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

Sadhana

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
MK

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.

MK

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

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.

Glossary

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.

Sadhana

     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.

Spooky Songs of Classic Bollywood: The 15 Most Haunting Melodies of Yesteryear

Biswajeet Bees Saal Baad film noir kahin deep jale

Biswajeet is haunted by a mysterious voice singing of love and murder in Bees Saal Baad (1962).

Happy Halloween! What better way to give yourself the creeps than with a vintage Hindi film song! Mr. 55 and I once hosted a Spooky Song-themed study break on-campus during which we projected old Hindi film noirs on a large screen, drank rooh afza and jammed nerdily to Lata’s high notes. Was it any surprise the two of us were the only ones really having an awesome time? Join us in our countdown to the spookiest song of classic Bollywood! When I say scary, I’m not referring to Vinod Khanna’s lime green tuxedo in Aan Milo Sajna (although it might give you nightmares). I’m talking about the real deal here. These are songs that will keep you up at night, that will haunt your waking moments as you grapple with the symbolism. And if you see a mysterious woman in a white-sari floating around your house this evening…well, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

The Fifteen Scariest Songs from Old Hindi Films!

15. Tujhko Pukare Mera Pyar (Neel Kamal 1968)

Few things are scarier than being buried alive. Rajkumar haunts his Mughal-era lover through the ages even when she is reborn as a 1960s desperate housewife.

14. Gagan Jhanjhana Rah (Nastik 1954)

This song is a hidden gem. Hemant Kumar actually impersonates God in this song with a voice that booms from the heavens amidst a stormy apocalpyse. The chorus is so darn creepy in this song, you might feel real chills from the wind sound effects mixed into the song!

13. Waqt Ne Kiya (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

What makes this song so spooky and yet so beautiful? It’s all in the lighting and the spectres lingering in the room–read our translation for more!

12. Jayen To Jayen Kahan (Taxi Driver 1954)

In our translation of this all-time creeper, we discuss the emptiness of the song’s mis-en-scene to heighten a feeling of abandonment, leaving you nothing but Dev Anand’s perfect pompadour to ease the pain.

11. Akele Hain Chale Aao (Raaz 1967)

While the movie Raaz may be a clunk, “Akele Hain” (that is reprised in a male and female version!) will certainly leave you clawing after your security blanket. Insider hint: Rajesh Khanna takes his shirt off later on in the movie if you can sit through the rest of the film.

10. Raat Andheri (Aah 1953)

In this heartbreaking social drama, Raj Kapoor plays a handsome tuberculosis patient unable to marry the girl of his dreams because of his illness. In the throes of self-pity, the minor key music haunts him as his own life slips away. Tragic, yes, but mostly just creepy.

9. Sau Baar Janam Lenge (Ustadon Ke Ustad 1963)

Mohammed Rafi’s unearthly beautiful voice echoes through the mist in this song like a phantom from the other world. The woman in mourning seems ready to commit suicide at any moment during the song, keeping the audience on their toes!

8. Dekhi Zamane Ki Yaari (Kaaghaz Ke Phool 1957)

This gentle song of disillusioned love beckons you in like a tantalizing dream, and then drags you to perdition as you scream over the ethereal chorus. Our earlier translation of Dekhi Zamane discusses the transitions of the song from fantasy to absolute nightmare!

7. Koi Duur Se Aawaz De Chale Aao (Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam 1962)

One of my favorite songs in this genre, Guru Dutt is awakened in the middle of the night by a tender lament floating through the halls of the large empty mansion in which he works. Who is this mysterious and sad woman with the enchanting song? You HAVE to watch this genius star-studded film and find out!

6. Jane Kahan Gaye Woh Din (Mera Naam Joker 1970)

Good thing I don’t have a fear of clowns or this song would have permanently wrecked my childhood. Raj Kapoor plays a circus performer who has lost all those he has ever loved. He enters a private Hell in which he is bound to perform in his clown garb to an unfeeling audience, always smiling on the outside and crying on the inside. Brace yourself for several attempts at artsy camera tricks to make him float that could not be more creepy.

5. Gumnaam Hai Koi (Gumnaam 1965)

Based on the Agatha Christie novel “And Then There Were None,” Gumnaam is a kitsch-lovers delight. Drop-dead gorgeous (literally) Lata Mangeshkar’s voice haunts a group of travelers as they meander through a nameless forest. Newsflash! The “ghost” of this song actually chimes in with a high-pitch thrill when the music goes quiet, so listen carefully!

4. Naina Barse (Woh Kaun Thi? 1964)

One of the best examples of a femme fatale in Hindi films, “Naina Barse” is sung by a ghostly woman haunting her lover from a former lifetime. Her flowing white sari against the endless, crisp white snow of a Simla winter set the perfect stage for a nightmare. The woman in a white sari is a classic cliche–read more about its meaning here!

3. Kahin Deep Jale Kahin Dil (Bees Saal Baad 1964)

This song hardly needs an introduction, so famous is its eerie tune. One of the most brilliant shots is the slow crane down from above the chandelier to Biswajeet’s horrified stare at the piano. But has anyone else ever noticed the film version has the interlude violins playing an entire octave lower than in the recorded version?? It totally blew my mind when watching the film–and both ways are equally horrifying!

2. Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat (Kohra 1964)

Stylistic symbolism sets this creepster apart from its competitors. My favorite moment in this song is when the shadow figures do an interpretive dance in the sand, acting out the “choDo piyaa mera, choDo haath” line. I get chills every time I watch this–the cinematography is genuinely brilliant and haunting!

1. Aayega Aanewala (Mahal 1949)

Welcome to the spookiest song of Bollywood! Nothing will ever top the song that officially taught Bollywood everything it needed to know about horror. Don’t expect any corpses to pop out of the closet–this song is way to classy for that. See our translation of this unbeatable classic for more!

So…I know I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight. What are your favorite spooky songs from Bollywood films? Tell us the scenes that have haunted your waking hours for years (think Sadhana declaring “Mujhe khoon achha lagtaa hai” on a rainy night)! Mr. 55 and I both hope you have a very Happy Halloween!

– Mrs. 55

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails...

Mrs. 55 in her go-to gypsy girl costume. When all else fails…tie a chunni on your head.

Aayega Aanewala Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Ashok Kumar Mahal (1949)

Ashok Kumar is haunted by a mysterious voice echoing through his palace in Mahal (1949)

Today we showcase the haunting lyrics and English translation of “Aayega Aanewala” from Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal (1949). The film is a landmark in the history of Indian cinema, representing a visionary shift to director-focused auteurism that ushered in India’s Golden Era of filmmaking. Upon its release, director Kamal Amrohi shot to super-stardom along with the then unheard of songstress Lata Mangeshkar and the enchanting teenage Madhubala. A quintessential Bollywood ghost story, Mahal tells the tale of businessman (Ashok Kumar) who inherits a palace in Allahabad and discovers that it is haunted by his lover in a previous life (Madhubala).

With its famous opening chimes of an echoing grandfather clock, “Aayega Aanewala” is a cinematographer’s fantasy, stringing one beautiful image of surrealist delusion after another. From the revealing dolly-shot, shrouded by branches, of a shadowy woman on a swing with a dupatta that chases the wind to the wide shot of a an empty ballroom whose chandelier rocks back-and-forth from an unseen presence, German-born cinematographer Josef Wirsching infuses an intoxicating wonder into each shot that is as much frightening as it is gorgeous. Traces of that languid hallucinatory world he constructs can be seen in his later work, Pakeezah (1971).

Aayega Aanewala ghost on a swing

Above: The ethereal Madhubala is found swinging below in the palace gardens. Below: By the time Ashok Kumar approaches, the swing is empty, swaying eerily in the breeze.

At the age of 22, Kamal Amrohi arrived in Bombay with nothing but Rs. 17 and his own creativity. He wrote for a few films such as Shahjahan (1946) with the help of K.L. Saigal who became his supporter. Originally paid to simply write the script for Mahal, Amrohi insisted that he be allowed to direct as well. After much dispute the legendary Bombay Talkies studio relented–and made Bollywood history.

When recording the song “Aayega Aanewala” in the large empty Bombay Talkies studio, Amrohi had Lata Mangeshkar stand 20 feet away from the microphone when she sung the song’s opening notes. With each few words, she took another step closer until she reached the microphone for the chorus “Aayega, aayega, aayega.” They rehearsed this multiple times until they achieved the sound he desired. The effect was to capture the echoing nature of a voice floating through the large palace. With Lata’s angelic voice and Madhubala’s ghostly grace, the haunting femme fatale was created. Bimal Roy, who worked as an editor on the film, later drew upon Mahal‘s establishment of the Indian film noir genre when directing his own acclaimed Madhumati (1958).

If for no other reason, you’ve got to see this film just to be amazed at what Madhubala looked like as a teenager. I definitely didn’t look like that when I was 16 (although apparently Vyjayanthimala did). We dedicate this translation to our yesteryear fan Satya Khanna! Be sure to watch the film’s beautiful cinematography here as you follow along with our lyrics and English translation of “Aayega Aanewala” below!

Aayega Aanewala Lyrics and English Translation:

Khaamosh hai zamaanaa, chhup-chhaap hai.N sitaare
The earth is silent, the stars are quiet
Aaraam se hai duniyaa, bekal hai.N dil ke maare
The world is at rest, but the lovers are restless
Aise mei.N koii aahaT is tarah aa rahi hai
In the stillness, footsteps are approaching like this
Jaise ki chal rahaa hai man mei.N koi hamaare
As if someone is passing through my soul
Yaa dil dhaDak rahaa hai? ik aas ke sahaare
Or is it only my heart that is beating? I have this one hope for support

Aayegaa, aayegaa, aayegaa
He will come, he will come, he will come
Aayegaa, aayegaa, aanewaalaa
He will come, he will come, he who is to come

Deepak baghair kaise, parwaane jal rahe hai.N?
How are the moths burning without a flame?
Koi nahii.N chalaataa, aur teer chal rahe hai.N
No one fired, yet an arrow is flying
TaDpegaa koii kab tak, be-aas be-sahaare
How long will someone be tormented, without hope and without support?
Lekin yeh keh rahe hai.N dil ke mere ishaare
Yet the signals of my heart are saying
Aayegaa, aayegaa, aayegaa
He will come, he will come, he will come
Aayegaa, aayegaa, aanewaalaa
He will come, he will come, he who is to come

BhaTkii huii jawaanii manzil ko DhoonDhti hai
My wandering youth is searching for a destination
Maajhi baghair nayyaa, saahil ko dhoondhti hai
As if a boat without an oarsman searches for the shore
Kyaa jaane dil ki kashTii, kab tak lage kinaare
What does the boat of my heart know of how long until we reach the river bank
Lekin yeh keh rahe hai.N dil ke mere ishaare
Yet the signals of my heart are saying
Aayegaa, aayegaa, aayegaa
He will come, he will come, he will come
Aayegaa, aayegaa, aanewaalaa
He will come, he will come, he who is to come

Glossary:

khaamosh: silence; zamaanaa: earth; chhup-chhaap: quiet; sitaraa: star; aaraam se: restful; duniyaa: the world; bekal: restless; dil ke maare: lovers; aahaT: footsteps; man: heart, soul; dhaDaknaa: to beat [heart]; aas: hope; sahaaraa: support; deepak: flame; [kisi ke] baghair: without; parwaanaa: moth; jalnaa: to burn; taDapnaa: to be tormented; be-aas: without hope; be-sahaaraa: without support; ishaaraa: signal, symbol; bhaTaknaa: to wander; jawaanii: youth; manzil: destination; DhoonDnaa: to search; maajhi: oarsman; nayyaa: boat; saahil: shore; kashTii: boat; kinaaraa: [river] bank

Now that that’s over, let’s take a brief moment to discuss ye olde moth and flame analogy. A favorite fall-back of Hindi film lyricists, the analogy of a kamikaze moth yearning for unity with fire has intrigued many a Bollywood romantic. With roots in Sufi mysticism, the classic moth and flame analogy has been lovingly immortalized by everyone from Rumi to Charles Dickens.

At its essence, the male lover (or metaphorical moth) is so blinded by love for a woman (the metaphorical flame), that he is willing to burn and die in order to join her. Very well. But in Bollywood, the analogy is so abused, the mere drop of the word parwaanaa in any context can denote a sinister Fate without even going into mention of the flame and burning alive. Interestingly, in the lyrics to “Aayegaa Aanewala“, the poet Nakshab Jarchavi constructs a fascinating twist on the hackneyed metaphor: instead of the male representing the moth, he represents the flame in whose absence our heroine is suffering! I love a good poetic gender role reversal. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?

-Mrs. 55

Ashok Kumar cigarette Mahal (1949)

Ashok Kumar cleverly burns his hand with his cigarette to check if he is dreaming. Yeah, no. He’s still awake.

 

The Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time

The top 30 greatest classic Bollywood films have been selected. Which films made the list of Bollywood’s best?

Greatest Bollywood Films of All Time Guru Dutt Waheeda Rehman

Introduction

Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! at last present our definitive list of the Bollywood classics you absolutely must see before you die. Hundreds of films were scored and ranked across multiple dimensions of Bollywood cinema including: story, direction, performances, musical composition, as well as cultural impact and legacy. We included Hindi-language films made between the period of 1949-1979 on our list of the best classic Bollywood films ever made. Some on the list are beloved favorites of the industry, while others may surprise you.

Among the winners are directors Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor–names synonymous with masterpiece Indian cinema–each with multiple films among Bollywood’s all-time greatest. Always wondered why a couple of young Harvard students like us love old Indian films so passionately? No matter what you think you know about Bollywood, the movies on this list will change your understanding of Indian films like never before. From village epics that grapple with our national identity to the nostalgic poetry of sudden disillusionment, classic Bollywood films transport us from the enchanting glamour of Bombay nightlife to the majestic gardens of Kashmir. They carry our souls through hardship and loss and revive our spirits with redemption.

This is cinema the way it was meant to be. This is classic Bollywood.

The top 30 Films from 30 years of classic Hindi cinema (1949-1979):

1. Pyaasa

Pyaasa Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt, 1957

Pyaasa, or “thirst,”is the story of one man’s search for compassion in the cold cynicism of post-independence Indian society. Vijay is an unpublished poet, dismissed by his own family and scorned by socialites and his colleagues. After befriending a prostitute who shelters him, Vijay is believed dead and his poetry “posthumously” lionized. He becomes an overnight sensation, mourned by fans across the country, and the true Vijay is labeled an imposter. India entered its golden age of filmmaking in the 1950s when its long-awaited freedom from England and the hopes of a new government created a social tinderbox of great expectations and disillusionment. Pioneering the technique of utilizing song lyrics as direct extensions of the film’s dialogue, Guru Dutt as the writer-producer-director-star paints a stirring portrait of the commodification of humanity.

2. Mughal-e-Azam

Mughal-e Azam K. Asif

Karimuddin Asif, 1961

At the turn of the 17th century, Prince Salim falls in love with the court dancer Anarkali and wages war against his own father, Emperor Akbar, in order to marry her. Director K. Asif’s enormous cast, opulent sets, intricately designed costumes and extravagantly staged battle scenes made the film the most expensive ever produced in India at the time. But despite of all the grandeur, the film has a warm heart, and the dangers of the romance between Salim and Anarkali are infused into each glance they share. Although the love story is the backbone of the film, it is Emperor Akbar, from whom the film derives its name (“the Great Mughal”), who takes center stage as he is torn between love for his only son and the unforgiving demands of the Mughal Empire. Every line of dialogue is written with the ornamentation of poetry, casting an elegance to Mughal-e Azam‘s thunderous power.

3. Pakeezah

Pakeezah Kamal Amrohi

Kamal Amrohi, 1971

In the grandeur of Muslim Lucknow at the turn of the century, Pakeezah is a courtesan and dancer who dreams of leaving her life behind when a stranger falls in love with her in a train compartment, not knowing her true profession. With swirling romanticism and languid, dream-like cinematography, Pakeezah instantly became one of the most extraordinary musicals ever made. Perfectionist director Kamal Amrohi, who also wrote the script and some of the lyrics, effectively transports the viewer into a wistful age of bygone formality and luxury. Each of Pakeezah‘s popular semi-classical songs illustrates the duality of a courtesan’s poetry, at once glamorizing the elaborate rituals of love and destroying the institutions that upheld them.

4. Mother India

Mother India Mehboob Khan

Mehboob Khan, 1957

With tragedy strikes her family, newlywed village belle Radha is determined to weather a crucible of social and personal adversities without compromising her honor. In doing so, she reinvents herself as a heavy-handed symbol of India’s own pride as an ancient culture and a new democracy. A defining film in the history of Bollywood, director Mehboob Khan’s iconic Mother India set the pattern for the more than 60 years of Bollywood film that followed it. A mythologization of traditional values and an homage to the beauty of Indian heritage, Mother India‘s unabashedly epic glorification of self-sacrifice and female empowerment was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1958.

5. Guide

Guide Vijay Anand

Vijay Anand, 1965

A corrupt businessman is transformed into a spiritual guide after a misunderstanding that leads to his idolization by a village besieged by drought. Based on the R.K. Narayan novel of the same name and bolstered by a stunning soundtrack, Guide explores a fundamental Vedic transformation from materialism to a release from worldly attachments in an extremely unlikely hero. A scandalous love story settles into the background as director Vijay Anand boldly deconstructs social taboos, from adultery and non-traditional gender roles to religious fraud, in a film that stirringly evolves into a philosophical awakening greater than the circumstances it portrays–a brilliant reflection of the double entendre intended by its title.

6. Kaaghaz Ke Phool

Kaagaz Ke Phool Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt, 1959

In the 1950s at the height of India’s golden age of film-making, a celebrated movie director feels uninspired by the tinsel-lined glitz of studio era Bollywood. When he discovers a new actress, innocent to the corruption of the industry, he believes he has found a muse to ease his restlessness. A elegiac behind-the-scenes film about film-making, Kaaghaz Ke Phool became a cult classic following the eerie semi-autobiographical death of its director Guru Dutt. Trapped in a world of pretense, Guru Dutt illustrates a kind of yearning that softly and slowly erodes the soul–a desperate hunt for a human connection. The real triumph is in the film’s stunning camerawork, gracefully gliding through the empty studio sets like a beautiful spectre of Dutt’s own shattered desires.

7. Awaara

Awaara Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1951

A female lawyer is determined to prove her lover’s innocence in a murder attempt on the life of a respected judge. Structured in medias res, the film’s flashback reveals the injustice of her lover’s past when the very judge who condemns him proves to be his own father: a man who threw his wife onto the streets when he believed a criminal had raped her. Echoing the dark lessons of the ancient Ramayana, Awaara shatters the nature versus nurture debate with a showman’s flair and surrealist fantasy, including the film’s legendary dream sequence evoking a descent into Hell. Awaara launched Raj Kapoor’s famous Chaplin-esque hero for the first time, who resonated immensely across the Soviet Union and Communist China as the voice of a new generation.

8. Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam

Sahib Biwi Aur Ghulam Guru Dutt

Guru Dutt/Abrar Alvi, 1962

Desperate to save her marriage, the younger daughter-in-law of a wealthy family sacrifices her moral boundaries to win over her alcoholic husband. A nostalgic glimpse into the decaying Bengali feudal system, Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam unravels a dazzling murder mystery at the heart of its progressive view of societal redemption. Seen from the perspective of a young factory worker lured into a stately mansion as an ally of its young mistress, Sahib, Bibi, Aur Ghulam hauntingly opens the doors to the hollowness of exterior splendor. Spiraling against her will with the collapse of Calcutta’s landed aristocracy, Meena Kumari’s portrayal of the tormented wife is forever considered among the most magnificent on-screen performances of Bollywood history.

9. Aradhana

Aradhana Shakti Samanta

Shakti Samanta, 1971

When her lover dies at war, an unwed mother gives up her son up for adoption, vowing to watch over him in secrecy as he grows up in the house of another. Her poignant worship, or aradhana, of her dead fiancé and their son became immortalized in the Indian cinematic psyche as an audacious struggle of traditional society confronted by changing modern values. Boasting one of the all-time greatest soundtracks of Indian cinema, Aradhana epitomizes the versatility and creativity of the era’s leading music directors. From the youthful joy of “Mere Sapno Ki Rani” to the grim Bardic undertones of “Safal Hogi Teri Aradhana” to the notoriously seductive “Roop Tera Mastana,” the film is as much remembered for its luminous performances as for exemplifying the golden age of Bollywood music.

10. Do Bigha Zameen

Do Bigha Zameen Bimal Roy

Bimal Roy, 1953

A farming family fights to save their ancestral land from a cunning mill owner. Do Bigha Zameen follows the father and son’s trip to Calcutta from their idyllic village to earn enough money to pay their debts–only to discover the miseries of urban poverty instead. Inspired by the work of Italian neorealism, Do Bigha Zameen pioneered early parallel cinema with a deliberate attention to the “everyday,” and the feeling of an invisible, unhurried camera whose shots and mis-en-scene are both carefully constructed and effortlessly fluid. Directed by Bengali auteur Bimal Roy, the film’s nationalistic electricity hit a broader audience, becoming the first Indian film to win the Prix Internationale at the 1954 Cannes Film Festival.

11. Bandini

bandini bimal roy

During the British Raj of the 1930s, a prison doctor falls in love with a convict who reveals the story of her tumultuous connection to a freedom fighter.

12. Madhumati

Madhumati Bimal roy

Bimal Roy, 1958

On a rainy night, a man enters an abandoned mansion where he is confronted by unfulfilled visions of his past life.

13. Shree 420

Shree 420 Raj Kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1955

A country boy travels to Bombay to make his fortune where he is lured from the path of virtue into a thrilling life of deceit.

14. Sholay

sholay ramesh sippy

Ramesh Sippy, 1975

After his family is murdered by a notorious bandit, a former police officer enlists the help of two outlaws to capture him.

15. Ankur

shyam benegal Ankur

Shyam Benegal, 1974

The social hierarchies of rural India are disrupted when a landowner begins an affair with a poor farmer’s wife.

16. Hum Dono

Hum Dono vijay anand

Amarjeet, Vijay Anand (1961)

After returning from war, a soldier begins to lead a double-life when his doppelgänger’s family welcomes him home.

17. Barsaat (1949)

Barsaat raj kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1949

Two men with different ideals of love search for answers with the coming of the monsoons.

18. Amar Akbar Anthony

Amar Akbar Anthony manmohan desai

Manmohan Desai, 1977

Three brothers are separated in childhood and eventually unite after one is brought up a Christian, one a Hindu, and one a Muslim.

19. Anand

Anand hrishikesh mukherjee

Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1971

A doctor recounts the story of a terminally ill man who wishes to his live life to the fullest and spread happiness to those around him.

20. Haqeeqat

Haqeeqat chetan anand

Chetan Anand, 1964

A platoon of Indian soldiers leave their homes and loved ones to encounter the harsh realities of battle in the Indo-China War of 1962.

21. Don

Don 1978 chandra barot

Chandra Barot, 1978

A simpleton is trained to infiltrate the underworld by impersonating a criminal leader who has been killed in a police chase.

22. Mahal

Mahal kamal amrohi

Kamal Amrohi, 1949

A young lawyer is haunted by a ghostly woman in his new house, where the builder and his fiancée died shortly after it was built.

23. Sangam

Sangam raj kapoor

Raj Kapoor, 1964

An Indian Air Force Officer leaves for the Kashmiri front, entrusting his wife to the care of his best friend who has secretly always loved her.

24. Dosti

Dosti satyen bose

Satyen Bose, 1964

A penniless orphan makes the unexpected friendship of a blind boy who teaches him survival on the streets of Bombay.

25. Waqt

Waqt yash chopra

Yash Chopra, 1965

Natural disaster separates the members of a close-knit family who re-connect in a series of dramatic entanglements years later.

26. Deewar

Deewar yash chopra

Yash Chopra, 1975

A mother attempts to reunite her two estranged sons: one, a leading criminal of the underworld, and the other, an uprighteous policeman.

27. Kati Patang

Kati Patang shakti samanta

Shakti Samanta, 1970

As a promise to raise the child of her dying friend, a young woman risks starting a new life under a false identity.

28. Aandhi

Aandhi gulzar

Gulzar, 1975

A powerful politician struggles to reconcile her position with secrets from her past.

29. Purab Aur Paschim

Purab Aur Paschim major kumar

Manoj Kumar, 1970

East clashes with West when a traditional Indian student encounters swinging London society for the first time.

30. Bombai Ka Babu

Bombai Ka Babu Raj Khosla

Raj Khosla, 1960

A small-time thief is forced into a deadly web of deception when he gains the trust of his victim’s family.

Read more about these and other classic Bollywood films on our film pages! Which films do you consider among classic Bollywood’s all-time best and why? Leave us a comment and let us know!

– Mrs. 55

What Killed Madhubala: A Close Look at the Death of A Bollywood Icon

Rare Madhubala picture Indian actress
Rare Madhubala picture Indian actress

Madhubala, classic Bollywood actress, (1933-1969)

Madhubala was born Mumtaz Jahan Nehlavi on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1933. Perhaps was no coincidence with such a birthday that Madhubala would grow up to become one of the most beloved romantic heroines of India. But her life could not share the happy endings of many of her films. This month, Madhubala would have turned 80 years old. Her premature death has likened Madhubala to iconic Hollywood greats like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Carol Lombard and even Bollywood’s own Meena Kumari–women of the silver screen who died before the world was ready.

Madhubala’s unique allure was known worldwide–she had been featured in many American magazines including LIFE magazine whose rare photographs are featured in this post. Legendary director Frank Capra was eager to bring the mysterious Indian beauty to Hollywood and launch an international career–but his efforts were halted quickly by Madhubala’s conservative father. She was sought after by every great Bollywood director and actor from Dilip Kumar to Dev Anand and even romanced and married playback singer Kishore Kumar at the height of her illustrious career. For years, Madhubala was the Queen of Bollywood and the hearts of millions.

But what killed Madhubala, ending her short-lived reign? Could it have been prevented?

Rare vintage photograph of Indian actress Madhubala by LIFE magazine

Indian actress Madhubala as photographed by James Burke for LIFE magazine in 1951.

When Madhubala was born to a traditional Muslim family in Delhi, her elder sister Madhur Bhushan recalled that the baby was “blue”–a serious sign of cyanosis and poor oxygen perfusion. Madhubala had a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD), a disorder colloquially referred to as a “hole in the heart.” A congenital abnormality of that kind allowed for mixing of both normal oxygenated blood and deoxygenated blood to be shunted through her body–an unhealthy adulteration with a bad prognosis. While a somewhat common birth defect (1 in 500 babies are born with a VSD), the medical community’s understanding of  the condition was in its infancy–VSD had first been described in 1879 and at the time of Madhubala birth, there was no treatment. Yet Madhubala continued to grow into a vivacious and beautiful young woman whose fragility was for many years known only to a few.

madhubala life magazine bed

Indian superstar Madhubala was sought by directors across the country and internationally during the height of her career.

The young beauty shot to fame in 1949 at the age of 16 in Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal with Bollywood veteran Ashok Kumar. One success followed another, establishing Madhubala as an A-grade star with a rare versatility and ebullience that hid her growing fatigue and weakness. In was not until filming scenes for Bahut Din Hue in 1954, Madhubala vomited blood on the set. It was an ominous sign that electrified the Indian media. The history of her heart defect came to public light as the mid-1950s brought her a string of failures, earning her the label “box office poison.” With skyrocketing notoriety, no longer was Madhubala’s illness a family secret.

Beautiful madhubala in a personal photograph

The lovely Madhubala in an unscripted moment in her room in Bombay.

Little did her family know, in the same year on the other side of the world at the University of Minnesota, Dr. Walt Lillehei was about to make medical history. After years of research in the field, on the morning of March 26, 1954, Lillehei performed the first surgical closure on a child with VSD. The surgery was a success that brought hope to thousands of families whose children were otherwise not expected to live past their 30th birthday.

Meanwhile in Bombay, Madhubala’s career revived and reached dazzling heights with smash hits like Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), Barsaat Ki Raat (1960) and the pinnacle of her career, Mughal-e Azam (1961). However, as Madhubala neared her 30th birthday, the grueling filming of historical epic Mughal-e Azam was to take a toll on the young actress’ health that is speculated to have hurried her demise.

An unscripted moment with Madhubala

Madhubala died on February 23, 1969 at the age of 36.

During the filming of the famous song, “Bekas Pe Karam Kijiye,” Madhubala’s performance turned art into life. The scene was of defiant courtesan Anarkali chained in the palace prison, singing for mercy. Director K. Asif actually made Madhubala perform in heavy, burdensome metal chains that weighed the actress down and cut into her skin. Her exhaustion and despair that you can see in the song are real–for a patient with VSD, such an amount of physical exertion truly mimicked the torture of her Mughal character. It became clear that her only hope lay in the the rumors of a surgical cure with the techniques recently pioneered by Dr. Lillehei.

Madhubala Life magazine

Bollywood Actress Madhubala was most remembered for her roles in Mahal (1949), Mughal-e Azam (1960), and Barsaat Ki Raat (1960).

In 1960, the actress sought treatment in London, but physicians refused to operate. Although Lillehei’s surgery had worked in children, physicians across the West had not perfected the technique in adults, and the first heart transplant in a human adult would not be performed for 7 more years. It was with a heavy spirit that Madhubala returned home to Bombay where she realized her career as an actress was over. She sought instead to enter film as a director, setting the stage to make tremendous strides for women in her directorial debut of the film Farz Aur Ishq. However, while the project was still in pre-production, Madhubala–the immortal woman with a mischievous smile and a mystical aura–succumbed to her illness at the age of 36. Tragically, within a few short years of her death, operations that closed VSDs were made widely available to adults. The history of heart surgery and Madhubala’s life crossed paths at a critical corner, but for a matter of time, never made that life-saving collision.

Rare beautiful photograph of Madhubala

The enigmatic beauty of Madhubala captures audiences generations after her death.

Perhaps if Madhubala had been born just a few years later or if Dr. Lillehei had begun his famous experiments just a few years earlier, Madhubala would have lived to see a surgery that would have allowed her to celebrate her 80th birthday today with us. Perhaps it was Madhubala’s early death itself that has immortalized her as a forever beautiful, forever carefree young woman who will remain always elusive. That ethereal woman haunting the mansion of Mahal (1949) or glittering in jewels of Mughal-e Azam (1961) is now only a shadow in our memories who vanished before time could transform her. In the words of her famous character from Mahal in which she starred at the age of 16:

Mai.N vehm nahii.N hoo.N, haqeeqat.” [“I am not an apparition, I am reality.”]

For fans of Madhubala all over, her words proved true only for a short while.

– Mrs. 55

Defining Bollywood Film Noir

Sadhana enters a graveyard as the femme fatale of Woh Kaun Thi? (1964)

In the U.S. historians and film theorists have debated for decades about the meaning of the elusive term: “film noir.” Although many of us conjure an image of a hard-boiled detective and a mystery made more mysterious by the femme fatale, few “film noirs” actually contain these elements. This so-called genre had its roots in German Expressionism with films like Fritz Lang’s M (1931) and in depression-era crime novels. But what does the term “film noir” mean as it applies to Hindi cinema? What are the hallmarks of this genre as it played out in Bollywood and how did it begin?

I will present five films that I propose to be in the genre of Indian film noir. This is no easy task. Just as the term is vague in the American lexicon, so too does it only hazily engulf a variety of Hindi films with low-key lighting. And so I shall begin with an illustrative example. We can debate the precise definition of the genre until the end of time, but I think I can safely say that whatever Indian film noir is, Woh Kaun Thi? (1964) is Indian film noir.

Woh Kaun Thi? has 4 main basic elements. The first is in its distinct cinematographic style and setting—low-key lighting throughout a mysterious mansion and slow unhurried shots with a somber film score to match. The film gives a sense of the world being trapped in a fatalistic dream, whether alone by a graveyard or in a crowd of dancing people.

The second is the film’s overall tone and pacing—there is an uncomfortable sense of being pursued, of an impending doom unless a mystery is solved in time by the hero. Unlike in American film noir, the hero is no cynic and there is no quick sardonic dialogue to off-set the dreary mood. The hero is instead a righteous and innocent man of affairs, an heir to a fortune who becomes a victim. Though mingled with occasional musical highs, the film spirals from a slow and deliberate set-up to a climax closer and closer to complete ruin.

An interesting element of many American film noirs is the flash-back structure, which takes on an interesting form in their Indian counterparts. Woh Kaun Thi? centers around a mysterious background that occurred in the protagonist’s past life. Because the audience of Hindi films was largely composed of practicing Hindus, the world of reincarnation narrative is able to begin on a new and creatively extremely fertile ground. The hero must revisit through song, hearsay, and secrets events that took place in a past life, but whose consequences (whether karma or otherwise) now haunt him. This is the third element.

Fourthly, the film does indeed revolve around the appearance and (mis)guidance of the femme fatale, who is heard singing alluring, tragic songs. The hero is never able to wholly communicate with her, but her intentions are clearly marked with a deadly undertone. The femme fatale remains an elusive character–sometimes he chases after her, sometimes she chases after him—when her story is fully told, only then can the mystery be solved.

The films below can be placed into the category of Indian film noir along with Who Kaun Thi?:

Mahal (1949): Perhaps the grandfather of this genre, Mahal tells of a man tortured and madly in love with an apparition who haunts his mansion and claims a connection from an earlier life. The film also features the haunting vocals of Lata Mangeshkar’s all-time hit Aayegaa Aanewaalaa.

Madhubala mesmerizes Ashok Kumar in Mahal (1949)

Madhumati (1958): This classic Vijayantimala-Dilip Kumar blockbuster is told in flashback to a previous lifetime of the murder of the woman the hero still loves. The gently alluring Aajaa Re Pardesi encompasses the film’s themes of love and debts spanning several lifetimes.

Vijayantimala is reincarnated to find her lover once more in Madhumati (1958)

Bees Saal Baad (1961): A rich man comes to live in his new mansion and must solve a tragedy and murder that occurred 20 years earlier. The film contains a brilliant surprise ending, and Lata Mangeshkar scores once again with the beautiful Kahin Deep Jale, Kahin Dil.

Biswajeet follows a mysterious voice in Bees Saal Baad (1961)

Kohra (1964): This twist on Hitchcock’s Rebecca is told through the eyes of a female protagonist, living in a large, unexplored mansion that is haunted by the apparition of her husband’s first wife. Waheeda Rehman must discover the true circumstances surrounding the first wife’s death before she is driven insane. The song of the femme fatale (Jhoom Jhoom Dhalti Raat) is an absolutely genius and rare example of symbolic imagery in montage to create a feeling of horror from the song.

Waheeda Rehman sees a ghostly vision atop her mansion roof in Kohra (1964)

There are some films that contain one or more of the above elements that I have not classified as Indian film noir. These include Mera Saaya, Gumnaam, and Karz, for different reasons–often overall tone or cinematographic style. Additionally, others might argue that these films should not be categorized at all as Indian film noir, but rather as Indian gothic horror films or other such genres. Watch some of these classics and let us know your take on this chapter in cinematic history!

– Mrs. 55