Dekh Chaand Ki Or
How do songs about the moon, such favourites in Hindi movies, fare in English translation? Try these
(aka The Moon Tunes)
TRANSLATOR'S NIGHTMARE #6
by Hrishi Dixit, U V Ravindra, and Surajit Bose
So, it is time to reawaken a dormant monster. It has been over four
years since the Translator's Nightmare unleashed many a sleepless
night on unsuspecting RMIMers, and noticing a certain aridity in the
RMIM playground lately, we are pleased to prod this beast back to
life with its sixth and latest edition. For a little background on
this amusing but hair-pulling quiz, especially for those who came in
late, check out the HISTORY section below.
The theme of this sixth instalment is, as suggested by the Shamshad
song in the title (which made its way up there after several
unsuccessful attempts to translate it elegantly), the moon. This
heavenly being has been a perennial delight of poets and lyricists,
especially in the HFM world. The gamut of personified roles ascribed
to it is evidence of this - a romantic adversary, an eavesdropper, an
innocent bystander, an interlocutor, a juror, a chaperone and
probably the most popular one of all, a celestial messenger (to
mention a few). So then, the theme of this quiz is to explore this
fixation. All the songs in the quiz involve the moon in some way in
their mukha.Daa, either in the backdrop or as a key player. The goal,
of course, is to guess the song (and, for additional points, the
movie - see the RULES section for the scoring algorithm).
Working on the quiz was an educational experience. We gleaned quite
a few interesting factoids about the moon, its role in poetry, and the
emotional implications of its phases. We also chanced upon slivers of
ancillary data. For instance, it is the most pervasive allegory of
beauty (no surprises there). And, Rajendra Krishan and Bharat Vyas
loved the moon. And, there are very few words in English that rhyme
elegantly with "moon" (boon, June, raccoon, typhoon, goon, loon,
lampoon, balloon, Rangoon, telephoon) - in fact, the list is so limited
that we were forced to recycle the marginally usable ones, like "tune".
All in all, the extent to which the moon has permeated the lyrical
aesthetic in HFM is quite profound and quite revealing.
Translator's Nightmares were originated by Abhay Phadnis back in
mid-1998 as a new quiz in the RMIM arena. The idea was simple --
given (loose) English translations of the mukha.Daa you have to guess
the original Hindi song. The series was launched with a couple of
back-to-back Lata Mangeshkar nightmares, and was carried forward by
three more, until early 1999. The last nightmare (#5) was hosted by
Hrishi in Jan 99, and the series then went into a long hibernation.
Here are some links to past nightmares, to give you a flavor of the
TNQ 5: "THEY GO TOGETHER" by Hrishi
TNQ 4: "LITERARY LYRICISTS" by Abhay
TNQ 3: "TALAT MAHMOOD" by Vijay Kumar
TNQ 2: "LATA MANGESHKAR" by Abhay
TNQ 1: "LATA MANGESHKAR" by Abhay Phadnis
The key point to remember in this quiz is that the translations are
loose, following the maxim: Translate The Sentiment, Not The Words.
In other words, attempting to map every word in the English version to
a Hindi word won't be a very successful algorithm to decode the
translations, since they do deviate a bit from the Hindi original.
The hope was to imbue them with a certain poetic aesthetic and not
make them sound like K C Kanda's translations of Ghalib. The sentiment,
message, semantics of the original are, however, fully retained, which,
combined with the subtextual and statistical clues, should furnish enough
information to identify the original.
Here is an example:
He speaks to me, yon cloud-wrapped moon
Yes, I have heard it too
Wafts the breeze a new-born tune
Yes, I have heard it too
The moon vies for the affections of both parties in this soft, lovely
duet from the mid 1950s, as the key players are engaged in their
romantic game. A stellar offering from the CR-Rajendra Krishan pair,
picturized engagingly on Meena Kumari and Ashok Kumar. The movie is
a veritable CR treasure.
The answer, of course, is:
badalii me.n chhupe chaa.Nd ne kuchh mujhase kahaa hai
hamane bhii sunaa hai
gaatii huii ik giit nayaa aa_ii havaa hai
hamane bhii sunaa hai
Lata-Hemant Kumar / Shatranj (1957)
The quiz contains 25 songs in all, plus a tie-breaker at the end.
Most songs selected are popular, well-known (atleast here on RMIM) and
readily available, in the hope that the primary effort will be in
de-translating the song, not burrowing through the Geet Koshes.
Now for the scoring mechanism and other rules:
1. The main goal, as stated earlier is to identify the song.
2. Correct identification of the song fetches 4 points.
3. Identifying the movie fetches an additional 2 points.
4. No points for identifying just the movie, of course.
5. The tie-breaker will not be included in the scoring UNLESS, of
course, there is a tie.
6. No negative points for anything (except brickbats) (kidding)
To keep things fair, we'll score the quiz in two categories --
(a) the song (b) the song and the movie. There will be separate
scores and separate winners in each category. Maximum possible score
in the first category of course is 100, maximum in the second is 150.
The minimum score in either category, suprisingly, is 0.
Finally, the first commandment of all RMIM quizzes applies here as well:
"THOU SHALT NOT POST THY RESPONSES ON THE NET"
...So it was written, so it shall be done...
Email your responses to email@example.com by Friday, March 28 2003
Here's a breakdown of the songs in the quiz, by type, decade, singer,
composer and lyricist:
17 solos, 9 duets
40s (1940-49): 5
50s (1950-59): 7
60s (1960-69): 8
70s (1970-79): 2
80s (1980-89): 2
90s (1990-99): 2
Singer (including solos and duets):
Lata 9 (4 solos, 5 duets)
Rafi 6 (5 solos, 1 duet)
Mukesh 3 (2 solos, 1 duet)
Asha 2 (2 duets)
Mahendra K 2 (2 duets)
Hemant 1 (1 duet)
Geeta 1 (1 solo)
Suraiya 1 (1 duet)
Shyam 1 (1 duet)
Kishore 1 (1 solo)
Noorjehan 1 (1 solo)
KL Saigal 1 (1 solo)
Alka Yagnik 1 (1 duet)
Udit Narayan 1 (1 duet)
Arati Mukherji 1 (1 solo)
Hariharan 1 (1 duet)
Sadhana Sargam 1 (1 duet)
Yesudas 1 (1 solo)
C Ramchandra 3
R D Burman 3
S D Burman 1
Shankar Jaikishen 2
Anil Biswas 1
Aroon Kumar 1
A R Rahman 1
Ghulam Haider 1
Hansraj Behl 1
Ismail Darbar 1
Khemchand Prakash 1
Madan Mohan 1
O P Nayyar 1
Hemant Kumar 1
Bharat Vyas 4
Anand Bakshi 3
Majrooh Sultanpuri 2
Sahir Ludhianvi 2
Javed Akhtar 2
S H Bihari 2
Shakeel Badayuni 2
Prem Dhawan 1
Rajendra Krishan 1
Hasrat Jaipuri 1
Mulk Raj Bhakri 1
Rahi Masoom Raza 1
And finally, before proceeding to the quiz, we would like to thank Abhay
Phadnis, Balaji Murthy, Malini Kanth, and Richa Dubey for beta-testing the
nightmare and providing very valuable feedback.
Voyage, o moon, yon to my love
This missive to him convey
No drop of peace mine heart doth have
Whilst thou art far away
The moon masquerades as a mailman here, as Lata's pristine late 40s
voice yearns melodiously in ChhaayaanaT. This movie, in addition to
being a masterpiece from a legendary composer who passed away two
years later in 1950, also contains the first-ever duet sung by Lata
and Kishore (the latter also figures in a bit role in the movie).
The moon shall sigh his restless sighs
Flowers shall their heartbeats claim
Your name alone shall fill the skies
When words are said in beauty's name
To us, the encomium in this song sounds a bit misplaced, directed as
it is towards Mala Sinha from the one and only Jaanii. A restrained
romantic statement from Mukesh, composed by Kalyanji-Anandji.
Strangely enough, the film seems to consign the flowers to quite a
different, charred fate than the one suggested in this song.
Bereft, she wails, of the moon far-gone
The partridge, weeping, dies forlorn
The moon and the partridge, just like the moth and the flame, are
inseparably linked in lyric and lore. Here they make their first
appearance in the quiz, in a sweet subdued Hansraj Behl melody from
the late 40s, rendered in all its splendor by Lata in a movie that
also, incidentally, is inseparably linked to said bird.
No pretext more need I to glance thy way
O what plenteous joy the sickle moon brings today!
A lovely Roshan tune rendered by Lata in an equally lovely moonlit
night setting (much unlike other, moister nights in the movie). This
exuberant ditty, heralding the moon as the harbinger of a newfound
happiness, sadly marks the last few happy moments for the character
in the movie, who only a little later finds herself at the wrong
vertex of a romantic triangle. One of Roshan's most successful
efforts, containing several instances of what was considered one of
Lose sight of him, o moon, pray not
Wher'er his road take thee
One which of his comfort speaks
That sweet word bring to me
Two illustrious singing siblings severally implore the moon to
keep a watchful eye over their beloved. Another supreme song by CR,
and another interesting job for the moon to do here - a chaperone
for a loved one.
My heart's the moon, you are its light
How, then, can you flee my sight?
To this very place, return you must;
Futile is all your wanderlust.
Despite his late late voice, Rafi is by no means lesser than any of
his contemporaries, as he renders this RD Burman tune from a 70s effort
starring Rishi Kapoor. The movie featured at least one other mellow and
popular Rafi solo. On another note, we believe David Dhawan pilfered
the name of the original Nasir Hussain movie last year.
O what says he, yon silent moon
in furtive sign and clue
Mayhap says he, yon silent moon
that I belong to you
We'll wager that this will be an easy song to guess, considering it is
one of Hemantda and Lata's loveliest duets. A very populous,
precious and rather moon-friendly soundtrack; featuring, as it does,
at least one other tandem moon tune in the voices of Hemantda and
O moon, in a moment stolen from thy nightly gaze
with a thousand words of love, shall I him embrace
Perhaps one of the most endearing roles ascribed to the moon - an
invader of privacy for two star-crossed lovers. Beautiful song and
setting from what is probably one of the most celebrated movies from
the violin banner of lower Chembur, set in an exquisitely appropriate
(and stereotypically romantic) setting - moonlit night, lake, etc.
This somewhat massaged translation synoptically captures the
sentiment of the original.
Ne'er did I of a beloved dream
As beauteous as a moonlit beam;
How perfect now you seem to me
As lovely as I thought you'd be
The moon's almost ubiquitous persona to date has been, of course, as
a yardstick of beauty. This translation, though deviating e'er-so
slightly from the original lyric, exemplifies this role. A sweet but
somewhat infantile tune from Kalyanji Anandji, sung by Mukesh. At
some foothills, possibly?
A halfling the moon; 'tis the midst of the night
Such a tale unfinished be not our plight!
The melody of this tune infuses a novel color into the already vivid
setting of a moonlit night. Lovely duet penned by Bharat Vyas and
rendered in all its incumbent softness by Asha and Mahendra Kapoor.
The quiz would truly be half-complete without the inclusion of this
What cloud dost thou lie sheltered by?
O moon unseen pray grace the sky
And mingle with the stars that art
but pieces of my broken heart
Noor Jehan implores the moon to come and comfort her, in the notes of
an incomparable Ghulam Haider tune. A gorgeous melody from the early
40s, one that was probably quite a household song around then.
O friend, the moon walks alone, pray tell me why;
O friend, he's on his own, and fearful am I.
Yesudas finds his emotions and trepidations echoed in the loneliness
of the moon (interspersed with highly amusing courtroom jargon in
spoken word) in this soft, classically oriented Jaidev tune from the
late 70s. The movie, starring the Big B in one of his anti-stereo-
typical personas, and centered largely around justice, confrontation
and music, is based on a story by Harindranath Chattopadhyay.
'Tis the same moon, the same stars, the same parterre
Why then, o why, lies my heart yet in despair?
It's quite amazing how this tune floats in soft, resigned dolor! A large
part of it definitely has to do with Geeta's wonderful rendition,
from this early 50s Ashok Kumar production. This is quite a lovely,
delicate movie with Meena Kumari in the titular role, and a precious
musical trove that boasts, among others, an immensely charming Asha
Said I to the moon, "Hast thou seen
Beauty, like my beloved's, another?"
Quoth the moon, "By my moonlit beam!
No, not one, er ... nada!"
That irreverently facetious translation does justice to this RDB
tune, as Rafi invokes the opinion of the moon about his beloved
(the character's, of course, not Rafi's), a subtle reference to the
now firmly established role of the moon as a metric of human beauty.
Tread light, o moon, in the nightly sky
Lest the night depart, and sweet dreams die
With nightly liaisons like these, the pair obviously does not believe
in arranged marriage :-). A zippy, fast-paced and somewhat stridently
orchestrated Rafi-Lata duet composed by Shankar Jaikishen.
The full moon thou art, or the sun, for sure
Nonpareil indeed is thy peerless allure
The moon's role as the embodiment of beauty is epitomized in this
gorgeous and immensely popular song from an eponymous movie, one that
proved to be one of the brightest spots in the oeuvre of composer
Ravi. One of Rafi's best renditions, in an exquisitely commensurate
picturization with one of Bollywood's legendary, mystique-laden star
O moon, to this earth, do sometime descend
We shall sit and confabulate, my friend
We take a leap into the much-musically-maligned 90s with this ARR-
composed duet in the voices of Sadhana Sargam and Hariharan, as they
invite our heavenly confidante to join them on earth. Lofty dreams,
we must say :-)
The moon's gone lost, lost in the open skies
And nary a wisp of sleep shall grace our eyes
Lots of trees, lots of echoing calls, lots of fast walking on our
hero's part (while the heroine looks on in restrained amusement), and
we have one famously popular moon tune. SD Burman takes the credit
for composing this Rafi number, another instance of his long associa-
tion with this film's banner (with whom our hero is inextricably
linked as well). The two lines of the translation summarize three
lines of the original mukhadaa, in a somewhat synoptic way.
Soft, o moon, sink soft and slow tonight
This sweet night that drifts today
Tomorrow may not pass this way
Soft, o moon, sink soft and slow tonight
A beautiful Anil Biswas lullaby, beseeching the moon to stay and
preserve the night in the words of Bharat Vyas, as our hero, fresh
from a hand-to-hand (rather hand-to-paw) combat with a lion, tries to
go to sleep. One of Anilda's later efforts, from a historical movie
that was partially funded by the government of Thailand, if memory
This face, so like the moon aglow
And golden tresses all aflow
These eyes, oh, like a lake azure
A myst'ry they conceal, for sure
I find no words of praise, I'm awed!
How shall I Him that made thee, laud?
Shot on a lake whose waters were once as blue as the eyes being
mentioned, in a land that was once paradise on earth, this Rafi song
has the hero gushing forth about the heroine's physical beauty like
so many firemen's hoses. This was the Hindi film debut of the nubile
nymphet whose physical attributes are being "tag over"ed with all
those superlatives. Aided and abetted by a Rafi a-rockin' and an
Asha a-sizzle, OPN's music for this film has endured for almost 4
decades with nary a sign of waning.
I am thy moonlight. Thou, my moon.
Of thy sweet song I am the tune
This that tugs at our hearts tonight
'Tis true love, not fancy's flight
Quite a mutual admiration society here, in this romantic crooner
from the late 40s, with Suraiya and Shyam serenading each other
in Naushad's notes. A warm, symmetric and oft-hummed tune, the
words of which circumscribe the name of the movie.
Endless sorrows upon me wrought,
Gave my fragile heart no thought,
Fie! Fie upon this diabolical world
Ev'ry wound's afire, aglow,
Bespeak of this, o new moon, go
Fie! Fie upon this diabolical world
Ah, the golden voice that was silenced, at its peak, so cruelly by
the bottle. In the throes of heartbreak, it implores the moon to
speak of its agony at the hands of the cruel world. This period piece
was the crowning glory of this musical giant who ruled the film world
for a good part of two decades, inspiring a whole pantheon of singers
who strove to imitate him.
With this honeyed breeze fill your breath tonight
Gaze at the moon, and bathe in its light.
One of the best collaborative efforts from Lata and Mahendra Kapoor,
this CR tune wafts softly in the same honeyed breeze it talks about.
A beautifully written pure Hindi piece, from one of the later films
from the Rajkamal banner, featuring Shantaram himself, along with
atleast two other women in his life.
The moon hath hidden in the clouds his face
Come hither, my darling, let us embrace
A turn-of-the-century duet composed by Ismail Darbar, and sung by
two of the most popular singers of the 90s. This movie, featuring
(among other things) a legendary siren of the golden era in a
significantly mellower cameo, was undoubtedly one of the better
musical offerings to come out of this period.
Is it thy face, or the moon shining bright?
Thine dark tresses, or the harbinger of night?
O ye with eyes like the ocean blue
Prithee, what should I call you?
And again in closing, the moon shines in its favorite allegory.
Kishore admires this specimen of unabashed pulchritude in a movie
earmarked as a comeback vehicle for the star pair, with a third
vertex thrown in for effect. Somewhere in the song nestles the name
of the movie too.
Nestles in the silent skies
the moon, subdued and soft
In sweet embrace of slumber's bliss
does a somnolent land waft
No translation can do justice to the hallowed pen of Sahir, as he
paints the soulful picture of a sad, silent night. One of Lata's
best efforts for her Madan Bhaiyya, this soft melody is missing from
the movie itself. A movie that seems to convey, in a sense, a journey
Check out the Lata quiz here
Published on 18 March
to the editor
updates on The Music Magazine's latest stories? Send us your
e-mail ID, details of genres you are interested in, and any other
information you think is relevant. We plan to alert you to
new stuff on your favourite magazine
Press Ctrl D to bookmark The Music
*For fans of Indian music, there
is no better resource on the Web -- CNet
researched -- India Today
*Fantastic site --
*Web's best -- Britannica
coverage... worth tuning in to -- Rediff