Poetry Podcast: Ardh Satya

Reading out poetry is a bit addictive. In fact, it feels like a discovery of sorts. Like when you go back to a city after a few years, and refresh your memory by printing how the streets turn or how the tree was a bit smaller than you thought it was.

The poem from Ardh Satya is a tough one to start with. Not to mention that Om Puri read it with his incredible voice in the movie. I don’t recall the rhythm of the poem, however – I do recall with great clarity the goosebumps I had. I was a baby when Ardh Satya (Trans. Half Truth) was released. I never saw it in a movie hall. Much later, perhaps when I was about 14 I saw the movie, and was spellbound. In Vijay Tendulkar’s stories, there is an element of dignity that is explored.

Click here to hear me reading Ardh Satya (in Hindi).

Govind Nihalani‘s Ardh Satya was to a great extent about the theme of moral impotency and the loss of one’s self-respect as a person finds himself being part of a system that he never related to. This loss is amplified when he meets a woman, who appears to have far greater courage than him. He questions his courage and self (the theme of manhood) as he comes to face with this quiet power. He ends up seeking protection from the very goon he wanted to lock up. The way he looks at it, his own system fails him. He ultimately kill the goon and surrenders. One of the outstanding scences in this movie has to be when Om Puri gets drunk and calls up Smita Patil (the female protagonist). Such anguish and such rage. This particular poem by Dilip Chitre is read by Om Puri in a scene where he picks up a book of Smita Patil’s and reads one poem out to her. In the movie, there is one more poem he reads out to her. But this gave me far more goosebumps!

Disclaimer – I am an impatient person. I just read the poem out loud once and then recorded it. This whole recording was accomplished in about 15 minutes. Yes, it can be better, and yes, it isn’t a fraction as wonderful as the original. But then I am not Om Puri.

The poem:

Chakravyuh mein ghusne se pehle,
kaun tha mein aur kaisa tha,
yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahega.

Chakravyuh mein ghusne ke baad,
mere aur chakravyuh ke beech,
sirf ek jaanleva nikat’ta thi,
iska mujhe pata hi na chalega.

Chakravyuh se nikalne ke baad,
main mukt ho jaoon bhale hi,
phir bhi chakravyuh ki rachna mein
farq hi na padega.

Marun ya maarun,
maara jaoon ya jaan se maardun.
iska faisla kabhi na ho paayega.

Soya hua aadmi jab
neend se uthkar chalna shuru karta hai,
tab sapnon ka sansar use,
dobara dikh hi na paayega.

Us roshni mein jo nirnay ki roshni hai
sab kuchh s’maan hoga kya?

Ek palde mein napunsakta,
ek palde mein paurush,
aur theek taraazu ke kaante par
ardh satya.

I haven’t been able to find a suitable translation for this piece so far. I am attempting a very literal and weak one with some liberties taken. (Time taken – 10 minutes – so please don’t get too critical.) To being with, translating the word Chakravyuh is hard enough. It refers to a certain spiral battle formation of troops in a war-maze. (trans. Chakra = Spiral/ Wheel, Vyuh = Formation) The formation by itself becomes an organism. You don’t as much fight a soldier or a warrior, as much you battle the entire formation. Battling the formation with a strategy becomes self-defeating. In this poem it perhaps symbolizes a never-ending maze of enemies.

Who was I, before I entered this maze,
Is not something that I will remember.

As I entered the war-maze,
there was only the life-threatening
closeness between the enemy and me.
Even this, I will not realize.

After getting out of the maze
Even if I earn my freedom,
The maze by itself, will not change. Unaltered.

To die or to kill,
To be killed, or to take someone’s life,
Even this will not be decided.

As a man wakes from his sleep,
and starts to walk, he can never
again, see the world of his dreams.

In this light, the light of choices,
Will all be equal?

Impotence on one side,
Manhood on the other,
And in the centre,
(tipping the scale) is the

To listen, click here. (Or Right Click, save as).

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0 Responses to Poetry Podcast: Ardh Satya

  1. chitra says:

    Dear Neha, Thank you so much for this. When I saw this movie I was probably about 22 years old and doing my Masters in Bombay in 1983/ 84. I bunked a class to go see this movie with two friends. We came out – all wanting to fall in love with policemen.

    What a wonderful voice. Yes, it is not the same as Om Puri’s. But you are not a man undergoing a middle-age crisis about his identity, so for your age and from your perspective, it couldn’t have come out better. I also like the translation a lot. It may not read exactly the same, but it articulates the idea well. For a ten minute job, it’s far better than what I get on my desk!

    Thank you for making an old woman very happy.


  2. Sanket says:

    Ardha Satya has been a favorite movie. I too have never watched it in a movie hall. But have watched it many a time on TV and DVD. Extremely powerful movie. The poem also. The translation is decent.


  3. Zero says:

    Thanks for reminding me of the poem and the film!
    I wonder why you didn’t retain the same intonations as in Om’s rendition. Your’s sounds more like a steady reading than the intriguing way (or rather the intrigued way) Om reads the poem aloud in the film.


  4. Mohib says:

    Amazing movie and nice rendition, yet again.

    Also, a minor typo. It is farq.


  5. Olive Ream says:

    Absolutely beautiful Neha..and yes I am also familiar with the film. My mum has an old worn-out VHS copy of the same. I so wish Bollywood sacrificed atleast one big-budget commercial film to produce 3 or 4 independent, serious films like this one. I hate calling them ART movies, as that is so utterly pretentious.

    Why can’t there be more films like Mandi (or Mundee), Kalyug (the old one), Khandar, Shatranj Ke Khilari and Junoon.


  6. chitra: Thank you! Your comments are heartwarming. And no, 45 is not old!

    Sanket: Well I guess at least its decent.

    Zero: Because I am not Om Puri. We have our ways of interpreting poetry no? Om Puri had a distinct way of reading it – because it resonated with what he was going through. I wanted to read the poem out loud, not read it like O.Puri. Hope that made sense.

    Mohib: Thanks Mohib. Agree. It’s an incredible movie. Typo corrected.

    Olive Ream: I saw this one VHS too. And so long back! I suppose movies are made because the audience prefers them a certain way. What to lament!


  7. Venk At Ease says:

    Very good effort, Neha. Thank you so much for indulging me.

    Unfortunately I listened to the original just a day back. Subconsciously I’m already comparing the two versions, so I’m not able to enjoy this as much as your previous podcasts where I had nothing to compare with. Zero makes an important point. After one rendition of a poem or song has caught on, it is very difficult to dislodge that from people’s mind. That’s why when hostelmate sings a KK song in the dorm, people involuntarily cringe, not because the singer is bad but because the singer is just not Kishore. Sometimes when SPB goes on concert tour and sings the same song he had sung 20 years ago in a film, again people feel distinctly uncomfortable internally, though they will gamely cheer him. It is because SPB has aged, his voice has become less playful, maybe he is messing up the odd lyric – the audience’s subconscious does not forgive because SPB is actually messing with their precious memory of the song though he might be totally unaware of all that. Synapses snap, and all that jazz.

    You have said don’t be too critical so I won’t overanalyze. I will give two quick tips – one, you have (unknowingly?) acquired a distinct British accent 🙂 If you speak regularly on telephone with your hindi friends back in India, your original hindi accent will come back. That will be much more suitable to this poem. Two, last word in poem “satya” is pronounced without the “aa” ie. satyuh with yuh as in duh, not yaa.

    Here’s my prose-interpretation from my diary written in my teens –

    Who was I before I made my entry ?
    Now that I’m in it, there’s nary a difference.
    Will my exit alter it one bit ?
    How do you tell the victim apart from the assailant ?
    A sleepwalking soul can seldom re-enter his world of dreams.
    How then, will you judge me ?
    For, my truth inhabits the grey zone, between impotence and courage.


  8. Adiga says:

    Venk At Ease,

    That translation seems right out of some data entry operator´s journal. What was your first job?

    nary a difference? you should have been mercy killed at 19! hahaha. nary a difference!

    and they dont call bad translations prose interpretations, man. they are just bad translations.

    and if a woman indulges you, by reading out a poem you like in her wonderful voice, dont bug her. Go somewhere and get laid, get a life. or learn to be generous.


  9. anon265 says:

    Interesting. When I first heard it – I thought damn, that’s not at all like Om Puri’s rendition. But I totally see your point. You are Neha! Not Puri! You are not there to copy him.

    I have no idea what Venky Dude means when he says British accent – I have lived in Delhi since 1968, and this is flawless Hindi. Yes, it is not Punjabi Hindi. But for fuck’s sake – that doesn’t meant it’s British accented! Absurd. Absolutely. Venky dude – please come to Delhi and hear people talk. I didn’t say hear her say “AA” either.

    Neha, I have no idea why this happens to you so often. Do you provoke people in a certain way for them to judge you more harshly than they judge themselves?


  10. uday says:

    Neha – this is very good stuff. Need to say that I have’nt seen Ardh Satya yet, and ur piece makes me want to correct that asap.
    Been a regular at your space for a while, enjoy reading most – except, at times when you go on your poetic binges…;)…Great stuff overall & thanks!


  11. Venk At Ease says:

    Dude, nobody is being harsh, just relax, will you. It is just a sign of the times. Generation gap, or whatever you call it these days. Let me share something with you. We saw Ardh Satya in late teens in the theatre. It was a profound moment for us at that time, far more important than any other event in our student lives in India. I don’t think you or your generation can understand that, because it is my fault – I do not even have the right words or expressive power to convey how we felt in those days. It was a whole different India. It doesn’t exist today.

    So when Neha says – I’m impatient person, I will just read it in 15 minutes – then it is naturally a bit discomfiting to us. Because if you cannot even take the time to atleast attempt to get somewhat close to the original, then we feel something is amiss. Poem is afterall not just string of rhyming words, it has pathos and emotion that can only be conveyed if you read it in a certain way, with feeling. If you just wash your hands off and say I am not Om Puri, that is silly. Nobody is saying you are Om Puri. Infact even if you call Om Puri himself, today, and ask him to audition with same poem, it will feel very different. That magic of those days, one cannot recapture it. But one can atleast try. That is what I felt was missing.

    Otherwise, it is a good effort – I said so in first line itself. In fact, if you have never been exposed to the original, it is a superlative effort.

    But let me ask you this – why are you people being so servile ? Do you always have to kiss ass ? She is a very promising budding talent, tell her how she can improve. That will take her to the next level. I can already visualize the day when she releases an album of poetry rendition like those Blogswara people. Then she can even debut it on iTunes. That would be simply awesome.

    Regarding my lame translation, well, honestly that is how I wrote in those days. Infact my hostel mate, he had a translation very similar to mine. But his translation was a set of seven questions. It was like this

    Before I walked in, who was I ?
    Now that I’m in, does it matter ?
    When I exit, what then ?
    Can’t a mercenary be a victim ?
    Can a sleepwalker walk into his dreams ?
    Won’t the lights of justice blind him ?
    Between impotence and courage, how do the scales tip ?

    He had posted it on the toilet door, so for three years everyday i was forced to read it while sitting in loo 🙂

    Incidentally, Neha has a somewhat different interpretation of the movie itself. You know, we grew up on Amitabh and Shashi Kapoor – that Deewar dialogue under the bridge is something that defines so many crores of our generation. We must have seen it atleast a dozen times in the theatre, on large screen, with loud, very loud screams and whistles, people tearing their shirts off, violently attacking the furniture! All that rage and emotion, it does something to you. It changes your whole fiber on a fundamental level. I find that is just missing today. I see that the present generation watching the same Deewar dialogue being parodied on MTV. The kids today first watch the parody. Later on they grow up, buy the VCD and watch the movie, and they think, man what a kitschy movie! Whereas, for our generation, the parody absolutely sucks. I actually walk out of the room when that parody shows up on tv, I cannot take it. So times have definitely changed.

    For instance, Neha says “his loss is amplified when he meets a woman, who appears to have far greater courage than him. He questions his courage and self”
    Very nice, but that is simply wishful thinking. Nihalani takes quite a few jabs at the rather shallow courage of Jyotsna. She being a schoolteacher is certainly not facing a challenge anywhere close to same proportion as Anant. He has to, in his position as the principled cop, deal with a challenge to his moral principles on an everyday basis. Whereas she, in her cushy sheltered position of a teacher in the arts college, is unwilling even to debate the injustice of the police atrocities. When her colleague tries to provoke debate, Jyotsna says “why bother ? No point talking about these things if you cannot effect change. Otherwise there is no end to rhetoric.” Jyotsna gets up and walks out from the faculty room. But what change does she in fact effect ? When she is groped in the BEST bus, she just stands there dumbly. She doesn’t even turn around to slap the groper. In fact, she alerts Anant – and when Anant beats the shit out of the groper, Jyotsna is stupid enough to stop Anant and tell him that these things happen to women everyday, you cannot change the system! Then why the fuck bother? Like she herself says, the system is what it is. Your entry or exit is immaterial. So much for Jyotsna’s “far greater courage”. In fact, it is Jyotsna’s quiet suppressed rage at her impotency to deal with the system that spills out in the form of this poem she shares with Anant. The fact that it mirrors Anant’s predicament in a later part of the story – is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT matter. In other words, Jyotsna does not write this poem with Anant in mind – in fact nothing has happened between them at that point to bring them that close. It is just that she happends to be prescient – her present predicament goes on to become his future predicament. The poem is in the first 10 minutes of the film, but in fact it lays the roadmap of the whole film. In fact, during those days, we had heated debates on this film – India Today had taken up the charge, saying that Ardh Satya was the best Indian film ever made, and so it was all the rage in colleges. At that time, one popular notion doing the rounds was that Chitre’s poem was so far ahead of Nihalani’s visuals, Nihalani could have easily cut to credits after the poem’s recital, because the poem says everything, nothing more remains to be said!!! Film then becomes a gratuitous exercise, an afterthought. Clearly, Chitre was far ahead of his time, and Nihalani had a lot of catching up to do. The film, in the light of the poem, is barely adequate, and would definitely stumble in the absence of the poem.

    Neha also says “He ends up seeking protection from the very goon he wanted to lock up.”. Again, Anant does nothing of the sort. When Anant first tries to arrest Rama Shetty, he is verbally raped by his DIG, and forced to beat a hasty retreat. His repressed rage results in a custody death, that leads to a suspension, to counter which Inspector Hyder says Anant could speak with Rama Shetty. However, talks between Anant and Rama Shetty break down in 5 minutes. Shetty has by then become a politician, and promises he can easily bail Anant out but Anant will have to become a stooge. Anant is outraged and strangles Shetty then and there – never once does he even entertain the notion of seeking protection from Shetty. In fact, the conversation with Shetty begins like a trade agreement – Anant says he is willing to pay Shetty, in cash, for making the right calls. Shetty mocks him and turns this straightforward business proposition around to a sort of master-slave relationship, which is when things start heading south.

    Finally, some words are best left untranslated. Mahabharatha was written millions of years ago, English language is probably a few hundred years old. I wouldn’t even attempt to find an analogy for Chakravyuh because of that time gap. You will have to get into Abhimanyu and Shubadra and all that detail to atleast have a half-decent concept of what Chakravyuh means. Neha gets it right when she uses the word “organism”. War-maze, Maze, Spiral formation etc. doesn’t even begin to capture the idea. It would be like attempting to translate some western concept like female orgasm and G-spot into say Tamil. Such words don’t exist and you will have to bend over backwords. I guess that’s why when we translated the poem in our time, we deliberately chose not to even mention Chakravyuh in the translation – because there is just no equivalent in English. We stuck to completely omitting reference to Chakravyuh, just calling it “it”, and leaving it to reader’s imagination what that “it” was. Ok time for lunch, bye.


  12. km says:

    Bravo, Neha! Excellent job once again.


  13. Rk says:

    Neha..that was wonderful. Your voice is different than what I expected !
    Any idea where I can listen to the original ?
    I feel so bad that I haven’t seen this movie.

    Venk at Ease,
    Could you give your url/ email ?


  14. Primalsoup says:

    Amidst all the intellectual comments, let me say in most lame manner – that this was very well read!


  15. Anon says:

    Venk at Ease,

    I am bewildered by your insistence on haunting this blog, for months on end, leaving mile long messages, some very nasty ones at that, you are anonymous in some, with a fake nick in others, Why? What is this insistence on protecting your identity when you feel so free to criticize others?


    If your purpose is to distract us from why we are here, to listen to Neha´s voice, and read what she has to say, you are mistaken. Let us say, your incoherence reveals itself before the first punctuation mark.

    Maybe you should blog on your own, but you know very well that with the way your write you would get fewer eyeballs than comment # 75 on a Neha post. So you try and get at least that.

    Every blogger keeps an open house with an enabled comments section. For a blogger, the open house is even more important than a physical space. Maybe Roethke says it better:


    My secrets cry aloud.
    I have no need for tongue.
    My heart keeps open house,
    My doors are widely swung.
    An epic of the eyes
    My love, with no disguise.

    My truths are all foreknown,
    This anguish self-revealed.
    I’m naked to the bone,
    With nakedness my shield.
    Myself is what I wear:
    I keep the spirit spare.

    The anger will endure,
    The deed will speak the truth
    In language strict and pure.
    I stop the lying mouth;
    Rage warps my dearest cry
    To witness agony.

    Maybe you are anonymous as you know about stalking laws in UK. You could be put inside and your crime is so lame, that the your fellow inmates would be obliged to get together and give you a free enema. Maybe after that, you might have the first coherent release of your life.

    But lame as you are, all I am saying is, keep an open house. If you fancy yourself a creative artist, start a blog, write a poem, make a movie, and keep the comments section enabled. What you are doing is easy. Try something more difficult.


  16. I am not going to make personal responses because the conversation is a little more aggressive and convoluted than I have time and inclination for.

    Suffice to say – that each generation is different. But you can’t place a hierarchy of values on generations. The problem with angst against the system is that it doesn’t really get you anywhere. Angst with the self is another matter altogether. Deewar is differenty interpreted by my generation as more a conflict with the self than conflict with conventional values.

    We’re not torch bearers for our respective generations. We have the right to reminisce, but not to degrade another generation in the process of doing so. One generation is not better than the other. In fact – how can one even think of lumping people together in monoliths as “generations”. Even technically speaking, a generation is a cohort-group – of people born in a span of 22 (or 33) years. Why get defensive about a generation? Is every one who is 24 years old responsible for me?

    On another note – I have seen Ardh Satya quite a few times and know this poem rather well. I was looking for a Hindi poem – and the suggestion was great. I am not here to indulge anyone other than myself.

    Going back to Sangam poetry – the notion of the exterior and interior mindscape as explored in the concept of agam and puram is just that. They are extensions of each other. What someone sees as rage against a system, somebody else as anguish with the self. It’s what a person relates to. Or even say someone like Milan Kundera. He talks of angst and love in personal relationships – but it’s easy to see how his notes on exile are both political and personal. The best movies and art are not the ones that tell us what to think, rather, they become interpretative over time. They are open to contextualization. It really is an individual’s right to interpret and generate her own meaning – as long as she doesn’t force it on others. This is the way I interpret Ardh Satya – I am not asking anyone else to interpret it that way.

    Half Truth. Do you think an entire generation can even share a half-truth? Truth is not absolute. And that – is my take away.

    As for my accent – I am not going to justify it. What makes one accent better than another? What that hierarchy? Why this value over the “original” – as though “original” can be defined? I don’t think I have a Brit accent, but even if I did – so what? Why is one accent necessarily an improvement over the other? Is Tamil-accented English worse than Brit-accented English?

    Some people are more spontaneous than the other. Don’t judge the time spans of gratification. Some people take years, others take seconds. Everyone is right in their place and time. And that – is a half-truth.


  17. shambhu nath says:

    kaga nit darwaje par mere
    kaw-kaw jab karta hai
    aate honge sajan mere
    man umange bharta hai
    saj-dhaj kar mai raah niharu
    ho jati hai shaam
    kam-kaj me man nahi lagata
    na chhaw lage na ghaam
    bite pal ko soch soch kar
    suraj yoo hi dhalataa hai
    kaga nit darwaje par mere
    kaw-kaw jab karta hai
    phone ki ghanti jab bajati hai
    daur laga ke jati hoo,
    awaj sunati auro ki jab
    roti wapas aati hoo
    aasha ka dipak jo mera hai
    rat dina kyo jalata hai,,
    kaga nit darwaje par mere
    kaw-kaw jab karta hai
    sasu jethani nand dewrani
    sab koi mare tana
    sasur hamare bak-bak karate
    jald banao khana
    sun baate ji byakul hai,
    kab hoga yoo aanaa
    lagata koi aash nahi hai
    dil maike ko jaane kahata
    kaga nit darwaje par mere
    kaw-kaw jab karta hai


    Yadi hota ki mai bhe ek sarkari afsar hota
    Phone mobile gaari ek sundar sa ghar apana hoga
    Yadi hota ki mai bhe ek sarkari afsar hota
    Apradhi jan aate rahate darwaje par mere
    Noto ki bauchhaar hoti sandhya our sabere
    Danlap ke gadde par paig lagaa ke sota hota
    Yadi hota ki mai bhe ek sarkari afsar hota
    Nit uth bachche padhane jaate saath me body guard
    Bibi baithee mauj urati computer ke saath
    Jai jai kar jam ke hotee galiyare me mere
    Rang jamate pichhlaggu sab mai bhee sapane me khota
    Yadi hota ki mai bhe ek sarkari afsar hota

    Desh ki matee
    Is mitti se bair karo mat ye mitti hi sona hai
    Eesi me hansana eesi me gana eesi me yaro rona hai
    Is mitti se bair karo mat ye mitti hi sona hai
    Eesi mitti me janm liye ho eesi mitti me rahana hai
    Eesi me khaa ke eesi me jaa ke eesi me wapas aanaa hai
    Ees mitti se prem karoge naam amar ho jana hai
    Eesi me sapana eesi me apana eesi me ye jag sara hai
    Is mitti se bair karo mat ye mitti hi sona hai
    Eesi me aanaa eesi me jaanaa eesi me khona paanaa hai
    Eesi me ram ji eesi me kishan ji eesi me prabhu ko aanaa hai
    Jitane papi hai dunia me unako mita ke jaanaa hai
    Eesi me paap eesi punya dono leke jaanaa hai
    Achchhe karmo ka fal achchha bura karke pachhtana hai
    Is mitti se bair karo mat ye mitti hi sona hai

    koyal koo –koo karati hai
    bachcho ka man bharti hai
    isaki pyari boli hai
    lagati kitani bholi hai
    isaki geet bari matwali
    sab ke man ko bhane wali
    pyaar ka geet sunane wali
    sab ke man ko bhaane wali
    pratah hote kahati bachcho
    utho sabera aayaa hai
    chanda mama chale hai ghar ko
    ravi kiran failaya hai
    pyaari ka geet sunati hai
    prem ka path padhati hai
    aise bachcho ek din jag me
    naam amar kar jaao ge
    chore sapane jo bapu the
    poora karke dikhao ge
    mithee isaki boli hai
    lagati kitani soni hai
    pyari geet sunati hai
    sab ka man bahalati hai
    koyal koo-koo karati hai
    bachcho ka man bharti hai


    Meri kalam ki laaj rakhiyo bhole shankar
    Rakh lo dada ka maan lage na kankar pattar
    aisa mat karo byavhaar
    ganguli ka balla bolega
    chouko chakko ki jhari lagegee
    logo ka man dolega
    dada ka balla bolega
    abhi bhari hai takat ganguli ke haatho me
    kyo karto uphaas nukili baato se
    naam kiya roshan bharat karahe safal kaptaan
    samay chakra to chalata rahata aaj inhe kal unhe kamaan
    kar dege majboor chayan karta bhee bolege
    dada ko wapas laayege sab veero sang cricket khelege
    chappal bhee chup-chaap tamasha dekhe ge
    unake hi anushashan me dada cricket khelege
    ganguli ka balla abhi kai saikara joregaa
    ek nahi hajaro baar dada ka balla bolegaa

    Sachin tendulkar
    Tum logo ne kari thitholi
    Mai sah na paayaa halle ko
    Fir thaam liyaa hoo balle ko
    Fir thaam liyaa hoo balle ko
    Gend baajo ki genbaji pe
    Chauke par chauka mar diya
    Samay hamara bahut hai baki
    Mai bhi usako jaan liya
    Bhoola nahi hoo us din ko mai
    Na karuye rasgulle ko
    Fir thaam liyaa hoo balle ko
    Vish cup tak mai kheloogaa
    Kai record banaaugaa
    Apane balle ke bauchharo se
    Lamba kila dhahaugaa
    Karua hota cricket ka jiwan
    Mai bhool gayaa us halle ko
    Fir thaam liyaa hoo balle ko

    Shambhu nath

    Kala pur rani ganj kaithoula
    Pratap garh-U.P