Urdu Poetry in Indian Film Industry


Contributor: Prof. Raza Mir


 Dil na-umeed to nahin, nakaam hi to hai

Lambi hai gham ki shaam, magar shaam hi to hai

Defeated it may be, but the heart is not despaired

Sorrow’s evening is long, but after all, it is merely evening.

                 Thus begins a song from the 1994 Hindi movie 1942-A Love Story.  The lyrics of the song are credited to Javed Akhtar, but the verse itself comes from a poem by Faiz Ahmed Faiz.  The contribution of Faiz to this film song is entirely unstated, unobtrusive and seamless.  The presence of these lines in the song is emblematic of a highly symbiotic relationship between Hindi film music and Urdu poetry.  The influence of Urdu poets on Hindi film music not only ensured that the language continued to have a performative presence in the linguistic landscape of India, but there was also a reciprocal effect.  Hindi film music transformed Urdu poetry, keeping it in tune with the contemporary cultural milieu in India.

              In order to appreciate the significance of this association between the two art forms, one must contextualise it alongside the absolute diminishment of institutional patronage of Urdu in post-independence India.  The conflicts within the Indian nationalist space with respect to the role of Urdu are well documented[1].  The communalisation of the language conflict in India has a long history, going back to colonial decrees such as Anthony Macdonnell’s “Hindi resolution” of 1901, which declared Hindi as a separate language from Urdu, and one that was the exclusive tongue of Muslims[2].  The bitter conflicts that arose between the sectarian proponents of the Hindi-Urdu divide (from both ends of the religious binary) and the more moderate proponents of a shared “Hindustani” ethos were also played out in the census of India.  Aijaz Ahmad recalls that while the census of the subcontinent did not mention Hindi and Urdu as separate languages in 1931, preferring the more inclusive Hindustani, the divide emerged in subsequent census tabulations. By 1961, Hindustani had been eliminated from the census as a possible language[3], thereby burning yet another institutional bridge that Urdu may have used to reach out to the mainstream.  The ravages of partition, the suspicion that Urdu was routinely subjected to under the nationalist discourse, and the stubborn assertions by Muslim sectarian interests that Urdu be treated as a lingua franca of the Muslims, all steadily contributed to the withdrawal of Urdu into the penumbra of national consciousness.   Casual words like “dying language” are being bandied about with respect to Urdu in India, and indicators like “the number of Urdu medium schools in Uttar Pradesh” present a litany of bad news with respect to the present conditions and future viability of the language.

               However, one must not merely use these inert and sterile indicators to gauge the viability of a language.  A casual look around the Indian cultural landscape reveals that Urdu is still very much alive in the performed linguistic traditions of India.  It is a language that is often accorded a mystifyingly high status as a marker of refinement in middle-class Indian society.  Urdu ghazals are always deployed by Hindi speakers to punctuate mellow moments, and ironically, in a milieu where the Urdu question has been hopelessly conflated with the Muslim question, many of the most hardcore of Hindutvavadis continue to deploy Urdu metaphors and couplets in their election speeches.

 What social avenues then further the performativity and enactment of Urdu, in an atmosphere where the traditional institutions are under retreat?  Our simple thesis here is that the ubiquitous presence of song in the traditions of Hindi cinema have provided valuable institutional support for the survival and the furtherance of Urdu poetry.  Not only has it provided livelihood to a number of Urdu poets, but also more importantly, through the popularization of their work, it has kept the idiom of Urdu poetry alive in a larger section of the subcontinental populace. 

               It would be a major exercise in redundancy to enumerate the number of ways in which cinema plays a dominant role in Indian cultural life, and the role played by songs in Indian cinema in general and Hindi cinema in particular.  What is relatively less apparent is the tremendous preponderance of Urdu terms[4] in Hindi film songs.  A random selection of 4 songs from 4 different tapes on our shelf reveals the presence of words like ilteja (request, found in the song O mere Sona from the 1966 movie Teesri Manzil), jaaneman (my life, from the song Jaaneman jaaneman in the 1975 movie Chhoti Si Baat), mahsoos (aware, from the song Tu hi tu, in the 1998 film Dil Se), and saqi (wine-bearer, from the song Kaise rahoon chup, from the 1969 film Inteqam).  Avid listeners of Hindi film music will agree that these are not wild examples we have pulled out of nowhere, but represent some common words used in Hindi film lyrics.  These words all possess Persian (Farsi) roots, but thanks to their repeated usage in the Hindi film songs, they continue to have a tenuous hold in the vocabulary of the Hindustani that is spoken in the streets of South Asia.  It is evident from the examples that Urdu poetry and reaches a mass audience in an unstated, routine manner through the medium of the Hindi film song.

             In the rest of this chapter, we would like to explore three distinct ways in which serious Urdu poetry finds expression in Hindi film songs. 

Existing Urdu Poetry Deployed in Film Music

Often, already written classical Urdu poetry is sometimes used in cinematic situations.  Table 1 shows a selected set of famous Urdu classic poets whose work has been used in Hindi film songs[5].  The presence of such classical poems in Hindi films provides much needed linkages between the present and the past of Urdu poetry.  From Ghalib’s metaphysical images to the specific 15th century Deccani intonations of Quli Qutub Shah, from the tortured alienation of Bahadur Shah Zafar to the quotidian sensuality of Nazir Akbarabadi’s bazaar, Urdu finds its way into the lexicon of the Indian proletariat, sometimes in its Persianised aks and sometimes in its Sanskritised avatar.

Table 1

“Classical” Poets Whose Work Appeared in Hindi Cinema





Amir Khusrau

Bahadur Shah Zafar

Hasrat Mohani

Meer Taqi Meer

Mirza Ghalib

Mohammed Iqbal

Quli Qutub Shah

Wajid Ali Shah


Kaaheko biyaahe bides

Lagtaa nahin hai ji mera ujde dayaar mein

Chupke chupke raat din aansoo bahana

Dikhaayi diye yoon, ke bekhud kiya

Dil e nadaan, tujhe hua kya hai

Kabhi ai haqeeqat e muntazar

Piya baj pyaala piya jaaye re

Baabul mora, naihar chhuto hi jaae


Umrao Jaan (1981)

Laal Qila (1957)

Nikaah (1982)

Bazaar (1982)

Mirza Ghalib (1954)

Dulhan Ek Raat Ki (1967)

Nishant (1975)

Street Singer (1938)


Apart from the classical poets of the past, even contemporary Urdu poets of the fifties and the sixties have utilised their already published works in the service of Hindi cinema.  While an inventory of such works would be too huge to consider[6], we would like to concentrate our attention on those song writers in Hindi cinema who were members of the PWA, another institution that played a significant role in cementing the linkages between Urdu poetry and Hindi films[7].


              Since its formation in 1935, the PWA provided a realist and politically aware agenda to Hindi cinema.  The impact of PWA poets on the lyrics of Hindi films was formidable.  Consider the 1982 film Bazaar, where Farooque Sheikh serenades Supriya Pathak with the song Phir chhidi raat, baat phoolon ki (The Tale of Flowers Was Retold Tonight).  Or the 1993 film Muhafiz (Protector), where Deven, the Hindi teacher played by Om Puri rushes to the house of the old poet Noor (Shashi Kapoor), only to find his funeral procession, passing to the tune of Aaj bazaar mein paa-bajaula chalo (Today, Come in Fetters to the Marketplace).  Or take a walk down memory lane to the 1965 film Haqeeqat (Reality), when the forlorn soldier played by Sanjay Khan remembers his parting with his lover thus: Main ye soch kar us ke dar se utha thha (I Left Her Door Hoping…).  All these wondrous moments appear so seamlessly integrated in the narratives of these movies that one would think that the songs had been custom-written for the occasion.  The truth is that all three songs are previously written poems by PWA poets (Makhdoom, Faiz and Kaifi respectively).   The appropriate metaphors used in these songs again underscore the important contribution of PWA poets in developing the metaphorical clarity of the Hindi film song.  Lyricists in the Hindi film industry who owed allegiance to the PWA set the tone for a socially transformative agenda in Hindi film music, and pioneered a new aesthetic of using simple language, publicly available metaphor and a blend of Persian and Sanskrit vocabulary to produce a non-sectarian tradition in film lyrics.  PWA members like Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri found employment as highly successful lyricists, but equally important, their already published literary works, as well as the poems of other PWA poets such as Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Hasrat Mohani were deployed in Hindi film songs.  Table 2 provides a partial list of poets from the progressive tradition whose already published poetry found its way into Hindi films in the form of songs.

Table 2

Progressive Poets Whose Previously Written Work Featured in Hindi Film Songs






Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Israr ul Huq Majaaz

Kaifi Azmi

Majrooh Sultanpuri

Makhdoom Mohiuddin

Sahir Ludhianvi

Ali Sardar Jafri


Mujh se pehli si mohabbat

Ai gham e dil kya karoon

Ho ke majboor mujhe us ne bhulaya[8]

Hum thhe, mataa e koocha o bazaar

Ek chameli ke mandwe tale

Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi

Sham e gham ki qasam


Qaidi (1957)

Thokar (1939)

Haqeeqat (1964)

Dastak (1970)

Cha Cha Cha (1953)

Gumraah (1963)

Footpath (1953)


              Overall, it was the existing oeuvre of the PWA poets that not only infused an Urdu sensibility into the Hindi film song, but also contributed to the development of a distinct lyrical metaphor, where the tropes used to express the passions of love and beauty were deployed to express other passions such as rebellion, the desire for social change, and expressions of freedom.

             With regard to the use of already published work as film lyrics, we notice a very interesting phenomenon.  On one hand, it is self-evident that classical works such as the ghazals of Ghalib and Meer would have to be used as-is in the movie.  That would pose a few limitations on their use, relating to their suitability to the situation in the movie, and also the denseness of the language.  However, filmmakers usually got around that by using these lyrics in set situations.  For example, a character in the movie may be a singer giving a public performance, such as Supriya Pathak singing Meer’s ghazal Dikhayee diye yoon ke bekhud kiya (You Made it Appear Like Renunciation) in Bazaar (1982).   Sometimes, the movie itself could be based on a poet, such as the 1954 film Mirza Ghalib or the 1957 release Lal Qila (Red Fort), which was about Bahadur Shah Zafar, and thus incorporated his ghazals like Na kisi ke aankh ka noor hoon (Nor Am I the Light of Any Eye).  Even in such films, the lyrics were chosen for their simplicity (it is no coincidence that the Ghalib movie concentrated on his simpler ghazals such as Dil-e-nadaan tujhe hua kya hai (What Has Become of You, My Innocent Heart?).

 With published poems from living poets however, filmmakers were not averse to request them to “tweak” their songs to make them more accessible, and situation-friendly.  The exigencies of writing for a broad audience meant that poets had to impose specific restrictions on their language, not the least of which was to de-Persianise it.  For instance, when Guru Dutt chose to adopt Sahir’s despairing commentary on Bombay’s brothels “Sanaqaan e taqdees e mashriq kahaan hai” (Where Are They Who Sing Praises of Eastern Culture?) for his 1957 movie Pyaasa (The Thirsty One), he requested Sahir to de-Persianise the mukhda (opening stanza) to make it more accessible.  Sahir’s new mukhda, Jinhe naaz hai Hind par, who kahaan hai (Where Are They Who Are So Proud of India?), integrates seamlessly with the rest of the poem, and adds greater value to the song.  Likewise, Kaifi Azmi simplified the lyrics of one of his best-known poems Aurat (Uth meri jaan, mere saath hi chalna hai tujhe, Arise, my darling, we must walk together) for use in the 1997 move Tamanna (Desire).  Recently, Javed Akhtar expanded his already published qata (quatrain) Kathai ankhon wali ek ladki  (A Girl With Brown Eyes) for use in a film situation in Duplicate (1998).

 Customised Songs by PWA Poets for Hindi Films

              The second way in which Urdu poetry has transformed Hindi cinema is through the fact that Urdu poets wrote specific, customised songs for Hindi films.  In so doing, they brought in a variety of metaphors into the language, which through several generations of humming, have now become an integral part of Hindustani usage.  Thus, Urdu vocabulary became part of the dominant linguistic mosaic of the sub-continent.

             An examination of this point reveals the mutually transformative role played by Urdu poetry and Hindi song.  Not only did these Urdu poets transform the metaphor and idiom of Hindi songs, but their own writing style was also transformed by the exigencies of Hindi cinema.  The music director and the lyricist in Hindi cinema worked under several limitations.  For one, till the advent of the 33-rpm LPs, songs could not be longer than 3 minutes and 8 seconds, and even now, are rarely longer than 5 minutes.  They are limited by the situations that present themselves in the movies.  For reasons that may be related to the over-zealousness of Hindi film censors, the Hindi film song has evolved as a medium where characters express in those emotions in song that the censors will not allow them to deploy in the narrative structure of the dialogue.  Thus, film songs suffer from an overdose of metaphors that convey romantic love, erotic passion and sexual desire.  Such a preponderance of similar situations must have weighed heavily on the creativity of the poets, especially the progressives, who were committed to the representation of real social situations through this mass-accessible medium. Moreover, due to the fact that a song is a collaborative effort between a music director and a lyricist, the songwriter does not always have the luxury of writing a poem and passing it on to a music director for a tune.  Often, it is the music director who composes the tunes beforehand, and poets have to write their songs to these pre-written rhythms, which can also be quite a limitation[9]. 

 These twin limitations, one can argue, produced very distinct changes in the Urdu poem.  First of all, when faced with the need to repeatedly represent the image of passionate love in song after song, the better lyricists were able to introduce a variety of other themes into Hindi film lyrics without compromising its “traditional” or “conventional” requirements.  Often, this was accomplished by producing a dialectic binary between the purity of love (ishq, pyaar) and the corruption of the world, represented by tyranny, wealth, the throne, or even God (zulm, zar/daulat, takht, khudai).  The power struggle between the subaltern lovers and the dominant social order became a metaphor to describe other power struggles all around the world.  Sahir’s defiant words resound in a song from the 1963 film Taj Mahal:

Takht kya cheez hai, aur la’al o jawaahar hai kya?

Pyaar wale to khudai bhi luta dete hain


What price this throne, what value these jewels?

True lovers will even spurn God’s kingdom.


The second spin-off from this limitation relates to the need for brevity in Hindi film songs.  The need to keep the song short imposed a framework on the creativity of the poet, which led the better among them to deploy words with care and economy.  For instance, Sahir’s song in the 1960 film Hum Dono (Two of us):

                                                 Main zindagi ka saath nibhaata chala gaya

Har fikr ko dhuen mein udaata chalaa gaya


I learnt to walk apace with life

Blowing all my worries into smoke.


            can be read equally as an act of ultimate ideological compromise or a defiant optimism.  Similarly, in the 1954 film Boot Polish, he brings an exquisite sense of irony to bear in communicating the plight of the homeless to everyone who has sung Iqbal’s Saare jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamaara (Our India is Better Than Any Land in the World) with pride:


Jeben hain apni khaali, kyon deta varna gaali

Vo santari hamaara, vo paasban hamaara


Our pockets are empty, why else would he abuse us?

Our glorious sentry, our protector.

                 The sentry referred to here is a beat constable, who shoos away the homeless from park benches and railway stations at night.  Of course, this recalls Iqbal’s lines in the classic poem, where the sentry is the lofty Himalayan range standing in the sky and protecting India from invasion, Parbat vo sab se ooncha, humsaya aasmaan ka, vo santari hamaara, vo paasbaan hamaara (That Highest Among Mountains, That Equal of the Sky, That is Our Sentry, Our Protector).


Hindi cinema also allowed poets to experiment with structures of poetry that were considered “inferior” in the canon of classical Urdu poetry.  It is a well-known fact that classical Urdu poetry, nurtured as it was by the courtly patronage of kings, had developed an aesthetic and cultural sensitivity that catered primarily to the ruling class[10].  Under this patronage, the dominant structural pattern of poetry became the ghazal.  The ghazal is structured relatively strictly, with a string of two-line couplets, common in meter.  Every second line of a couplet in a ghazal shares a rhythmic continuity with every other second line, through two artifacts, known as the qafiya and the radif.  To explain these in concrete terms, let us take an example of two couplets of a ghazal from Hindi movies, such as Hasrat Mohani’s[11] ghazal used in the 1981 film Nikaah (Marriage).  The lines go thus:


Chupke chupke raat din aansoo bahaana yaad hai

Hum ko ab tak aashiqui ka wo zamaana yaad hai

Khainch lena wo mera parde ka kona daf’atan

Aur dupatte mein tera wo moonh chhipaana yaad hai


Those nights and days of tear shedding, I still remember

Yes, that era of intense loving, I still remember

Me suddenly pulling away the curtain between us

And you behind your dupatta hiding, I still remember.

              The rhyme in this ghazal derives primarily from the qafiya, which in this case comes from the rhyming of bahaana, zamaana and chhipaana.  It is here that the creativity of the poet is tested the most.  The radif in this ghazal is yaad hai, which is a base on which the ghazal stands.  In this case, every second line of every poem would end with the words yaad hai (the radif), and that term would be preceded by a word that rhymed with bahaana (the qafiya)[12].  Ghazals typically contain between 5 and 20 couplets, which are preoccupied with themes of love and yearning, and which are not necessarily connected to each other in a narrative continuity.

               Progressive poets have constantly chafed against the genre of the ghazal.  As discussed in the introduction, Akhtar Husain Raipuri, a socialist literary critic wrote a landmark essay in 1935 titled Adab aur Zindagi (Literature and Life)[13], where among other things, he criticized the format of ghazal for being nothing more than the plaything of the rich and the indolent.  Progressive poets have constantly attempted either to write different rhyme schemes than the ghazal, or to use its rhyme scheme subversively to depict highly non-traditional ideas than the schemas of love and passion.  Yet, Urdu mushairas and poetry books continue to abound with ghazals and qaseedas and masnavis.  Progressive poets yearned to find mass-based outlets for their other poetic offerings, which were fulfilled partly when their songs began to be hummed on streets all over the country.  Eventually, the nazm, which was a much-derided form of poetic expression, became a structure of choice in Urdu literature.  Urdu nazms such as Sahir’s Chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaayen hum dono (Come that we may start afresh as strangers) from the 1963 Gumrah (Astray), Majrooh’s Ek din bik jaayega maati ke mol (One day, you will be sold at the same price as dust) from the 1975 Dharam Karam (Faith and Deed), or Jan Nisar Akhtar’s Ye dil aur unki nigaahon ke saaye (This heart, and the shadows of his gaze) from the 1970 Prem Parbat (Mountain of Love) offered newer rhythmic structures without compromising on poetic quality.  

 The Continuation and Extension of the PWA Position in Current Hindi Film Lyrics

              Anybody who has followed Hindi cinema, or who has been a regular listener of Hindi film music, will note the alarming dip in the standards of film music in general and film lyrics in particular in the 1980s.  Taking advantage of lax copyright laws and waning originality in composition, music directors and lyricists engaged in “the politics of parody”, borrowing stock tunes from Western songs and setting them to inane lyrics[14]. 

It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that the dip in the standards of Hindi film lyrics followed the death of some of the stalwart lyricists of Hindi cinema, such as Shailendra, Hasrat Jaipuri, Raja Mehdi Ali Khan and Shakeel Badayuni.  However, Sahir’s untimely death in 1980  not only robbed Hindi cinema of its premier lyricist, it also dealt a body blow to the expression of socialist sentiment in Hindi film lyrics.  Majrooh, the other PWA stalwart, had begun to dilute his poetry of political content since the 1970s, and while his poetry continued to be a marvel of inventive vocabulary, it rarely spoke to the material conditions in which the viewers of Hindi cinema were enveloped.  However, other poets such as Nida Fazli, Hasan Kamal and Shahryar used the metaphors made famous by the PWA aesthetic with gusto.  Shahryar’s ghazal about the sense of urban anomie in Bombay was used in the 1978 movie Gaman (Disappearance), where the protagonist, a taxi driver wonders:

                                             Seene mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai

Is shahr mein har shaqs pareshan sa kyon hai


Why does the chest burn, why is there a storm in the eyes?

Why is everyone in this city so unsettled?


Hasan Kamal’s ghazal in Mazdoor (1983) deployed a programmatic imagery to demand access of labourers to surplus value:

                                 Hum mehnat-kash is duniya se jab apna hissa mangenge

Ek baagh nahin, ek khet nahin, hum saari duniya mangenge[15]

 When we labourers will demand our share of this world

Not an orchard, not merely a field, we will demand the entire world for ourselves.

                With Majrooh’s death in 2000, and the subsequent demise of Ali Sardar Jafri in 2001 and Kaifi Azmi in 2002, progressive Urdu poetry was left without a stalwart.  However, the expression of a socialist aesthetic as well as an Urdu vocabulary in Hindi films is a responsibility that has been shouldered admirable (if often solitarily) by Javed Akhtar. 

Akhtar’s film poetry has been a lot closer to the traditions established by his PWA predecessors, without sacrificing his poetic originality.  One is reminded of his earlier songs such as this one in the 1983 film Mashaal (Torch), which is happily reminiscent of Sahir’s work:

                                 Kai yaadon ke chehre hain, kai qisse puraane hain

Teri sau daastaanen hain, tere kitne fasaane hain

Magar ek woh kahaani hai, jo ab mujh ko sunaani hai

Zindagi, aa raha hoon main


Memories have several faces, there are several stories from the past

You have a hundred stories, and as many parables

But there is one little story, which is now mine to tell

My life, await me.

               Akhtar’s poetry is not only infused with a delectable Persian (not many current lyricists would use posheeda (hidden) and khwabeeda (dreamy) in a movie song, in this case, in a song from the 1998 movie Wajood), but the unselfconscious insertion of khadi boli and Sanskritised Hindi in the songs of the 2001 hit Lagaan (Tax): Bijuri ki talwaar nahin, boondon ke baan chalaao (Not the sword of lightning, use the bow of raindrops) emphasizes yet again the common heritage of Hindi, Urdu and Hindustani.  It is an interesting and welcome sidelight that Akhtar is a very “conscious” lyricist, who not only pays attention to situations, tonalities, dialects and an overall narrative motive while writing his songs, but is very articulate in his ability to dissect and explain his choice of words and meter at various places[16].  He is also scrupulous in acknowledging the role of PWA poets in furthering the traditions of Hindi film lyrics, and also their secular and leftist character[17].  It is a pity that in Hindi film lyrics today, Akhtar is perhaps the only inheritor of the PWA tradition, but in these days of depressing decline, one must learn to make do with small mercies.

 The Indirect Effect

Thus far, we have seen how existing poems of Urdu poets and commissioned works have found their way into the mainstreams of Hindi cinema.  But there is a third, indirect way in which these two art forms are inextricably intertwined.  Snippets and phrases from Urdu poetry find their way into the lexicon of Hindi film songs.  For instance, in the 1981 film Ek Duuje Ke Liye (For each other), Anand Bakshi, a career lyricist, inserted Ghalib in the line Ishq par zor nahin, Ghalib ne kahaa hai isi liye (Love is not bound by compulsion, Ghalib has said). Momin’s eternal couplet Tum mere paas hoti ho goya, Jab koi doosra nahin hota  (My solitude is always spent as if you are by my side), is used inventively in a song Ai meri shaah e qubaan in the movie Love in Simla (1960).  Ghalib’s sher Jee dhoondta hai phir wahi fursat ke raat din (The heart searches for those days and nights of leisure) formed a mukhda of a song by Gulzar from the 1975 movie Mausam (Season).

              And fittingly, it is Gulzar, the Ghalib aficionado that provides us with the remarkable lyric that form the title of this chapter.  In the 1998 film Dil Se (From the Heart), his Sufi inspired song Chhaiyya Chhaiyya, despite its heavy use of Persianised Urdu, became a super-hit.  And in a referential (reverential?) ode to the language itself, Gulzar remarks, “A friend is like a fragrance, with a language (sweet) like Urdu.”  Indeed.



[1] See for example, Jyotindra Das Gupta, 1970, Language, Conflict and National Development: Group Politics and National Language Policy in India, Berkeley: University of California Press.

[2] Mushirul Hasan, 1997, Legacy of a Divided Nation: Indian Muslims Since Independence, New Delhi: Oxford University Press.  Hasan also recalls Mohsinul Mulk’s poignant verse that symbolised Urdu’s plight, Chal saath, ke hasrat dil-e- mahroom se nikle,  Aashiq ka janaaza hai, zara dhoom se nikle  (Walk along, that the defeated heart may fulfil its (last) desire,  After all, it is a lover’s corpse, give it a flamboyant burial) (p 160).

[3] Aijaz Ahmed, 1996, ‘In the Mirror of Urdu: Recompositions of Nation and Community 1947-65. In Lineages of the Present, New Delhi: Tulika, pp. 205-208.

[4] We are using this term very hesitantly, for it is our firm conviction that the linguistic distinctions between Hindi and Urdu are arbitrary, and they are in effect, the same language.  However, to the extent that the dominant view is that these are two distinct and different languages with Urdu being characterized by a preponderance of Farsi and Turkish words and Hindi being infused with more Sanskrit terms, we use this binary to point out how it is rendered invalid in Hindi film songs.

[5] For purposes of economy, we have only included a single sample for each poet.   For a more comprehensive listing, see http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~navin/india/songs/.

[6]See the searchable database of Hindi film songs at http://www.cs.wisc.edu/~navin/india/songs/, where it is possible to retrieve the songs by lyricist.  An interesting exercise would be to compare the 300+ lyricists found at this site with another very detailed database available at http://www.urdupoetry.com.  This website maintained by Nita Awatramani cites around 350 poets, and at least 100 names are common across both these databases, yet another empirical manifestation of the depth of relationship between Urdu poetry and Hindi cinema.

[7] For a brief history of the linkage between the PWA and Indian cinema, see Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Wilemen, 1998, Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, p. 180.

[8] This song is adapted from Kaifi’s poem Andeshe (Premonitions).

[9] In a lighter vein, Kaifi Azmi once compared this practice to digging a grave ahead of time and demanding a corpse of the right dimensions!

[10] Even Ghalib was not beyond such sycophancy, which was obviously an artifact of the institutionally created financial situation of the poet.  In the last ghazal of his Diwan makes obsequious references to a financial patron, Diya hai khalq ko bhi ta use nazar na lage, bana hai aish Tajammul Husain Khan ke liye (God has bestowed riches on the world to protect him from envy, Otherwise, all wealth was meant for Tajammul Husain Khan).

[11] The choice of Hasrat Mohani is not accidental.  He was also a member of the PWA, a left-leaning Congresswala who tried in vain to get the Congress to adopt a resolution demanding “total independence” from Britain in 1919.  The resolution was defeated, but Mohani was vindicated when the Congress eventually adopted the motion in 1927.

[12] Only in the first couplet of the ghazal, referred to as the matlaa, do both lines need to have the radif and the qafiya together.  For a more detailed analysis of the ghazal, see Ralph Russell, 1992, pp. 26-74, which also has some discussion on the ghazals of Ghalib and Meer.

[13] For a comprehensive elaboration on this essay, see Carlo Coppola, 1975, pp. 109-134.

[14] Peter Manuel, 1993, Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 131-152.  Also see an instructive table in the same book on pp. 297-298, giving examples of plagiarized songs in the 1980s and early 1990s.

[15] The song is very similar in rhyme and meter to an older Communist organising song that includes the line Hum har ek desh ke jhande pe ek laal sitara mangenge (On every country’s flag, we will demand a red star).

[16] See, for instance, his exposition about lyric writing in Nasreen Munni Kabir, 1999, Talking Films: Conversations on Hindi Films with Javed Akhtar, New Delhi: Oxford University Press, pp. 103-140.

[17] Kabir, 1999, p. 135.