The 1981 film Kaalia was a big commercial success. It cemented the status of Amitabh Bachchan as a popular star, and his increasing identification as the ‘angry young man’ of Hindi cinema with a stream of similar roles. Director Tinu Anand‘s first outing with the star, but not his last, would include many popular songs in its repertoire, including the romantic Tum saath ho jab apne. But the song that would remain the iconic hit from this film and this era of film music is the mischievous Jahan teri yeh nazar hai.
Kaalia is a film about a normal guy who’s sucked into a life of crime and becomes a dashing thief of sorts. Mix that in with revenge, old mysterious kidnappings, long lost children and many other popular tropes, and you have a true smorgasbord of a Hindi film. As with the previous song from this film I’ve featured here, Tum saath ho jab apne, this song too continues the defiant mood of the music. Jahan teri yeh nazar hai is a playful challenge of a song between protagonist and antagonist, both of whom are at a party to steal something valuable. Quite the premise and with wonderful costumes from the era, a glittering set and very enthusiastic party guests, this pulls it off in over-the-top Bollywood style.
Director Tinu Anand and cinematographer Pravin Bhatt do well crafted work of having the camera sashaying between the main players on the dance floor, putting us in the middle of the action and really pushing the dance theme of this scene. Amitabh Bachchan is supremely cocky in his on screen antics, as is appropriate against his stoic and frustrated enemy played with quiet menace by Amjad Khan.
Jahan teri yeh nazar hai is sung with all the spirit and playfulness that one expects from Kishore Kumar. He sings the words with gusto and inserts his own brand of verbal punctuation in between the lines, which adds greatly to the antics the actors have to play on screen. The music by R.D. Burman is very up-beat, loud, and is more than merely derivative of popular Central Asian music of the time. All in all a very pleasant song to listen to.
Special mention is deserved by choreographer P.L. Raj whose unique dance direction makes Amitabh‘s screen presence not what you expect on a party dance floor, even in the time-machine of this song. P.L. Raj choreographed the actor in several films, and was responsible for a lot of the signature style that Amitabh Bachchan became known for. Part East-Indian folk dance, part ball room and many parts based on the classic Hindi screen actor Bhagwaan, this dance style would become iconic and a lasting cultural influence over time.
The words of Jahan teri yeh nazar hai are the most playful of all, with the indomitable Majrooh Sultanpuri giving us this:
Kyun nahi jaani, tu yeh samajhta,
Kaam nahi yeh, hai tere bas ka,
Hosh mein aaja, dhyaan kidhar hai,
Jahan teri yeh nazar hai, meri jaa mujhe khabar hai.
My dear friend, why don’t you comprehend,
This is not a task with which you can contend,
Come to your senses, where is your attention,
I know what your sights are on, I must mention.
Jahan teri yeh nazar hai is a song of its time and a perfect indication of the sort of mish-mash, “masala” film-making which made Hindi cinema popular all over the non-Western world. It makes little sense, has little cohesion at times, but is a riot to watch and hear and you can’t help but be swept up in the playfulness of it all.