Thursday, May 31, 2007

lunchtime poll #4: "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha"

So I'm sitting there, studying the vocabulary in chapter two of Teach Yourself Hindi (yes, I'm still on chapter two) with a random CD on in the background. "Ek Ladki Ko Dekha" came on and I put down my book. Usually lyrics flow past me unless for some reason I've bothered to hunt down a translation; I hadn't done that with this song, but recently Filmi Geek, with her mad Hindi skillz, had been telling me about them. I remember thinking "that's a bit much" - I mean, "When I saw this girl it felt like a poet's dream...like the swaying vines...like the music of the fairies"? That's pretty sap-tastic. But just now, reading them over again, I started to cry and had to keep hitting repeat on the CD player. I think what happened is that I moved past the particular words - which I still think are quite heavy - to the totality of the feeling that would move somebody to say those things, and I found myself charmed and moved. And watching the picturization, I'm very pleased by the simple, everyday sweetness of its scenes - it balances out the grander or more flowery comparisons of the lyrics. My response may have something to do with timing, too. I'm having a down-with-love sort of week, and when that happens and you (and by "you" I mean "I") hear words like this, you can't help but think "clearly no one will ever say that to me" and you feel a little sad, even though if someone did say that to you, you would probably have to suppress an eye roll or two.

All of which, of course, made me appreciate all the more how clever and funny its use is in Main Hoon Na.

Thoughts on the song and its popularity and impact are welcome.

12 comments:

Chronicus Skepticus said...

When this movie was released, I remember, virtually all the women my age went all swoony everytime it played on tv; everyone wanted it sung to/about them!

As for the DWL week, I can only say what a wise girl once told me; Bravery and cunning my dear! Bravery and cunning!

Sophie said...

Aw, Beth! I will say it to you!

That song is very beautiful. I didn't know about the lyrics before. But that's what I love about Bollywood lyrics; they're all sap-tastic, as you so aptly put it. They work in Hindi, but should never be translated into English, much less sung in English. This is why I really dislike that one song, O Rey Chhori, in Lagaan. The English lyrics are so cheesey they make you want to gag. The rest of the song, in Hindi, has the same lyrics, and it's fine. It's just when they're sung in English that they become a problem.

carla said...

Well you know how I feel about this song, Beth. I am going to disagree with you and Sophie that the lyrics are sappy or cheesy. I think they are quite delicate. (I also have a particular fangirly reason for loving them and I will allow that up front - it is said that Javed sahib was inspired to write this song by thoughts of his wife, Shabana Azmi, and that's more than enough to make my particular heart go flippity-flop.)

Having admitted that, though, I'll still defend it against the epithets of sap and cheesiness.

Have you ever heard a love poem that you did not think was sappy or cheesy? I would like to theorize that it's the concept of love poetry generally that strikes you sappy or cheesy, and not these particular lyrics.

That's not even to mention the difficulties of translation, of losing the subtlety and cultural referents that are inherent in the lyrics. For us (meaning non-Indian, non-native Hindi speakers), "Ek ladki ko dekha" is a series of more or less coherent images; some of them, however, are heavy with cultural context that we are largely oblivious to.

I am always very skeptical of people who are not native Hindi speakers who assert that sentiments just sound better in Hindi - that's romanticism borne of the exotic, not of the actual content of the lyrics. There are Hindi lyrics that are delicate and lovely to native ears, and Hindi lyrics that are vapid and cheesy to native ears, just like there are in English.

Thanks for listening!
-carla (aka Filmi Geek http://filmigeek.net)

alienvoord said...

I don't see what's wrong with sappiness or cheesiness!

Beth said...

There is definitely nothing wrong with cheesiness and sappiness in general. But while I appreciate the emotional wholeheartedness that can inspire them, it's just not quite how I roll, so to speak. And it's very seldom that I really respond must to poetry of any kind, so I think Carla is probably on to something there. Sophie, if I understand you correctly, I agree with you about the joys of listening to things I sort of have a sense of (but don't remotely understand fully) and enjoying the sounds, especially when the sounds are accompanied by pictures and gestures that let me know the gist of what's going on, as is the case here.

yves said...

Beth,

I liked your little "confession"; I too have sometimes been struck by the actual meaning of words which I thought too pretentious and falsely poetic at first.
I think that happens with all (good or bad) poetry, but what happened to you may also bear a connection with the hindi-lover syndrome, which I think I have too. I mean, had the words been said in English, I might not have paid that much attention to them, nor to their meaning. But because they're said in this language we love and strive at learning (I'm at lesson 16, but probably my book has shorter chapters), well they can and will mean more, it seems.

"LOVE", yves

Andromache said...

Heh, I'm slogging my way through Teach Yourself Hindi, as well.

I was really excited when that song showed up in Main Hoon Na.

Raka said...

Personally I loved Main Hoon Na because Farah Khan basically decided to make her directoral debut dedicated to lampooning the entire bollywood genre. Her filmi references, and even the items numbers unique to MHN were fantastically sappy, especially the dance steps. One of my not-so-secret hobbies is to sing the English translations of songs along to the music while watching the movies...DDLJ works amazingly well for this if you are ever bored.

Beth said...

From an email by reader Meera:
"Dear All
As an indian who is well versed in hindi and enjoy indian movies, I love this song because it is actually describing the man's feelings on seeing a lovely girl he is attracted to. For eg one of the lines in the song goes like this "jaisey sardi ki dhoop" ie sunshine in winter. ie he is experiencing the same pleasant feeling as when he is enjoying the warmth of the wintersunshine. Another example is "jaisey khilta gulab" ie the early stage when petals unfold in a rose bud - now this sounds really funny and cheesy in English as Beth would say. Once again, the situation relates to his feelings being tender and fresh as these wonderful thinss in nature. Perhaps the language counts here. The tune is also very good as well as the music. I guess that is why it is one of the most popular songs in India. Beth, simply enjoy the tune and the song !!!!
cheers
Meera"

meeratara2002 said...

Hi Beth

I have created a google acocunt so that i can post my comments here.

cheers

Meera

Jiwan said...

Personally i think that the literal meaning of the words (which may seem sappy on their own) is not what the song is about. It is more of a rollercoater of emotions that each line evokes. It compares how the singer feels when he looks at the girl of his dreams with other wonderful experiences/feelings of his life.

I say rollercoaster because each line takes you through your own (wonderful) life experiences in quick succession. That is why I find this song so powerful and beautiful. It gets personal with you.

From a Western point of view it would be comparing your feelings/emotions with situations that the western culture relates to. For example, "first baseball game", "smell of Grandma's cookies", "unwrapping a present on a Christmas morning", etc. If someone could weave all these emotions into a beautiful poem, they would end up with a song like "Ek ladki ko dekha...".

Anonymous said...

ek ladki translated - not cheesy


when I saw this girl, she seemed to me like...
like a blooming rose;like a poet's dream; like a glowing ray of light;like a deer in the forest;
like a moonlit night;like a soft word;
like a candle(lamp) burning in the temple.

when I saw this girl, she seemed to me like...
Like the beauty of the morning; like winter sunshine;like a note from the lute; like the essence of all color; like a twisting vine;
like the play of waves; like a cool scented wind.