The 15 Best Bollywood Rain Songs: Evolution of a Classic Genre

Rajesh Khanna and Rakhee Rain Song Bollywood

Rajesh Khanna and Rakhee express their sizzling love in the rain in Shehzada (1972).

It’s monsoon season again in India and, naturally, love is sparkling in the air. At last we present our list of the best rain songs from classic Bollywood! We all adore these moments–the iconic cuddling beneath an umbrella, the splashing around in a wet garden, or of course, Zeenat Aman in a drenched saari. It seems now that singing in the rain is the epitome of Bollywood romance, and a marvelous way to introduce a new song. But this phenomena did not occur overnight, and indeed, the meaning of rain itself in a film has shifted over the years with shifting cultural expectations. Let’s take a look at rain songs in Bollywood over the years!

Shree 420 Raj Kapoor Nargis Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua Rain Song Bollywood

Raj Kapoor and Nargis huddle close together beneath an umbrella in Shree 420 (1955).

We being in the earlier days of cinematic magic. As India awoke to freedom and liberty in the 1950s, so too did the country rapidly begin to shift gears away from pure agriculture and toward industrialization. Many of the best rain songs from that era embody a sense of wonder in urban environments and, matching the film censorship boards, an innocent just-got-struck-by love. In these songs, rain seems to act as that enchantment in the air–that driving force bringing a loved one into contact or sight. Rain too acted as that shimmering veil of restraint that both parties hesitate to cross. “Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhaagi Si” from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958) is one of the most beloved rain songs of that era!

Raj Kapoor Dum Dum Diga Diga Chhalia

Raj Kapoor prances about the city streets singing “Dum Dum Diga Diga” from Chhalia (1960).

With the advent of the 60s, came a new meaning of being caught in a rainstorm. No longer was rain an innocent effector of love at first sight, but rather a clever and well-understood pretext for full out passion. To clarify, by passion, I mean, symbolic wet dancing that means much more than actual physical contact. The Bollywood rain songs of the 60s exude a sense of joy, independence and confidence. The onset of a rainstorm had an understood implication for overt displays of affection that both parties are eager to demonstrate. Say hello to bouffant hairdos, tight and wet salwar qameezes, and men doing some very special attempts at a courtship dance.

Shammi Kapoor Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam Mala Sinha

Shammi Kapoor and Mala Sinha get drenched in Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam (1960)

Gone were the days of “Do Bigha Zameen” style agricultural celebration! While the setting of the village recurred, rain ceased to be a blessing for economic survival–instead, it brought the blessing of love between newly liberated men and woman of a new age. Check out our translation of “O Sajna Barkha Bahar” from Parakh (1960) and listen how music directors cleverly incorporated native Indian instruments into creating the sounds and moods of rain. Indeed, the trickling melodies of sitar have graced the introductions of many a great rain sequence–even famously with Ravi Shankar’s solo for Satyajit Rai’s Aparajito!

Asha Parekh Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke

Dressed as a village belle, Asha Parekh delights in the first rain of the season in “Aaya Sawan Jhoom Ke” (1969).

At last the 70s arrived, and the Bollywood rain song explored new territory. Yes, Zeenat Aman in a wet white saari is crossing some obvious lines and certainly deserves a mention on this list, but the rain song did not merely degenerate into a male fantasy. Instead, as the political atmosphere changed, the rain song adopted a meaning to suit its people. With government dissatisfaction in the air, rain songs were (while maintaining something of a romantic undertone), also a means of escape and hope.

Jeetendra Haye Re Haye Humjoli

Jeetendra and Leena Chandavarkar exhibit some of the strangest and wildest dance moves to date in the famous rain love song of Humjoli (1970)

Did you know in the early days of cinema, rain scenes were not actually filmed in the rain? Because of the nature of unforgiving black-and-white film stock, even heavy pounding natural rain does not appear clearly in the camera–much less the gentle puhaare of many a romantic Bollywood setting. As such, the production staff needed to literally dump buckets of water or spray dozens of hoses above the set for “rain” to actually appear so on screen! So the next time you watch these songs, just imagine the total chaos going on outside the frame among the frantic, water-pouring production assistants!

Zeenat Aman sets the rain on fire in “Haye Haye Yeh Majboori” from Shor (1972).

But enough talk. Now that you know the history, here is our list in chronological order of Bollywood’s greatest rain songs! These all-time classic give an entirely new meaning to “Singin’ in the Rain!”

The Best Rain Songs of Classic Bollywood

  1. Pyar Hua Iqrar Hua (Shree 420 – 1955)
  2. Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi (Chori Chori – 1956)
  3. Ek Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi – 1958)
  4. Dil Tera Deewana Hai Sanam (Dil Tera Deewana – 1960)
  5. Dum Dum Diga Diga (Chhalia -1960)
  6. O Sajna Barkha Bahar Aayi (Parakh -1960)
  7. Rim Jhim Ke Tarane (Kala Bazaar – 1960)
  8. Zindagi Bhar Nahin Bhoolegi (Barsaat Ki Raat – 1960)
  9. Chhup Gaye Saade Nazare (Do Raaste – 1969)
  10. Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke (Aaya Saawan Jhoom Ke – 1969)
  11. Ang Lag Ja Balma (Mera Naam Joker – 1970)
  12. Haye Re Haye (Humjoli – 1970)
  13. Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein (Ajnabi – 1972)
  14. Paani Re Paani (Shor – 1972)
  15. Haye Haye Yeh Majboori (Roti Kapada Aur Makaan – 1974)
Rajesh Khanna Zeenat Aman Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein

Rajesh Khanna cuddles Zeenat Aman to keep warm in the spicy rain song “Bheegi Bheegi Raaton Mein” in Ajnabi (1974).

And there you have it, the 15 best classic Bollywood rain songs over the ages! What are YOUR favorite rain songs from classic Bollywood–and tell us how they’ve influenced your own love stories!

– Mrs. 55

Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar Na Ho Balma Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rajesh Khanna serenades Asha Parekh in one of Hindi cinema’s most treasured boat songs from Kati Patang (1970)

If you’ve been following the latest news about Bollywood stars (as you should be), you might be aware of the fact that Rajesh Khanna has been hospitalized recently for exhaustion and a stomach infection. In light of this news, I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs picturized on the Bombay superstar and send along our best wishes for a speedy recovery. Below, I’ve provided the lyrics and a translation for “jis galii me.n teraa ghar na ho baalma,” a beautiful number sung by Mukesh in Kati Patang (1970).

Mukesh singing for Rajesh Khanna? Blasphemy, you might say. As we all know, Kishore Kumar was officially the playback voice for India’s beloved ‘Kaka,’ and you might hear a pairing with Mohammed Rafi on occasion. But a Mukesh song picturized on Rajesh Khanna, let alone a popular one, is quite rare indeed.

In spite of the unconventional pairing, this song from Kati Patang is an all-time classic that has been cherished by fans of Hindi cinema over the years. The beauty in the simplicity of Anand Bakshi’s lyrics here is striking. Expressing the the theme of selflessness in love, these lyrics are unique when placed into context of the film. Rajesh Khanna’s character uses this song to profess his love for Asha Parekh, a woman pretending to be a widow after fleeing the altar. At a time when societal norms prevented such women from marrying again, using such romantic lyrics to describe the love between a man and an ostensible widow is a bold move. In his inimitable style, Mukesh gives one of his career’s best performances as he sings these lyrics with sincerity and a tinge of melancholy.  To top it all off, R.D. Burman composes a simple, yet touching melody that does justice to the beauty of these lyrics. Enjoy this poignantly crafted declaration of love with our glossary and translation below!

-Mr. 55

Playing the role of a supposed widow, Asha Parekh wears a white sari throughout most of this film.

Jis Gali Mein Tera Ghar Na Ho Balma: Lyrics and Translation

jis galii me.n teraa ghar na ho baalma
Any  street on which your house does not reside
us galii se hame.n to guzarnaa nahii.n
is not a street that I shall traverse.
jo Dagar tere dvaare pe jaatii na ho
Any path that does not lead to your door
us Dagar pe hame.n paa.nv rakhnaa nahii.n
is not a path on which I shall set foot.

zindagii me.n kaii rangraliyaa.n sahii
In my life, there have been many colorful celebrations.
har taraf muskuratii ye kaliyaa.n sahii
In every direction, there are smiling flowerbuds
khuubsurat bahaaro.n kii galiyaa.n sahi
and many beautiful views of springtime.
jis chaman mei.n tere pag me.n kaa.nTe chubhe.n
Yet, the garden in which thorns pierce your feet 
us chaman se hame.n phuul chunnaa nahii.n
is not a garden from which I shall pick flowers.

haa.n ye rasme, ye qasame.n sabhii toD ke
Yes, after having broken these rituals and vows,
tu chalii aa chunar pyaar kii oDh ke
please come to me, flying your scarf of love in the air.
yaa chalaa jaauu.nga mai.n yah jag chhoD ke
Or else, I shall go away and leave this world.
jis jagah yaad terii sataane lage
The place where your memories begin to torture me
us jagah ek pal bhii Thaharana nahii.n
is not a place where I shall spend a single moment.

jis galii me.n teraa ghar na ho baalma
Any  street on which your house does not reside…

Glossary

galii: street, alley; baalma: beloved; Dagar: path; dvaaraa: door; rangraliyaa.n: colorful celebrations; kaliyaa.n: flower buds; chaman: garden; pag: foot; chubhnaa: to pierce; rasm: ritual, ceremony; qasam: vow; chunar: scarf; jag: world; sataanaa: to torture.

Rajesh Khanna charms the audience with his characteristic smile.

This song was filmed on site at Lake Nainital in Uttarakhand, India.

Bollywood’s Beloved Sopranos: Lata and Asha’s Highest Notes

I feel like we’ve all been in this situation at some point: one of your favorite aunties steps up to the microphone at the annual Diwali function, and you have a sinking fear in your heart that she’s going to embarass herself by butchering another Lata classsic on stage. As she struggles through the sky-high notes of the antara, you cringe and ask yourself why you’re here again, subjecting yourself to this torture…

Well, it turns out it’s not entirely her fault. The reality of the situation is that Bollywood songs from the Golden Era tend to be pitched at extremely high scales for the average female singer. Unless a woman is a veritable soprano like Lata Mangeshkar or Asha Bhonsle, it is going to be quite a challenge for them to sing many of the classic songs from this period in their original keys. The high-pitched soprano female voice has become a hallmark of Hindi film music, and I’d like to explore this phenomenon in greater detail with this post.

Two sisters who changed playback singing forever: Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle.

Why are Bollywood songs for females from the Golden Era pitched at astronomically high scales? I don’t know for sure, but I definitely have a few ideas that could explain this trend. First, the high-pitched female voice is consistent with the image of the ideal Indian woman that was prevalent during the 1950s and 60s. The soprano register suggests innocence and purity, which enhanced the traditionally feminine perceptions of heroines advanced by film directors of the time. Lata Mangeshkar  is the ultimate example of this phenomenon; her voice, with its ethereal purity, has been considered the traditional female voice of India for decades. However, this explanation is less pertinent to Lata’s younger sister Asha Bhonsle. The voice of Asha, who was widely known for her experimentation with non-traditional genres such as the cabaret, is not a national emblem of purity in the same way as her elder sister’s. For this reason, an alternative explanation is needed to describe the popularity of the soprano female voice in Bollywood, and I would venture to say that this alternative explanation is rooted in musical origins. Before the arrival of the Mangeshkars onto the filmi musical scene, female singing in Hindi films was dominated by artists with heavy, nasal voices, such as Suraiyya and Shamshad Begum. Once music directors had the opportunity to work with the Mangeshkars, things changed forever: the nasalized heavy female voices were out and the delicate soprano voices were here to stay. After Lata and Asha became established as playback singers, I would argue that  music directors of the time pushed the boundaries of their compositions in terms of range to test and showcase the virtuosity of these two exceptional talents.

Before we take a listen to some of Lata and Asha’s highest highs throughout Bollywood’s musical history, explaining a little bit of musical nitty-gritty is necessary to fully appreciate the gist of what’s going on here. From my experiences with transcribing and performing many songs from this era, I would estimate that the vast majority (perhaps 90%?) of songs composed for Lata and Asha max out at F5 or F#5 (two F/F#’s above middle C on the piano) as their highest note. Therefore, in the brief list  of high notes that I’ve compiled below, I’ve only chosen to include those rare songs that surpass the typical upper limit of  F#5. Songs for both singers are listed in order of ascending pitch of the composition’s highest note.

Keyboard labeled with note names and frequencies. C4 is taken as middle C. The high notes listed here range from G5 to C6.

Lata Mangeshkar: Selected High Notes

 jhuumta mausam mast mahiinaa (Ujala, 1959):  In this Lata-Manna duet composed by Shankar-Jakishan, Lata nails a G5 (taar komal ga in the key of E) when she repeats the “yalla yalla” line in the taar saptak (high octave) at the end.

ajii ruuThkar ab kahaa.n jaayiega?  (Aarzoo, 1965): Shankar-Jaikishan is once again the culprit here: listen as Lata reaches an Ab5 (taar shuddh ma in the key of Eb) in the antara of this gem picturized on Sadhana from Aarzoo. Regarding the high pitch of this song, Lata has said:

“I remember “ajii ruuThkar ab kahaa.n jaayiegaa” in Aarzoo (1965). What a high pitch that was! My ears reddened when I sang it. But I stubbornly sang at that impossible scale, refusing to admit defeat to any range. I would get very angry and sing at any range without complaining. Composers would take full advantage of my silence and keep raising the scale. In fact, I used to have arguments with Jaikishan. I would ask him, “kyaa baat hai, aap merii pariksha le rahe hai.n? mai.ne aap kaa kyaa bigaDaa hai jo aap meraa kaan laal kar rahe hai.n? (What’s the matter? Why are you testing me? What have I done that you should trouble me so much to redden my ears?)’

jiyaa o jiyaa kuch bol do (Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai, 1961): The tandem effect described below with “ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par” is also observed here. Lata gives it her all as she reaches a Ab5 (taar komal ni in the key of Bb) in the antara of the female tandem version of the fun Rafi classic from Jab Pyar Kisi Se Hota Hai.

rasik balmaa (Chori Chori, 1957):  This Raga Shuddh Kalyan-based Shankar-Jakishan composition is one of my all-time favorites! Lata hits a G#5 (taar shuddh ga in the key of E) when she sings the antara.

Nargis in a melancholic mood as she sings “rasik balma” from Chori Chori (1957)

ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par (Junglee, 1961):  The Rafi version of this number is an all-time classic. Although the Lata version is less popular, it is still beautiful in its own right and brings up an interesting point about scales in tandem songs from this era. In almost all cases that I can think of, music directors made the female singer of a tandem song sing her versions in the same key as the male verion. Because men tend to be more comfortable in the higher register of their voices than women, this practice often put the female playback singer at a disadvantage when it came to hitting the highest notes of the composition. But who else would be up for the challenge of adjusting to the “male scale,”  if not Lata Mangeshkar? She hits a G#5 (taar shuddh ga in the key of Ein the antara of this evergreen Shankar-Jakishan composition based in raga Yaman. Regarding the difficulties of singing tandem songs, Lata has remarked:

Actually, “ahsaan teraa hogaa mujh par” was only meant to be sung by Rafi. But the film’s hero, Shammi Kapoor, suddenly decided that the heroine should sing it as well. It was picturised with Rafi’s voice on Saira Banu and later dubbed by me. So I had to sing it in the same sur as Rafi. The same was done with “jiyaa o jiyaa kuch bol do.

tere baadalo.n kii khair (Champakali, 1957): This Bhairavi-based composition composed by Hemant Kumar and picturized on Suchitra Sen is not as well-known as the rest of the songs on this list, but it’s worth mentioning for the A5 (taar ma in the key of E) that Lata hits  at its conclusion.

ahaa rimjhim ke yeh pyaare pyaare geet  (Usne Kaha Tha, 1960):  Salil Chowdhury was known for his incorporation of ideas of Western classical music into his Indian compositions. As an example, he has Lata sing an operatic-style counterpoint passage here in which she reaches an Bb5 (atitaar sa in the key of Bb) against Talat’s rendering of the mukhda at the end of this composition. Subtle, but exquisite!

aa ab laut chale.n (Jis Des Mein Ganga Behti Hai, 1960): Shankar-Jaikishan score another point here with this patriotic composition from Jis Des Mein Ganga Behti Hai. Mukesh and Lata both sing this song, but it is not structured as a prototypical romantic duet. Mukesh takes the main lines while Lata provides a few supporting lines and interesting background vocals, including the virtuosic glide in which she nails an Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Eb) with finesse.

aaja bha.nvar/jhananana jhan baaje paayalia (Rani Roopmati, 1957): Both of these drut bandishes based in Raga Brindavani Sarang and composed by S.N. Tripathi from Rani Roopmati are truly virtuosic by Bollywood standards. Lata sounds so impressive when she nails the Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Bb) at the end of both “aaja bha.nvar” and “jhananana jhan.” In addition to showing off her range, Lata also showcases her classical training and vocal dexterity as she navigates through a host of intricate taans in both songs. I have to say Lata’s virtuosity leaves Rafi in the dust in the duet here (sorry, Mrs. 55!).

Nimmi sings “aaja bhan.var” in Rani Roopmati (1957)


ham ramchandra kii chandrakala me.n bhii
 
(Sampoorna Ramayana,
1961): The Mangeshkar sisters team up here to sing a duet from Sampoorna Ramayana composed by Vasant Desai. It’s somewhat interesting to note that the song here is actually picturized on two pre-pubescent boys, who are receiving playback from female singers. At the end of the song, there is a dramatic ascent in the melody until both sisters climax at a powerful  Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Eb).

ai dil kahaa.n terii manzil
 (Maya, 1961): Salil Chowdhury makes another contribution to our list with this composition rendered by Dwijen Mukherjee (a noted Bengali singer with a voice similar to Hemant Kumar’s) and Lata. Like “aa ab laut chale.n,” this duet is not structured traditionally; rather, Dwijen sings the main lines and Lata provides background support. Lata sounds heavenly as she hits a Bb5 (taar shuddh dha in the key of Db) in one of Salil’s signature opera-inspired vocal passages.

woh ek nigaah kyaa milii 
(Half-Ticket, 1962): To the best of my knowledge, Salil Chowdhury wins the contest for having recorded Lata’s voice at its highest pitch in the history of Bollywood cinema with this composition.  In this duet with Kishore Kumar picturized on Helen, Lata manages to hit  the elusive soprano C6 (taar shuddh dha in the key of Eb) in the second staccato sequence of the interlude played between stanzas. Her voice is so high here that it blends in naturally with the instrumental piccolo parts.  Nailing a staccato passage in the soprano register like this is incredibly impressive for a vocalist trained in the Indian tradition (in which the emphasis is not placed on vocalizing at the extremes of one’s range)–brava, Lata, brava!

Asha Bhonsle: Selected High Notes

sakhii rii sun bole papiihaa us paar (Miss Mary, 1957): You get the opportunity to hear some some sibling rivalry in this Hemant Kumar composition loosely based on Raga Tilang from Miss Mary! Lata (on Meena Kumari) and Asha (on some rando actress I can’t recognize) duke it out at the end with some intricate taans, but Asha actually takes the more complex passages and touches an Ab5 (taar shuddh ma in the key of Eb)in her last taan here. For those keeping score, Lata also hits the same note in her taan right before.

Meena Kumari in a rare non-tragic role in Miss Mary (1957)

dil na kahii.n lagaanaa (Ghunghat, 1960): I hadn’t heard this Ravi composition picturized on Helen before doing research for this post, but it’s quite special. The song is divided into several differents segments with lyrics in four different languages: Hindi, Tamil, Bengali (a cover of Geeta Dutt’s classic “tumi je amar“), and Punjabi. During in an alaap in the final Punjabi segment, Asha manages to hit an A5 (taar shuudh re in the key of G).

tarun aahe ratra ajunii (Non-Film):  This composition by Hridaynath Mangeshkar is a Marathi bhavgeet, so I guess it technically doesn’t belong on the list. Even though I don’t understand the Marathi lyrics, this is one of my favorite Asha songs because the tune and rendition are simply sublime. Here, the line “bagh tula pusatos aahe” begins on Bb3 and climbs up to A5 (taar shuddh ni in the key of Bb) with the ornament Asha sings on the words “gaar vaaraa.” In the span of one musical line, Asha covers nearly two octaves of vocal range–wow!

suunii suunii saa.ns kii sitaar par (Lal Patthar, 1971): This Shankar-Jakishan composition picturized on Rakhee from Lal Patthar is a beautiful example of the use of Raga Jayjayvanti in filmi music. In a passage towards the end of the song (beginning at 3:13), Asha touches a Bb5 (taar komal ga in the key of G). She also finishes the song off with some powerful taans. For comparison, see Shankar-Jakishan’s Jayjayvanti beauty from Seema sung by Lata (note the exquisite taankari at the end!): manmohana baDe jhuuThe

daiyaa mai.n kahaa.n aa pha.nsii (Caravan, 1971): This song from Caravan is probably remembered more for Asha Parekh’s crazy dance moves than its musical underpinnings, but this song is composed in a manner that is rather unique for Bollywood music. Most songs in Bollywood are sung at a fixed tonic (sa), but R.D. Burman experiments with a musical technique all too familiar to those who listen to 90s Western pop: the key change. He goes wild here by changing the tonic of the song by half-steps multiple times, and Asha hits a Bb5 during a transition at the very end.

Asha Parekh hides herself on stage during the performance of “daiyaa mai.n kahaa.na aa pha.nsii” in Caravan (1971)

aa dekhe.n zaraa (Rocky, 1981): Despite my aversion to Bollywood music from the 80s, I still decided to include this song on the list for the Bb5 (taar pa in the key of Eb) that Asha manages to yell out at around 2:20.

nadii naa re na jaao shyaam (Mujhe Jeene Do, 1963): In the alaap of this Jaidev composition picturized on Waheeda Rahman, Asha nails a G#5 and briefly touches a B5 (taar pa in the key of E) before descending to pitches that are more comfortable for the average mortal.

tu mi piaci cara (Bewaqoof, 1960):  This cute S.D. Burman composition sung by Asha and Kishore features an opening line in Italian. Maybe it was the Italian lyrics that inspired S.D. Burman to have Asha sing some background operatic passages in addition to her normal lines. During one of these passages before the second-last antara, Asha hits a B5 (taar ma in the key of F#).

jo mai.n hotaa ek TuuTaa taaraa (Chhupa Rustam, 1973): This composition by S.D. Burman rendered by Asha and Kishore features some more opera-like passages at its conclusion. Asha is impressively comfortable as she nails a B5 (ati-taar sa in the key of B)  several times in a row as counterpoint against Kishore’s rendering of the mukhda!

o merii jaa.n maine kahaa (The Train, 1970): You wouldn’t expect this fun item number composed by R.D. Burman and picturized on Helen from The Train to be particularly virtuosic in terms of vocals, but Asha actually hits the a B5 (ati-taar sa in the key of B) in the song’s opening line with her leap on the word “kahaa.” For those of you listening very carefully, it’s important to keep in mind that the film version appears to be transposed a half-step higher than the album version of this song.

If you’ve managed to pay attention so far and take a listen to some of these songs, you may have noticed some interesting trends when comparing the high notes rendered by our two beloved Bollywood divas. After taking a look at the years I’ve listed next to each song, you’ll notice that all of Lata’s highest notes on this list span a range of nine years from 1956 to 1965, while Asha’s highest notes range over 24 years (!) from 1957 to 1981. The broad range of years in which Asha hit her high notes might provide evidence to those who support the notion that Asha’s voice aged better than Lata’s over the decades. But there is one caveat: the manner in which these two divas produce their high notes is distinct and may play a role in mediating this trend. If you listen carefully, you can hear that Lata always employs her “chest voice” to belt out the notes of a composition, even at the highest registers. On the other hand, Asha often employs her “head voice,” the more commonly used technique by female singers to access high notes. Head voice has a softer, gentler sound because it resonates around the nasal cavity instead of the chest during vocal production. This technique of singing is traditionally forbidden in the Indian classical tradition, so purists might consider some of Asha’s highest highs as “cheating”–head voice is sometimes even referred to as naqlii avaaz (fake voice). I’m not so much of a purist that I would discredit Asha for using her head voice in these compositions, but I will venture to say that, if asked to do so, she would not be able to hit the notes of the high soprano register in her later years using her chest voice as gracefully as Lata did during her peak.

Another interesting trend to note is how different music directors composed differently to suit the individual styles of  Lata or Asha. Although all the music directors on this list have worked extensively with both sisters, the music directors who asked Lata to sing at her highest range are not the same as the music directors who asked the same of Asha. Shankar-Jaikishan and Salil Chowdhury, by far, contribute to Lata’s highest record pitches whereas R.D. Burman and S.D. Burman seem to have saved their highest notes for Asha. Just some food for thought.

R.D. Burman teaches Asha Bhonle during a rehearsal session.

Please let us know if you find any more examples of Lata and Asha’s highest highs that are not on this list! I have attempted to find the best examples, but given the vast repertoire of Bollywood film music, I may have naturally missed out on some that are worth mentioning. Also, if you enjoyed this post, let us know in the comments and I’ll try to do some similar-themed posts in the future–perhaps next, we can take a listen to Lata and Asha’s lowest recorded notes or a an analysis of the Bollywood tenor’s highest highs? The possibilities are endless!

-Mr. 55

Mere Desh Ki Dharti Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Manoj Kumar Mere Desh Ki Dharti

The glory of India’s ancient heritage is celebrated in Manoj Kumar’s “Mere Desh Ki Dharti” from Upkar (1967).

In honor of the great beauty of India we present the patriotic lyrics and English translation of “Mere Desh Ki Dharti” from Upkar (1967). There are few songs that have attained the kind of beloved immortality found in the lyrics of “Mere Desh Ki Dharti.” A rousing declaration of love for the motherland, this song evokes nostalgia, nationalism, and an unwavering pride in traditional values that director Manoj Kumar advocated throughout his career. The film Upkar (1967) from which the song comes is one of many socially responsible movies pioneered by Manoj Kumar in that era–earning him the nickname Mr. Bharat! Like his other works Shaheed (1965), Purab Aur Paschim (1970), and Roti, Kapada, Aur Makaan (1974), Manoj Kumar sought to remind his audience of the beauty of the Indian way of life, of India’s rich history, and of the dangers Westernized modernity could pose to society.

As an interesting contrast to Dev Anand’s somewhat similarly themed-film Prem Pujari (1970), Upkar explores and glorifies the concept of the farmer-soldier, a loyal citizen who selflessly serves the motherland in any way she needs. The hero captures the spirit of self-sacrifice and patriotism in a way that has remained popular even today.

Manoj Kumar pays homage to the tricolor Indian flag in Upkar (1967).

So sure, it’s obviously a propaganda film (the idea of Upkar was after all modeled on Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri’s slogan, “Jai Jawaan, Jai Kissan!“), but hearing the lyrics to this song rendered stirringly by Mahendra Kapoor, you can feel a true admiration and love for India. Fully understanding a translation of “Mere Desh Ki Dharti” can be quite difficult without some contextual knowledge of Indian history as it is filled with rich allusions and metaphors. I have attempted to explain some of them below each lyric (props to my father for filling in the gaps!) So please enjoy our full English translation to the lyrics of “Mere Desh Ki Dharti” below!

Mere Desh Ki Dharti Lyrics and Translation:

Mere desh ki dharti, sonaa ugale, ugale hiire, moti
The soil of my country is made of gold, diamonds, and pearls
Mere desh ki dharti…


Bailo.N ke gale mei.N jab ghungaruu, jeevan kaa raag sunaate hai
The bells around the necks of the bullocks chime to the melody of life
Gham kos duur ho jaataa hai, khushiio.N ke kamal musakaate hai.N
Sadness and regret go away, and joyous lotuses smile
Sun ke rahaT ki aawaaze, yuu.N lage kahii.N shahanaaii baje
Listening to the sounds of the waterwheels, it seems as if auspicous flutes are playing somewhere
Aate hii mast bahaaro.N ke dulhan ki tarah har khet saje
Every field adorns itself like a bride when the thrill of spring arrives
Mere desh ki dharti…

Jab chalte hai.N is dharti pe hal, mamtaa angadaaiiyaa.N leti hai.N
When ploughs till this land, the love of its mother is activated
Kyu.N na puje is maaTii ko, jo jeevan ka sukh deti hai?
Why would we not worship this soil that gives us the joy of life?
Is dharti pe jis ne janam liyaa, usne hii paayaa pyaar teraa
Whoever was born on this land, obtained your love
Yahaa.N apnaa paraayaa koii nahii.N, hai.N sab pe, Maa.N, upkaar teraa
Here there is no difference between a stranger and one of our own, for Mother, you are benevolent to all
Mere desh ki dharti…

Ye baagh hai.N Gautam Naanak ka, khilte hai.N aman ke phool yahaa.N
This is the garden of Bhudda and Guru Naanak, here bloom the flowers of peace
Gandhi, Subhaash, Tagore, Tilak, aise hai.N chaman ke phool yahaa.N
Gandhi, Subhash, Tagore, Tilak–these are the kinds of flowers of this garden
Rang haraa Hari Singh Nalwe se, rang laal hai Lal Bahadur se
Its green color is from Hari Singh Nalwa , and its red color is from Lal Bahadur
Rang banaa basanti Bhagat Singh, rang aman ka viir Jawaahar se
The color became saffron with Bhagat Singh and the color of peace (white) is from the brave Jawaahar
Mere desh ki dharti…

Glossary:

dharti: soil; hiire: diamonds; moti: pearl [in this case, a metaphor for agricultural treasures]; bail: bullock, ghungruu: bells; kamal: lotus; rahat: waterwheels; dulhan: bride; khet: field; hal: plough; maaTi: soil; paraayaa: stranger; upkaar: benevolence; baagh: garden; guatam: Buddha; Naanak: Guru Nanaak; aman: peace; Gandhi: Mahatma Gandhi; Subhaash: Subhash Chandra Bose; Tagore: Rajindernath Tagore; Tilak: Bal Gangadhar Tilak; rang: color [here is he describing the colors of the Indian Flag]; haraa: green; Hari Singh Nalwa: the commander in chief of the Sikh Emperor, Ranjit Singh; Lal Bahadur: Lal Badur Shastri, one of India’s late Prime Ministers; viir: brave; Jawaahar: Jawaaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister

As a brief aside to anyone learning Urdu-Hindi, defining the word “angaDaaii” can be complicated when taken out of context (besides also being hard to pronounce if you’re a non-native speaker!). AngaDaaii can be the stretch you take when you wake up in the morning, it can be the way a traditional wrestler slaps his thighs before hopping into a match. In essence, an angaDaaii is any kind of preparatory movement or action you would take before some event. It’s used quite loosely in Hindi songs and must be read in context to understand the full meaning of the line, so watch out for this trickster.

For more patriotic songs from classic Bollywood films, check out our English translation of “Aye Mere Pyare Watan” from Kabuliwala (1961) and “Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna” from Shaheed (1963)!

– Mrs. 55

How To Wink Like Bombay Superstar Rajesh Khanna

You know you’ve tried it. In the 1970s, few Indian men hitting the discotheques hadn’t. The moves of Rajesh Khanna were so powerful, so devastating that the BBC actually made a documentary on his lifestyle entitled “Bombay Superstar” to introduce him to the West. Rajesh Khanna’s signature wink was and remains the final word in Bollywood seduction. If executed correctly, the wink has a 100% success rate. You can see the wink in almost any of Rajesh Khanna songs, including the evergreen Yeh Shaam Mastani from Kati Patang (1970). For everyone who’s still having trouble, I’ve broken down how to pull off this infallible move in 5 easy-to-master steps.

Step 1: Eyes on the prize. Make full, deliberate eye-contact with the chosen target. Make sure she sees you and can sense something’s approaching. Notice the arched brow and the pursed lips–Rajesh Khanna knows how to concentrate when it counts.

Rajesh Khanna locks gazes with Asha Parekh, and both parties mentally prepare themselves for the upcoming wink.

Step 2: Shut your eyelids. The key here is simultaneously tilting your head posterolaterally with the chin leading the way. This takes some very dedicated practice and coordination, so please don’t attempt this in public before you’ve put in the time. Subtle, right? Rajesh Khanna was as talented as he was beautiful.

In the devastating second step of his all-purpose wink, Rajesh Khanna coyly tilts his head and bats his eyelids. A palpable shudder is felt across the mountainside.

Step 3: Act natural. Return immediately to starting position, maintaining eye contact with a sly smile as if what just occurred was normal. You’ll have plenty of time to gauge audience response after.

Rajesh Khanna smiles slyly. He knows the wink just happened. He also knows you know the wink just happened. But the song isn’t done yet, and neither is he.

Step 4: Finish the song. Above all, keep singing. You gotta finish what you started. The violins are still playing and Kishore Kumar’s only on the first antra so hold that gameface until the last note.

Rajesh Khanna resists the urge to assess his wink’s immediate success and instead brings the song to a steady finish, thus heightening the wink’s effect.

Step 5: Watch and weep. This should not really qualify as a step. Observe the target’s resulting awe and proceed to take the win by a. proposing to her, b. holding her hand or c. reprising the film’s theme song.

Asha Parekh is moved literally to tears by the awesome power of Rajesh Khanna’s wink. Another one bites the dust.

That’s it folks–5 simple steps to becoming a Bombay Superstar. No Rajesh Khanna song is really complete with out it! For your viewing pleasure and further studies, check out Rajesh Khanna’s “Yeh Jo Chilman Hai” from Mehboob Ki Mehndi (1971). Then find some hair gel, a colorful ascot, and get winking.

-Mrs. 55