Kya Jaano (Dekho Yeh Mere Bandhe Haath)

Singer: Kishore Kumar Lyrics: Majrooh

Film: Bandhe Haath (1973) Producer: O.P. Ralhan

Director: O.P. Ralhan

Bandhe Haath makes the record books as the only film to feature the lead pair of Amitabh Bachchan and Mumtaz as well as featuring Amitabh Bachchan’s first double role. The film’s box office failure fuelled Mumtaz’s reluctance to star alongside Amitabh Bachchan and she opted out of Zanjeer (which broke the jinx of flops that ended with Bandhe Haath). The soundtrack boasted the cabaret boat song o maa.Njhii o maa.Njhii. and also featured Kishore’s expository lament about impersonation that is the subject of this article.

Bachchan plays a thief on the run, who takes on the identity of a dead playwright and ends up leading a double life fraught with moral dilemmas and emotional conflicts. Bollywood films have given us numerous instances of the scenario where our protagonist converts a party song into a thinly veiled lament with lines whose meaning is obvious to everyone in the audience but not to most people at the party. I don’t remember how kyaa jaano mai.n huu.N kaun is picturised in the film, but it fits this device like a glove, both in words and arrangements. Majrooh’s simple words and lines like jalataa huu.N lekin pahaluu badal naa sakuu.N mai.n convey the anguish of repressed emotions and desires, the consequences of impersonation and duplicity.

Musically, the song has an interesting structure. In addition to the free-form humming that opens the song, we have three verses and two interludes. Each verse seems to be a composite of three components. Using the first verse (without the repetitions) as an example, the first two lines comprise the first part (let’s call it F1 for convenience), the next two the second (F2) and the last two the third (F3).

kyaa jaano mai.n huu.N kaun maaraa hu_aa zindagii kaa

mujhako to mahafil me.n laayaa haii pyaar kisii kaa

lag ke gale se phir bhii machal naa sakuu.N mai.n

dekho ye mere ba.ndhe haath

kaise miluu.N tumase chaahuu.N to mil naa sakuu.N mai.n

dekho ye mere ba.ndhe haath

The structure of the song (repetitions omitted again for convenience) thus becomes:

Intro | {F1 F2 F3} | first interlude | {F1 F2 F3} | second interlude | {F1 F2 F3}

This breakdown proves useful when we consider the genesis of this song: the tune first appeared three years ago as tobu bole keno in R D Burman’s first Bengali film venture Rajkumari starring Uttam Kumar and Tanuja. This was reportedly the first time Kishore Kumar sang for Uttam Kumar (who belts out the number at the piano while Tanuja listens with varying looks of affection). While the film didn’t do well, all its songs reappeared in subsequent Hindi film assignments. The structure of the Bengali song is slightly different from that of the Hindi version:

F3 | first interlude | {F1 F2 F3} | second interlude | {F1 F2 F3}

The second interlude in the Bengali version became the first interlude in the Hindi version, which gives us a grand total of 3 interludes across the two songs. Despite the similarities, there are notable changes in the meter and the arrangements.

The Hindi recording seems to suffer from the murkiness and tuning shift that plagues a lot of R D Burman records (Kishore’s jiinaa to hai is another example). Given the popularity of this song among fans of the composer and the singer, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add this to the next list of remasters. The song begins with an Em strum on the acoustic guitar. On cue, Kishore begins humming a free-form melody in the scale of Em. You can hear faint vibes accompanying him and near the end of this fragment the melody on the vibe features the seventh from the harmonic flavor of the minor scale. It also introduces one of the outlying notes in the song, the diminished 5th (Bb) in tandem with Kishore, who leads into the fifth and ends the fragment. It almost seems as if the vibe melody was providing Kishore his note. Kishore begins fragment F1 without any rhythmic accompaniment but still keeping slow time. Faint bass runs can be heard and the bass leads the rhythm section in to accompany Kishore’s repetition of fragment F1. The percussion (a composite of conga and shakers) is minimal and yet bears the Pancham stamp all over. The trustworthy string section can also be heard, although not in the overt form that characterises the bulk of Bollywood songs. Also heard are stabs from the accordion, punctuating the lines Kishore sings. As Kishore begins fragment F2, the percussion changes pattern and you can hear the strings offering complement. A flute piece connects the end of fragment F2 and the beginning of fragment F3.

The outlandish flourish of Pancham is seen in the use of the minor second (F) during fragments F2 and F3. The foreign note appears on the chordal accompaniment at the end of fragment F2 and later marks the end of the melody of fragment F3; this fragment is built on the fifth, sixth, seventh of the natural minor but heavily uses the diminished fifth we heard during the introductory fragment. Fragments F2 and F3 elevate this song musically making it musically interesting and confirming the genius of Pancham at work.

The first interlude is introduced by the flute and then led by the accordion (playing chord stabs) with gentle intermittent vibes; the string section brings the short fragment to a close.

The second and third verses follow the structure of the first, but a few interesting additions appear. As Kishore repeats fragment F1, you can hear a violin providing accompaniment and then there’s a pleasant brief piano run as Kishore moves to fragment F2.

A flute piece covers the last measures of the second verse and moves into the second interlude. This time around the accordion plays melodic fragments complemented by the string section. It’s interesting to see how both interludes end delicately to introduce the verse that follows.

The song ends neatly on the fifth (B) as Kishore finishes the repetition of fragment F3 in the third verse. You can almost see our protagonist leaving the party at this point with the camera closing in on the one person most likely to have understood what was conveyed in the song.

George Thomas