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‘Punjabification’ of Bollywood music

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

PEOPLE of the Punjab are hard-working, adventurous and romantic by nature and Punjabi spirit, Punjabiat, is reflected in their poetry and songs.

During the last few years, Bollywood is passing through a phase of ‘Punjabification.’

Punjabi music and songs are dominating the charts these days. The start was made by Chopra Brothers, B R Chopra and Yash Chopra, when they produced film Nya Daur (New Order) during 1957-58.

Lyrics included in the film were folk-based like reshmi salwar kurta jaali da, roop saha na jaay nakhre wali da, and they introduced many other Punjabi or ‘punjabised’ Hindi compositions into its music tracks. The result was that Nya Daur was instant hit.

Now the producers have developed a strong connection with Punjabi music, Punjabi singers and song writers.

The lyrics are enchanting and delightful, and the music has a lot of beat and rhythm.

These are so skilfully choreographed and colourfully presented on screen that they make even the non-Punjabis mad whether they understand the language or not.

In almost all the Bollywood Hindi films, they use one or two Punjabi lyrics which are a ‘must’ even if they are irrelevant to the situation in the story of the films. For example, a song in the film Rock Star:

katia karoon, katia karoon,

tera roon, katia karoon.

sari raat katia karoon

Sara din sochan vich langha

tere layee hun jee ke maroon

I spin your cotton wools the whole night

Now I spend the all my day, thinking

whether I shall die or live for you

The village women in Punjab use spinning wheel (charkha) to spin the cotton rolls to make fine threads which, later on, are used by the weavers to make cloth.

The song is so melodiously sung by Harashdeep Kaur that people are mesmerized by it and forget to think if it has something to do with any situation in the story.

Some music directors use few words of Punjabi in the beginning, and the main lyric is in Hindi. Perhaps they are doing it to fry tarka - saute of onions, garlic and spices - of Punjabi words to make the song ‘tasty’ and sometimes the mixure of Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu words add extra mirch-masala - chillies and spices - to the lyric.

In Fiji, our young boys and girls, whether it is a marriage occasion or festival atmosphere, birthday celebration or any other kind of social get-together enjoy singing and dancing.

They have developed a strong liking for Punjabi songs used in Bollywood Hindi films.

It does not matter whether they understand the meaning of the words but they must have a good time by chanting such musical compositions as saadi galli aaya karo ( visit our street) or ma da laadla bigarh gia.

The first one is from the film Tanu Weds Manu, and the second one is from Dostana (friendship).

It says something about gay relationship and the mother of one of the boys complains that her most-loved son is spoiled and gone off-track.

Such songs are highly hilarious and bring electrifying effects on the minds of the young population.

Part of the reason for the popularity of such songs might be due to the fact that the music part has universal appeal where no knowledge of the language is required.

With a view to adding Punjabi flavour, some Bollywood directors try to use only a few Punjabi words in the beginning (or at the end) of the main Hindi-Urdu lyric. Look at the following four Punjabi words used in a song of film Rock Star. Saada haqq, Ithey rakh. It means: ‘ Put it here, keep it here, our share we deserve.’

Another interesting example is from the film Anjaana-Anjaani:

Naineen laggian baarishan,

rut virhan di badlan tey shaiyee.

Rains are falling into my eyes

Seaon of virha is cast over the clouds.

Virha is such an exhaustive word, comprehensive and encyclopaedic, that we do not have any English equivalent for it.

It covers everything or anything relating to pangs of separation, aches and anguish, suffered by the lovers whether they are admirers of God, Nature or their sweat hearts, but in this lyric, it is the laments of a young girl whose eyes are full of tears. It is a sad song but it is beautiful, cocktailed by a mixture of Urdu-Hindi words, and to make it more beautiful it is laced with Punjabi language couplets.

An English poet once said that our sweetest songs are those that tell us the saddest tales (or is it ‘thoughts’, not tales?)

The following lyric is a kind of accusation of a young male lover who complains of apathy and insensibility of his beloved. It is sung by Sukhwinder Singh for the film Chaltay Chaltay.

layee bhi n gaayee, te nibhai bhi na gayee

mehnay maarda jahan mainu saara

You did not know how to develop a love affair

And how to keep it up

Now people are taunting me

O’ my beautiful beloved!

Our relationship is broken

As a star breaks away from the sky

Another heart-melting song is sung by Richa Sharma for the film Kaantay which touches our deep emotions:

Mahi vey, mohabatan sachian ney,

mangda nasiba kutchh haur hai

O’ my darling!

Love we have for each other is true

But Fate wants something else

We are the victims of misfortunes

We do not have any power over our destiny

Renowned for her voice-range and versatility, female singer, Reshma of Pakistan, shakes the music lovers in both the countries when she sings at a higher pitch. The following composition, chaar dina da pyar o’ Rabba, bari lambi juddai, a mixture of Punjabi-Hindi, which she vocalized for an Indian film HERO.

The music lovers in both sides of the border idolize her.

The couplet means - O’ God! you gave me love-relationship only for four days, but I have to endure long pangs of separation the whole of my life.

There are scores of Punjabi songs sung by Indian and Pakistani singers which are used by Bollywood music directors in their Hindi films. Hence distorted but funny usage of the term ‘PUNJABIFICATION’, and my apology to the English language scholars.

* Jogindar Singh Kanwal is a former principal of Khalsa College, Ba which is run by Punjabi Sikh community of Fiji and is an established author of many Hindi and English books. His email address:

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