The romantic duet Phirni Aan Main Labdi, sung by Noor Jehan and Munir Hussain for the Pakistani movie Nooran (1957), is also very familiar to Indian listeners, for it is a reworking of the popular bhajan Om Jai Jagdish Hare. The song is filmed differently from others in the movie – it is part of a dream sequence from the heroine’s point of view and has a spiritual dimension befitting its origins.
Written by Hazin Qadri, Phirni Aan Main Labdi is among several wonderful tunes by composer Safdar Hussain for Nooran. The movie was produced by JC Anand, the renowned filmmaker who chose to stay back in Lahore after the Partition and produced numerous local hits as well as distributed Indian titles in Pakistan. By the mid-1950s, Anand already had the tragic romances Sassi (1954) and Heer (1955) under his belt. In 1957, he produced four films, including the Urdu language Ishq-e-Laila, based on the Laila-Majnu legend, and Nooran in Punjabi.
Nooran, directed by MA Khan Jr, is a rural Romeo-Juliet style romance that charts the unrequited love between Nooran (singing star Noor Jehan) and the handsome new stranger in town, Sohna Baloch (Sudhir). The romance, beginning with a typical love-at-first-sight moment, is destined to fail since their families have been at loggerheads for years. Unfortunately for Anand, the production – his only collaboration with Noor Jehan in her acting phase – didn’t work at the box office as expected.
But what did click was the soundtrack. With Noor Jehan in sublime singing form, the movie boasts of some of her best-known Punjabi songs, including Tere Bol Ne Te, Panchi Te Pardesi and Ik Cheez Gawachi Dil Kolon.
Phirni Aan Main Labdi forebodes the doomed romance between Nooran and Sohna. The two are dressed predominantly in heavenly white amidst a backdrop of flowers and clouds, and divine blessings are showered on them from above. At the end of the dream sequence, Nooran is shown to be mesmerised by Sohna playing the flute, invoking parallels with another legendary Punjabi tragic romance, Heer-Ranjha.
Om Jai Jagdish Hare also inspired another tune in 1957: Aaj Nahin To Kal Bikhrenge Yeh Badal from the lost mythological film Naag Mani, starring Nirupa Roy, Trilok Kapoor and Manhar Desai. The song, written by Pradeep and set to music by Avinash Vyas, is sung with great feeling by Geeta Dutt.