Agar Tum Saath Ho and Gender Roles in Hindi Songs

There are multiple reasons that lead to the song Agar Tum Saath Ho striking a chord with the public. It is a rich and melodious composition by A.R. Rahman, it seen as the return of Alka Yagnik into mainstream Hindi film songs and the song also marks a critical plot point in the movie (Tamasha). Sensitive performances (especially by Deepika Padukone) give this song another dimension and make it extremely difficult for emotional viewers like myself to hold their tears back. Infact for me, this song sequence is an outstanding highlight of an otherwise average film. But there is more to this song. Let us take a closer look at the lyrics. The woman sings:

Pal bhar thehar jao,

Dil yeh sambhal jaaye,

Kaise tumhe roka karoon? 

Meri taraf aata,

Har gham phisal jaaye,

Ankhon me tumko bharoon.

Bin bole baatien tumse karoon,

Agar tum saath ho.

which roughly translates to:

Just wait for few moments; let my heart settle down. How do I stop you from leaving? Let me fill you in my eyes. If you are with me all my sorrows slip away. If you are with me I can talk to you without saying much.

She further adds:

Behti rehti nehar nadiyaan si,

Teri duniya mein .

Meri duniya hai,

Teri chahaton mein .

Mai dhal jaati hoon,

Teri aadaton mein,

Agar tum saath ho.

which translates to:

Your world is filled with rivers and streams; My world is set only where your interests lie. If you are with me, your habits become mine.

While the man keeps repeating:

Teri nazaron mein hai tere sapne,

Tere sapno mein hai naarazi.

Mujhe lagta hai ke baatien dil ki,

Hoti lafzon ki dhokebaazi .

Tum saath ho ya na ho,

Kya fark hai?

Bedard thi, zindagi bedard hai,

Agar tum saath ho.

which basically means:

Your eyes are filled with their own dreams and I can see anger in those dreams. All these talks of love are nothing but deceptive words. What difference does it make if you are with me? My life was merciless and will be merciless even if you are with me.

t1

We can see that the woman is expressing her love and her desire to stay with the man but the man is turning her down. This is a refreshing concept to see in a Hindi film song.

Back in the day, we had enough songs where women used to express love and romance as unabashedly as the men. Lag Jaa Gale, Tere Bina Zindagi Se Koi Shikhwa, Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya? etc  are some such examples. However, somewhere and somehow we lost the plot. Most songs started conveying through their lyrics and/or picturization that the burden of expressing love falls only on the guy’s shoulders. He had to ‘impress the girl’. Scenes where a guy follows the girl to impress her while the girl either shows arrogance or blushes  became a popular concept so much so that a lot of songs are based on this concept even today.

Take for example, Mai Koi Aisa Geet Gaaon (Yes Boss). Yes, it is a cute song with a catchy tune and Shah Rukh Khan is rather charming here but the problem arises when bulk of songs being produced are based on a similar concept. It gives a wrong idea about gender roles when it comes to romance. Palat Tera Hero Idhar Hai is a recent example. Clearly nothing much has changed except that the lyrics have become ridiculous.

I have heard opinions that call the girl (in Agar Tum Saath Ho) weak and submissive because she says “Mai dhal jaati hoon teri aadaton mein”. The question is when we can accept the guy expressing Tu dil tu hi jaan meri (you’re my heart and my life) in Samjhawaan as romance without passing a judgement on the character then what troubles us when a girl is expressing love with similar intensity? Years of guy-impresses-girl based songs have lead to a rather funny images of a girl in love. She is either classified as ‘Door khadi sharmaaye‘ type or as the haughty who is difficult to please or worst as a ‘bold’ item girl dancing to misogynistic lyrics. We have stopped expecting girls on the celluloid to express deeper emotions when in love.

We produce enough musically and lyrically appealing romantic songs but why is it that in most of these songs the girl merely seems to be replying to a guy’s proposal and more importantly why do we not see girls being turned down by guys more often when girls in reality get a crush and get their hearts broken as often a guy.  It is not that we haven’t had such songs at all, but they are few in number and here’s to hoping for more songs (which are not item numbers) where we can see a girl trying to impress a guy or getting rejected by a guy!

Here is the song as it appears in the movie. As I have already stated, I really like the lyrics, performances and camera work in this sequence.

Advertisements
Agar Tum Saath Ho and Gender Roles in Hindi Songs

Geet Mein Dhalte Lafz

I have spent all my life in urban Indian settings. I have always only been to English medium schools, where being fluent in Hindi was considered trivial and fluency in English was stressed upon. Thanks to my South Indian roots, since childhood we were encouraged to speak and think in English. But since I grew up in North India, Hindi was the first language I picked up and till date it’s the only language that enables me to make comfortable conversations.  But what kind of Hindi did I pick up anyway? The kind we use every day, casual and unrefined. The kind we treat as a means to an end while bargaining with shopkeepers and riksha walaas without really understanding its potential depth and beauty.

Being a millennial, the songs that were popular during my teenage years were Just Chill, Dhoom Machaale, Dard-e-Disco, Salaam Namaste etc. I do not mean to say that there were no meaningful songs written those days, it’s just that I did not have the sensibility to comprehend them. Even today the songs that catch momentum are not necessarily the most lyrically appealing. In fact, sadly the songs that become top hits these days are Baby Doll, Munni Badnaam, Laila Teri Le Legi etc that sow the seeds of vulgarity in young minds and do nothing to popularize the finer dialect.

Probably the first time I really enjoyed the lyrics of a song was when I heard Aaoge Jab Tum (Jab We Met). In an album that had chart-busters like Mauja Hi Mauja and Yeh Ishq Haye, I could not stop listening to Aaoge Jab Tum. Soon my mp3 player was filled with Naina Thag Lenge (Omkara), Yeh Honsla (Dor), Ha Raham (Aamir), Sapno Se Bhare Naina (Luck by Chance), Arziyan (Dilli 6), Maula Mere (Chak De! India) and many more such songs. It was also around the same time that I got my hands on a CD of Manna Dey classics and a CD of classics from ’50s-’80s. All these made me relish the language (Hindi/Hindi-Urdu). Here, I would like to mention my favorite lines from few songs mentioned above:

Sone chamak mein, sikkon khanak mein-milta nahi

Dhool ke zarron mein, dhoonde koi toh- milta wahi

Kya majaal teri marzi ke aage, bandon ki chal jaayegi

Taane ungli jo tu katputli ki chaal badal jaayegi

Ha Raham, ha raham farma aye Khuda

Mehfooz har kadam karna aye Khuda

(One does not find happiness in wealth, search for it and you’ll find it in trivial things. How dare we think everything will proceed according to our will when we are but mere puppets in Your hands? Oh Lord show some mercy, protect us at every step.) – Ha Raham (Aamir)

 

Poocho na kaise maine rain bitaayi

Ik pal jaise ik jug beeta

Jug beete, mohe neend na aayi . . .

Na kahin chanda, na kahin taare

Jyot ke pyaase mere nain bechaare

Bhor bhi, aas ki kiran na laayee

(Do not ask me how I spent the night; moments felt like ages. I could not sleep as ages elapsed. I could not spot the moon or the stars; my eyes deprived of light. Even the dawn could not bring a ray of hope.) –Poocho Na Kaise Maine Rain Bitaayi (Manna Dey)

 

Door he se sagar jise har koi maane

Paani hai woh ya reth hai yeh kaun jaane?

Jaise ke din se rain alag hai

Sukh hai alag aur chain alag hai

Par jo yeh dekhe woh nain alag hai

Chain toh hai apna, sukh hai paraye . . .

Sapno se bhare naina, toh neend hai nah chaina

(To the distant viewer even the sand appears as the ocean. Only the one who dares to venture knows about the struggle of finding the ocean. Happiness and peace are as different the day and the night, the one who sees this difference is the one with a different vision. Peace accompanies us but happiness continues to be elusive…Eyes filled with dreams can find neither sleep nor peace) –Sapno Se Bhare Naina (Luck by Chance)

 

In recent times if there is a writer who has made my heart pound with happiness with his writing, then it’s Varun Grover. He uses the most unadulterated Hindi in his songs. He manages to bring out the beauty of the language like no other present day writer. His songs have made me fall in love with Hindi all over again. As the writer of the film Masaan, he infused the story with beautiful shayaari and poems. In times when most songs and dialogues are written in hinglish, here is a film that celebrates classic Hindi literature and yet tells the story of modern India. The song Moh Moh ke Dhaage from the film Dum Laga Ke Haisha is in my opinion, the best written romantic songs of recent times. In the song he writes:

Ke aisa beparwah mann pehle toh na tha

Chiithiyon ko jaise mil gaya, jaise ik naya sa pata

Khaali raahien, hum aankien moondein jaayien

Pahunche kahin toh bewajah.

Yeh moh moh ke dhaage teri ungaliyon se jaa uljhe

Koi toh toh na laage, kis tarha girah yeh suljhe?

(My heat was never this careless before. All letters seem to have found a new address. On empty roads, I am walking with my eyes closed; hoping to reach somewhere for no reason. These threads of endearment have entangled themselves on your fingers; there is no compulsion, so how will this knot get resolved?)

My favorite work of Varun Grover is the song Mann Kasturi Re from Masaan. When I first heard the song, it sounded very fresh and appealing, but honestly I did not understand much about what the song was trying to tell. A few months later I came across an interview in which he briefly explained the song. Intrigued by this, I searched for a detailed explanation online and realized how beautiful the song is. Here, he says our heart is similar to a musk deer, which goes around searching for the scent of the musk, not realizing that it is within him. He writes:

Khoje apni gandh na paave

Chaadar ka paibandh na paave

Bikhrey bikhrey chhandh sa tehley

Dohon mein yeh bandh na paave

Naache hoke phirki lattu

Khoje apni dhoori re . . .

(My heart is searching for its own essence, cannot find it. It cannot find the pattern to this existence. It wanders like scattered verses; it cannot be tied into a couplet. It spins like a top in search of its own axis . . .)

My love for Hindi is extremely vague. I never considered it as a serious subject in school; in fact I struggled with it. I even dropped the subject in 8th grade to pursue French. I struggled to read and write in Devanagari.  However, it is also the only language that I have ever used to think to myself. My love for Hindi grew as my love for Hindi cinema started developing. Today, I still have a tough time reading and writing the language but I feel my dialect has improved. Sometimes my sister calls me a banarasi because of the kind of words I use while speaking, I happily accept it as a compliment! I have a very long way to go on my path of becoming a Hindi geek but I can only hope that many more such amazing songs emerge to accompany me on this journey.

Finally, I am going to end this post with a shayaari by Bashir Badr which was used in Masaan because I absolutely love the film and this couplet:

सितारों को आँखों में महफूज़ रखना, बड़ी देर तक रात ही रात होगी| मुसाफिर हैं हम भी, मुसाफिर हो तुम भी; किसी मोड़ पर फिर मुलाकात होगी|

Geet Mein Dhalte Lafz