Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why 'Jai Ho' deserved an Oscar

(+ Jai Ho Hindi and Spanish lyrics with English translation)

Whether or not Slumdog Millionaire (2008) deserved the 8 Academy Awards it got will always be a question that could lead to much heated discussions. The movie was good. But was it good enough? Mere rhetorical questions now. But in my mind, there are no such questions about 'Jai Ho' winning its Oscar (or Grammy).

It has a breathtaking soundtrack
I have heard many say, that by this time, A.R.Rahman had already hit his lean patch, and that Slumdog Millionaire had a pretty average soundtrack when compared to his previous work. I disagree, specifically when the song in question is 'Jai Ho'. While there's no denying the fact that Rahman has given some outstanding soundtracks before and since Slumdog Millionaire, it surely doesn't take away from the breathtaking arrangement of this masterpiece.

It's not just an item number

Another reason often quoted against the song is that it merely acts as an item song, and the movie could well have done without it. Surely, there are a thousand little things a movie could do without. But it's these little things that give the movie that extra something. Suppose the movie simply ended after Jamal had won his million bucks. Would it have given the same feeling of elation without the uplifting chord progression of 'Jai Ho'?

It's a song of triumph and hope
It's not just a song, it's a hymn of victory, of closure - on all those years of waiting. It's that moment when the entire universe conspires to give you what you have been toiling for. It's the victory lap after India won its second cricket world cup after a wait of 28 years. Remember those goosebumps? And when I listen to this song with my eyes closed, even my musically immature ears can feel the urgency - of hope and freedom and triumph in its relentless beats. According to Rahman, “Jai Ho,” or “Victory to You,” was meant to create “a vision of the whole world celebrating this victory”. (Wikipedia)

The best of both worlds
I know, I know, this post is more Rahman, less Gulzar. But partly, so is the song. The free-flowing, spirited lyrics would have lost their way without the exhilarating music. At the same time, the song might have stood just a notch lower without the triumphant lyrics. Brilliant ensemble vocals (led by Sukhwinder Singh, along with Mahalakshmi Iyer, Tanvi Shah and Vijay Prakash) add the final touches.

Lyrics, and translation:
Jai ho!
[[May victory be yours!]]

Aa ja, aa ja, jind shaamiyaane ke tale
Aa ja zaree waale neele aasmaan ke tale
Jai ho!
[[Come, my life, under this canopy of the blue sky, embroidered with gold and silver
Come, under the canopy of life
Come, under the blue sky, embroidered with gold and silver]]

Ratti-ratti sachchi maine jaan gawayi hai
Nach-nach koylo pe raat bitayi hai
Akhiyon ki neend maine fookon se uda di
Gin-gin taare maine ungli jalaayi hai
[[I've lost my life bit by bit
And spent my nights by dancing on coals
I've blown away the sleep from my eyes
And burnt my finger while counting stars
(Life has been difficult without you. I've spend the time counting days and night.)]]

Eh aa ja, aa ja, jind shaamiyaane ke tale
Aa ja zaree waale neele aasmaan ke tale
Jai ho!

Baila! Baila!
(Dance! Dance!)
Ahora conmigo, tu baila para hoy
(Now with me, you dance for today)
por nuestro dia, te olivdas
(For our day, you forget)
los problemas los que sean
(whatever problems may be)
Baila! Baila!
(Dance! Dance!)
(Source for Spanish lyrics and translation)

Chakh le, haan chakh le, yeh raat shahad hai, chakh le!
Rakh le, haan dil hai, dil aakhiri hadd hai hai, rakh le!
[[Have a taste of this night, it is sweet as honey (the night of victory, also the night when Jamal and Latika are finally together)
Keep my heart with you, only heart is the limit (of what I can offer you)]]

Kaala-kaala kaajal tera, koi kaala jaadu hai kya
[[The kohl in your eyes, is like some black magic
(Black magic is said to be used to hypnotize and control others)]]
Eh aa ja, aa ja ...

Kab se, haan kab se, jo lab pe ruki hai, kah de!
Kah de, haan kah de, ab aankh jhuki hai, kah de!
[[The thought that you have held on to for so long,
Which has been on your lips, but you never put it to words
It's time to say it now, with your eyes downcast]]

Aisi, aisi roshan aakhein, roshan do-do heere hain kya
[[Your bright eyes are like two bright diamonds]]
Aa ja, aa ja ...

Jai ho!


  1. The entire msg of Gulzar saahab is conveyed in just one line- "Rakh le, haan dil hai, dil aakhiri hadd hai hai, rakh le!" ... You know buddy, there is this speciality of Gulzar saahab that he wins over his contemporaries with such classic one liners! Awesome post. Especially bada wala thanks for those spanish lyrics! I used to wonder what they sing! I never knew they [spanish lyrics] too had such a deeper meaning.

    And pl do check as to in the last line, is it 'Aisi, aisi roshan aakhein, roshan do-do jheelein hain kya' or "Aisi, aisi roshan aakhein, roshan do-do heere hain kya".

    Regards :)

  2. @Rahul Bhomia:
    thanks for your comment :) and yes you're right, it's heere, and not jheelein. will correct it.

  3. Initially when i heard this song I liked it but when I saw the movie and the accolades it got, it was unexpected. I found it over-rated. And that affected my views toward its music too. Surely, for me, Rahman has given much better music before and after.

    But, after reading your post and listening to the song again last night I realized that the song is indeed good :) Thanks for the same.

    It's good that the song won Oscar/Grammy, but I still feel some of Rahman's other songs are more deserving.

    jyada lamba comment ho gaya.

  4. @Saras
    1. For sure the movie is overrated, but the song is not.
    2. Of course there are other good songs by him, but they were not there in the Oscar race. This one was, and it deserved to win.

    But I'm repeating the point I made in the post.

  5. Nice to see your enthusiasm. I still remember the day I saw this movie for the first time. I liked it a lot. And I remember the day when I saw this movie for the second time. I was bored.

    I liked the song though. I am glad it won Oscar and I liked the other songs as well and background score.

  6. @Bhav:
    my enthusiasm for? the song, or writing or the blog? or something else? :P

  7. the song. the writing. the blog + something else :P

  8. Please revisit the first para. I think it shows more hard works and miss-happenings of Jamaal's life then love life. To me, its all about struggle of Jamaal.
    1. Ratti ratti sacchi jaan gawayi
    2. Nach nach koylo pe raat bitayi
    3. Ankhiyo ki neend maine phunko se udha di.
    4. Ungli jalayi
    They all represent struggle or pain of anybody's life. (otherwise I am too immature to interpret poetry)
    I like Gulzar's work in the song for two reasons-
    1. He joined two different things struggle and Love in same song (Which is rare).
    2. Use of shorter words like ratti, sachi, nach nach, raat, neend , phunko, gin gin taare, heere, jind jari, kabse, keh de, ankh, jukhi etc. Shorter words are doing magic of 'Alankars'.
    Not only Rahman but Gulzar should also get credit for the song.

    1. Wow! Truly appreciate both the points ... amazing findings :)


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