Revisiting My Name is Khan’s Soundtrack: An Album of Heartsore

From Noor E Khuda to Allah Hi Reham, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s compositions were steeped in poetic despair
Revisiting My Name is Khan’s Soundtrack: An Album of Heartsore
My Name is Khan Soundtrack

Set in America, against the backdrop of rising Islamophobia after the 9/11 attacks, My Name is Khan (2010) is from another era, when mainstream Hindi cinema could think of addressing current affairs in its stories and no one batted an eyelid when Pakistani singers lent their voices to a Bollywood film soundtrack. The music for My Name is Khan was composed by Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy and it’s a masterclass in the art of weaving together songs that explore similar themes. The songs and melodies seem to speak to one another — if one raises a question, another answers it. On its 13th anniversary, join us for a listening party of My Name is Khan

Tere Naina

The eyes somewhat literally have it in a number of songs in this soundtrack and this is most transparently the case in 'Tere Naina'. A playful accompaniment to the early days of Mandira (Kajol) and Rizwan’s (Shah Rukh Khan) love story, the song’s lyrics —  “Mujh pe barsi jo teri nigaahein, meri saanson ne badli adaayein (I breathe differently ever since you’ve set your eyes on me)” — are a testimony to the delight of seeing and being seen.


In Urdu, the word ‘sajdaa’ means to bow in prayer and in that spirit, this song is an exercise in romantic devotion. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s rumbling voice grounds the listener as much as Richa Sharma’s lush vocals inspire daydreams. Her prelude establishes the mood for what’s to come, and in the film, the song is played alongside a montage that shows Mandira and Rizwan’s wedding, and their newly-married life. The strains of shehnai lead to the jubilant “Sajdaa” of the chorus, seducing the listener with the promise of a love that endures.

Kajol in My Name is Khan

Noor E Khuda

Adnan Sami, Shankar Mahadevan and Shreya Ghoshal’s ‘Noor E Khuda’ is a hymn seeking the divine and opens with Mahadevan giving voice to the melancholy that fills Rizwan as he makes his way through the American heartland. Mahadevan and Sami’s duet make up the most poignant sections of the song, bringing out the emotions of Niranjan Iyengar’s lyrics, which narrate a tale of despondence and speak of the comfort that one’s faith provides. ‘Noor E Khuda’, cleverly placed in the film after ‘Sajdaa’, is about abandonment and searching for divinity, but, in the words of Sylvia Plath, “the sky is empty.” 

Allah Hi Reham

The Sufi-inspired ‘Allah Hi Reham’ is primarily sung by Ustad Rashid Khan, who infuses a sense of awe and devotion into every note and inflection. In a hat tip to the conventions of devotional music, the lyrics are about the surrender to a higher power and Khan’s powerful vocals add a velvety machismo to the melody. The song answers the questions that were raised in ‘Noor E Khuda’ and revisits the motif of the eyes — only now, we know that the divine is omnipresent. “Har zarre mein tu hai chupa, phir dhoonde kyun tera pata? (Why do we look for you when you’re present everywhere?)” Much like beauty, divinity is in the eyes of the devoted beholder.

Shah Rukh Khan in My Name is Khan

Rang De 

With its guitar riffs and pop-inflected melody, this one feels almost out of place in the soundtrack, but if the point of ‘Rang De’ is to jolt the listener out of pathos, it succeeds. Sung by Mahadevan and Suraj Jagan, the song also feels almost flimsy next to the richness of the other songs in the soundtrack. Throughout My Name is Khan, music was used to highlight the subtext of the story and having arrived at the final chapter, ‘Rang De’ held out the hope of peace and a happy ending. It should come as no surprise that this feels far less convincing than the melancholia and despair of the rest of the album. 

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