Thoughts on music to Kaminey, and lyrics and translation to the title song

'Kaminey' is not a well-appreciated word. It doesn't deserve to be one. Hardly inoffensive, nor a word one would want to use much at all (I'd hope so; about its only positive use lies in a dubbed version of an uncensored South Park episode; at least that would induce laughter, but you get where this is headed). Among its root words is 'kam' (pronounced 'come', and meaning 'to a lesser degree', or simply, 'less'). The title to the film, then, refers to 'one of a lesser degree'. In one word, lowly. This translation of the title sounds much more polite than the word intends. Its use in Hindi and Urdu is perhaps best understood in the context of dialogue accompanying action sequences involving the likes of Dharmendra and Amjad Khan calling each other names!

Yet, this upcoming film (starring Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra), and especially its lyricist, Gulzar, challenge this view with a rather delicious platter of words that is second to none among all soundtracks released this year. One need not go past the title song to appreciate the effort. On the strength of these lyrics alone, they've succeeded in toning down the angst associated with the title, and even invoked the sympathy of listeners. The music to this song sounds like the fusion of Pakistani rock from the 1980s and trumpets and orchestration befitting a grandiose theatrical score. With vocals by music director Vishal Bharadwaj, a fantastic track overall, with emphasis on the contexts implied by relatively simple words. You can listen to it at this link. Here's my translation:

A couple other lyrical snippets from as many tracks I must highlight for entirely different reasons. Let's begin with Pehli Baar Mohabbat, with vocals by Mohit Chauhan (remember what we were saying about him in the July releases post?). Pehli Baar Mohabbat contains a reference to lovers under a fig tree consuming squirrels' leftovers. Hold on to that thought, and check out this video of a classic Urdu poem:

In a nutshell (pun intended), the poem by Allama Iqbal, titled 'The Mountain and the Squirrel', and partly derived from this (credited) work by Ralph Waldo Emerson, is nothing but a cute little story to remind children that no life in this world is without purpose. It's amusing, too. A mountain questions the need for the existence of a squirrel, claiming might given its height and size. The squirrel responds by reminding the mountain that despite its height, it can't even climb a tree, and despite its size, it cannot crack a nut. And that nothing or no one is useless or indeed 'lowly' in "nature's factory"!

Now, isn't it wonderful to connect the two? Squirrels, nuts, blessings, love, purposefulness, and being reminded of 'lowly' status. This is what one paragraph in Pehli Baar Mohabbat (listen here) and the theme of the title song share with the poem. I wonder if this is Gulzar's way of paying tribute to one of the most revered Urdu poets of the modern era. If it is, it's a stroke of sheer genius, because the character singing 'Kaminey' the title song seems to fit right in as someone trying to climb a mountain of the journey that is life. My hypothesis (and I know it's wacky) aside, it's a great song, regardless, and the sequence of the use of the two songs discussed so far will probably determine the nature of the film's climax.

This next one is obvious. The following from a Jigar Moradabadi poem:

Ye ishq nahin aasaan, itna to samajh lijiye
Ek aag ka dariya hai aur doob ke jaana hai.

Understand that love isn't easy,
It's a river of fire which one must drown in, to cross.

Gulzar's tribute in the powerful Fatak (vocals by Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher) involves a reminder to practice safe sex. "Love isn't easy," it begins. "It's a river of fire...let not this ship sink." It's interestingly worded, and for a valid cause. (Aside: That Moradabadi poem is also the source of the couplet with which every Nasir Hussain Productions film begins. Moradabadi was also mentioned in this post on Kohinoor (1960).)

And finally, I can't help but smile in awe every time Raat Ke Dhaai Baje plays (listen to it here). For one, there's a very cute-sounding Rekha Bharadwaj (albeit for very few lines) along with at least three other great singers, Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala, and Suresh Wadekar. It's the use of beledi with those lyrics that makes it so pleasing to the senses. I hope it's more tastefully choreographed than two excellent songs in Omkara (2006; that soundtrack was delivered by the same director-lyricist duo) by the same female leads, which left a lot to be desired (but I know I'm among the small minority to hold that opinion). The only downside to this track -- and it's a big one -- are the English lyrics that add much clutter to an otherwise near-flawless song. Such a shame, but fair enough to overlook given all that is right with it.

There's much more in the soundtrack. Dhan Te Nan starts off in a very conventional manner, but is anything but conventional once it gets past the first half minute or so. Interesting piece on its choreography (from here):

Here's the trailer. Now this is going to be huge at desi parties, and I can't wait ;)

All we can ask of a soundtrack prior to the corresponding film release is that it portray a strong sense of identity, and that it contain signs of a strong narrative. Based on the soundtrack to Kaminey, one can tell there is more substance associated with the film than one would have imagined given the title. If the narrative carried by the soundtrack offers fair indication, then, the film will be more substantive than people still expect. Too bad it involves all those guns, which means I'll likely wait for the DVD. Oh, well.

Gulzar gave us lyrics to what I consider is the best and most complete soundtrack of 2008 (Yuvvraaj), and he's back at it in this Vishal Bharadwaj-directed musical journey, easily among the two best soundtracks of the year, second only to the music to Delhi-6. It does contain the most exceptionally well-written lyrics of 2009, for which it is a welcome addition to any music collection. Listen to all songs in their entirety at this link. Chances are you'll want to get your own copy, and fast!

Music rating: 3.75/5 (Very, very good!)
A 4.5/5 for the lyrics, and an easy 4/5 without the below-par remixes included in the album with an otherwise excellent series of songs. Good going Vishal B.! Shahid Kapoor, the stage is set for one of the biggest successes of your career. Will it materialize?

Official website:

iTunes store link: This link

Also see: This post at Darshit's blog


dunkdaft said...

I have a little confusion there. My fav lines from title song : masoom sa kabootar.... Is it 'naachat' mor or 'naacha toh mor nikla'. It can make sense cause sometimes dancing peacock is often considered as selfish and arrogant person. I havent heard of naachat. Plz discuss.

More lines, my fav are, 'gilhari ke joothe ....' from Pehli Baar. And man, you have done great analysis on that one line. Loved it.

theBollywoodFan said...

You're right, Darshit! I've made the change. It's interesting, I think it would make similar sense either way, but it is different. Thanks for bringing it up. See what happens when we listen to more classical music than we need to? (Or more like, when we write and publish a post right before headed to the beach on a Saturday morning! :)

Glad you enjoyed the bit with the squirrel. I'm with you on that line being among the most pleasantly surprising moments in the soundtrack! Adding a link to your cool review as well.

Anonymous said...

When you have time please do post the translation of Pehli Baar Mohabbat.

I do not understand the meaning of any hindi songs and never bother to listen to them. I have been following your blog for a while now and thanks to you, I enjoy the songs very much once I know the meaning.

Thanks again, and keep up this good work.

ajnabi said...

Thank you so much for the translation, and the interesting exposition. See, this is what I miss by being subtitle dependent. Hmmm... How to remedy that situation... In any case, it's really nice to be able to pop over here and be educated! :-D

theBollywoodFan said...

Anonymous: Thank you, and I'm glad the translations add to your enjoyment. You're very welcome, although translating is the easy bit, but lyricists like Gulzar (and Prasoon Joshi and Javed Akhtar) make it a lot of fun :) *If* I get to translating 'Pehli Baar Mohabbat', I'll add a comment here. Thank you again for your kind words :)

Ajnabi: You're very welcome, and as always, thank you for your comment. It's always challenging to learn a new language; priorities determine the extent, I guess. I'm sure there are a lot of tools out there to facilitate learning Hindi/Urdu, so if you take that route some day, good luck!

Bhargav Saikia said...

Thanks for the translation. I loved the music..5 on 5!

meghana vasireddy said...

can someone translate dhan te nan for me?

Michelle said...

Your translations are amazing! Started following you with the Ghajini translations and was excited to see Kaminey. Can you PLEASE do the rest of the Kaminey songs? I felt like there was a lot of hidden subtext to the movie in the music. And the film didn't sub the songs in English.

Thanks for the awesome work!