O Maajhi Re

Film: Khushboo (1975)

Producer: Prasan Kapoor

Lyricist, Director: Gulzar

Singer: Kishore Kumar

This song is an eternal favorite since time immemorial, maybe for a period that stretches over decades. You hear a certain song at an age when definitions of quality, content and the depth of all that you are listening to are yet to sink in, but such is the scintillating essence of the words, composition and rendition, that it reaches your subconscious and remains there, dormant, yet alive and then blooms into a magnificence when you are ready to really understand it.


I feel this song is essentially a dialog between the soul and the being that is tormented by life. Maajhi could be the soul that is your true guide in the journey of life or it could be the human form in which the soul travels, flowing in the current of life − either way it is a dialog with the self, a communication that has illuminated the mind after running helter-skelter in search of false answers, hopes, promises, beliefs and supports.


It is here that the realization dawns that there is no solid “anchoring in” for anyone in life as life itself is ever changing and all is transitory. So flowing along in the sometimes calm, largely turbulent currents becomes the philosophy, thought and truth to live by.


Our Panchamda gives us a hauntingly melodious, magical creation with minimalistic arrangement, the highlights being the sonorous sounds of the mridang (typical to the Bengal landscape, where the story is set), a bitter-sweet flute echoing the sentiments of pain and acceptance of events beyond control, and the master touch of the sound when the oars splash in deep waters to propel the boat forward.


I remember someone talk about this, that Pancham had spent hours filling and emptying a glass bottle to reach that exact measure where, when his thumb when pulled out with force from the bottle, created and gave him this desired sound effect.

His minimalistic approach is evident from the lone group-violin piece in the first interlude music. In the second interlude also, he uses only the flute, but a combination of flutes in different pitch and timber. But that particular sound created by him and the rhythm pattern fill the song in a way only Pancham can.


Also, he makes Kishore sing “O maajhi re, maajhi re” at the end of both the antaras in high pitch, bringing out the pain, straightaway striking a blow to your heart.


On-screen, we see the boat glide on the wide, blue expanse of water and there is absolutely no other sound or movement other than that of the song that reverberates through the journey, from dawn to the onset of a dark night, depicting the somber introspective mood of the lead actors.


The lines, “Paaniyon mein beh rahe hain, kayi kinaare tootey hue; raaston mein mil gaye hain, sabhi sahare chhootey hue” are words that jolt you into the realization of everyone’s inevitable lone journey and you gasp at the gifted genius of Gulzarjee − what a way to put such profound truth in the minimum of words.


Our beloved Kishoreda sings the song in a soothing, soulful manner though it mirrors the longing and pain that was meant to be conveyed. These lines acknowledge the recognition of what was once thought of as your solace and support are but little dots of individual islands floating away on their own destined journey.


Yet, in all this anguish is a hope, that there could still be that one hand holding on to yours in the turbulence and turmoil of life and that is indeed the one, whom you are in search of.


Also, mark how Gulzar plays with words:


Koee kinara jo kinare se mile,

woh apna kinara hai…”


Kishore Kumar’s straight-to-the-heart rendition, Gulzar’s almost-saintly words and Pancham’s matchless composition makes me bow my head in reverence and respect for this song as it continues to soothe me and echo on in my heart.

Janaki More