Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi


Sadhana excels in her role as the mysterious femme fatale of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Happy Halloween to our readers! What better way to celebrate with a classic ghost song featuring Lata Mangeshkar’s spooky vocals, Sadhana’s haunting beauty, and Madan Mohan’s soul-stirring composition? In the spirit of Halloween, we are sharing the lyrics and English translation to nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim from Raj Khosla’s suspense thriller Woh Kaun Thi? (1964).

In a previous post, we have discussed how Woh Kaun Thi? is the quintessential example of film noir being adapted for vintage Hindi cinema.  In this film, Dr. Anand (Manoj Kumar) encounters a mysterious woman (Sadhana) on a stormy night and offers to give her a ride in his car. After she makes a strange request to be dropped off at a local cemetery, he hears this woman sing the first part of nainaa barse – a song that continues to haunt him at various points throughout the film. Later in the movie, Dr. Anand is called to see a patient in an old mansion that is rumored to be haunted. When he arrives at this mansion, the patient has already died and she appears to be the same woman that he encountered on the stormy night. In an even more strange turn of events, Dr. Anand’s fiancee is murdered suddenly by a cyanide injection. To alleviate his grief and loneliness, Dr. Anand is set up by his mother to his marry a new woman named Sandhya. Much to his surprise, Dr. Anand finds on his wedding night that his new wife looks exactly like the supposedly dead woman he gave a ride to in the film’s opening scene! Like Dr. Anand, the audience is left confused as they grapple with the film’s eponymous question: Woh kaun thi? Who was she?

Throughout her career, Lata Mangeshkar earned a reputation for her haunting renditions of ghost songs in films. Some of her most influential and beautiful hits are used as ghost songs in their respective movies: aayegaa aanevaalaa from Mahal (1949), tuu jahaa.n jahaa.n chalegaa from Mera Saaya (1966), kahii.n diip jale kahii.n dil from Bees Saal Baad (1962), and gumnaam hai koii from Gumnaam (1965). In an interview for her 80th birthday, the melody queen humorously remarks about her career: mai.n ne sab se zyaadaa gaanaa gaaye hai.n bhuuto.n ke (I have sung the most songs for ghosts!).

An interesting and apt anecdote: when this song was being filmed in Kufri (near Shimla), Lata had not yet had the opportunity to record the song in the studio. Much to the surprise of the crowd that had gathered to watch the filming, actress Sadhana shot her scenes by lip-syncing to a version of this song rendered by music director Madan Mohan himself – perhaps a bit creepy but also a rare treat!

Did you know that Woh Kaun Thi? was inspired by a British play called The Woman In White (1859) written by Wilkie Collins? Raj Khosla’s mentor Guru Dutt had attempted to create a film based on the same story a few years earlier in 1959. He abandoned this project entitled Raaz in which he was supposed to play the male lead while Waheeda Rehman played the female lead. Interestingly, this film was supposed to have been R.D. Burman’s debut as a solo music director.

-Mr. 55

Manoj Kumar plays a confused doctor who is recurrently haunted by a mysterious woman and her song in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Version 1): Lyrics and Translation

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved.
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

yeh laakho.n gham, yeh tanhaayii
Thousands of sorrows and this solitiude
muhabbat kii yeh rusvaayii
are all part of love’s disgrace. 
kaTii aisii kaii raate.n
I have spent several such nights
na tum aaye na maut aayii
where neither you came to me, nor my death. 
yeh bi.ndiyaa kaa taaraa
The star of my beauty spot
jaise ho a.ngaaraa
burns brightly like an ember.
mahandii mere haatho.n kii udaas
Even the henna on my hands is sullen.

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved.
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.


Manoj Kumar’s restrained and understated performance falls short in comparison to Sadhana’s dynamic portrayal of the leading character in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964).  

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Version 2): Lyrics and Translation

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved. 
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

adhuuraa huu.n mai.n afsaanaa
I am an incomplete story. 
jo yaad aauu.n chale aanaa
When you remember me, come back to me. 
meraa jo haal hai tujh bin
The state that I am in without you, 
voh aa kar dekhte jaanaa
come to me and see it for yourself. 
bhiigii bhiigii palke.n
My eyelashes are moist, 
chham-chham aa.nsuu chhalke.n
as my tears drip, sounding like the jingle of an anklet.  
khoyii khoyii aa.nkhe.n hai.n udaas
My eyes are lost and sullen.

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved. 
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.


Sadhana’s dashing beauty shines against the backdrop of Shimla in the Himalayas in Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim (Version 3): Lyrics and Translation

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved.
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.

voh din merii nigaaho.n me.n
Those days remain in my eyes. 
voh yaade.n merii aaho.n me.n
Those memories remain in my sighs. 
yeh dil ab tak bhaTaktaa hai
This heart still wanders
terii ulfat kii raaho.n me.n
along the paths of your love. 
suunii suunii raahe.n, sahmii sahmii baahe.n
Along those empty paths, with my nervous arms, 
aan.kho.n me.n hai barso.n kii pyaas
my eyes carry a thirst unslaked for years.

nazar tujh bin machaltii hai
My sight wavers without you. 
muhabbat haath maltii hai
My love repents in desperation. 
chalaa aa mere parvaane
Please come to me, my moth. 
vafaa kii shamaa jaltii hai
The candle of faithfulness still burns brightly. 
o mere hamraahii, phirtii huu.n ghabraayii
Oh, my soulmate! I wander about afraid. 
jahaa.n bhii hai, aa jaa mere paas
Wherever you are, please come to me.

nainaa barse rimjhim rimjhim
My eyes shed tears, drop by drop,
piyaa tore aavan kii aas
in hopes of your return, my beloved. 
nainaa barse, barse, barse
My eyes shed tears.


nainaa: eyes; barasnaa: to rain; rimjhim: onomatopoeia for the dripping noise of rain; aavan: return, arrival; aas: hope; adhuuraa: incomplete; afsaanaa: story; haal: state, condition; palak: eyelid, eyelash; chham-chham: onomatopoeia for the jingling noise of an anklet; chhalaknaa: to drip; udaas: sullen, gloomy; tanhaayii: solitude; rusvaayii: disgrace; maut: death; bi.ndiyaa: beauty spot; angaaraa: cinder, ember; mahandii: henna, nigaah: eyes; aah: sigh; sahmaa: nervous; baras: year; pyaas: thirst; nazar: glance, sight; machalnaa: to waver; haath malnaa: to repent; parvaanaa: moth; vafaa: faithfulness; shamaa: candle; hamraahii: soulmate, companion; phirnaa: to wander about; ghabraayaa: afraid.


     Those eyes! 

Interview with Bollywood Playback Singer Minoo Purushottam: A Mr. & Mrs. 55 Exclusive!

Minoo Purushottam tanpura

Minoo Purushottam, renowned Hindi film playback singer. Photo: Personal collection of Minoo Purushottam.

Last year, we published a popular post on the career of one of our favorite yesterday playback singers, Minoo Purushottam. In one of those great twists of fate taken straight from a 60s masala flick, shortly afterwards, we received an email from Minoo-ji’s son who re-connected Mrs. 55 with her Hindi classical voice teacher, Minoo-ji herself, from years before! Minoo-ji was gracious enough to grant Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! an exclusive interview about her career. After spending many years in Houston since leaving Bombay, Minoo-ji has now settled into her new home in Illinois near her son where she continues to teach new students and perform at concerts. We are honored to share with you a transcript of our delightful conversation with her that includes reminiscing about her early schooldays when she was first recognized as a musical prodigy, that time Mukesh blew his 16th take during a recording session, and what advice she has for aspiring singers!

MRS. 55: Could you tell us a little bit more about your early music training?

MINOO: I grew up in Bombay. There were music classes in school. A South Indian teacher used to come and teach us the ragas. At that time, I was chosen to lead the school prayers. That was a great time for me, I was not thinking then that I would become a singer when I was at school. I wanted to become a schoolteacher actually. I had very simple ambitions. When suddenly I realized I was a singer, I started seriously practicing, four hours every day, every day, every day. This was because I had to prepare for my exams: 25 ragas for the sangeet visharad in the first year. It was very difficult. But I always loved to teach, and I still love it. Everybody now thinks they can sing without practice. I think karaoke messed things up that way. If you know the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna said we have 4 Vedas, and there is a Samaveda based on music. The whole universe is singing if you carefully listen to it. All the sounds are like singing. It affects one a lot.

MR. 55: Who was your favorite duet partner in the past?

MINOO: All these singers are great humans. I was working all my life with Mohammed Rafi. At that time I was very young and toured with Asha Bhonsle too. But after the great singers were gone, I was not interested in staying in Bombay. With whom should I sing? I was feeling sad. But still I love to work, I love to sing. Even now I practice every day.

Minoo Purushottam and Asha Bhonsle rehearsing

Playback singers Minoo Purushottam and Asha Bhonsle rehearsing together in a recording studio. Photo: Personal collection of Minoo Purushottam.

MRS. 55: Some singers have commented on the difficult of breaking into the industry when it was dominated by a few select singers. How did you overcome that?

MINOO: I didn’t have any difficulty. It seemed that everybody loved me so much, they wanted to give me a chance. I was doing my job well. All the music directors were very happy with me when I was working with them. I never said that, “I want this, I want that.” I never made demands, so I was very easy to work with. At that time music was so great. The stories in the films were so good. You can see those films 100 times. From my childhood, I saw the film Mahal. It’s a very old movie. I can see that film over and over. I love all those songs. I can see it 1000 times. But my time was after that, mostly colour movies.

MR. 55: You worked with many great music directors. What lessons did they teach you?

MINOO: I was working a lot with Madan Mohan. He was my teacher, teaching me ghazals and pronunciation and accent of ghazals. Jaidev was also my teacher.

MRS. 55: I remember when I took lessons from you, you talked fondly about the actors you worked with, especially Sanjeev Kumar.

MINOO: You know, Sanjeev Kumar’s sister is in Houston and used to come to meet me. We were very good friends. But things change a lot. Madhumati was very good friend of mine as well.

Minoo Purushottam and Manna Dey

Bollywood playback singers Minoo Purushottam and Manna Dey. Photo: Personal collection of Minoo Purushottam.

MR. 55: Are there any new artists that you enjoy?

MINOO: I have a habit of listening to old songs from singers like Talat Mehmood. It’s hard to change that. But some students do want to learn new songs, and then I help them. We should be open-minded, it’s a part of the job.

MRS. 55: What is your favorite film song that you sang?

MINOO: I love all of them. You put so much time and effort into each one. You have to concentrate very hard, you can’t play around with it. One should be very serious. Nowadays they can break the song down in pieces to record just the pieces, and then put them together. But in those days, you and all the musicians had to sing it perfectly all the way through. If you make a mistake, you’d be rejected. One day I was sitting for the recording and Mukesh-ji was making so many mistakes! He was on his 16th take and he said, “If I don’t get it right this time, I’m going to forget this song.” I think my voice has changed with age, and it suits bhajans and ghazals now. And anyway, who would compose film music now the way S.D. Burman and C. Ramchandra did? This time people just want to make money, not make real music.

MRS. 55: Is there anything you’d like to tell your fans?

MINOO: If you really want to sing, you must learn something. Find a teacher. But I can tell you, it’s hard to find time to devote just to music. But you must do it.

– Mr. and Mrs. 55

Minoo Purushottam and Mohammed Rafi

Playback singers Minoo Purushottam and Mohammed Rafi often toured together in the 60s and 70s. Photo: Personal collection of Minoo Purushottam.

Aye Dil-E-Nadaan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi


As many of our readers may already be aware, today marks the 86th birthday of melody queen Lata Mangeshkar. In commemoration of this special day, we would like to present the lyrics and English translation to one of the most exquisitely beautiful songs sung by the Nightingale of India during her long and illustrious career: ai dil-e-naadaa.n from Razia Sultan (1983).


Hema Malini stars as a 13th century empress of Delhi in Razia Sultan (1983)

Directed by Kamal Amrohi (of Mahal and Pakeezah fame), Razia Sultan narrates the story of the only woman to ascend the throne of Delhi and her alleged love affair with Abyssinian slave-turned-warrior Jaml-ud-Din Yaqut. Hema Malini stars in the title role, while her real-life beau Dharmendra plays the role of her love interest Yaqut. When Sultan Altamash decides that his beloved daughter Razia shall be the successor to his throne instead of his trouble-making son Ferozshah, the kingdom erupts in an uproar over the possibility of being ruled by a woman. After her father’s passing, Razia proves herself to be a compassionate and brave ruler who leads with an eye toward justice like her late father. Over time, Razia is accepted as the first female emperor of the kingdom until gossip spreads among the royal court about an affair between Razia and her former slave Yaqut. Although Yaqut is now a free man and army commander, the relationship between him and the empress is highly scandalous due to his roots as a dark-skinned African slave. When this controversy reaches its peak, Razia must make a choice between her kingdom and her love. In the end, in true Bollywood style, Razia makes the ultimate sacrifice for her love.

Although this film had the potential to provide a compelling view on the complexities of race and gender politics, it fails to meet the mark in many respects and was unable to achieve commercial success at the time of its release. It is likely that the heavy-handed use of formal Urdu made it difficult for audiences to understand many parts of the film’s dialogue. The pace drags in many scenes, and the starring duo provide few memorable moments throughout the film. Those familiar with this period of history will also note that many liberties were taken to create a fictionalized narrative suitable for presentation in a Bollywood movie.

The aspect in which director Kamal Amrohi has shined, as he has done in his previous productions, is in the selection of the music for the film’s soundtrack. Khayyam’s sublime and minimalistic compositions come together with Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s reticent yet expressive poetry to create a memorable album that is probably the single most redeeming quality of Razia Sultan. The crowning jewel of this soundtrack is ai dil-e-nadaa.n rendered flawlessly by the inimitable Lata Mangeshkar. Her voice captures the mysticism and tranquility of the poetry with remarkable ease. Jaan Nisar Akhtar’s poetry is beautiful in its simplicity as it probes the nature of human desire and the inevitable suffering that it causes. No discussion of this song would be complete without mention of the santoor interludes interspersed with moments of silence, which provide gentle accompaniment to the serenity evoked by Akhtar’s words and Lata’s ethereal voice.


The elaborate costumes and sets used to shoot Razia Sultan (1983) make it one of the most expensive productions of its time. [Source]

A couple of anecdotes from key players involved in the making of this song to round out our discussion today:

Khayyam explains how he was inspired by the story of Razia Sultan during the composition of ai dil-e-naadaa.n: “

The caravan of Razia Sultan came to India from Turkey through a long and tortuous route traversing many countries. If you listen carefully, the tune and orchestration reflects the musical influences of all the regions she traveled across. The song is about the duel in her mind- the woman inside her is deeply in love with a black slave but the princess inside her is all too aware of her duty. The song depicts that dilemma in her mind. [Source]

Lata Mangeshkar has always ranked this song has one of the best of her career and included it in her An Era in An Evening concert that took place in Mumbai in March 1997 (see link above). In her own words, she says:

“Khayyam’s ai dil-e-naadaa.n from Razia Sultan is among the best songs I’ve sung. The way Kamal (Amrohi)-saab explained it to me,  I could actually visualise the situation. I was very satisfied by the way I rendered the number. Kamal-saab found my Urdu pronunciation clear and chaste. The lyrics of ai dil-e-naadaa.n written by Javed Akhtar’s father Jaan Nisar Akhtar, were inspiring. I have sung several songs written by him.” [Source]

Are you wondering why Lata’s voice sounds so heavenly in this song even though it was past its prime at the time of the film’s release in 1983? That’s because Khayyam had this song recorded by Lata nine years earlier in 1974. After just two rehearsals, she had recorded the entire song in one take! Khayyam recollects how the popularity of this song helped him be selected as the music director for other major films in the 1970s like Kabhie Kabhie (1976):

“Actually the reason, I got Kabhie Kabhie was the song ai dil-e-naadaa.n. For Razia Sultan, I had recorded Lata-ji’s ai dil-e-naadaa.n and also Qabban Mirza’s aayii zanjiir kii jhankaar as early as in 1974. ai dil-e-naadaa.n had then created such a stir that practically everyone in the film industry was talking about that song. That fame had reached to Yash Chopra and one evening, when I returned after a Razia Sultan sitting at Kamaalistan, I found Yash-ji and Sahir-saab waiting for me. They told me that they were making a film about a love-story of a poet and they wanted me as a composer. I immediately said, ‘Yes’.” [Source]


In spite of a solid portrayal of the lead character by Hema Malini, Razia Sultan (1983) failed to achieve success at the box office. [Source]

Aye Dil-E-Nadaan Lyrics and Translation:

ai dil-e-naadaan
Oh, my naive heart!
aarzuu kyaa hai? justujuu kyaa hai?
What do you desire? What do you seek?

ham bhaTakte hai.n, kyo.n bhaTakate hai.n dasht-o-sehraa me.n?
Why do I wander alone in this deserted wilderness?
aisaa lagtaa hai mauj pyaasii hai apne dariyaa me.n
It seems as if I am a wave thirsty for water in its own river.
kaisii uljhan hai? kyo.n yeh uljhan hai?
What is this turmoil? Why is there this turmoil?
ek saayaa-saa ruuh-ba-ruuh kyaa hai?
What is this shadow that stands face-to-face before me?

kyaa qayaamat hai! kyaa musiibat hai!
What a disaster! What misfortune!
keh nahii.n sakte kiskaa armaa.n hai
I am unable to say whom it is that I desire.
zindagii jaise khoyii-khoyii hai, hairaa.n-hairaa.n hai
It seems as if my life itself is lost and confused.
yeh zamii.n chup hai, aasmaa.n chup hai
The earth lies quietly, while the sky remains in silence.
phir yeh dhaDkan-sii chaar-suu kyaa hai?
Yet, what pulsates around me in every direction?

ai dil-e-nadaan aisii raaho.n me.n kitne kaa.nTe hai.n
Oh, my naive heart! There are many thorns along the path of love.
aarzuuo.n ne har kisii dil ko dard baa.nTe hai.n
The pursuit of desires has given pain to every heart.
kitne ghayal hai.n, kitne bismil hai.n
Many hearts are wounded; many hearts are sacrificed.
is khudaayii me.n ek tuu kyaa hai?
In the face of divinity, who are you alone?

ek tuu kyaa hai, ek tuu kyaa hai?
Who are you alone?
ai dil-e-naadaan, ai dil-e-nadaa.n
Oh, my naive heart!


naadaa.n: naive, foolish; aarzuu: desire; justujuu: search, pursuit; bhaTaknaa: to wander; dasht: desert; sehraa: wilderness; mauj: wave; pyaasii: thirsty; dariyaa: river; uljhan: turmoil, confusion; saayaa: shadow; ruuh-ba-ruuh: face-to-face; qayaamat: disaster, crisis, Day of Judgment: musiibat: misfortune; armaa.n: desire, hope; khoyii: lost; hairaa.n: confused, distressed; zamii.n: earth, land; chup: quiet, silent; aasmaa.n: sky; dhaDkan: pulse, heartbeat; chaar-suu: all around, in all four directions; raah: path; kaa.nTe: thorns; dard: pain; baa.nTnaa: to allocate, to distribute; ghayal: wounded; bismil: wounded, sacrificed; khudaayii: divinity, world.

The use of the word bismil adds a unique spiritual dimension to the lyrics of this song. Bismil means wounded or sacrificed and originates from the Islamic ritual of sacrificing animals as an offering while uttering bismillah (in the name of God).

-Mr. 55

Intimate scenes between Hema Malini and Parveen Babi (particularly during the song khvab ban kar koii aayegaa) sparked some controversy at the time of this film’s release. [Source]

Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye Waheeda and Dev Anand sugarcane

As Dev Anand croons “Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye” in Prem Pujari (1970), Waheeda Rehman makes even chomping raw sugarcane look attractive.

Today we present the lyrics and English translation of the evergreen duet “Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye” from Prem Pujari (1970). There could be no better song to welcome the change of seasons than this sweet exploration of the meaning of love…and of a haystack maze. Dev Anand plays a peace-loving son of a veteran who would rather be catching butterflies and whispering words of love to his fiancee, Waheeda Rehman, than holding a gun. However, when war breaks out, he is forced to reconcile his rosy temperament with patriotic duty, ultimately becoming a double spy for India at the expense of his family and loved ones.

But before these complexities of the spirit arise, Waheeda Rehman and Dev Anand spend a few moments blissfully unaware of the perils ahead, playing hide-and-go-seek together like any fully-grown adults in love would do. Their delightful escapades among the haystacks are second only to the passionate Bollywood thrills of running around a tree. I’m a huge sucker for nature-themed flirtation in Hindi films. In “Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye,” the camera surges between haystacks on a dolly track like a sheep on the loose, anticipating every peekaboo moment of Dev Anand poking his head through the straw or tracing Waheeda’s bright red chunni across the hay to victory. And don’t miss the special moment as they are just about to kiss each other when the camera suddenly cuts to a completely random shot of a raging fire followed by a shot of a gushing water stream. Try to make sense of that adorably antagonistic symbolism, just try. Fortunately, S.D. Burman’s musical genius provides exactly the rip-roaring crescendo we needed to seam all the pieces together.

Gopal Das Neeraj’s poem was originally written as “Chandnii Mei.N Ghola Jaaye,” however Dev Anand wanted to picturize the song during daylight and hence the lyrics were changed. Lata Mangeshkar’s celestial voice is at such a peak in this song, it will make you question her divinity. Kishore Kumar balances her angelic vocals with manly aplomb, helping us gloss past the rough patches caused by Dev Anand’s crimson blazer and matching butterfly net.

Waheeda climbs up a haystack

Forgetting that sound travels, Waheeda Rehman sings while playfully climbing up a haystack to hide from her lover in Prem Pujari (1970).

Doesn’t this all just make you crave a pumpkin spice latte? We tragically don’t have sugarcane fields in my town, but I hope you enjoy our translation of this charming Autumn ballad and feel inspired to hit your nearest corn maze, apple orchard, or petting zoo with the one you love. Watch the video on youtube here and follow along with our lyrics and English translation below!

Shokhiyon Mein Ghola Jaaye Lyrics and Translation:

KISHORE: Shokhiyo.N mei.N gholaa jaaye, phoolo.N kaa shabaab
Take a swirl of mischievousness, and the youthfulness of flowers
Us mei.N phir milaaii jaaye thoDii sii sharaab
In those mix in a little bit of wine
Hogaa yuu.N nashaa jo taiyyaar
The intoxication you create like this
Haa.N , hogaa yuu.N nashaa jo taiyyaar, woh pyaar hai
Yes, the intoxication you create like this is love
Shokhiyo.N mei.N gholaa jaaye, phoolo.N kaa shabaab…

KISHORE: Hey hey, hey hey, hey hey, hey hey!

LATA: Ha.Nstaa huaa bachpan woh, bahakaa huaa mausam hai
It is a childhood of laughter, it is a deceptive atmosphere
ChheDo to ek sholaa hai, chhuu lo to bas shabnam hai
It teases you like an ember, but when it touches you, it feels like a dewdrop
Gaao.N mei.N, mele mei.N, raah mei.N, akele mei.N
Whether in a village or in a fair, whether upon a street or by yourself
Aataa jo yaad baar baar, woh pyaar hai
That memory that comes to you all the time is love
Shokhiyo.N mei.N gholaa jaaye, phoolo.N kaa shabaab…

LATA: Oh, la la, la la la, la la la, ah…

KISHORE: Rang mei.N pighale sonaa, ang se yuu.N ras chhalke
It is the color of liquid gold, nectar flows from its body
Jaise baje dhun koi raat mei.N halke halke
It is as if a melody is played softly at night
Dhuup mei.N, chhaao.N mei.N, jhuumtii hawaao.N mei.N
In the sunlight, in the shadows, in the playful winds
Har dam kare jo intezaar, woh pyaar hai
That which waits for you every moment is love
Shokhiyo.N mei.N gholaa jaaye, phoolo.N kaa shabaab…

KISHORE: Yaad agar woh aaye…
If you remember your love…
LATA: Oh, yaad agar woh aaye, aise kaTe tanhaaii
Oh, if you remember your love, then loneliness is eased
Suune sheher mei.N jaise bajne lage shahanaai
As if in an empty city, wedding music begins to play
KISHORE: Yaad agar woh aaye, aise kaTe tanahaai
If you remember your love, then loneliness is eased
Suune shahar mei.N jaise bajane lage shahanaai
As if in an empty city, wedding music begins to play
BOTH: Aanaa ho, jaanaa ho, jaisaa bhii zamaanaa ho
Whether you are coming or leaving, however the world may be
Utare kabhii naa jo khumaar, woh pyaar hai
That feeling of intoxication which never lifts is love

BOTH: Shokhiyo.N mei.N gholaa jaaye, phoolo.N kaa shabaab
Take a swirl of mischeviousness, and the youthfulness of flowers
Us mei.N phir milaaii jaaye thoDii sii sharaab
In those mix in a little bit of wine
KISHORE: Hogaa yuu.N nashaa jo taiyyaar
The intoxication you create like this
LATA: Woh pyaar hai
That is love
BOTH: Shokhiyo.N mei.N gholaa jaaye, phoolo.N kaa shabaab…


Shokh: mischievousness, prank; gholaa: solution, swirl; phool: flower, shabaab: youthfulness; thoDii sii: a little bit; sharaab: alcohol; nashaa: intoxication; taiyyaar: ready; ha.Nsnaa: to laugh; bachpan: childhood; bakahnaa: to deceive; mausam: season, atmosphere; chheDnaa: to tease; sholaa: ember; chhuunaa: to touch; shabnam: dewdrop; gaao.N: village; melaa: fair; raah: path; akelaa: alone; yaad: memory; baar baar: time to time, often; rang: color; phigalnaa: to flow, to liquify; sonaa: gold; ang: body; ras: nectar; dhun: tune, melody; raat: night; halkaa: soft; dhuup: sunlight: chaao.N: shadow, cloud; jhoomnaa: to swing; hawaa: wind; har dam: every moment; intezaar: wait; kaTnaa: to be cut; tanhaaii: loneliness; suunaa: lonely, empty; sheher: city; bajnaa: to play [an instrument]; shahanaaii: traditional wind instrument played at weddings; zamaanaa: world, earth; utarnaa: to lift, to raise; khumaar: state of intoxication

Waheeda and Dev anand cuddle

Perched on an excessively romantic pile of hay, Dev Anand presses his nose affectionately to Waheeda Rehman’s ear in Prem Pujari (1970). Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?

This lovely duet was requested by fan Roshan Sadanani. Thank you for the excellent suggestion, and keep the requests coming! For more on-screen magic between Dev Anand and Waheeda Rehman, check out our translations of “Na Tum Humen Jano,” “Hai Apna Dil To Awaraa,” and “Khoya Khoya Chand!”

-Mrs. 55

Mera Kuch Saamaan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Anuradha Patel plays an impetuous and free-spirited woman who haunts her former lover and his current wife with her gift for poetry. in Ijaazat (1987)

Anuradha Patel plays an impetuous and free-spirited woman who haunts her former lover and his current wife with her gift for poetry in Ijaazat (1987).

Released in 1987, Gulzar’s Ijaazat starring Naseeruddin Shah, Rekha, and Anuradha Patel is a film that falls outside of the time period traditionally associated with the “Golden Era” of Hindi cinema. Although we tend to feature films from the 1950s-1970s on this blog, an exception must be made for this film because of its timeless soundtrack composed by R.D. Burman, penned by Gulzar, and sung by Asha Bhonsle. Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to an ever-haunting gem from Ijaazat (1987): meraa kuchh saamaan

Based on the Bengali story Jatugriha by Subodh Ghosh, this film presents the classic love triangle trope often used to excess in Bollywood in a refreshingly subtle and poignant manner that reflects the high caliber of Gulzar’s artistry as a poet-turned-director. The story in this film revolves around the relationships among three main characters: Mahinder (Naseeruddin Shah), Sudha (Rekha), and Maya (Anuradha Patel). Mahinder, a young photographer, has been engaged to his childhood friend Sudha for five years in an arrangement made by his grandfather (Shammi Kapoor). In spite of this arrangement, Mahinder falls passionately in love with the impulsive and free-spirited Maya, but he is too afraid to confide the truth to his grandfather. When pressured to go through with the wedding, the conflicted Mahinder reveals his true feelings to Sudha. However, when Maya suddenly disappears from his life, Mahinder decides to honor his grandfather’s wishes and marries Sudha after all. Even at the end of the film, a lingering question remains: why would Sudha agree to marry a husband who did not truly love her?

Rekha struggles deeply as she is forced to grapple with her husband's history with Anuradha Patel and its effects on their marriage in Ijaazat (1987)

Rekha offers an understated performance as a vulnerable wife forced to grapple with her husband’s history with an ex-lover and its devastating effects on their marriage in Ijaazat (1987)

As the companionship between Sudha and Mahinder begins to grow, the underlying presence of Maya as an unwanted third party in their marriage inevitably leads to marital discord. Mahinder’s unresolved feelings for Maya and Sudha’s awareness of these feelings gradually creates tension that escalates once Maya re-appears in their lives and rekindles a friendship with Mahinder through letters, phone calls, and poems. Mahinder indulges Maya’s attention-seeking actions at each opportunity, deepening the rift that already exists between him and his wife. Despite many efforts to adjust to the very tangible presence of Maya in their lives, Sudha comes to realize that she will never be able to live happily with Mahinder and decides to walk away from her marriage. The turmoil and tragedy of this film goes on to culminate in a conclusion that is surprisingly positive and heart-warming–without completely spoiling the ending here, I will just say that fans of Shashi Kapoor will not be disappointed!

In spite of its portrayal of a relatively ordinary story, Ijazaat stands out from other films in the same vein because of its evocative dialogues, nuanced character development, and, of course, the beautiful music and poetry found in its soundtrack. In the context of the film, meraa kuchh saamaan is a poem addressed to Mahinder from Maya that captures the essence of their troubled relationship with remarkable finesse and sophistication. In this poem, Maya asks Mahinder to return her things back to her–these requests are not for the return of physical objects but rather for memories of their time spent together. Gulzar’s evocative poetry in an unusual free verse format earned him the National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Lyricist in 1988, while Asha Bhonsle won the National Film Award for Best Female Playback Singer for her soulful rendition of this song.


Anuradha Patel’s character is unique to the version of Jatugriha that is presented in Ijaazat (1987), as the original story depicted the woes of a troubled marriage between a husband and wife without the “other woman” character.

Those of you familiar with this classic already may have wondered why Gulzar chose to use the number 116 in the last stanza of this song to describes the number of moonlit nights spent together by the protagonists. Some have suggested that 116 nights may indicate that Maya and Mahinder were involved in a relationship four months in duration (with four new moons), while others have suggested it is a reference to the number of phases of the moon found in ancient Indian literature. Interestingly, when asked in an interview about the interpretation of this number, Gulzar said: It’s not the number which is important, it’s important that somebody kept the count of the moonlit nights of which they spent together.”  This number went on to carry special significance for Gulzar as he recounts in a 2005 interview that he has written lyrics for exactly 116 of R.D. Burman’s songs during his career. 

Lyrics and Translation:

mera kuchh saamaan tumhare paas paDaa hai
Some of my belongings remain with you.
saavan ke kuchh bhiige bhiige din rakhe hai.n
A few wet monsoon days,
aur mere ek khat me.n lipaTii raat paDii hai
and a night folded into one of my letters.
voh raat bujhaa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Extinguish that night, and return my things to me.

patjhaD hai kuchh, hai na?
It was autumn then, no?
patjhaD me.n kuchh patto.n kii girane kii aahaT
The rustling whispers of leaves falling in autumn.
kaano.n me.n ek baar pahan ke lauT aayii thii
I had brought back those whispers once by wearing them as earrings.
patjhaD kii voh shaakh abhii tak rahii hai
A branch of autumn still trembles in the breeze.
voh shaakh giraa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Make that branch fall down, and return my things to me.

ek akelii chhatrii me.n jo aadhe-aadhe bhiig rahe the
When we both became drenched in the rain under a single umbrella,
aadhe giile aadhe sukhe, sukhaa to mai.n le aayii thii
half of our things became wet. I had brought the dry half back with me that day.
giilaa man shayad bistar ke paas paDaa ho
But perhaps my drenched heart remained next to the bed.
voh bhijvaa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Send that back, and return my things to me.

ek sau solaah chaa.nd kii raate.n, ek tumhaare kaa.ndhe kaa til
One hundred and sixteen moonlit nights, and the single mole on your shoulder.
giillii maha.ndii kii khushbuu, jhuuTh-muuTh ke shikve kuchh
The fragrance of wet henna, and some fake tantrums.
jhuuTh-muuTh ke vaade bhii sab yaad karaa duu.n?
Shall I remind you of all the false promises too?
sab bhijvaa do, meraa voh saamaan lauTaa do
Send all of them back, and return my things to me.

ek ijaazat de do bas, jab isko dafnaauu.ngii
When I bury these these things, just grant me the permission
mai.n bhii vahii.n so jaauu.ngii
To lay myself to sleep among them.
mai.n bhii vahii.n so jaauu.ngii
To lay myself to sleep among them.


saamaan: belongings, things; saavan: monsoon; bhiigaa: drenched, wet; khat: letter; lipaTnaa: to wrap, fold; bujhaa denaa: to extinguish; lauTaa denaa: to return; patjhaD: autumn; pattaa: leaf; giranaa: to fall; aahaT: whisper, faint noise; pahanna: to wear; shaakh: branch; giraa denaa: to make something fall; chhatrii: umbrella; aadhaa: half; giilaa: wet; sukhaa: dry; bistar: bed; bhijvaanaa: to have something sent; ek sau solaah: 116; kaa.ndh: shoulder; til: mole; maha.ndii: henna: khushbuu: fragrance; jhuuTh-muuTh: fake, false; shikvaa: complaint, tantrum; vaadaa: promise: yaad karaa denaa: to remind; ijaazat: permission; dafnaanaa: to bury: so jaanaa: to sleep.

In 2005, Asha Bhonsle in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet reprised several of her old songs as a tribute to her late husband R.D. Burman in the album You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman’s Bollywood. In recognition of her work on this album, Asha received her second Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary World Music. When asked to name her favorite song from the album, she said it was meraa kuchh saamaan because it “is very close to my heart as it transports me back into time when I was with Pancham.” (Source).

 -Mr. 55

Kar Chale Hum Fida Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Haqeeqat soldier's child photo

A fallen soldier carries a photo of his son during the Indo-China War of 1962 portrayed in the epic film Haqeeqat (1964)

Happy Independence Day, India! To celebrate this day, we recall the sacrifice and service of our men in uniform through the poetic call to action, “Kar Chale Hum Fida,” from the great war film Haqeeqat (1964). Starring Dharmendra, Jayant, Priya Rajvansh, and Balraj Sahni, Haqeeqat was the first film of its kind to bring audiences straight to the battlefield through the eyes of Indian soldiers (an obvious inspiration for its successful modern interpretation Border in 1997). Director Chetan Anand tells a self-described “mosaic” of a war freshly lost by India, but inspires confidence in the morale-shattered audiences with moving heroism and romance. Set in the ethereal realm of Ladakh along the border of India and China, Haqeeqat revives our hopes for the future of the still growing nation and glorifies the righteousness of Indian values even when defeated. The enemy are seen as scrawny, primitive beings with a limited vocabulary while the Indian fighters are tall, gorgeous, eloquent, and noble. Haqeeqat, meaning “reality,” portrays the real losses of the Indian army, complete with stunning battle re-enactments across the Himalayas, however, the poignancy of the film is how it turns losing a war with honor into a vastly more important moral victory.

“Kar Chale Hum Fida” bears a different kind of optimism than the “Mera Joota Hai Japani” anthem of post-independence India–an outlook now tempered by the marvels of technological and cultural advances with which the nascent country sought to keep pace and by the very real threat of encroaching communism. The song classically depicts the motherland as a new bride to be defended and death as a welcome sacrifice to preserve her honor. With godlike bravery and fortitude that surmounts all obstacles, the soldiers in “Kar Chale Hum Fida” transcend from life to death, from idealistic to divine. Hope is derived from the constant refrain that entrusts the responsibility of the nation to the next generation. Written in a flash of inspiration at 1 AM by Kaifi Azmi, the song’s tune arrived equally serendipitously to composer Madam Mohan the same night and was recorded the next morning.

Haqeeqat soldier death wife daydream editing sequence

The brilliant montage of a soldier’s death with his wife turning off their bedroom lamp in Haqeeqat (1964). Trace each shot and its mis-en-scene carefully from left to right to understand the genius of this editing sequence.

Before we further discuss the lyrics to what I believe is certainly one of Kaifi Azmi’s most beautiful poems, I need to talk about a moment earlier in the film that is one of the greatest moments in film history. Note that I wrote “film history,” not merely “Bollywood film history.” This sequence is incredible and deserves a full essay. There are some moments in the human experience that can only truly be expressed through the medium of film. These are rare and a gift to any director. Most stories can be well told in prose or acted in a theatre, but the true magic of cinema lives in moments like these that fuel a film director’s dreams. In this case, film editing is the star, the juxtaposition of distinct images harkens back to Soviet montage theory when filmmakers were first exploring the possibilities of the medium. Let’s walk through this together:

Ram Swaroop plays a soldier sent to the border with a tiny boxful of earth and seeds that his young bride tells him to plant in the barren lands of Ladakh. But he is wounded mortally in the crossfire and falls on his side to the ground in a medium close-up. CUT: A reverse shot* of his wife on their bed reaching to the lamp. She flicks the light off. CUT: Reverse reaction shot of Swaroop lying on the battlefield, he smiles at her. CUT: She smiles in return, flirtatiously switching the lamp back on. She turns it off again and moves closer to him. Her eyes close as if to sleep. CUT: A gunshot is heard and Swaroop falls dead in a close-up. CUT: Wide-shot of a Chinese soldier standing over Swaroop’s body with a warm gun. CUT: Close-up of the box of earth his wife had given to him, flung to the side.

What does it mean? In 2015, we take so much about film and our common constructs for granted. Here, a man and a woman completely separated by time and space are juxtaposed back-to-back and we as an audience immediately understand what is happening. How extraordinary, if you think about it. Swaroop is imagining that he sees his wife, recalling an earlier memory of them lying together in bed. We recognize that he is dying and the symbolism of her lamp flicking on-and-off is suddenly clear. When her lamps turns off and she falls asleep, he will never awaken. It is a tantalizing moment as we are both fearful of this inevitable poetic death, but also hypnotized by her flirtatious smile and playfulness with the light. The brilliance of the editing transports us suddenly from the cold battlefield to the warmth of a bedroom and the intimacy of a couple in love. It’s a reminder of what wars are truly being fought for. We want him to join her almost as much as we need him to remain alive. The close-up of earth after Swaroop’s murder assumes the wife’s logical next position in the editing of the sequence, invoking the classic symbolism of India as a new bride whose honor is worth dying for. This is the only medium that has the power to capture this. Take a second for me with this absolutely stunning sequence and just appreciate film–film as a medium, film as poetry.

*Note: For the film nerds among us, you’ll note that the shot of Swaroop’s wife is not technically a “reverse shot.” Classical Hollywood cinema and the 180 degree principle of continuity editing tells us that for a true reverse shot, the eye lines of the subjects must match (ie. his wife’s head should in principle be on the right looking to the left), a construct with which Chetan Anand is exceedingly familiar and employed throughout the film. However, he brilliantly chose to break this rule and instead mirrors (both literally and figuratively) the shot preceding it, thus presenting an entirely alternative reality rather than a simple continuation of ideas. Am I too obsessed?

Haqeeqat Prime Minister Nehru

Though criticized for his failure to anticipate Chinese attacks, Prime Minister Nehru himself blesses us with a brief cameo derived from archival footage in the delightfully pro-Indian government film Haqeeqat (1964).

Sorry for that huge stream of consciousness, but the filmmaker in me had to rave (as I simultaneously wipe away tears of appreciation). MOVING ON. Like the heart-wrenching “Aye Mere Watan Ki Logon,” “Kar Chale Hum Fida” effectively celebrates heroism rather than dwell on military strategic failures. We hope you remember some of the men and women in uniform in your life today as we celebrate their sacrifices with the lyrics and English translation of “Kar Chale Hum Fida” below. The video to follow along can be found here. Enjoy!

Kar Chale Hum Fida Lyrics and Translation:

Kar chale hum fidaa jaan-o-tan saathiiyo
We are finished sacrificing our lives and bodies, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Saa.Ns thamtii gayii, nabz jamti gayii, phir bhi baDhte qadam ko na rukhne diyaa
Our breaths kept halting, our pulses kept congealing, but we did not allow our advancing footsteps to pause
KaT gaye sar hamaare to kuch gham nahii.N, sar Himaalaya ka humne na jhukne diyaa
If our heads were cut, we felt no sorrow, for we did not allow the head of the Himalayas to bow
Marte marte rahaa baa.Nkpan saathiiyo
As we died, our chivalry remained, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Zindaa rahne ke mausam bahut hai.N magar jaan dene ki rut roz aati nahii.N
There are many seasons to live, however, the time to give your life does not come every day
Husn aur ishq dono.N ko ruswaa kare woh jawaanii jo khoo.N mei.N nahaatii nahii.N
What displeases beauty and love are youth that do not bathe in blood
Aaj dhartii bani hai dulhan saathiiyo
Today the earth became our bride, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Raah qurbaniyo.N kii na viraan ho, tum sajaate hii rehnaa naaye qaafile
Let the path of sacrifice not become barren, you must continue to adorn it with new processions
Fateh ka jashn is jashn ke baad hai zindagii maut se mil rahii hai.N gale
The celebration of victory is after this victory in which life and death are embracing
Baa.Ndh lo apne sar se qafan saathiiyo
Tie the funeral shroud upon your heads, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Khe.Nch do apne khuu.N se zameen par lakeer,* is taraf aane paaye na Raavan koi
Draw out a line upon this earth with your blood and do not let any demons come this way
ToD do haath agar haath uThne lage, chuu.N na paaye na Sitaa kaa daaman koii
Break the enemy’s hand if his hand raises [against you] and let no one dishonor Sita
Raam bhi tum, tum hii Lakshman saathiiyo.N
You are both Ram and Lakshman, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions

Kar chale hum fidaa jaan-o-tan saathiiyo
We are finished sacrificing our lives and bodies, companions
Ab tumhaare hawaale watan saathiiyo.N
Now we entrust the country to you, companions


kar chalnaa: to depart; fidaa: sacrifice; jaan: life; tan: body; saathii: companion; [kisi ke] hawaale: [in someone’s] care; watan: country; saa.Ns: breath; thhamnaa: to stop; nabz: pulse; jamnaa: to solidify, to freeze; baDhnaa: to advance; qadam: footsteps; [kisi ko] rukhne diyaa: to allow [something] to stop; kaT; cut; sar: head; gham: sorrow; Himaalaay: Himalayan mountains; jhuknaa: to bow; marnaa: to die; baa.Nkpan: chivalry; zindaa rehnaa: to remain living; mausam: season; rut: time, season; roz: every day; husn: beauty; ishq: love; ruswaa: disgrace; jawaanii: youth; khoo.N: blood; nahaanaa: to bathe; dhartii: earth; dulhan: bride; raah: path; qurbaanii: sacrifice; viraa.N: barren, wasteland; sajaanaa: to decorate; qaafile: gathering, procession; fateh: victory; jashn: celebration; [kisi ke] baad: after [something]; maut: death; gale milnaa: to embrace; baa.Ndhnaa: to tie; qafan: funeral shroud; khe.Nchnaa: to pull, to draw; zameen: earth; lakeer: line; taraf: side, toward; raavaan: mythological demon of the Ramayan; toDnaa: to break; haath: hand; uThnaa: to raise; chuu.Nnaa: to touch (in this sense, referring to the dishonorable act of touching Sita’s garments); Sitaa: Queen of Ayodha, wife of Lord Rama; [kisi ka] daaman: end of [someone’s] skirt or garment, [someone’s] company; Raam: Lord Ram, King of Ayodha; Lakshman: brother of Ram, entrusted to protect Sita in the Ramayan

*This is a reference to the ancient myth of the Ramayana in which Lord Rama draws a white circle in the ground through which his enemy, Ravana, cannot pass. As long as his wife Sita, the embodiment of Indian womanhood, remained behind this line, she would remain safe (of course, she is tricked into leaving it or we wouldn’t have a story). Lakshman, Rama’s brother, protects Sita at her side while Rama is away. Both brothers, the offense and defense, are critical to preserving Sita’s honor in the Ramayana.


At the end of Haqeeqat (1964), the film fades to black over the battle-scarred face of a younger generation with the words, “THE END IS NOT YET.” Bold move, title card designer guy. Bold move.

This song is dedicated to my late grandfather, a Major-General in the Indian Army, who became an orphan at the age of 12, survived the Partition of India in 1947, fought on the fronts of the Indo-China War of 1962, and received the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal for his service in the Corps of Military Intelligence during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. He eventually retired with 3 children and 5 grandchildren who still strive to be as elegant and brave a human being as him.

– Mrs. 55

A Guide to the Instruments of Old Bollywood Film Music: from Hindustani to Western (and everything in-between)

Madan Mohan recording studio orchestra

Music director Madan Mohan in his studio circa. 1960s. How many different instruments can you spot in this photo?

Ever find yourself listening to Bollywood film music and feel like your brain is exploding in ecstasy from the rainbow of instruments striking your tympanic membranes? We know the feeling. The history of Bollywood film music goes much deeper than the playback singers who lived in limelight. The incredible talents of Hindi film music directors and musicians are responsible for the compositions we love today. Their risks and creativity were a gift to generations of music-lovers. Without composer Naushad defying his parents to play the harmonium “live” for silent films in the 1930s or R.D. Burman’s daring musical ingenuity in his break-out film Teesri Manzil, Bollywood music as we know it would be radically different.

To truly understand the brilliance of the men and women who shaped Hindi film music, we must learn their tools. From traditional Indian instruments that date to the Vedic age to the orchestral forerunners of Europe to the unsung instruments of Brazil and Africa, the rich mediums of Bollywood music wrote their own rules. We have created a Beginner’s Guide to the Instruments of Classic Hindi Films for whether you’re a newcomer to Bollywood or a veteran, the innovation of these songs and their mechanisms will stun you. To simplify, we divided the instruments into rough categories with several of our favorite examples and links to videos and song translations beneath. And if you ever wonder which instrument was played in a particular song, refer back to this guide for the answer!

A Beginner’s Guide to the Instruments of Classic Hindi Films

String Instruments

Banjo: A plucked 4-5 string instrument with origins in Africa that traveled to America around the 18th century with African-American traditional music and became a staple of country and folk genres.

Ignore how uncomfortable the heroine’s Stockholm Syndrome makes you, and enjoy Meena Kumari’s decent impression of someone who knows how to play the banjo in the film Azaad. This is the only instance of this instrument’s prominent use in a film song that I know. If you have heard others, please leave a comment!

Kitna Haseen Hai Mausam (Azaad 1955)

Cello: A bass 4-stringed instrument dating back to 17th century Italy, the large cello is held against the seated cellist and traditionally played with a horsehair bow.

Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai (Kati Patang 1970)

Zindagi Ke Safar Mein (Aap Ki Kasam 1973)

Kuch To Log Kahenge (Amar Prem 1972)

Panna Ki Tammana (Heera Panna 1973)

Meri Bheegi Bheegi Si (Anamika 1973)

Guitar: A typically 6-string instrument with European roots with a multitude of incarnations, from acoustic to electric, that have influenced every genre from hard rock to reggae.

Bollywood film music saw a revolution with guitar use from the more acoustic versions a la “Tadbeer Se Bigdhi Hui” in the early 50s to the electric guitar riots of the 60s such as in the jolting opening of “Aaja Aaja” from Teesri Manzil (1966).

Aaja Aaja Main Hoon Pyaar Tera (Teesri Manzil 1966)

Chura Liya Hai (Yaadon Ki Baraat 1973)

Ajeeb Dastan Hai Yeh (Dil Apna Aur Preet Parai 1960)

Tadbeer Se Bigdi Hui (Baazi 1951)

Rulake Gaya Sapna Mera (Jewel Thief 1967)

Mandolin: An evolution from the lute family around 17th century Italy with traditionally 4 courses of double strings that feature prominently in classical European music.

This instrument has had a diverse role in Hindi film music–from an instrument of seduction in C.I.D. (1956) to one of tragedy in “Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki.” Fun fact: the mandolin that is featured in the interlude music “Achaji Main Hari” was played by Laxmikant and Manoharida themselves!

Kahin Pe Nigahen Kahin Pe Nishana (C.I.D 1956)

Achaji Main Hari Chalo (Kala Pani 1958)

Tum Bin Jaoon Kahan (Pyar Ka Mausam 1969)

Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki (Dulari 1949)

Santoor: An ancient Kashmiri instrument of 72-strings that are struck with special mallets and heard in traditional Sufi hymns and folk music of Northern India.

The beautiful, reflective santoor is prominent in many Bollywood films, often as a gentle romantic hint in the score during dialogue or first encounters with love. A great example is in “Mere Mehboob Tujhe” where the santoor is allowed to muse solo as the hero recalls his meeting with a mysterious woman for whom he now searches.

Aye Dil-e-Nadan (Razia Sultan 1983)

Sajna Hai Mujhe (Saudagar 1973)

Mere Mehboob Tujhe (Mere Mehboob 1963)

Sarangi: A bowed short-neck stringed instrument famed in Hindustani classical music for its close imitation of the human voice.

I often associate the sarangi with its great performances in courtesan songs. No better example is the hypnotizing opening of Pakeezah‘s immortal “Chalte Chalte.” The sarangi is a very evocative instrument, conjuring unimaginable sadness as in “Do Hanson Ka JoDa” or a lovely shyness in “Dil Cheez Kya Hai.”

Chalte Chalte (Pakeezah 1972)

Saranga Teri Yaad Mein (Saranga 1961)

Do Hanson Ka Joda (Ganga Jamuna 1961)

Dil Cheez kya Hai (Umrao Jaan 1981)

Aansuu Bhari Hai (Parvarish 1958)

Sarod: A lute-like instrument from Afghanistan that rose to prominence in the Mughal courts.

Like the santoor, the sarod often appears in the film’s score outside of a full-blown song-and-dance sequence. The sarod is highly versatile–when played quickly it can denote excitement and movement, and when plucked slowly it can pull at your heart strings. The mesmerizing battle between sitar and sarod in “Madhuban Mein Radhika” demonstrates this instrument’s power to take your breath away!

Madhuban Mein Radhika (Kohinoor 1960)

Man Re Tu Kahe (Chitralekha 1964)

Suno Chhoti Si Gudiya (Seema 1955)

Sitar: An 18-20 string plucked instrument synonymous with Hindustani classical music that influenced the Western pop world in the 1960s when adopted by The Beatles and Rolling Stones.

The ethereal sitar helped bring Hindustani music to the international stage. Used often in Hindi films to denote the gentle falling of rain (a famous Ravi Shankar composition in Satyajit Ray’s Pathar Panchali captures this brilliantly), sitar music is a classic Bollywood backbone.

O Sajna Barkha (Parakh 1960)

Hum Tere Pyar Mein Saara Aalam (Dil Ek Mandir 1963)

Chandan Sa Badan (Saraswatichandra 1968)

Tere Bina Zindagi Se (Aandhi 1975)

Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (Aap Ki Kasam 1974)

Tanpura: A 4-string instrument to accompany a Hindustani classical vocalist that does not play a melody, but rather provides a harmonic drone throughout the piece.

The beauty of the tanpura is in its relative simplicity. The singer plucks four strings in order continuously, allowing them to focus on their vocal composition while maintaining harmony. Listen carefully for its deep drone in the background of many classical and semi-classical songs!

Duniya Na Bhaaye (Basant Bahar 1956)

Man Tarpat Hari Dar (Baiju Bawra 1952)

Sukh Ke Sab Saathi (Gopi 1970)

Violin: A highly popular bowed 4-string instrument with roots in 16th century Italy that has had global impact, including in orchestral performances of Hindi film music.

Violins are an integral part of film music orchestration. I’ve listed several songs that highlight its use as a solo instrument, or more commonly as part of a large orchestra seen in numerous Hindi film songs from the 1950s onwards (the famous opening of “Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua” being but one of dozens).

Ek Pyar Ka Naghma (Shor 1972)

Mujhe Kisi Se Pyar (Barsaat 1949)

Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe (Kanyadaan 1968)

Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua (1955)

Karvaten Badalte Rahe (Mere Jeevan Saathi 1972)

Wind Instruments

Bansuri: An ancient flute-like instrument with a history dating back to the myths of Lord Krishna and Radha, the bansuri is made from a single shaft of bamboo with 6-7 holes and is associated with pastoral compositions of India.

The lonely bansuri is a common instrument of Hindi films denoting a tragedy, a philosophical side-note, or a quiet village scene. The bansuri of “Chingari Koi Bhadke” represents the second of these themes and will never fail to transport you to a different world of exoticism.

Chingari Koi Bhadke (Amar Prem 1972)

Chahoonga Main Tujhe (Dosti 1964)

Piya Bina (Abhiman 1973)

Na Koi Umang Hai (Kati Patang 1970)

Been (Pungi): An instrument fashioned from a gourd and two reed pipes, the been is the traditional instrument of snake charmers and popular in folk music of South Asia.

The good old been is one of pop cultures favorite instruments, yet is actually only a prominent player in a few classic Bollywood songs. The landmark, of course, is Nagin (1954) where “Man Dole Mera Tan Dole” made been music popular even outside the crowds who gather for snake charmers.

Man Dole Mera Tan Dole (Nagin 1953)

Ek Pardesi Mera Dil Le Gaya (Phagun 1958)

Parde Mein Rehne Do (Shikar 1968)

Western concert flute: A popular sideblown woodwind instrument that dates back to the 11th century Byzantine Empire and is commonly heard in bands and orchestras.

I love how the flute has been used in Hindi film music. Rethink how you’ve always imagined the flute and take a listen to the evocative solo the opens “Ja Re Ja Re Udi Ja Re Panchi” or the seductive twist of the key flute in “Aao Na Gale Lagalo Na”!

Ja Re Ja Re Udi Ja Re Panchi (Maya 1961)

Ruk Ja O Janewali Ruk Ja (Kanhaiya 1959)

Aao Na Gale Lagalo Na (Mere Jeevan Saathi 1972 – key flute)

O Haseena Zulfonwali Jane (Teesri Manzil 1966)

Harmonica: First appearing in Vienna in the 19th century, the easily portable hand-held harmonica has influenced artists from Blues and jazz genres.

Harmonica plays an important role in classic Bollywood film music, often played by optimistic young heroes with a song in their heart despite having great odds against them.

Jaanewalo Zara (Dosti 1964)

Hai Apna Dil To Awara (Solva Saal 1958)

Mere Sapno Ki Rani (Aradhana 1969)

Saxophone: Fashioned in brass originally in Belgium in the 19th century, the edgy saxophone is a key member of jazz and marching bands.

I was first alerted to the presence of saxophones when I heard the haunting and unexpected interlude music of “Awaaz Deke” (Professor 1962).  Interestingly, I’ve found that in Hindi film music (due in large part to maestro Manohari Singh whose soprano sax sets your heart on fire in “Mehbooba Mehbooba”), it is just as often as a jazzy party-starter as an edgy bridge toward tragedy.

Awaaz Deke (Professor  1962)

Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar (Kati Patang 1970)

Aage Bhi Jaane Na Tu (Waqt 1965)

Roop Tera Mastana (Aradhana 1969)

Mehbooba mehbooba (Sholay 1975)

Shehnai: A traditional South Asian instrument known for its auspicious melodies at weddings and processions.

This lovely, but almost invariably tragic-sounding instrument is a staple of wedding scenes. The opening shehnai of “Babul Ki Duaaen” feels as if someone is crying, reflecting the sadness of a father’s loss. One of the more innovative melodies I’ve heard with shehnai is in the song “Chal Ri Sajni” (and incidentally among the most perfectly filmed and edited sequences in Bollywood history, but that’s another story…)

Babul Ki Duae.N Leti Jaa (Neel Kama 1968)

Kabhi Kabhi (Kabhi Kabhi 1976,  interlude after ghughat utaa raha hoon main)

Chal Ri Sajni Ab Kya Soche (Bombai Ka Babu 1960)

Trumpet: 3 piston-valves are the hallmark of this 15th century European instrument which has influenced jazz, Latin, and pop music alike.

While a more limited role in Hindi film music, the trumpet moved strictly cabaret club numbers to the beautiful opening of “Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli” where the lifting trumpet solo carries our hopes to the sky with it.

Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli (Anand 1971)

Zuby Zuby Jalembu (An Evening in Paris 1967)

Patli Kamar Hai (Barsaat 1949)

Haal Kaisa Janab Ka (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi 1958)


Bongo-Conga: Afro-Cuban drums (consisting of the smaller hand-held bongos and the larger barrel congas) that are backbones of Latin music, Afro-Cuban jazz, and the mambo music that swept 1950s United States.

Wanna know why “O Mere Dil Ke Chain” is your favorite Rajesh Khanna song and your heart races every time it plays? It’s not (just) his perfect face, it’s the Bongo-Conga! This exotic and uber-fun percussion instrument translates effortlessly from living room romance to an outdoor gypsy party.

O Mere Dil Ke Chain (Mere Jeevan Saathi 1972)

Dilbar Dil Se Pyaare (Caravan 1971)

Gum Hai Kisise Pyar (Rampur Ka Lakshman 1972)

Castanets: A distinct handheld instrument commonly associated with the Spanish Sevillanas folk dance that is played by clicking two small wooden shells together in a quick rattle.

Once you hear this sound in a song, you’ll never forget it. More popular in Bollywood songs of the 50s and early 60s, the castanets add a playful nuance on top of the base percussion provided by a different instrument.

Tere Sur Aur Mere Geet (Goonj Uthi Shehnai 1959)

Yeh Chand Sa Roshan Chehra (Kashmir Ki Kali 1964)

Door Gagan Ki Chaaon (Door Gagan Ki Chaaon Mein 1964)

Aaiye Meharbaan (Howrah Bridge 1958)

Mora Gora Ang Laile (Bandini 1963)

Madal: A hand-drum used in Nepali folk music that made its debut in Bollywood under music director R.D. Burman and Ranjjit Gazmer in the 1970s.

The madal has a fuller more rounded tone than the tabla or bongo, lending itself well to rustic scenes. It was featured heavily in the destination film “Hare Rama Hare Krishna”!

Hum Dono Do Premi (Ajnabee 1974)

Kanchi Re Kanchi Re (Hare Rama Hare Krishna 1971)

Dhol: A exciting Panjabi instrument famous for its influence on bhangra music, the dhol (and its family members the dholak and dholki) is a double-headed drum featured in genres from pop to qawwali.

The dhol is a great instrument for dancing and some of the best Bollywood choreography has featured the upbeat dhol. If you ever doubted Vijayantimala’s rumored legendary dance skills, just watch and listen to the end of “Honton Pe Aisi Baat” with the mind-boggling dhol spinning circles around the other instruments.

Chadti Jawani (Caravan 1971)

Honton Pe Aisi Baat (Jewel Thief 1965)

Jhumka Gira Re (Mera Saaya 1966)

Yamma Yamma (1980)

Jai Jai Shiv Shankar (Aap Ki Kasam 1973)

Duggi: A traditional Uttar Pradesh kettle drum in the tabla family played with two hands.

Popularized by Bollywood musician Homi Mullan, this percussion instrument creates a more rounded tone than the tabla, but is a perfect pastoral compliment to “Ni Sultana Re” as well as the sultry domestic “Bahon Mein Chale Aao.”

Ni Sultana Re (Pyar Ka Mausam 1969)

Bahon Mein Chale Aao (Anamika 1973)

Roop Tera Mastana (Aradhana 1969)

Dekha Na Haye Re Socha Na (Bombay to Goa 1972)

Ghatam (Matka): An ancient percussion instrument from South India, the ghatam is a clay pot with a narrow mouth and is played with bare hands.

It doesn’t get any more traditional than the ghatam, but R.D. Burman figured out how to use it an as unconventional ways as possible. Bet you wouldn’t have guessed that the percussion of hipster hit “Samne Yeh Kaun Aaya” came from a clay pot?

Samne Yeh Kaun Aaya (Jawani Diwani)

Are Kaise Mitti Ki Maadho (Imaan 1974)

Muttu Kudi (Do Phool 1974)

Reco Reco (Reso Reso): A scraped percussion instrument with a distict sound with origins in Brazilian music.

The reco reco is basically a party in a box! The distinct rhythm it creates adds spice to every song that is bold enough to utilize it. Watch how Kishore Kumar in a hilarious scene from Padosan lipsyncs his own actual recorded voice while playing the Reco Reco (who is in turn lipsynced by Sunil Dutt!) in “Mere Samnewali Khidki Mein.”

Mere Samnewali Khidki Mein (Padosan 1968)

Mere Naina Saawan Bhado (Mehbooba 1976)

Mera Naam Hai Shabnam (Kati Patang 1970)

Tabla: A pair of hand drums used commonly in Hindustani classic music composed of two distinct drums with differing roles for each hand.

This is one of the most common percussion instruments used in old Hindi songs and is always to go-to when all else fails. I once took tabla lessons, but quit after 2 weeks because my guru insisted I needed to cut my nails shorter to play the instrument correctly. He was right, of course, but there are sacrifices I’m not willing to make!

Sanam Tu Bewafa (Khilona 1970)

Jurm-e-Ulfat Pe (Taj Mahal 1963)

Baiyan Na Daro (Dastak 1970)

Jaag Dard-e-Ishq (Anarkali 1953)

Inhi Logon Ne (Pakeezah 1971)

Western Drum Kit: A collection of instruments often including a bass drum, a snare drum, and one or more cymbals that became popular with jazz bands in the early 20th century and ushered in rock-and-roll.

Rock-and-roll and nightclub bands have long been a part of Hindi film traditions and the Western drum kit hit the screen with a literal bang, and usually accompanied by a song better suited for “modern” audiences.

Dil Deke Dekho (Dil Deke Dekho 1959)

Ina Mina Dika (Aasha 1957)

Baar Baar Dekho (Chinatown 1962)

Tumne Mujhe Dekha (Teesri Manzil 1966)

Nain Milakar Chain Churana (Aamne Samne 1967)


Accordion: Believed to have been invented in Berlin in the early 19th century, the accordion, like the harmonium, is played by compressing the instrument’s bellows with one hand while playing keys with the other hand.

The accordion produces a harsher sound than the harmonium, but is often more exciting as in the epic performance in “Anhoni Ko Honi” or the drama-filled “Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega”!

Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega (Sangam 1964)

Awaara Hoon (Awaara 1951)

Sab Kuch Seeka Humne (Anari 1959)

Anhoni Ko Honi Karde (Amar Akbar Anthony 1977)

Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan (Mera Naam Joker 1970)

Heavy Breathing and Grunting: An R.D. Burman signature that marks any classic Bollywood song as particularly racy and is served by both men and women with an extra scoop of awkward sauce.

Yeah, I had to throw this in. Don’t pretend like it doesn’t exist, and definitely don’t pretend that you don’t love it. Awkward breathing and grunting nosies are a strange but important hallmark of many of our favorite classic Bollywood cabaret numbers. They really just have to be heard to understand (and to believe). Now before you start to blush, these noises are actually pretty complicated to make–it takes great breathing control and just the right amount of oomph. Seriously, try these exercises at home when no one’s around to judge. You’ll give your lungs a run for their money!

Piya Tu Ab To Aaja (Caravan 1971)

Duniya Mein Logon Ko (Apna Desh 1972)

Mera Naam Hai Shabnam (Kati Patang 1970)

Aa Jaane Ja (Intaqam 1969)

Lekar Hum Deewana Dil (Yaadon Ki Baraat 1973)

Harmonium: A type of hand-pumped accordion often used as melodic accompaniment in Hindustani vocals as well as qawwali and folk music.

The harmonium is one of Hindustani classical music’s best modern friends and a great accompanist to everything from a layman’s love ode (a la “Bahut Shukriya”) to semi-classical qawwalis (as seen in Nutan’s one-man-show “Nigahen Milane”).

Leke Pehla Pehla Pyaar (C.I.D. 1956)

Bahut Shukriya (Ek Musafir Ek Hasina 1962)

Nigahen Milane Ko (Dil Hi To Hai 1963)

Kajra Mohabbatwala (Kismat 1968)

Yashomati Maiya Se (Satyam Shivam Sundaram 1978)

Manjira: A small pair of hand cymbals that traditionally accompanied bhajans with roots in ancient temple music.

Although manjira are traditionally used as accompaniments to bhajans, I ADORE how they were used in the romantic “Chhupa Lo Yun Dil” to underscore the devotional imagery to a couple’s love for each other.

Chhupa Lo Yun Dil Mein (Mamta 1966)

Na Main Dhan Chaahoon (Kala Bazaar 1960)

Kanhaiya Kanhaiya Tujhe Aana Padega (Maalik 1972)

Piano: One of the world’s most familiar musical instruments, the piano is played through a keyboard that strikes strings connected to a soundboard.

You’ll be the classiest guy in the room if you can burst into song with your own piano accompaniment at a party. Or so classic Bollywood tells us. Piano songs are essentially their own genre in the world of Hindi films. Once the piano comes out, it gets fancy and emotional in a hurry.

Pyar Diwana Hota Hai (Kati Patang 1970)

Dil Ke Jharoke Mein (Brahmachari 1968)

Aji Rooth Kar Ab (Aarzoo 1965)

Dheere Dheere Machal (Anupama 1966)

Dost Dost Na Raha (Sangam 1964)

Shankh (conch shell): An ancient instrument fashioned from the shells of large snails that are typically featured in Hindu religious hymns.

This occasionally heard instrument is usually only found in highly religious songs, but can also be heardwhen our heroes make a trip to a temple or when someone is praying for justice in the world. A powerful example comes during the climax of aarti in Purab Aur Paschim!

Om Jai Jagdish (Purab Aur Paschim 1970)

Mose Mora Shaam Roota (Johnny Mera Naam 1970)

What a whirlwind! We hope our introductory guide to the instruments of old Bollywood is a useful tool as you immerse yourself in the incredibly diverse music of our favorite films! All I have to say after reviewing my list is that I really could have used more cowbell.

Just kidding (in fact, listen to “Kitne Bhi Tu Kar Le Sitam” from Sanam Teri Kasam for some actual Bollywood cowbell action). What other instruments played in your favorite classic Bollywood songs have we left off our list? Leave us a comment with an old film song you wish you knew more about and we’ll try to tell you which instruments are featured!

-Mrs. 55