Qawwalis – How They Burnt The Screen


My faith in you shall never falter
My Lord of the Lords

Shahon ka jo shah uska tere sar pe haath hai
Tere kadmon ke tale mitti bhi sona ban gayi…
Jar hua dushman jahan shamsheer teri tan gayi …

“(You are blessed by the Supreme Lord,

Mud turns into gold if you walk on it,

The enemy falls when you pull out your sword)”

The tradition of singing qawwalis has been there since the 8th century and it has mainly been devotional. It is said to be originated in Persia. The Sufi saints and singers carried the tradition on all these years with dedication.

The qawwali which has been in Hindi movies since decades has now been given a back seat by the movie makers or maybe by the audience. But all these years, Hindi films have seen so many amazing qawwalis. For those who do not know what a qawwali is, I will try and explain in simple words – It is a singing competition between two parties sitting facing each other. They begin on very very gentle notes and then take it to very high notes full of electrifying energy which gives goosebumps. They are masterpieces of beautiful melodies with their lyrics being so heart touching and thought provoking.

There have been many such masterpieces seen in Indian movies starting from the 50s and till now. Here, I name a few which I have been hearing on and off for all these decades.

To start with, I would like to mention two of them from the movie ‘Barsaat Ki Raat’ (1960). One is ‘Ye Ishq Ishq hai’ and ‘Na Toh Karwaan Ki Taalash Hai’, which have become immortal.

In 1960 itself, another Qawwali rose from the movie ‘Mughal-E-Azam’ and became immortal… “Teri Mehfil Mein Kismat Aazma Kar Hum Bhi Dekhenge” by Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum. One more qawwali which left a mark is “Ae Meri Zohra Zabeen” from ‘Waqt’ (1965) where a very handsome Balraj Sahni tells his beautiful wife Achla Sachdev —

Ye shokhiyaan ye baankpan,
Jo tujh mein hai kahin nahi
Dilo ko jeetne ka fann, jo tujh mein hai kahin nahi
Main teri…
Main teri aankho mein paa gaya do jahaan
Aye meri zohra-jabeen.”

As he describes just how beautiful she is and so their love rises beyond the trials and tribulations of marriage, children and age… Ever green romance drips in each word of this qawwali.

1963 saw the making of “Chandi Ka Badan Sone Ki Nazar” from the grand epic ‘Taj Mahal’ where Md. Rafi, Asha Bhonsle, Manna Dey and Sudha Malhotra weave their magical voices for a melodious qawwali.

Also, Asha Bhonsle took the audience into a trance when she presented the beautiful and melodious “Nigaahen Milane Ko Jee Chahta Hai” in the movie ‘Dil Hi To Hai’ (1963) with the evergreen Nutan shining in happiness and love.

“Wo tohamat jise ishq kahati hai duniya
Wo tohamat uthaane ko jee chaahata hai

Oh so beautiful…… and further she sings ….

“Jab kabhi mainne tera chaand sa chehra dekha
Eid ho ya ke na ho mere liye eid hui,
Vo jalwa jo ojhal bhi hai saamane bhi
Vo jalwa churaane ko jee chaahata hai”.

Nutan spreads her charm in this amazing qawwali. Her graceful movements are so mesmerizing.

Then, ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (1979) saw two memorable qawwalis which have tremendous appeal even now – “Parda Hai Parda” and “Shirdi Waley Sai Baba“.

And in ‘Hum Kisi Se Kam Nahin’ (1977), Rishi Kapoor in his prime youth rebels against the world for his love Zeenat Aman as he says:

Aaj hum jaise jigarwale kahan
Zakhm khaya hai tab huye hain jawaan
Teer ban jaaye doston ki nazar
Ya bane khanjar dushmanon ki zubaan (aha)
Baithe hain tere dar pe to kuch karke oothenge
Ya tujhko hi le jayenge ya marke oothenge
Aaj hum jaise jigarwale kahan
Zakhm khaya hai tab huye hain jawaan

He burns the screen with his charisma and wins the world. And he does the same in 2012, in ‘Agneepath’ by Karan Johar in the outstanding qawwali “Shah Ka Rutba” where he sings:

“Chaar mazboot naujawan kandhe
Tujhko tere khuda ne bakshe hai
Inke haathon ki jo lakeerein hai
Tere dono jahan ke nakhshe hai”

Here, RISHI KAPOOR – The Demi God is back with a bang. His presence can never be ignored in this movie or in his earlier qawaali avatars. Sadly, he never got his due. In ‘Agneepath’, he’s better than the best and leaves one awestruck with his power-packed wicked performance. And the look in his eyes carries you deep into the soul of the qawaali which is also being relived in this movie of course after a long time.

Here’s gcaffe presenting the astounding RISHI KAPOOR:


4 thoughts on “Qawwalis – How They Burnt The Screen

  1. Excellent depiction of one of the most entertaining genres of music, the qawwali. And starting with ‘Na to Karwan Ki Talash Hai’ was really good. I still rate it as the best ever in Hindi Cinema. Also, Rishi Kapoor really ‘burnt’ the screen with his style (remember Amar Akbar Anthony?)
    Superb job


  2. I read about this recently … Its what hritik does at the end of khwaja mere khwaja when he goes into a trance .. Sufi whirling (or Sufi spinning), ( Arabic: الرقص الصوفي‎) is a form of Sama or physicaly active meditation which orginated among Sufis, and which is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. It is a customary dance performed within the Sema, or worship ceremony, through which dervishes (also called semazens) aim to reach the source of all perfection, or kemal. This is sought through abandoning one’s nafs, egos or personal desires, by listening to the music, focusing on God, and spinning one’s body in repetitive circles, which has been seen as a symbolic imitation of planets in the Solar System orbiting the sun.[1] As explained by Sufis:[2]

    In the symbolism of the Sema ritual, the semazen’s camel’s hair hat (sikke) represents the tombstone of the ego; his wide, white skirt represents the ego’s shroud. By removing his black cloak, he is spiritually reborn to the truth. At the beginning of the Sema, by holding his arms crosswise, the semazen appears to represent the number one, thus testifying to God’s unity. While whirling, his arms are open: his right arm is directed to the sky, ready to receive God’s beneficence; his left hand, upon which his eyes are fastened, is turned toward the earth. The semazen conveys God’s spiritual gift to those who are witnessing the Sema. Revolving from right to left around the heart, the semazen embraces all humanity with love. The human being has been created with love in order to love. Mevlâna Jalâluddîn Rumi says, “All loves are a bridge to Divine love. Yet, those who have not had a taste of it do not know!”


  3. Bhes majnu ka liya maine jo laila hoke , rang laya hai dupatta mera maila hoke , ishq jab duniya ka nishaana bana , husn bhe khud ro ke deewana bana , …… Kya baat thee.

    Does kum faya of rockstars and khwaja mere khwaja of jodha akbar also qualify as qwallais ???

    They are truly a way to transcend time and space … In earlier marriages we used to get qwalli walas. Though I was too young to understand I remember distinctly the energy they displayed


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s