Every Hindi film music aficionado knows about the greatness of this man named Sampooran Singh Kalra aka Gulzar. We have all heard his famous songs a thousand times now, such as: “Tere bina zindagi se” from Aandhi, “Hazaar Rahen” from Thodisi Bewafayee, “Mera kuch saaman” from Ijaazat, or “Kajra re” from Bunty aur Babli. This series is about those lesser known songs penned by this master poet.
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Movie: Omkara (2006)
Music Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Singer: Suresh Wadkar

(part of the song from 3:40 onwards)

Jag ja ri gudiya
Misri ki pudiya
Meethe lage do naina
Nainon mein tere, hum hi base the
Hum hi base hain, hain na?
O ri rani, gudiya,
jag ja, ari jag ja, mari jag ja.

Halka sa kosa,
Subhon ka bosa,
Maan jaa ri, ab jaag ja.
Naak pe tere, kaatega bicchoo
Jaag ja, tu maan ja
Jo chahe le lo, dashrath ka vaada
Nainon se kholo ji raina
O ri rani, gudiya, jag ja
Ari jag ja, mari jag ja.

Kirnon ka sona,
Os ke moti,
Motiyon sa mogra.
Tera bicchauna, bhar bhar ke daroon,
Gulmohar ka tokra.
Aur jo bhi chaho, maango ji maango,
Bolo ji, meri maina.
O ri raani, gudiyaaaa,
Jag ja, ari jag ja, oye jag ja.

Jag ja ri gudiya
Misri ki pudiya
Meethe lage do naina
Nainon mein tere, hum hi base the
Hum hi base hain, hain na?

Vishal’s Omkara was an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. For those who do not know the plot of Othello, here’s a brief background because it is essential in understanding the subtle possessiveness, anger and jealousy in the words of this song. Omkara (Othello), who is a dark skinned average looking guy, is deeply, madly and intensely in love with Dolly (Desdemona) who is a fair and a beautiful maiden. She loves him back equally, but Omkara is not quite sure about her love. His close aide Langda Tyagi (Iago) pollutes his mind further by hinting that she might have feelings for Kesu (Cassio). This leads to Omkara constantly questioning Dolly’s love for him.

Now equipped with this background, go back and read the lyrics one more time. You will notice the insecurity in – “nainon mein tere hum hi base the, hum hi base hain, hain na?” – “I was the only one for you, I still am the only one, Am I?”

His intense possesiveness and desperation in owning her by every which way possible (despite the fact that she belongs to him already) is evident in –
“jo chahe le lo, Dashrath ka waada” – take what you want from me, I promise you just like the promise made by Dashrath.
Here, Gulzar has weaved in an analogy by measuring the integrity of Omkara’s promise with that of Dashrath’s – the king of Ayodhya who sent his dear sons to exile just to honor his promise that he made to his wife Kaikeyi. Many a poets have used different ways of comparing lover’s promises in their songs – my promise stands till the end of time, till the end of the universe, till the day I die – on and on and on. The Dashrath’s promise analogy however trumps all of the above – it feels more real, more understandable and more achievable.

Gulzar has a fascniation with the “gulmohar” flowers. These trees are found in the tropical countries and bloom in late spring/early summer. They bear non-fragrant,deep red colored flowers. Another song with the mention of these flowers is “Gulmohar gar tumhara naam hotaa” from “Devata”. Here, once again he mentions these flowers in the following line:

tera bichona bhar bhar ke daloo, gulmohar ka tokra
Aur jo bhi chaho, maango ji maango bolo ji meri maina

– I will spread basket full of gulmohar flowers on your bed.
More about this line later in the post.

Outside of the poetry, the music and the singing of this song is completely in sync with the mood. Suresh Wadkar makes a rare appearance and his delicate rendition elevates Vishal’s composition. Minimal use of instruments and the tune of the song give it an easy hummable quality. Suresh Wadkar infuses a child-like innocence and a suggestion of violence at the same time in certain lines – “naak pe tere kaatega bichoo” – a scorpion will bite your nose – and “ari jag jaa…mari jag jaa..” – please wake up, wake up you dead one. A part of this song makes another appearance later in the movie and this one line takes a whole new meaning in that scene.

(Second version of the song from 3:20 onwards. Could not find better quality video links)
Rememeber the “Gulmohar” line that I mentioned above and said I will revisit it? Watch the video, Dolly is wearing red, Gulmohars are red. Get it? Bravo Vishal. (A very well-written review of Omkara here)