Movie: Jahan Tum Le Chalo (1999)
Music Director: Vishal Bhardwaj
Singer: Hariharan

There are a million songs about zindagi  (life) in Hindi movies and rightfully so, since ‘Life’ is an unexplained string of events which happen to each one of us uniquely. Fittingly then, similes and metaphors abound where lyricists compare life to everything under and above the Sun. Gulzar himself has done many takes on this mystical concept of “life” and everything that comes with it.

This song from a small, forgotten film of 1999 is one such where he compares zindagi with atthanni – a 50 paise coin. This word itself is rarely in use these days in colloquial Hindi as is a 50 paise coin, I suppose. Atthanni here signifies – fickleness and casualness. He is talking about how life happens at the most unexpected places and times – just like how you find an atthanni  in your pant pocket or how a sneeze tumbles out accidentally:  Kabhi Chheenk Ki Tarah Khanki, Kabhi Jeb Se Nikal Aayi.  (The translation truly ruins the essence of the original).

There is an element of simplicity to this metaphor resulting in the profound thought that there is no point in expending energies in searching for the meaning of “life” when it is really all around you in the most simplest of things. Gulzar manages to compress all the philosophies, all the spiritual teachings about life in a mere atthanni.
Atthanni Si Zindagi

 Kabhi Chand Ki Tarah Tapki, Kabhi Raah Mein Padi Paai

Atthanisi Zindagi, Yeh Zindagi

Kabhi Chheenk Ki Tarah Khanki, Kabhi Jeb Se Nikal Aayi,

Atthanisi Zindagi, Yeh Zindagi…


Kabhi Chehre Pe Jadi Dekhi, Kahin Mod Pe Khadi Dekhi

Sheeshe Ke Martabaanon Mein, Dukaan Pe Padi Dekhi

Chaukanni Si Zindagi, Yeh Zindagi…


Tamge Lagake Milti Hai, Maasoomiyat Se Khilti Hai

Kabhi Phool Haath Mein Lekar, Shaakhon Pe Baithi Hilti Hai

Atthanisi Zindagi, Yeh Zindagi…