Why Tera Noor is the feminist cheer you need

No one entertains the desi masses like Salman Khan. Shahrukh maybe the king of romance. Aamir maybe the best actor. But Salman Khan knows what makes the mango people tick. His films are packed with masala and play to South Asian sentiments. No wonder he has such a rabid following

But Salman Khan is a problematic hero. His legal quibbles aside, his films are usually problematic too. They are all about him and his machismo. Item songs are sprinkled in to titillate the masses. His heroines are infamously for their ‘flowerpot’ roles. They are there just to look pretty and accessorize him.

So no one walks into Salman Khan flick expecting a feminist anthem. Then ‘Tera Noor’ happened. It took everyone by surprise. Tiger Zinda Hain is no Wonder Woman. But ‘Tera Noor’ might as well be Katrina Kaif’s ‘No Man’s Land’. People were taken by surprise. Within days of its release #TeraNoor was trending on desi social media. Even Katrina Kaif detractors were singing her praise.

Here are five reasons why Tera Noor is the feminist cheer we needed for the holidays

The Musical Composition by Vishal-Shekhar

Vishal-Shekhar are the duo who directed music for the song. Shekhar Ravjiani is also is classically trained in Hindustani music, while Vishal Dadlani is the frontman for India’s pioneering rock band Pentagram. They are a great marriage of Hindustani classical and rock.

They typically do not compose a lot of Sufi music. A lot of times their music is your stereotypical frothy bubblegum pop-styled Bollywood music. But they have ‘Allah Ke Bande‘, a modern Sufi classic under their belt.

‘Tera Noor’ is a composition that tops ‘Allah Ke Bandhe’. It opens with slow soulful Sufi notes and then seamlessly transitions into Sufi rock. The crescendo leading up to the rock transition just pumps you up for what’s next. The composition is a harmonious blend of classical Sufi and Sufi rock. The arrangement also uses electronic beats and rock instruments cleverly without overpowering the classical instrument interludes. It’s very reminiscent of the Pakistani Sufi rock band Junoon and ‘Sayonee‘. Their composition serves as the backdrop for the lyrics and vocals.

The Lyrics by Irshad Kamil

It is not French. Urdu is the most romantic and poetic language in the world. Some of the songs written for Indian and Pakistani cinema are exquisite. The prose flows beautifully like a carefree stream. Unfortunately, the lyrics get lost in translation. Which is why non-Urdu speakers will always be deprived of its beauty.

When it comes to Urdu prose, Javed Akhtar and Gulzar tend to dominate the scene. When it comes to Sufi music, Amitabh Bhattacharya has seen success with songs like ‘Kabira‘ and ‘Bulleya‘ Irshad Kamil is a reticent poet who has been in the background. But he has penned some beautiful songs in films like Jab We Met and Rockstar.

Tera Noor is a Sufi song where his Urdu prose gets to shine the brightest. It is a song on par with ‘Allah Ke Bande’ in its elegance, simplicity, and beauty. But the factor that sends it to another level is how kick-ass feminist the lyrics are. Urdu has not been so sexily feminist since Ismat Chugtai.

Translation does not do it justice, but here goes nothing

Ho Al-Wali
Tera aadam mujhko dikhlaave ki cheez banaaye
Kyu mujhko mere jism se aage samajh na paaye

O Lord,
Your Adam treats me like a showpiece
Why isn’t he able to see me beyond my body

Ho Al-Wali
Bolo aisa kyun hai?
Mujhse paida hua hai jo wo
Har pal, har dum mujhko kamzor bataaye

O Lord,
Tell me why it is so?
The one who is born of me
Calls me weak every moment, every breath

Jo thi tere wajood pe duniya
Baithi hai barood pe duniya
Mool* to sab ko bhool gaya hai
Jeeti hai ab sood pe duniya

The world that was once based on your existence
Rests today on a pile of dynamite
The principle* is forgotten by everyone
The world is now living on borrowed interest

*mool is literally principal, but there is wordplay here

Saare qaayade kitaabein bhool gaye
Mitti mein saare phool gaye

We have forgotten the boundaries and the books,
All the flowers have been buried in the earth

Mujh mein koi baat nahi
Koi auqaat nahi
Tu hi to hai shaan meri
Tu hi hai Guroor
Kyun door, Tera noor
Zikr-e-ilaahi ka jab hai mujhko suroor

There is nothing special about me
I have no status
You are my glory
You are my Pride.
Why is your holy light so far from me
When I am passionate about the word of God

Ulfat ke bin kahaan rihaai
Baat kisiko samajh naa aayi
Phir bhi sabko samajh baanta
Is duniya mein har saudaayi

There is no deliverance without love
No one understands this
Yet knowledge is being distributed
By fools on this earth

Zinda jazbaat nahi
Haq mein haalaat nahi
Maanungi naa haar
Mujhe hai fateh ka fitoor

Emotions are dead
The conditions are not in my favor
I refuse to give up
Because I am obsessed with victory

Kyun door, Tera noor
Zikr-e-ilaahi ka jab hai mujhko suroor
Kyun door, Tera noor

Why is your holy light so far from me
When I am passionate about the word of God
Why is your holy light so far from me

Jyoti Nooran’s powerhouse vocals

Jyoti and her sister Sultana, known as the Nooran sisters are a force to reckon with in the Sufi music scene. They are trained Hindustani Classical singers from the Sham Chaurasia Gharana.

They first gained popularity by singing ‘Tung Tung‘ in Sneha Khanwalkars groundbreaking show ‘Sound Trippin‘ on MTV. Later they were featured in Coke Studio where they sang the Sufi Classic ‘Allah Hoo‘. Since then they have been singing songs in many Indian films and performing all over the country.

Apart from Abida Parveen who is the queen of Sufi music, very few women have dominated the Sufi scene. When you listen to the harsh notes carried by the likes of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Kailash Kher, you can see the challenges female singers may have.

But the Nooran Sisters are a force to reckon with. Jyoti Nooran is a Sufi singer with fantastic range and projection. She is almost on par with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan with her singing.

Tera Noor is a Sufi song elevated to another level by her vocals. Crisp intonation matched with emotive sounds, this is Sufi singing at its finest. You can clearly feel her passion for the music and lyrics burning through every second of the song.

Katrina Kaif’s action sequence

Katrina Kaif is highly underrated. Granted her debut in Bollywood was controversial. Unable to speak Hindi her diction was abhorrent. It made her performance appear wooden. It is widely believed that her Bollywood career survived only because she dated big name celebrities like Salman Khan and Ranbir Kapoor.

I think people hold her half British heritage and dating history against her. When she doesn’t have to speak Hindi, she is absolutely fantastic. Even with Hindi, her dialogue is more fluid now. She has impeccable comic timing in her comedies.

However, Tiger Zinda Hain proves that action is her forte. She has already proven her action mettle in Ek Tha Tiger, Bang Bang, and Phantom. But in Tiger Zinda Hain, she is given one long rescue sequence that is mindblowing.

The entire fight sequence is extremely well choreographed. After all its done by the same directors who did the action for ‘The Dark Knight’ Katrina who is fit, lithe, and flexible executes the sequence with finesse. She has worked hard on her fitness and choreography and it shows in the movie. Salman Khan needs an over the top sequence fighting wolves bare-fisted or guns blazing shirtless scene. Katrina, however, delivers a no-frills, pure thrills action sequence like a true action hero. No body doubles, no nonsense, just straight up delivering the goods.

It is a pity that people are not lining up to cast Katrina Kaif in action films on her own. She’s better than other legendary action heroes like Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan and Salman Khan himself. That is the patriarchy of Indian cinema. It will be a long time before we see the likes of Katrina Kaif play Chulbul Pandey or Singham. If Wonder Woman was still being cast, I would have voted for Katrina Kaif as a biracial multireligious woman of color to take the role. But since Gal Gadot has taken that role and killed it, I motion to have Katrina Kaif get cast as Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) ASAP.

The Gravity of the situation


First of all, Katrina Kaif’s Zoya is a top ISI agent (Pakistan’s intelligence agency). So she is a bad ass spy, to begin with. She comes across a harem of Muslim women in Iraq. They have been kidnapped from their villages and are being used as sex slaves. Katrina Kaif pretends to be one of them and helps them escape.

The scene where Katrina Kaif slices the neck of Baghdawi the main bad guy will just give you chills. It is then followed by a sequence of each woman standing up for herself and killing her abuser. The entire sequence is pure girl power. An adrenaline filled representation of silence breakers who will fight back.

The gravity of the whole situation combined with the music, the lyrics, the vocals and Katrina’s choreographed action create a sequence that will make you drop your jaw in awe. It is also the most clapped and cheered on scene in the movie. For the first time in history, there is no flowerpot in a Salman flick. Instead, his female costar steals his thunder and outshines him.

South Asians are barely represented in mainstream media outside India. Amidst the few female heroes we have, we don’t have as many superheroes or action heroes. Do yourself a favor and go watch the film for Katrina Kaif’s action sequence. Cheer for her. Clap for her. Support her. And hope that we will be lucky and get blessed with a solo action hero or superhero flick with her. She deserves more than Sheila’s Jawani (which is surprisingly feminist) .

About return_to_hades

A peasant A nerd A philosopher A hippie Just another confused soul wearing many hats and wandering through the world.
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