock. Aaja aaja come here. Dil ki rail line hai clear. Tu mujhe sabse dear. Rehna bas mere near. Rock is love. Love is rock. Oh my love. Rock Rock Rock. Sometimes I wonder why we remember Bappi da only for being this lard of gold. He is much more than that. B se hota hai…
However, Bappi da’s tribute to the Rock Dancer pales in front of his elegy for Bruce Lee in the 1980 film Morchha. Why Bruce Lee? Because he was a great guy. And that was reason enough for everybody to joyously go Let’s Dance For The Great Guy Bruce Lee. Our man even got a firang voice, Annette, to sing with him to make the song sound authentic and legitimate in English. It totally worked. For Bappi, that is. We all know Bruce Lee is no more with us. But he will be alive in our hearts for many years. He was a tough guy. He taught us a new wave. Let’s give a hand for the departed soul. Come onnnn! Morcha. Morcha. Morcha. Morchaaaaaaa. Morcha. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Zulmo sitam ki, maane na dhamki. Aisa bane aadmi. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. Let’s dance for the great guy Bruce Lee. I am sure even Bruce Lee smiles whenever he gets to watch this song on YouTube. And I am sure even Bruce Lee wishes for a better print.
If you thought these English-Hindi conglomerations were just about song and dance, you would be amazed to know their expanse. There are philosophical lessons, there are temporal encroachments affecting perceptions of time and there are spaces and times being combined into the same continuum, creating new spatial dimensions in the process. HA, fooled you! That was me being metaphysical by combining random lines from Wikipedia. But then again, I have reasons to get into this mode, considering the next few songs are going to challenge most of you with their takes on the space-time equilibria.
The first song is from the 1997 release Humko Ishq Ne Mara. That Was Yesterday. That was yesterday. Humse hum pyaar karte the, iqraar karte the. That was yesterday. That was yesterday. Iss dil ko behlaate the. Saare naaz uthate the. Humse milne aate the, jaate the. That was yesterday. That was yesterday. So we have a girl singing what she used do to herself ‘that was yesterday’, harmonized by a male voice. Whatever. Your turn now, Stephen Hawking!
The next one is from the 1980 release Aakhri Insaaf. The director of the film was one Kalidas. Enough said. Yaaroon-oo-oo-on. Who Has Seen Tomorrow? Kal kisne dekha hai. Kal ko goli tomorrow. Yaaroon-oo-oo-on. Who has seen tomorrow? Pertinent question. A logical postulation that evades resolution. So no answers. Yet. Kalidas, FTW!
Starting with the title of the film itself, Waqt Se Pehle (1984) combines the intricacies of Gulzar with the idiosyncrasies of Gulzar, although he isn’t even associated with the movie. Find it out for yourself by listening to Nitin Mukesh and Preeti Sagar sing in their mother tongue. Make Memories. Make memories. Make memories. Make memories. Let them make your heart throb. In pleasure and in pain. Then live and relive by them forever. In sunshine and in rain. Make memories. Make memories. Deepak Chopra™ would be proud of this™.
This is the last song. There is no descriptor to it. Oh my dear one, go now! Will you go just now?
If you liked what you read, you may also like Getting educated at Bollywood: Woh toh theek hai magar woh kab karenge! and Of fish fry, kala kutta and rasgulla. 10 Best Hindi Film Songs of All Time.
Select YouTube links: Longfellow’s A Psalm of Life, Beautiful Baby of Broadway, My Heart Is Beating, BNB Rap, Hello Hello Gentleman, Yours faithfully, Love Interview, Tum Into Main, Main Into Tum, Love Letter, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Dha Ni, Don’t Call Me Baby, Aayi Yai Ya, Sorry Sorry, LML Baba LML, You Are Paglam, Pretty Pretty Priya, Step By Step, Tu Mera Superman, Love Bird Kehte Hain Mujhko, My First Love, Let’s Dance For The Great Guy Bruce Lee
Also, for those interested: Funky Town :)