The Top 30 Best Classic Bollywood Soundtracks of All Time

The best music albums from classic Bollywood have been chosen. Which songs made the list of Bollywood’s top 30 greatest?

Raj Kapoor Nargis Iconic BarsaatIntroduction

Welcome to the greatest music of classic Bollywood! We at Mr. and Mrs. 55 – Classic Bollywood Revisited! have compiled our ultimate list of the top 30 best classic Bollywood film soundtracks of all-time. Music is the very soul of classic Bollywood, a legacy of beauty and style that once lit the world. These soundtracks showcase the most talented artists of Bollywood and are as diverse and transformative as the films to which they lent their magic. Long after the cinema lights fade, this music remains in the air, haunting us with desire, sustaining us through tragedy, and enchanting our daily experiences in the world.

Soundtracks of all Hindi films released between the years of 1945 to 1985 were considered and ranked based on the merit of lyrics, musical composition and complexity, historical and cultural value, vocal performance, and accomplishments of the soundtrack elements as an ensemble. Topping our list are composers Sachin Dev Burman, Rahul Dev Burman, Naushad, and the duo Shankarsingh Raghuwanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal (often credited as Shankar-Jaikishen) whose works both defined and reinvented Bollywood. Like our enormously popular list of the Top 30 Greatest Classic Bollywood Films of All Time, these soundtracks embrace the unexpected.

The advent of music in Bollywood binds the stormy history of a shackled India emerging from depression and war with the golden age of Hollywood musical film. Many believe that films with de rigeur musical numbers is a unique hallmark of Hindi cinema. However, the early “talkie” pictures of India such as Alam Ara (1931) were heavily influenced by the popular western films like The Jazz Singer (1927) and Showboat (1929) in which the new sound technology instantly propelled musical film as the most profitable genre. Hollywood directors like Busby Berkeley whose signature spectacle was the mass ornament and nimble-footed singer-dancers like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers helped contribute to the hundreds and hundreds of musical films cherished by the western world during the 1930s-1950s. The then universal convention of five to seven musical numbers peppering a film was easily embraced and adapted by Hindi movie directors who introduced Hindustani musical traditions to their work. Playback singers such as Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi, Kishore Kumar, and Asha Bhonsle were as celebrated as the actors for whom they lent their voices. Often before a film was released, a Bollywood movie’s soundtrack was played repeatedly on the radio, reaching the hearts of millions across the country who may not have afforded the luxury to see the actual film in theatres.

While Hollywood eventually diverged from the musical film genre by the late 1960s, India was awakening to its own golden era of film in which music dominated the sensory milieu. Perhaps it was the escapism of music with its perfect harmonies and piercing poetry that touched the newly freed country still finding its identity. From solemn hymns of the countryside to feverish cabarets of city nightlife, from extravagant orchestras to solitary sitar solos, and from singers whose voices seem to descend from heaven, these soundtracks unleashed new eras of possibility and romance. The music of classic Bollywood will change you forever. For a few fleeting minutes, the ideals you dreamed of are made real.

Take this journey with us through the best music albums of yesteryear Hindi cinema. This music the way is was meant to be. This is classic Bollywood.

The Top 30 Best Classic Bollywood Soundtracks of All Time:

1. Pakeezah

Pakeezah Meena Kumari Chalte Chalte

Ghulam Mohammed and Naushad, 1971

2. Guide

Guide

S.D. Burman, 1965

  • Din Dhal Jaaye – Mohammed Rafi
  • Aaj Phir Jeene Ki – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Piya Tose – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Tere Mere Sapne – Mohammed Rafi
  • Gaata Rahe Mera Dil – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi
  • Kya Se Kya Ho Gaya – Mohammed Rafi
  • Saiyan Beiman – Lata Mangeshkar

3. Mughal-e-Azam

Mughal-e-Azam

Naushad, 1960

  • Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat – Lata Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum
  • Pyar Kiya To Darna Kya – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Mohe Pangat Pe – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Mohabbat Ki Jhooti Kahani – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Aye Mohabbat Zindabad – Mohammed Rafi
  • Prem Jogan Ban Ke – Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan
  • Yeh Dil Ki Lagi – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Title Music

4. Nagin

Nagin

Hemant Kumar, 1954

  • Man Dole Mera – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Jadugar Saiyan – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Tere Dwar Khada Ek Jogi – Hemant Kumar
  • Mera Dil Yeh Pukare Aaja – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Sun Ri Sakhi – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Yaad Rakhna Pyar Ki Nishani – Asha Bhonsle and Hemant Kumar

5. Aradhana

Aradhana

S.D. Burman, 1969

  • Roop Tera Mastana – Kishore Kumar
  • Mere Sapnon Ki Rani – Kishore Kumar
  • Kora Kaagaz Tha – Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
  • Gunguna Rahe Hai Bhanware – Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi
  • Baghon Mein Bahar Hai – Mohammed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar
  • Saphal Hogi Teri Aradhana – S.D. Burman

6. Teesri Manzil

Teesri Manzil

R.D. Burman, 1966

  • Aaja Aaja – Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi
  • Deewana Mujhsa Nahin – Mohammed Rafi
  • O Haseena Zulfonwali – Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi
  • O Mere Sona Re – Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi
  • Tumne Mujhe Dekha – Mohammed Rafi

7. Barsaat

Barsaat

Shankarsingh Raghuwanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, 1949

  • Hawa Mein Udta Jaye – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Chhod Gaye Balam – Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh
  • Jiya Beqarar Hai – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Mujhe Kisise Pyar – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Patli Kamar Hai – Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh

8. Anarkali

Anarkali

C. Ramachandra, 1953

  • Yeh Zindagi Usiki Hai – Lata Mangeshkar
  • O Zindagi Ke Denewale – Hemant Kumar
  • O Aasmanwale – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Jaag Dard-e-Ishq – Lata Mangeshkar and Hemant Kumar
  • Mohabbat Aisi Dhadhkan Hai – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Mujhse Mat Pooch – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Aaja Ab To Aaja – Lata Mangeshkar

9. Kati Patang

Kati Patang

R.D. Burman, 1970

  • Jis Gali Mein – Mukesh
  • Yeh Jo Mohabbat Hai – Kishore Kumar
  • Na Koi Umang Hai – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Yeh Shaam Mastani – Kishore Kumar
  • Pyaar Diwanaa Hota Hai – Kishore Kumar
  • Aaj Na Chhodenge – Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar

10. Chori Chori

Chori Chori

Shankarsingh Raghuwanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, 1956

  • Panchi Banoon Udti – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Aaja Sanam – Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey
  • Jahan Main Jaati Hoon – Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey
  • Yeh Raat Bheegi Bheegi – Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey
  • Rasik Balma – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Man Bhavan Ke Ghar – Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle

11. Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Roshan, 1963

12. Hum Dono

Hum Dono Abhi Na Jao Dev Anand Sadhana

Jaidev, 1961

13. Jewel Thief

Jewel Thief

S.D. Burman, 1967

  • Honton Pe Aisi Baat – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Aasman Ke Neeche – Lata Mangeshkar and Kishore Kumar
  • Dil Pukare – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi
  • Rulake Gaya Sapna – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Yeh Dil Na Hota – Kishore Kumar
  • Title Music

14. Caravan

Caravan

R.D. Burman, 1971

  • Piya Tu Ab To – Asha Bhonsle
  • Chadti Jawani – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi
  • Kitna Pyara Wada – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi
  • Goriya Kahan – Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi
  • Ab Jo Mile Hai – Asha Bhonsle

15. Bobby

Bobby Main Shayar To Nahin

Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar and Pyarelal Ramprasad Sharma, 1973

  • Main Shayar To Nahin – Shailendra Singh
  • Bahar Se Koi Andhar – Lata Mangeshkar and Shailendra Singh
  • Jhoot Bole Kauwa Kate – Lata Mangeshkar and Shailendra Singh
  • Mujhe Kuch Kehna Hai – Lata Mangeshkar and Shailendra Singh
  • Na Mangoon Sona Chandi – Manna Dey and Shailendra Singh

16. Pyaasa

Pyaasa

S.D. Burman, 1957

  • Jaane Woh Kaise – Hemant Kumar
  • Aaj Sajan Mohe – Geeta Dutt
  • Hum Aap Ki Ankhon Mein – Geeta Dutt and Mohammed Rafi
  • Jane Kya Tune Kahi – Asha Bhonsle
  • Yeh Duniya Agar Mil Bhi Jaaye – Mohammed Rafi

17. Abhiman

Abhiman

S.D. Burman, 1973

18. Anand

Anand

Salil Choudhury, 1971

19. Kabhi Kabhi

Kabhi Kabhi

Mohammed Zayur Khayyam, 1976

20. Baiju Bawra

Baiju bawra

Naushad, 1952

  • O Duniya Ke Rakhwale – Mohammed Rafi
  • Man Tarpat Hari Dar – Mohammed Rafi
  • Mohe Bhool Gaye Sanwariya – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Jhoole Mein Pawan Ke – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi
  • Tu Ganga Ki Mauj – Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi

21. Mother India

Mother India

Naushad, 1957

22. Madhumati

Madhumati

Salil Choudhury, 1958

  • Aaja Re Pardesi – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Dil Tadap Tadap – Lata Mangeshkar and Mukesh
  • Suhana Safar – Mukesh
  • Ghadi Ghadi Mora Dil – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Chadh Gayo Papi Bichua – Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey

23. Basant Bahar

Basant Bahar

Shankarsingh Raghuwanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, 1956

  • Duniya Na Bhaye Mohammed Rafi
  • Bhaye Bhanjana – Manna Dey
  • Ja Ja Re Ja – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Main Piya Teri – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Nain Mile Chain Kahan – Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey

24. Aar Paar

Aar Paar

O.P. Nayyar, 1954

  • Babuji Dheere Chalna – Geeta Dutt
  • Sun Sun Sun Zalima – Geeta Dutt and Mohammed Rafi
  • Kabhi Aar Kabhi Par – Shamshad Begum
  • Yeh Lo Main Haari Piya – Geeta Dutt
  • Hoon Abhi Main Jawan – Geeta Dutt

25. Kashmir Ki Kali

Kashmir Ki Kali

O.P. Nayyar, 1964

26. Bandini

Bandini

S.D. Burman, 1963

  • Ab Ke Baras Bhej – Asha Bhonsle
  • O Re Mahji – S.D. Burman
  • Mora Gora Ang Laile – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Jogi Jab Se Tu Aaya – Lata Mangeshkar
  • O Janewale Ho Sake – Mukesh

27. Sangam

Sangam

Shankarsingh Raghuwanshi and Jaikishan Dayabhai Panchal, 1964

28. Yaadon Ki Baraat

Yaadon Ki Baraat

R.D. Burman, 1973

  • Chura Liya Hai – Asha Bhonsle and Mohammed Rafi
  • Aapke Kamre Mein – Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar
  • Lekar Hum Deewana Dil – Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar
  • Meri Soni Meri Tamana – Asha Bhonsle and Kishore Kumar
  • Yaadon Ki Baraat – Mohammed Rafi and Kishore Kumar

29. Amar Prem

Rajesh Khanna Amar Prem

R.D. Burman, 1972

  • Chingari Koi Bhadke – Kishore Kumar
  • Raina Beeti Jaaye – Lata Mangeshkar
  • Kuch To Log Kahenge – Kishore Kumar
  • Yeh Kya Hua – Kishore Kumar
  • Bada Natkhat Hai Yeh – Lata Mangeshkar

30. Umrao Jaan

 

Rekha2_UmraoJaan

Mohammed Zayur Khayyam, 1981

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

– Mrs. 55

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Chaudavin Ka Chand Ho Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

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Guru Dutt compares the beauty of his beloved Waheeda Rehman to the full moon of the night sky in Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960).

Today, we present the lyrics and English translation to the title track from Mohammed Sadiq’s Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960).  After Kaaghaz Ke Phool (1959) proved to be a box office disaster, Chaudavin Ka Chand salvaged Guru Dutt’s production studio by garnering  widespread commercial success at the time of its release. Reflecting on the failure of Kaaghaz Ke Phool and the success of Chaudavin Ka Chand, Guru Dutt said,

 “Life me.n, yaar, kyaa hai? Do hii to chiize.n hai.n: –kamiyaabii aur failure. There is nothing in between.”

Although the success of Chaudavin Ka Chand as a comeback film for Guru Dutt Productions can be attributed to number of factors, one of the most important is the film’s outstanding musical score. Composed by Ravi and penned by Shakeel Badayuni, this soundtrack is full of memorable gems like the sassy Asha-Shamshad qawwali sharmaa ke ye kyo.n sab pardaanashii.n and the pain-filled badle badle mere sarkaar (Lata Mangeshkar’s only foray into singing for Guru Dutt Films!).

Among these gems, the film’s title track chaudavii.n ka chaa.nd ho steals the show as one of the most beautiful expressions of love in Hindi film music. Tuned to Raga Pahadi, Shakeel Badayuni’s Filmfare Award winning Urdu poetry abounds with metaphors to describe the film’s heroine Waheeda Rehman. Reminiscent of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), the the poet employs natural imagery to characterize his beloved’s beauty through references to the full moon (chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd), the sun (aftaab), a lotus (ka.nval), wine (sharaab), and more. Ultimately, the poet concludes that his beloved is so beautiful that her beauty is beyond comparison to any object (jo bhii ho tum khudaa kii qasam laajavaab ho).

No discussion about chaudavii.n ka chaa.nd ho can be complete without giving credit to Mohammed Rafi for his magical rendition. Here, Rafi offers a technically brilliant performance but it is the warmth, passion, and soul in his voice that renders this song a timeless masterpiece. About fifteen years following his Bollywood debut, Rafi received his first well-deserved Filmfare Award for this song in 1961.

Did you know that the Censor Board objected to chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd ho when Guru Dutt re-released a version of the song shot in color? As the color version was being filmed, Waheeda Rehman’s eyes became irritated from the heat of the high-powered lights used during the shoot. Upon seeing the red color of the heroine’s eyes, the Censor Board claimed that the colored picturization of the song contained suggestive and lustful implications inappropriate for audiences. What a bizarre and unfair objection placed on such an innocently romantic song! Don’t let it stop your from enjoying this classic gem along with our lyrics and translation below. Until next time…

-Mr. 55
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Sleeping in a white dress, Waheeda Rehman’s angelic beauty shines in Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960).

Chaudavin Ka Chand Ho: Lyrics and Translation

chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd ho yaa aftaab ho?
Are you the full moon of the night or the sun of the day? 
jo bhii ho tum khudaa kii qasam laajavaab ho

Whatever you are, I swear by the Lord that you are incomparable.

zulfe.n hai.n jaise kaandho.n pe baadal jhuke hue
Your tresses are like dark clouds sloping down your shoulders.
aa.nkhe.n hai.n jaise mai ke pyaale bhare hue
Your beautiful eyes are like wine-filled goblets.
mastii hai jis me.n pyaar kii tum vah sharaab ho
You are the wine that abounds with the intoxication of love.

chaharaa hai jaise jhiil me.n ha.nstaa huaa ka.nval
Is your face like a smiling lotus in the brook,
yaa zindagii ke saaz pe chheDii huii ghazal?
or like an ode tuned to the music of life?
jaan-e-bahaar tum kisii shaayar kaa khvaab ho
My beloved, you are a poet’s dream.

ho.nTho.n pe kheltii hai.n tabassum kii bijliyaa.n
The current of your bright smile runs through your beautiful lips.
sajde tumhaarii raah me.n kartii hai kahkashaa.n
Even galaxies lay prostrate with reverence in your path.
duniyaa-e-husn-o-ishq kaa tum hii shabaab ho
 Only your youthful splendor shines in this world of love and beauty.

chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd ho yaa aftaab ho?
Are you the full moon of the night or the sun of the day?

Glossary

chaudavii.n kaa chaa.nd: moon of the fourteenth night, full moon; aftaab: sun; laajavaab: incomparable; kaandhaa: shoulder; mai: wine; pyaalaa: goblet; mastii: intoxication; sharaab: wine, alcohol; jhiil: brook; ka.nval: lotus; saaz: musical instrument; ghazal: song, ode; jaan-e-bahaar: beloved; shaayar: poet; khvaab: dream; tabassum: smile; bijlii: current; sajde karnaa: to lay prostrate; kahkashaa.n: galaxy; duniyaa-e-husn-o-ishq: world of love and beauty; shabaab: youth.

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Guru Dutt and Waheeda Rehman’s on-screen chemistry in Chaudavin Ka Chand (1960) reflected their passionate off-screen affair.

Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Shamshad Begum Bollywood playback singer

Bollywood playback legend Shamshad Begum (1919-2013)

Last Wednesday, Bollywood lost another of its finest treasures: legendary playback singer Shamshad Begum. The veteran singer was 94 years old. She was well-known for breaking the norms–a maverick with a Brenda Lee-esque penchant for the Western and an irresistible je ne sais quoi that drew hoards of admirers from across the sub-continent. While Lata Mangeshkar and her clones sought to define femininity by delicate, high-pitch vocals Shamshad Begum proved over and over again that a sexy, strong timber could still carry innocence and that women in India could not all be categorized by a single stereotyped voice. Yes, the world needed Shamshad Begum, a woman who never succumbed to expectations and whose daring voice lent itself to some of the greatest works of Bollywood’s Golden Age. We salute you, Shamshad, and the invaluable service you did to the nascent Hindi film industry.

Who can forget her performance with Nigar Sultana as the sultry Bahar in Mughal-e-Azam‘s “Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat“? Few women dared sing a duet with Lata Mangeshkar for fear of inferiority–but that was precisely where the great talents of Shamshad shined their brightest. With a voice unlike anything in Bollywood history, Shamshad dazzled audiences with a deep, edgy flair for which she was famous. There was simply no competition because the voices were incomparable. Shamshad’s other famous duets such as “Leke Pehla Pehla Pyar” with Mohammed Rafi from CID (1956), “Mere Piya Gaye Rangoon” with Chitalkar Ramchandra in Patanga (1949) or “Kajra Mohabbatwala” with Asha Bhonsle in Qismat (1968) to name a few, showcase her unique robust twist on the norm and continue to be remade and popularized today.

Shamshad Begum receiving the Padma Bhushan for a lifetime of achievements in 200.9

Shamshad Begum receiving the Padma Bhushan for a lifetime of achievements in 2009.

Music director O.P. Nayyar confessed in an interview that when he entered the music industry, he begged Shamshad Begum to sing for his compositions. Her first collaboration with him became absolutely legendary: “Kabhi Aar, Kabhi Paar” from the film Aar Paar (1954). Here at Mr. and Mrs. 55, our favorite of her solo hits is the extraordinarily catchy S.D. Burman composition, “Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re” from Bahar (1951) in which classical dancer Vijayantimala made her Bollywood debut.

You can tell from themyriad of hand gestures reminiscent of a classical mudra to accompany the emotion of each line (coupled with her impeccable posture), that teenager Vijayantimala was well-trained in Bharatnatyam arts. This theatrical dance form meshes interestingly with the medium of film, at times carrying the over-expression of a silent movie and the spectacle of a living room classical dance performance. Perhaps the best part of this adorably innocent love song (besides, of course, Shamshad’s vocals!) is the clever and hilariously unnecessary drama accompanying the actresses 4 costumes changes in the song!

Vijayantimala in Bahar 1951 Saiyan Dil Mein Ana Re

Young Vijantimala makes her Bollywood film debut singing Shamshad Begum’s “Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re” in Bahar (1951).

Please enjoy the full lyrics and English translation to this Shamshad Begum hit “Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re” below and let us know YOUR favorite Shamshad Begum song in the comments!

Saiyan Dil Mein Aana Re Lyrics and Translation:

Saiyaa.N dil mei.N aanaa re
Beloved, come into my heart
Aake phir na jaanaa re
And once you come, never leave
Chham chhamaa chham chham

Raja ban ke aanaa re
Like a king, come to me
Mohe leke jaanaa re
And take me with you when you go
Chham chhamaa chham chham

Chaandnii raat hogii, taaro.N kii baaraat hogii
It will be a moonlit night, the stars will form a wedding procession
Pehle pehle pyaar kii pehlii pehlii baat hogii
The first words of my first love will be spoken
Khushii khushii gaaye.Nge ham geet suhaanaa re
We will joyfully sing a beautiful song

ThoDii thoDii sahal hogii, thoDaa thoDaa pyaar hogaa
Little by little, our love will become easy
Kabhii iqraar hoga, kabhii inkaar hogaa
Sometimes you will agree with me, sometimes you will refuse me
Teraa manaanaa meraa rooTh jaanaa re
But you appease me, my anger will disappear

Tum mere paas hoge, gham baDii duur hogaa
You will be beside me, and all sadness will be far away
Kehtaa hai jiyaa meraa hogaa zuroor hogaa
My heart tells me this will certainly be so
Laanaa re laanaa tashriif laana re
Come, believe in me

Saiyaa.N dil mei.N aanaa re
Beloved, come into my heart
Aake phir na jaanaa re
And once you come, never leave
Chham chhamaa chham chham

Raja ban ke aanaa re
Like a king, come to me
Mohe leke jaanaa re
And take me with you when you go
Chham chhamaa chham chham

Glossary:

saiyaaN: beloved; raajaa: king; chaandnii: moonlight; baaraat: wedding procession; khushii: happiness, joy; geet: song; suhaanaa: beautiful; thoDaa: a little; sahal: easy; iqraar: agreement, acceptance; inkaar: refusal; manaanaa: to appease someone; rooTh: sulk, anger; gham: sadness; duur: far; jiyaa: soul, heart; zuroor: certainly; tashriif laanaa: a respectful way of asking someone to come or to enter (and in doing so, trust their honor with you)

So now you’re asking yourself, why is there no translation given for arguably the best line of the song: “Chham chhamaa chham chham“? There are a few ways to analyze this line–whether she’s referencing the glittering of stars, doing some free-styling by adding an extemporaneous beat to the melody, or getting carried away by the excitement of her own life–I think any real attempt to translate that exceedingly interpretive line formally would be an injustice to the song’s joie de vivre. Let us know your favorite Shamshad Begum moment in the comments!

– Mrs. 55

Diwali Songs from Classic Bollywood

01-golden-temple-diwali

Happy Diwali! For all our readers and fans observing the occasion, what could be better than a list of 10 classic Bollywood Diwali songs to enjoy over the celebrations today? For a country of over 1 billion Hindus and an industry that absolutely loves to celebrate any kind of occasion with song and dance, Bollywood has a surprisingly low number of Diwali songs in its films. I mean, think about it–Diwali is the country’s largest national holiday, lends itself brilliantly to poetry (festival of lights imagery, the story of the Ramayan, etc.), and is practically bound to succeed by virtue of having very little with which to compete. People are aching for these songs, yet they hardly exist–much less ones worth hearing over and over.

Dharmendra Jugnu Diwali

Dharmendra celebrates Diwali with fireworks and song in Jugnu (1973).

To be sure, plenty of great Diwali bhajans exist outside the realm of Bollywood (look no further than Tulsidas classic “Shri Ram Chandra”), many of which have excellent covers by our favorite playback singers. But within the films? The pickings are slim. I’ve got a theory as to why this might be the case. Let us consider the example of Christmas as we know it in America. When we think of great Christmas jingles, the songs we name predominantly come from hit singers or church traditions–with only a few actually having made it to popular culture from films, despite Hollywood having had a long and successful musical film movement (Judy Garland’s gorgeous “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” comes to mind).

So perhaps Bollywood is no different. Because singing a song about Diwali actually requires Diwali to be a major part of the plot, the happy coincidence rarely occurred–much less with the good fortune of also having been a brilliant composition. Furthermore, celebrations like Holi, for which we can name at least a handful of terrific Bollywood songs, actually lend themselves much better to an upbeat and colorful party on-screen–so musical composition could be a bit more relaxed. With Diwali, you’re treading on sacred ground–and why mess with something that non-filmi bhajans do way better anyway?

Still, a few intrepid pioneers prevailed, and while some are more memorable than others, you’ll find plenty of hidden gems! Below find our list of 10 classic Bollywood Diwali songs that will get the festivities started old-school style! Click the song names to get to the link to youtube.

10 Classic Bollywood Diwali Songs:

1. Kaise Diwali Manaye Lala (Mohammed Rafi, Paigham 1959)

Be prepared from some ridiculous Johnny Walker antics, but a fun dance beat to get your spirits up!

2. Aayi Ab Ke Saal Diwali (Lata Mangeshkar, Haqeeqat 1965)

On a somber note, this haunting Lata Mangeshkar melody from war epic Haqeeqat is a stark reminder of families in grieving this time of year.

3. Is Raat Diwali Kaise (Mohammed Rafi, Shamshad Begum, & Asha Bhonsle, Sabse Bada Rupaiya 1955)

Oh, what?! A Diwali qawwali?! SIGN ME UP! A peppy song describing Diwali festivities sung in traditional qawwali style that gets you clapping along.

4. Laakhon Taare Aasman Mein (Mukesh and Lata, Hariyali Aur Raasta 1962)

Another tragic lovers-separated-on-Diwali-night song starring Manoj Kumar and Mala Sinha, but the melody is sweet and watching Manoj Kumar mope is never such a bad thing. The Lata-Mukesh chemistry works well as always!

5. Jagmati Diwali Ki Raat Aa Gayi (Asha Bhonsle, Stage 1951)

We’re really getting old-school with this one. It’s a rare early song that sounds more like Geeta Dutt than Asha Bhonsle to me. It builds to a frenzy at the end that’s kind of exciting!

6. Deep Diwale Ke (Kishore Kumar, Jugnu 1973)

This may be one of the more popular Diwali songs on our list–sung by lively Kishore Kumar and picturized on Dharmendra with a bunch of happy school kids, you can’t go wrong!

7. Ek Woh Bhi Diwali Thi (Mukesh, Nazrana 1961)

For some balance, here’s another sad song by the inimitable Mukesh-Raj Kapoor duo. Everyone is having a grand time outside partying with sparklers, while moody Raj Kapoor broods upon the days that once were.

8. Deep Jalenge Deep Diwali Aayi Ho (Geeta Dutt, Paisa 1957)

As a connoisseur of Geeta Dutt obscurities, I love this song. With a joyous melody and that gentle lulling voice, it’s one of the better gems on this list!

9. Mele Hain Chiragon Ke Rangeen Ki Diwali Hai (Lata, Nazrana, 1961)

This would be the “happy version” counterpoint to the Raj Kapoor tragedy from earlier. You can see why Raj Kapoor is sad these days are over–everyone’s having a grand old time and it doesn’t hurt to have the voice of a goddess Lata to back you up!

10. Aayi Hai Diwali (Geeta Dutt and Shamshad Begum, Sheesh Mahal 1950)

Another early period Diwali song–and a duet no less! The whole household is bustling with activity and women all over join the chorus for the celebrations!

Even sexy song siren Helen puts on her serious face for a Diwali moment in Lahu Ke Do Rang (1979).

Here are two bonus tracks for extra thrills:

11. Aayi Diwali (Zohrabai Ambalewali, Rattan 1944)

The oldest song on our list! And of course, it’s a Greek tragedy–but rare and exciting for any fans of early early Bollywood. Before the days of Lata Mangeshkar, 1940s playback singer Zohrabai Ambalewali turned music director Naushad into an overnight sensation with this hit!

12. Jyot Se Jyot Jagate Chalo (the exciting Lata version! Sant Gyaneshwar, 1964)

OK, so this song might not be *technically* a Diwali song per se, but it’s thematically spot-on! And I just discovered the Lata Mangeshkar version to compliment the Mukesh version, which I had thought existed in isolation. I can’t believe I did not know about this sooner, I’m so happy right now!

This Diwali special was brought in by request from one of our favorite readers muskaan. We wish everyone a joyous Diwali and a prosperous year ahead!

– 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

Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaakar Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

The mehfil for the qawwali looks particularly vibrant in the recolored version of Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Directed by K. Asif, Mughal-e-Azam (1962) is one of the most cherished films in the history of Bollywood cinema. Although several films have been made around the same premise, Mughal-e-Azam is by far the most well-known depiction of the forbidden love story between Prince Salim and courtesan Anarkali.  We could write (and probably will) at least ten different posts to describe all the things we love about this movie: the intricate Urdu dialogue, the beautiful soundtrack composed by Naushad, the elaborate costumes and set design, the heartwrenching plot, and so on. Here, I’d like to  share the lyrics and translation for one of many gems found in this film’s soundtrack: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazmaakar.

This qawwali is set between Anarkali (played by Madhubala) and her chief rival Bahar (played by Nigar Sultana) as a musical debate on the nature of love. As both women fight for his affections, Prince Salim (played by Dilip Kumar) watches the performance and is supposed to give a rose to the winner of the debate at its conclusion.The back-and-forth debate style of these lyrics is quite a rare find in Bollywood cinema, and it is even rarer to encounter such lyrics (penned by Shakeel Badayuni!) as a female-female duet. Despite being a female-female duet, there is still a subtle division of gender roles if you pay close attention to the song. From her costume, mannerisms, and lines, it could be argued that Bahar is taking on the more masculine role in this qawwali. In fact, her singing part is rendered by the more masculine of the two voices:  Shamshad Begum.

Although the lyrics of this qawwali can be interpreted as universal statements about love, there are a couple of interesting things to point out here with the context of the film’s plot in mind. For example, Bahar introduces a pun on her name when she sings “bahaare.n aaj paigham-e-muhabbat leke aayii. hai.n” (the spring has brought a message of love). Moreover, Bahar snarkily calls attention to the secret love affair between Salim and Anarkali when she claims, “kisii din yeh tamasahaa muskuraakar ham bhii dekhe.nge” (we shall smile one day and watch this spectacle). Aware that her affair with Salim is unacceptable by society’s standards, Anarkali admits that love can be hard when she sings, “muhabbat hamne maanaa zindagi barbaad kartii hai” (we admit that love can destroy one’s life”). She then posits, however, that suffering for the sake of love is worth it because lovers can leave a lasting legacy on the world after they die: “yeh kyaa kam hai ki mar jaane pe duniyaa yaad kartii hai?” Even though she’s being a little dramatic with her lines here, it’s hard not to be rooting for Anarkali over Bahar.

Salim, played by Dilip Kumar, judges the musical debate between Anarkali and Bahar.

At the end of the qawwali, Salim actually declares Bahar the winner of the debate by giving her the rose. This isn’t really a genuine victory because we know that even though Bahar wins the rose, Anarkali has already won Salim’s heart. Also, who could really lose when you have Madhubala and Lata Mangeshkar on your team at their peak of their careers? Come on, Salim, keep it real.

-Mr. 55

Teri Mehfil Mein Qismat Aazmaakar Lyrics and Translation:

Shamshad: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 
ghaDii bhar ko tere nazdiik aakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall come close to you fleetingly and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Bahar, played by Nigar Sultana, being sassy as she sings a classic qawwali in Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

Lata: terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 
tere qadamo.n pe sar apanaa jhukaa kar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall bow our heads at your feet and watch this spectacle 

ajii haa.n ham bhi dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Madhubala charms all of us with her beautiful smile in Mughal-e-Azam (1960).

Shamshad: bahaare.n aaj paighaam-e-muhabbat leke aayii hai.n
The spring has brought a message of love.
baDii muddat me.n ummiido.n kii kaliyaa.n muskuraayii hai.n
The flowerbuds of hope have smiled  after  a long time. 

gham-e-dil se zaraa daaman bachaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall protect ourselves from heartache and watch this spectacle.
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.   

 Lata: agar dil gham se khaalii ho to jiine kaa mazaa kyaa hai?
If the heart is empty of pain, then what pleasure can one find in living?
na ho khuun-e-jigar to ashq piine kaa mazaa kyaa hai?
If the heart does not bleed, then what pleasure can one find  in swallowing tears? 

muhabbat me.n zaraa aa.nsuu bahaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall shed a few tears in love and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

Shamshad: muhabbat karnevaalo.n kaa hai bas itnaa hii afasaanaa
Such is the story of lovers: 
taDapnaa chupke chupke aahe.n bharnaa ghuT ke mar jaanaa
They quietly suffer; their eyes fill with tears; they  suffocate and die. 
kisii din yeh tamaashaa muskuraakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall smile one day and watch this spectacle.  

ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.   

Lata: muhabbat hamne maanaa zindagii barbaad kartii hai
We admit that love can destroy one’s life.  
yeh kyaa kam hai ki mar jaane pe duniyaa yaad kartii hai?
But, is it unworthy if the the world remembers lovers after they die? 
kisii ke ishq me.n duniyaa luTaakar ham bhii dekhe.nge
We shall sacrifice the world for someone’s love and watch this spectacle. 
ajii haa.n ham bhii dekhe.nge
Yes, we shall watch this spectacle.  

terii mahfil me.n qismat aazamaakar ham bhi dekhe.nge
In the gathering of your court, we will test our fate. 

Glossary

qismat: fate;  aazamaanaa: to test; ghaDii bhar ko: fleetingly; nazdiik: close; qadam: feet; paighaam-e-muhabbat: message of love; baDii muddat me.n: after a long time; ummiid: hope; daaman bachaanaa: to protect; khuun-e-jigar: blood of the heart; ashq piinaa: to swallow tears; aa.nsuu bahaanaa: to shed tears; afasanaa: story; aahe.n: eyes; ghuTnaa: to suffocate; tamaaashaa: spectacle; barbaad: destroyed; luTaanaa: to sacrifice.

The Best Qawwalis of Bollywood Films

Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali
Rishi Kapoor Amar Akbar Anthony Bollywood Qawwali

Rishi Kapoor charms his audience singing the famous qawwali “Pardah Hai Pardah” from Amar Akbar Anthony (1979).

The qawwali from films has a hallowed place in the history of the Hindi music industry. A mystic tradition more than 700 hundred years old, the qawwali gained prominence in Bollywood initially through 1950s Muslim social dramas and grew so much in popularity that its influences became mainstream–even continuing to live on today. We present our list below of the best qawwalis of Bollywood films.

But let us first define what precisely is a qawwali? The great Indian poet Amir Khusrau (d. 1326) is considered the founding father of the qawwali genre, having composed songs for the first time in this style to celebrate the death of his spiritual guide Nizamuddin Aulia. The qawwali is the authentic Sufi spiritual song that transports the mystic toward union with God. For centuries, Sufi communities in the Indian subcontinent have sustained this musical tradition in the mahfil-e-sama, or assembly for listening. The qawwali was a religious experience for both listener and performer: as the listener hopes for a spiritual experience of intensity and immediacy to transcend his or her conscious striving, the trained performer seeks to present in song a vast treasure of poetry that articulate and evoke a mystical experience for the audience.

Madhubala impresses the Mughal prince in the classic qawwali “Teri Mehfil Mei.N Qismat” from Mughal-e-Azam (1960)

The qawwali performance usually begins after the evening and may last all night until the morning prayers. The word qawwali means “words” worthy of remembrance, and as such the qawwali traditionally has a devotional aspect in praise of God. Even most “secular” qawwalis found in popular Bollywood movement can be read in this way, although superficially the lyrics have another literal meaning. The harmonium has replaced what was traditionally a sitar as musical accompaniment, but equally important are the tabla and the signature qawwali cyclic hand clapping that increase in speed during the performance. The tarz or tune of the qawwali is normally identified by the first line of the text, which is often a part of the refrain couplet. Although the qawwal was traditionally male, both men and women have enjoyed and excelled at performing the modern qawwali.

Rishi Kapoor dazzles his audience as a popular qawwal in the 1979 blockbuster Amar Akbar Anthony.

Unlike in Hindustani classical music, while taal and raagaa usage is the same, the qawwali places a greater emphasis on the poetic text and the delivery of its message than on musical ornamentation. In many of its vast incarnations within Bollywood, the qawwali became synonymous with a musical debate, a verbal battle (often between the sexes) to outwit the other side on topics that usually boil down to love or the pain of love. That kind of screen chemistry, as you can imagine, is prime Bollywood flirting territory just waiting to be sung.

Let’s take a look at how this genre evolved in mainstream Bollywood into one of the most beloved musical genres of the industry. Here are some highlights:

Humen To Loot LiyaAl Hilal (1958):

One of the first qawwalis to hit the silver screen, no list is complete without this retro low-budget gem. The music is really quite simple, but extremely catchy.

Yeh Ishq Ishq HaiBarsaat Ki Raat (1960):

This qawwali is an Urdu-lover’s paradise. Filled with complex words and allusions you’ll never use in real life, “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai” set the stage for classy performance duels between men and women that is still considered the greatest Bollywood qawwali for its poetry (see our post for a full English translation!)

Sharma Ke Yeh Kyo.NChaudhvin Ka Chand (1960):

A fun twist on the traditional qawwali, two women sing (Asha Bhonsle and Shamshad Begum) with the latter taking the masculine side and the former taking the feminine.

Teri Mehfil Mei.N QismatMughal-e-Azam (1960):

Oh, does it get any better than this? Every moment of Mughal-e-Azam is a poetic dream and this briliant qawwali is no less. Shamshad Begum battles Lata Mangeshkar for the Prince’s approval of their take on love, each lyric outwitting the last. See our translation with glossary for more!

Nigahe.N Milane KoDil Hi To Hai (1963):

Asha Bhonsle’s greatest contribution to this genre, this qawwali has some beautiful Urdu and probably the most thrilling sargams you’ll find in any of her songs. See our translation with glossary here!

Tumhe Husn Dekhe – Jab Se Tumhe Dekha Hai (1963):

OK, so sure, this qawwali is not particularly memorable for its musical ingenuity (you may or may not cringe the entire way), but how often are you going to behold Shammi and Shashi Kapoor on screen at the same time?! This fascinating qawwali is worth a watch if only for its star value! Kudos to Geeta Bali for holding her own!

Mehengai Maar GayiRoti Kapada Aur Makaan (1974):

This qawwali has a unique flavor–taken from one of Manoj Kumar’s popular Indian propoganda films, the lyrics carry an interesting social message outside the realms of romantic love.

Pardah Hai PardahAmar Akbar Anthony (1979):

A Mohammed Rafi gem, this qawwali ranks among the best of the best. After watching Rishi Kapoor’s enthusiastic performance, you’d believe he was born to be a qawwal. The song is a must-see for anyone interested in the genre.

And just to throw in the contemporary, here’s a picture of me performing the qawwali at last year’s Harvard Ghungroo!

At a Harvard Ghungroo performance of Asha Bhonsle’s “Nigaahe.N Milane Ko.”

-Mrs. 55