Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Challa (Jab Tak Hai Jaan)

I didn't like this album. I was angry that the combination of Rahman and Gulzar coming together for a Yash Chopra movie could produce such mediocre music. I mean, you don't expect this from a team that gave you Dil Se, Saathiya, Guru and Raavan. Even Fiza and Yuvvraj had better songs!

So I ignored the album. I never listened to it. And the number of times 9XM played Jiya Jiya Re made things even worse. I couldn't stand another minute of Anushka prancing about in her shorts sprouting words that seemed they were written almost half-heartedly.

And in ignoring this album, I also ignored Challa. Well, also because having heard Bullah Ki Jaana etc.; this song was a little underwhelming coming from Rabbi (plus it had Rahman's music so it should have been better, right?). And Rabbi's voice just didn't suit Shah Rukh Khan. All in all, the song had a lot working against it.

In any case; at a later date I happened to listen to this song without all these factors pulling it down, and realized that it's *just* the sort of song to bring together Rahman, Rabbi and Gulzar; all of whom seem deeply rooted in the Sufi way of love and devotion. It's a song about searching for that supreme power that guides, loves and protects us all - without manifesting itself in a physical form. It's a song about wondering if such a power really exists; and how we go about like mad men looking after it; as if it's a physical thing that could be seen, smelled, heard or touched.

It's this wandering of this mad man (jhalla, pronounced challa in Punjabi) that this song talks about. 

Lyrics and Translation:

Challa ki labda phire
Challa ki labda phire
Yaar oda ghar keda
Lokaan to ponchda phire

[[What do I search for, like a man gone crazy?
I go about asking people, if they know which house is His]]

[[Khuda ka ghar - mandir, masjid - Gulzar has written about this is many poems. How these houses of Gods have been unable to protect men when they needed it most - at the times of riots and such. So, to look for God's house is specially foolish of our challa.]]

Challa hansda phire
Challa ronda phire
Challa gali-gali rulda phire

[[At times laughing, crying at times
I go about, from street to street]]

Challe tu sabda
Challe tera koi nai
Challa gali-gali rulda phire

[[I belong to everyone, yet I own no one
And I go about, from street to street]]

Challa ki labda phire

[[What do I search for, like a man gone crazy?]]

Rang satrangi de
Bulbulan di boli
Dhop de paireen chale
Chhavan di le doli

[[I expect that He will have the colors of the rainbow
And the voice of a canary
And even when He walks in the sun
It's as if a shadow is following Him around]]

Oye kaale-kaale badlan ch chaand labda
Goongiyaan hawavan di aawazan sunda
Yaaron aas-paas vasda ae yaar mera
Vikhda ni odi khushbuvaan sunghda

[[And I look for the moon in the black clouds
I listen to the silent voices of the winds
I'm sure that He lives nearby
And though I haven't seen him, His fragrance always lingers nearby]]

[[You can see a lot of "Chhaiya-chhaiya" in this quartet and the one right above it. The essence is the same - looking for God, seeing him manifest himself in colors, smells and sights.

The thought behind"goongiyaan hawavan di aawazan sunda" can be traced back to many a Gulzar poem, specially this one

Wo jo shayar tha, chup sa rehta tha
Behki behki si baatein karta tha
Aankhein kaanon pe rakh k sunta tha
Goongi khamoshiyon ki aawazein!
Jama karta tha chaand k saaye]]

Challa ki labda phire...

[[What do I search for, like a man gone crazy?]]

Na visaal hoya kadi
Na judaai hoyi
Ishq de qaidi di
Na rehaai hoyi

[[I have never met Him, nor have we ever been separated
Afterall, what freedom does a prisoner of love seek?]]

Lokon sufne ch milne da vaada usda
Saari-saari raat na akh lagdi
Mere saa vi thode-thode ghatt aunde
Meri nabz vi thodi ghatt vajdi

[[It is his promise of meeting me in my dreams
That keeps me awake at night
My breath is becoming slower with time
And so does my heartbeat]]

[[The top two lines in quartet seem like a tribute to Ghalib:
taa fir  na  intezaar meiN neeNd aaye 'umr bhar
aane  ka 'ahad  kar  gaye  aaye  jo KHwaab meiN]]

Challa ki labda phire...

[[Yet, what do I search for, like a man gone crazy?]]


  1. Very interesting take on Challa. I never read it as 'Challa' talking to Bade Miyaan. In my interpretation, it was a lover wandering in search of his beloved. Maybe this poetic translation by SRK nudged me in that direction - https://twitter.com/iamsrk/status/253776726897868800

    Well done to you though for your unique take on this and for getting the Punjabi translation bang on!

  2. So nice of you! thanx to explain.
    I Want to say except "sans se teri sans" I like all its song , be it "doli le ke ave- heer" or even "jiya re". Please here them once with open mind. Without thinking of picturization.

  3. you must try "heer" once... it is really nice

  4. can you please also translate gulzar sahab's nazm Khanabadosh... i dont want translation exactly if you can just give your interpretation :)

  5. Do not complain in his eyes, his position has not play high. Because when you choose to indulge in a game of boys. In love, never complain.
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  6. Great job indeed--i never understood these lirics u have really heped me in orienting me towards this great sufism--thank alot

  7. my love for hindi song lyrics mixed with punjabi words is increased by such songs.

    new lyrics and songs here: www.lyricsly.in

  8. One of my favorite song from Jab Tak hai Jaan, All the songs are really special but I love this song, 2nd one song is 'Saas me tere' this song also I love the most, The Jodi of Gulzar sir & A.R.Rehman done a really good job, For more click here - http://bit.ly/2h2tCy5


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