Dil Dhoondhta Hai…

Previously on this blog I wrote a small post on the most succinct word (link). Here’s another word that has such a delicate and beautiful meaning, and has no immediate translation in English:

Saudade: [n] A vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.

The closest English word is perhaps ‘yearning’, but saudade carries with it a heavier, gloomy connotation. A melancholic, brooding emptiness… a feeling of despair that’s associated with the fact that the object of yearning (whether a place, person, or a situation) is unattainable.

I don’t think there’s any Hindi synonym for saudade, but this Portuguese word reminded me of one of my favorite songs ‘Dil dhoondhta hai’ written by Gulzar, which comes pretty darn close to the sentiments packed in this sublime word.

The opening stanza of this song is taken from Ghalib’s famous ghazal ‘Muddat hui hai yaar ko mehmaan kiya hue’. The original refrain went like this:

jee dhoondhta hai phir wohee fursat ke raat din
baiTHe raheiN tasavvur-e-jaanaaN kiye hue

Gulzar took this sher and interpreted it in his own peculiar way. “MiSra Ghalib ka hai, aur kaifiyat har ek ki apni apni […]” as the man himself had said once. He changed the first word jee to dil which improved the consonance of that line.[UPDATE: Not sure about this any more. See the comment section.] Later, ‘aundhe pade rahe’ – which means lying on your back – was a nice touch too; it perfectly evokes a feeling of reverie that this song revolves around.

The composer Madan Mohan, who shared Gulzar’s penchant for Ghalib’s work, made several tunes for this song, but only two were used in the movie. An unused version was later utilized by his son in the movie Veer-Zaara for the song ‘Tere liye, hum hai jiye’. (See this video where the third version can be heard, in Madan Mohan’s voice I believe.)

By the way, can you recall another one of his songs in which Gulzar used one of Ghalib’s verses again?


7 responses to “Dil Dhoondhta Hai…

  1. I didn’t know that under Sheldon-like love for math and physics there was a passion for Gulzar and Ghalib (and, I hope, Khusrau, too. May be Khalil Gibran, …….)!

    btw, another Gulzar-Ghalib combo I could think of is,
    dil-e-nadan tujhe hua kya hai
    I’ll search for more


  2. Oh, btw, it was brilliant idea to link the word, ‘Saudade’, to that song!

    • I haven’t reached that far (Khusrau and Gibran) yet. But I am a huge, unabashed fan of Gulzar. I enjoy Ghalib’s (and Kabir’s) work too, but not with the same passion and intensity. I pretty much put him on a pedestal. 🙂

  3. i guess the song “dil hi toh hai” is also based on Ghalib’s verses..
    “Saudade” is really a great find of yours, the meaning which it conveys is so commonplace, so much felt.. but, still no word exists to describe it in hindi or english.. and i must admit, i love this song a lot, although i have never fully grasped its essence.. by learning this word, i got a hint of it…
    its just mesmerizing.. how the meaning of a single word in portuguese is conveyed through a whole song in urdu/hindi!!!

  4. It’s a lovely song indeed… I actually like the sad version (rendered by Bhupinder) even more than the one I posted here.

    The other song by Gulzar that has Ghalib’s verse in it is Satrangi Re from the movie Dil Se: “Ishq par zor naheen, hai yeh woh aatish ghalib…”

  5. Ramanand

    Nice post. Doesn’t Gulzar say somewhere that it was Madan Mohan who changed the word from “Jii” to “Dil” (accidentally?)? And despite Gulzar being wary of changing the original, he was persuaded to go along with it. Not sure where I heard that.

    Nice piece of trivia about the other Gulzar-Ghalib reference.

    • Hmmm. You might be on to something here.

      The following excerpt from an article written by Gulzar suggests that the original verse by Ghalib was in fact “Dil Dhoondhta Hai”:

      The original refrain of this song Jee Dhundhtaa Hai Phir Wahee Fursat Ke Raat Din was written by Ghalib. Yet Madanji used to sing Dil Dhundhtaa Hai Phir Wahee. As the day of recording approached, I told Madanji. “You sing it as Dil Dhundhtaa Hai Phir Wahee, but the original song of Ghalib is Jee Dhundhtaa Hai. I feel one should not tamper with the original work. He accepted what I said. On the day of the recording he brought along with him Ghalib’s Deewan (the authentic literary book of Ghalib’s work). He opened it and pointed out at the refrain in question. It was Dil Dhundhtaa Hai Phir Wahee.

      So according this, the word “dil” was never changed (by Gulzar or Madan Mohan).

      However, most versions that I see on the internet (like this one, which looks legit) show this refrain as “jee dhoondhta hai”.

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