Songs Inspired By Poems – The Soems

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To write anything be it a story, a poem, a song, is not about just putting an ornamental language and pretty words on paper. Writing also means sharing a part of your soul, your thoughts. But to do that one also might need an inspiration. Every artist needs an inspiration. A singer, a poet, a painter, a musician all look forward to a muse to enhance their thoughts. Artists are apprentices who need motivation to bring out their craft. Hindi cinema in no different from this. We have movies, songs, actors, who at some point or the other are inspired by something. For example if we take songs inspired by poems. A particular song might be inspired by a poem on the whole or partially or just a line or a few words. Or the other way round, a line or words from a certain song might remind you of a poem. Life on the whole is inspired by literature and vice versa. The utopia of human imagination. An inexhaustible source of imagination.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star

The moment you hear or read these lines, you are thrown back to your childhood days. The poem was first published in 1806 in the book Rhymes for Nursery by Taylor sisters i.e Jane and Ann. To be precise Jane Taylor is the lyricist of this most widely known nursery rhyme and arranged by music composers world wide. But this particular tune which we hear is set by none other than Mozart albeit for a French rhyme!! Our childhood isn’t complete without this rhyme.
What indeed is poetry? It derives from the Greek word Poiesis which means making. It can be making of something that is beautiful, something that is lovable, adorable. And it can be made more approachable if we set a tune for it. Music and poetry, I feel, makes you more alert, more approachable, more open minded. Song and poem together give a beautiful art form. The melody of instruments and the harmony of words combine together for an aural ambrosia. Poetry has been the most romantic way of expressing one’s feelings. It sounds elegant, sophisticated and stylish. It increases the intensity of one’s emotions. The languages of love, the languages of poetry. Vintage India has witnessed, the glory of this poetry, shayaris or songs, to the hilt. Nawab Wajid Ali Shah, Amir Khusro, Mirza Ghalib, Bahadur Shah Zafar are the finest examples of these. The works of great poets have time and again inspired poets/lyricists from all walks of life and our lyricists from Hindi cinema are no exception to it. P. B. Shelley’s To A Skylark inspired Shailendra to write Hain sabse madhur wo geet jinhe from Patita (1953).

We look before and after,
And pine for what is not:
Our sincerest laughter
With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

A poetic inspiration can be in a form of an entire poem, a single word, couplets, shers or even dohas.

Ashta kamal ka charkha banaya
Paanch tatwa ki puni
Nau das maas bunan ko laage
Murakh maili kinhi
Chadariya jhini re jhini
…..beautiful, isn’t it?
For those who have read Kabir, might have instantly connected with the song from Badlapur (2015). A well woven song with that single Kabir thread – Chadariya jhini re jhini

Poems have inspired the music world of Hindi films from the very beginning. Who could have imagined Shanta Apte reciting Psalm Of Life in 1938? But a genius like V Shantaram brought it out on the silver screen through Duniya Na Maane

It took an artist like K L Saigal to bring out the glory of heart wrenching lines by Nawab Wajid Ali Shah when he was exiled from his dear motherland.

Lyricist Gulzar was inspired by all the three aces – Khusro, Ghalib and Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.
While Khusro said – Zehaal-e-miskeen makun taghaful, Duraye naina banaye batiyan, Gulzar says – Zehaal-e-miskeen makun baranjish, bahaal-e-hijr bechara dil hai

Or if Ghalib says – Jee dhoondta hai fir wahi fursat ke raat din, we have Lata Mangeshkar and Bhupinder Singh crooning to Gulzar’s Dil dhoondta hai….

And Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s – Dar-o-deewar ko hasrat se nazar karte hain, Khush raho ehl-e-watan hum toh safar karte hain becomes Gulzar’s Raah pe rehte hain, yaadon pe basar karte hain, khush raho ehl-e-watan hum toh safar karte hain….

A poem from Maithilee Sharan Gupt’s collection of poem Panchvati has lines – Charuchandra ki chanchal kirane, khel rahi hai jal thal mein and we have a similar line in Amit Khanna’s Charuchandra ki chanchal chitwan, bin barkha barse saawan….

Deeply romantic lines by Faiz Ahmed Faiz say –
Mujh se pehli si mohabbat mere mehboob na maang,
Maine samjha tha ki tu hai toh darakhshan hai hayat,
Tera gham hai to gham-e-dahar ka jhagada kya hai,
Teri surat se hai aalam mein baharon ko sabat,
Teri aankhon ke siva duniya mein rakha kya hai

While Majrooh Sultanpuri write –
Teri ankhon ke siwa duniya men rakha kya hai
Ye uthe subah chale, ye jhuke shaam dhale
Mera jeena, mera marna, i hi palkon ke taley

Another example of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s romantic couplets converted into a song is from Janwar (1965).

And we can’t leave showman and his songs behind if we are talking about Hindi film music. The very philosophical…Duniya bananewaale….it were just a few lines of a poem which were initially written by Majrooh Sultanpuri and further extended by Hasrat Jaipuri. And what an amazing song it is!! If we look at it, it involves all the 3 ace lyricists – Shailendra, Hasrat and Majrooh Sultanpuri.

Speaking of Majrooh Sultanpuri, he was a regular shayar who attended and recited in all the formal mushairas. In one such mushaira he recited – Hum hain mataa e koocha o bazaar ki tarah….the original poem has 7 stanzas and at the behest of Madan Mohan who happened to love this poem, 3 stanzas were picked up to make this beauty.

We happened to discuss Khusro earlier and we come back to him again. He wrote a few lines for his friend, philosopher, guide Nizamuddin Auliya…and addressed thus –
Zabaan-e yaar-e mun Turki, wa mun Turki nami daanum,
Che khush boodi agar boodi zabaanash dar dahanay mun

While Shevan Rizvi in Ek Musafir Ek Haseena says –

Bismil Azimabadi’s patriotic poem Sarfaroshi ki tamanna which was immortalised by Ram Prasad Bismil as a war cry for the freedom struggle became a full fledged song in Shaheed (1965).

Makhdoom Mohuiddin rules the hearts of lovers with the ghazal from Bazaar (1982) and describes the longing of a heart perfectly with Aap ki yaad aati rahi raat bhar from Gaman (1980).

Humne aaj ye duniya bechi
Aur ye din khareed ke laaye
Baat kufr ki, ki hai humne
Ek ghunt chandni pi hai humne

Amrita Pritam’s original poem from her novella Dharti, Sagar aur Sipiyan became a cloudful of nectar in Kadambari (1975).

Similarly Kaka Haathrasi’s Duniya rang birangi bhaiyya became the title song for Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Rang Birangi (1983), while Balkavi Bairagi’s romantic couplets of Tu chanda main chandni became a Jaidev – Lata nectar. Then we also have Sahir making his numero uno saga of Kabhi Kabhi in a complete film version or his poetic Chaklay became Jinhe naaz hai Hind par

There are so many more nuggets to be explored, savoured and relished. I’m sure next time you hear some poems or songs or soems you are going to jot them down to add to this list.

Talking about the inspiration, what inspired me to write this article? Watch this scene from Munimji (1955) and if you can, identify the songs in between the dialogues!!!

Avid music lover and Dev Anand fan


  1. Vineeth Kumar

    March 22, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Oh, what a delightful sequence from ‘Munimji’! Loved it. Thank you.

    • Deepa

      March 22, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Thank you 🙂


    March 22, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    Beautiful songs

    • Deepa

      March 22, 2018 at 5:53 pm

      Thank you 🙂

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