Monday, September 19, 2011

Namak (Omkara)

[When I told Rahul that I have written a blog post about 'Namak isk ka', his first words were "But isn't that a controversial song?" I said that's why I was writing about it, to clear away at least some of the controversy.

Sure, the song may throw a few double entendres your way, but I think it was meant to be racy, what with its being filmed on a village dancer. I've heard a few songs old women in villages sing, and they are so risqué they can make our urban ears burn.

Another reason behind posting this song was the fact that the already available translations are so bad, they ruin the whole song.]

In recent years, we have had item numbers galore. Sure, they pull in the crowd, but is that all they are supposed to do? Unfortunately, most producers think so. A bimbo, in barely-there clothes, gyrating to a zingy soundtrack does the trick for most. Hello, what about the lyrics, some of you may ask? Just make a mishmash of random English, Punjabi and Hindi words - and you're all set to go. Better still, throw in some Zandu Balm for good measure while you're at it.

No such frivolities for Gulzar, though. The lady dancing to the beat may do as the choreographer asks her to (or what sells these days), but Gulzar does what he always does - write something that has a meaning, a theme, a soul - even when the meaning might not get translated on screen.

In the jargon of an MBA (which I'm not), I'd say - With 'Namak isk ka' he had the opportunity to write an item song for an item girl (well, Bipasha was one in Omkara, essentially). But his challenge was to keep it sensuous; not vulgar or raunchy. Does he succeed? I think so! But you can decide for yourselves.

A note before we begin:
What is a meal without salt? Tasteless, unpalatable etc.? A life without love is similar. It's still a life, but not a very interesting one. Hence 'Namak isk ka'. (You'll also come across many other things related to food/taste in the song.)

Lyrics, and translation:
मैं चाँद निगल गयी (Main chaand nigal gayi)
 हाँ जी मैं चाँद निगल गयी दैया रे (Haan ji main chaand nigal gayi daiya re)
[['Main chaand nigal gayi' literally means 'I swallowed the moon'. Now, the whole para can be interpreted in two ways. The common one says, that because she swallowed the moon, that's why she's feeling the spice/heat. But I think that since the moon is considered to be cool, so these lines could mean "I swallowed the moon to draw away some of heat I am feeling".]]

भीतर-भीतर आग जले, बात करूँ तो सेंक लगे (Bheetar-bheetar aag jale, baat karoon to senk lage)
हो मैं चाँद निगल गयी दैया रे (Ho main chaand nigal gayi daiya re) 
अंग पे ऐसे छाले पड़े (ang pe aise chhaale pade)

[[There is a fire burning within me, and every time I talk, I can feel the heat coming through.
I swallowed the moon, ('cause) I had such bad blisters all over my body.]]

तेज़ था छौंका क्या करूँ, सी-सी करती मैं मरूं (Tez tha chhaunka kya karoon, si-si karti main maroon) 
[[What could I do, the tempering was really spicy. Now I can but lament.]]

ज़बां पे लागा जी लागा जी रे (Zubaan pe laaga ji laaga ji re)
ज़बां पे लागा, लागा रे - (Zubaan pe laaga, laaga re -) 
नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का (Namak isk ka, tere isk ka)
[[I can't help it, now that I've got a taste of your love]]

बलम से माँगा माँगा रे, बलम से माँगा रे (Balam se maanga maanga re, balam se maanga re)
बलम से माँगा माँगा रे - (Balam se maanga, maanga re -)
नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का (Namak isk ka, tere isk ka)
[[And now that I've got a taste of it, I keep asking for more.]]

सभी छेड़े हैं मुझको सिपहिये बांके छमिये (Sabhi chhede hain mujhko, sipahiye baanke chhamiye)
उधारी देने लगे हैं, गली के बनिये-बनिये (Udhaari dene lage hain gali ke baniye-baniye)
[[Everyone has been teasing me - the policemen and the thugs alike
Even the biggest miser on the street has started offering me loan]]

कोई तो कौड़ी तू भी लुटा दे, कोई तो कौड़ी (Koi to kaudi tu bhi luta de, koi to kaudi*)
थोड़ी-थोड़ी शहद चटा दे, थोड़ी-थोड़ी (Thodi-thodi shahad chata de, thodi-thodi)
[[* = I'm not sure about these lyrics. But I'd translate nevertheless!
Can't you spare a few dimes on me as well, and get me some honey? (To reduce the heat)]]

तेज़ था छौंका क्या करूँ, सी-सी करती मैं मरूं

रात भर छाना रे, रात भर छाना छाना रे (Raat bhar chhaana re, raat bhar chhaana chhaana re)
नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का (Namak isk ka, tere isk ka)
[[I looked for a taste of your love the whole night.]]

ऐसी फूँक लगी जालिम की, कि बांसुरी जैसी बाजी मैं 
(Aisi phoonk lagi jaalim ki, ki baansuri jaisi baaji main)
[[While literally 'phoonk lagna' means blowing air, so that the first line would mean 'He played me like a flute'. But 'phoonk lagna' also means 'to perform some kind of magic', so that the line could also mean 'He had such an effect on me, that I did whatever he asked me to do.']]

जो भी कहा उस चन्द्रभान ने, फट से हो गयी राजी मैं 
(Jo bhi kaha us Chandrabhaan ne, phat se ho gayi raaji main)
[[Chandrabhaan = One who has a moon on his forehead = Lord Shiva. Omkara is also a name for Lord Shiva. So this line could mean that whatever he (Omkara) asked me to do, I did it without batting an eyelid. Or not! Your views?]]

कभी अखियों से पीना, कभी होठों से पीना 
(Kabhie akhiyon se peena, kabhie hothon se peena)
कभी अच्छा लगे मरना, कभी मुश्किल लगे जीना 
(Kabhie achchha lage marna, kabhie mushkil lage jeena)
[[At times drinking in with eyes, at others with lips
Sometimes it makes even dying seem pleasant, at other it makes life tough to go through]]

करवट-करवट प्यास लगी थी, करवट-करवट (Karvat-karvat pyaas lagi thi, karvat-karvat)
बलम की आहट पास लगी थी, बलम कि आहट (Balam ki aahat paas lagi thi, balam ki aahat)
[[As the sound of his footsteps came near, my desires started tossing and turning.]]

तेज़ था छौंका क्या करूँ, सी-सी करती मैं मरूं

डली भर डाला जी डाला जी रे (Dali bhar daala ji daala ji re)
डली भर डाला, डाला रे, नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का (Dali bhar daala, daala re, namak isk ka, tere isk ka)
[[I had put in but a pinch of your salt.]]

ज़बां पे लागा, लागा रे - नमक इस्क का, तेरे इस्क का

Let me sign-off by saying, that Gulzar wrote item songs in such a way that the one had something to listen to and think about, over and above the ogling for which the songs were obviously made. As for me, I'd any day go for the salty love of Gulzar's words than the sweet one of 'Tere isak se meetha kuchh bhi nahin'. On a separate note, do you think the latter one was on some level inspired from the first one? :P


  1. You are a big fan of Gulzaar. Good one Kanu. I don't find this song very vulgar. Music and lyrics are apt for the situation.

  2. even I don't find it vulgar. sensuous yes, but in no way vulgar.

  3. very nice interpretation kanu .. i m sure logo ne song suna hoga but samjha nahi :)

  4. kanu tumne to gane ka arth hi badal diya .vah kya bat hai.aj ke jamane me guljar hi ke gane hi bhav purn rahte hain.

  5. @Deepti:
    thanks :) samajhne ki koshish nahin ki hogi is more like it. vaise bhi aaj-kal har cheez ko sensationalize kiya jaata hai!

    arth to wahi hai, hum kaise badal sakte hain?

  6. I think it is koi to kaudi TU (not to) bhi lutaa de, makes much more sense to me. Even the misers have been so generous to me, can you spare at least a few dimes?

    Nice new blog...

  7. @JJ:
    yeah, that could be it. I'll listen to it again, and correct accordingly.
    thanks for visiting, btw :)

  8. i always loved this song........ good interpretation. by the way..the lines,,. "udhaari dene lage hai..gali ke baniye-2" has some more deeper meanings, but they are not pleasant to discuss

  9. @Sonu:
    As I said at the beginning of the post, the song it full of double entendres. I have not discussed the second meaning, obviously :)

  10. arth nahi thoda gadwad hogai.drishtikon samajhne ka theek.

  11. this blog is deadly combination of bold and beautiful :-) bold because of the choice of the song and beautiful because of the way you described the feelings of the leading lady without getting into any double meaning stuff. really a great work. hats off to you :-)

  12. Saras,
    thanks for the encouraging comment. but I think you've almost praised to it the point of your comment sounding like a sarcasm!

  13. Well, u tried ur level best to justify Gulzar saahab! All of us know what is the actual meaning of it ! :P On a serious note, I wud love to appreciate ur capability to keep the theme of the song alive in ur interpretation widout getting raunchy !! kudos for tht !! :)

  14. who am I to justify him? I was just writing my interpretation!

  15. Yes. The song is full of sexual innuendos. But it is so masterfully crafted that it is very tasteful and is open for interpretations. Great blog you got there!!

  16. Instead of "कोई तो कौड़ी तू भी लुटा दे, कोई तो कौड़ी", its actually "कोई दो कौड़ी तू भी लुटा दे, कोई दो कौड़ी" meaning that you need to loosen up some change too (perhaps as little as two kaudi's).

    A kaudi is a small shell that used to be used as a currency in yesteryears.

    The literal meaning is: "Hey guy, everyone is giving me favors (the daroga and the baniya from the previous line), you better loosen up your pocket too".

    The sexual innuendo is: "Everyone around me is already warmed up, now its your time".

    Long live Gulzaar Sahab !!!

    1. Hi Maneesh,

      Thanks for pointing that out. Shall correct it :)

  17. i am a gulzar fan, though not as big a fan as you are. i have checked on your translations from time to time. i also translate bollywood songs and have done my own version of Namak at

    though i do not know you i feel compelled to say this. i love the name kanupriya. it is the name dharamveer bharti has given to radha in his epic poem kanupriya. i have been reading it since my school days and still struggling to understand it completely.

    1. Hi Harsh,
      I loved your take on the song! It's really well written :)

      And I love my name too! Actually my mother took the name 'Kanupriya' from Dharmvir Bharti's book. I agree, it's a very fascinating book.

  18. Okay, here me out! With due regards to your interpretation to the song, my take or rather a more appropriate take to the song - It's a 'Blow Job' song. Simple. AND my wits were out when I analysed the way Gulzar saab wrote this. Sheer sheer brilliance. One one has written anything like this before. Now, how is it a BJ song. 'mein chand nigal gayi' translates to 'I swallowed his...' and the following line 'baat karo toh sek lage' to 'Either the feeling of a warm kiss or the warmth of the..' leading to 'Namak' being 'cum' isk ka' tere ishq ka...Now connect the dots 'Ayesi phool' 'basuri jaise' 'tez ka chokha' and so on. It is an intimate piece which talks about a night with a lover/girl fiend, written from the perspective of the woman. It's a historical song written with analogies and metaphor. Hope my comment were not derogatory in any sense. cheers

  19. The song is a marvelous description of amorous love of a lady. The lyrics are a perfect, classic and sophisticated example of songs of nautanki culture of rural Uttar Pradesh. Gulzar's ocean like understanding of love and cultures has made it so beautiful that even after being an item song it is something to muse and cherish.


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