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Chali kahani

February 18, 2017


Link to the song:

Meaning and Context:

Chali kahani is a magnum opus. Written by Irshad Kamil for the movie Tamasha, it’s a song about stories, about how all stories, whether old or new, native or foreign, have essentially the same soul. Times change, characters change, but the story remains unchanged.

tamasha-old-faqeer-and-the-kidIn the movie, a kid would go to a faqeer (mystic hermit) to hear a story but the faqeer would tell the stories all mixed-up. Rama could become Romeo, Romeo could become Ranjha – all in one story – for in the view of the old faqeer, it didn’t matter who the characters were or where they came from, its the story which is to be understood.

The faqeer says, “Kahani, kahani hoti hai, aur wahi kahani har jagah chalti hai, har waqt… Ayodhya me, Yunan me… Laila-Majnu, Romeo-Juliet, Sikandar ki chadhai, Lanka ki ladai… Is waqt, aas paas, aur tumhari zindagi me.. wahi kahani… ek hi. Socho mat ki kahan aur kab aur kiski.. bas maza lo kahani ka dil khol kar.”

(A story is a story, and the same story goes everywhere, every time… in Ayodhya, in Greece… Laila-Majnu, Romeo-Juliet, Alexander’s invasion or the battle of Lanka… This moment, here, and in your life.. same story.. one only. Don’t think where, when, or whose… just relish the story with all your heart.)

Yamuna, if called Jamuna, as it is called in a certain dialect, doesn’t become another river. Similarly, the names of characters may change, time and place may be different, but the story doesn’t necessarily change. Different people tell the same story in their own language and cultural context at different times. It doesn’t make the stories different. In a profound moment of revelation, the faqeer unifies the greatest names of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, and Judiasm:

“Yamuna hai ya Jamuna? Joseph hai ya Yusuf? Jesus hai ya Isa? Moses hai ya Musa? Batao. Brahma hai ya Abraham? Ya Ibrahim?”

(Is it Yamuna or Jamuna? Is it Joseph or Yusuf? Jesus or Isa? Moses or Musa? Say. Is it Brahma or Abraham? Or Ibrahim?)

The song brings out the truth in the faqeer’s words by interweaving stories from different times and places, merging legend and history, myth and folklore, into one organic whole. From the stories of Rama and Krishna of ancient India to Moses of ancient Egypt, from the legend of the beautiful Helen of Troy to the equally beautiful Sanyukta of Kannauj, from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Waris Shah’s Heer-Ranjha, from Alexander the great to Mughal prince Salim– the story goes on.

And when you think about it, there actually are some striking similarities between stories from completely disparate places. For instance, the Hindu myth regarding the birth of Krishna and the story of the birth of Moses in various Abrahamic traditions have a lot in common. When Krishna was born, he had to be taken across the river Yamuna by his father Vasudeva to save him from Kansa, who was killing the new-borns. Moses, too, had to be rescued from the river Nile because the Pharaoh was getting all the new-borns killed.

If we look at the stories of ancient India, we will find that the same story being told differently in different times. Symbolic legends in the Veda were adapted and further developed in the Puranas and different Puranas tell the same story differently. As the Rig Veda said – ekam satya vipra bahudha vadanti – the truth is one, it is spoken of variously by the wise.

The faqeer’s view is especially true for folktales. It has been seen that the same story is told with slight variations across different regions. Like the story of Sohni-Mahiwal which is mentioned in the song is told differently in Sindh and Punjab. Another famous folktale from the region, Heer-Ranjha, is quite similar to Sahakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. In both stories, the lovers belong to warring families and, in both stories, the lovers die in the end for each other.

Actually, aren’t all love stories the same? The lovers are always cruelly separated, then there is inexplicable longing for each other and the attempts to meet in secret, and unfortunately, they always have a tragic ending. Even the love of divine avatars like Rama-Sita and Kirshna-Radha was full of viraha. The story of Rama-Sita is especially focused on in this song. Sita was taken away from Rama, first by the demon Ravana, and later by society. In the end, Sita had to descend into the womb of Mother Earth.

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And then, sometimes, bloody battles ensue for love – the Trojan war for Helen of Troy, the animosity between Kannauj and Delhi over princess Sanyukta, and Salim’s hostility towards his own father, the Mughal emperor Akbar, who objected to his son’s love for a courtesan, Anarkali.

All these stories are brought together in this remarkably written and visually enthralling song. It’s really a song like none other. I would advise the listener to forget about the differences of cultures, religions, characters, times and places, and like the faqeer said, just sit back and enjoy the story.

Lyrics to the song:

Tirkit taal se lo chali kahani
Panghat kaal se lo chali kahani
Sarpat daudti hai faqt zubani
Chutput ashiqui mein dhali kahani
Angin saal se hai wahi purani
Tere mere ishq ki ye nayi kahani
Aati kahaan se hai ye jaati kahaan kya pata……

Ye Chenab ka dariya hai
Ye ishq se bharya
Wo lehro pe balkhati
Mahiwal se milne jati
Wo naam ki Sohni bhi thi
Mahiwal ki honi bhi thi

Lekin bhay Kans ka tha usko – to phir
Vasudev ne kaanha ko – lekar
Jamuna se paar lagaya
Dariya se to Firaun ki behna ne phir Moosa uthaya


Chali kahani, chali kahani…. Chali kahani, chali kahani….

Birha ka dukh kaahe ho baanke
Dikhe mohe tu hi jiya mein jo jhaankiye
Pal pal ginti hoon aathon hi pahar
Kitne baras hue mohe hankiye
Naina niharo more bhor se jhare
Preet mori piya baton se na aankiye
Main hi mar jau ya mare dooriyan
Dooriyo ki chaadaron pe yadein tankiye

Wo utha virodhi parcham
Mughal-e-azam ko tha ye gam
Shehzada mohabbat karke
Izzat ka karega kachram
Troja ki thi Helen
Tha itni raksha mein Ravan
Antatah bheeshan yuddham krandan
Mera to ranjhan mahi ranjhan ranjhan….


Line by line translation:

Like the rhythmic beat the story goes
From times of panghata (ancient water-filling point) the story goes
Swiftly running by the word of mouth
Moulded in sundry love-affairs the story goes
Still the same old since countless years
This new love story of yours and mine
Where does it come from.. where does it go.. who knows…

This is the river of Chenab
It’s filled with love
Swaying on the waves
She goes to meet Mahiwal
Sohni was her name
She was going to be Mahiwal’s

But she was fearful of Kansa – then
Vasudeva took Krishna
Across Yamuna
From a river did Pharaoh’s sister pick up Moses

The story goes, the story goes…  The story goes, the story goes…

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Why must one bear the pain of separation, Krishna?
I see only you if I look into my heart
I count every second all day
How many years has it been, say?
Look at my eyes, crying since dawn
Don’t measure my love by my words
Should this distance end or I?
Reminisce memories spread across the distance

There arose the rebellion flag
It saddened the king of Mughals
The prince in love
Will trash the royal honour
Helen was from Troy
Ravana was so secured
Ended with terrible battle, sorrow
Mine is Ranjhan, mine is Ranjhan


From → Lok Geet, Other

  1. Ghosh permalink

    Its a fantastic song . The highs and the lows are unreal. And the meaning it carries is simply so striking and true.

  2. Arpit Agsrwal permalink

    Everything about this movie is amazing good.. Tamasha is a masterpiece. 30-40 yrs from now this, ppl will look back to this movie as a cult classic.

    The movie didn’t got the deserve success because people expected it to be another cheesy love story.. Which it wasn’t. Tamasha is about the internal struggles of a common man. I hope someday ppl can bring out the Ved in them…

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