I would have written on Jagjit Kaur at some uncertain time in future. That I am doing it now owes it to my friend Subodh Agrawal, a regular visitor to my blog. His glowing reference to Jagjit Kaur in my last blog on Subir Sen touched a chord in me – I am also a huge fan of her songs. I also realized this was the right time when I was on minor singers like Kamal Barot and Subir Sen.
In fact I feel very awkward to describe them as ‘minor’ singers, just because they did not sing too many songs. I would describe her more appropriately as a ‘niche’ singer, whose few songs have made her immortal. Another niche singer I could think of falling in her bracket would be Mubarak Begum. Among niche singers of the 1950s and 60s (other names that come to mind are Krishna Kalle, Meenu Murushottam, Meena Kapoor and Usha Mangeshkar), I put Jagjit Kaur at the top.
Born in an affluent Punjabi Zamindar family she must have had a number of wealthy suitors, but she chose a struggling musician Khayyam to marry. When you hear the songs the two created together – most of her songs are composed by Khayyam – you feel the pairing must have been made in the heaven. Here is my compilation of my favourite Jagjit Kaur songs.
1. Dekho dekho ji gori sasural chali from Shagun (1964), lyrics Sahir Ludhiyanvi, music Khayyam
Almost all the songs of this film were classics. This peppy wedding song by the bride Waheeda Rahman’s gang of girls to the beat of dholak, while she is being adorned, is pure, unvarnished folk beauty. Jagjit Kaur and Khayyam bring to you the sweeter side of Punjab.
2. Tum apna ranj–o-gham apni pareshani mujhe de do from Shagun
The ultimate Jagjit Kaur-Sahir Ludhiyanvi-Khayyam classic from Shagun. Khayyam had said that even if Jagjit Kaur did not sing another song, this song would keep her alive for ever. Hardly an exaggeration. You see the other woman Nivedita, who made a debut in this film, beseeching the hero Kanwaljit who is trying to drown his sorrow in alcohol, to give his entire pain and sorrow to her. Waheeda Rahman looks on silently with puzzled looks wondering what right Nivedita had on her man to sing thus. From her big bindi and mangalsutra my guess is she must be already married to him (incidentally she married him in real life about ten years after the film). Sahir Ludhiyanvi surpasses himself with these words:
तुम अपना रंज-ओ-ग़म अपनी परेशानी मुझे दे दो
तुम्हें ग़म की क़सम इस दिल की वीरानी मुझे दे दो
ये माना मैं किसी क़ाबिल नहीं हूं इन निगाहों में
बुरा क्या है अगर ये दुख ये हैरानी मुझे दे दो
तुम अपना रंज-ओ-ग़म…
मैं देखूं तो सही ये दुनिया तुम्हें कैसे सताती है
कोई दिन के लिये अपनी निगहबानी मुझे दे दो
तुम अपना रंज-ओ-ग़म…
वो दिल जो मैनें मांगा था मगर गैरों ने पाया था
बड़ी शै है मगर उसकी पशेमानी मुझे दे दो
तुम अपना रंज-ओ-ग़म
Here is its beautiful translation courtesy dustedoff
Give me all your sorrow and bitterness
All your troubles
I bind you, by your own sadness –
Give me the loneliness of your heart
I accept that in your eyes
I have no worth
But what wrong it is
If you give me your sorrow and your worries?
I defy this world to
Trouble you any more
For some days, give yourself into
My watchful safekeeping
The heart that I had wanted for mine
But which became another’s –
It would mean a lot to me
If you were to give all its embarrassments to me
3. Kahmosh zindagi ko afsaanaa mil gayaa from Dil-e-Nadan (1953), lyrics Shakeel Badayuni, music Ghulam Mohammad
A wonderful composition on another debutant Peace Kanwal (what a name!), who was apparently selected through an all India beauty contest to act opposite Talat Mamhmood (Shyama was the lead actress).
4. Chale aao saiyan rangeele main vaari re (with Pamela Chopra) from Bazaar (1982), lyrics Jagjit Kaur (?), music Khayyam
This is again a wedding song by the gang of girls on dholak, which on the surface is a situation of joy. But at the same time it has also to reflect Supriya Pathak’s utter despair and helplessness, who is lying listless in the background as this marriage is going to bring nothing but disaster to her. Jagjit Kaur is also credited as the lyricist. Pamela Chopra is the wife of Yash Chopra and obviously a highly talented person who figures in several Khayyam movies. The composition is unmistakably Khayyam.
5. Dekh lo aaaj humko jee bhar ke from Bazaar
The parting lovers Supriya Pathak and Frooq Sheikh just looking at each other silently, and Jagjit Kaur’s sad voice streaming from the background देख लो आज हमको जी भर के, कोई आता नहीं है फिर मर के. Do you need to say anything more? I can not think of any other singer or composer whose music remained the same in 1980s as it was in 50s. Khayyam and Jagjit Kaur are literally timeless.
6. Kaahe ko byahi bides from Umrao Jaan (1981), music Khayyam
Now can there be anything more timeless than Amir Khusro? People have been singing him for over 700 years across India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, middle east, the same song in the form of ghazal, qawwali, in the moods of romantic, devotional, sadness and joy, in dargahs, concerts and films, and you may have heard thousand times but every time you hear you are entranced. Khayyam again with Jagjit create this masterpiece (among several film versions there is a quintessential Mukesh’s Kahe ko dinee bides from the film Suhagraat (1948), music by Snehal Bhatker).
7. Saada chidiya da chamba vai by Jagjit Kaur and Pamela Chopra from Kabhi Kabhi (1976), music Khayyam
This is a traditional Punjabi folk wedding song with which the credit titles of Kabhi Kabhi open. The girls on dholak are joyous but the face of the bride Rakhi betrays an intense sadness enhanced by Sahir Ludhiyanvi’s plaintive Surkh jode ki ye jagmagahat streaming in the background in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar:
सुर्ख जोड़े की ये जगमगाहट, शोख बिंदिया की ये झिलमिलाहट
चूड़ियों का ये रंगीं तराना, धड़कनों का ये सपना सुहाना
जागा जागा सा कजरे का जादू, भीनी भीनी सी गजरे की खुशबू
नर्म होठों का ये कंपकंपाना, गर्म चेहरे का ये तमतमाना
जिस्म का महका महका पसीना, हुस्न का दहका दहका नगीना
झांझरों का ये छमछम के बजना, ये संवरना निखरना ये सजना
किसकी खातिर है किसके लिये है, किसकी खातिर है किसके लिये है
This is again anchored by Saada chidiya da ambaa vai babul asaan chhod jana. The effect is magical. There can be no better artist than Khayyam to show joy and pathos at the same time through his music. Jagjit Kaur and Pamela Chopra are the obvious choice for this wedding song. Curiously their names do not figure in the credit titles among playback singers. But to me this has such a memorable impact that I have to list it here (crediting to them based on Pankaj Raag’s Dhunon Ki Yatra). Another interesting aspect about this movie is their names do figure in the credit titles elsewhere– Pamela Chopra for story and Jagjit Kaur as assistant director for music.
8. Chanda gaaye raagini from Dil-e-Nadan
This is a rare Jagjit Kaur song. It is an unusual party scene, where the hero Talat Mahmood is not at the grand piano, which is the normal place of a hero. Instead this is occupied by a fat, bald Alfred Hitchcock-look alike, the handsome Talat is playing the violin. But why is he looking morose? Is it because he has been deprived of his rightful place at the piano by this arrogant usurper – there are several other songs in this film where he is indeed at the piano. Peace Kanwal singing and Shyama dancing to the peppy song complete the picture. A collector’s item this song. (Click on the picture to view video).
9. Pehle to ankh milana with Rafi from Shola Aur Shabnam (1961), lyrics Kaifi Azmi, music Khayyam
A somewhat atypical peppy duet from this film which had mostly melancholy songs.
10. Nain milake pyar jata ke aag laga dee (with Rafi) from Mera Bhai Mera Dushman (1967), music Khayyam
Finally I end with another unusual fast paced duet with Rafi from a B-grade movie. But the duet and the exuberant dance of the couple is eminently watchable.(Click on the picture to view video)