The song Chaiyya Chaiyya was introduced to the masses in the year 1998 with the release of the Bollywood movie Dil Se.
The song has been a large part of my life and needless to say, from television to the plastic toy mobile phone; I have listened to the song on various platforms over the years.
The song comes right after a scene where Shahrukh Khan manages a brief interaction with Manisha Korila on a railway station.
Before, he is able to talk to her more, she leaves on the next train leaving Shahrukh completely surprised.
A music video follows next with Shahrukh Khan featuring in it while wearing a red jacket and khaki pants and while of course, dancing on top of a train!
This song is said to have started the trend of “item numbers” in the Indian film industry and Malaika Arora’s career really took off following her performance in the song.
I believe that the lyrics of the song hold a deeper meaning and hence, I will try deconstructing them.
The song begins with Malaika’s character lip syncing the words,
“Jin kay sar ho ishq ki chaun, paon ke neeche Jannat hogi,”
The lyrics create a whimsical environment right from the beginning with the notion that those who have the shadow of ishq on their head, love in simpler terms, will be so immersed in the feeling that they find jannat or heaven regardless of which part of the universe they live in.
I would like to add that love is too small of a word to translate the word “ishq” into but the English language has no better replacement.
The chorus, “Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya Chaiyya Chaiyya,” seemed like just words to me until I watched the music video with subtitles. The literal English translation for the phrase then would be “Walk in the shadow.”
“Saare ishq ki chaun chal chaiyya chaiyya, paun Janat chalay chal chaiyya.”
The next phrase elaborates more on the concept while explaining that when people walk in the shadow of ishq, their feet eventually lead them to heaven.
“Woh yaar hai jo khushbu ki tarah, woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah, meri shaam raat, meri kaynaat, voh yaar mera sayiaan sayiaan.”
Yaar, is another term of endearment which was previously reserved for when talking about a beloved but is now commonly used among friends and is considered to be a slang word by older generations.
In this context yaar, is the lover who is being compared to a beautiful fragrance or “khusbu”. “Woh jiski zubaan Urdu ki tarah,” refers to the complexity of the lover. Urdu has been credited to be a very complex and deep language when spoken properly. The language stemmed from India, in the 12th century, and was heavily influenced by Arabic and Persian as well as Turkish words.
Urdu ky chand lafz hain jab sy zubaan par Tehzib meherbaan hai mere khandan par (Ashok Sahil)
The lover is also said to be the evenings (shaam), the nights (raat), the whole universe (kayenaat) for the singer.
“Gulposh kabhi itraye kahien, mehkay toh nazar aajaye kahien.”
The object of affection in the following verse is said to be covered in flowers. Nevertheless, no matter how well hidden, it can still be identified through a unique fragrance of its own! Alternatively, it can also be understood as inner beauty that always shines through.
“Taveez bana ky pehnu ussay, ayat ki tarah mil jaye kahein, woh yaar hai jo emaan ki tarah, mera naghma naghma, mera kalma kalma.”
A taveez is an amulet that is worn for protection from the evil eye. Usually included inside are verses and ayats for protection. The taveez is meant to be worn around the neck and is often visible. Claims then are being made that if the lover is found, the poet would blatantly show their affection for them. The lover is compared to be the emaan of the singer, a belief that guides humans throughout the course of their life. The lover is also the anthem (naghma) and a confession of faith (kalma).
“Yaar misaale ous dhalay, paaon ke taale firdaus chale, kabhi daal daal kabhi paat paat, mein hawa py dhundu uskay nishan.”
The lover is being compared to dew drops. It appears that the object of affection is lost and the singer is searching for them. The lover has vanished just like dew drops and the singer is looking for them on branches, on leaves, and even looking for traces in the breeze.
“Mein uske roop ka shehdaai, woh dhoop chaun sa harjayi, woh shokh hai rang badalta hai mein rang roop ka saudai.”
The singer claims to be an admirer of the beauty of their beloved and hence says that they change like sunlight and shadow, displaying a variety of colors. The poet further suggests that he is a merchant of beauty and colors.
The song holds special meaning to different people for different reasons. Some love it for the visuals, the scenic views as Shahrukh and Malaika dance on top of the train while others enjoy it for the iconic dance steps. Still some like me, enjoy the lyrics while others are able to admire all three things simultaneously!