Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Music is the backbone of Hindi movies and OTT series, whether by way of songs and dances, or in the form of the background variety. However, there are very few offerings dished out by our Dream Merchants which are devoted to the subject of music itself, where the life of most of the characters revolves around the practice of music. Such human emotions as love, hatred, animosity, jealousy, pride, prejudices are all there, but music forms the central theme. The key characters get success after a great deal of practice. In the interim, they often taste heart-breaking failures. But spurred on by their immense talent, ardent passion, and sometimes by either a teacher or a muse, they persevere in their efforts and eventually achieve the recognition they deserve.

The idea here is not to recall and list movies which may be termed as musicals. Nor would I like to mention the ones which have provided uplifting music. In the list that follows, you will not find the ones where either music merely serves the purpose of entertainment or even where the main characters may be music teachers.

Thus, movies such as Dholak (1951), Phagun (1958), Jahan Ara and Chitralekha (1964), Heer Ranjha (1970), Pakeezah (1972), and Umrao Jaan (1981), do not appear here.

I have instead tried to focus here on the movies where music forms a core part of the script. Many of these depict the trials and tribulations of an artist who is enthusiastic about this form of fine arts. Many others capture the gravitational force exerted by music in making a relationship either blossom or wither.

Consider the following movies which are music-based offerings from our dream merchants.

Street Singer


Direction: Phani Majumdar

Music: R. C. Boral

Baiju Bawra


Direction: Vijay Bhatt

Music: Naushad

Mirza Ghalib


Direction: Sohrab Modi   

Music: Ghulam Mohammed



Direction: M. Sadiq

Music: Naushad

Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje


Direction: V. Shantaram

Music: Vasant Desai

Basant Bahar


Direction: Raja Nawathe

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan



Direction: Bibhuti Mitra

Music: O. P. Nayyar



Direction: V. Shantaram

Music: C. Ramachandra

Barsaat ki Raat


Direction: P. L. Santoshi

Music: Roshan

Sangeet Samrat Tansen


Direction and Music: S. N. Tripathi

Meri Surat Teri Ankhen


Direction: R. K. Rakhan

Music: S. D. Burman

Geet Gaya Pattharon Ne


Director: V. Shantaram

Music: Ramlal



Direction: Ramanand Sagar

Music: Kalyanji–Anandji

Jal Bin Machhli Nritya Bin Bijli


Direction: V. Shantaram

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal



Direction: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Music: S. D. Burman

Geet Gata Chal


Direction: Hiren Nag

Music: Ravindra Jain



Direction: Hrishikesh Mukherjee

Music: Jaidev



Direction: K. Viswanath

Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal



Direction: P. Sambasiva Rao

Music: Kalyanji–Anandji

Sur Sangam


Direction: K. Viswanath

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

Naache Mayuri


Direction: N. T. Rama Rao

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal


(1990 TV series on Doordarshan)

Direction: Hema Malini



Direction: K. Vishwanath

Music: Anand Milind

Sardari Begum


Direction: Shyam Benegal

Music: Vanraj Bhatia



Direction: Subhash Ghai

Music: A. R. Rahman

Dil To Pagal Hai


Direction: Yash Chopra

Music: Uttam Singh



Direction: Sai Paranjpye

Music: Yashwant Deo, Bhupen Hazarika, Zakir Hussain, Raj Kamal

Sur – The Melody of Life


Direction: Tanuja Chandra

Music: M. M. Keeravani

Aaja Nachle


Direction: Anil Mehta

Music: Salim–Sulaiman

Rock on!


Direction: Abhishek Kapoor

Music: Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy



Direction: Imtiaz Ali

Music: A. R. Rahman

Aashiqui 2


Direction: Mohit Suri

Songs: Jeet Gannguli, Mithoon, Ankit Tiwari

Music Teacher


Direction: Sarthak Dasgupta

Music Original Composition: R.D. Burman

Music Re-created by: Rochak Kohli

Gully Boy


Direction: Zoya Akhtar

Music: The 18-song soundtrack, involving an estimated 54 contributors, was supervised by Ankur Tiwari

Bandish Bandits

(2020; Amazon Prime Video)

Direction: Anand Tiwari

Music: Shankar–Ehsaan–Loy,



Direction: Anvita Dutt

Music: Amit Trivedi

I am reasonably certain that there are many more which I might have missed out here. However, as the listing shows, over time, as Hindi cinema has moved away to modern settings, India’s rich cultural heritage is perhaps no longer getting the attention it deserves. That is how, a series like Bandish Bandits and a movie like Qala come like a whiff of fresh air in our turbulent times.

The price one pays for success

Some of these movies, like Saaz and Qala, depict the kind of competitive spirit which prevails in the field of music. A character even ends up jeopardizing the career of another, resulting in overpowering guilt. Such movies also capture the kind of cunning, guile and nerves of chilled steel needed to achieve success in a highly competitive world. Perhaps many of the famous artists we know of might have passed through quite a few such phases in their careers.

Like any other profession, the world of music is also replete with rivalry. It would be naïve to assume that success comes cheap. Often, the price it extracts from an artist’s inner being, especially in terms of a compromise on one’s ethics, beliefs, and values, is heavy.

For us, the audience, music is indeed an enriching food for the soul. However, the soul of an artist may carry a few scars, not known to us. But ignorance is bliss, as they say!


Inputs from Purva Agarwala, Dileep Raina, Madhulika Liddle, Avantika Nirupama, Sunil Jain, and a few others are gratefully acknowledged.

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Charles Darwin, were he to be around in the exciting times that we live in these days, and if commissioned by a prominent Hollywood studio to study the manner in which Hindi movies have evolved over time, might have come up with some unique insights into the matter!

Perhaps, he might have proposed that movies do change over time, that new movies often pop up from some of the pre-existing ones, and that all movies share two common ancestors – an Adam who keeps providing the producers with healthy returns on their investment and an Eve who keeps nourishing wide-eyed-and-glued-to-their-seats kind of denizens with wholesome entertainment. He might have proposed that the concept of entertainment itself has undergone a major transformation. If the audience in the past used to get entertained by movies based on classical music and dance forms – like Baiju Bawra (1952) and Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955), the flavour of the season now is that of item numbers, say, something on the lines of ‘Laila o Laila…’ in Raees (2017), which are meant for momentary gratification only, soon to be forgotten.

Recently, Bandish Bandits (2020) came as a whiff of fresh air.

He might have pointed out that there are indeed movies which try to convey a social message as well, but these belong to a different genre/species. When it comes to caste-based prejudices, we have had Sujata (1959), Masaan (2015) and Article 15 (2019). A movie like Jhund (2022) showcases the everyday struggles of vagabond Dalit youngsters, haunted by the humiliating gaze of society. Speak of the disadvantaged and we are apt to think of Ankur (1974), Akrosh (1980), Chakra (1981) and Nil Battey Sannata (2015). Think of the angst of the educated unemployed and we discover Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai (1980) and Rang De Basanti (2006). Speak of sex workers and movies like Chandni Bar (2001), Chameli (2003) and Gangubai Kathiawadi (2022) pop up in our minds.     

He might have even concluded that there is no universally applicable formula for whipping up a blockbuster, that past success does not guarantee future conquest, that such formulae have a rather short shelf-life, and that one must factor in the then prevailing social mores, the economic condition of the target audience and the impact of disruptive technology which has its own pace of evolution. If a delectable mix of sex and violence worked at a time, and if star power was the magnet which kept the box office aflame, content, acting prowess and slick editing work the magic now.

He might have pointed out that each genre/species has its own unique characteristics, that each one has its own path of evolution, and that the onset of the multiplex phase, followed by the OTT-era, has enabled our dream merchants to climb newer heights of imagination. Those of us who have loved such series as Gullak (2019-2022) and Panchayat (2020 onwards) might concur with this thought.   

Specifically, he may have made a few general observations about the evolution of our Hindi movies over time:

Some Tectonic Shifts

In the pre-partition days, the audience lapped up offerings which were based on values, patriotism, mythology, or religious beliefs. Raja Harishchandra (1913), Bhakt Vidur (1921), and Amar Jyoti (1936) can be mentioned in this context. Kismet (1943) was a different cup of tea altogether.   

In the years followed by India’s independence, hopes for a new country ran high. Besides romantic ones, idealistic movies steeped in socialistic thinking – like Awara (1951), Boot Polish (1954), Jagte Raho (1956), Do Aankhen Barah Haath (1957), Mother India (1957), Pyaasa (1957), and Phir Subah Hogi (1958) – came up. Mythologicals like Sampoorna Ramayan (1958) and Mahabharat (1965) also kept the audience engaged.  A primarily agrarian economy liked such offerings as Do Bigha Zamin (1953).  

In the next decade, we loved seeing movies like Mughal-E-Azam (1960), Hum Dono (1961), Sangam (1964), Guide (1965), and Aradhana (1969).

During the 1970s, the angst of the common man was identified by our dream merchants to be a key point of attraction. Movies like Deewaar (1975) and Sholay (1975) came to rule our collective psyche. Thanks to the likes of Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and others, the parallel cinema stream catered to the tastes of the intelligentsia. We also had some Hollywood-style movies with a taut script, such as Ittefaq (1969) and Achanak (1973). The critics loved these, but not the non-discerning audience sold on cheap melodrama.

Thereafter, many of us would remember Tezaab (1988), Chaalbaaz (1989), DDLJ (1995), Lagan (2001), and Bunty aur Babli (2005). Somewhere down the road, cheap, low budget movies aimed at the front benchers also flooded the market. Many of these were South Indian productions made on tight budgets starring the likes of Jeetendra etc. in this phase, the production sources were dubious, and films were tasteless and crass. Over time, the upper classes withdrew from cinema halls and started devouring movies on VCRs.

Thanks to economic liberalization, we started becoming Westernised to an unrecognisable extent. Consumerism started blooming. The joint family system started disintegrating. Individualistic themes gained prominence. Gradually, we found ourselves faced with the reality of living not only in ‘Bharat’ but also in ‘India.’  The former was catered to by single-screen theatres. However, thanks to upward mobility, rising incomes, and ready availability of international merchandise, the culture of shopping malls and multiplexes sprouted. The multiplex phenomenon opened the doors for shorter and crisper flicks, based mostly on urban-centric themes. The cinematic landscape changed, offering ultra-commercial masala fare dished out by the likes of Subhash Ghai and Sanjay Leela Bhasali to the ultra-niche cinema of Vishal Bhardwaj, R Balki, Anurag Kashyap and Madhur Bhandarkar. 

Over time, internet became easily available and then OTT followed. We, the audience, exposed as we were to international media offerings, became choosier. Now, our critical eye looks at a wider range of the cinematic offerings – its genre, storyline, acting prowess of the characters, music, camera movements, technical excellence, and so forth.

The Yin and Yang Balance  

Most of you who have examined the phenomenon of falling in love would agree that in the earlier days of Bollywood, those belonging to the tribe of the so-called sterner sex happened to be the dashers and the knights in shining armours who could do nothing wrong. All the hero had to do was to flex his muscles, and a coy member of the tribe of the so-called delicately nurtured would swoon and fall in his arms. Most of the times, the females would not be dashers but merely dormice, exerting their soft power occasionally. Only once in a blue moon, when pushed with their backs to a wall, did they strike back.

Cut to the present. The heroes are no longer diffident about shedding their macho image and reveal their softer side on the screen. The heroines have now become far more decisive and assertive. They resist amorous advances. They call the shots. They continue to be as beautiful as ever but have become far bolder. Now, they come into their own out of sheer free will, revealing the inner strength they possess.

Even though the fight against a deeply entrenched patriarchal mindset is far from being over, the Yin-Yang balance has tilted in favour of the females. They rule the roost. On the other hand, the males are no longer shy about showing their vulnerabilities. The male rabbit often gets attracted by a female dasher. He no longer has the luxury of concentrating on some mild, gentle dormouse with whom he could settle down peacefully and nibble lettuce. In the past, we had Arth (1982) where the heroine chooses to lead a life independent of either her well-wisher or her ex-husband. Of late, we have had such movies as Astitva (2000), Aitraaz (2004), Wake-Up Sid (2009), Inkaar (2013), Queen (2013), Dedh Ishqia (2014), Ki and Ka (2016), English Vinglish (2012), Thappad (2020), and Jugg Jugg Jiyo (2022), which speak of women empowerment. On the OTT platforms, we have had Delhi Crime (2019), Bombay Begums (2021), Modern Love Mumbai (2022), and Modern Love Hyderabad (2022).

Not to forget such stand-alone female-centric movies as Kahaani (2012), Gulaab Gang (2014), Mardaani (2014), Parched (2015), Nil Battey Sannata (2015), Jai Gangaajal (2016), Neerja (2015), and Gunjan Saxena (2020), where males play either a supplementary or a villainous role. 

Of late, script-backed roles for heroines have gained better traction. The effeminate side of males has garnered better prominence. Heady days are here!

Mamma Mia!

The image of the Indian mother has got a 180-degree makeover.

From a weepy, sacrificing Sulochana (Dil Deke Dekho, 1959) and Nirupa Roy (Do Bigha Zamin, 1953) to a dictatorial Dina Pathak (Khoobsurat, 1980) and Supriya Pathak (Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela, 2013), we have seen her role metamorphosing over the decades. Now, we even have a mother who hatches a plan to torture/murder an abusive son-in-law, a la Shefali Shah (Darlings, 2022)!

Yes, we have always had the morally upright mother who goes to an extreme to restrain her errant son, like Nargis (Mother India, 1957) or Reema Lagoo (Vaastav, 1999).

Sex Education

No more flowers swaying in a gentle breeze touching other flowers. We are not only beautiful; we are also bold. Steamy scenes are now an essential part of a movie/series. Several movies use the services of an ‘Intimacy Director’ to manage the delicacy of such scenes, when getting shot. Teenagers no longer need to necessarily depend upon unreliable sources to learn the nuances of love making.

Consider the 1953 version of Parineeta (Ashok Kumar, Meena Kumari) wherein the mere act of garlanding signifies a matrimonial alliance. However, in the 2015 version (Saif Ali Khan, Vidya Balan), the level of intimacy between the couple goes to a different level altogether.

LGBT relationships are out of the closet and no longer make us raise our eyebrows, like Fire (1996) managed to do in the past. Whether it is a series like The Fame Game (2022) or movies like Badhai Do (2022) or Maja Ma (2022), such affairs are now out in the open.  

Technology Rules

No more dacoits on real horses. Thanks to our new-found sensitivity towards other species, most scenes depicting animals depend on technology, which has made things easier. Compare the magnificent battle scenes of Mughal-E-Azam (1960) with those of Samrat Prithviraj (2022). In the latter, whole battalions of soldiers can be seen marching ahead in perfect unison, putting our brave soldiers who participate in the Indian Republic Day parade each year to shame. The absurdity and the sheer artificiality of the scene made me laugh out aloud, prompting my multiplex co-viewers look at me with scorn, their shapely highbrows raised more than an inch.   

‘Dishoom-dishoom’ scenes have all but vanished. Instead, what we have now are gravity-defying stunts which would be leaving Sir Isaac Newton shaking his head in disbelief and perhaps even squirming in his grave.

The day is not far off when AI-backed tools will be churning out innovative scripts, screenplays, and lyrics, leaving many of the Bollywood writers and lyricists crying all the way to their respective banks.

The Diminishing Returns of Tragedies

One of the side-effects of the arrival of economic liberalization has been the reduction in the audience’s appetite for outright tragedies. When the aspirational upwardly class is obsessed with chasing economic goals, there is a greater need for positive narratives and happy endings. Tragedies like Andaz (1949) and Sahib, Bibi aur Gulam (1962), featuring such actors as Dilip Kumar and Meena Kumari, gradually become passe. While feel-good and revenge-oriented themes continue to be popular, movies like Matto Ki Saikil (2022), which depict the harsh realities of life, receive critical acclaim but meet with open disdain at the box office.

Many Shades of Grey

Gone are the days when we would be shuddering in our seats in a theatre while listening to Amrish Puri saying ‘Mogambo khush hua…’ while drumming his heavily ring-infested fingers on one of the arms of his throne, or Gabbar Singh calling out ‘Arre o Sambha, kitne aadmi they…?’ while prowling around menacingly with a pistol aimed at three of his terrified cronies, or Prem Chora pouncing upon a damsel in distress with clear intentions of outraging her modesty while mouthing such dialogues as ‘Prem naam hai mera, Prem Chopra’.

If Pran was a suave but scheming villain unleashing his vicious plans on a hapless couple, Ajit, duly attired in a white coat and even wearing white-coloured shoes, sent quite a few shivers down our spines. In each story, there was a good guy and a bad guy. When the ‘angry young man’ happened, the hero’s character itself took on an unapologetic black shade.

If Sholay set a new benchmark in the action sequences, directors like Vidhu Rahul Rawail, Vinod Chopra, and Ram Gopal Verma gave us gut-wrenching fights and dreaded villains in such movies as Arjun (1985), Parinda (1989), Satya (1998), Shool (1999), and Shiva (2006). These showcasedraw cycle chain and knuckle duster fights.

The advent of characters with negative shades has further accentuated this transformation; think of Shahrukh Khan in Baazigar (1993) and Darr (1993), Kajol in Gupt (1997), Aishwarya Rai in Khakee (2004), and Aamir Khan in Fanaa (2006), just to name a few.

I am skipping flicks in the horror genre here because I have never watched any of these.

Once liberalization happened, nobody had the nerve to lash out at a rich guy. Wealth ceased to be a liability; instead, it became a desirable goal and a badge to be unabashedly worn on one’s sleeve. Blacks and whites disappeared from our screens, and shades of grey became predominant. Movies moved closer to the real world and ceased to be pure fantasies. 

The brain started kicking on all its six cylinders and eventually started ruling over brawn. In the past, cerebral offerings such as Jewel Thief (1967) were few and far between. Now, we have the likes of Kahaani (2012), Andhadhun (2018), Raat Akeli Hai (2020) and Drishyam (2013, 2022) keeping us biting our nails and twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out what will hit us next.  

This trend gained further traction owing to a seminal change brought about by OTT. Think of Abhishek Bachchan playing Bob Biswas in Breathe: Into the Shadows (2020) series.

The original script of one of our epics, Ramayana, is still there. But the shades of the hero and the villain have evolved. Achieving the goal has become supreme; means be damned. Just like the characters in Mahabharata, different shades of grey prevail.

Lingua Franca

Given the delightfully rich diversity of Indian languages and dialects, movie makers obviously do a smart thing by resorting to the local dialect when presenting different characters on the screen. For example, Aamir Khan mouthed dialogues in what is alluded to as the tapori dialect of Mumbai (Rangeela, 1995). Tamannah Bhatia aped the Haryanvi dialect in Babli Bouncer (2022).  

But when the characters start using cuss words, things go a bit too far, especially in movies which are meant for general viewing. Take the case of Vidya Balan in Ishqia (2010) or Rani Mukherji in No One Killed Jessica (2011).

However, with the plethora of movies and serials which capture the endeavours of northern hinterland warlords inundating our screens of late, this appears to have become a trend. The warlords wait till the end to jump into the fray directly. They let their henchmen do the dirty work, while they enjoy a public life which is as pure as freshly driven snow.

Likewise, urban-themed offerings now ape the American way, routinely using such words as sh*t, fu*k, and the like. This is the new normal.

Consider Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), Jamtara – Sabka Number Ayega (2020), Masaba Masaba (2020), and Hush Hush (2022) for instance.

The Loo Mania

Relieving oneself in open is rather common in India. However, to have it depicted on our screens, is rather nauseating and appalling. By doing so, the message given out is that it is perfectly normal to do so.

Even our top-notch actors have not shied away from performing such acts. Many of us would remember Akshay Kumar gleefully doing it in Singh is Kinng (2008), Madhavan and Sharman Joshi in 3 Idiots (2009), Ranbir Kapoor in Besharam (2013) and Yeh Jawaani Hai Diwaani (2013), Aamir Khan in PK (2014), and Anupam Kher in Baby (2015).

The fact that a tactic of this kind needs to be resorted to merely to improve the Comic Quotient of a movie goes on to show our directors and script writers to be woefully short of imagination at times. 


The Sounds of Music

Over the decades, the music in Hindi movies has evolved in more ways than one.

Mother Nature Gets a Short Shrift

Elements of nature (moon, rains, lakes, rivers, seasons, clouds…) have gone missing. High rises, cityscapes, interpersonal relations take the front seat. So do emotions, feelings, and the like.

Songs like ‘‘Ye raat ye chandni phir kahaan…’ (Jaal, 1952), ‘Aaja sanam Madhur chandni mein hum…’ (Chori Chori, 1956), ‘Ye raatein ye mausam…’ (Dilli Ka Thug, 1958), ‘O sajana, barkha bahaar aayi’ (Parakh; 1960) and ‘Chalo dildaar chalo, chaand ke paar chalo…’ (Pakeezah, 1972) have almost vanished from the silver screen. Once in a while, we get treated to such songs as ‘Suraj hua maddham’ (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham; 2001), ‘Barso re…’ (Guru, 2007) and ‘Hawaayein…’ (Jab Harry Met Sejal, 2017).

Visual Appeal Elbows Out Our Ears and Minds 

Gradually, the orchestra and the sound have elbowed out the lyrics somewhat. Songs which appealed to the audience not only for their deep layered meaning but also for their soulful music have become part of a rare breed. Philosophical truths of life have got relegated to the background. Thus, we have become used to getting entertained by offerings which accord a higher priority to our ears than to our minds.

Moreover, with the new-found zeal for quick cuts, adroit camera work and the razzle-dazzle of a heightened visual appeal, we have virtually stopped hearing songs and have willy-nilly become reconciled to seeing them. Cinematography rules. Locations keep changing in quick succession. Even before we have had the chance to savour one, the next one pops up. The camera has become obtrusive. Even if a patriotic song like ‘Teri mitti mein mil jaawan…’ (Kesari, 2019) comes up, we are exposed to a visual world which is in the fast forward mode. Since our eyes are constantly being bombarded with visual information, the hapless ear often has no other option but to take the back seat. 

Actors no longer need to worry much about their lip-synching abilities. Most songs get relegated to the background.

Cabarets have metamorphosed into ‘item numbers’.

Lullabies Lose Out to Screen Time for Kids!

No longer do we have scripts with room for any lullabies. Remember ‘Aa ja ri aa, nindiya tu aa…’ (Do Bigha Zamin, 1953), ‘Mein gaoon tum so jaao…’ (Brahmachari, 1968) and ‘Pyara sa gaon…’ (Zubeida, 2001)? Of late, the only lullaby we got treated to was ‘Jo tum saath ho…’ (Salaam Venky, 2022).

Kids are smarter these days. They need only their technical gizmos to get to sleep. Parents may rest easy. Inspired by ‘Mere buddy…’ (Bhootnath, 2008), grandparents of all hues, sizes and shapes are busy honing their dancing skills!

Like real-life kids, reel-like kids have also become far more intelligent, often mouthing dialogues which would leave us twiddling our thumbs trying to figure out their real age. Gone are the day of innocence epitomized by Baby Naaz, Daisy Irani and Baby Farida.

Species Which Have Become Extinct

Besides vamps and villains, poor comedians have also become mostly extinct. Though we still have the likes of Raghuvir Yadav and Rajpal Yadav entertaining us, the separate comedy tracks have all but vanished from our screens. Such roles have been usurped by mainstream heroes and heroines.

The comic timing of such talented artists as Sridevi (Chandni, o meri Chandni…Chandni, 1989) and Akshay Kumar (Hera Pheri, 2000 onwards) has consigned the parallel comedy track in which we earlier had such character artists as Johnny Walker, Mehmood, Mukri, Agha, Tuntun, Aruna Irani, Manorama et al, to the dustbins of history. In the past, even some villains had tried their hands at comedy, and successfully, at that. I refer to Amjad Khan in such movies as Qurbani (1980) and Chameli Ki Shaadi (1986).

An interesting phase was that of the Wodehousian comedy of a subtle kind, presented to us by such artists as Om Prakash, Utpal Dutt, and David in such movies as Chupke Chupke (1975), Golmaal (1979) and Baaton Baaton Mein (1979)

Even the golden hearted house help, popularly known as ‘Ramu Kaka’,has all but vanished.

Of Political Headwinds

Our politicos have never shied away from influencing the kind of messages which need to be conveyed to the hoi polloi through the powerful medium of cinema. Our dream merchants have also been sensitive to the political thinking of the day, coming up with movies which are relevant to the theme of the times.

The first Chinese aggression in 1962 prompted Chetan Anand to come up with Haqeeqat (1964) which tugged at our heartstrings. 

Naunihal (1967), directed by Raj Marbros, was about Raju, an orphan, who believes that his only surviving relative is Chacha Nehru. The film’s music was composed by Madan Mohan, with lyrics by Kaifi Azmi, including the song ‘Meri Aawaz Suno, Pyar ka Raaz Suno’, sung by Mohammad Rafi. The song captured not only the funeral procession of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawahar Lal Nehru but also his study and his office; a loving tribute, indeed, to a towering personality then.

Much later, in 1988, one of his seminal works, The Discovery of India (1946), was presented by Shyam Benegal in the form of a television serial, labelled as Bharat Ek Khoj.

Rewind back to 1965, when Pakistan attacked India. Mr Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Prime Minister, came up with the slogan ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’. He is said to have persuaded Manoj Kumar to come up with a movie based on the slogan. That is how we got to see Upkar (1967).

Assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 led to riots in Delhi and elsewhere. The same were covered in the recent movie Jogi (2022) and were also briefly touched upon in Laal Singh Chadha (2022).

Mani Ratnam gave us Bombay (1995), based on the riots which took place in the city between December 1992 and January 1993 after the demolition of the Babri Masjid led to religious tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities. Gujarat riots in 2002 led to movies like Parzania (2005) and Firaaq (2008)

In the recent past, many of us have been swayed by the political headwinds and movies with a jingoistic nationalism have caught our imagination. A movie like Kashmir Files (2022) which shows a minority community in a negative light has been openly promoted by the present ruling dispensation. Another one, Samrat Prithviraj (2022), went a step further and highlighted the bravery and sense of nationalism of the majority community. The Accidental Prime Minister (2019) attempted to show the previous Prime Minister in a negative light, and now we wait for Emergency (2023).

Come to think of it, the worlds of movies and politics have several common traits. Dream merchants thrive in both. So does star power. Funding and returns on investment are fundamental concerns. Eventually, the onus of sifting the wheat from the chaff obviously falls on the common public. 

A Rich Cultural Heritage Getting Lost?

It may not be out of context to mention here that in the days of yore, the kings used to consciously nurture fine arts and culture by patronizing poets, musicians and dancers. However, the way successive governments are turning a blind eye to the essential task of preserving our cinematic heritage, and even gradually withdrawing support to creative cinema, while continuing to gobble up the revenue generated by this industry, is a travesty of justice and common sense. Remember the outfit known as the National Finance Development Corporation, which gave us a stream of gems in the past – Ankur (1974), Manthan (1976), Mirch Masala (1987), Ek Din Achanak (1989), Train to Pakistan (1998), Mammo (1994), and the like? The future looks bleak on this front.      

Acting Prowess and Content: The Ultimate Winners

Even though star-power, presentation and packaging continue to be important, content has now come to rule the roost. Acting is also back on its throne, where it rightfully belongs.

Now, if we root for a blockbuster like Pathaan, we also love an actor-driven movie like Laal Singh Chadha. If we like to see the trials and tribulations of the heroine in Gangubai Kathiawadi, we also empathize with the dilemmas faced by an elderly couple in Vadh, besides appreciating such off-beat offerings as Doctor G and Kantara.

As we sit bleary-eyed in front of our smart TVs, we now have the best of both the worlds – glamour, duly backed by razzmatazz, as well as the depth of genuine art.

(Some inputs from a few members of the Best of Cinema and OTT group on Facebook are gratefully acknowledged.)

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Many of our Bollywood heroines have waltzed into our hearts and minds based not only on their acting prowess but also owing to their knowledge of classical dance forms. The latter skill has enabled them to present some unique dances on the silver screen, with due support from their directors, music composers and choreographers. If some have been accompanied in their performances in the past by such stalwarts as Gopi Krishna, others have had the backing of legendary figures like Pandit Birju Maharaj.  

Allow me to share with you some dances which I would label as being unique. Either because these are based on classical or semi classical forms of Indian dances, or simply because the presentation as well as the sheer attention to detail leaves one awestruck. Quite a few are solo performances, backed only by instrumental music. Collectively, these present a vibrant rainbow of various human emotions, ranging from love and passion to a gutsy fury.

The Drum Dance (Nagada dance) here is the grand celebration of a royal marriage. It was well choreographed and presented in an era which did not have access to the kind of technology available these days. The story was about a feud between two brothers over their right to rule their father’s kingdom. Each of the huge drums acted like a Trojan horse, hiding soldiers from the rival’s camp. Apparently, it took six months’ practice to get this dance ready for the silver screen.

Chandralekha (1948)

Lead Dancer: T R Rajakumari

Music: S Rajeshwar Rao

Uday Shankar and Amala Shankar entertained us with quite a few classical dances in another movie released in the same year. It was the first film to present an Indian classical dancer in the leading role and was entirely shot as a dance ballet and a fantasy. Here is one gem of a dance which depicts Lord Shiva and Parvati gyrating to their heart’s content.

Kalpana (1948)

Lead Dancers: Uday Shankar, Amala Shankar

Music: Vishnudas Shirali

V. Shantaram’s offerings were invariably based on classical forms of music. Even the design of the titles was highly innovative, often summarizing the key message of the movie in a poignant manner.  

When Lord Shiva flies into a rage, he is believed to break into a special dance form: tandav. Part of this dance depicts the same. Eventually, a timely intervention by the feminine force of the universe – shakti – saves the day.  

Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje (1955)

Dancers: Gopi Krishna, Sandhya

Music: Vasant Desai

These are two unique dances. One speaks of the extent of imperfection in our lives. Another captures the playful spirit of Holi – the festival of colours – and even features an elephant trying to match the dancing steps of the heroine.  

Navrang (1959)

Dancer: Sandhya

Music: C. Ramchandra

Based on the classic play Abhigyan Shakuntalam from Kalidasa, this dance captures the feelings of a woman spurned in love.  

Stree (1961)

Dancer: Rajshri 

Music: C. Ramchandra

Here is yet another enchanting dance performance.  

Chhaya (1961)

Dancers: Baby Farida, Asha Parekh

Music: Salil Chowdhury

Many movies have depicted the folklore of love between Radha and Krishna. Songs like Hamen gop gwala kehte hain…(Navrang, 1955) and Mohe panghat pe…(Mughal-E-Azam, 1960) readily pop up in our minds.  Here is another such performance.

Phoolon Ki Sej (1964)

Dancers: Gopi Krishna, Vyjayanthimala

Music: Adi Narayana Rao

What we have here is a classic snake dance. A unique presentation, indeed, superbly crafted and rendered.

Guide (1965)

Dance: Waheeda Rehman

Music: S. D. Burman

Arthashastra of Kautilya mentions the grooming of visha kanyas (Poison Damsels) whose blood and body fluids had poisonous properties. They were used as assassins to eliminate powerful enemies of the state. This dance performance depicts one such case.  

Sagaai (1966)

Dance: Rajshri

Music: Ravi

When a proficient dancer gets challenged in a royal court, she leaves us spellbound by her dancing skills.   

Amrapali (1966)

Lead Dancer: Vyjayanthimala

Indian actress

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan

Yet another solo dance which leaves one mesmerized.

Chhoti Si Mulaqat (1967)

Dance: Vyjayanthimala

Music: Shankar–Jaikishan

A captivating dance performance by a multi-skilled actress who went on the become a member of the Indian Parliament.

Kinara (1977)

Dance: Hema Malini

Music: R. D. Burman.

Versatile directors like Hrishikesh Mukherjee had a knack of presenting character artists who are otherwise famous for their negative roles in a positive light on the silver screen. In this dance sequence, we find Shashikala joining hands with Rekha.    

Khubsoorat (1980)

Dancers: Shashikala, Rekha

Music: R. D. Burman

What happens when an introvert and shy person gets prodded by her well-wishers to showcase her dancing skills at a social gathering?

Chaal Baaz (1989)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

This one is a temple dance by late Sridevi. Unfortunately, I am yet to trace the name of the movie.

Dancer: Sridevi  

Yash Chopra, known as the King of Romance, had a unique way of presenting his heroines at their sensuous best. His name always reminds us of the colour white and of gorgeous heroines draped in plain colour chiffon saris and sleeveless blouses, swaying to rhythmic beats composed by eminent classical musicians.

Chandni (1989)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Shiv-Hari

Lamhe (1991)

Dancer: Sridevi

Music: Shiv-Hari

A sophisticated way of telling the ruler to behave himself when it comes to visiting the ‘other woman’.  

Lekin (1991)

Dancer: Hema Malini

Music: Hridaynath Mangeshkar

This one captures the inner anguish felt by a woman who is part of a highly patriarchal family which tries to protect the name of a male member who, along with his friends, had gang-raped the maid servant.   

Damini (1993)

Dancer: Meenakshi Seshadri

Music: Nadeem-Shravan

Two more captivating dances from the stable of Yash Raj Films.

Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Dancer: Madhuri Dixit

Music: Uttam Singh

Dil To Pagal Hai: The Dance of Envy

Dancers: Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor

Sanjay Leela Bhansali is yet another director whose movies are lavishly produced and mounted on a larger-than-life canvas. Consider this song and dance sequence.

Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999)

Lead Dancer: Aishwarya Rai

Music: Ismail Darbar

Here is yet another offering from Bollywood based on the Radha-Krishna folklore. This version brings in the dancing skills of Madhuri Dixit, duly backed by Birju Maharaj’s choreography, music, and lyrics.

Devdas (2002)

Singers: Birju Maharaj, Madhuri Dixit, Kavita Krishnamurthy

Composer/Lyricist: Birju Maharaj

The memories of a distant past come flooding back when the passion for dance resurfaces after the dancer runs into an old love interest.

Dedh Ishqia (2014)

Lead Dancer: Madhuri Dixit

Music: Vishal Bhardwaj

A solo dance, sans lyrics, surely leaves the entire burden of a sparkling performance on the shoulders of the heroine. Our multi-talented divas have never failed us on this count.   

It is not that our heroes do not possess outstanding dancing skills. However, these are very few. The names of Kamal Hasan, Hritik Roshan, Ranbir Kapoor, late Sushant Singh Rajput and Tiger Shroff can be mentioned in this context.  

Here are two video clips which some of you may relish.

Ek Duuje Ke Liye (1981)

Dancer: Kamal Hasan

Music: Laxmikant–Pyarelal

(Courtesy Aman and Swasti Sharma) 

Lakshya (2004)

Dancer: Hritik Roshan

Music: Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy

These days, most male actors can also shake a leg or two, though the trend is towards disco, break-dance, and such newer forms of dances as hip hop, lyrical, freestyle, and fusion.

Gaining proficiency in any form of art needs talent, passion, mentoring, and years of continuous practice. What we get to see for a few minutes on our screens is the culmination of a long-drawn-out effort towards conceptualization, synchronization, persistence, and hard work by all the crew members. One is filled with a feeling of reverence towards all the directors, choreographers, artistes, and technicians who bring such unique offerings to us.   

Recently, at a private party, some youngsters had to work assiduously for about two hours to eventually come up with a dance sequence which ran into merely 53 seconds!

One can well imagine the magnitude of effort artists, choreographers and directors put in to come up with unique dance sequences which keep us enchanted. Imagine creating something as elaborate as, say, Pyar kiya to darna kya… (Mughal-E-Azam, 1960), Hothon mein aisi baat… (Jewel Thief, 1967) and Dola re… (Devdas, 2004). The mind boggles!  

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When the brow is furrowed and the pangs of separation from one’s beloved have dethroned reason from its coveted seat, the mood turns a shade of deep blue.

Like all other strands of emotion captured by Bollywood, separation from the beloved has also not escaped the attention of our dream merchants. There are several songs which depict the intense feeling of desolation experienced by someone when the soul mate has gone missing. Whereas some herald the end of doom, so to say, few others are easier on the frayed nerves, laced as they happen to be with uplifting optimism and point to the possibility of a rosier future.

There is a beauty to sad songs which cannot be captured in words. These tug at one’s heart-strings and provide solace to a tormented soul. First off, let us relish a composition which celebrates the genre of sad songs.

The beauty of…

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Most of the songs in the movies being churned out by Bollywood happen to portray feelings of love. One often wonders as to how the heroine and the hero keep changing their outfits in each of the stanzas, keeping the wardrobe designers and producers laughing all the way to their respective banks. The high walls of manmade borders melt away, as they are seen wandering about on different continents of the world without any visa/immigration hassles, proving the age-old adage of Vasudhaiv Kutumbukam. Not to speak of the bevy of choreographers and a 100-piece orchestra which keeps following them scrupulously, without missing a single beat.

But once in a blue moon, we get treated to a love song which is more spontaneous in its depiction. The lyricist and the music director obviously work harder on creating such songs which appear as if these are getting composed by the couple in real time on the screen.

Consider the following songs which fall in this category. 

One of the very few love songs which has an office setting as a background.

Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji…

Movie: Mrs and Mr 55 (1955)

Singers: Mohd. Rafi, Geeta Dutt

Music Director: O P Nayyar

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

 Here is a flirtatious song from an otherwise serious movie. The back-and-forth chat between the heroine and the hero is a sheer delight.  

Hum aapki ankhon mein…

Movie: Pyasa (1957)

Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt

Music Director: S D Burman

Lyricist: Sahir Ludianvi

What happens when a lovers’ tiff results into a lovelorn backchat between the pair?

Achha ji main haari chalo…

Movie: Kala Pani (1958)

Singers: Mohd. Rafi & Asha Bhosle

Music: S.D. Burman

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

A mischievous heroine puts the poor hero through an ordeal and then has the cheek to teasingly ask as to how he is feeling!   

Haal kaisa hai janaab ka…

Movie: Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle

Music Director: S.D.Burman

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Claiming some dues from the party of the other part can happen even during a stage performance!

Paanch rupaiya barah anna…

Movie: Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle

Music Director: S D Burman

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

How did you fall in love with me, asks the heroine coyly!

Sach bata tu mujh pe fida…

Movie: Sone ki chidiya (1958)

Singers: Asha Bhosle, Talat Mehmood

Music: O P Nayyar

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Yet another song where bickering between a couple takes place during a stage performance.  

Tere pyar ka aasra chahta hoon…

Movie: Dhool Ka Phool (1959)

Singers: Mahendra Kapoor, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: N. Datta

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

A romantic poem gets composed as the hero plays a muse to the heroine.

Chupke se mile pyaase pyaase…

Movie: Manzil (1960)

Singers: Geeta Dutt, Mohammed Rafi

Music Director: S. D. Burman

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

The lovers list the precautions the party of the other part should take, lest any harm may come to the flora and fauna around.

Bikhra ke zulfien chaman mein na jaana…

Movie: Nazrana (1961)

Singers: Mukesh, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: Ravi

Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan

A delectable confluence of Carnatic and Hindustani music, this song captures the rivalry between two persons, both trying to woo the young lady.

Ek chatur naar…

Movie: Padosan (1968)

Singers: Manna Dey, Kishore Kumar

Music Director: R D Burman

Lyrics: Rajendra Krishan

Getting the beloved to accept that she loves the lover.

Baagon mein bahaar hai…

Movie: Aradhana (1969)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Mohd. Rafi

Music Director: S D Burman

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

Even surreptitious meetings between a couple get overshadowed by the heroine’s wish to return home early!

Achha to hum chalte hain…

Movie: Aan Milo Sajna (1970)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: Laxmikant-Pyarelal

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

Strictly speaking, only the first portion of this song happens to be dialogue-driven. Nevertheless, overall, it surely has a dash of spontaneity to it!  

Sa re ga ma pa…

Movie: Abhinetri (1970)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar

Music Director: Laxmikant-Pyarelal

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

The subtle art of dodging the police by showcasing a clandestine meet as a lovers’ date.

O mere raja, khafa na hona…

Movie: Johnny Mera Naam (1970)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle

Music Director: Kalyanji Anandji

Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan

A budding romance soon gets transformed into a life-long commitment.

Aap yahaan aaye kisliye…

Movie: Kal Aaj Aur Kal (1971)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle

Music Director: Shankar Jaikishan

Lyricist: Neeraj

Social barriers and taboos keep the heroine on tenterhooks, whereas the hero is not worried about such mundane issues.

Gir gaya jhumka…

Movie: Jugnu (1973)

Music Director: S D Burman

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

Two playful songs, depicting the sprouting of romantic feelings between two teenagers.  

Mujhe kuchh kehna hai…

Hum tum ek kamre mein band hon…

Movie: Bobby (1973)

Singers: Shailendra Singh, Lata Mangeshkar

Music Director: Laxmikant Pyarelal

Lyrics: Anand Bakshi

Couplets (dohas) of such Sufi poets as Rahim and Kabir have regaled generations with pristine wisdom, duly laced with an earthy common sense. Trust Rajshri Productions to string some of these together for our sake.   

Bade badaai na karen…

Movie: Ankhiyon Ke Jharokhon Se (1978)

Singers: Hemalata, Jaspal Singh

Music Director: Ravindra Jain

Lyrics: Dohas of Rahim and Kabir

Keep the dialogue on and love will soon follow it its wake!

Suniye, kahiye…

Movie: Baton Baton Mein (1979)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Asha Bhosle

Music Director: Rajesh Roshan

Lyricist: Amit Khanna

The hero regales a bunch of kids with a juicy story about his encounter with a lion.

Mere paas aao mere doston…

Movie: Mr. Natwarlal (1979)

Singer: Amitabh Bachchan, Master Ravi

Music Director: Rajesh Roshan

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

The hero and the heroine are cooing to each other like turtle doves. They keep rhyming words and phrases and end up creating an impromptu song!

Kaise ho pagal…

Movie: Chashme Buddoor (1981)

Singers: Raj Kamal, Hemanti Shukla

Music Director: Raj Kamal

Lyricist: Indu Jain

When his six younger brothers fall hopelessly in love, the elder one guides them!

Pyaar tumhen kis mod pe le aaya…

Movie: Satte Pe Satta (1982)

Singers: Kishore Kumar, Bhupinder and others

Music Director: R D Burman

Lyricist: Gulshan Bawra

These are songs which, I believe, showcase a higher level of creativity on the part of our lyricists and music directors. To bring in a spontaneity of this kind is no mean task. Alas, these are very few and far between.

Can you think of any songs which could be added to this list? If so, please leave behind a comment below.  

{Note: Inputs from Ms Madhulika Liddle, Mr Sunil Jain and Ms Pooja Agrawal are gratefully acknowledged}.

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In one of her several tributes to Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar, one of the God’s supreme gifts to our musical ears, had likened his voice to that of a monk singing a devotional song in a temple.

She could not have been much off the mark. His repertoire of songs covers a wide range of the spectrum of human emotions. If some bring out the unalloyed bliss of love, others highlight some philosophical truths of life. Some are like soothing lullabies whereas others are highly patriotic. Many others convey the acute pain of loneliness while few caress us with vibes of positivity arising out of the despondency one feels after facing the harsh slings and arrows of fate. In many cases, his haunting voice even teases the listener with a mystery of sorts.

Here are some of his songs I have relished from my childhood. Even today, these never fail to either soothe my frayed nerves or uplift my spirits. Dimming the lights around and simply listening to one of these songs envelopes me in a comforting ambience. The decaying cells of a bruised soul get regenerated and perk up, just like a recently watered flower would.

Non-film Songs

Bhala tha kitna apna bachpan…

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Music: Kamal Dasgupta

Lyricist: Faiyyaz Hashmi

Kal teri tasveer ko…


Music: Kamal Dasgupta

Lyricist: Faiyyaz Hashmi

Anchal se kyon baandh liya…

Music: Kamal Dasgupta

Lyricist: Faiyyaz Hashmi

Film Songs

Yaad kiya dil ne…

Movie: Patita (1953)

Music: Shankar Jaikishan

Singers: Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri

Zindagi pyaar ki do chaar ghadi…

Movie: Anarkali (1953)       

Composer: C. Ramchandra

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Rajendra Krishan

Na ye chaand hoga…

Movie: Shart (1954)

Music/Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: S H Bihari

Tere dwaar khada ek jogi…

Movie: Nagin (1954)

Music/Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Rajinder Krishan

Chandan ka palna…

Movie: Shabaab (1954)

Music: Naushad

Singers: Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni

Teri duniya mein jeene se…

Movie: House No. 44 (1955)

Music Director: S.D.Burman

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Jaane wo kaise log the…

Movie: Pyaasa (1957)

Music Director: S D Burman.

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Ganga aaye kahaan se…

Movie: Kabuliwala (1961)

Music: Salil Chowdhury

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Gulzar

Na tum humein jaano…

Movie: Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962)

Music: S D Burman

Singers: Suman Kalyanpur, Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Bequaraar karke humein…

Movie: Bees Saal Baad (1962)

Music Director and Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni

Jagat bhar ki Roshni ke liye…

Movie: Harishchand Taramati (1963)

Music: Laxmikant Pyarelal, Hridaynath Mangeshkar

Lyricist: Kavi Pradeep

Ya dil ki suno…

Movie: Anupama (1966)

Music Director and Singer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi

I am not mentioning four of his songs which I have already covered elsewhere. These include Ye raat ye chandni… (Jaal, 1952), Aa neele gagan tale… (Badshah, 1954), Nain so nain… (Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje, 1955) and Tum pukaar lo… (Khamoshi 1970).

According to Wikipedia, Hemant Kumar (16 June 1920 – 26 September 1989) was a legendary Indian music composer and playback singer who primarily sang in Bengali and Hindi, as well as other Indian languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Odia, Assamese, Tamil, Punjabi, Bhojpuri, Konkani, Sanskrit and Urdu. He was an artist of Bengali and Hindi film music, Rabindra Sangeet, and many other genres. He was the recipient of two National Awards for Best Male Playback Singer and was popularly known as the “voice of God”.

Hemant joined the Bengal Technical Institute at Jadavpur (now Jadavpur University) to pursue Engineering. However, he quit academics to pursue a career in music, despite objections from his father. He experimented with literature and published a short story in a Bengali magazine Desh. He focused on music by the late 1930’s.

The US government honoured Hemant Kumar by conferring upon him the citizenship of Baltimore, Maryland; the first-ever singer of India to get USA citizenship. He refused Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan awards but had won so many other awards and accolades for his work.

By the end of his life, he had become an institution, a beloved and revered personality who was a courteous and friendly gentleman. His philanthropic activities included running a homeopathic hospital in memory of his late father in their native village in Baharu, in the South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.

Creative geniuses like him surely descend upon this planet from a higher plane of consciousness. They help us to wash off the dirt which gets accumulated on our souls while living our mundane lives, thereby enabling us to reconnect us with our inner beings and enjoy a state of unadulterated joy and bliss.

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Life is often full of contradictions. Our desire for companionship of someone special in our life co-exists with a gnawing realization that we need to accept the reality and be happy to live in a state of separation, if necessary, and not keep complaining about it. Women need the necessary space in a relationship to be able to pursue their own ambitions and career goals.

Tere bina…

Movie: Aandhi (1975)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar

Composer: R D Burman

Lyricist: Gulzar

Songs with simple lyrics and a dash of classical music never fail to regale one!

Jab deep jale aana…

Movie: Chitchor (1976)

Singers: K J Yesudas, Hemlata

Composer/Lyricist: Ravindra Jain

The male version of this lovely song is a song of passionate romance, whereas the female one deeply resents a separation forced by circumstances. Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma and Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia regale us with this poignant composition.   

Neela asmaan so gaya…

Movie: Silsila (1981)

Singers: Amitabh Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar

Composers: Shiv, Hari

Lyricist: Javed Akhtar

This one captures the agony of a lover who believes that the other one deserves a better soul mate in life.

Tumko dekha to ye khayal aaya…

Movie: Saath Saath (1982)

Singers: Jagjit Singh, Chitra Singh

Composer: Kuldeep Singh

Lyricist: Javed Akhtar

When we turn a hypocrite and try to hide our tears with an artificial smile, a person who really cares for us is quick to spot it.

Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho…

Movie: Arth (1982)

Singer/Composer: Jagjit Singh

Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi

Some time back, I had listed out my favourite lullabies from Bollywood. Permit me to list here an outstanding one.

Surmayee akhiyon mein…

Movie: Sadma (1983)

Singer: K J Yesudas

Composer: Ilaiyaraaja

Lyricist: Gulzar

Here is an introspective song which makes us think of what the purpose of our life really is. Do we really know what we desire and yearn for? 

Aye dil-e-naadaan…

Movie: Razia Sultan (1983)

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Composer: Khayyam

Lyricist: Jan Nisaar Akhtar

There are times when even a highly talented person like Gulzar outshines himself. This song is a ready example of the same and showcases the yearning of a beloved for closure in a relationship. 

Mera kuchh saamaan…

Movie: Ijaazat (1987)

Singer: Asha Bhosle

Composer: R D Burman

Lyricist: Gulzar

Lilting music, captivating visuals, and the sizzling chemistry between the lead couple – all these go on to make this song an enticing romantic offering!

Tere mere hothon pe…

Movie: Chandni (1989)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Babla Mehta

Composers: Shiv, Hari

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

Rains have arrived, but the beloved is yet to arrive, despite his having promised to do so!

Jhooti mooti mitwa aawan bole…

Movie: Rudaali (1993)

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Composer: Bhupen Hazarika

Lyricist: Gulzar

Here is a lovely romantic song from the stable of Rajshri Productions.

Pehla pehla pyar hai…

Movie: Hum Aapke Hain Koun (1994)

Singer: S. P. Balasubrahmanyam

Composers: Raam Laxman

Lyrics: Dev Kohli

This song gives us hope that there is always someone out there in the universe who is destined to be our soulmate.

Ek dooje ke vaste…

Movie: Dil To Pagal Hai (1997)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Hariharan

Composer: Uttam Singh

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

This beautiful composition is surely dedicated to those who have suffered the pain of unrequited love; also, to those whose spouses have chosen to move on from this planet to the Brighter World.

Main bhool jaun tumhe…

Album: Silsilay (1998)

Singer/Composer: Jagjit Singh

Lyricist: Javed Akhtar

As mentioned elsewhere, here is a touching lullaby which would surely put a kid to sleep.

Door kahin ek aam ki bagiya…

Movie: Zubeida (2001)

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Composer: A R Rehman

Lyricist: Javed Akhtar

The love between Radha and Krishna is the stuff of legend and folklore. Bollywood has never quite shied away from offering famous song-and-dance sequences to us based on the same. Songs like Hamen gop gwala kehte hain…(Navrang, 1955) and Mohe panghat pe…(Mughal-E-Azam, 1960) readily pop up in our minds. The latest version brings in the dancing skills of Madhuri Dixit, duly backed by Birju Maharaj’s choreography, music and lyrics.

Kaahe chhed chhed mohe…

Movie: Devdas (2002)

Singers: Birju Maharaj, Madhuri Dixit, Kavita Krishnamurthy

Composer/Lyricist: Birju Maharaj

This song effectively captures the innate desire of a female to bear a child, her vivid imagination of the physical form much before she brings him/her into this world.  

Kyun baar baar…

Movie: Filhaal (2002)

Singer: K S Chithra

Composer: Anu Malik

Lyricist: Gulzar

Some directors happen to have a keen ear for soulful music. Think of Raj Kapoor, Gulzar, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and, of course, Yash Chopra. Decades may have passed, but the embers of undying commitment between two star-crossed lovers and their affection for each other continue to glow unabated. 

Tere liye…

Movie: Veer Zaara (2004)

Singers: Suresh Wadkar, Lata Mangeshkar

Composers: Madan Mohan, Sanjiv Kohli

Lyricist: Javed Akhtar

A lovely romantic song which captures the growing affection between two lovers separated by the high walls of material wealth and other societal concerns.

Piyu bole…

Movie: Parineeta (2004)

Singers: Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal

Composer: Shantanu Moitra

Lyricist: Swanand Kirkire

Indian scriptures tell us that the unbound souls in the universe decide the kind of next life they need in view of their past karma and choose their parents accordingly. Children descend from the heavens above and bestow profound hope and joy upon their family seniors. They deserve all the love and respect they can get.      

Taare zameen par…

Movie: Taare Zameen Par (2007)

Singers: Shankar Mahadevan, Bugs Bhargava, Vivinenne Pocha

Composers: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy

Lyricist: Prasoon Joshi

All of us have role models in our lives. These are persons who are better gifted than us in so many ways. We go to great lengths to remain in their orbits. This song vividly captures the search of three class fellows for their long-lost role model.   

Kahaan gaya usey dhoondo…

Movie: 3 Idiots (2009)

Singer: Shaan

Composer: Shantanu Moitra

Lyricist: Swanand Kirkire

Our homes and hearths are not mere blocks of bricks and mortar. Small moments of shared happiness, an abiding love and harmony between those who populate a dwelling, and tantalizing dreams, bring in the real warmth. And that is how a house becomes a home.   

Itti si khushi…

Movie: Barfi! (2012)

Singers: Shreya Ghoshal, Nikhil Paul George

Composer: Pritam

Lyricist: Swanand Kirkire

Yet another love song which captivates our hearts.

Chaar kadam…

Movie: PK 2014

Singers: Shaan, Shreya Ghoshal

Composer: Shantanu Moitra

Lyricist: Swanand Kirkire

Bollywood has offered us a few songs where the virtues of a mother are showcased by a loving son. Here is a rare one where it is the daughter who is expressing her love and admiration for the mother.

Meri pyari ammi…

Movie: Secret Superstar (2017)

Singer: Meghna Mishra

Composer: Amit Trivedi

Lyricist: Kausar Munir

I am rather hesitant to take this subjective list any further for two reasons.

One, by no stretch of imagination can this list be considered an exhaustive one. There are so many good songs which are available to us. However, out of respect for your time and attention, I cannot simply go on adding many other songs. That would go on to make the listing a wee bit unwieldy. I confess that selecting the songs listed above has not been an easy task for me.

Two, even though there are many which are of recent origin and happen to be popular as of now, we need to allow them more time to mature and acquire an alluring flavour in our emotional casks. I think the shelf-life of these can only be assessed after the lapse of a few years. I allude to such songs as Yaadon ki almaari…(Helicopter Eela; 2018), Teri mitti…(Kesari; 2019), Kitthe chaliye…(Shershaah; 2021) and Meri jaan…(Gangubhai Kathiawadi; 2022).

The Evolution of Bollywood Music

Over the decades, our songs have evolved in more ways than one.

One kind of transformation which has taken place is in the character of the lyrics. In the past, elements of nature used to play an important role, especially when it came to effectively capturing the emotions being depicted on the screen. Think of Aaja sanam madhur chandni mein hum (Chori Chori; 1956) and O sajana, barkha bahaar aayi (Parakh; 1960). This is no longer true. Now, once in a while, we get treated to a song like Suraj hua maddham (Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham; 2001).

Also, gradually, the orchestra and the sound have elbowed out the lyrics somewhat. Songs which appealed to the audience not only for their deep layered meaning but also for their soulful music have become part of a rare breed. Philosophical truths of life have got relegated to the background. Thus, we have become used to getting entertained by offerings which accord a higher priority to our ears than to our minds. 

Moreover, with the new-found zeal for quick cuts, adroit camera work and the razzle-dazzle of a heightened visual appeal, we have virtually stopped hearing songs and have willy-nilly become reconciled to seeing them. Cinematography rules. Locations keep changing in quick succession. Even before we have had the chance to savour one, the next one pops up. The camera has become obtrusive. Even if a patriotic song like Teri mitti…comes up, we are exposed to a visual world which is in the fast forward mode. Since our eyes are constantly being bombarded with visual information, the hapless ear often has no other option but to take the back seat.  

Whatever may be the direction of evolution of songs, music remains a nourishment for the soul. The genre does not really matter. Our choices and preferences may differ widely. But what matters is the way it touches our hearts and resonates with our inner being.

Music makes us experience a glowing harmony between our inner and outer selves. It helps us to dig beneath the veneer of several masks that we wear in our mundane life. It also acts as a catalyst in our quest for our true inner selves, thereby raising our level of consciousness. Indeed, like all other forms of fine art, it washes off the dirt of our mundane lives and nurtures our souls.

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Music forms an integral part of movies. If the background score keeps capturing human emotions of different hues in each of the scenes, songs heighten the sentiments in diverse situations faced by those on the screen. Lyricists play a crucial role by not only depicting the feelings of the characters involved, but also conveying deep philosophical truths of life at times.  

Some songs elevate our spirits and motivate us to get up after each tumble and restart chasing our dreams. Others bring us happiness, even if some of these might be intrinsically sad.

Some of you may remember a song which Talat Mehmood had rendered in his velvet-like soothing voice long time back:

Hein sabse madhur woh geet jinhen hum dard ke swar mein gaate hain…

Roughly translated, this says that the songs which are the sweetest are the ones which are set to the melody of sorrow! You may agree that Shailendra was not much off the mark when he wrote this for the 1953 movie Patita. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XagIs_0zgaY

Each song is a multi-layered offering. If the lyricist pens something heartful, the composer sets it to music which tugs at our heart strings. The characters finally breathe life into it, either by lip-syncing it or by going through the motions while the song itself plays in the background.

Here is a collection of some of the songs which are close to my heart. Songs appear here in a chronological order, ranging from the year 1939 and coming forward up to 2017.   

Whenever the chips are down and dark clouds cover your inner space, here is a song which can motivate you to move ahead in life with a steely resolve and a chin-up attitude.   

Karun kya aas niras bhayi…

Movie: Dushman,1939

Singer: K L Saigal,

Composer: Pankaj Mullick

Lyricist : Aarzoo Lucknowi

When a lover’s heart is pining away for the beloved, this song comes in handy.  

Suhaani raat dhal chuki…

Movie: Dulari (1949)

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Composer: Naushad

Lyricist: Shakeel Badayuni

Here is a light-hearted and delightful experience in the art and craft of serenading, eventually prompting a reluctant heroine to overcome her hesitation and rush to meet the hero. Yet again, nature plays an important role in the proceedings.

Ye raat ye chandni phir kahaan…

Movie: Jaal (1952)

Singer: Hemant Kumar

Composer: S D Burman

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

This one is a romantic song which has soulful lyrics set to lilting music. The part that I find very touching is where the heroine imagines doing her make up while the hero quietly sits opposite her! Unfortunately, a YouTube search did not throw up the original movie footage.

Aa neele gagan tale pyar hum karein…

Movie: Badshah (1954)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar

Composer: Shankar Jaikishan

Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri

V. Shantaram had a penchant for offering us movies with a distinctive touch of classical music replete with songs which used different elements of nature to enhance a contemplative communion with it. Here, we find someone of the stature of Gopi Krishna showcasing his enchanting dancing skills opposite Sandhya. This movie had used santoor for the first time, played by the inimitable Pt. Shivkumar Sharma.   

Nain so nain nahi milao…

Movie: Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje (1955)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar

Composer: Vasant Desai

Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri

Here is a flirtatious song from an otherwise serious movie. The back-and-forth chat between the heroine and the hero is a sheer delight.   

Hum aapki ankhon mein…

Movie: Pyasa (1957)

Singers: Mohammed Rafi, Geeta Dutt

Composer: S D Burman

Lyricist: Sahir Ludianvi

Amongst the many songs steeped in chivalry that Bollywood has brought to us over the years, this one takes the cake. 

Pyar par bas to nahin…

Movie: Sone ki Chidiya (1958)

Singers: Talat Mehmood, Asha Bhosle

Composer: O P Nayyar

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

What really defines true living? According to this song, there are three elements: having someone whose smiles you can fall for, borrowing and shouldering someone else’s pain, and having love for someone in your heart!

Kisi ki muskarahaton pe ho nisaar…

Movie: Anari (1959)

Singer: Mukesh

Composers: Shankar Jaikishan

Lyricist: Shailendra

How do we enthuse a soulmate to share his/her suffering with you? Here is a poignant appeal from a beloved, set to unobtrusive music by Jaidev.

Jahaan mein aisa kaun hai…

Movie: Hum Dono (1961)

Singer: Asha Bhosle

Composer: Jaidev

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

When a passionate wooer praises the one being wooed rather profusely, how does the latter respond? Towards the end of the song, the heroine starts wondering if the excessive praise being showered upon her could lead her to entertain feelings of unjustified pride. Here is a lesson in humility and equanimity.

Bahut shukriya badi meharbani…

Movie: Ek Musaafir Ek Haseena (1962)

Singers: Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi

Composer: O P Nayyar

Lyricist: Raja Mehdi Ali Khaan

Here, Sahir Ludianvi tells us that issues which cannot be resolved in life are best concluded with a loving twist!

Chalo ek baar phir se…

Movie: Gumraah (1963)

Singer: Mahendra Kapoor

Composer: Ravi

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

Each song sung by Manna Dey is unique. Interestingly, this one is open to two interpretations. At the mundane level, the lady is wondering how she can return to her home and hearth when a part of her attire is soiled. At a spiritual level, it expresses the yearning of a soul to be reunited with God. 

Laaga chunari mein daag…

Movie: Dil Hi To Hai (1963)

Singer: Manna Dey

Composers: Roshan and Omi Sonik

Lyricist: Sahir Ludhianvi

The pathos of a failed love which does not get reciprocated by the party of the other part, so very aptly rendered by Rafi here, leaves one speechless. Simple lyrics and soothing music make it the perfect song for those facing a similar situation in life. 

Mein ye soch kar…

Movie: Haqeeqat (1964)

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Composer: Madan Mohan

Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi

Here is another song which tugs at one’s heartstrings by capturing the frustration of loneliness arising out of a misunderstanding in a relationship. 

Din dhal jaaye…

Movie: Guide (1965)

Singer: Mohammed Rafi

Composer: S D Burman

Lyricist: Shailendra

When lovers express their gratitude for the other person’s presence in their lives, unalloyed joy swirls around in their midst. Also, a dash of the Karma theory propounded by Bhagavad Gita raises the philosophical quotient of this song rather high.     

Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good…

Movie: The Sound of Music (1965)

Singers: Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer

Composer: Richard Rodgers

Lyricist: Oscar Hammerstein II

Those who hail from the tribe of the delicately nurtured and believe in female empowerment these days might scoff at this song. However, the fact remains that love based on a deep-rooted loyalty towards each other is truly a sentiment to be cherished.  

Chhupaa lo yuun dil mein pyaar mera…

Movie: Mamta (1966)

Singers: Hemant Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar

Composer: Roshan

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

Many movies have captured the ambience of matrimonial bliss, with the couple exchanging meaningful and loving glances with each other. These are surely couples who have no use for the much-touted phrase ‘I love you’. Their body language says it all. Here is a song which never fails to touch my emotional chords.

Dheere dheere machal ae dil…

Movie: Anupama (1966)

Singer: Lata Mangeshkar

Composer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Kaifi Azmi

Here is an uplifting offering which also fits rather well with the sustainability issues we just appear to be waking up to in our chaotic times when Mother Nature often sounds as if she is trying to punish homo sapiens for destroying its beauty and plundering its limited resources.  Human greed has taken over prudence, thereby increasing the entropy in the natural system.   

Ye kaun chitrakaar hai…

Movie: Boond Jo Ban Gayi Moti (1967)

Singer: Mukesh

Composer: Satish Bhatia

Lyricist: Bharat Vyas

By now, most of us are aware of the ills of social media, where people often talk without listening, dumping what they wish to say and completely ignoring what others are wanting to say. In movies, we keep running into those who talk without speaking. Their eyes, facial expressions and body language say it all. This song touched upon this aspect of our lives many decades back!

The sound of silence…

Movie: The Graduate (1967)

Singers/Composers: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel

Lyricist: Paul Simon

When lyrics get penned in chaste Hindi by someone of the stature of Neeraj, set to music by the inimitable S D Burman, rendered by a multi-talented Kishore Kumar and the song features the evergreen Dev Anand, something unique happens. Add the picturesque locales of Switzerland, and magic follows!   

Phoolon ke rang se…

Movie: Prem Pujari (1970)

Singer: Kishore Kumar

Composer: S D Burman

Lyricist: Neeraj

Here is another heart pining for the beloved; sung by Hemant Kumar in his eternally soothing voice.

Tum pukaar lo…

Movie: Khamoshi (1970)

Singer/Composer: Hemant Kumar

Lyricist: Gulzar

Over the years, Bollywood has offered us many songs centred around the heroine’s eyes. Here is just one such which strengthens one’s desire to live a full life.

Jeevan se bhari teri aankhen…

Movie: Safar (1970)

Singer: Kishore Kumar

Composers: Kalyanji, Anandji

Lyricist: Indeevar (Shyamalal Babu Rai)

When one is in love, one accepts the person of the other part with all his/her strengths and weaknesses.

Koi jab tumhara hriday tod de…

Movie: Purab aur Paschim (1970)

Singer: Mukesh

Composer: Kalyanji, Anandji

Lyricist: Indeevar (Shyamlal Babu Rai)

One of the enchanting melodies from the inimitable Geeta Dutt, capturing the tender emotions of love between a couple.

Meri jaan, mujhe jaan na kaho…

Movie: Anubhav (1971)

Singer: Geeta Dutt

Composer: Kanu Roy

Lyricist: Gulzar

Life often makes us suffer the harsh slings and arrow of Fate, separating us from those whom we love. However, our Guardian Angels offer us life-long relationships with perfect strangers. Mukesh makes us brood over this facet of our lives.

Kaheen door jab din dhal jaaye…

Movie: Anand (1971)

Singer: Mukesh

Composer: Salil Chowdhury

Lyricist: Yogesh

When those who hurt us are the ones we consider our own, the hurt is indeed very deep.

Chingaari koi bhadke…

Movie: Amar Prem (1972)

Singer: Kishore Kumar

Composer: R. D. Burman

Lyricist: Anand Bakshi

Death of a spouse brings about a sense of despondency which refuses to wither away even after a long time.  

Beeti na bitayee raina…

Movie: Parichay (1972)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Bhupinder Singh

Composer: R. D. Burman

Lyricist: Gulzar

When relations between husband and wife turn sour, a tragedy proves to be a blessing in disguise, bringing them together, yet again. 

Tere mere milan ki ye raina…

Movie: Abhimaan (1973)

Singers: Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar

Composer: S D Burman

Lyricist: Majrooh Sultanpuri

What happens when there is uncertainty and confusion in our relationships in life? Here is a soulful song which speaks of our yearning to seek a clarity in our thoughts by controlling the endless desires of our heart.

Kayi baar yoon bhi dekha hai…

Music: Rajnigandha (1974)

Singer: Mukesh

Composer: Salil Chowdhury

Lyrics: Yogesh


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I have never—in all the years this blog has been in existence—compiled a list of my favourite Madan Mohan songs. An oversight, and one for which I have no explanation to offer: just reparation. Born Madan Mohan Kohli in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) on June 25, 1924, the young Madan Mohan returned with his family to […]

Ten of my favourite Madan Mohan songs — Dustedoff

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We appear to live in times when lyrics in Bollywood are mostly lost in the loud music churned out by a metallic orchestra. Lyricists are barely acknowledged.

It is times such as these which persuade us to travel back in time and remember the kind of soulful poetry the lyricists of yore used to offer.

Here is a great post on Hasrat Jaipuri.



Today is the birth centenary of one of Hindi cinema’s greatest lyricists, the very prolific and versatile Hasrat Jaipuri. Born in Jaipur on April 15, 1922, ‘Hasrat’ was named Iqbal Hussain, and took to writing poetry fairly early in life. In 1940, not even 20 years old, Hasrat moved to Bombay, where, though he attended mushairas and wrote (and recited) a good deal of verse, he was also obliged to take up a job as bus conductor. This job helped him make ends meet for the next 8 years, when Hasrat had the good fortune to be noticed by none other than Prithviraj Kapoor at a mushaira. Kapoor was so impressed by the young poet, he recommended Hasrat to his son Raj, who was then in the midst of planning Barsaat (1949). Hasrat was taken on to write songs for the film, and that was the start of a…

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