Hum Hain Raja Raj Karen

48 Comments

Continuing my series [Baba Deewana, Dheere Dheere Haulle Haulle ]on people who inspired me (a spin-off on the chapter in my book “May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” on inspirational movies of the 90s) , I present to you another of my gurus.

A day in the nineties. The sun had set and evening was descending. I was waiting for a friend, sitting on the stairs of a building, not wanting to go upstairs to his place. The building’s guards and their friends were sitting in a circle listening to a song on the battery-operated cassette player. There was darkness all around because of a load-shedding (i.e. no power) and mosquitoes, the size of Shilpa Shirodhkar, were feasting on my neck.

It was then that I heard him, a marvelously mellifluous voice, dripping with romantic melancholia, overpowering me with the same intense emotion that assailed me when I listened to “Kal college bandh ho jayega tum apne ghar kho jayoge, Phir ek ladka ek ladki se judaa ho jayega toh mil nahee payega” from Jaan Tere Naam or watched Nayan Mongia, sent in a pinch-hitter, try to hit out.

The mark of a true musical genius is his ability to touch the pink emotional core inside each of us, burrowing through layers of societal conditioning. Very soon, everyone—the guards, the istri-wala (the person who irons clothes) and myself were enraptured by the voice, the lyrics with the clever turn of phrase “Raahein wafa pe thi tum waadon ki torch lekar” and in general the entire message of “Tum to There Pardesi”. As the singer sang “Lekin yeh kya batoon ab haal doosra hai [Pause for effect] woh saal doosra tha yeh saal doosra hai”, all of us were lost  in our private purgatories, reminiscing of love lost forever.

It was a few days later that while watching ATN I saw the video of the song, the album cover (copied from Raja Hindustani) and the man whose voice I heard that day—–Altaf Raja, who would soon emerge, imaan se,  as one of the musical icons in the golden age of the video song.

Most people associate Altaf Raja with soulful qawwalis of the type “Main kapde badal kar jayoon kahaan aur baal banayoon kis ke liye”  [Audio] and it is true, with his vocal texture, that tragedy was his forte.

But somehow for me the man was truly in his elements when he belted out his more philosophical songs.

Like “Yaroon maine panga le liya” with its “Usne dekha idhar, aur maine dekha udhar, aur usi darling ne mere gaal par, ek bhadpoor thappad diya” (though why a girl, on being referred to as “darling” by such a handsome man looking at her “udhar”, would give a tight slap I never understood [Video].

Like “Tu tu tu tu ruu ruuu, Yeh raat hai rangeen sharabi JHOOM  , chahne laga nasha hai gulabi JHOOM ” , the foot-stomping duet with Shweta Shetty, from Keemat which always made me get up from my seat and do the Altaf Raja step.

Like “Pyar gajaab ki cheez hai padh lo aaj subaah ka parcha, Pyar karoge to muft main ho jayega yaaron charcha” from Chandaal, a song that had sinister prophecy for Swami Nityananda should he have listened to it. [Video]

Like “Ishq aur pyar ka maza lijiye, Thoda intezaar ka maza lijiye” from Shapath which became a clarion call to all those engineering boys waiting  for years and years for some love, to enjoy this anticipation using whatever devices that lay in their hands. [The song also had Prabhuji and Jaggu-da locking steps with Altaf Raja, making it one of the most iconic videos of the 90s. (Video)]

Of course today, the golden days of Altaf Raja are long gone, his last magical creation being for the movie Company (he did turn music director for the movie “Market” noted for the dialog between a lady of commerce and her client—Zara halloo hallo kar).

But he still resides in my heart, not just as the person who taught me that our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought, but as someone who made me truly understand poetry, poetry of the sort “Marham lagane hum gaye, marham ke kasam marham na mila, marham ki jagaah mar hum gaye”, lines that warm the heart even on cold nights of self-doubt.

Dear Altaf sahaab, tum se kitna pyar hai, dil mein utarkar dekho lo.

Na yaakeen aaye to phir………dil badalkar dekh lo.

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48 thoughts on “Hum Hain Raja Raj Karen

  1. Very well written, Arnab. A couple of lines that I remember from a song, in the original Pardesi Album..

    “Chori ke Mohabbat me aksar yahi hota hein,
    Darwaaje se jaate hein, khidki se nikalte hein..” 🙂

  2. The “Tum to thehre Pardesi” Altaf Raja video actually features Chitrangada Singh

    The thinking man’s sex symbol and Altaf Bhai – how appropriate.

  3. i think u missed a point on the contributors of his popularity – Altaf Raja had a huge fan base amongst the long journey Horn OK Please truck drivers, their dhabas, their drinking and then the shayari….
    that was a lethal combination…

    “Peeta hoo iss tarah se ke jeena hai chaaar din..
    Marne ke intezaar ne peena seekha diya…”

  4. you know the best thing of this post is the ironical day of posting something on altaf raja on tagore’s birth anniversary… hahaha… 😀 😀 😀

  5. and his famous lines:
    “beti ka sauda kar dala
    daru ka ek bottle ke liye”….
    what a insight in reality

  6. what?

    Altaf Raja’s days are long-gone?

    Man, i still feel that is just yesterday!! I loved tum to thahere pardesi and the company song

  7. the album cover was “stolen” from raja hindustani as both raja hindustani and tum to thehre pardesi were produced by VENUS.
    i remember all 20+ year olds in my vicinity hooked to him. i was half their age at that time. and i have started listening to him & baba sehgal recently.

  8. @ Anirban
    Altaf bhai represents the legacy of Tagore, so this post is the best tribute GB could give to Tagore. An horary Phd from Shantiniketan is long overtue (not that Altaf bhai needs one)

    @GB
    You are missing another great musical genius of your time. The great Pakistani singer Hassan “hold Keyboard like Piano” Jahangir of Hawa Hawa- aye Hawa fame.

  9. I had never heard this Maestro before. Thanks for completing an integral part of my education. You have delivered me from ignorance. Poignant poetry!

  10. It was dream back then to own their cassettes. Him, Hasan Jahangir, Baba Sehgal. Hard for any Indian Idol to touch. This ones my pick …karle ishq mohabbat pyaar

  11. How about a post on Kishen Kumar? I can’t think of a more inspiring figure from the 90s. He showed how talent, looks and taste don’t matter as long as you have a rich Big Brother to bankroll your acting ambitions.

  12. well GB Sir after so many days that BIndaaaaash touch of urs is back…..wht a nice post…..Altaf Raja was really popular in the 90’s…i remember a guy named TRIL**D(person with three D***) who used to sing like him….we would just sit around him in group and keep on singing his qawaali till the time we were thrown out of school…wht a time ,how innocent those days were…..even i used to think myself as a casanova those days…just thought myself …reality was totally opposite….

  13. Hasan Jehangir in 1989; Ataullah Khan in 92-93 & Altaf from around 97-99 came & went like comets on the Indian music scene, never to be seen again.

    And I think the peculiar Eastern Indian phenomenon of playing out loud music, turning a deaf ear to the general public’s concerns, played a huge part in the popularity of these artistes in that part of the country.

  14. By the way, that title is from a Sudesh Berry – Siddharth starrer from the early 1990s, isn’t it? I forget the name of the film, Vansh, I think it was.

  15. Kya karoge tum aakar…kabra pr meri akar….2
    thodi der (tiding tiding)..2
    thodi der rologe…are ghar ko laut jaonge$$$eeee………

    Waaaaaaaaaah………Altaf

  16. u missed an absolute gem from the altaf stables :
    tera chaukas marathi badan hai
    rajputi tera bankpan hai
    zulf bengal ki kali kali
    nagan assam ki tujhme payi
    dekhne ki ada hai bihari
    orissa ka hai tujhme khumari
    andhra ke namak main dhali hai
    aur kashmir ki tu kali hai
    lucknow jaisi hai tujhme nazakat
    madhya pardes ki hai shararat
    sadgi tujhme madras ki hai
    khusboo mysore ki sandali hai
    bholapan tujhmne gujrat ka hai
    kerala ka tu roshan diya hai
    tune payi hai goa ki masti
    tujhme punjab ki tandrusti
    dil ki dilli teri rajdhani

  17. OMIGOOD god…this is a blast from the past unparallel…i OWNED that iconic cassette..the first one..it had gems i could not forget …ever

    one song above all else described altaf raja- “thandi hawa ka jhonkan hoon’ nikla hoon pal do pal ke liye”

    this is vintage nineties which only engg students passing empty evenings can understand…ahhhhhh those days and nights

  18. you forgot the song from a Mithun Da’s Film

    Rum Vodka Tharra Beer
    Yeh cheeze hai risky
    …………….
    pi lo ishq ki whisky!

  19. I’ll be damned – you’re right! And one of your commenters is right as well – the Chitrangada Singh sequences are from the video for Gulzar’s poem – Aasmani Rang Hai. Someone actually took the trouble of splicing in Altaf Bhai an adding the soundtrack to Tum to Thehre Pardesi. My apologies Chitrangada – though perhaps to feature in the video of a musical genius like Altaf Bhai is a rare honour and I’m sorry you missed it.

  20. Oh my my…Nostalgia indeed…I remember playing Tum Toh Thehre Pardesi on loop for days together on my walkman to eventually wipe the poor magnetic tape off completely…I did buy a second copy to satiate my Altaf cravings nonetheless 😀 If you’ve missed it, in spite of its 12 minute length, this song was instrumental in catapulting Altaf Raja into the Guinness books for the highest number of sales for a Hindi Music Album.

    http://www.venusgroup.org/newaudio/about_us.html

  21. @Vivek4mJH ji,
    No offense but there is a small caveat when it comes to selling anything: it has to be good else nobody will buy it. You just cannot sell crap by pushing it aggressively. Same goes with these guys. There were buyers for such kind of music including yours truly ;). Even if today Altaf comes with a good album, I’d go ahead and buy it. But alas, the days of yore have passed. No producer would want to work with the likes of Altaf. We need more Rakhi Sawants and Negar Khans in our videos to sell music these days 🙂 I know I’m speaking like an oldie but truly, the times have changed.

  22. LoL… old memories reignited. Aaj ki raat na ja pardesi also deserves an equal respect when compared to kapre badal kar jaaun kahan aur baal banau kiske liye?

    His story of love and heart break between Jan to Dec expressed in tum to thehre pardesi was truly remarkable

    What made me his fan was his picture in bombay times, during those times, in which he was sitting at the entrance of a double decker BEST bus in a skin tight yellow t-shirt (symbolized by Salman Khan) and a white jeans on leather shoes. Truly mind blowing.

  23. Old memories..I miss those days..

    One I rem.

    “Darwaja kula rakha , hum raat main aayenege”
    upar na sula dena , hum neend main chalte hain..

  24. apne kaandhein se dupata sarakne na dena,
    budhdhe bhi jawaani ki bheekh mangege!!
    Imaan Se!!

    Your intimate knowledge of Altaf’s poetry has made me your lifetime fan!!! I hereby pledge to keep your foto besides my super-god Altaf and move few attar-chaap agarbattis (specially bought from Mumbai Bhendi Bazzaar) on your foto as well!!

    Tum to there pardesi is still my mood-lifting song and I play it every time my wife suffers from PMS 🙂

    The Jan to Dec antra in TTTP is simply amazing….No Gulzar, Javed Akhtar, Sameer can match it!!!

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