Saturday, August 18, 2012

Phir Raat Kati (Paheli)

Today being Gulzar's birthday, I think I owe it to this blog to come out of my 2-month long hiatus and bring the blog back to life.

"Phir raat kati" is a quirky little composition by M.M. Kreem and Gulzar, capturing and underlining the fact that "Paheli", in its heart, is a folklore brought alive on screen. The mood of the song is just as beautifully executed by choreographer Farah Khan on screen, bringing out the magic of a folk tale using puppet-like moves.

It's slightly ironic that the stunning cinematography and choreography work so well for the song that the lyrics and the imagery it paints get somehow sidelined. So I thought I'll attempt translating the song, steal some limelight from the dance and put the focus on the lyrics :). 

Lyrics, and Translation
Phir raat kati, aur din nikla
Jab din nikla to raat chadhi
Phir preet ki aisi peeng badhi, rab raakha beliya 
(heyyy-ho, heyyy-ho)

[[Like any other story, this one begins simply enough. The days and nights are succeeding each other like they're meant to, and life is moving at its natural pace.

When one sudden day, this love story is set in motion. And what a love story it is, may God be our saviour!

Kanu's comments: "Peeng badhana" is a term usually used in reference to swings (jhula), and it means pushing the swing to increase its pace and set it in motion.]]

Oontni par jab chaand chale, aur chaand ke peechhe raat chale
Aur taaron ki baaraat chale, rab raakha beliya 
(heyyy-ho, heyyy-ho)

[[(The story is set in the deserts of Rajasthan, about a newly-wed bride on the way to her in-laws place. The baaraat (marriage procession) halts at a baoli where a ghost falls in love with the bride, enchanted by her beauty. This is their love story.) 

I like to believe that "Oontni pe jab chaand chale" is a reference to the beautiful (moon-like) bride travelling by camel through the desert. So the story starts when the bride, along with the baaraat is on her way to the sasuraal.]]

Har raat kahaani chalti hai
Kabhi hawa sunaati hai baatein, kabhi baat zubaani chalti hai
Rab raakha beliya 
(heyyy-ho, heyyy-ho)

[[Ever since then, the story has travelled far and wide; at times taking the wings of the wind, at others by word of mouth.

I love this reference to the beautiful custom of how at nightfall, stories are exchanged - whether on a chaupaal; or as bedtime stories told by mothers and grandmothers to children. And before one knows it, these stories have travelled to far away places, and become lores.]]

Deh ki reti ud jaavegi, preet sada rah jaavegi
Arey samay gujar jaavega babu, lok katha rah jaavegi
Baat puraani ho jaavegi, naam sada rah jaavega
Arey maaroothal mein baalu tab tak unka naam rahega
(Phir raat kati...)

[[Even after the sand of our bodies has flown away (we are long dead), love  remains.
Time passes, dear sirs, but these folk lores stay behind.
The stories may get old, but the names are never forgotten...
As long as there is sand in the desert, their names will live on ... 

(Maaroothal is a tadbhav of the word "marusthal" meaning desert.)]]

Bahut baras jab gujar gaye aur laakh chaand jab utar gaye
Peepal par ek padaav hua, aur phir janme ka chaav hua
Tab se har ek kahaani mein, wo aate hain aur jaate hain
Arey maaroothal mein baalu tab tak unka naam rahega
(Phir raat kati...)

[[(Again the song gives a glimpse of the story...)

The ghost had been dead many years, many moons had passed;
When one day a procession halted under his peepal tree. And it was on this day that he wanted to be born again and have a mortal body (because of the beauty of the bride)...

And ever since then, these characters keep popping up in various tales...
(And I'm telling you,) as long as there is sand in the desert, they will live on]]

I hope you enjoyed the translation and it took you back to the time when you were kids and heard bedtime stories under a star-lit sky.

I also have two very personal reasons to like this song - first, since I've spent 8 years in Rajasthan, the place is very dear to me. The people are so warm and the place so colorful... it's like living in a story. And second, because this dance was  performed by my juniors in college, and those days are very close to my heart...


  1. nice post. achchha laga padhke :-) and yes it did remind me of my childhood days when my naani used to tell stories

  2. u found a meaning in this one? lol. I think Gulzar saahab ko shaayad ye bhi nahi malum hoga ke unhone aisa kuch likha bhi tha !! :P

    1. Come on, it is a beautiful song! :-) just because it uses obscure language doesn't mean it 's meaningless :-P

    2. I can't believe you said that! Paheli has some outstanding music and the lyrics are top notch! Thanks Kanupriya for the description of not only these songs, but most of Gulzar's songs. Lovely reading! Pahel's music would surely be in my top 10 of the 2000 decade!

    3. Can you please, please write about Khaali Hai Tere Bina from Paheli! It's a melodious song! Would love to read it in your words.

    4. Thanks Bhowmik! :)
      I will surely try to right about this song as well. Right now a lot of new developments are keeping me busy, but keep watching this space for more :)

  3. I wonder how so many people can have so many common favorites ...


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