Naushad-C Ramchandra duel for Amirbai Karnataki

March 15, 2015

A tribute on the 50th death anniversary of Amirbai Karnataki (c.1906 – 3 March 1965)

(As her death anniversary was too close to my scheduled post on Holi songs, I am posting my tribute to Amirbai Karnataki, with her songs by Naushad and C Ramchandra, with some lag.)

Amirbai KarnatakiWhich is the most popular Amirbai Karnataki song which even the new generation is aware of? Gore gore baanke chore kabhi meri gali aya karo (her duet with Lata Mangehskar) is a perennial favourite. If one is asked to name another song, the most likely answer would be O janewale baalamawa laut ke aa laut ke aa (her duet with Shyam Kumar). One by C Ramchandra, and the other by Naushad. In the vintage era, ‘A’ stood for Amirbai Karnataki. And the Great Mughal Naushad and the Mighty Maratha C Ramchandra were the two Ace music directors whose battle royal continued over Amirbai Karnataki too.

Naushad debuted as independent music director in 1940 with Prem Nagar (1940). He first used Amirbai, a year later, in Mala (1941). Thereafter, she comes in Station Master (1942), followed by Geet, Rattan (1944) with the iconic O jaanewale baalamwa and a solo, Mil ke bichhad gayi ankhiyan. She has three solos and a duet (with Amar) in Keemat (1946). Naushad uses her in Elaan (1947) as the lead singer with five songs. Her last appearance for him seems to be in Chandni Raat (1949) with a duet. About fifteen songs in seven films in a span of eight years – not a large number, but Naushad was never about quantity. Some of the songs of this combination are of incredible beauty.

C Ramchandra-Amirbai combination follows an uncannily parallel path. He made his debut as independent music director in Hindi films with Sukhi Jeevan (1942). Amirbai makes her first appearance, a year later, in Bhaktaraj (1943). Thereafter, she has songs in Samrat Chandragupta, Saawan (1945); Leela, Shenai (1947); Samadhi (1950); and Sagaai (1951). Eight films and about fifteen songs in a span of eight years – same as Naushad’s. Not a great number either, but matching him song for song as we shall see.

(Note: ‘Appearance’ refers to ‘singing’ here. Amirbai Karnataki might have acted in some of the films mentioned above, but that is beside the point for this post.)

Amirbai was born in a poor weaver family in the village Bilagi of Bijapur district in Karnataka in circa 1906, one among six sisters and a brother. She was fond of music from childhood. She was noticed by HMV who recorded some songs with her and she became famous as Baby Amirjan for her classical and semi-classical songs, qawwalis, naats, ghazals and thumris. After completing her matriculation she came over to Bombay. Her sister Gauharbai (different from the legendary Gauhar Jan of Calcutta) was a leading lady in films. She helped Amirbai get a bit singing role in the film Vishnu Bhakti (1934). Her first few years in films were not very successful, but in the 40s, with Kismat by Anil Biswas, Rattan by Naushad, Bharthari and Sindoor by Khemchand Prakash, and Shehnai by C Ramchandra, she earned big fame and became a leading playback singer. It is said that her rendering of Vaishnav jan to tene kahiye was immensely liked by Gandhiji. Gradually she reduced acting roles and concentrated generally on playback singing. She sang about 350 songs in 135 films, singing for most of the top heroines of the era. She married one Himalaywala, an actor who played the role of villains. This was a troubled marriage, and she later married Badri Kaanchwala, the editor of Paras.

Naushad was quite business-like in jettisoning his singers and moving on to new singers. Arrival of Lata Mangeshkar spelt Amirbai’s decline, as also of other great singers of the era. CR too discovered Lata Mangeshkar with whom he is supposed to have more than a professional relationship. From 1950 onwards, Amirbai’s singing reduced drastically, though she appeared in supporting roles in a number of films. Her voice was last heard in a pre-recorded thumri in Baankelal (1972). She passed away on March 3, 1965 after a paralytic attack.

If we look at Amirbiai Karnataki’s singing career in overall perspective, Anil Biswas first catapulted her to great fame with Kismet (1943); she sang the maximum number of her songs for Gyan Dutt and maximum number of his songs were sung by her; and Naushad and C Ramchandra arguably composed the most famous songs for her. But if I have to choose one composer for her songs, it would be the Master of Masters Khemchand Prakash, but that’s for another time.  We are celebrating 2015 as the Year of Naushad, and also remembering C Ramchandra in tandem.  Here is my tribute to the Ace singer with her songs by the two Ace music directors.

1.  O pretam pyare chhod chali ghar baar tujhse door tujhse door from Leela (1947), lyrics Gopal Singh ‘Nepali’, music C Ramchandra

Every music lover cherishes the memory of songs that moved him deeply on the very first listening and remained indelibly imprinted forever. O preetam pyare is one such song for me. For reasons I can’t explain in words, something happened to me when I first heard this song in the radio era, and its tune and words got etched in my heart. One reason for its charm was its rarity compared to her more famous songs, say from Kismet. I would not have heard it more than a couple of times in the radio era. Then the times changed, and this song along with so many became a part of one’s fond memories and yearning, until the Internet era arrived. Therefore, the readers can imagine when I heard this songs again after decades (probably on Atul’s site), it was a like an emotional reunion with a long lost love. The beautiful lyrics by ‘Nepali’, who was among the few from Hindi literature who wrote film lyrics, depict the pain of a woman who takes the slander on herself when the relationship goes awry; she is willing to go far to protect the honour of her lover, but she has nothing but the best wishes and love for him.

ओ प्रीतम प्यारे छोड़ चली घर बार तुझसे दूर तुझसे दूर
भर आये नैना, नैन नैन का प्यार जब से दूर जब से दूर

क्यूं आफत सर पे मोल ले तू मेरे वास्ते
तू अपने महल में राज कर मैं अपने रास्ते
तुझको सुख हो तो मुझको पिया परदेस भी मंज़ूर है मंज़ूर

करती थी तुमको प्यार मैं बदनामी ले चली
चोरी चोरी का खेल था जुर्माना दे चली
एक दिल था मेरा वो भी ठोकरें खा के चकनाचूर चकनाचूर

फागुन में होली खेलना सावन में झूलना
जब जब चमकेगा चाँद तू मुझको ना भूलना
मेरे टूटे मन में अब भी तुम्हारा प्यार है भरपूर है भरपूर

ओ प्रीतम प्यारे छोड़ चली घर बार तुझसे दूर तुझसे दूर


2.  Aayi azal ae zindagi from Elaan (1947), lyrics Zia Sarhadi, music Naushad

If CR is there, how can Naushad be far behind, and vice versa. In the same year, the Great Mughal comes up with one of the best songs for Amirbai, and his best for her, according to me. It is a broken-heart song of despair and utter hopelessness, as circumstances force Munawwar Sultana to forsake her lover Surendra, and get into a disastrous marriage. Zia Sarhadi was an eminent screenplay writer, director and lyricist of the 40s and 50s. While Preetam pyare was in simple colloquial Hindi, Zia Sarhadi uses difficult Urdu words. I have attempted its English translation, which I feel can be vastly improved, especially the last stanza.

आई अज़ल ऐ ज़िंदगी ग़म का ज़माना चल गया
अब क्या गिरेंगी बिजलियां जब आशियां ही जल गया
ग़म का ज़माना चल गया…

आओ शब-ए-ग़म आये जा सारे जहां पर छाये जा
अब तू ही तू रह जायेगी अब कल ना हरगिज़ आयेगी
वो दिन जो दुश्मन था तेरा वो ज़िंदगी का दिन मेरा
वो दिन हमेशा के लिये हां दिन वो ही दिन ढल गया
ग़म का ज़माना चल गया…

इस उम्र का अव्वल फना इस उम्र का आखिर फना
इक झूठ का दरबार है बातिन फना ज़ाहिर फना
ये ज़िंदगी कुछ भी नहीं ये ज़िंदगी कुछ भी नहीं
नाटक का झूठा खेल है जब तक चला था चल गया
ग़म का ज़माना चल गया…

My English translation

The life was born and thence began the days of gloom
Now what more could the lightning do when my nest is already burnt

Come, O the Night of Gloom! Come and spread your darkness on the whole world
Now will remain only you, and never will tomorrow come
That day that was your enemy, that was the day of my life
That day alas has set forever
And the days of gloom began…

With life starts misery, and the end of this life is death
It is a bundle of lies, there is destruction underneath, and destruction on the surface
This life is nothing, indeed this life is nothing
But a pantomime of false pretences, it lasted as long it could last
And the days of gloom began…


That was the best of C Ramchandra pitted against the best of Naushad. I am a confused lover between the two, in the mould of कोई दिल में है और कोई है नज़र में, मुहब्बत के सपने मैं किसपे लुटाऊं. I am leaving it to the rational readers to make a choice. Let us now see how their first songs for Amirbai compare.

3.  Kaahe barse jaye badariya from Mala (1941), lyrics DN Madhok, music Naushad

The first Naushad song for Amirbai written by his friend and benefactor, DN Madhok, is in the style of a traditional composition, set to a slow-paced melody.


4.  Bahaar ayi re koel kook uthi from Bhaktraj (1943), lyrics DN Madhok, music C Ramchandra

CR’s first song too for Amirbai is written by DN Madhok. It has similar elements of nature, but CR has set it to a faster tune. This difference in their style would generally continue in their songs.


Now let us compare some more of their early songs.

5.  Kabhi na himmat har bande from Station Master (1942), lyrics Pt. Indra, music Naushad

Naushad’s next song is picturised on Amirbai herself, as she sings this soothing song of encouragement when you see the protagonists in a hospital (following a train accident).


6.  Har dil mein mohabbat hai mera dil hai akela from Samrat Chandragupta (1945), lyrics Pt. Madhur, music C Ramchandra

A nice song of loneliness. The jury is still out between Naushad and CR.


7.  Phoonk do Bhagwan aa ke apna jahan from Keemat (1946), lyrics Majrooh Sutapuri, music Naushad

Amirbai Karnataki earned renown for singing bhajans. This one is with a difference; here the angry devotee is remonstrating with her God, apparently for his unjust ways. I heard it in the Internet era, but it is an excellent song.


8.  Main jaanti hun tum na aaoge kabhi piya from Leela (1947), lyrics Gopal Singh Nepali, music C Ramchandra

I was about to give my vote to Naushad when I came across this poignant romantic song of separation. The lady would light the lamp for her lover even though she knows he may not come at all. An effective reply to Naushad.


Now let us compare a pair of their less-heard duets.

9.  Sagar mein uthi do maujein (duet with Amar) from Keemat (1946), lyrics Majrooh Sultanpuri, music Naushad

What a wonderful song! Great poetry by Majrooh Sultanpuri: सागर में उठी दो मौजें, मौजों पर चली नैया / दो खोए हुए दिल बैठे मतवाला है नाव खेवैया.  So, not only the two lovers are lost, the boatman too is intoxicated. The two waves of the sea are also like lovers. In this romantic environment the moon comes out of the clouds and the stars sing a beautiful song. And the Great Mughal creates a timeless melody, so what if we have not heard it before the Internet Era.


10.  O janewale kuchh kahta ja (duet with GM Durrani) from Samrat Chandragupta (1945), lyrics Pt ‘Madhur’, music C Ramchandra

Before you declare Naushad as the runaway winner, listen to CR’s this beautiful Punjabi folk (Heer ?) style composition. He would do it in a surer way a year later in Rafi’s voice: Kah ke bhi na aye tum (Safar).  Anil Biswas would use it a decade later for Rafi in Heer (Le ja uski duayein ho jo tera ho na saka) and OP Nayyar in Naya Daur (Dil de ke daga denge wo).


Both Naushad and C Ramchandra are too good, and I have given up keeping scores. Therefore, let us compare their landmark Amirbai films: Elaan and Shehnai, both in 1947. I have already presented a solo by Naushad, which I consider his best for Amirbai. Here are a couple of more.

11.  Rote huye aaye hain rote huye jayenge from Elaan (1947), lyrics Zia Sarhadi, music Naushad

This song of despondency perfectly matches with the theme of the film and is similar to Aayi azal ae zindagi. A quintessential Amirbai and a great song by any yardstick.


12.  Aaine mein ek chaand si surat nazar aayi (duet with Surendra) from Elaan (1947), lyrics Zia Sarhadi, music Naushad

Munawwar Sultana and Surendra did have time to romance in the beginning. Being a Muslim social, they can only see each other through a sheer curtain or a mirror. You have to ignore Surendra’s funny cap, Naushad creates a very good happy duet.


If you thought it would be difficult to match these songs, you have not reckoned with C Ramchandra. Shehnai was an out and out comedy. Therefore, the songs have a different mood, but being lighter does not make them any lesser. However, CR gets an opportunity to create a somewhat sad song (as a stage performance?) so that you have a same-to-same comparison with Naushad. Here is an iconic Amirbai solo.

13.  Maar katari mar jana ye ankhiyan kisi se milana na from Shehnai (1947), lyrics PL Santoshi, music C Ramchandra


But Naushad had a happy duet too in Elaan. So, you have two by CR in Shehnai. He could himself sing and turn it into gold. He sang Aao aao mohabbat ki kha lein qasam with Amirbai. But let me present this Happy-Sad duet with Shamshad Begum which belongs to the stratosphere.

14.  Hamare angana ho hamare angana aaj baaje baaje shehnai (with Shamshad Begum) from Shehnai (1947), lyrics PL Santoshi, music C Ramchandra


I should end with how they ended.

15.  Sainyan se bichhad gayi haye more Ram by Amribai Karnataki and Saadat Khan from Chandni Raat (1949), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Naushad

This film had Shamshad Begum as the lead singer with six songs. Amirbai Karnataki only had a duet, with Saadat Khan. Very little is known about Saadat Khan except that he sang a few songs and composed music in some films. But this folk-based lovely dance-song (in a mela?) is up there with O janewale baalamwa. Naushad ends his innings with Amirbai in a terrific manner.


In comparison, CR’s last with Amirbai in Sagaai (1951), a duet with Lata Mangeshkar , O babu, kaise dil karun kaabu, is quite tepid. But if you take a year earlier, you have this song which achieved stupendous popularity, but it is based on a western tune. So, I end this post with the song I mentioned in my first sentence.

16.  Gore gore baanke chhore kabhi meri gali aya karo by Amirbai Karnataki and Lata Mangeshkar from Samadhi (1950), lyrics Rajendra Krishna, music C Ramchandra


It has been Ace for Ace, shot for shot, and winner for winner. In the heat of the duel it may be difficult to make a judgment. So, you can have replays at your leisure to just enjoy the great game of Naushad and C Ramchandra with Amirbai Karnataki.


1.  Vidur Sury has written an exhaustive and excellent article on Amirbai Karnataki.

2.  There is a great deal of contradiction in some details about her life between different sources. For example, some sources give her date of birth in February 1912. Some sites mention that she was the eldest among her siblings, while some others state that she was second, after Gauharbai.  The profile given in this post is based on the reconciliation of discrepancies between different sources.

3.  Who is Amar in song #9? Arunji writes this about  him on Atul’s blog: The real name of Amar was Nasir. He was from Punjab. He was born in 1920. After doing bit roles in some films, he got a major break in film Sanyasi-45, in which he sang 5 duets and 1 solo. His solo song Tooti huyi kashti ka baney kaun sahaara became very popular. In 1946, he was hero of the film Bindiya,  Ragini (who later migrated to Pakistan) was his heroine, and MD was Kamal Dasgupta, who gave him 3 songs. Then he was hero of Suraiya in Natak-47.  He sang one duet with her and two solos. Later, he did films like Maang, Lalaji, Vijay, Shukriya, Keemat etc. After 1950 he was doing character roles till 1970. He died in 1980.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 mumbaikar8 March 15, 2015 at 10:13 pm

I have no problem in making my choice for Amirbaibai
It is C Ramchandra, because the song I associate Amirbai is O roothe hue bhagwan .
You have come up with good comparisons.
Most of the songs are new to me.
I still stand by my song and my MD.

2 mumbaikar8 March 15, 2015 at 10:15 pm

I am sorry I made a mistake about MD.Its KHemchand Prakash:)

3 AK March 15, 2015 at 10:34 pm

As I have mmentioned, for Amirbai my choice too is Khemchand Prakash. But here I was on Naushad-CR, and I have placed the decision before the readers.

4 Anu Warrier March 16, 2015 at 5:40 am

AK, why do we have to choose? 🙂 Isn’t it enough that we, the listeners, are charmed by both?

More seriously, though, I still wonder why we (general ‘we’) feel the need for competition or for a ‘winner’? When music (or any of the arts) is such a subjective experience that we each take away from it something of our own, how can we ever hope to reach a consensus? And if we do, who is to say that the majority, in that case, is right? This is a topic that I have ruminated over everytime I see a ‘who’s the greatest? Rafi vs. Kishore’ fight erupt over the Net, and it is something that boiled over this weekend, over a rather contentious debate about the contribution of someone to the Indian film industry.

Pardon me for digressing into a tangent on your post. 🙂 I shall go away and renew my acquaintance with the songs you listed, some of which, I’m pretty sure from their titles, are new to me.

Thank you also for filling me in on the details of Amirbai Karnataki’s life and the link to the article.

5 gaddeswarup March 16, 2015 at 7:07 am

Thanks for the post; many new to me. I grew up with some of Amirbai’s songs, even though I did not know her name at that time. My mother used to sing ‘Sawan ke badalo’ and ‘Ab Tere Siva Kaun Mere Krishna Kanhaiya ‘.

6 AK March 16, 2015 at 7:53 am

Entirely agree with you. But with friends one can be non-serious. But seriously, some combinations are tailor-made for comparison. Naushad-CR with Amirbai Karnataki is one such.

Rafi-Kishore Kumar fight on the net becomes not only heated, on some YT links it has become obscene, going into religion, community, and even anatomy of female members of the family of the person whose views you do not agree with. I think there is something wrong with people who get emotionally disturbed up when disagreeing. As bloggers, we all come across such creatures. Finally, there is self-selection, and the readership reaches the level of the blog.

Enough of theorising. Hope you enjoy the songs, and come back with your choice of the winner. 🙂

7 AK March 16, 2015 at 7:55 am

You are welcome. I am sure you are aware Saawan ke baadalo is sung by Zohrabai Ambalewali and Karan Dewan.

8 Arunkumar Deshmukh March 16, 2015 at 11:41 am

AK ji,

I agree with Anuradha ji. If you have to celebrate about Amirbai,go for her best,from all composers.By choosing only 2,is not the reader deprived of her good songs from other composers ? Of course,this is another way of thinking.
You have chosen the topic with some purpose,I know. However one song of Amirbai is my top favourite,but it is composed by Vasant Desai for film,”Parbat pe apna dera”-1944. Listen to it here-
Secondly,you have referred to singer Sadat Khan in song No 15. I had written to you in details about him on 7-9-2012,by E Mail,so I am not repeating it here. Suffice to say that he was not a totally unknown composer and had many songs and famous qawalis to his credit too.

Amirbai’s sister Gauharbai was generally known as Gauhar Karnataki,who had acted and sang in many films. She later ‘married’the famous Marathi stage actor/singer Balgandharva.
Your choice os songs here is really very good.

9 ASHOK M VAISHNAV March 16, 2015 at 2:08 pm

After a passage of a good half a century, the comparisons be carried out to re-live the magic and dig out nuances of the memories, which the great selfless internet users have made possible.

The comparison of Nuashad and C Ramchandra on different scales on SoY in this Naushad year will keep churning out more of memorable scores on livelier notes.
By that standard of bring up the great music to the present times, the present post stands the test so well.

10 ksbhatia March 16, 2015 at 8:28 pm

AK’ji; Thanks for this vintage collections . I must confess that at least two songs , like me , all other must have heard in their childhood i.e. ‘ Gore gore o banke chore ‘ and ‘ Hamare angana baaje shehnai ‘ , the rest are all gift of the Internet era , which I think you and you could place your hand on with such passion and dedication . While it will take me some time to put my mind and ears to rest of the songs , I am curious to know as to weather singer Ram kumar is the same actor who appeared regular in Dilip sahib movies as brother , colleague , father and some time as servant ? To quote some movies ….. Udan khatola, Leader, Ram aur shyam .

11 ksbhatia March 16, 2015 at 8:31 pm

…. correction ….read ‘ Amar kumar ‘against’ Ram kumar’ .

12 AK March 17, 2015 at 12:15 am

No quarrels with the basic premise that sometimes comparison between two great MDs or their songs is not very tenable. I have explained the context of Naushad-CR comparison with Amirbai Karnataki. I have also stated that her best is much beyond just Naushad-CR. I have mentioned Khemchand Prakash, Mumbaikar8 has also mentioned him. Her songs by Anil Biswas, especially in Kismet are well known.

I am impressed by your technique of archiving and retrieval. I could instantly locate your e-mail about Saadat Khan. It is worth reproducing here. This is what you have said about him:

“Recently I came across a wonderful qawwali- “Phir tumhari yaad aayi aye sanam” from film Rustam Sohrab-1963, music by Sajjad Hussain. This is sung by Rafi,Manna Dey and Saadat Khan.

Out of curiosity, I dug up some information and found that though he is not known to anybody, but he has composed some wonderful songs.
Here is some info about Saadat Khan-composer/singer for your benefit.

Sadat Khan was a singer in many films, equally obscure like him, and he was a composer too. In fact he gave superb music in
1.Bhatakati Maina-1947
2. Behram Daku-1959 and
3. Arab ka Sitara-1961.

All the above films were not known to many and quickly forgotten by those who knew, but the songs were quite good. He himself was a good quawwal and included quawwalis in his all films, participating in its singing too. In Behram Daku, there is a wonderful quawwali by Jaani Babu Qawwal “Yeh husnwale bhi kaisa kamaal karte hain” and a gazal by Mubarak begum “Tere sitam ki dastaan”. Even Talat Mahmood sang one ghazal, which was included in his “Rare Melodies” by H.M.V.
In Arab Ka Sitara also Shamshad, Ismail Azad Qawwal etc sang one wonderful qawwali. There were ghazals also.

He sang in many films like the above and Chandani Raat and Great Show of India. He used to be a part of group qawwalis in many films too.

There is one duet with Amirbai from Chandni Raat – Sainya se bichhad gayi ho more rama, which is very good.

There is another song from Greatest Show of India-58-Ab dekh liya hamne”.

13 AK March 17, 2015 at 12:21 am

Thanks for your appreciation.

KS Bhatiaji,
Thanks for your appreciation. Whether it is the same Amar, I think so. However, I would like to pass on this question to Arunji.

14 maheshmamadapur March 17, 2015 at 11:20 am

AK ji,

Many Thanks. Many of these songs especially CR-Amirbai are very new to me.
In spite of the phenomenal success of Amirbai in Kismet (1943), the tally of Anil Biswas and Amirbai songs is very less.

I know its asking for toooo much, but since Amirbai was not covered separately last year with Anil Biswas, it would have been very interesting to have him included in this post.

15 Arunkumar Deshmukh March 17, 2015 at 11:56 am

ksbhatia ji,

The name is AMAR ad not Amarkumar any time anywhere,to my knowledge.
Yes,he is the same actor/singer in films mentioned by you.

16 AK March 17, 2015 at 2:50 pm

You are welcome. CR-Naushad took off from where Anil Biswas left. Naushad-CR comparison makes some sense, though Arunji and some others do not agree with my approach. Fitting Anil Biswas would have been too contrived. In any case, as you have mentioned, in spite of the high Kismet visibility, Anil Biswas’s songs for Amirbai are very few compared to singers like his sister, Parul Ghosh, Sardar Akhtar, Bibbo, Maya Banerjee, Waheedan Bai etc.

17 Hans March 18, 2015 at 3:07 am

We can always rely on you to bring some novelty. Here you have brought about a one-on-one match between two sides with eight players. But one side has played all its best players while many of the other side’s best players are sitting outside. Even if we declare the match a draw between the sides fielded on the ground, the match would be won handsomely by the bench strength of the Naushad team. Because besides the well known double aces from Rattan, there are many sitting outside. For a sample see this:
Kanton se chhedte hain – Keemat

I am a silent admirer of Amirbai and this song is one of my favourites. She was a master in modulating the voice and in this song she sings in the style of Noorjehan and much better than Noorjehan herself would have sung. In fact, in my view this should have made the list replacing the other Keemat song which is also a gem. Have a look at its lyrics:

Kanton se chhedte hain mere jigar ke chhale,
Nirdhan se khelte hain oonche makan wale.
Duniya to jaa rahi hai apni baraat lekar,
Koi kuchal gaya hai ye kaun dekhe bhale.
Shayad ke bekason ka bhagwan bhi nahin hai,
Majboor hum hain jiska jee chahe wo sata le.

Besides the above songs the remaining songs of Naushad are all top class. He has 18 songs with her, even if we ignore the song ‘man dol raha hai’ (Keemat) which comes twice in the film as per HFGK.

For CR it is doubtful that film Ashirwad belongs to him, because the name of MD is given as Annasaheb and a person named Annasaheb Mainkar was an MD active from the 30s and was also active till 1943. There are 3-4 instances of later years where his name is given as Annasaheb but that is followed by C. Ramchandra in bracket. CR might have more songs with Amirbai, but unfortunately details are not available for his films of the early period.

We discussed the lyrics of ‘aayi ajal ae zindagi’ (no.2) on mail. In my view, the word ‘chal gaya’ is in fact ‘tal gaya, and mukhda should be ‘aayi ajal ae zindagi, gham ka zamana tal gaya’. The word ‘ajal’ in the mukhda is a Urdu word of Arabic origin and has two meanings. One is ‘maut’ and the other is ‘kaal’. The prefix ‘aayi’ would mean the poet is talking about ‘maut’, because for ‘kaal’ it should have been ‘aaya’. ‘Gham ka zamana tal gaya’ is in sync with the common saying that death brings end to all miseries. The situation in the film is that the heroine is put behind bars for alleged murder of her own husband – who was in fact killed by her mother-in-law when he was about to kill his own son and that mother-in-law became mentally unstable after killing her own son. She sings the song when she is allowed to meet her small son in another part of the jail to pacify him, thinking that it would be end of the life.

18 AK March 18, 2015 at 5:43 am

If we are not squeamish about declaring winners, I agree Naushad should win this duel.

‘Anna Saheb’? Let us put it to the Authority, Arunji. Even if we ignore it, Naushad-CR’s number of songs for Amirbai should be comparable.

You have interesting interpretation of आई अज़ल ऐ ज़िन्दगी. The only difficulty is that this does not go with the rest of the song, which is an expression of unending and relentless misery. Let us see what the other readers say.

19 Arunkumar Deshmukh March 18, 2015 at 11:35 am

AK ji,

Hans ji is right.
Aashirvaad-1943 was NOT a C Ramchandra film. The MD for this film was Annasaheb Mainkar,for whom this was the last film as a composer. Soon after this film,he fell ill and expired in early 1945.


20 AK March 18, 2015 at 12:03 pm

Thanks a lot. Now we have two Authorities!

21 Hans March 18, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Thanks for the info. I was not aware that he had died so early. Unfortunately, not many of his songs are available on youtube. I could locate only songs relating to film Ghar Ki Laaj – 1941. The following song sung by Kalyani is a sample of his quality.
Dil hai tumhari yaad ki duniya liye hue

Whom you are calling the second authority. There is only one authority in such matters and that is Arunji. If you are referring to me, then I am not the one to take the bait, because I just consider myself a novice in such matters. I agree I research on the basis of info available in HFGK or other sources available, but that does not make one an authority. Anybody can do that if he has time and inclination. But, Arunji’s expertise is not a matter of just a few days.

22 Hans March 18, 2015 at 10:18 pm

Regarding declaring winners, I would say gambling is bad but playing cards at home is not. We are already declaring SOY awards, which is also equivalent.

Regarding ‘aayi ajal’ I would not say that the song lyrics are perfectly on a common thread of the theme of the song mukhda. In fact in the other songs as well as the story situations show Zia Sarhadi and Mehboob Khan in poor light as I would explain in detail later. But, that does not mean that the first line of the mukhda means what you have translated. ‘Aayi azal ae zindagi gham ka zamana tal gaya’ cannot mean what you have said. And I am very sure that the word is ‘tal gaya’ and has been repeated a number of times in the song. You say ‘azal’ means ‘srishti (creation)’ in sanskrit. So far as I know ‘ajal – written with simple ja and pronounced like ajay’ and ‘azal – pronounced like ghazal and written with a dot below the ja’ are both Urdu words of the arabic origin. There is no word ‘ajal’ or ‘azal’ in Sanskrit. This I can say on the basis of a Rastriya Sanskrit Sansthan dictionary which I have.
The same basic theme of invoking death to end the miseries have been central to many songs, two of which I mention here.

1.Kahin se maut ko lao ke gham ki raat kate – Mera Qasoor Kya Hai – Rafi/Chitragupta/Rajendra Krishna
2.Maut kitni bhi sangdil ho magar zindagi se to meharban hogi – Aaj Aur Kal – Asha/Ravi/Sahir

Zia Sarhadi has used very heavy Urdu words in songs as well as dialogues in the film Elan. Perhaps he used Azal also in this quest of his. There are a couple of songs which are wierd in my view in relation to the situation of the film. There is a song which comes at the end of the film after the heroine is acquitted and wants to open a school. See its opening lyrics.
Insaan ki tahjeeb pe ahsan hamara,
Garja hai har ek mulk pe quran hamara.
Does the situation call for such an arrogant declaration. I would refrain from hinting at any ulterior motive, but arrogant it certainly is. The link for the song which I give has some scene also.

There is another song ‘allah nigehban tera’ which starts just after the child of the heroine stumbles while playing with her and there follows a very grave lecture on the philosophy of life. Can their be anything more weird.

23 Arunkumar Deshmukh March 19, 2015 at 11:15 am

AK ji and Hans ji,

All songs of Elan-47 are covered in Atul ji’s Blog.
Sudhir ji has presented this song,about which you two are discussing. Sudhir ji has discussed the entire Lyrics,word by word,giving meanings and the line’s translation in English.
I would recommend you both to go through this article.May be your discussion will come to a conclusion.
I have given the background of making this film by Mehboob khan,in the comments section,for information.

24 Hans March 19, 2015 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for the link. Sudhir Kapoor has also taken the word ‘chal’ instead of ‘tal’ which in my view drastically changes the meaning. If the word had been ‘chal’ I would not have much objection. But with ‘tal’ it would mean that with start of life or shrishti (whatever you take) the miseries ended. This is against the general philosophy that life and miseries go side by side. What I am saying is not anything different because the same philosophy which says life and miseries co-exist also says that miseries end with death.

AK and I had discussed this on mail. The purpose of posting this here was to elicit opinion of other knowledgeable readers. Kindly let us know your opinion also. Does it make a difference if ‘chal’ is replaced by ‘tal’.

25 mumbaikar8 March 19, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Arunji, Hans, Ak,
I agree with Hans that it is “ tal gaya” and not “chal gaya”.
Hence what Hans says that it is same as “ Qaid e hayat o band e gham asl mein donon ek hain” makes sense.

26 AK March 19, 2015 at 6:46 pm

Oh No, I didn’t say ‘azal’ is a Sanskrit word, I couldn’t have done that! What I meant was that ‘azal’ has the same sense as the Sanskrit word सृष्टि. Now the debate boils down to the two words – whether it is ‘azal’ or ‘ajal’, and whether it is ‘चल’ or ‘टल’. Sudhirji is with me on these two words, and, accordingly, he has taken the same meaning as I have. HFGK agrees 50% with you (with you on ‘tal’, but with me on ‘azal’, which compounds matters). Now we need the Fourth Umpire. I am referring it to some of my friends who, I believe, should know good Urdu. But supposing you are right on both the words, would you like to translate the whole verse?

Dil hai tumhari yaad ki duniya liye huye – wonderful discovery! I am sure you realise you have made a great connection. The same tune was used by Khemchand Prakash in Pahle jo mohabbat se inkaar kiya hota for Khursheed in Pardesi the same year, and by Anil Biswas in Rahne laga hai dil mein andhera tere bagair for Begum Akhtar in Roti (1942). Of course, all the three derive their tune from the mother song, Begum Akhtar’s iconic ghazal Deewana banana hai to, said to composed by herself much earlier. On traditional lyrics, it was stated that the lyricists used only the mukhadaa, and wrote different antaraas. But how do we attribute the composition of these songs, which are almost note by note copy of some earlier song.

While I was wonderstruck at the discovery of the fourth link (there could be some more), I was amazed to find that Sudhirji has posted Raja jani na maaro nainwa ke teer re by an unknown female singer from a 1934 film Watan Parast, composed by Harishchandra Bali. SD Burman’s Raja jani laga mohe nainwa ke baan re by Shamshad Begum in Laal Kunwar (1952) is almost a note by note copy of this song. SD Burman’s song has been discussed prominently on SoY, but we were not aware of its lineage. He could not have hit upon the identical tune and the first line accidentally. Now we come to the beautiful part. HFGK’s song index shows many songs with these words, and you know what – one of these is from Shaan-e-Hind (1936), composed by Anna Saheb Mainkar, whom we have been discussing in comments here.

You have seen my conversation with Hans on ‘Aayi azal ae zindagi gham ka fasana chal gaya. Hans is very sure on the two critical words, which I and Sudhirji heard differently, and accordingly translated differently which has caused this debate. Would you like to throw light on it independently, without being influenced by us?

27 Arunkumar Deshmukh March 19, 2015 at 7:49 pm

AK ji and Hans ji,

I would have loved to jump into the discussion with my interpretation,but I am not an expert in these matters and sincerely feel that I do not qualify to comment. I know my limitations. I hope you will excuse me.

28 N Venkataraman March 26, 2015 at 10:08 pm

A nice write-up on Amirbai Karnataki and an apt tribute too. The comparison of the songs that Naushad and C Ramchandra composed for her was interesting and the build-up was quite engrossing. The vintage songs were as charming as ever. Both the composers were good in their own way. Well, if I am asked to choose, I would go for Naushad, only on the basis of the song from Elaan alone. But CR gave a good run for the money.

I have listened to song a dozen times or more for the past one month or so and yet I am not tired of listening to it. Both the lyrics and composition were absorbing. The discussion, on the interpretation of this song Aayi azal ae zindagi, with Hans ji was equally fascinating. I am tempted in getting into the discussion. I am from south with very, very limited understanding of the Urdu language. But at time I do intrude into unfamiliar topics for furthering my understanding, even at the cost of making myself a fool. Please pardon my temerity for entering an area where I have no business to poke my nose into.

This post had appeared ten days back and in an off line conversation with you I had mentioned that the word “Fanaa” gives us a scope for further exploration. Prior to that, I have come across this word in a different context. But then I could not pursue my craze. When the post appeared, your translation appeared fine and absolutely in sync with Sudhirji’s interpretation. I thought extending the interpretation of “Fanaa”, as I have perceived, in this context would be far-fetched. The discussion between you and Hansji gave me a scope to further my unconventional behaviour.

Let me start from the point where you left. If the words in the first line are indeed “Ajal” and “tal” then can we interpret the verse differently? Hansji says that the first line can be interpreted as ‘that death brings end to all miseries’. Let me place my views.

aayee ajal ae zindagi, gham ka zamaana tal gayaa

The meaning of the word ajal is death/end of life, which is a predestined state. Having arrived at this predestined state, bygone are the days of sorrow/woe; it reflects the detached attitude of the lady.

ab kya girengi bijliyaan, jab aashiyaan hi jal gayaa

The indifferent state of mind lingers. Aashiana means a bird’s nest or home. Going by the term ‘Home is where the heart is – what more misfortune can fall upon, when the heart has been rendered homeless. The shattered heart is restless and looking for recourse? Hence the reiteration – bygone are the days of sorrow/woe.

aa o shab e gham aaye jaa, saare jahaan par chhaaye jaa
ab tu hi tu reh jaayegi, ab kal na hargiz aayegi

Now an indifferent attitude gives way to a sort of defiance. Come, O the Night of Gloom! Come and spread your darkness on the whole world. For you will not witness tomorrow’s daylight. What more affliction you can inflict? But now you will remain where you are, in the present (which will become past soon), but will never go beyond. What is this beyond? Transendence? , existence or experience beyond the normal or physical level?

wo din jo dushman thha tera, wo zindagi ka din mera
wo din hamesha ke liye, haan din wohi din dhal gayaa

The day that was your enemy, was my day of happiness and that day has set forever. Yet she reiterates that bygone are the days of sorrow/woe. The emphasis on ‘haan din wohi din” seems to be significant, in the sense that those day /days of happiness is of any consequence now. Is she looking forward to an existence/experience beyond?

Now we come to ‘aakhri Kalaam’.
is umra ka awwal fanaa, us umra ka aakhir fanaa
ik jhooth ka darbaar hai, baatin fanaa zaahir fanaa
ye zindagi kuchh bhi nahin, ye zindagi kuchh bhi nahin
naatak ka jhootha khel hai, jab tak chala so chal gaya

Here the word ‘Fanaa’ is crucial in making or breaking my interpretation/ misinterpretation. Fanaa, I believe, literally means destruction or death. Yes destruction, but destruction of the self (Ego), and transcending beyond the realm of sorrow and joy. Fanaa means the complete denial of self and realization of the Supreme Being. The primary and the ultimate goal of life is denial of the self, destruction of the internal desires and rejection of the exterior material wants, because the world is a realm of deception and life is full of f false pretentions. As long it could last it survived, but now bygone are the days of sorrow/woe.
Thus looking at it from Sufism, Fanaa means – cease to exist or pass away. When the Ṣūfī succeeds in purifying himself entirely of the earthly world and loses himself in the love of God, it is said that he has “annihilated” his individual will and “passed away” from his own existence to live only in God and with God. I would like to believe that the poet wanted to conclude with note of hope, with a positive vibe. Although my interpretation would seem farfetched I would like to believe that. I have not watched the film and do not know whether this interpretation goes with situation or mind set of the singer.

Even though ridding oneself of earthly desires and recognizing and denouncing human imperfections are necessary for every individual, it may not be easy to attain such state, but in extreme moments of pain and anguish such realization dawns and dwells in one’s self, albeit it may be /temporary/momentary.
Sorry friends I have let my imagination run amok, without paying much attention to the fact that whether the language and grammar permits such exposition. Please bear with me

29 AK March 27, 2015 at 5:54 am

Thanks a lot for your appreciation. I would also give a slight edge too Naushad. But with Shenhnai songs, and Gore gore O baanke chhore, CR not only gave Naushad a run for money, he might have made more money.

30 Altaf Almelkar April 8, 2015 at 1:11 pm

I would like to know if she sang any duet with Mukesh ji

31 AK April 8, 2015 at 10:26 pm

Altar Almelkar,
Welcome to SoY. I am not aware of their any duet. I checked up with the Living Encyclopaedia, Arunji. He too confirms that there is no known Mukesh-Amirbai duet, though they did have separate songs in the same film on a few occasions.

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