Need help translating songs in regional languages? Ask Lyrically Obscure

“Main, kaidi number 786…”

[“I, prisoner number 786...”]

Actor Shahrukh Khan’s monologue from the 2004 movie Veer Zaara has always moved Mumbai-based digital marketer Uma Shirodkar. The movie is a big part of her childhood. The poem, penned by Aditya Chopra, is the latest that she has translated into English for her Instagram page Lyrically Obscure.

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In the past few months, Uma has taken up translating songs from Bollywood and regional movies, poems, and even devotional songs and aartis as a serious hobby. On her page, she says she hopes to “decode and delve into South Asia’s rich musical landscape, one word at a time”.


She brings light to Marathi ghazal s such as ‘Kehvatari pahate’ (somewhere around dawn), written by poet and author Suresh Bhat, who is credited with adapting ghazal s to the Marathi language. “I first heard this song in school, on a cultural programme called Nakshatranche Dene (Gifts of the Constellation),” Uma writes on Instagram. Some of them serve to introduce the audience to quintessentially Indian words we may have heard in songs: such as the Gujarati word bhunga — the traditional round houses of Kutch.

And then there are translations of regional language snippets in popular songs, such as the Malayalam “Punjiri thanji konjikko” portion in Dil Se ’s ‘Jiya jale’ (posted on Onam, it is easily her most liked translation) and the Gujarati portion in Ram Leela ’s ‘Nagada Sang Dhol’ toward the end, set to the visual of a brilliant Supriya Pathak on the verge of hysteria.

“I am the kind of person who has to go back and look at the lyrics of every song I hear. I am quite interested in learning new languages, the meaning of words and the history behind them,” says Uma, over phone from Mumbai. She also regularly puts up music recommendations on her page, through ‘Songscapes’ — bite-sized translations of lines that stand out for her, and the history of the lyrics. “I actually started this page to share music, translating mainly songs from films. But then I realised I can expand it to poetry, aarti s and garba s,” she says.


Uma is fluent in Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi and English, with a keen interest in Punjabi and Urdu as well. For the other languages, she collaborates with other content creators who help her translate and proofread. “Translating is something I have been doing for a long time. I used to work at a travel agency, where I would be required to translate content like itineraries from English to Hindi and Marathi for the regional market,” says Uma.

Going forward, she hopes to discover and share more songs from the North-Eastern and Southern states. “This hobby kind of helped me get through the lockdown, and helped me connect with people with similar tastes in Arts and Culture,” she says.

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Printable version | Oct 6, 2022 1:09:50 pm |