One hundred sixteen moonlit nights

Cross-posted on Passion For Cinema. Plot spoilers ahead. Images courtesy Google image search and YouTube. All song titles are linked to their audio files on MusicIndiaOnline and will open in a new popup window using the MIO player. If you don’t like popups, don’t click on the links.

The 80s is often associated with all the things that went wrong with Hindi films. Messy action and violence, aging superstars singing innuendo-heavy songs, has-beens trying to be wannabes, noisy music, poofy hair accessories, Jackie Shroff — you name an embarrassment and there it was staring back at you, in all its 70mm glory.

But to be fair, the 80s didn’t start out that way. Musically speaking, at least. The early years saw soundtracks like Umrao Jaan (1981) and Bazaar (1982). And Silsila (1981). Or an Utsav (1984) even. But things soon went downhill. Subhash Ghai patronized Lakshmi-Pyare who made up for their dwindling quality with larger orchestras and more noise. Bappi Lahiri, who was a somewhat decent composer otherwise, chose to be the disco-baadshah. And even before you fully recovered from that, the production houses of the south discovered Bappi. And the world was never the same again.

Hindi film-goers were introduced to beaches with chorus girls going taathaiyyaa taathaiyyaa hooo, while strategic crane shots showed us ample pots interspersed with even more ample heroines, offering pyaar ka tohfaas to their himmatwaalaa hero — a safedii kii chamkaar, dhulaaii ka bhandaar Jeetendra, in all his blinding white glory. The beginning of the end had surely arrived.

However, Kalyanji-Anandji did give us some hope with Yudh (1985) and Jaanbaaz (1986), bringing to light the synth talents of a young Viju Shah, much before he made news with Tridev (1989). And Rajesh Roshan gave us Kaash (1987). But these were, as they say, chamaks in the kadhaai. Popular film music was already brushing its toe dangerously close to the bucket, by now.

But a discussion of Hindi film music of the 80s is incomplete without the mention of one person. Throughout the decade, he gave consistent and quality music. This man had seen glory days in the 70s and early 80s. Big production houses, major hits, the default choice for any star son launch .. he’d had it all. By the mid-80s though, his popularity had dwindled. Producers who once lined up outside his door labeled him a flop and avoided him. The films he did compose for, were mostly duds. Badly made movies that tanked, taking many a wonderful soundtrack down with them.

The year was 1987. Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), the movie that many credit with resurrecting Hindi film music, hadn’t arrived yet. The Tere Sar Ke Tukde Tukde Kar Ke Kutte Ko Khila Ke Uska Khoon Pee Jaoonga brand of movies were rampant. But in the middle of this mindlessness, came a tender film that brought together a sensitive filmmaker and his musician best friend, once again. Director Gulzar and music director Rahul Dev Burman who began their journey with Parichay (1972), and touched upon movies like Aandhi (1975), Khushboo (1975), Kinara (1977), Kitaab (1977), Angoor (1982) and Namkeen (1982), culminated their artistic relationship in a beautiful, complex and layered film — Ijaazat (1987).

Ijaazat

On a rainy night, Mahen unexpectedly runs into his ex-wife Sudha at a railway station waiting room. Two people unwillingly thrown in each other’s company, compelled to revisit a part of their life they have chosen to forget. The relationship has changed, the rules have changed. And the past becomes an intangible third person in the room, much like Maya was in their life. But where is Maya now?

Using his trademark of weaving the past with the present, Gulzar takes us back and forth between the waiting room and their home in the past. (a home, that Mahen remarks, was much like a waiting room.) And the complexities start to unravel. Maya’s free-spiritedness, Sudha’s conflict between being supportive and being possessive, Mahen’s inability to get past his memories but still wanting to keep Sudha happy — the characters become relatable and their dilemmas become real. And as with most of life’s dilemmas, there are no simple answers, no easy solutions.

In a way, Ijaazat is a simple story about three people, two relationships and one night. But it derives its depth from its complex characterizations. Its strength lies in its screenplay and dialogues by Gulzar and its moody cinematography by Ashok Mehta. And in the strong performances of its three leads — Rekha, Naseeruddin Shah and Anuradha Patel.

And of course, in its music. Ijaazat is inarguably one of the finest of Pancham’s oeuvre. Four gorgeous solos, exquisitely crafted by RDB and lovingly sung by Asha with layered poetry by Gulzar that once again show the symbiotic relationship that the three shared. One realizes at such moments, that the whole sometimes is truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Ijaazat

Chhotisii kahaanii se, baarishon ke paanii se, saarii vaadii bhar gayii .. sings Asha, as we follow a train’s journey through rain-drenched valleys and mist-covered mountains, while the titles roll. The music is so delightfully visual that one doesn’t need the lyrics to see the scene. The steady rhythm of the train, the sound of the rain slowing down to a drizzle, only to burst into a gleeful downpour once again, a waterfall that cascades grandly or a little brook that plays peek-a-boo .. the images are created by the music, but the on-screen visuals and the lyrics enhance the experience. Gulzar personifies the rain, making it dance lightly, using the clouds as stepping stones —

ruktii hai thhamtii hai, kabhii barastii hai
baadal pe paaon rakh ke, baarish machaltii hai ..

Ijaazat

Pancham always claimed to not having an ear for poetry. Seeing the kind of magic he has created with Gulzar’s pen, one wonders if he was just being self-deprecatory. When Sudha sends back some of Maya’s belongings, Maya wants her memories back as well. A song whose lyrics Pancham jokingly described as akin to reading a newspaper. Asha’s voice languidly caresses every word, as she plaintively at times and retrospectively at other times, asks him to return the moments that they’ve shared. Meraa kuchh saamaan tumhaare paas padaa hai ..

meraa kuchh saamaan tumhaare paas padaa hai
saawan ke kuchh bheege bheege din rakhhe hain
aur mere ik khat mein liptii raat padii hai
vo raat bujhaa do
meraa vo saamaan lautaa do ..

ek sau solah chaand kii raatein, ek tumhaare kaandhe kaa til ..

What does that even mean? asked a friend. One hundred sixteen moonlit nights, and one sesame of onion, I replied. Wise friend has promised to never ask us to interpret Gulzar lyrics again. But perhaps it is a count of nights spent together? Or maybe a four month relationship? (One hundred sixteen moonlit nights would be one hundred twenty days minus the four amaavasyas?) White on black and black on white? Contrasts to indicate the gamut of emotions felt? With Gulzar, so many interpretations are possible. But whatever the intended meaning, the imagery is subtly sensual and so very beautiful.

Ijaazat

Mahen and Sudha go on their honeymoon, to make a fresh start. Which sets the scene for the next song. Katraa katraa miltii hai, katraa katraa jeene do .. Pancham uses the twin track recording effect beautifully in this number, overlapping Asha’s highs and lows. The locales of Kudremukh form a gorgeous backdrop as Asha’s silken voice hit the high notes of pyaasii hoon main pyaasii rehne do. Her thirst for more is not a complaint. She knows she cannot have Mahen completely, but in her very longing for him, she tries to find happiness.

tumne to aakaash bichaayaa
mere nange pairon mein zameen hai
paake bhii tumhaarii aarzuu ho
shaayad aise zindagii haseen hai
aarzuu mein behne do
pyaasii hoon main pyaasii rehne do ..

Ijaazat

But Sudha’s longing remains unfulfilled. Mahen is unable to remove Maya from his life and Sudha is tired of being patient. In these moments of despair, comes the fourth and final song of the movie, a ghazal. Khaalii haath shaam aayii hai, khaalii haath jayegii, aaj bhi na aaya koii, khaalii laut jayegii .. The pain in Asha’s voice is palpable as Sudha sits waiting in the darkness, watching the light come in through the slightly ajar door, a constant reminder that Mahen is not back ..

aaj bhii na aaye aansuu, aaj bhii na bhiige nainaa
aaj bhii ye korii rainaa, korii laut jaayegii ..

Memories are heavy baggage and burying them is the healthy thing to do. But will denying the existence of memories make them go away? Or is it better to embrace them? As Sudha remarks to Mahen, looking at the rain that refuses to stop — baras jaayegii to apne aap thham jayegii. Perhaps memories too are like that. They flood you for a while, but with time, they cease. Then again, memories get their well-deserved burial only at the end of one’s life. As Maya requests Mahen at the end of her letter —

ek ijaazat de do bas, jab isko dafnaauungi
main bhii vahii so jauungii .. main bhii vahii so jauungii ..

144 thoughts on “One hundred sixteen moonlit nights

  1. SEnse

    :D wow… that was like… discussing the movie with an old friend over hot chai and garam bhajiyaas on a muggy evening!

  2. Raju Bathija

    [Megha] kya bura hai kya bhala from Libaas was indeed the last song sung by Pancham. I will certainly read your review of Dil Padosi Hai. It is one of the best non-filimi album, in my opinion. Please do write a post about it.

    BTW, this make it 100th comment for you post :).

  3. gulabjamun2

    So you can ignore my bootiful PJs? Tsk tsk and elephant’s tsk!

    [Megha] Hmm… so what does your booti have to do with PJs? And the “connection” between your booti and an elephant’s t(u)sk! Lets not go there :)

    Sorry, couldn’t resist throwing in a PJ of my own :)

  4. Pingback: Music for the soul « Babies Anonymous

  5. N Pita

    You know, there was a time when I used to spend countless hours reading and re-reading my favorite blogs. Half my day in office was spent surreptitiously on the net; two fingers poised on top of the ‘windows+M’ combination, ready to destroy all evidence whenever the boss – flabbergasted by my peering at the monitor for hours – decided to lay his curiosity to rest. But then something snapped – I don’t know how or when work slowly crept up from behind, grabbed my neck and pinned me down. That would be about 10 months ago and I still haven’t been able to overwhelm the monster. Needless to say, blogging was neglected big time and an activity that had almost become second nature died a slow death.

    You must be wondering why I wrote such a long raving note on a very personal tragedy. Well, that’s because it’s difficult to explain the effect this post has had on me without putting it in context. I stumbled upon your blog quite by accident and the pics from Ijaazat caught my eye. Ijaazat’s music has a very special place in my heart and going through your post suddenly brought back some very pleasant memories. It awakened the ‘other’ me. It made me realize what I’ve missed the last 10 months and strengthened my resolve to break the shackles of corporate slavery, at least for a few hours every day.

    Ijazat’s definitely one of my favorite movies, no doubt! But the soundtrack means so much more to me. It was my mom’s favorite album (still is) and I’ve listened to it so many times growing up, I’ve lost count. Couldn’t understand head-or-tail of the lyrics when I was a child, but the music itself was so powerful that it created an impression on me far greater than any other song of the era. Then as I started making sense of the lyrics, started appreciating the superlative talent of Gulzar, the awesome range in Asha’s voice and the genius of RD, the songs of Ijazat became very much a part of my life. Even now, after so many years of listening, they never seem to grow old – far from it, they still give me goose pimples sometimes… sometimes when I’m listening to them alone in the car on my way back home from work.

    A big thank you!!

  6. Idhee

    Watched this beautiful movie yesterday on max and was searching for a review for the movie and stumbled on your site… Your post is beautiful and it helped me to understand relationships between the protagonists much better…. Thanks a lot..

  7. prateek

    As the saying goes ‘Der aaye durust aaye‘ I watched this movie couple of weeks back, was bowled over by it, nice post indeed with excellent comprehension of the era.

    The 80s I guess is banished elsewhere also. The west cringes at the 80′s hairdo.

    The heroines in Hindi Cinema used to wear skirts with wide belts and the boys used to come to college in stereotype T-Shirt (Striped or plain) and Jeans (mostly light blue) with white sports shoes with 2-3 notebooks/books tucked in their hand

  8. Akshatha

    Awesome post. I just felt as if I watched the characters. May be I should see this movie. You made me nostalgic by mentioning Kudremukh, awesome place. I have spent majority of my life (so far) in Chikmagalur. Lovely potrayal, keep writing :o)

  9. leks

    Wow! I’m completely floored. I have not seen the movie…haven’t even heard any of the songs mentioned but the post itself was so explicit in its description…. I’m sure part of the magic is because the movie is magical, part of it because I relate to it. I would like to congratulate the author on the rest of the magic which lies in the evocative lines of the post. It is beautiful.

  10. mahesh

    I have seen this movie for more then 10 times. The poetry, picurisation, artist, music, singers everything is superb. My favourite dialogoe IN THE WAITING ROOM SEEN

    ” CHASHMA KABSE LAGA LIYA-YOON HI KUCHH SALON SE- KYON- NAHIN SAMAJHDAR LAGTI HO- 7 SAAL PAHLE NAHIN LAGTI THI KYA-NAHIN AB JYADA SAMAJHDAR LAGTI HO. SUDHA-DADHI KAB SE RAKHLI-YOOHIN KUCHH MAHINON SE-KYON SAMAJHDAR NAHIN LAGTA KYA…..”

    tHE CLIMAX SEEN ENTRY OF SHASHI KAPOOR IS REALY TOUCHING THE HEART.

    HATSOFF TO GULJARJI & HIS ENTIRE TEAM.

  11. Interval

    Hey Megha…Nice thoughts you’ve got here, and appreciate you sharing them with us. Alot of the movies posted here can be found on Interval.in. I would like to invite you and your users to watch over 200 hindi movies (and adding daily). One of my favorites that you mention in your post Angoor can be watched here:

    http://interval.in/videos.php?id=910

    I can watch this one and Don over and over. They are both excellent. If there are any requests, please don’t hesitate, reach me at Interval.in

    Relax, take a break at Interval.in – Enjoy!

  12. suhrudd

    hi! loved every bit of the ijaazat post.
    i am a HUGE fan of pancham-gulzar. that duo has created magic.

    have you heard “ek hi khwaab” from the film kinara? how can ANYONE ever set that to music??! but then, that’s pancham for you. give him the yellow pages and he would compose a haunting tune with it by the next morning!

    rest assured, i am a fan of your writing. will keep visiting your site. thanks:)

  13. tic-tac toe

    I had an opportunity to listen to a talk show featuring Gulzar where the host asked :

    Ek-soh-sola(116) chandni raatein hi kyon?

    Gulzar:

    Agar main ek-soh-satra likhta tab bhi aap yehi sawal karti

    (If I had written 117 (moonlit nights) you would have asked an analogus question :)

  14. sandeep

    amazing!!u so delightfully,and so touchingly describe the magic of ‘izazat”..i have not seen the movie,but i still listen to the songs late in the night..especially khaali haath shaam aayi hai,and mera kuch saaman!!
    that was a brilliant work.

  15. Annie Simon

    well written megha
    love mausam,aandhi n all gulzar pics
    this blog entry makes me want to see Ijazat asap

  16. Ramesh

    Nice article !!!

    One more aspect I heard about “Ek Sou Sola Chaand ki raatein” is that, in a strange way, Gulzar and RD Burman have worked together exactly for Ek Sou Sola songs (116 songs) !!!! Can some one clarify that ??

    Generally for RD Burman, there were no boundaries created in any of Gulzar’s movies. Gulzar, as a Director allowed his music director to wander all over the concept, think out of the box and think as a music director and not stand in the shoes of the director. This gives a free mind for the music director. That’s the case with even Vishal Bharadwaj in Maachis and Hrudaynath Mangeshkar in Lekin.

  17. Ruchi

    Your review is awe-inspiring. This is the first time I have visited your blog but could not leave without a comment. Owe you the wonderful read. Cheers.

  18. Abhijeet Kulkarni

    Hi Megha,

    Nice post.

    Just 1 thought from me.. “116 chaand ki raatein, 1 tumhaare kaandhe ka til” – kaandhe means shoulder in hindi. it has nothing to do with kaandaa which is marathi word for onion.

    so, she is remembering those 116 nights she spent with Mahen; and while reciting those memories, she also remembers 1 til (small mole, black spot) on Mahen’s shoulder.. then she remembers the fragrance of wet heenaa on her palm, and some sweet nothings – some stupid misgivings.

    again, it’s Gulzar’s poetry.. and we all are free to interprete it in 10,000 ways.

    cheers!

  19. Mudit

    Ek dafa wo yaad hain tumako,
    Bin batti jab cycle ka chalan hua tha,
    Humane kaise bhukhe pyaase becharosi acting ki thi,
    Hawaldarne ulta ek aththani dekar bhej diya tha,
    Ek chawanni meri thi,
    Wo bhijawa do!

    Sawan ke kuch bheege bheege din rakhkhe hain,
    Aur mere ek khat me lipati raat padi hain,
    Wo raat bujha do,
    Aur bhi kuch saman tumhare pass pada hain,
    Wo bhijawa do!

    Eksausola chand ki raatein,
    Ek tumhare kandhe ka dil,
    Geeli mehendi ki khushaboo,
    Zuth muth ke shikawe kuch,
    Zuth muth ke waadein bhi sab yaad kara do,
    Sab bhijawa do,
    Mera wo saman lauta do!

    Well ill start with thanking the writer of the article who has so so beautifully described the central emotions of the movie and its characters…Indeed the characters are very complex and so are we all…Gulzar writes an out-of-the-world poetry and yet so real,so true…all the actors particularily naseer have delivered the complexity of the characters perfectly..I am really sad that ive neglected this particular song throughout my life for arount 22 yrs before i actually saw the movie and the exact situation where this song was sung…perfect again…you hardly see such well placed situational songs these days…last that i remember are songs from Taare Zameen Par and ofcourse Rang De Basanti which were perfectly placed and written(Prasoon Joshi, again a writer with a brilliant sense) for the situation…now gulzar writes them with no big words…pretty ordinary words infact…the ones we use regularily…Bravo!!gr8 work

    to end with ill finish the above song:

    Ek akeli chatri mein jab aadhe-aadhe bheeg rahe the
    Aadhe gheele aadhe sukhe,sukha to mein saaath le aayi thi
    gheela man shayad bistar ke paas pada hai
    wo bhijwa do,mera wo saaman lauta do!

  20. drifter

    I saLUTE you! :D

    awesome AweSOME ..

    i love gulzar saab… and anything related to him….. and then u’ve mentioned all my fav songs.. .esp Mera kuch samaan…
    jo :-s… mujhe puri tarah se samahj nahi aya hai.. lekin.. ye baatein… chandini raatein!! awesome..

  21. Rajesh Nagpal

    You too write like Gulzar, carrying the reader on a rollercoaster of emotions…
    The review itself is as musical and beautiful, as the Movie being reviewed .
    Hats Off

  22. Ashish

    Hi there…landed on this page while searching for “Pancham – Gulzar remember RD Burman” album on the web. Great posts..one small correction (not sure if someone has already pointed out)…in the “ek sau solah chaand kii raatein, ek tumhaare kaandhe kaa til” the Kandhe means shoulders in Hindi and not Kanda as onion in Marathi or Gujrati. So the “kandhe ka til” seems to sugest that the heroine is reminiscing the embrace of her lover or those moments of closeness in which she would be looking at the mole on his shoulder. Now do I understand Gulzar’s poetry? Of course not!!!

    Has anyone tried to interpret “is mod se jate hain” from Aandhi?

    And BTW: If you know anyone who has the “Pancham – Gulzar Rememebrs RD Burman” album, please let me know. Thanks.

    Cheers!

  23. mohammad

    asha jee in two ghazals has her soul infused…this one from ijaazat and one from umrao jaan. People will call it ghazal, i would call it Azaad ghazal as in azaad ghazal the poet doesnt care about the radeef and qafia means he doesnt match the rhyms but the ideas….and the ” chess of ideas” know one plays better than gulzar jee….he will be amar through his work…

  24. Kusum Rohra

    Megha Katra Katra is one of my all time favourites, it’s such a beautiful song and your post only makes the movie and the music more beautiful for me. What magic :)

  25. Lalit

    Absolutely loved the post and of course the songs and movie.
    What about “mujhe pyar tumse nahin hai nahin hai magar maine ye raaj ab tak na jaana”

  26. Gaurav

    most beautiful article about a beautiful movie with great songs. i first heard of ijaazat when i was in masters n a friend sung Choti Si Kahani Se. i was totally mesmerised n was wondering how i had missed the song till now being a follower of old hindi film songs. i gt hooked to this song n subsequently found two more gems frm the movie, Mera Kuch Saman and Katra Katra. today i was looking for a english translation to Mera Kuch Saman to introduce it to a friend abroad n i found this beautiful piece. i’ll just forward this link i guess….

    Great work megha…cant wait to follow ur other works.

  27. Rahul R

    I first read this post as soon as it was written.
    But, so POWERFUL is the ‘kaandhe ka til –> Sesame of Onion’ (literal) translation (evident in the zillion ‘attempts at correction’) that I’ve carried it in my mind for the last 3-4 years till I finally got an alternative one that’s hopefully as ‘worthy’ :-)
    116 Chaan Ki Raatein, aur Tumhaare Kaandhe QaTil –> 116 Moonlit nights and Your Killer Shoulders
    :-D

  28. C. Mandal

    Excellent post !
    I loved the movie and particularly the song, Mera Kucch Saamaan…
    I am not a Hindi native speaker and therefore there are things I could not understand properly, especially this (simple) sentence :
    “Patjhad hai kuch… hai na ?”
    Does it mean that autumn has arrived, or does it mean that autumn is quite something ?
    Thank you for helping me out…
    Regards,
    C. Mandal

  29. Pingback: Mera Kuchh Saamaan, une chanson extraite du film Ijaazat de Gulzar « Hindi Adi… ?????? ???

  30. Mohan

    Very beautiful write up. I get all emotional about this movie. I recently bought the dvd only to watch the song “mera kuch saamaan” in context. And i fell in love with the movie. Never knew she could exude emotions so beautifully. Rekha wowed me. Nothing more can be written about Naseeruddin Shah. Surprisingly the beautiful Anuradha Patel has emoted so aptly in the song. You want to fall in love with her despite the warranting evidence that she is an Emotionally Unstable Personality – Impulsive Type.

    And yeah like people have already commented, “kaandhe ka til” is the mole on his shoulder indicating the intimate moments that she has spent with him. “Ek sau solah chaand ki raatein” is an illusory number she uses to remind him of the multitude of nights they spent together. According to the movie, they lived in together for more than two years.

    Thank You so very much.

  31. DEEPSHIKHA

    “ek sau solah chaand kii raatein, ek tumhaare kaandhe kaa til ..”
    One hundred sixteen moonlit nights, and one sesame of onion.

    Its kaandha means shoulder not kaanda which is for onion.
    Mujhe aapse koi shikwa nahin, par dukh hota hai is tarah se tasveer ko bigadta dekhkar. Maana ki Gulzar kuch atpata likhte hain magar wah wahi likhte hain jise na samajhte hue bhi aap tah-e-dil se apna lein.

    Otherwise, article is brilliant. Especially the way you described Sudha.

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