Thursday, December 2, 2021

Queen—Khud Hi To Hain Hum Kinare

There are a few films that uplift us even on the darkest of days. Vikas Bahl's Queen is a wonderful film that always makes me smile. It philosophizes that life puts us in many a tricky spot, but sometimes, those spots can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. This is also seen in the music of the film. Its songs are weaved into the story of Rani (Kangana Ranaut) beautifully by Anvita Dutt Guptan and Amit Trivedi. While the overarching theme of the songs is clear, I find it slightly challenging to grasp the meaning of some lines in the lyrics. Nevertheless, all its songs progressively depict the changing emotional state of Rani.
Early in the film, Rani's fiancé Vijay (Rajkummar Rao) breaks off their wedding at the Cafe Coffee Day. After giving Rani the shock of her life, Vijay cleans off the particles of mehendi that fell from her hand. Rani goes back to her house in the autorickshaw with her brother. Her hair is all frizzled and disheveled. She is confused and emotional. Then, the soulful ballad Ranjha plays. The song is from the perspective of Heer, who sings about her Ranjha. She sings, "Main Heer haan teri, main peedh haan teri, je tu baddal kaala, main neer haan teri." She is his Heer, his pain. She is the water to his dark cloud. She further adds, "Keekaran sukkhan lagiyaan, umraan mukkan lagiyaan. Ho mainu mil gaya Ranjha, nabzaan rukkan laggiyan." Once she has found her Ranjha, her pulse stops. She does not need anything else in life. Ranjha defines her identity in life. There is no Heer without Ranjha and vice-versa. Rani is also in a similar state where she cannot think of her life without Vijay. She is desperate and calls him repeatedly.
What is also interesting about the song Ranjha is that it has male vocals while it is sung from a female's perspective. The song is written by Raghu Nath. It is composed and sung by Rupesh Kumar Ram. In an interview, Rupesh said, "I hoped for someone like Shreya Ghoshal to sing it. Anurag listened to the album and suggested that Queen director Vikas Bahl listen to it. Vikas liked the song and selected it for his film. However, he liked the rawness in my voice and insisted that we retain the track in my voice itself." Ranjha is also the only song in the album that is not written and composed by Anvita Dutt and Amit Trivedi.
After that, Rani decides to go on her honeymoon alone. Her parents are reluctant but acquiesce to her wish solely for the sake of her happiness. The song Harjaiyaan depicts Rani's journey to Paris. Harjaiyaan is an Urdu word that refers to an unfaithful person. The song is about a lover who wonders why she met this betrayer—harjaiyaan—if he had to eventually leave her, mirroring the events in Rani's life. The song begins by describing the state of her mind. Saaye saaye phirte hain jidhar mudoon, baithi hain rusvaaiyan bhi rus ke door. Ho behla fusla ke khud ko naseehaten karun. She is chased by the shadows wherever she goes. Even sadness has turned away from her. All this while, she is trying to give false hopes to herself. She talks about the betrayer (Vijay) who left her with freight of shadows. Her lack of confidence in the plane shows that she has not traveled by herself earlier. Her brother had always accompanied her even on her romantic dates but this time, but she is traveling all alone to a strange foreign country this time. There is a lovely shot of Rani sitting on the window seat and surrounded by the darkness of the night. Parchhaiyaan, de ke hi mujhe wo gaya kyon.
She reaches Paris after some time. She calls for a taxi; a passerby tells her that she needs to go ahead to a different queue. She sits in a cab but struggles to pronounce the place of her destination correctly. The taxi driver takes the slip of paper from her and corrects her. The film's script adds more tiny details about the taxi ride that were not added in the theatrical version. "The cab comes and stops outside the hotel. Rani gets off the cab, it's in a lonely street with big intimidating buildings all around it, she is trying to figure out the currency, the cabby is waiting, the cabby takes the money from her and takes out his rent and hands her the rest of it back. Rani keeps looking not sure if he took the correct amount."
She reaches the hotel and finds that the room is booked not under her name but by Mr. and Mrs. Dhingra. She struggles to carry luggage to her room. It is also a sign of the emotional baggage that she is carrying with her. The lyrics also add, "Kaandhe ye bhaari se, din ko dho nahi paate." Her shoulders are not able to carry the burden of the heavy day. She blames her fate. Whatever she chooses does not work out for her. She pleads to her ego—aham—to keep going in life. Ho udhde udhde aham se, main minnaten karoon. No one cares about what happened to her. Ho kisko ab ye padi hai, main ukhdi ukhdi hun. All of this is happening because her lover betrayed her. She does not open the curtains fully in her room but peeks outside, surrounded by the shadows that her lover, her Ranjha, left her with. There is this tiny bit in the song where the background singers sing 'Olai Olai' that does not mean anything but adds to the beauty of the song. 
The next song in the film is Badra Bahaar. Her grandmother, who is reading the matrimonial section of the newspaper, exhorts her to step out of her hotel room and visit the most beautiful city in the world. Dressed in jeans and kurta, Rani roams on the streets of Paris. The lyrics are from the perspective of a girl where she asks the rain cloud to take a message to her lover about her depressing life. Siske re jiyara, behta re kajra.  Beeta re jug tanha re. The heart sobs, and the kohl of the eyes flows. An era has passed alone. More than its lyrics, its picturization is memorable. The portrayal adds to Rani's turbulent emotional state. She is not able to cross the roads. The fast-approaching vehicles come running into her from the other side. Rani has always needed help in her life. She instinctively pulls out her hand when she sees a man gesturing the same as she assumed he was trying to help her. The film throwbacks to a moment where Vijay had helped her cross the road in Delhi. Now, she is struggling to do the same as she is alone for the first time in life. She is further reminded of her loneliness when she looks at other couples hanging out together. She tries to find people who can take her photographs, but no one helps her.
And, then, she sees it—the mighty Eiffel Tower—in all its glory. She immediately remembers a conversation with Vijay at the India Gate where he spoke about taking her to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Rani, however, is not enthused by the sight of the huge tower. She runs away from it as it reminds her of the past. Films shot in Paris, such as An Evening in Paris to Befikre, often romanticize the Eiffel Tower. Queen does something different in this context. The Eiffel Tower is more like a monster chasing Rani at every nook and corner, and she tries to escape from it. The picturization of the song is more suited to the lyrics of the Harjaiyaan. Saaye saaye phirte hain jidhar mudoon. She sees the shadows and the images of the Eiffel Tower on the road signs. She runs away from a man who sells tiny souvenirs of the Eiffel Tower. She again collides with a man who is carrying them. Scroll writes about the song, "Its monumentality reminds Rani of her own challenges, while Bahl’s use of the landmark indicates that the City of Love needn’t always be picture postcard." Later in the film, Rani does make it to the Eiffel with another Vijay, her friend Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon), when she has been able to confront her fears head-on. She is not afraid of it anymore, and rather than seeing it through the prism of her past, she takes it as an opportunity to get enthralled by the tower's spectacular beauty.
Rani then makes a bunch of friends in Europe. She experiences new things in life. She travels independently. The next two songs in the film depict her newfound confidence. She is coming out of her sadness. In Taake Jhaake, Rani explores Paris with Vijaylakshmi. Here the poet says about her, "Sawaali aasmaan tha, jawaabon se bhara hai, zara dhoop ko badalon se ladne do, iss dil ko toh gunguna karne do." The sky was full of questions; now, it is full of answers. Let the sunlight fight a little with the clouds; let this heart sing a little. It further adds, "Zara gham se to faasle badhne do." She is leaving behind her sorrows. Then, there is Jugni which is played when Rani is making gol gappes for the Italian guy in Amsterdam. The song compares her to a firefly who has opened her wings and found the confidence to fly. Kaali si dibbi mein hui woh qaid this, chanda ki maari humne gulel thi, taaron ki chaabi se khuli safaid si. She was trapped in a black box; we threw the light of the moon on the box, and with the key of the stars, the box was opened, and it became morning. Naye naye par liye, O pinjra khol. She escaped from the cages and is flying with her new wings. And, it adds that she has khud ka noor where she is swathed in the light of her own self, reinforcing that she does not need anyone to give her light.
The film's last song is Kinare, which is again beautifully composed. It is a song that celebrates the idea of self. It appears when Rani goes to the concert with her friends in Amsterdam. Its lyrics propagate the idea that one can be complete just by themselves. Beh rahe jo saath mein, jo humaare khaas they, kar gaye apni baat kinare. Agar maajhi saare saath mein, gair ho bhi jaayein, toh khud hi to patwaar ban, paar honge hum. People who are special to us will leave us at some point in life. All the other people will also turn against us. But then we will become the oar and row our ship of life to the shore. Khud hi to hain hum kinare. Auron se kya khud hi se, poochh lenge raahein. We are the shores, and we will find our way, come what may. This contrasts with the earlier time during Harjaaiyan where Rani blamed people for leaving her in life. She was angry that no one cared about her. But now, she has changed and understood that life goes on and something or the other works out. She even goes and thanks Vijay for not getting married to her. She is confident about her future. In many films, we see that the protagonist finds life with the help of a special someone. Queen advocates that that special person is no one but our own self.
Trivia:
1) In Aave Re Hichki from Mirzya, Gulzar also used the phrase about keekar trees drying. "Talaiya sookhi, keekar, sukha, bheetar sukha re.The pond is dry, the keekar tree is dry, and inside, I am dry too
2) The song Kinara uses the word 'maajhi' who is a boatman. We do not hear this word anymore in films. In the older films, there were quite a few songs about maajhis. In Khushboo, Gulzar beautifully writes O Maajhi Re which again talks about kinaras being life itself.
3) I love this bit about mehendi in the script (which was not there in the film).
Other Reading:
1) The earlier post on the film QueenLink

Dialogue of the Day:
"Agar maajhi saare saath mein, gair ho bhi jaayein, toh khud hi to patwaar ban, paar honge hum."
Queen

3 comments:

  1. I loved this! Amit Trivedi is a gift. As someone who does not speak Hindi, it helps immensely when you provide some translations for the lyrics. Thank you for another great post on a beautiful movie. :D

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  2. This was such a beautiful post :) Also,I think, in the Taanke Jhaanke, 'Iss dil ko toh gunguna karne do' would mean, let the sunlight warm our hearts Gungunana is humming and gunguna is luke warm :)

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