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The Mesmerizing Moods of Jaane Kya Tune Kahi (Pyaasa)

November 2, 2016 | By and

The iconic Jaane kya tune kahi in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa (1957) is a masterpiece in the world of music and cinematic technique. Anand Desai (in maroon) and Antara dig into the finer nuances of this classic song, unspooling its various artistic and creative layers – composition, rendition, camera work, performances, orchestration and more.

A lonely poet is lost in his own world of gloom and despair that merge into the enveloping darkness of the night around him. Suddenly, the stillness is broken by an exquisitely musical voice, reciting his poetry. Vijay sits up with a start. 

Jaane kya tune kahi

VK Murthy’s camera catches the masti in Gulab’s eyes with a deep bottom angle shot.

Phir na keeje meri gustaakh nigahi ka gilaah
Dekhiye aap ne phir pyar se dekha mujhko 

An enchanting Doo-Wop by Geeta Dutt sets the mood for things to come. Familiar lines? Well… if you thought this story is about this beautiful Asha Bhosle-Mukesh number from Phir Subah Hogi, think again.

Vijay calls out, “Suniye!” A charming young woman looking elegant in a sari and some jewellery with a ladies’ vanity purse turns around to look at him and then looks away again.

“Maine kahaa…” Vijay begins, intrigued and surprised how this beautiful stranger knows his poem.

Before he can finish, the enigmatic stranger gives him the most disarming smile, and teasingly sings,

Jaane kya tuney kahi…

The unique Chinese temple blocks start tingling (from 0.40). Played by the renowned Kersi Lord, this is the dominant instrument all through this unusual composition by SD Burman. As was his typical style, Dada Burman makes use of a limited number of instruments – Sitar, Chinese Temple Blocks, Guitar, Tablas, Bamboo Flute and an unusual addition – the Khol!

Jaane kya tuney kahi
Jaane kya maine suni
Baat kuch bann hi gayi

Geeta Dutt’s voice oozes oomph in every note. The passion in the voice matches the mesmerizing beckoning in those large eyes, a beatific smile and slight swaying of the head in rhythm with the song – can you take your eyes off Gulab?

Vijay can’t as well. No surprises there.

Geeta Dutt sings for Waheeda

Geeta Dutt’s voice oozes oomph in every note. Waheeda Rehman emotes every word in its true spirit – with tantalizing smiles, coy glances, coquettish quirks of the eyebrows and looks that simply say, “come with me”.

Set in Bilawal Thaat, this song is not based on any particular Raag. Composed as a straight sargam, Jaane kya tune kahi has all straight notes.

VK Murthy’s camera catches the masti in Gulab’s eyes with a deep bottom angle shot as she starts stepping back, leading the way. Vijay follows her, stupefied.

The sitar strains fill the interlude as deep close-ups shift to mid and long shots, tracking Gulab’s nimble steps leading Vijay through the narrow alley.

Geeta Dutt’s bhaav gayaki peaks in this song, mixing up an astounding array of emotions - playful, whimsical, mischievous and loving.

Geeta Dutt’s bhaav gayaki peaks in this song, mixing up an astounding array of emotions – playful, whimsical, mischievous and loving.

The treatment of the interlude is worth re-listening. Dada Burman uses three Guitar strokes, alternatively with the Chinese blocks and then the beautiful strains of the Sitar with its sympathy strings, ending emphatically with an extended Flute.

Sansanaahat si hui
Thar-tharaahat si hui
Jaag uthe khwaab kayi
Baat kuch bann hi gayi

Interestingly, these are all Komal notes – so if its “Ni” komal then it sounds like Khammaj! But then again, there is no particular Raag. Mystifying, to say the least! The Taal is Dadra [6 matras  … Dha dhin na Dha tin na.]

Instruments that capture the Calcutta spirit

Never the one to shy away from innovations, Dada Burman uses another stroke of ingenuity to amplify the resonance in this song, bringing in the ‘Khol’, a typically Bhaktigeeti or Kirtan percussion instrument popular in Bengal. But remember, this was a romantic song. So what Dada does is – instead of playing the Khol from both the sides (the way one plays a Dholak) it is kept upright and played along with the Chinese Temple Blocks!

Nain jhuk jhuk ke uthe
Paaon ruk ruk ke uthe
Aa gayi chaal nayi
Baat kuch bann hi gayi

The Bamboo Flute bridge makes you feel “lovingly isolated” (between 2.43 to 2.44 – just one full second). Notice the Sitar matching a make believe Drut as Waheeda fleets in and out behind the pillars.

Geeta Dutt’s bhaav gayaki peaks in this song, mixing up an astounding array of emotions – playful, whimsical, mischievous and loving.

Waheeda Rehman emotes every word in its true spirit – with tantalizing smiles, coy glances, coquettish quirks of the eyebrows and looks that simply say, “come with me”. She fleets through the maze of Corinthian pillars in Prinsep Ghat in pristine Calcutta – a typical architectural trait of the city of palaces, pausing just briefly to allow Vijay to catch up.

jaane-kya-pyaasa

Slipping through the maze of Corinthian pillars in Prinsep Ghat, Gulab beckons Vijay, pausing a moment and darting the next.

The majestic architecture is soon left behind and Gulab slips into the narrow alleys, the darker side of the city.  Vijay does not notice where he is going. He is simply follows, spellbound.

The pillars are still there on Prinsep Ghat today, with the towering Vidyasagar Setu behind it.(Pic: Abby Ray CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia)

The pillars are still there on Prinsep Ghat today, with the towering Vidyasagar Setu behind it.
(Pic: Abby Ray CC BY-SA 4.0 Wikimedia)

The Chinese Temple blocks resume their resonance with each antara.

Zulf shaane pe mudi
Ek khushboo si udi
Khul gaye raaz kayi
Baat kuch bann hi gayi

The song concludes with a superb 9 seconds Coda on Sitar and the Chinese Temple blocks.

Gulab succeeds in bringing Vijay right up to her quarters. For her, it is work. For him, it is a journey into the unknown, to trace his lost poetry. For the viewer, the mysticism of the song and the scene continues to cast its spell long after it’s over.

How that mesmerizing resonance was created

There is an interesting story behind these Chinese Temple Blocks, which were borrowed and brought by gentleman named Dasrath. As the renowned musician late Kersi Lord Sir said, “The song was recorded at Mahalaxmi studios. The hall was very large and the recordist was Shri Mukul Bose. There were different mikes for strings, percussion etc. However, after Mukul Bose heard the sound of the Chinese Blocks, he made me place it in the center of the recording hall and used the cross pick up strategy to record this song!”

The near-perfect “point of view” scene

Waheeda Rehman in Jaane Kya Tune Kahi

Notice the mukhda and the antaras – the camera does not leave Gulab’s enchanting face, smile and eyes.

The camera work is quite another story. Notice the mukhda and the antaras – the camera does not leave Gulab’s enchanting face, smile and eyes, lyrically tracing a rhythm with the music. It is only in the interludes that the camera sweeps back, capturing the mystic of the deserted streets of Calcutta.

The camera follows the sari-clad young woman, positioned from the point of view of Vijay almost all through – a perfect technique of cinematography. Take away the two brief front angle shots of Guru Dutt (at 1:27 to 1:28 and 3:27 – 3:32) and two shots in the interlude (2.08 – 2:22) when Gulabo moves towards the camera – you got an almost perfect scene of point of view! Remember, you (the viewer) are not following Gulabo. Vijay is. And VK Murthy’s camera carefully stays right behind the poet all through the rest of the song.

This observation of the near-perfect scene of “point of view” camera technique was shared with us students by Mr P K Nair, the then Director of the National Film Archives of India (NFAI) in our Cinema Appreciation course. It is no surprise that Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, considered one of the classics of world cinema, is part of film studies in many film institutes. And this song? A true masterpiece in all aspects – composition, rendition, performance, technique and of course, poetry.

Point of view technique in Pyaasa

Except for two fleeting front angle shots of Guru Dutt (L), the song is a perfect example of capturing the “point of view” of the protagonist Vijay, staying carefully behind him (R)

The story behind the Prelude

Yes, poetry, the spine of Pyaasa’s storyline! Coming back to where we began, if you are wondering what the mukhda of a Phir Subah Hogi song is doing in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, which was released a year before the Raj Kapoor-Mala Sinha starrer, here’s what happened.

According to Peeyush Sharma, “Guru Dutt had asked the poet-lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi to bring his chosen poetry for his dream project Pyaasa. Sahir Sahab landed up with some 500+ nazms and ghazals, leaving it to Guru Dutt to pick what he wanted. Guru Dutt chose nazms and shers from that massive body of work to use them as isolated recitals wherever needed in the film, since the hero was a poet. Some of those lines later became full-fledged songs in other films, like the opening lines of this song which were not part of the main song anyway. Copyright wasn’t an issue either as it came into effect only when the full song was recorded and issued on a disc.”

Geeta Dutt Signing Autographs

Jaane kya tune kahi became one of the top hits of Geeta Dutt’s illustrious repertoire. The first two lines of the Prelude she sang were turned into a full Asha-Mukesh duet for Phir Subah Hogi.

The non-film original in Dada’s own voice

Interestingly, the Pyaasa song is a revised version of a non-film Bangla song SD Burman had composed and sung, raising a storm in music circles in Bengal terms of popularity in 1956. My father, then a student in distant Varanasi, remembers how the record was talked about and shared among his friends.

SD Burman used simple, regular orchestration in the original because in those days singers had to make do with whatever musical instruments were available in the HMV Studio in Calcutta.  The improvisations with instruments that could happen in the Bombay studios were not a common practice in Calcutta. Nevertheless, Burman Dada’s voice and rendition was enough to create the magic.

Well, Pyaasa went on to become a box-office hit and this song catapulted Waheeda Rehman into the front league of actors in her first major Hindi film. Needless to say, it also became one of the most popular songs of Geeta Dutt’s illustrious repertoire.

R D Burman and SD Burman, Geeta Dutt and Guru Dutt

Geeta Dutt and Guru Dutt with SD Burman and RD Burman along with Badal Bhattacharya, RD Burman’s friend from his younger days as a student in Calcutta

And for SD Burman and Sahir Ludhianvi, Pyaasa went down in history as the most emphatic end-note of a highly creative association. Touching a zenith with this film, the duo never worked together again. The world remembers them though. In 2004, the soundtrack for Pyaasa was chosen as one of “The Best Music in Film” by Sight & Sound, the British Film Institute magazine.

Adds Peeyush Sharma, “For the first time in the history of background music in Indian cinema, Dada used entirely different instruments and orchestration for the two female leads in Pyaasa. He created two distinct moods in scenes where Mala Sinha is on screen and in the ones where Waheeda is in focus to emphasize the character contrasts. No wonder the British Institute recognised it.”

Well, that’s what makes a film a shining cornerstone of art for all times to come.

 
sd-burman-oct-special-silhouette

The Genius of SD Burman: Silhouette Exclusive October Special Features

Pioneering Experiments Which Became Trends: SD Burman and His Experiments (Part-I) – By Moti Lalwani

Evergreen Hits of Dev Anand-Hemant Kumar – By Peeyush Sharma and Antara

‘Deewana Mastana Hua Dil’ – Mesmerizing Music of SD Burman-Majrooh (Oct 1 Anniversary Special) – By Peeyush Sharma

The Tender Musical Tête-à-tête in Chupke Se Mile (Genius of SD Burman) – By Anand Desai and Antara

When Kishore Protested and SD Burman Persisted: The Making of Dukhi Man Mere – By Peeyush Sharma

From the Archives

Tere Mere Sapne Ab Ek Rang Hain – Eternal Melodies of SD Burman-Rafi – By Peeyush Sharma

The Incomparable Music Of S D Burman Transcends Generations – By Antara

‘Gata Rahe Mera Dil was Patchwork’: In Conversation With Vijay Anand – By Peeyush Sharma

‘In Aradhana, Sachin Karta Gave Me My Life’s Biggest Hit’: In Conversation with Shakti Samanta – By Peeyush Sharma

‘The Music Director Knows which Voice would do Full Justice to his Composition’ – In Conversation with Hemant Kumar – By Peeyush Sharma

‘Bade Achchhe Din Thhe, Bade Pyare Saathi, Aur Guni Bhi’ – In Conversation with Majrooh Sultanpuri – By Peeyush Sharma

 

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25 thoughts on “The Mesmerizing Moods of Jaane Kya Tune Kahi (Pyaasa)

  • Peeyush Sharma

    What a great post.

    A beautiful write up and analyses with both versions worth listening many times. It brings back superb sweet memories and the golden times of Hindi cinema.

    Great job, Anand Desai and Antara, keep it up. The music loving fraternity will remain grateful for such posts.

    1. Antara

      Thank you so much Peeyush ji!

      Appreciation from you is cherished and valuable!

      Just as you said it brought back superb sweet memories, so it did for me too. And for my father as well, especially the original Burman Dada song which was their anthem during the college days :)

      This song made me revisit my Cinema Appreciation course days with PK Nair Sir of NFAI where we studied Pyaasa and its techniques, especially this song in terms of how to project the view of the protagonist.

      In terms of music, kya kehne… There are so many stories around it and when we started working on it, it was an exciting journey of discovery every moment.

      I am grateful so very much to Anand ji for this awesome learning experience – I never knew this tingling sound was Chinese Temple Blocks and that the dholak was placed upright in the center of the studio and played for the right resonance….! WOW!

      Amazing thought processes Dada Burman and his team had. And what superb results he drew out of his prodigy Geeta Dutt…. unmatched! Peerless!

      Where would you get such a team again? – Guru Dutt, SD Burman, Sahir Ludhianvi, Geeta Dutt, Waheeda Rehman, VKS Murthy, Kersi Lord… and there must be many other unsung heroes in that crew and orchestra!

      Golden era??? Oh yes… pure gold that sparkles and glows even today in all its lustre.

      Thank you again! Humbled and honoured. :)

      1. Jyoti Sharma

        What amazing knowledge you guys have gathered !

        As simple laymen all that we could do was just love and appreciate the beautiful, tantalizing number which was equally mastered with the right expressions on screen both by the hero and the heroine !

        But Antara and Anand you guys have reached at the rock bottom of the techniques and the know-how of the master piece / the location / the story line / the poetry and much more !

        Kudos to you both !

        1. Antara

          Thanks so much Jyoti Di!

          We had great fun writing this as the more we delved deeper, the more exciting it became. There are so many layers to this song! Fascinating!

          You can’t be classified as “layman”… Your knowledge of music is well known to me. And that makes this appreciation even more valuable as it comes from someone who understands and knows music. :)

          Thanks again!!!!

  • Peeyush Sharma

    I was even recollecting those golden days in Calcutta, such a charm that city had.

    The cinema and music of that era will never return and we, in this generation will get excited with such superb write ups.

    Thanks really.

  • A.Bharat

    What a perceptive recreation of the masterpiece! This pair is really reaching awesome heights! Keep it up!

    Incidentally unlike in the cases where say Hemant transfers a Bengali song into Hindi Dada has completely created a new product! He may have had a measly set of instruments provided by HMV but what magnificent use he has made out of them. Just listen to the sudden burst of percussion at 1.24 in the original song ! And of course his voice was the greatest accompaniment. So many variations and aalaps which he has not burdened Geeta with!

    Both versions are masterpieces!

    Thanks again Antara and Anand!

    1. Antara

      Thanks a million Bharat ji!

      I played the original again after reading your comment! Yes, that portion of the tabla going into a short frenzy is delightful. I have heard it so many times but now noticed it more closely …. thanks to you :)

      Totally agree with you that these are two different songs – the original is full of those amazing harkat (guess that is the word used for those variations or murkis) and simple orchestration. The Hindi version, on the other hand, is on its own trajectory – unravelling a mindblowing variety of emotions and mischief too :)

      Both create their own magic – unparalleled!

      Thank you again for such wonderful appreciation! Makes it all worthwhile when it comes from knowledgeable people.

  • Peeyush Sharma

    Great comments Bharat. This is a true learned and knowledgeable platform.

    In fact, these are 2 different songs and each has its unique charm.

    The Hindi one is as per the need of the situation in the script. The Bangla is pure joy of abundance. In his inimitable unparalleled voice.

    1. Antara

      Peeyush ji,

      I am deeply grateful to you for your extremely valuable inputs and guidance in helping me build the other parts of the story.

      I had no clue about Sahir Ludhianvi bringing 500+ poems/nazms to Guru Dutt or that two different soundtracks were created for the two female leads.

      When writing an article becomes a wholesome learning experience, it goes several levels up. Thanks to you and Anand ji – this write up became a discovery channel for me :)

  • Moti Lalwani

    An interesting post. Watch my interview with late Kersi Lord on YouTube from 4.37 minutes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHI3QtLTfJY

    Here, Kersi ji talks about Chinese blocks having been brought by either of the two persons. He even mentions their names.

    It is Kersi ji again, who told me that the khol was kept verticle. It would be interesting to know who else talked about khol being kept verticle after 60 years of its used that way. I expect the film’s music was composed a year earlier (1956) than its release in 1957.

    An excellent article overall. Such indepth articles need to be read again at leisure to enjoy them and do justice. Thank you both, Antara and Anand, for painstaking and rewarding efforts.

    1. Antara

      Thank you Moti ji,

      I revisited your indepth interview with the famed Kersi Lord. Indeed, loaded with information and anecdotes. He also mentions the khol. How innovative Burman Dada was with instruments, creating magical sounds and effects – the more you learn the more you are amazed!

      Thank you for your very kind comments. We had a great time exploring the nuances of this beautiful song and scene.

  • Sundeep Pahwa

    Thanks Antara and Anand Desai for an insight into the making of Jaane kya tune kahee many of the musical aspects which were new to many of us.

    Indeed Pyaasa would remain as one of the Top 5 Hindi Films made.

    The photograph of GD, SDB, Geeta Dutt and RDB has a fifth person also. He is Badal Bhattacharya, Pancham’s friend from his younger days as a student in Calcutta.

    1. Antara

      Thanks a lot Sundeep ji,

      I updated the picture caption with the valuable information you provided. This is great benefit of having knowledgeable people read our writeups – the comments keep adding value to the original.

      Thanks again for the great feedback.

  • Songs Of Yore

    This is a wonderful post. It is amazing that so much insight can be gained from one song.

    I once had a discussion with a fellow blogger whether the poetic recitals and nazms In Pyasa can be called song or not. Music is not merely that which is set to metre and rhythm. The film’s poetry of Sahir, in Rafi’s voice, recited by Guru Dutt are supreme examples of music that uplifts and enthrals you.

    AK

    1. Antara

      Thank you so very much AK,

      Great privilege to have you visit and comment on our article. Pyaasa‘s music is loaded with all kinds of variations as you have pointed out. And each one of them is a gem – be it poetry recitals, nazms, a song of romance or one of angst and anguish.

      Thanks again!

  • Anil Satwik

    This is amazing. With article the outlook gets more refined. And what a song that has been chosen. Everything about it is magical. The lyrics, the music the storyline, the screenplay, cinematography, acting, actors and you name it.

    It was not for nothing that the movie was selected as one of the top 50 all time great movie of twentieth century by TIME magazine.

    The Macedonian architecture that has been highlighted is just a part of it. But ultimate thing about the song is the crux of the theme. “Jaane kya tune kahi, Jaane kya maine suni” tell everything about it. Yes I got the message !!! The fragrance of that message reaches through the voice of Geeta Dutt…

    1. Antara

      Thank you Dr Satwik ji,

      The song is indeed magical – and the scene, the effects, the camera, the performances. When everything reaches an incredible level of class, it becomes a masterpiece.

      The Macedonian architecture is just one of the things – I mentioned it because it gives an old world mystical charm and the structure is still there for anyone who wishes to check it out during a Calcutta trip.

      More importantly, the camera work is material for study – so is the use of instruments and orchestration. When you have a superb cast of Waheeda Rehman and Guru Dutt and a superbly talented team of SD Burman, Geeta Dutt, Sahir Sahab, VKS Murthy, Kersi Lord to name just a few of that incredibly talented lot, you end up creating something that becomes history and never ceases to amaze.

      Thank you for your great feedback. So very delighted you enjoyed it.

  • Suparna

    Mesmerizing moods…. makes for enthralling reading.

    Of course, the minutiae of knowledge encompassing music and architecture, is obvious and impressive. But often, a whole lot of research is laid waste because of a lack of consonance, harmony and artful construction of the content.

    For me, what makes this essay/expose so gripping, is the writing. I commend Antara and Anand Desai for highlighting a piece of cinematic history in such vivid and vibrant words.

    1. Antara

      Thank you so very much, Suparna Ma’am!

      Coming from you such an awesome feedback means a lot to me.

      The mention of the architecture is only incidental, to help people who are familiar with Calcutta to identify the still existing structure which looked quite as lyrical as the scene was.

      More importantly, we tried to explore the various layers of craftsmanship that had gone into creating this masterpiece – from the innovations in orchestration to point of view technique in cinematography to use of the Doo Wop and poetry not associated with the song and so on.

      And we did have great fun weaving all this into a story. When such appreciation comes from accomplished writers like you, it makes the effort all the more worthwhile.

      Thanks so very much again!!! Very grateful and humbled!

  • Manuela

    I am a film lover from Germany and I watched “Pyaasa” more than 20 times since March.
    It has become my favourite film and, in my opinion, it is one of the finest pieces of any art ever.
    I was delighted to find and read your article tonight. It is full of priceless details, so thank you very much for sharing this!
    And maybe you could take a closer look at the other songs of “Pyaasa” as well?
    I should love to learn more about them as well.
    Best wishes!

    1. Antara

      Hello Manuela,

      Thank you for your lovely comment and appreciation!

      Yes, Pyaasa is a milestone in all respects in the craft of cinema and music and thus was listed among 100 world films recommended by TIME Magazine.

      I am amazed you have seen the film so many times and truly appreciate your fascination for the art it has created. In our film studies course, we did spend a long time on studying this film and its various innovations in every sphere of film and music.

      The music though rooted in Indian ethos has a global appeal for the universal emotions and values it conveys.

      Anand Desai and I had a great time analysing this song and we thank you for reading and appreciating. All the other songs of Pyaasa are definitely worth exploring too and hope we would some day take them up as well :)

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