20 Gorgeous Waltz Songs from Classic Bollywood Films

Guru Dutt Pyaasa not a waltz

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

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

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

Meena Kumari Kishore Kumar Mere Neendon Mein Tum waltz

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

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

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

Nargis dil ki girah khol waltz

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

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

Raj Kapoor Mud Mud Ke Na Dekh waltz

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

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

20 Waltz Songs from Classic Bollywood Films:

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

  2. Dil Ki Nazar Se (Anadi 1959)

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

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

  5. Dil Ke Jharoke (Brahmachari 1968)

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

  7. Mere Neendon Mein Tum (Naya Andaz 1956)

  8. Phoolon Ke Rang Se (Prem Pujari 1969)

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

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

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

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

  13. Main Shayar To Nahin (Bobby 1973)

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

  15. Tod Diya Dil Mera (Andaz 1949)

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

  17. Geet Gaata Hoon Main (Lal Patthar 1971)

  18. Tara Ri Yara Ri (Dastan 1950)

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

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

Bollywood wedding waltz

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

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

– Mrs. 55

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Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

balraj sahni aye meri zohra jabeen waqt

Balraj Sahni plays a wealthy, family-loving merchant whose good fortune takes a disastrous turn in Waqt (1965).

We now present the lyrics and English translation to “Aye Mere Zohra Jabeen” from Waqt (1965). Young at heart Balraj Sahni plays a loving father of three young children who celebrates his business success with pomp and splendor. So overjoyed by where he believes Fate is taking his family, he dedicates a love song to his wife at a party. The film’s hit opening number “Aye Mere Zohra Jabeen” brims with a sense of carpe diem in the lives of a couple whose youth is coming to an end. Achala Sachdev plays the gentle wife fittingly embarrassed by the attention, but clearly loving the compliments. Their picture-perfect world is too wonderful to last–and before the night is over, tragedy strikes that separates the family. And from there unfolds one of the best Hindi masala films of the 60s!

The well-known opening line carries the Urdu vocabulary lover’s favorite, “zohra jabeen.” The meaning of this term has confused many a Hindi film goer over the ages. Actually a combination of two separate words, zohra and jabeen, the term is used loosely to mean “beautiful one,” but the true definition is far more fascinating. Zohra is the Arabic term for the Roman goddess of beauty, Venus, and also the planet easily identifiable as a shining star in the sky. Jabeen translate literally as forehead, a delicate part of the woman’s face to which praise has been given for centuries of Urdu ghazalry. So when addressing your sweetheart as zohra-jabeen, you are implying that her face shines with the beauty of Venus! Pretty flattering, right?

shy achala sachdev aye meri zohra jabeen

With the coyness of a young bride, Achala Sachdev blushes at her husband’s public display of affection in Waqt (1965).

In an interview on Bangalore’s Radio City in 2005, Manna Dey recalls being requested for the number by music director Ravi with surprise:

“When Ravi called me to sing “Aye meri zohra-jabeen” for Waqt, I asked him, ‘Why me? You use only Rafi or Mahendra Kapoor.’ Ravi said it was Balraj Sahni’s personal request that I sing.”

Although Mahendra Kapoor and Rafi do indeed sing the other fabulous songs of the film, none ever became as famous than this Manna Dey chart-buster. Sung at almost any sangeet or wedding, “Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” endears listeners across generations with excitement and sentimentality. Although often categorized as a qawwali, the song does not quite fit into the genre–despite its best attempts at synchronized group clapping. Check out the video to see class act Balraj Sahni get into character and witness one of the only Bollywood love songs uniquely targeted at couple of any age! Cutie-pie Achala Sachdev would later play Kajol’s grandmother’s in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge where the song was memorably revived!

We hope you enjoy the evergreen Sahir Ludhianvi lyrics and our full English translation to “Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” below:

Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen Lyrics and English Translation:

Aye merii zohra-jabeen
Oh, my beautiful one
Tujhe ma’aluum nahii.N
You are not aware
Tuu abhii tak hai hasii.N
that you are still lovely
Aur mai.N jawaa.n!
and I am still young!
Tujhpe qurbaan merii jaan merii jaan!
I would sacrifice my life for you!

Yeh shokhiyaa.N yeh baa.Nkpan jo tujh mei.N hai kahii.N nahii.N
This coyness, this attractiveness of yours is nowhere else
Dilo.N ko jiitne kaa fan jo tujh me hai kahii.N nahii.N
The art of winning hearts that you possess is nowhere else
Mai.N terii! maii.N terii aankho.N mei.N paa gayaa do jahaa.N!
In your eyes, I have found my heaven and earth!
Aye merii zohra jabeen…

Tuu miiThe bol, jaan-e-man, jo muskuraake bol de
If you speak sweet words to me, my love, and smile
To dhaDakano.N mei.N aaj bhii sharaabii ra.Ng ghol de
Then even today, you infuse my heartbeats with an intoxicating colour
O sanam! O sanam mai.N teraa aashiq-e-jaavedaan!
Oh darling, I am your lover for eternity!
Aye merii zohra jabeen…

Glossary:

zohra-jabeen: beautiful (literally zohra: Venus and jabeen: forehead = beautiful one with the face that glows like Venus); ma’aluum: aware, information; hasii.N: beauty; jawaa.N: youth; qurbaan: sacrifice; jaan: life; shokhiyaa.N: coyness; baa.Nkpan: attractiveness; fan: art; do jahaa.N: two worlds, heaven and earth, realm; miiThaa: sweet; bol: words; jaan-eman: beloved; muskuraanaa: to smile; dhaDkan: heartbeat; sharaabii: intoxicating, drunken; ra.Ng: colour; ghol: mixture, infusion; sanam: beloved; aashiq: lover; jaavedaan: eternal, never-ending

handkerchiefs waqt

When the flirty handkerchiefs come out, there’s really no going back. I think we all have uncles who have pulled this flamboyant dance move at parties, much to their wives’ chagrin.

Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” is actually based on a musical composition by Afghanistan’s Abdul Ghafoor Breshna (1907-1974), a famous painter, poet, director, and musician who also composed the national anthem for the Republic of Afghanistan just before his death. “Aye Meri Zohra Jabeen” was requested by two fans, Kuldip Babbar and Hema Fonseka! Thanks for the fantastic suggestion, and keep those requests coming!

– Mrs. 55

What is Solah Singaar?

Fans of vintage Hindi films are intimately familiar with the theme of female ornamentation, which is expressed beautifully through song lyrics from this period of cinema. Countless songs from the Golden Era describe the charms of a woman’s kajraa (kohl), gajraa (flower garland), jhumkaa (earring), bi.ndii (beauty spot), ka.nganaa (bangle), and so on. In addition to these words, another common term that you might encounter in this genre of songs is solaah si.ngaar, which literally means “sixteen embellishments.” 

MK

Meena Kumari is beautifully adorned as a sensitive courtesan in the classic film Pakeezah (1972).

The most famous example of this phrase occurs in a song from the eternally beautiful film PakeezahIn “ThaaDe rahiiyo, o baa.nke yaar,” Lata Mangeshkar, on Meena Kumari, sings:

mai.n to kar aauu.n solaah si.ngaar / (I will come, adorned with the sixteen embellishments)
ThaaDe rahiiyo, o baa.nke yaar / (Keep waiting, oh beautiful lover) 

The term solaah si.ngaar refers to sixteen ways in which brides of ancient India adorned themselves before meeting their groom. Although sources conflict over the inclusion of certain ornaments, I am presenting a list of the most commonly accepted beautification aids associated with solaah si.ngaar below. 

1. bi.ndii, a beauty spot adorning the forehead. 

2. si.nduur, a sacred mark of vermillion lining the parting of a bride’s hair. si.nduur is still applied as a sign of marriage by modern Indian women. 

3. maa.ng tiikaaa gold pendant that hangs over the bride’s forehead. 

4. a.njanaa or kaajalthe decoration of  the bride’s eyes using kohl. 

5. naath, a hoop-shaped nose ring.

6. haar, intricate necklaces made of gold and precious stones. The most auspicious necklace offered to the bride during a Hindu wedding is the mangalsutra, which symbolizes the inseparable bond between husband and wife. 

Mangalsutras often contain a gold pendant on a chain of black beads as shown here.

7. karan phuullarge earrings that cover the bride’s entire ear. 

8. maha.ndiihenna designs drawn on the bride’s hands and feet. 

9. chuuDiisets of bangles adorning the bride’s wrists. 

10. baajuba.ndarmlets adorning the bride’s upper arms. 

11. aarsii, a flat jeweled mirror worn as a ring. Supposedly, it was used by brides to check their appearance and possibly sneak a look at their grooms before the official unveiling! 

12. keshaa-pashaa-rachnaa, the styling of the bride’s hair in traditional patterns and adornment of the hair with jewelry and gajraa (flower garlands). 

13. kamarba.nda waist band made of gold and precious gems. The etymologists among our readers might notice the uncanny similarity of this word to cummerbund, the broad waist sash worn by men with tuxedos.  

14. paayala chain adorned with small bells, often made of silver, worn around the ankle. 

15. itarfragrant oils and perfumes to keep the bride smelling fresh throughout the ceremony. 

16. saarii/laha.ngaa, the bridal dress. Popular colors include red, green, and gold. 

Rekha

In Utsav (1984), Rekha is bedecked with many of the common ornaments that constitute solaah si.ngaar: maa.ng tiikaa, kaajal, maa.ng tiikaa, naath, haar, karan phuul, chuuDii, baajuba.nd, and kamarba.nd.  

As you can see, solaah si.ngaar takes make-up to a whole new level of complexity and depth! Thankfully, modern Indian brides aren’t expected to keep up most of these practices past their wedding day in order to please their husbands. We can only imagine how much time and effort brides in ancient India must have spent on perfecting their appearances through this elaborate regimen of beautification.

This post was inspired by a question about solaah si.ngaar by one of our readers paasha. If you have any more burning questions about vintage Hindi cinema, feel free to shoot us a line–we’ll do our best to solve your Bollywood mystery! Until next time…

-Mr. 55

Hai Isi Mein Pyar Ki Abhroo Lyrics and Translation: Let’s Learn Urdu-Hindi

Mala Sinha experiences the pain of rejection in Anpadh (1962) from her husband Dharmendra due to her illiteracy.

As a sequel to our previous post on “aap ki nazaro.n samjhaa,” I have provided an English translation and glossary for another memorable ghazal from Anpadh (1962): “hai isii me.n pyaar kii aabhruu.” As a quick refresher, Anpadh narrates the story of a wealthy but illiterate woman (played by Mala Sinha) who is married off to an educated gentleman (played by Dharmendra).  When Dharmendra asks Mala to recite a poem for him for her on their wedding night, she is compelled to reveal her darkest secret: her parents never taught her how to read or write.  After hearing this, Dharmendra is furious that his parents lured into arranging his marriage to an uneducated woman because of the large dowry. As he spurns Mala for her lack of education, she expresses her sadness through this song, which was composed by Madan Mohan and penned by Raja Mehndi Ali Khan.

I’ll be the first to admit that these lyrics are a tad excessive in the drama department, but this is exactly the kind of song that you need when you’re in the mood to wallow. The essence of heartache is and the pain of rejection are illustrated beautifully in these words,  so listening to a song like this can really hit the spot when you’re love-sick and need to get that sulking out of your system.  Although one can find beauty in the lyrics, it is difficult to overlook that this ghazal also carries an underlying subtext of misogyny that reflects societal attitudes of the time. Take, for instance, the mukhDaa where Mala proclaims that she finds pride in her beloved’s cruelty: “hai isii me.n pyaar kii aabhruuwah jafaa kare, mai.n vafaa karuu.n” (In this, I find the pride of love: he is cruel to me, yet I remain faithful to him).  You won’t (and shouldn’t!) find such a line sung by the heroines in the Bollywood industry today.

Even if the lyrics for this song are too much for you to handle, I am certain that you can appreciate this song for its musical value. Madan Mohan has composed an evergreen melody that tugs at your heartstrings, and Lata Mangeshkar pulls through with a winning rendition. As an aside, I thought that I would share an alternate version of this song rendered by Madan Mohan himself using a different tune.  This alternate melody was not used in the film, and I am guessing that was because it sounds too happy to suit the melancholic nature of these lyrics. Take a listen to both versions for yourself, and enjoy the translation and glossary that we have provided below! Requests for future posts, as always, should be e-mailed to themrandmrs55@gmail.com.

The intensity of Mala’s pain depicted in this song highlights the urgency of Anpadh‘s message about the need educate Indian girls.

Hai Isi Mein Pyar Ki Abhroo: Lyrics and Translation

hai isii me.n pyaar kii aabhruu
In this, I find the pride of love:
wah jafaa kare mai.n vafaa karuu.n
He is cruel to me, yet I remain faithful to him.
jo vafaa bhii kaam na aa sake
Although this love is in vain,
to wahii kahe ki mai.n kyaa karuu.n
It now dictates my actions.

mujhe gham bhii unkaa aziiz hai
Even the sadness I feel is dear to me,
ki unhii kii dii huii chiiz hai
Because it is something given to me by him.
yahii gham hai ab merii zindagii
This sadness has become my life,
ise kaise dil se judaa karuu.n?
how shall I separate it from my heart?

jo na ban sake mai.n wah baat huu.n
I am the matter that cannot be,
jo na khatm ho mai.n wah raat huu.n
And I am the night that cannot end. 
yah likhaa hai mere nasiib mein
It is written in my destiny
yuu.n hii shamma ban ke jalaa karuu.n
That I shall burn here like a candle.

na kisii ke dil kii huu.n aarzuu
I am not the desire of anyone’s heart
na kisii nazar ki huu.n justajuu
Nor am I the object of anyone’s glances.
mai.n wah phuul huu.n jo udaas ho
I am that flower which is wilted.
na bahaar aaye to kyaa karuu.n?
If the spring does not arrive, what shall I do?

hai isii me.n pyaar kii aabhruu
In this, I find the pride of love.

Glossary

aabhruu: pride; jafaa: cruelty; vafaa: loyalty, love; aziiz: dear; judaa: separate; khatm: end; nasiib: destiny, fate; shamma: candle; aarzuu: desire; justajuu: quest, search; udaas: sullen, wilted.