Mughal-e-Azam (1960) – Lata & Chorus – Naushad – Shakeel
I admit it – this song makes me speechless. This album boasts so many spectacular songs. So, then, what about this song makes me go silent?
There are Shakeel and Naushad and K. Asif and Dilip Kumar and Madhubala – all of them surely foreign to the concept of ‘nandlal’? And, yet, here they are. Painting a vivid picture of a love blossoming using that supreme example of love in our folklore and culture – Krishna. Nowhere does the word ‘Radha’ come into the poetry; the assumption, however, that this is Radha, exists. That intrigues me. This could very well be any ‘gopi’ on the ‘panghat’.
Then there’s Madhubala herself in this movie. Lata has said in her lovely intro to another song from the same movie “did she bring death upon herself when she sang Pyaar kiya to darna kya?” I wonder… do our actions create our destinies? Or do we challenge destiny by our very thoughts? If so, Madhubala throws down the gauntlet at the very start by asserting “agar dil ghum se khaali ho to jeene ka maza kya hai, na ho khoon-e-jigar to ashq peene ka mazaa kya hai…” much before “pyar kiya to darna kya”. In fact as Nigar Sultana pooh-poohs ‘muhabbat’, likening it to a ‘tamasha’, Madhubala reiterates, “muhabbat hum ne maana, zindagi barbaad karti hai, ye kya kum hai ke mar jaane pe duniya yaad karti hai, kisi ke ishq mein duniya luta kar hum bhi dekhenge…”. Very cleverly Shakeel has introduced us to her thoughts. Thoughts which lead her to her destiny.
Madhubala presents her innocence, her excitement at this new journey, her purity of heart and emotion with an honesty most believable. While a song of shared passion is rendered by Bade Ustad Ghulam Ali Khan, there is tremulousness of new awakenings of the heart in ‘jab raat hai aisi matwaali’. “Pyar kiya to darna kya” is an open challenge to the power of the King and throne by a mere courtesan. Her stance and expression, while bold, are resolute, rather than brazen. The action of taking the Prince’s dagger and placing it on the King’s feet is a class apart. Her expression, her body language, the words she’s singing – absolutely masterly! Her strength of intention as a mere commoner, a woman, in the face of so much power is written on her face and stance.
And Shakeel would have you believe that it is enough to have loved “iss rang mein koi jee le agar, marne ka ussey ghum kya hoga”. But the pain, the suffering and sorrow that the path of love, unfulfilled, must take, especially in this royal setting cannot be ignored. Love can be your biggest strength. But Love can also make you the weakest you can be. Loving the wrong person can wreck you. And the songs filmed on Madhubala in captivity portray her deep suffering. The suffering that goes beyond the discomfort of her chains and being in the dungeons. The suffering of loving a weak person.
But this song stands out in the movie for me. It is an expression, an acceptance, an announcement of the softest and boldest kind. That the arrow of love has found its mark.
There’s the honey sweetness of acknowledged love in it. And there’s the fake annoyance of being led out of her safe existence by a mere pebble…
kankari mohe maari, gagariya phod daari
mori saari anaari bhigoye gayo re…
This kankari is his glance, his attention… and that gagari is her willpower to not give in… so that her entire existence – saari anaari – becomes suffused with love.
His love – naino se jaadu kiya, jiyara moh liya – makes her so shameless – mora ghunghata najariyo se tod gayo re – that she announces her love for him in a public setting.
Hindi Film Music uses Radha-Krishna songs to portray love in many, many ways. And, yet, this one is unique. Madhubala makes it unique with her beauty, the combination of her facial expressions and body language which exhibit her boldness and her artlessness equally. Naushad and Shakeel make it unique with their little touches… the use of the soft ‘r’ at the end of the hard words like ‘chhed’, ‘tod’; molding words like ‘najariya’ to ‘najariyo’ to create a softness that captures the listener in the sensual silk of this song. K Asif makes this song unique with the grandness of its presentation. The instrument players on screen, the royal court, and Madhubala herself presented with that half-ghunghat and a bold blouse (for its times) – again, declaring the combination of bold and soft… an announcement and a secret, all rolled into one.
The movie is probably the highlight of Madhubala’s career. For me, this song is the highlight of this movie. A song that is drenched in the contrasting emotions that falling in love can be. Bold, brazen and utterly vulnerable and tender.
So much like Madhubala, herself.
Originally written on Madhubala’s birthday on 14 February 2018
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.