Thursday, August 2, 2012

Umrao Jaan & Poetry

For the longest time, I could never actually figure out why I like Indian movies (yeah, not just Bollywood). It could've been because I had a crush on an Indian guy, or one of my cool friends is Indian, or it could've just been a phase.

But, it wasn't a phase. There's something poetic in most song interludes that are commonly found in Indian movies. For example, Umrao Jaan is a movie about a girl who's sold into prostitution. She grows to learn her craft, and as a result writes wonderful poems.

I came to the conclusion that she sings ghazals. I could be wrong though, I'm not really good at ghazals. If you fast forward the Youtube video above to the 29:30 marker, you'll see Umrao Jaan with her teacher.

The translation gets funky, but she reads a poem she wrote:

Not only my heart
Sir, take my life
Bud do as I ask just once

The teacher nods in approval and comments. "Not bad, but remember two things: the delicacy of the thought and the rhythm of the words."

I'm stealing that as an official rule of thumb. Remember two things: the delicacy of the thought and the rhythm of the words.

This rule of thumb opens a new door in poetry for me. I've always wondered and asked my 'inner poet' for counsel on why I write poetry. I've always wondered why I choose the style I write in, and I got close to understanding when I studied a bit of John Keat's life. Using both schools of thought, I can kind of gauge what drives my poetic brain. Kinda, because nothing is simple in poetry.

This is Umrao Jaan's final poem (in the movie):

What is my heart?
You take my life.
But, do as I ask just once.

You'll come here again and again
Carefully observe this place
What is my heart?
You should come to know.

I know that friends become estranged
But, why be obliged to strangers?

If you say,
I"ll bring the sky down
Nothing is difficult
If you make up your mind

What is my heart?
You take my life.
But, do as I ask just once.

Please accept.

It's pretty awesome. Finding poetry in things makes me happy.


  1. Sopphey, this is amazing! I've never thought of that, actually. I mean this rule of thumb you found in the movie. Whan fascinates me, besides the obvious truth and reason behind the words, is the way a person (you, me, anyone) just stumbles across something, could be something tiny or seemingly insignificant, and then that something opens up or changes something in us. And all of a sudden, we are changed or wiser, or... perhaps more miserable, even.

    I think how I can re-blog this from you. Not sure I may, as my blog is on a self-hosted place. Will see what I can do.
    Best, M.

  2. did it by linking to here. hope you don't mind it!
    Best, M.

  3. Interesting observations about this Indian movie, Sopphey. How nice that it has given you new creativity to work with your poetry. Good for you for discovering something new and exciting.

    1. Finding new and exciting things is a very dangerous hobby of mine. Thanks for stopping by!