Namak ishq ka, by Vijay Kumar

Remembering Gulzar

नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का

Beedi jalaye de…. and namak ishq ka ……, the two scores from Omkara, penned by Gulzar, fuel fantasy – fantasy largely erotic. Yet the songs are not vulgar, for there is nothing in them that can be called directly suggestive – the layers of meaning are well ensconced in the words, to be explored and understood before one exclaims: Oh, this !

One may well argue as to why did Gulzar agree to write these at all – especially as he has to his credit some of the most sublime verses that have enriched the Hindi cinema. But Gulzar, a great poet, has ever adapted himself to the changing times, to even the changing taste, ever remained in an expansive mode, never a slave of his own image, has accepted situations as creative opportunities. The only constants have been the unsagging literary richness in his writings and the depth of his muse, as also the ability to articulate his thoughts in terms of amazing metaphors and imageries.

The two Omkara numbers mentioned might have taxed Gulzar’s ken a bit more for a couple of reasons. First, he had to create a text that steered clear of the vulgarity but just, to meet the cinematic requirements. Second, He had to wit the words in a lingo that he was assumably not at home. Giulzar nonetheless delivered two masterly pieces.

I would have posted beedi jaliye ke… just for its pace and greater energy, enacted on screen by a boisterous and charged up group of urchins and young men. But the song does not carry the preceding statutory warning: smoking is injurious to health!  Thus I pick the other: namak ishq ka….

The song has an interesting opening :

मैं चाँद निगल गयी
हाँ जी मैं चाँद निगल गयी दैया रे
भीतर-भीतर आग जले, बात करूँ तो सेंक लगे
हो मैं चाँद निगल गयी दैया रे
अंग पे ऐसे छाले पड़े

The point is: how does a swallowed Moon connect to the fire of passion within, that threatens to blaze the physical self? The Moon is normally considered to have a soothing effect on the body. But in an astrological deconstruction of the human psyche, the Moon too close to the Sun or just at the opposite (the full Moon) can create an extreme mental restlessness, even a luna-tic–a chandmara! But she has devoured the Moon itself, thus triggering passion unlimited, the passion bursting at the seams! Gulzar has so thoughtfully supplied the horrific दैया रे to allude to the enormity of her act and its consequences!

ज़बां पे लागा जी लागा जी रे
नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का

I have tasted the essence of love, and am addicted to it! Gulzar could not have picked a better word to characterize this essence – the salt, which is felt more in its absence! It takes me to a conversation that I had had with a mausa of mine way back in the year 1963. Some called him an eccentric, some a philosopher. He used to be on fast on every Tuesday whereby he avoided taking salt. But I found him taking mutton on a Tuesday. For a boy of 13, a fast was a fast, nothing to be eaten !. Unable to contain myself, I asked: mausa aapka to vrat hai, phir.. ? He promptly responded: beta mai namak nahi leta aur iss meat mai namak nahi hai ! I was shocked and speechless. But as I was reflecting on this line ज़बां पे लागा जी लागा जी रे नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का , I realized how bland, or should I say nauseating, the love would be without the taste of its essence, its salt – like the meat that my mausa was taking !

सभी छेड़े हैं मुझको सिपहिये बांके छमिये
उधारी देने लगे हैं, गली के बनिये-बनिये

I love this stanza as also its execution on screen. A curvaceous, clad minimally, playful, secure in her physical charm Billo Chamanbahar ( Bipasa ) is doing mujra in a thana to enthral an inebriated and uproariously revelling clutch of policemen, with each policeman leering at Billo and jostling for her touch. The thana becomes a real ‘ law and order ‘ meet as some dabangs too join the lasciviousness that passed for revelry.

The scene is incidentally a caustic comment on the pass we have reached to, where ‘ law and order ‘ bonhomie obtains in a thana under the aegis of a mujrawali! Yogi is out of his head to encourage Janmashtami in police stations. He should rather allow mujras in the stations in the interest of law and order and peace!

कोई तो कौड़ी तू भी लुटा दे, कोई तो कौड़ी
थोड़ी-थोड़ी शहद चटा दे, थोड़ी-थोड़ी

I will desist from interpreting it. Gulzar has gone rather deep, getting down to brass tacks!

रात भर छाना रे, रात भर छाना छाना रे
नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का

Extracted and refined the essence, the salt of love the whole night!

ऐसी फूँक लगी जालिम की, कि बांसुरी जैसी बाजी मैं
जो भी कहा उस चन्द्रभान ने, फट से हो गयी राजी मैं
कभी अखियों से पीना, कभी होठों से पीना
कभी अच्छा लगे मरना, कभी मुश्किल लगे जीना

कभी अच्छा लगे मरना, कभी मुश्किल लगे जीना
करवट-करवट प्यास लगी थी, करवट-करवट
बलम की आहट पास लगी थी, बलम कि आहट
डली भर डाला, डाला रे, नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का

These lines allude to the woman’s take on the act and quiet sequentially. Gulzar has missed out nothing – from foreplay to the intermediaries to the finality – yet the poetical dimension remains unfazed. Gulzar’s skill with words to just about veil a visual is incredible…. करवट-करवट प्यास लगी थी…. alludes to postural satiation …….. बलम की आहट पास लगी थी….. mercifully my love was with me ! …… डली भर डाला, डाला रे, नमक इस्क का …… I leave this to your conjecture/fantasy!

नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का


Written for Gulzar’s birthday on 18th August 2017

(Vijay Kumar was with The Ministry of Tourism, New Delhi, where he resides. He enjoys his children, dotes on his grandchildren, and loves Hindi film songs with meaningful lyrics)

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