Salaam-E-Ishq Meri Jaan Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Rekha nails the aadab in the introduction to salaam-e-ishq merii jaa.n from Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1978)

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation of “Salaam-E-Ishq Meri Jaan” from Muqaddar Ka Sikander (1978).

Directed by Prakash Mehra, the blockbuster film Muqaddar Ka Sikander became the third highest grossing movie of the ’70s (following Sholay and Bobby) for its mass appeal as a classic masala entertainer. With an all-star cast and a convoluted plot, the film portrays the trials and tribulations of Sikander (Amitabh Bacchan) as he navigates through life’s struggles – from an unfortunate childhood as a poor orphan to a troubled young man with a doomed love.

The soundtrack of this film, composed by the underrated duo Kalyanji-Anandji and penned by Anjaan (Lalji Pandey), was a hit when the movie released and remains popular to this day. Notable gems include rote hue aate hai.n sab by Kishore, o saathii re by Kishore/Ashaand dil to hai dil by Lata. However, the highlight of the film’s soundtrack is the Lata-Kishore duet salaam-e-ishq meri jaa.n, whose lyrics have interestingly been credited to the film’s director Prakash Mehra. Although Rekha’s role in the film is small, she shines in her performance of this mujra number and shares great on-screen chemistry with Amitabh. No one can play the sulking courtesan like Rekha can, am I right?

For the musically inclined, this song is based on Raga Yaman Kalyan with a touch of Puriya Dhanashri when Kishore sings the second antara.

This song was requested by one of our dear readers Salma – thank you! Until next time…

-Mr. 55
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Rekha looks great, but what was Amitabh’s costume designer thinking here?

Salaam-E-Ishq Meri Jaan: Lyrics and English Translation

ishqvaalo.n se na puuchho ki unkii raat kaa aalam
Do not ask lovers about how their nights
tanhaa kaise guzartaa hai?
pass in solitude.
judaa ho hamsafar jiskaa voh usko yaad kartaa hai
Those separated from their companions reminisce about them.
na ho jis kaa koii voh milne kii fariyaad kartaa hai
Those who are alone pray to meet their beloved.

salaam-e-ishq merii jaa.n zaraa qubuul kar lo
My dear, accept these greetings of love.
tum ham se pyaar karne kii zaraa-sii bhuul kar lo
Make the small mistake of falling in love with me.
meraa dil bechain hai hamsafar ke liye
My heart is restless for a companion.

mai.n sunaauu.n tumhe.n baat ik raat kii
I shall tell you the story of one night.
chaa.nd bhii apnii puurii javaanii pe thaa
The Moon was shining in full splendor.
dil me.n tuufaan thaa, ik armaan thaa
In my heart, there was a storm, a desire.
dil kaa tuufaan apnii ravaanii pe thaa
This storm in my heart raged with full vigor.
ik baadal udhar se chalaa jhuum ke
A cloud danced its way from afar
dekhte dekhte chaa.nd par chhaa gayaa
and cast its shadow over the Moon.
chaa.nd bhii kho gaya uskii aaghosh me.n
The Moon was lost in its embrace.
uff! yeh kya ho gaya josh hii josh me.n?
Oh! What has happened amidst such passion?
meraa dil dhaDkaa
My heart beat.
meraa dil taDpaa kisii kii nazar ke liye
My heart pined for someone’s glance.

KISHORE: is ke aage kii ab daastaa.n mujh se sun
Now hear the rest of the story from me.
sun ke terii nazar Dab-Dabaa jaayegii
After hearing it, your gaze will fall.
baat dil kii jo ab tak tere dil me.n thii
The innermost thoughts that have resided in your heart,
meraa daavaa hai ho.nTho.n pe aa jaayegi
I guarantee that they will surface to your lips.
tuu masiiha muhabbat ke maaro.n kaa hai
You are the Messiah for the lovestruck.
ham tera naam sun ke chale aaye hai.n
After hearing your name, I have come to your side.
ab davaa de hame.n yaa tuu de de zahar
Now give me your medicine or give me poison.
terii mahfil me.n ye diljale aaye hai.n
Many of your admirers have arrived in this gathering.
ik ahsaan kar apne mahmaan par
Do a favor for your guests,
de.n duaaye.n
for they will give you blessings.
de.n duaaye.n tujhe umr bhar ke liye
They will give you blessings for the rest of your life.

LATA: salaam-e-ishq merii jaa.n zaraa qubuul kar lo
My dear, accept these greetings of love.

Glossary:

aalaam: condition, atmosphere; fariyaad: prayer; salaam-e-ishq: greetings of love; qubuul karnaa: to accept; bhuul: mistake; bechain: restless; hamsafar: companion; javaanii: youth, splendor; tuufaan: storm; armaan: hope, desire; ravaanii: vigor; baadal: cloud; chhaa jaanaa: to cast a shadow; aaghosh: embrace; josh: passion; taDpaanaa: to pine; daastaa.n: story; Dab-Dabaa jaanaa: to sink, fall; daavaa: promise, guarantee; masiiha: Messiah; muhabbat ke maaro.n: the lovestruck; davaa: medicine; zahar: poison; diljale: admirer; ahsaan: favor; mahmaan: guest; duaaye.n: blessings; umr bhar: life-long.

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Of course, no mujra number is complete without some groveling from a drunk hero.

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Khilte Hain Gul Yahan Lyrics & Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Handsome Shashi Kapoor gestures romantically with a pink rose in Sharmilee (1971).

Today we showcase the lovely lyrics and English translation of “Khilte Hai Gul Yahaan” from Sharmilee (1971) in honor of beloved actor Shashi Kapoor’s passing this week. “Khilte Hai Gul Yahaan” exemplifies quintessential Bollywood Shashi Kapoor, although film-goers will also remember another very different and talented side of the actor who thrived in independent and cross-over cinema. Born and raised in Bollywood royalty, Shashi Kapoor was 79 years old at the time of his death and had a prolific career of nearly 150 films.

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Soft-lighting helps Rakhee glow in a glamour close-up from Sharmilee (1971).

Released in 1971, Sharmilee was a commercial and artistic success that launched both Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee’s star status in Bombay. Rakhee plays a dual role in the film–twin sisters, one shy and traditional and one outgoing and Westernized–who both fall for a handsome army officer played by Shashi Kapoor. Even at that time, Bollywood was no stranger to the cliche of the twin storyline–Shashi Kapoor himself had recently starred in his own twin-love-triangle-melodrama Haseena Maan Jayegi (1968). Can you guess which twin our hero ultimately ends up with? Is the name of the film not painfully obvious? I’ll give you another hint…in classic Bollywood, the traditional Indian way of life always wins!

Shashi Kapoor meets Rakhee (as vivacious twin) at a picturesque rest house in Kashmir on his way home from the army where she is traveling with a group of girl friends. Emboldened by Kishore Kumar’s confident vocals, Shashi Kapoor charms the party by crooning “Khilte Hai Gul Yahaan” and by his devastatingly gorgeous crooked smile. With music by S.D. Burman and the unparalleled Kashmiri countryside in the Winter, romance is all but inevitable. There’s also something undeniable about Bollywood actors in red turtlenecks that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

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Shashi Kapoor gazes outward at the ethereal Kashmiri snowstorm in Sharmilee (1971).

Follow along with us below in our English translation to the lyrics of “Khilte Hai Gul Yahan” from Sharmilee (1971). The video of the song is here! Lata Mangeshkar reprises the song later in the film, but unfortunately, her version is sadder and far less popular.

Khilte Hain Gul Yahan Lyrics & English Translation:

Khilte hai.N gul yahaa.N, khilke bikharane ko
Here roses bloom, but they bloom only to have their petals disperse
Milte hai.N dil yahaa.N, mil ke bichhaDane ko
Here hearts meet, but they meet only to become separated
Khilte hai.N gul yahaa.N…
Here roses bloom…

Kal rahe na rahe, mausam yeh pyaar kaa
Tomorrow this season of love may or may not remain
Kal ruke na ruke, Dolaa bahaar kaa…
Tomorrow the swing of Spring may or may not come to a stop
Chaar pal mile jo aaj, pyaar mei.N guzaar de
Let us pass these four moments we meet in love 
Khilte hai.N gul yahaa.N…
Here roses bloom…

Jhiilo.N ke honTho.N par, megho.N kaa raag hai
On the lips of the lakes is the melody of the clouds
Phuulo.N ke siine mei.N, ThanDii-ThanDii aag hai
In the hearts of the flowers is a cool flame
Dil ke aaiine.N mei.N tuu, yeh samaa utaar de
Let this atmosphere reflect upon the mirror of your heart
Khilte hai.N gul yahaa.N…
Here roses bloom…

Pyaasaa hai dil, sanam, pyaasii yeh raat hai
There is a yearning in my heart, my beloved, as is a yearning in the night
HonTho.N mei.N dabii-dabii koii miiThii baat hai
Sweet words lay silent on the lips
In lamho.N pe aaj tuu, har khushii nisaar de
Bestow every happiness on these moments today
Khilte hai.N gul yahaa.N…
Here roses bloom…

Glossary:

khilnaa: to bloom; gul: rose; yahaa.N: here; bikharanaa: to disperse; milnaa: to meet; dil: heart; bichhaDnaa: to become separated; kal: tomorrow (or yesterday, depending on context); mausam: season; pyaar: love; ruknaa: to stop; Dolaa: swing; bahaar: Spring; chaar: four; pal: moment; aaj: today; guzaarnaa: to pass; jhiilaa: lake, marsh; ho.NT: lips; meghaa: cloud; raagaa: melody, song; phuul: flowers; siinaa: chest, heart; ThanDii: cold; aag: flame; aaiinaa: mirror; samaa: atmosphere; utaarnaa: to alight, to descend; pyaasaa: thirsty, yearning; sanam: beloved; raat: night; dabii: hidden, silent; miiThii: sweet; baat: words, conversation; lamhaa: moment; har: every; khushii: happiness; nisaar: adornment, bestowment

Did you know that snow is actually extremely difficult to capture on film? Not only could filmmakers not wait around patiently for an actual snowstorm to get their shot, but snow is so fine and iridescent, that traditional film cameras could rarely pick it up. Yesteryear filmmakers often sprayed everything from marble dust, foamite (the fluffy stuff that comes out of fire extinguishers), to cornflakes painted white in order to recreate the magic of a snowstorm. You’ll see what I mean if you take a real close look when Shashi grabs some “snow” from the window sill to throw at the girls in the cabin!

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A snowy view of my parent’s backyard. It may not be Kashmir, but it ain’t bad! And no, that fluff in the air isn’t cornflakes.

This song translation was requested by fan Swami. Thank you for the excellent request!

If you can’t get enough of Shashi Kapoor this week (or in general), check out another romantic hit “Likhe Jo Khat Tujhe” from the film Kanyadaan (1968). It’s one of my personal favorite songs of all time!

– Mrs. 55

Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Shashi Kapoor and Rakhee celebrate their wedding night with song in Kabhi Kabhi (1976).

Happy Valentine’s Day! In honor of the occasion, we present the lyrics and full English translation to one of the great love poems of Hindi films: “Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein” from the 1976 star-studded mega-hit Kabhi Kabhi.

Penned by that evergreen poet Sahir Ludhianvi, “Kabhi Kabhi” remains on top of any list of Bollywood love songs. The lyrics are written from the heart in adoration of a woman on a couple’s wedding night. The song is reflective and gentle, but bursting with a beautiful excitement of what lies ahead. Kabhi Kabhi revolves around the love affairs of the protagonists and their effects on the next generation. The ageless devotion expressed in this song continues to evolve and evoke new meanings as the film progresses from one revelation to the next.

An interesting aspect of this song is that it is sung from a male perspective by a female heroine (after all, the song was dedicated to her in the first place by Amitabh Bachchan!) Lines like “Suhaag raat hai, ghunghaT uTaa rahaa hoo.N mai.N” evoke tragic irony as Rakhee feels her veil lifted by a man she does not love. Similarly, the final line “Mai.N jaantaa huu.N ki tuu gher hai, magar yuu.N hii” can be interpreted as both as an understanding that husband and wife still must get to know one another, but also as Amitabh Bachhan accepting that Rakhee now belongs to someone else. And just further to wring your heart, blind-to-reality Shashi Kapoor insists to her that if they ever meet the great poet who wrote these words, they must thank him for being with them on their wedding night. (Naturally, they all do meet up somehow–and it’s every bit a circus you can imagine!)

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Rakhee sings from the anthology of poems written by a former lover in Kabhi Kabhi (1976).

You don’t need to know or appreciate the background of this song to fall head over heels for its melody and blissful lyrics. So celebrate the love in your life and enjoy our English translation of “Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein” below!

Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Mein Lyrics and Translation:

Mukesh:

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai
Sometimes this thought enters my heart

Lata:

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai
Sometimes this thought enters my heart
Ki jaise tujhko banaayaa gaya hai mere liye
That you were created only for me
Tu ab se pehle sitaaro.n mei.N bas rahii thii kahii.N
Before now you lived somewhere among the stars
Tujhe zameen pe bulaayaa gayaa hai mere liye
You were called to earth only for me

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai
Sometimes this thought enters my heart
Ki yeh badan, yeh nigaahe.N merii amaanat hai.N
That this body and these eyes belong to me
Yeh gesuuo.N kii ghanii chaao.N hai.N merii khaatir
These dark shadows of your hair are for me alone
Yeh honTh aur yeh baahe.N meri amaanat hai.N
These lips and these arms belong to me

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai
Sometimes this thought enters my heart
Ki jaise bajatii hai shahanaaiiaa.N sii raaho.N mei.N
As if wedding music is being played in the streets

Mukesh:

Suhaag raat hai, ghunghaT uTaa rahaa huu.N mai.N
It is our wedding night, I am lifting your veil

Lata:

Suhaag raat hai, ghunghaT uTaa rahaa huu.N mai.N
It is our wedding night, I am lifting your veil
SimaT rahii hai tuu sharmaake apne baaho.N mei.N
You shyly blush as I wrap you in my arms

Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai
Sometimes this thought enters my heart
Ki jaise tuu mujhe chaahegii umr bhar yuu.N hii
That you will love me forever like this
UThegii merii taraf pyaar kii nazar yuu.N hii
That you will always lift this loving gaze to me

Mukesh:

Mai.N jaantaa huu.N ki tuu gher hai magar yuu.N hii
I know you are still a stranger, however
Kabhi kabhi mere dil mei.N khayaal aataa hai
Sometimes this thought enters my heart

Glossary:

kabhi kabhi: sometimes, from time to time; khayaal: thought; sitaaraa: star; zameen: earth; badan: body; nigaahe.N: glances, eyes; amaanat: property; gesuu: hair; ghanii: dark; chaao.N: shadow; [kisii kii] khatir: [for someone’s] sake; honTh; lips; baahe.N: arms; amaanat: belonging; shahanaaii: a wind instrument usually played at weddings; raah: path, streets; suhaag raat: wedding night; ghunghaT: veil; sharmaanaa: to become shy; umr bhar: whole life; [kisii kii] taraf: [in someone’s] direction; gher: stranger

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By the end of “Kabhi Kabhi”, the already awkward suhaag raat scene inevitably becomes more awkward.

This special Valentine’s day post is dedicated to my fiancé! It’s been two years since we’ve been together and I’ve loved every moment. Thank you for putting up with my singing old Lata songs outside my range while you’re trying to study, and for finally appreciating the epicness that is Mughal-e-Azam!

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My adorable fiancé and I met at as undergrads at Harvard where he was in the class ahead of me. He proposed two years later, and now we’re busy planning the wedding!

– Mrs. 55

Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Rakhee daydreams about the ever-handsome Dharmendra in Blackmail (1973)

Blackmail (1973) is considered to be one of Vijay Anand’s most romantic directorial ventures. Starring Dharmendra and Rakhee, this film has all the ingredients to make a great Bollywood film: bogus science,  outrageous costumes, and of course, a memorable soundtrack. This album’s shining jewel is none other than “pal pal dil ke paas,” a beautiful expression of love that is remembered today for Kishore Kumar’s romantic and sensitive rendition.

To understand this song in context of the film, let’s take a look at a brief synopsis of the plot. Kailash (played by Dharmendra) is in charge of operating a power plant that provides electricity to homes across India. His quirky uncle Dr. Khurana (played by Madan Puri) is a scientist that is researching novel approaches to generating electricity via solar sources–how innovative for the 1970s! A local man named Mr. Mehta is unhappy about these advances because solar-powered energy is likely to put an end to his battery business. His business partner Jeevan (played by Shatrugan Sinha) is aware of Dr. Khurana’s research because he is a dear friend of Kailash.

Jeevan is set to marry Asha (played by Rakhee), Mr. Mehta’s daughter, but things change once Kailash unknowingly confesses his love for Asha to him. Taking advantage of this situation, Jeevan plans to get Kailash and Asha married so that he can eventually use Asha to get access to Dr. Khurana’s profitable “formula.” Jeevan arranges to meet Asha in a beautiful garden, but he sends Kailash in his place. They have a conversation about their dreams and hopes, and Asha warms up to the sincerity and purity of Kailash’s heart. In a bold move, Kailash hands over a packet of love letters he has written to Asha over the years to express his deepest desires, and he subsequently flees the scene to avoid embarrassment.

At this point in the film, we hear “pal pal dil ke paas,” song composed by music director duo Kalyanji-Anandji and penned by Rajinder Krishan. Unlike many instances where the on-screen portrayal of a song fails to do it justice, director Vijay Anand has done an excellent job to ensure that this picturization enhances the beauty of the music in the context of the film. In a nutshell, this song describes the progression of love between Kailash and Asha over time. At the beginning, Asha expresses restrained pleasure as she begins to read Kailash’s letters with a coy smile; by the end, she is so smitten by the poetry in his letters that she cannot stop daydreaming about him.

Does the love story between Kailash and Asha reach a happy conclusion? You’ll have to watch the film to find out! Even if the plot doesn’t appeal to you, there’s a particularly steamy  scene between Dharmendra and Rakhee  during “mile mile do badan” that is worth watching for the scandal factor alone.  Enjoy, and remember to send us your requests for song translations — we haven’t received one in a while!

-Mr. 55

Does anyone even write love letters like this anymore?

Pal Pal Dil Ke Paas: Lyrics and Translation

pal pal dil ke paas tum rahtii ho
You reside forever near my heart,
jiivan miiThii pyaas yah kahtii ho
And you call this life a sweet thirst.

har shaam aa.nkhon par teraa aa.nchal laharaaye
Every evening, the end of your sari flutters over my eyes. 
har raat yaado.n ki baaraat le aaye
And every night, it brings a parade of memories. 
mai.n saa.ns letaa huu.n, terii khushbuu aatii hai
With each breath, I smell your fragrance. 
ek mahkaa-mahkaa saa paighaam laatii hai
It brings along a scented message. 
mere dil kii dhaDkan bhii tere geet gaatii hai
Even my heartbeat sings a song for you. 
pal pal dil ke paas tum rahtii ho
You reside forever near my heart.

kal tujh ko dekhaa thaa, mai.ne apne aangan me.n
Yesterday, I saw you in my own courtyard. 
jaise kah rahii thii tum, mujhe baa.ndh lo bandhan me.n
It was as if you were saying, “Bind me in an eternal bond”
yah kaisaa rishtaa hai? ye kaise sapne hai.n?
What kind of bond is this? What kind of dreams are these?
begaane ho kar bhii kyo.n apne lagte hai.n? 
Despite being so foreign, why do I find them to be intimate? 
mai.n soch me.n rahtaa huu.n, Dar Dar ke kahtaa huu.n 
I remain in contemplation as I hesitatingly declare: 
pal pal dil ke paas tum rahtii ho
You reside forever near my heart. 

tum sochogii kyo.n itnaa mai.n tum se pyaar karuu.n
You might question why I love you so dearly.
tum samjhogii diivaanaa, mai.n bhii iqraar karuu.n
You might think I am crazy, and I would confess to that.
diivaano.n kii ye baate.n, diivaane jaante hai.n
Only a person crazy in love can understand the actions of another,
jalne me.n kyaa mazaa hai, parvaane jaante hai.n
And only moths understand the pleasure found in burning.
tum yuu.n hii jalaate rahnaa, aa aa kar khvaabo.n me.n
Please continue to ignite my passion as you come into my dreams.  
pal pal dil ke paas tum rahtii ho
You reside forever near my heart. 

Glossary

miiThaa: sweet; pyaas: thirst; aa.nchal: decorative end of a sari; laharaanaa: to flutter; baaraat: parade, procession; khushbuu: fragrance; mahka: scented; paighaam: message; aangan: courtyard; bandhan: bond; begaanaa: foreign, alien; Dar Dar ke: hesitaingly, fearfully; iqraar karnaa: to admit, confess; mazaa: pleasure; parvaanaa: moth;  jalaanaa: to ignite; khvaab: dream.

Dharmendra and Rakhee get cozy together in Blackmail (1973).

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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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