Praised to the Skies

Last week, I was listening to a nazm rendered by Mehdi Hassan, Duniya kisi ke pyaar mein jannat se kum naheen, Ik dilruba hai dil mein jo hooron se kum naheen. I was hearing it for the umpteenth time, and marvelling at the extraordinary expression that Mehdi saab breathed into this song, set so well in raag Bhopali. It is a poem that from start to finish praises someone sky high (Waheed Murad praising Zeba in Pakistani film Jaag Uttha Insaan, 1966), and the poetry is wonderful. However, something in the words struck me as odd. One of the stanzas went thus:

Bhoole se muskurao to moti baras paden

Palken uttha ke dekho to kaliyaan bhi has paden

Khushbu tumhaari zulf ki phoolon se kum naheen

This was written by Dukhi Premnagri (real name Wahaj Mohd Khan). Now I am nobody to hold a candle to this writer, who had also penned the lyrics of a few other songs. Urdu poetry is not my forte, much less my profession. But I wonder why he wrote Bhoole se muskurao to moti baras paden. Wasn’t this an unexpected jab in the middle of what was otherwise a song of out-and-out romantic praise? It was like telling the lady she smiled beautifully, but oh she smiled only when she condescended to. Would he perhaps have praised her better by writing instead, say, Jab jab bhi muskurao to moti baras paden? The words Jab jab mean whenever, perhaps consistent with the poet’s thought here, and they don’t add up as a left-handed compliment, a remark that says something nice about a person but can be seen as an insult as well.

But if this was a case of missing the mot juste, a few songs of romantic praise have had writers offer over the top imageries. Consider Rajinder Krishan’s thoughts for Rajendra Kumar singing to Waheeda Rehman in Dharti (1970): Khuda bhi aasmaan se jab zameen par dekhta hoga, Mere mehboob ko kisne banaaya sochta hoga. The creator awed by his own creation! And Hasrat Jaipuri went further in Shammi Kapoor’s lofty praise for Sadhana in Rajkumar (1964):

Is rang badalti duniya mein insaan ki neeyat theek naheen…

Nikla na karo tum saj-dhaj kar, imaan ki neeyat theek naheen…

Now look at this:

Main kaise khuda-hafiz keh doon mujhko to kisi ka yaqeen naheen

Chhup jao hamaari aankhon mein Bhagwaan ki neeyat theek naheen…

Haaye Rabba!

Incidentally, we are talking about romantic praise here, and not any other kind. These other kinds exist too. For example, it’s a mother being praised high in Usko naheen dekha humne kabhi par iski zaroorat kya hogi, Aye maa teri surat se alag Bhagwan ki surat kya hogi (Majrooh in Dadi Maa, 1966). The Almighty sits in the skies in all religions, and they all sing praises to Him. Think of Parwardigar-e-aalam, tera hi hai sahaara…har iltija ne teri rehmat ko hai ubhaara (Akhtar Romani/Hatimtai, 1956). Songs of cosmic wonder also praise Him so often, for instance in Ye kaun chitrakaar hai (Bharat Vyas/Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti, 1967).

And while we are looking at romantic flattery, this is not about the normal kind. For example, we are not talking about praise that is found in songs like Chitra Singh’s Tu naheen to zindagi mein aur kya reh jaayega (Iftikhar Imam Siddiqui/Arth, 1983). Our story engages with very high praise. The kind that, were we the recipients, would probably make us blush. The sort of compliments that many of us would consider over the top.

Who doesn’t like flattery?

Everyone loves flattery, but such kind of eulogy can be dangerous, in that it can divorce the receiver from his connection with reality. Do think of the poetry offered by SH Bihari in Ek Musafir Ek Hasina (1962). Says Joy to Sadhana: Bahut shukriya badi meherbaani meri zindagi mein huzoor aap aaye, Qadam choom loon yaa, ke aankhen bichha doon, Karoon kya ye meri samajh mein na aaye. Aware of the perils here, she responds thus: Mujhe dar hai mujh mein ghuroor aa na jaaye, lagoon jhoomne main suroor aa na jaaye, Kaheen dil na mera ye taareef sun kar tumhaara bane aur mujhe bhool jaaye. But of course that’s what he wants, to hypnotize her!

Joy was in fact featured in many songs of praise. We saw Asha Parekh take him skywards through Majrooh’s visual imagination in Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon (1963): Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein tasweer hai ik anjaane ki, Khud dhoond rahi hai shamma jise, kya baat hai us parwaane ki! Easy catch, he didn’t have to worry about pitching at all, the lady was already a believer!

The next year he was on Shakeel’s page and turning it on for Saira Banu in Door Ki Awaaz (1964): Husn se chaand bhi sharmaaya hai, teri surat ne ghazab dhaaya hai…Aadmi kya hai farishton ke behek jaayen qadam. O my, my! The visuals tell us Joy was succeeding here. They came together in the same year again, in Aao Pyaar Karen (1964), where we saw him praise her with Rajinder Krishan’s poetry: Jahaan tu hai wahaan phir chaandni ko kaun poochhega (with its Kisi ko muskuraake khubsurat maut na dena). Saira and Joy paired again in Saaz Aur Awaaz in 1966, and here’s how he flattered her, with help from Khumar Barabankvi: Tum ishq ki mehfil ho, tum husn ka jalwa ho, Ya saaz-e-muhabbat par chheda hua naghma ho. Her hypnotized response? Ik baar phir kaho zara. Clearly, she was gone.

n an attempt to identify the top songs of praise in Hindi cinema down the decades, earlier this week we did a poll among strong music lovers, both online and not so. They had to try keep lyrics more than other elements at the center of songs. 50 people participated in the survey which let everyone add their own titles, and we all elected our multiple choices. Totally 90 songs were on the table. The ages of these strong music aficionados ranged between 35 and 77 years. Here is our popularity rating of the top 30 songs of high praise, beginning with the most popular:

  • Aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai (Anjaan/Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi, 1966)
  • Ye chaand sa roshan chehra (SH Bihari/Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964)
  • Aankhon se jo utri hai dil mein (Majrooh/Phir Wohi Dil Laaya Hoon, 1963)
  • Ab kya misaal doon main (Majrooh/Aarti, 1963)
  • Chaudhvin ka chaand ho (Shakeel/Chaudhvin Ka Chand, 1960)
  • Jeevan se bhari teri aankhen (Indeewar/Safar, 1970)
  • Jo baat tujh mein hai (Sahir/Taj Mahal, 1963)
  • Roshan tumhi se duniya (Indeewar/Parasmani, 1963)
  • Tumhi mere mandir tumhin meri pooja (Rajinder Krishan/Khandaan, 1965)
  • Chandan sa badan (Mukesh) (Indeewar/Saraswatichandra, 1968)
  • Bahut shukriya (SH Bihari/Ek Musafir Ek Haseena, 1962)
  • Tumko dekha to ye khayaal aaya (Javed Akhtar/Saath Saath, 1981)
  • Tere husn ki kya taareef karoon (Shakeel/Leader, 1964)
  • Tum jo mil gaye ho (Kaifi Azmi/Haste Zakhm, 1973)
  • Teri pyaari pyaari surat ko (Hasrat/Sasural, 1961)
  • Jaan e bahaar husn tera (Shakeel/Pyaar Kiya To Darna Kya, 1963)
  • Chaand aahen bharega (Anand Bakshi/Phool Bane Angaare, 1963)
  • Deewaana hua baadal (SH Bihari/Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964)
  • Ye mera prempatra padh kar (Hasrat/Sangam, 1964)
  • Tum gagan ke chandrama (Bharat Vyas/Sati Savitri, 1964)
  • Kitni haseen ho tum (Qamar Jalalabadi/Ye Dil Kisko Doon, 1963)
  • Do naina matwaare (Pt Bhushan/My Sister, 1944)
  • Teri aankhon ke siwa (Rafi) (Majrooh/Chirag, 1969)
  • Ye aankhen uff yumma (Hasrat/Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai, 1961)
  • Mere jeevan mein kiran ban ke (Pradeep/Talaaq, 1958)
  • Chehre pe khushi chha jaati hai (Sahir/Waqt, 1965)
  • Paon chhoo lene do (Sahir/Taj Mahal, 1963)
  • Hontthon pe hasi…kya baat hai is jaadugar ki (SH Bihari/Sawan Ki Ghata, 1966)
  • Kaisa jaadu balam tune daara (Majrooh/12 O’Clock, 1958)
  • Chaand sa mukhda kyoon sharmaaya (Shailendra/Insaan Jaag Uttha, 1959)

It’s interesting that not all songs were of one person praising another. In some of these, both the actors were singing paeans to each other, in a Mutual Admiration Society kind of way. Meantime, the results threw up a couple of interesting things: First, our top three songs were composed by OP Nayyar. Could this mean Nayyar loved the idea so much, he was himself telling filmmakers what songs he preferred? Second, much of the praise is offered by men. Wonder how that can be curated in cultural terms.

These were the best songs of praise according to our study, which, even if not executed in the most scientific way, must surely be at least a fair barometer of music buffs’ choices. Perhaps you will know some more songs. Maybe you can even write good praise. Why, if you are wealthy and keen, you may even hire a professional research agency to find us the best results. I for one am surprised that Ishaaron ishaaron mein dil lene waale (SH Bihari/Kashmir Ki Kali, 1964), while in the list, didn’t find its way into the top 30 songs of high praise. Even with lines like these: “Maana ke jaan-e-jahaan laakhon mein tum ek ho, hamaari nigaahon ki bhi kuchh to magar daad do, Bahaaron ko bhi naaz jis phool par tha, wohi phool humne chuna gulsitaan se”

Uff yumma!


Originally published in DNA Jaipur on 01 April 2018, but moderately changed and significantly enlarged to accommodate late results of the poll, even before this publishing.

17 thoughts on “Praised to the Skies

  1. I have taken a while to board the tareef ki bus. I agree with all the words penned here in response to your praise-worthy article on praise for the praise-worthy songs of HFM. It is fascinating how each week you think of an unusual topic and then bring forward the links to HFM. And it’s been over 4 or 5 years that you have been doing so. Wow! Around 250 articles? Holy Moses – even he came up with two tablets with 10 commandments in 40 days.

    A fascinating read, refreshing recall of connected songs. As always a joy forever. Talking of joy, the song that was attributed to Joy… The song was ‘Jahan tu hai, wahan phir ‘chandani’ (not aadmi) ko koun poochhega.

    Looking forward to catching up on all the reading that I have been unable to sit and concentrate on. It’s always a pleasure to read and wonder what praise to shower in you!

  2. Awesome essay! When I first saw the title, the first line that came to my mind was “gardan hai ik jhuki hui daali gulab ki” 🙂 Can there be a better way to describe grace?

    Fascinating read the entire journey of it. The way you have drawn out the very best with a poll is amazing! And Joy Mukherjee!!! Never thought of him! Oh well…. now I have to look at him in a new light. Praising and being praised… lucky man!

    The most dashing hero to woo a girl to me was always Dev Anand. But now when I think of wooing with praise – the others are far ahead. “Its only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away” – the MLTR song sits pat on for Hindi film songs.

    Fantastic and most enjoyable essay – and loved the bunch of songs you have added… Pado, suno, gungunao! 🙂

    1. Gardan hai ik jhuki hui daali gulaab ki…yes, nice 🙂 And Rafi again in Suraahidaar gardan…but I didn’t understand the MLTR song Antara 🙁

  3. Last week it was vanity, this week it’s praise. And what praise, too! Haaye Rabba! and Uff Yumma! and Oh boy! all rolled into one! The essay, like all your essays, makes me think. As did the comments of Vijay Kumar ji and Subramaniam Vishwanathan ji. Very illuminating, indeed. My naman to all you thinkers and writers. _()_
    Two observations/reactions:
    1. Your observation that most of these songs of praise are rendered by men – I think the women who praised weren’t considered ‘demure’ enough to be main leads. The songs of praise were given to ‘side’ heroines or vamps or kottha girls – whom no one believed, I guess. That’s interesting in the socio-cultural light. I wonder if this is still the case – since most of the directors and producers, lyrics writers and music composers were men, is it that men generally don’t like women to make the ‘moves’? That they don’t trust the girls who are bold enough to praise the men? Sochne waali baat hai na?
    2. In a much lighter vein – I’m wondering why you chose this particular topic to be published on April Fool’s Day 🙂 – hehehe…. is it your way of saying all this praise-business is making a fool of the women? And not to be taken seriously? 🙂
    Jokes apart, aap ki lekhni par jo haseen noor hai aaj-kal, vo hamesha barqarar rahey.
    Many thanks for opening windows and doorways of thought and observation that one didn’t even know existed!
    Stay blessed.

    1. In a way you must be right Monica, because how much ever one tries to be objective, personal culture and experiences do come into the equation. So if most writers were men, and are men, then of course your point makes a lot of sense 🙂 About April Fool’s Day, how I wish I could find relevance in songs! Each year I try and fail 🙂 So, no…and humbled by your approval, humbled…but should I share a secret with you now? Each week I sit up and think of the handful of thinking people, wonderful writers too, who have me under the scanner, Monica included. And I go, “I must open new windows and doorways of thought” Kidding Monica, but grateful 🙂

  4. Haaye Rabba! Manek, your chosen topic and attention to detail, your thought process and clear articulation of the same – all of it continues to amaze me! How deeply you have delved into the melodious world of praise and flattery and come up with a marvelous article and noteworthy list of songs; the top three OP numbers are totally deserving of their place in the sun! And so many of my all-time-favorites figure here, no surprises there ? (Perhaps the only one I have reservations about is…tumhi mere mandir…the idea of deifying a man just doesn’t appeal, humanize and love him na, he’ll only be relieved!)
    Love the deconstruct of ‘dangerous eulogy’ in Bahut shukriya badi meherbaani, and the songs that follow – ek dum captivating!
    Thank you for lighting up our Sundays the way you do.
    More power to your pen Sir and Kudos to you! ?

    1. Wow Madhur, coming from you 🙂 _()_

      I know about Tumhi mere mandir, but some people still well of such lyrics 🙂


  5. This study is an eye opener, for it incidentally leads to an important finding. Of the 30 songs listed, only three belong to the golden fifties, one of forties and three are from seventies and eighties. The remaining twenty three are from sixties. I think that the views will converge that the hfm in fifties was superior. Yet 23 songs from sixties ! Was there any paradigm shift in music making / lyrics writing ? Did the film contents change – moving, as far as love is concerned, from platonic to carnal ? Or was it because the sixties were more demonstrative in love in a physical sense, spearheaded by Shammi, which was also aided and occasioned by the fact that DK, Raj and Dev – the giants of fifties, who excelled in love implied ( ye hawa ye chandani teri ek ada pe nissar hai…. Dam bhar jo…. Ye raat ye chandani…. type ) – were relatively on decline as romantic heroes ? Or perhaps the society was opening up and seeking options to love being different from sufferance or self restraint ? Perhaps, it was a combination of many factors. Seventies and eighties one can understand. With the advent of angry young man, the love itself was de-emphasized – was no longer an end unto itself ! With the decline of ‘anger ‘ in nineties, the love resurfaced.

    Thank you Manek for this article, so full of serious research and substance.

    1. What an amazing observation Vijay, you humble me again! Just a small thing first, 1960 is also the 1950s, in many people’s view, and I also think so, therefore Chaudhvin is in the ’50s. That said, how can I even make any value addition to your thoughts? No way! Just wanted to say that for me as well, it was the 1950s, for the movies but especially for the music. But people have voted, and the results are in front of us 🙂

  6. Manekbhai,

    You have attained a distinct class of a thinker on music and song. 🙂 In the process you have touched upon various areas, deciphering a lysricist’s mind, a composer’s ability to showcase his mind and pave the way for others to follow. 🙂

    To my mind Prasoon Joshi is a modern day poet, with an edge to gauge and capture the young mind of today, without losing his foothold on the yesteryear magic – however, the Govt, found it befitting to throw the mantle of Administering the National Film Censor Board, I was pleasantly surprised. Not that he does not fit the job – now – why do i mention Prasoon here in your personal DNA article. ?

    I am pretty sure, If one man – the great statesman ( former Deputy Prime Minister ) Shri.Lal Krishna Advani Ji was the Prime Minister today, he would have definitely ensure that – by sheer merit – you would have been serving the Nation in some important ” position ” concerning film Industry.

    I may look burdensome now, but, when such a personality approaches you with a proposal, you would not know how to say – NO. Instead you will see light in his vision.

    Manekbhai mere dil mein joh aayaa voh ney bayaan kiyaa ” is smein mera kyaa kasoor …….. ” ha ha ha – 🙂

    Stay Blessed Bhau – You can see clearly – how enthusiastic I feel having been brought into RTS by you. 🙂 Mera asthithva, soch aur chaal chalan bhee badal gayaa hai – sangeeth kee duniyaa ke sangath mein. Yeh sab aap kee badaulath huee hai. 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Pranaam Gurujee. 🙂

    1. RNK, you humble me with words I cannot fit into! I am enjoying my journey curating the music of yesteryear, and if such a responsibility comes up, I will try think of it seriously too…grateful that you think me worthy _()_

      Thanks for being there too 🙂

  7. Beautifully explained. Sometimes I wonder what the actors would have said to each other without the help of lyricists. Excellent write. ..

    1. Dr saab, the eyes have a language of their own…and the lyricists have got there too. Agar honthon pe pehre hon to aankhon ko zubaan kar den…from Tamannaon ko khilne den…

  8. An enticing article on flattering lyrics! OP Nayyar has for long been an obsession with me and I am delighted to find his songs topping the list! And your study of the subject, it deserves a subahnalla haaye, haseen article haaye, or a taareef karoon kya aapki!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *