Sunday, August 23, 2009

Flowers at thy feet

Translation of the evergreen Hindi song "Paaon choolene do phoolon ko" from the historical film Taj Mahal (1963) starring Pradeep Kumar as Shahjahan and Bina Roy as Arjumand Bano Begum. For those who don't know the history, Shahjahan (reign 1627-1658 A.D.) was the fifth Mughal Emperor, grandson of Akbar. Arjumand Bano Begum was the granddaughter of a Persian expatriate, a key nobleman in the Mughal court. They fell in love and married around 1614 and Shahjahan was said to have been faithful to her throughout their married life (highly exceptional in Mughal emperors who had big harems full off wives and concubines) - a testament to which is the fact that in the 17 years of their wedded life, Arjumand became pregnant for no less than 11 times. A more lasting and beautiful testament to their love is the Taj Mahal, which Shahjahan is said to have constructed after her death as her tomb and as an eternal monument to their love.

These lyrics of Sahir Ludhiyanvi, set to a soothing melodious music by Roshan take us back to the age of the Mughals. The sets are beautiful for a film made back in 1963 and bring alive the Mughal era. The lyrics are so meaningful that one gets immersed in them, as they tell a story of their own....beautiful imagination!

The context is that Shahjahan is waiting for an tryst with Arjumand in a marble pavilion amidst a palace garden, surrounded by fountains. He has spread flowers along the walkway to welcome her. Arjumand, when she arrives is surprised by the floral welcome, and takes care not to step on the flowers as she walks carefully around them.

I shall post a stanza at a time and translate each one. Its a duet, so one stanza by Shahjahan's character (mentioned as "Shah") and the next by Arjuman's character (mentioned as "Arj") and so on.

Shah: paaNv chhoo lene do phooloN ko inaayat hogi, inaayat hogi
varnaa hamko nahin, inko bhi shikaayat hogi shikaayat hogi

Be merciful and grace the flowers by thy feet
Bereft of which the flowers and I shall be distressed

(Arjumand instead of stepping on the flowers, picks one up and cradles it to her heart and touches it reverently to her eyes)

Arj: aap jo phool bichhaayen unhen ham Thukraayen - 2
hamko Dar hai
hamko Dar hai ke ye tauheen-e-muhabbat hogi, muhabbat hogi

Oh, I dare not ignore these flowers so (lovingly) spread
For how could I ever rebuke your love for me.

(She still hesitates as she walks, daintily stepping around the flowers - for she doesnt have the heart to step on them, even as Shahjahan impatiently watches on)

Shah: dil ki bechain umangoN pe karam farmaao - 2
itnaa ruk ruk
itnaa ruk ruk ke chaloge to qayaamat hogi, qayaamat hogi
paaNv chhoo lene do phooloN ko inaayat hogi, inaayat hogi

Oh! be kind to the restless desires of my heart
If you hesitate so much, calamity will surely befall me
Do step on the flowers and show mercy to me!

(Arjumand crosses the bed of flowers but shyly goes towards the other end of the pavilion, modestly covering her face in the purdah)

Arj: sharm roke hai idhar, shauq udhar khinche hai - 2
kyaa Khabar thi
kyaa Khabar thi kabhi is dil ki ye haalat hogi,
ye haalat hogi

Modesty restrains me, yet desires overwhelmingly pull me towards you
Never could I have imagined that my heart will face such a dilemma

(Shahjahan bridges the gap between them, approaching her)

Shah: sharm gairoN se huaa karti hai apnoN se nahin - 2
sharm ham se
sharm ham se bhi karoge to museebat hogi, museebat hogi
paaNv chhoo lene do phooloN ko inaayat hogi, inaayat hogi

Ye beauteous one, be modest with strangers, not with one your own
If you are shy with me, then I shall barely manage to live

(Arjumand looks into his eyes full of love and accedes)

Arj: hamko Dar hai ke ye tauheen-e-muhabbat hogi, muhabbat hogi
Truly, I shouldn't be shy, for how could I ever rebuke your love

The song echoes in the mind long after its over. Pradeep Kumar and Bina Roy are amazing to look at. Pradeep Kumar has an imposing regal figure and he emotes better here compared to the other songs in this film. He looks the part of a man in love. Bina Roy fits her role of the shy Arjumand to the bill. She's serenely pretty and has a noble bearing.

You Tube link to this song: