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This article was first published 5 years ago  » Movies » How Gulzar created Kajra Re

How Gulzar created Kajra Re

By Nasreen Munni Kabir
February 20, 2019 14:27 IST
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'I believe this song became a hit because of Aishwarya Rai. She is totally responsible for its success.'
'People would go to see the film all over the country, just to see her dance.'

IMAGE: Aishwarya Rai in the Kajra Re song from Bunty Aur Babli.

Nasreen Munni Kabir: You wrote all the songs from Shaad Ali's first film, Saathiya.

Is he a close friend?

Gulzar: I think of him as a young director -- a young boy really.

I used to meet him quite often in Chennai, because in those days he was working as Mani (Ratnam) sir's assistant.

Before I'd say goodbye, I would give him some pocket money just as a father would.

That is the kind of affection I feel for him.

Shaad was brought up in a cultured, literary and artistic world in Lucknow.

His father is Muzaffar Ali, someone seeped in Sufiana poetry.

Shaad has a deep social conscience because his mother, Subhashini Ali, is a committed Communist and President of the All India Democratic Women's Association.

His grandmother is the famous Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, a colleague of Subhash Chandra Bose.

Lakshmiji stood in the presidential election in 2002, but lost to (A P J) Abdul Kalamsaab.

She was a great social worker.

That's the kind of pedigree Shaad has.

IMAGE: Shaad Ali, who directed Bunty Aur Babli, with Gulzar. Photograph: Pradeep Bandekar

But I must say he fights with me as much as my daughter Meghna does.

He insists I use certain words in the songs I write for him, and also suggests a few words that he has probably picked up from his father. (laughs)

Ultimately one sentence says it all -- Shaad is very dear to me.

Kajra re

Your kohl-rimmed eyes

Kajra re, kajra re, tere kaare kaare naina

Your kohl-rimmed eyes, your dark black eyes

O mere naina, mere naina, mere naina judwa naina

My eyes, my eyes, these eyes of mine

Kajra re

Your kohl-rimmed eyes

Surme se likhe tere vaade, aankhon ki zabaani aate hain

Your promises written in kohl

speak the language of the eyes

Mere rumaalon pe lab tere baandh ke nishaani jaate hain

Your lips have left a mark on my handkerchief

(Shankar Mahadevan and Javed Ali)

Teri baaton mein kimaam ki khushboo hai

Your words have an intoxicating scent

Tera aana bhi garmiyon ki lu hai

You blow in like the hot summer wind

Aaja ttoote na, ttoote na angdai

May my yearning for you never cease.

Come to me

Kajra re...

Your kohl-rimmed eyes...

G: There are many duos in film music like Shankar-Jaikishan, Laxmikant-Pyarelal etc.

Sometimes one would compose the songs and the other the background score.

Pyarelalji used to do the background music, but he'd compose songs too.

IMAGE: Ehsaan Noorani, Shankar Mahadevan, Loy Mendonsa who make the composers Shankar Ehsaan Loy. Photograph: Rajesh Karkera/

Here we have a unit of three -- Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy -- and they compose songs together.

That's rare.

You need a voice, music and rhythm.

You can't separate these three elements.

That is the most beautiful part of a composition.

A songwriter is probably the fourth member!

These three musketeers are a wonderful unit.

I think Shankar is a master at composing tunes to lyrics.

He's so fast.

He also writes some very interesting dummy lines that are sometimes quite amusing.

'Tu dil mera le ja main chappal pahen ke aayi (Take my heart. I'm on my way, but first let me put on my sandals).'

I think Shankar mesmerises audiences when he sings on the stage.

What a threesome.

NMK: How did he approach the Kajra re song?

G: When Shankar gave me the tune and the dummy words, he said:

'Change all the dummy words, Gulzar saab.

'But just don't change "Kajra re".'

'I have already written a similar song that Daler Mehndi has sung -- "Kajra re nainawaale, naina teri Chambal de lootere (Your kohl-lined eyes are no different from the dacoits of the Chambal valley).'

'Gulzar saab, when I was having a shower this morning, I couldn't stop singing the words "Kajra re".

'I could not get them out of my head. Please keep them in the song.'

'You've had your shower and you're all fresh, so I'll use them.'

We both laughed.

So the words 'Kajra re' came from Shankar Mahadevan.

IMAGE: Aishwarya Rai burns the floor in Kajra Re.

NMK: Then you built the whole song on the eyes -- what they do, what effect they have, etc.

I think it's very clever to use the word 'personal' in 'aankhein bhi kamaal karti hain, personal se sawaal karti hain.'

The English slips in naturally and is so suggestive.

I can't think of an equivalent in Hindustani that would work as well.

G: I believe this song became a hit because of Aishwarya Rai. She is totally responsible for its success.

People would go to see the film all over the country, just to see her dance.

Aankhein bhi kamaal karti hain, personal se sawaal karti hain.

Eyes work such wonders,

they ask such personal questions

Palkon ko utthaati bhi nahin, parde ka khayaal karti hain

Without raising her eyes

mindful as she is of modesty

(Shankar Mahadevan & Javed Ali)

O mera gham toh kisi se bhi chhupta nahin

My sorrow cannot be hidden

Dard hota hai dard jab chubhta nahin

I still ache even though the pain has gone

Aaja ttoote na, ttoote na angdai

Come to me. May my yearning never cease

Kajra re...


Excerpted from Jiya Jale: The Stories of Songs by Gulzar. In conversation with Nasreen Munni Kabir. With the kind permission of the publishers, Speaking Tiger Publishing Pvt Ltd.



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