Decoding Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: Where Brahmin-Bashing and Love Jehad Team up

A deeply scholarly analysis of how the 1999 Hindi film, "Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam" subtly promotes Love Jehad by using Brahmin-bashing as one of its premises. Also included is a detailed critique of the superhit song, "chand chupa badal mein."
Decoding Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: Where Brahmin-Bashing and Love Jehad Team up

The obsession of the Hindi film song lyrics with the moon, more often than not, is part of a hidden agenda which a little understanding of its semeiotic will reveal. It consolidates the Islāmic milieu. Notwithstanding the fewer exceptions like ādhā hi ćandramā rāt ādhi by Bharat Vyas in V. Shantaram's Navrang (1959), the sign is predominantly Islāmic in Hindi cinema.

As a thumb rule in this discussion, we examine Chand (moon) in the Urdu milieu in our song-analysis.

Plenty of camouflaging has also happened. The song written by Majrooh Sultanpuri (a leading figure in the Progressive Writers' Movement dominated by Muslims and who had taken Madarsā education) in the film Lājwanti (1958) starring Balraj Sahni and Nargis, very clearly says ‘…āo ćandā tārā khelein.’ This has cleverly camouflaged Islām by using a predominantly Hindu typeset. The dance was led by Baby Nāz wearing a bindi-like thing between the eyebrows. This song however, starts with a fading shot of girls sitting and clapping like they do in Quawwāli.

Lājwanti was produced by Mohan Sehgal who had been an active Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) member - a Communist art wing. So, we must see that a strong ecosystem existed back then (more so now) to ridicule or anything the Sanatana society represents. Eulogies of Islām are strategically embedded like the Imām Chacha (A.K. Hangal) in Sholay.

Indeed, one example is not enough to really prove my thesis, but here I give an informal method by which one can undertake the analysis of such song-lyrics. In any case, the number of songs with similar intent would be in hundreds if not more.

Decoding Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: Where Brahmin-Bashing and Love Jehad Team up
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In the present article, I cite a more recent film Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, by Sanjay Leela Bhansali - a romantic film released in 1999, starring Salmān Khān (Sameer), Ajay Devgan (Vanraj), and Aishwarya Rai (Nandini) among many others. It won many awards.

The sign that this film subtly propagates Love Jehad is hidden in the character names to a large extent, among others. Vanraj refers to the wild animal, lion. Sameer in Arabic has different meanings, but in our context it means, ‘companion at night.’ However, in Sanskrit, it means ‘breeze’. So we see a clear demarcation of characters. What is Nandini? A woman who brings joy and delight. This is harmless without any context, but when seen in the context of the moonlit night with ‘Sameer,’ the implicit meaning becomes crystal clear. A web of signification emerges out of this basic material.

Semiotics of the word "Chand"

  • As an important sign in Islām (subtly supported by the leading cast, etc). The character names if analysed tell a complete story.

  • As an icon of romance and intimacy (supported by lighting, darkness, brilliant photography, music, protagonists, etc)

  • As an index of ideal and ‘unfortunate’ outcomes - separation pangs of lovers due to ostensible Hindu orthodoxy. Also, as a desired outcome relating to the impact on young minds leading to rejecting traditional practices of Hindus and fomenting debates leading to the social division of the Hindu community, which we encounter today at every step.

Now, the analysis of song-lyric which forms a part of the method of Ethnomusicology cannot be done in isolation. It has to be read with the script, etc., and the leanings of the filmmakers. I am analysing a ‘moon song’ chand chupa badal mein from the movie, but I cannot go into greater details for constraints of space. However, I am sure if one takes up an empirical research using a combination of Ethnomusicology and Semeiotics, there can be clinching evidence enough to formulate a law to stop this Love Jehad tirade in Bollywood.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam: Bashing Brahmins and Pushing Love Jehad

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is loosely based on the book Na Hanyate (Doesn’t Kill) in Bengali by Maitreyi Devi who had also set up an NGO named Council for the Promotion of Communal Harmony in 1964. Interesting isn’t it?

We do not know Bhansali’s funding sources for this film, because his first film Khamoshi: The Musical was a flop although the music album released before the release of the film had covered a lot of ground. During his first film he was struggling to make ends meet.

Later, his own production company SBL distributed this film at a time when the distribution channels were controlled by the underworld. SBL has produced many controversial films after this debut.

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Signals of the suitability of this novel-based story for Bhansali’s project are in Maitreyi Devi’s very personality and life. Her book was in response to the Romanian philosopher Micrea Eliade’s allegedly fictionalised account La Nuit Bengali (Bengal Nights - English translation) of his fantasies about his intimacy with her when he stayed in her Bengal home to learn classical music from her father Surendranath Dasgupta, a Kayasta. The name of the varna has been deliberately mentioned for a reason as we shall see.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali had the option to select a Scheduled Caste, a Vaishya, or a Kayasta name for his character in the movie. But he chose a Brahmana name for Nandini's father, Pundit Darbar (played by Vikram Gokhale). It is now an established fact that most filmmakers find Brahmanas a soft target to bash Sanatana Dharma and have largely succeeded. Thus, even here, we see a clear Brahmana-bashing, just as many past filmmakers have done to keep their pots boiling. This includes Satyajit Ray - Sadgati (Hindi), Debi (Bengali), etc. By doing this the Dalit, Muslim, Christian, Communist political axis in India and abroad feels elated to watch such films. And this has huge revenue implications.

In real life, Surendranath Dasgupta, after discovering their closeness, had asked Eliade to leave. The duo got eventually separated. This forms the basic story line even of the film adaption. Interestingly, Bhansali who is also the co-scriptwriter along with Pratap Karvat, tells the same story, but, conveniently with a Brahmana father - a well known Indian art music singer.

Darbar’s daughter Nandini is a Hindu in real and reel lives, and Vanraj too, is a Hindu in reel and in real life. There is a triangle in the story and the third person in this is Sameer Rosselline (Salman Khan who’s a Muslim in real life). So, Vanraj = 100% Hindu. Nandini = 100% Hindu. Sameer Rosselline = exact religious identity obfuscated. There's another subtlety at play here: we don't really remember Sameer but we never forget that it is Salman who plays the character. Once again, made out to be the minority victim in the film.

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The real twist, however, is different. When Vanraj hears Nandini's jilted love story, he sympathises so much with this "true" love that he decides to be the sacrificial goat (in stark contrast to his name, meaning lion) and give away his wedded wife to Sameer.

This is a covert message to Hindu men in general: ‘be magnanimous and give up your wives and girls to Muslim suitors without resistance, all in the name of love.’

This is not love but Love Jehad. This is pure religious zeal.

The ending of the film is deliberately misleading or was changed by the Censor Board (I do not know). Aishwarya goes back to her wedded husband at the end despite her love affair with Samīr. Now, there are several layers to this.

First, her love for Sameer stays throughout the film and Nandini was intimate with him, in a borderline sexual way. As an index, it is 100% in Sameer's favour. Youngsters will be divided on the outcome of this love triangle and this seems like a well-thought out attempt to create social division (if the ending was not actually changed). The movie poster also displays the Sameer-Nandini pair on top in romantic poses in a prominent fashion. At the bottom of the poster is Vanraj-Nandini pair which is a clear message of the victory of the former over the latter combination, albeit the failed love story as youngsters would usually feel. But Sameer’s was only an apparent a love story. The real story is Love Jehad even if it was symbolic.

Chand chupa badal mein: An Analysis

Salman Khan being the more handsome "hero," a section of the viewers will always want Nandini to leave Vanraj. Moreover, the romance between Sameer and Nandini is what inspires, provokes and arouses youngsters, and not the climax of the wife returning to her marriage.

I shall later give reasons why I see this as a piece of advice by the lyric writer to every Muslim man to target Hindu girls. Actually, it is not a tall order to prove it.

The first stanza of the song is urging Muslim men to seduce the Hindu girl in this manner…

Chand chupa badal mein

Sharma ke meri jaanaa

Seene se lag jaa tu

Balkha ke meri jaanaa

A Poster of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
A Poster of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

Here, the lyricist is telling men not to worry if the moon is hiding behind the clouds. Take advantage of the darkness in the minds of foolish Hindus. Reading between the lines, he is actually telling ‘Do not doubt your capacity to convince her.’ Note that the Urdu word ‘jaanaa’ is used here. Many other songs have given such advice for many decades. We’re seeing the outcomes.

Next, it is clear that the writer is suggesting the man to persuade her to get intimate.

Gumsum sa hai, gupchup sa hai

Madhoh hai, khamosh hai...

Nazdikiyaan badh jāne de

Although she will initially refuse, keep exciting her. Note that the ‘seene se lag jaa tu…’ etc is repeated in the song many times throughout. Her community usually keeps quiet, so, don't worry, get closer. The process of exciting her gets faster, more urgent in these lines:

Arre nahi baba nahi abhi nahi nahi

Yeh dūriyan mit jā ne de

Arre nahi bābā nahi abhi nahi nahi

Dūr se hi tum jī bhar ke dekho

Tum hi kaho kaise dūr se dekhūn

Chand ko jaise dekhtā chakor hai

In the last line, a very Sanatana semeiotic, that of Chand and Chakor has been used. I see this clearly as… ‘how can I behave like a Hindu man, Chakor, and merely watch your beauty from a distance’?

The first signs of her relenting come when Nandini herself urges the moon to come out. So, here, we encounter in Nandini, not only an acceptance of, but an urge for the Islamic sign (moon) more out of fear of losing her lover. Nandini tells, and the writer assures Sameer, her lover, that intimacy will eventually happen. The fear of his loss is somehow instilled in her. Here are the lines:

Aaja re aa jaa chanda…

varna sanam chala jāyega

At last! The coincidence! The moon comes out and the girl relents. In short, she decides to marry him as she is stereotyped as a traditional Hindu family girl and that marriage would be the natural outcome of intimacy. The messaging is that perchance she got married, she would cease to be this traditional Hindu girl.

Āyā re āyā ćandā

Ab har khwaish pūri hogī

Chandni rāt mein har sajni

Apne sajnā ko dekhegī

The word ‘har’ is significantly repeated, once with Khwaish (desire) and with sajni (female friend). This is an assurance that now, since she has accepted Islam (which is signified in conjunction with the coming out of the moon), you will enjoy her. Note that the word jaana used in the beginning has now become sajni.

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I have strong reasons to believe that this was a very subtly and successfully orchestrated film promoting Love Jehad. The messaging is loud and clear: sacrifice your ancient Dharma at the altar of "love." In fact, if you observe the plot closely, it reveals this message: sacrifice your own woman to another man if there is love between them in spite of your own love and Dharma. Multiple targets are shot with one arrow - provoke Muslim boys to go all out, put the Hindu girls in a spot, and smother the tempers of Hindu men with "exalted" ideas of "pure" love.

The Hard Facts

Now for the hard facts. Mr. Radhakrishnan writes in the context of Love Jehad that "conversion to Islām from the other religions is nothing but the conversion from untruth to truth and it has been prescribed as a sacred duty of the Muslims." According to an Egyptian website answering queries on Islām, "it is permissible in Islām for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman (Christian or Jewish) and not vice-versa." However, we see a different set of rules in different countries being followed. In India, we see love (prima facie) as a tool for Islamic conversion and getting more children.

In my journalistic career I have seen at least two cases in a small town like Lonavala. In both cases the girls were married, impregnated, childbirth allowed, and then allegedly killed. One was a Brahmana girl and other was a farmer’s daughter. I was told that the families were threatened of dire consequences if they went to the police.

The New York Times described (Na Hanyate & the Bengal Nights) as ‘an unusually touching story of young love unable to prevail against an opposition whose strength was tragically buttressed by the uncertainties of a cultural divide. Although in the film, it was Nandini who finally chose to be with Vanraj. This shows how fake narratives are built. Writes Stuti Bhattacharya (June 27, 2017) with appalling profanity, "Allow us to call bullshit on that, for Nandini’s ‘love’ for Vanrāj stems from nothing but her feminine guilt," very clearly taking a feminist view. But it is undeniable that the ending of this film created a social divide.

To push down this cultural-divide narrative was perhaps Bhansali’s reason to make this film. Or he may have been so instructed by the powers that be. Although we have no way of knowing the story behind the scenes, the damage has been done. This is called ‘sign action’ in Peircian Semeiotics.

It must be remembered that soft and hard powers will be used more forcefully in India after the 2015 resolution of the Islāmic State.

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