Kashmir Ki Kali (1964) – Rafi – O P Nayyar – S H Bihari
There are some songs that I call ‘stand-alone’ songs. They truly belong to no category. By virtue of the thought expressed in them, they transcend mere words to become experiences. Here is one such song from the pen of S.H. Bihari, put to music by the man with whom he shared a long partnership in the ’60s, himself a trailblazer in Hindi film music – O.P. Nayyar. With Rafi giving his soulful voice and an expression that defies all description, with a musical score to be envied, the lyrics are what become centre-stage.
The song starts with an a cappella mukhda. If you’re not watching the song, the start of the song gives away a little bit of information – the ‘usee kee’ is sung with a sweetness, the entire mukhda with a slow contemplative air which can very well be taken as sadness. The minute Rafi sings ‘mohabbat mein’ you know there’s a drunken element to the song. As the song progresses, however, it seems more the intoxication created by the combination of lyrics and music here, rather than alcohol, so soaked is this song in philosophy.
So the first two lines are sung softly. In the repeat of the mukhda, the music starts – and how! The bongos, as if waiting for their signal! And as soon as the words are over, the saxophone takes centre stage!
This is a song known for its spectacular interludes and the postlude, dominated by that sax. Notice the sax doesn’t play during the antaras, almost as if killing the listener with more than one intoxicant at a time had been ruled out by the composer! It could either be the sax or Rafi’s voice soaked in the poetry!
The poetry binds you in a spell. Many will tell you, in fact argue, that this comes under the category of sad songs. They may be right. In fact, seen in its cinematic context, that is exactly what it is – a dejected lover drinking and waxing eloquent.
However, if you hadn’t seen the movie, had no inkling of the context, and had only the audio to go by, what would this song say to you? How would it speak to you? The three verses paint a vivid picture for me – that of a Sufi, lost in his contemplation of the beloved, for whom nothing exists except the beloved and whose every happiness is linked to merely being in contemplation of the beloved.
Do the words “luta jo musafir dil ke safar mein, hai jannat ye duniya uss ki nazar mein” sound sad? Bereft of hope? As if he wishes to leave nothing to the imagination, the poet follows this up with “ussi ne hai lootaa mazaa zindagi ka”. In fact, this ‘traveller’ who seems like he’s been robbed – of his heart, peace of mind – in his journey, is actually the fortunate one!
To so contemplate on the image of the beloved, that you become an image of the one contemplated upon! “ke jo ban gaya ho tasveer-e-jaana”. This surely is love that knows no boundaries and no limits! A love like that surely deserves respect! “karo ehtaraam uss ki deewangi ka”; in fact, each one that becomes immersed in a love like this deserves the deepest reverence “hai sajde ke qaabil har vo deewana”. Does this sound sad?
Here in the third stanza comes the first mention of a destruction. The word ‘barbaad’ is used here as the condition of this lover. But the way it’s used, it hints more at a dissolution, rather than a destruction. When you think of the three stanzas together, this stanza becomes even clearer. To immerse oneself so much in the thought, the contemplation of the beloved as to completely lose your identity, to merge oneself with thoughts of the beloved; to think of this state of non-being as the solution, the medicine that is needed for survival – if, in fact, such a state of being can be called a ‘survival’ – “barbaad hona jis ki adaa ho, dard-e-mohabbat, jis ki davaa ho”. What sorrow can touch a love such as this? “sataayega kya ghum ussey zindagi ka, mohabbat mein jo ho gaya ho kisi ka”.
This, then, is not a melancholic song. It’s one of the richest songs in HFM. Soaked in deep respect for one whose only thought is the beloved. Everything else ceases to exist. Or, maybe, everything and everywhere becomes an excuse to think about the beloved.
Whether a love such as this is reciprocated or not is immaterial, being its own reward.
And no one could have conveyed these feelings, this emotion better than Mohammed Rafi, for who, perhaps, singing was its own reward – his true love?
Written for Mohd Rafi’s birthday, 24th December, on 23rd December 2017
Monica Kar received her BA in English Honours from the University of Delhi. She now lives in St. Charles, Missouri, where she wears several hats, including doing voluntary work as an educator and homemaker.