20 Gorgeous Waltz Songs from Classic Bollywood Films

Guru Dutt Pyaasa not a waltz

Guru Dutt and Mala Sinha are NOT actually waltzing in the iconic song “Hum Aap Ki Ankhon Mein” from Pyaasa (1957).

The waltz is a beautiful dance form with music in triple meter that originated in 16th century Germany. The name is derived from the Latin volvere, describing the ensemble rotations of the dancers. So what place does the waltz have in 20th century Bollywood films? How did this art form cross continents and cultures?

I first starting looking closely at waltz songs in classic Bollywood films when trying to select a song for my husband and my “first dance” at our wedding. I wanted to use an old Bollywood song for this western tradition, and found myself unsure where to start looking. My mind jumped to the most iconic waltz dance from Bollywood I could think of: who doesn’t recall the serene dream sequence from Pyaasa (1957) in which Guru Dutt and Mala Sinha twirl together through the mist? There was just one issue: “Hum Aap Ki Ankhon Mein” was not actually a waltz.

Meena Kumari Kishore Kumar Mere Neendon Mein Tum waltz

Meena Kumari and Kishore Kumar waltz to O.P. Nayyar’s “Mere Neendon Mein Tum” from Naya Andaz (1956).

Yup. You and I were both fooled. As I discovered the distinct triple meter of the waltz is not ubiquitous in classic Bollywood, nor can you really fake dancing a waltz to anything else. The 3/4 meter of the waltz bears a similarity to the Hindustani dadra 6/8 meter, paving the way for a transition across continents. You can recognize the distinct rhythm of the waltz by listening for a strong first beat followed by two lighter beats. A common mistake is that many people think when dancing the waltz, the first beat is when both dancers move “up.” In reality, that first strong beat is when the dancers may move downwards in unison, and return to normal height (or on the balls of their feet) for the lighter beats following. There are many variations to this pattern, but generally, it gives the waltz dancers that beautiful wave-like cadence as if they are floating across the floor.

The waltz assumes many unexpected incarnations in classic Bollywood, exemplifying everything from urban glamour to girlish excitement to full-out pity party. The first known appearance of waltz in a Bollywood song is in “Hum Aur Tum Aur Yeh Khushi” from Ali Baba (1940) composed by the legendary Anil Biswas. Music director Naushad, known for his brilliant Hindustani classical compositions, helped usher the waltz rhythm into Bollywood mainstream as early as with the tragic “Tod Diya Dil Mera” from Andaz (1949), “Ab Raat Milan Ki” from Jadoo (1951), and “Tara Ri Yara Ri” from Dastan (1952). S.D. Burman highlighted the waltz in his hit House No. 44 (1955) with amorous ballads “Phaili Hui Hai Sapnon” and”Chhup Hai Dharti.” By the late 1950s, the waltz was adopted by nearly every composer, developing an important place in Bollywood well into the 1970s.

Nargis dil ki girah khol waltz

Nargis’ surprisingly incredible waltz moves school everyone in “Dil Ki Girah Khol Do” from Raat Aur Din (1967). And you thought she was only cut out for the village belle.

In Hindi films, a song with a waltz rhythm need not always portray a couple dancing–in fact, some of the best waltz songs create tension by not showing the couple come together. Other times, such as in Nargis’ incredible performance in Raat or Aur Din (1967), waltzing with ease was a sign of Western sophistication and elitism. The waltz gained a brief romantic revival in the 1990s with the super hit song “Kuch Na Kaho” from 1942: A Love Story (1993). But this song became quickly overdone at every Indian function I attended growing up, so I refused to use it at my own wedding. I needed a list of off-the-beaten-path waltz songs from classic Bollywood that would still make us look stylish.

Raj Kapoor Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh waltz

Raj Kapoor and Nadira dance together singing “Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh,” which begins as a lilting waltz in Shree 420 (1955).

But when I was planning my wedding, I never found that list. It’s as though thousands of men and women out there aren’t actually scrambling to dance to a Mohammed Rafi song in front of all their friends and family. I don’t get it. To the couple out there who wants to have the coolest wedding ever, this list is my gift to you!

20 Waltz Songs from Classic Bollywood Films:

  1. Lag Ja Gale (Woh Kaun Thi? 1964)

  2. Dil Ki Nazar Se (Anadi 1959)

  3. Dil Ki Girah Khol Do (Raat Aur Din 1967)

  4. Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh (Shree 420 1955)

  5. Dil Ke Jharoke (Brahmachari 1968)

  6. Yeh Raaten Yeh Mausam (Dilli Ka Thug 1958)

  7. Mere Neendon Mein Tum (Naya Andaz 1956)

  8. Phoolon Ke Rang Se (Prem Pujari 1969)

  9. Hum Aur Tum Aur Yeh Sama (Dil Deke Dekho 1959)

  10. Udhar Tum Haseen Ho (Mr. and Mrs. ’55 1955)

  11. Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan (C.I.D. 1956)

  12. Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan (Mera Naam Joker 1970)

  13. Main Shayar To Nahin (Bobby 1973)

  14. Phaili Hui Hai Sapnon (House No. 44 1955)

  15. Tod Diya Dil Mera (Andaz 1949)

  16. Chhup Hai Dharti (House No. 44 1955)

  17. Geet Gaata Hoon Main (Lal Patthar 1971)

  18. Tara Ri Yara Ri (Dastan 1950)

  19. Tera Aana Ik Pal Meri (Hum Naujawan 1985)

  20. Aaja Panchi Akela Hai (No Do Gyarah 1957)

Bollywood wedding waltz

My husband and my ‘first dance’ at our wedding: a waltz to Lata Mangeshkar’s “Lag Ja Gale.” When watching the video of us later, it was clear that I was no Nargis, but at least we had fun!

We ultimately decided on the Viennese waltz “Lag Ja Gale” for our first dance, which proved pretty ambitious for two people whose primary dance skills involved interpretive bhangra. Don’t see your favorite Bollywood waltz on our list? Let us know what other Bollywood waltzes you love in the comments!

– Mrs. 55

Advertisements