Ten of my favourite filmi qawwalis

I have been meaning to write this post for a long time now—I love qawwalis—but I’ve kept putting it off, because I’ve always thought that it would be impossible to create a list of just ten filmi qawwalis that are my favourites. (Barsaat ki Raat itself features at least three qawwalis that completely bowl me over).

But. I’ve finally decided to take up the challenge, and do it. These are ten fabulous qawwalis from pre-70s films that I’ve seen (though I must confess that I like the qawwalis of some 70s films—especially Rishi Kapoor ones). To make this post a little more challenging, I decided not to include more than one qawwali per film.

Here we go, in no particular sequence:

1. Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar (Taj Mahal, 1963): If a music director could be given the title of the ‘qawwali king’, it would have to be Roshan—and in this song from Taj Mahal, Roshan shows off his skill brilliantly. The primary sounds are the voices of the singers, tablas, and the synchronised, rhythmic clapping that is a hallmark of qawwalis. Simple? Yes, but also wonderfully complex, because Roshan brings in variations that never let the flow and tempo get repetitive.

And Sahir’s lyrics, ardently flirtatious for the men, teasingly derisive for the women—are a delight.

2. Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai (Barsaat ki Raat, 1960): If I were asked to name my one favourite qawwali, this would be it. I was introduced to it in a roundabout way—when I was about 12 years old, our school annual function included a version of this qawwali. The lyrics were changed a bit to make it a patriotic song, but the music was that of Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai. I was part of the chorus.

Barsaat ki Raat had brilliant qawwalis (again, composed by Roshan): Nigaah-e-naaz ke maaron ka haal kya hoga, Yeh ishq ishq hai, Pehchaanta hoon khoob tumhaari nazar ko main—and this one. Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai is, for me, one of those awe-inspiring pieces of work: everything fits perfectly, even though it’s very complex. The music, the lyrics, the singing (I love the way the voices—Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle, S D Batish and Sudha Malhotra—blend in), and the picturisation. There is nothing I don’t love about it.

3. Ae meri zohrajabeen tujhe maaloom nahin (Waqt, 1965): This one starts off deceptively unlike a qawwali: there is no troupe of singers sitting ready to clap and sway and add their voices to a chorus, and the tabla (actually a dholak) too is across the room from the singer. But the ‘audience’ joins in, clapping to accompany Balraj Sahni’s character as he sings in praise of his wife—who plays the dholak. A sweet love song, written by Sahir, composed by Ravi, and sung by the very versatile Manna Dey.

4. Teri mehfil mein kismat aazmaakar (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960): Like Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai, this one too is a qawwali competition: the dancer Anarkali (Madhubala) and her team face off against the ambitious Bahaar (Nigar Sultana) and her team, in an effort to impress Prince Salim. As far as music goes, this is a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated qawwali—yet an excellent one, elevated by the lyrics of Shakeel Badayuni.

5. Jaan-e-mann ek nazar dekh le (Mere Mehboob, 1963): From a film which had a superb score (courtesy Naushad), a qawwali which is also (like Teri mehfil mein kismat aazmaakar) about rivalry—but a rivalry between two close friends who love the same man. And, in the true spirit of filmi friendship, the odd girl out is the one who celebrates the engagement of her friend with a qawwali that boasts—teasingly—of her having given up the man for her friend. What large-heartedness! But even if the happy bride-to-be is oblivious, the man is not, and he sees the pain behind the smiles. Beautiful.

6. Meri duniya lut rahi thhi (Mr and Mrs 55, 1955): The infectious rhythm of the typical qawwali can sometimes hide great sorrow, as in the previous song. This one, too, is a sad qawwali, though the sadness of the lyrics is disguised a little by the music. For once, a qawwali in which the lead character does not participate: he is merely walking down a street, sunk in despair, when he comes upon a troupe of qawwals whose song is an uncanny reflection of his own feelings.

OP Nayyar gives Meri duniya lut rahi thhi a good folksy, street-song feel to it, with the harmonium, the loud clapping, and Rafi’s very versatile voice, here with a slightly cynical-but-smiling feel. This song tends to get overshadowed by Thandi hawa kaali ghata and Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji, but I like it just as much.

7. Mere banne ki baat no poochho (Gharana, 1961): Mere banne ki baat na poochho may not be as well-known as most of the other songs I’ve listed till now, but it’s a delightful one, nevertheless. The setting is a wedding (and, if you can celebrate birthdays and engagements with qawwalis, why not weddings—especially when a ladies‘ sangeet is the perfect setting for a qawwali?) Here, two teams of women—one from the groom’s family and friends, the other from the bride’s—compete against each other in praising their respective halves of the match. A lot of insults are traded (and not just confined to the bride and groom, but also to their families), but it’s all in fun.

8. Sharmaake yeh kyon sab pardahnasheen (Chaudhvin ka Chaand, 1960): What is it about a qawwali that makes it (or made it; one doesn’t come across many qawwalis in Hindi films these days) the preferred style of singing when wanting to pull someone’s leg, or hurl insults—veiled or otherwise? In this song, Shamshad Begum and Asha Bhonsle are the lead singers who (in turn) extol the adas of beautiful women, and the generosity of the men who, by appreciating this beauty, make it worth its while.

…all the while watched, with much joy, by a hidden admirer who’s deeply in love with the woman at the centre of it all.

9. Allah yeh ada kaisi hai (Mere Humdum Mere Dost, 1968): Another instance of a qawwali being used to tease someone: in this case, a reluctant and huffy fiancé who’s been duped into an engagement. Allah yeh ada kaisi hai in haseenon mein is an example of the later style of qawwalis (more obvious in the 70s)—a relatively jazzed-up song, fairly typical of Laxmikant-Pyarelal. What I like (besides the fact that it features one of my favourite actresses, the wonderful Mumtaz) is the way, towards the end of the song, the pace and tune alter somewhat and give the song a more interesting flavour.

10. Hum deewaanein tere dar se nahin (Nakli Nawab, 1962): Yet another qawwali in which troupes of singers sing a qawwali together. Here, though, it’s not merely two troupes, but four. The qawwali begins with professional singers—male and female—singing about not leaving the doorstep of their charitable patron without getting their due. The singing is then taken up by the daughter of the house and her fiancé, each of them with their set of friends, using the same lyrics in a different way: to court the other.
And somewhere towards the end, the switch happens again: the professional singers take over the song, and this time there’s a veiled hint of blackmail…

For Edwina admirers, a chance to see the lady dressed in peshwaaz and churidaar, and looking very pretty.

Which are your favourite qawwalis?


147 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite filmi qawwalis

  1. All are nice, but you must listen to Tumhen husn deke Khuda ne sitamgar banaaya…with the brothers Shammi and Shashi together in action. Incredible words too, by Anand Bakshi…though the real heroes here were Sahir and Shakeel. Words are of course a big thing in qawaalis :)


    • This one?

      I’ve heard this before, and yes, I completely agree that it’s a great qawwali (but then, I have a particularly soft spot for Manna Dey, Rafi, Shammi Kapoor and Shashi Kapoor!)

      Thank you for that – a wonderful song. I’d have included it in my list if I’d seen the film.


  2. Kamaal! Now I’ll watch these videos and then say anything more. But I should say, your research is impeccable. I knew only the more popular ones. ‘Waqt’, ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. I didn’t know that even ‘Mere Humdum Mere Dost’ had a qawwali. That too one featuring Mumtaz! And I used to think ‘Waqt’ was post-1970. Shame on me! :-) And thank you, Madhulika.


    • Thank you, Hansda! The qawwalis from Mughal-e-Azam and Waqt are, of course, among the most popular, but in my opinion, the one film that towers above all the rest when it comes to qawwalis is Barsaat ki Raat. A friend, remarking on this post, asked me why I restricted myself to only one song per movie here – and my explanation was that if I hadn’t, nearly half my post would have consisted of the songs of Barsaat ki Raat: they’re simply sublime.


  3. Impossible to vote for 10 best though I would have taken out the Waqt song (not sure if it is a qawwali) and put in, Meri tasveer le kar kya karoge (video not available, but what a song.)


    • I managed to find an audio version of Meri tasveer lekar kya karoge:

      This was a new one for me – I’d never heard it before. Thanks.

      Just curious: why are you not sure that Ae meri zohrajabeen is a qawwali? I must admit, I thought a qawwali was a style of music rather than the lyric-based ghazal, so am just wondering.


      • My understanding is that qawwalis are a form of musical performance and have 3 criteria that must all be met to qualify as a qawwali:

        1) rhythmic clapping
        2) chorus accompanying the main singer(s) and repeating phrases
        3) performed in front of an audience

        I guess since “aye meri zohra jabeen” has no chrous accompaniment, it’s not really a qawwali.


  4. Thanks especially for the last song, since I knew all the others!
    You have included all my fav qawaalis! Absoltuely fabulous list, though I don’t have time to read in detail. I just had to come and see which qawaalis you have included!!!!!
    Thanks for this and am looking forward to read it in detail, hopefully, today evening!
    Meanwhile two qawaalis from Bahu Begum

    Waqif Hu Khub Ishq Se – Manna Dey, Mohd Rafi

    Ab Jaan-balab Hoon – Manna Dey and Mohd Rafi

    And another from a relatively new film Veer-Zaara

    and Khwaja mere khwaja from Jodha-Akbar (bless A R Rehman, I get tears in my eyes, everytime I listen to this just like with naa to caravan ki talash hai)


    • Harvey, thank you! I haven’t seen Bahu Begum yet, but those two qawwalis you’ve linked to have made me even more keen to watch the film. Qawwalis seem to have gone completely out of fashion now, isn’t it? The two you’ve suggested – the ones from Veer-Zaara and Jodhaa-Akbar were the only ones from the last decade or so that I could recall. I like Khwaaja mere khwaaja, but the one from Veer-Zaara left me cold when I watched the film.


  5. Good selection.Like any other songs,here too subjective likings differ.
    I thought you would start with the original Ladies Special “ZEENAT”-1945 qawwali-Aahen na bhari shikwe na kiye.
    That would be my first choice any day !


    • A popular song, but I haven’t seen the film (which itself excludes this song from my list), and I tend to disagree when it comes to wanting to include it in my list – I think it’s too shrill in parts, and the music is perhaps a little boring in places. Still, just my opinion…


      • P.S. I saw the film… I didn’t understand most of the dialogue because of lack of subtitles, but I had a pretty good plot summary to go by (I think it was from Vidur Sury), and Noor Jehan’s singing was magnificient. This qawwali is great because of all the singers. And I do like the sound of it! (I think it is difficult to find a clip with good sound quality, but that’s another matter.)


        • When I was watching Dupatta on Youtube, I saw that the same user had also uploaded Zeenat. I must watch it one of these days.

          (P.S. Re: Dupatta, I happened to mention it to my father, and he said, “Oh! Dupatta was a huge hit!” Interesting, since it was made only four years after the Partition, and I’d have expected less enthusiasm about a Pakistani film. But then, I guess the people who made this film – especially Noorjehan – had been very popular in India before 1947, so their moving to Pakistan may not have made that big a dent in their popularity. And it was a fantastic film).


  6. I always thought ‘ye ishq ishq hai’ was a continuation of ‘Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai’ wherein Rafi (on screen Bharat Bhushan) joins the other singers, and take the song to a completely different level..Never knew these were two separate songs..Even on radio, both are played simultaneously..Both create such an impact, that you get absolute bliss..Thanks for reminding about this song.

    I absolutely adore Roshan.. His were the most melodic of songs.. Looking forward to a best of Roshan list !!

    I am not aware of some songs in your list..Will definitely check out..

    Talking of recent times, Jatin-Lalit created a wonderful qawwali ‘Zindagi maut naa ban jaye, sambhalo yaaro’ shown in opening titles in film Sarfarosh. Just love it.


    • Yes, Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai segues pretty seamlessly into Yeh ishq ishq hai (and when I was a teenager, I always tended to think of them as one long qawwali). Now, I tend to think of them as two different songs, because the music and the tone of the second one differs quite a bit from the first. And after that initial ‘bridge’ of music, there’s no reference – in lyrics, for instance – to Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai.

      I agree about Roshan. He was brilliant, and some of my favourite songs are the ones he composed.

      I’d forgotten about the Sarfarosh song, even though I’ve seen the film (and the song was quite popular at one time). Thanks for reminding me of it. Here it is:


      • I myself would say that the yeh ishq ishq hai is a continuation of na to karvaan ki talash hai, it carries the message forward and it is often seen in qawaalis that the sur and wordings can change.


        • I had never even considered the possibility that they were two separate songs until I bought a Saregama qawwali compilation CD that does split them up. Like you, Harvey, I think of them as one.


          • Never heard it referred to as two songs.

            I have, a couple of times. Both audio cassettes I owned – one of Barsaat ki Raat, the other of Hindi cinema’s best qawwalis – listed them as two separate qawwalis.


            • Shalini, you are right. For all practical purposes, this is one song. There was a time when these were called ‘double-siders’ – think of Tere bina aag yeh chaandni and Ghar aaya mera pardesi in Awara, Madhu. It could technically be listed as two songs, but (in my opinion) one part is incomplete without the other.


              • think of Tere bina aag yeh chaandni and Ghar aaya mera pardesi in Awara, Madhu.

                I don’t want to!! :-D I don’t like that film, honestly. But this could be an interesting topic of discussion – at what point do you call two (or more) one-after-the-other songs separate songs? The ‘medley’ I usually think of is this one from Hum Kisise Kam Nahin:

                One song, or multiple ones? Why? I don’t claim to know the answers. But I’d call this multiple songs.


            • Madhu, the Hum Kisise Kum Nahin song is a medley. But songs like the two we are discussing here are singles – originally HMV, for instance, used to call them ‘double siders’.
              As Harvey mentioned, they are now listed separately because music companies like having a certain ‘number’ on their dust covers. :)


            • Thank you Madhu for responding to my comment .. And thank you guys..It’s been absolutely wonderful to read discussion among you aficionados ..


  7. What a great post, thank you so much! Not just for highlighting so many of my favourites, but also for introducing me to Mere banne ki baat no poochho, which is the sort of fun qawwali I particularly like. Sharmaake yeh kyon sab was actually my introduction to filmi qawwalis, and I think that’s why I like that humorous teasing style so much.
    As for favourites of mine, apart from the ones you’ve listed here (na to karavaan being one of top 3 pieces of from anywhere and any when), I can think of 3 from the 70s, and one from the 2010s!
    First up, from Ustadon ke Ustad, the first qawwali I saw with an actually comic setup:

    Then the obvious 70s anthemic qawwali,

    And finally from the 70s, I really love the way the women are in charge in this one from Noorie:

    Last of all, the song that restored my faith in the continued existence of qawwalis in modern Hindi cinema, from Tanu Weds Manu


    • Stuart, I was thinking of you when I was compiling this list, because I remembered you once asking me to do a qawwali list! I’m glad you liked it – and thank you or the ones you’ve contributed. I like that qawwali from Noorie, and (while I haven’t seen Ustaadon ke Ustad), that qawwali is a well-known one.

      I’d forgotten about Rangrez mere, though I actually watched the film a couple of months back. So, between you and Harvey, you’ve managed to come up with three qawwalis created in the past ten years – and Shantanu has contributed another, not too much further back. All hope isn’t lost yet. :-)

      …the obvious 70s anthemic qawwali

      Heh. Obvious, indeed. That is the qawwali I linked to in the introduction, where I mentioned the Rishi Kapoor qawwalis of the 70s that I like. Here’s another Rishi Kapoor qawwali that I like; Purdah hai purdah, from Amar Akbar Anthony:


      • Wow, I’m flattered that you remembered my request, thanks! This is a wonderful thread, so many of my favourites and so many new treasures – I won’t be finished with this thread for days! Thanks too for including Meri duniya lut rahi thhi, I had forgotten that song, accidentally blotting out with everything else from that misogynist nightmare apart from Jaane kahaan mera jigar gaya ji. Good sad qawwalis are a nice change from the fun, sniping ones at times.

        Re Ustadon ke Ustad, it was another film I bought just for the qawwali, especially when I saw it had Johnny Walker in it. It turned out to be a quite OK movie, with the added bonus of course of the gorgeous Sau baar janam.

        On the subject of buying films just for the qawwali, what’s Gharana like? The very end of the clip suggests a change of tone, with a fairly obvious plot development moments away after the clip ends. Is the movie worth getting?


        • I’m glad you’re enjoying this, Stuart – and yes, every time my husband has said, “Why don’t you do a qawwali list on your blog?”, I’ve replied, “Yes, Stuart requested one, too. I will, someday.” Finally!

          I’ve been meaning to buy Ustaadon ke Ustaad because of Sau baar janam lenge – I love that song. And Shakila is a favourite. If you say it’s ‘quite OK’ (plus, now I know there’s this qawwali), maybe I really should get down to it.

          Nah, I don’t think Gharana is worth buying. It’s been years since I watched that film (on TV, thank goodness, so I didn’t waste my money!), but it’s one of those rather standard AVM-style ‘family dramas’. Many misunderstandings, family quarrels and angst. The songs are nice and the people are pretty, but that’s about it.


  8. Just got to India last night, still jetlagged, and you post! Such a melodious post too. (You made me wait a year, didn’t you?) It is not surprising, is it, that our lists resemble each other’s a lot? Only, I used all three qawaalis from Barsaat ki Raat. I agree with you about Na toh kaarvan ki talaash hai – if pushed to make a choice, that would be my favourite too.

    My qawwali post here:


    • I must confess I’d forgotten that you’d done a qawwali list, Anu – though I did remember you mentioning (I think on some other post on my blog) that one qawwali you like is Phir tumhaari yaad aayi ae sanam.

      That, actually, is one of the reasons this post took such a long time to be posted – I kept waiting, thinking I’d buy and watch Rustom-Sohrab, and then add that qawwali in my list. Because I certainly like it better than one or two of the qawwalis I’ve listed here. But that hasn’t happened in all this while, so – what the heck – I decided it was time to publish this anyway.

      Here it is:


      • I must confess I’d forgotten that you’d done a qawwali list, Anu –

        Of course you did, she agreed cordially, since it’s been more than a year. :) That is when you told me you were thinking of writing one too. I’m glad you finally did!


  9. Hi,
    Very much true re Barsaat ki Raat having the best qawwalies. This one from Kismat was never acknowledged to be a masterpiece, which it is. I am not very sure what a qawwali means, but I think this is not just a song. would love to have your opinion.


    • I haven’t come across any definite way of identifying a song as a qawwali (or not), but I tend to think of that rhythmic clapping as one of the essentials. By that yardstick, Kajra mohabbat waala wouldn’t qualify – it’s more a nautanki song than anything else. But I’d like to hear what others have to say about that!

      (It’s a delightful song, though). :-)


      • P.S. Shalini, in a recent comment in one of the threads above, provides an interesting set of criteria that could be used to define a qawwali. I think it’s pretty logical, but I don’t think this song meets those criteria – especially because of the lack of rhythmic clapping.


  10. I have to confess that to me, all other qawwalis pale in front of the Roshan masterpieces. The extraordinary thing is that it wasn’t just a one-movie deal in “Barsat Ki Raat”, he had fantastic qawwalis in Taj Mahal, Bahu Begum, Babar and of course this gem from “Dil Hi to Hai”

    Beyond Roshan, I thought N. Dutta had some wonderful qawwalis including “mere dilbar mujhse khafa na ho” from Dharmputra

    Post-60s, the only qawwali I truly like is this obscure one from Shankar Hussain, which thanks to the presence of real-life qawwals manages an authenticity most filmi qawwalis don’t have.


    • Roshan was certainly in a class by himself. I haven’t seen Dil Hi Toh Hai, but I have heard both that qawwali as well as the N Dutta one from Dharamputra. The Shankar Hussain qawwali was a new one for me – but yes, very good. Those distinct ‘professional qawwal‘ voices are fabulous.


  11. Yay! I like qawwalis, especially “Ae Meri Zohra Jabeen”. That was one of the few old songs I knew when I was five. Along with some Raj Kapoor songs (Cos my grandma had this CD with his songs and used to play it), and Gumrah/Humraaz songs (She had this CD too, and used to play it a lot, but it got lost. Then recently, while doing some cleaning, we found it! I couldn’t recognize the songs, though a few days ago I had been poking around, reading the Wiki article on it. Coincidences! So when she came to fetch me after debate practice, I sat in the car, and oh my God – these songs! I faintly remembered them, and then she said they were Gumrah songs. Aaaaaaah! And then my Aunty had the same copy, and she gave it to me! :DDD).


  12. Lovely post Madhu! You have compiled the finest qawwalis in Hindi cinema. “Na to Karvaan Ki talash hai” is the best, best. “Mere na-murad junoon ka ilaaj koi to maut hai, jo dawa ke naam pe zeher de, usi chaaragar ki talaash hai” is such beautiful lyrics!

    Hume to loot liya from Al-hilaal was extremely popular. It used to be played almost everyday on Radio Pakistan.

    There are two qawwalis which are dear to me-
    “Nigaahen Milane ko ji chahta hai”,which Shalini mentioned, and the other one for which I am posting the link. This is typical, typical Sahir on the central theme of religion.
    Shirdi Sai summed it up in one line -“Sabka Malik Ek”, whereas it took a qawwali to elucidate it!
    Follow Sahir’s lyrics carefully, while watching the scene-a Muslim and a pandit agreeing on the universality of God. “Agar jazb-e-mohabbat sadiq ho, har ghar se muraaden milti hain”-har ghar usee ka kashaana.Lovely ideas

    Aaj aur Kal has one by Usha Mangeshkar and Shamshad Begum-


    • I don’t know if the picturisation has anything very much to do with a qawwali – does it necessarily have to imply that the singers are mainly seated throughout the song? (By that account, Allah yeh ada kaisi hai wouldn’t qualify). I think this song from Aarzoo is a qawwali – though I find those interludes of Western music and dance a little jarring!

      I like Pal do pal ka saath hamaara – a very nice qawwali (and pretty long, too). Here it is:


      • I do think the picturization or the “staging” factors into whether a song is a qawwali or not and I know strict constructionist who don’t consider “allah yeh ada” or “jab ishq ho jata hai” proper qawwalis, but I don’t agree with them.:-) Another entry in the “stand-up” qawwali that I’m rather fond of is “yeh mana meri jaan mohobbat saza hai” from Hanste Zakhm.


        • Arre wah, Shalini. I had forgotten about this one. Shall we say a qawwali should be defined by whether or not, if you haven’t seen it, you listen to it and can picture a qawwali? I’d forgotten how this song was picturised, and if I don’t watch it, just listen to it, I can well imagine the typical ‘seated’ qawwali scenario.


        • “yeh mana meri jaan” is the name of my Saregama qawwali compilation CD. So far, I’ve been impressed that most of the 35 songs on it (including this one, obviously!) have been mentioned in this thread.


          • I have a 2-cassette compilation of qawwalis tucked away somewhere. Must find it and check it out to see if there’s anything there that hasn’t been included somewhere in these comments.


      • I like the distinction made on Wikipedia between qawwali and filmi qawwali. For me personally, the more strictly sufi, the less I enjoy a filmi qawwali. Acknowledging filmi qawwali as a separate genre allows for including many more songs in the grouping, as there may be many qawwalesque songs that don’t fit the strict sufi definition of a qawwali, but are filmi qawwalis. As for Pal do pal ka saath I bought Burning Train (haven’t watched it yet) for this qawwali and for the sentimental reason that it’s listed as the last of Rafi Sahib’s films to be released, but I find it a bit too long. I have to be in a very particular frame of mind to get through it all. I think this is another sign of the genius of na to karavaan which is longer but which I can listen to several times a day no problem at all!


        • “I think this is another sign of the genius of na to karavaan which is longer but which I can listen to several times a day no problem at all!

          Well said. Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai, no matter how long, is a gem – impossible to equal.


    • Ah, lovely. I haven’t heard too many non-filmi qawwalis (except occasionally, when I happen to have been visiting a place like the dargah at Ajmer, or once at Nizamuddin Auliya’s dargah). This one’s nice. I love that somewhat nasal voice. And the lyrics are beautiful.


  13. I am starting a new thread here for the one song/two songs discussion.
    The example you have cited, Madhu, is for me multiple songs, since they vary considerably in the rhythm, melody and they have distinct stops in the orchestra, while moving from one song to the other. Nasir Husain explicitly told RDB to arrange the different songs in such a way and he meant songs and not one big long song.
    In na to karavan ki talash hai, there are also the responses by the two teams but we possibly can’t take each response as a separate song. That would mean that Asha’s response to Manna’s opening is a separate song. There is a pause in the video, but it is only that of a brief applause, which is quite common in classical music recitals, particularly in N. Indian classical music. Moreover the yeh ishq ishq hai is a natural continuation of tera ishq hai meri arzoo, tera ishq hai meri abroo, tera ishq main kaise chhod doon, meri umr bhar ki talash hai. He enumerates what ishq means for him and then says it is all ishq. Everything is love. The Bhakti or Sufi tradition perceive everything as love. There are many lines, which start with saying this is love, that is love, that also is love and then conclude with saying everything is love.


    • Very nicely explained, Harvey. A few other back-to-back but separate songs that I can think of are:

      * The Main hoon woh albela/Bolo bolo buch to bolo/Puchoo na yaar kya hua medley from Zamane ko Dikhna Hai

      *Yeh bahar yeh sama & Seekh le babu pyar kar jadu from Dilli Ka Thug


        • Wow..Nasir Hussain sure had a penchant for back to back two, sometimes three song combo! Yaadon ki baarat and hum kisise kam nahi were the ones I remember.. But it seems there were still more..above films Zamane ko dikhana hai and Dil deke dekho are also Nasir Hussain productions (Wikipedia helps)..

          His last film as producer, Jo Jeeta wohi sikandar, there was this again..whopping three songs back to back.. 1.Hamse hai saara jahaan 2.Naam hai mera Fonseca and 3. Arre yaaro mere pyaaro .. ..when I saw it first time, I was amazed.. Now I know the brains behind this


          • I hadn’t noticed that! Yes, it can’t be a coincidence. Interesting – now I’m mentally going through all the Nasir Hussain films I remember, but no – can’t think of any others that have these ‘one after the other’ songs.


    • “In na to karavan ki talash hai, there are also the responses by the two teams but we possibly can’t take each response as a separate song.

      Yes, I agree about that – because they are, after all, connected to each other (one verse is a reaction to the previous one), plus the music is basically the same.

      Why I feel Yeh ishq ishq hai ishq ishq is a different song (despite the bridge provided by the last line of Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai) is that the first song has a note of desperation and of the agony of being in a useless, unrequited love. The second song, on the other hand, glorifies love, comparing it even to divinity. That way, I think the tone (besides the music) of the two qawwalis differs a lot.

      Anyway, let’s agree to disagree on this one! :-)


  14. Isn’t there a two song combination in Kala Pani, the second one being hum bekhudi mein tumko, which begins as soon as the first one ends?


  15. Madhu, I’m coming late to this post. What a lovely post!!!

    Agree with your choice of songs. My top-4 from this list would be “na to caravan”, “sharmaake ye kyon “, “teri mehfil mein kismat aazmakar” and “chandi sa badan”. Absolutely love them!!!

    And Shalini has mentioned two other favorites of mine. “Nigaahen milaane ko” and the Dharamputra song.

    Lot of other songs have been mentioned (incl “hamen to loot liye” and the Burning Train song) but has this one been mentioned yet? It was pretty popular in its time.


    • Thank you so much, Raja! I’m glad you liked this post. :-) There’s something about qawwalis that’s utterly likeable about them.

      Yes, I remember this Raaz ki baat keh doon toh being very popular at one time. Good one!


    • Ah, you helped me out on that one, Raja – Haal kya hai dilon ka! I was racking my brains and trying to remember which qawwali it was in which a rakish Jeetendra was trying to make a pass at Rekha, and couldn’t remember at all – though I knew even the picturisation of it. Very frustrating! Thank you for that. :-)

      I remember hearing the Karmayogi qawwali, and the Putlibai one (even though this is the first time I’m watching it!) is certainly a classic. I remember first hearing this on a ‘Best Qawwalis’ cassette, and was quite enamoured of it. I think I like the audio better than the video. ;-)


  16. Here’s an unusual qawwali from Mahal (1969), Hum tujhe dhoond lenge. Unusual, because quite an interesting suspense angle is played out in the course of the song – Dev Anand’s character (behind all that shrubbery) uses the lyrics and his actions to convey a message to his lady love. Even otherwise, not a bad qawwali:


  17. I learnt a lot about qawwali’s from this post and the ensuing comments, thanks for an excellent post.
    Hopefully these two I am about to present are qawwali’s, and I am sure that compared to all the ones already presented; these two will rank at the bottom. After all, someone has to stand up for all bottomers;).

    You can also die laughing at Dev Anand doing a qawwali :)
    Manna Dey actually is not bad in this one, but Dev needs acting & dancing & several other lessons. This is so bad, it is good.

    With my blog, how can I not be partial to this one :)


    • Well, in the comment just before yours, I had embedded a Dev Anand qawwali, so I’m hardly one to point fingers…! But at least, in that one, he isn’t obliged to get up and ‘dance’ about. I haven’t seen Chhupa Rustam, and this one doesn’t really tempt me to. ;-)

      Like the second qawwali a lot. Quite a classic! (I like the punny fact that, in between in the song, there’s a ‘Presented by: Sagar Saab’ subtitle! ‘sagar is about right).


    • I’ve seen Razia Sultana, but I’d completely forgotten about this one! (The only song I remember from that film is the lovely Dhalti jaaye raat keh le dil ki baat).
      This is a nice qawwali.


  18. With the mention of Nizamiddin Auliya while reading the comments, I also recall a sequence in Garm Hawa filmed at Saleem Chisty’s Dargah

    And here are two more to the already a rich fare of quawaalis

    Milte Hi Nazar Tum Se – Ustadon Ke Ustad [1963]

    Hum unko dekhte hain Mubarak Begum & Asha- S D Burman- Benazir

    [If SDB composing such a classic quawaali form is not a surprise enough, listen to deft use of Mubarak Bebum in this song.]
    And few recent ones, but quite ‘pure’ in the form and composition:

    Zindagi Tere Dar Pe Fanaa – Salma (1985)

    Piya Haji Ali Piya Haji Ali Piya Haji Ali – A R Raheman – Fiza –


    • You have made me want to finally watch Benazir; it’s been sitting in my to-watch pile for long enough! Perhaps that is the next film I will watch…

      Thank you, especially, for linking to Piya Haaji Ali. Considering qawwalis (and good ones at that) have become so rare in Hindi films, it’s good to see ‘new’ (even though Fiza wouldn’t be counted as ‘new’ by some!) qawwalis.


      • Benazir is certainly a good-to-see a film – Shashi Kapoor and Tanuja look very refreshingly youthful, each song a great one, and a fairly well-paced screenplay, particularly when compared to other films of that era.
        Look forward to your presentation of the movie here on this blog…


  19. Just what I needed. Lovely, lovely, qwaalis – all together in one place :-)
    Of course you have already listed the evergreen Barsaat ki Raat qwaali and the exqusite Taj Mahal one. But I lovce the rest too.
    Just a moment of indecision on my part about the Waqt song. It doesn’t feel like a qwaali. I could be wrong though. :-/

    There was a film which seems to have wanted to follow in the footsteps of Barsaat Ki Raat. It had quite few qwaalis in it. The film – Qwaali Ki Raat.

    Here’s one thatI thin k is the best in this film.

    The next best being


    • You weren’t the only one who was indecisive about the Waqt – even Sidharth said that he didn’t think it qualified as a qawwali.

      I’ve heard of Qawwali ki Raat, but have never seen it. That first qawwali you’ve posted from it sounds quite good. I like the second one too, and it’s a pleasure to see Deven Verma looking quite handsome indeed! :-D

      Have you seen the film? Any good?


      • You are allowed to spam! You came late to the party, no? You have to make up for lost time. :-) And if you’re doing that by contributing so many nice songs, it’s perfectly okay by me.

        Even though I’ve watched Basant, I’d forgotten about this qawwali. Thanks for reminding me!


      • Yes, that ‘is’ Kamaljeet. Kumkum’s also in the film. I haven’t seen it only heard the songs.

        Since I’m allowed to spam, here’s another qwaali from Bluffmaster :-D


  20. I was reminded of this song today – another Rishi Kapoor qawwali, and one which (in the fact that it is basically devotional), has a connect to the original concept of a qawwali at a Sufi shrine. Interestingly, this is one qawwali which literally asserts its claim to being a qawwali, at the very beginning of the song.

    Shirdiwaale Sai Baba aaya hai tere dar pe sawaali, from Amar Akbar Anthony:


    • Yup, good qawwali. Raja has also embedded it in one of his comments, above. I couldn’t include it in my list because (as I’ve mentioned in the introduction), I focus only on pre-70s films, and tha too films I have seen. Dharma is from 1973, and I haven’t seen it. But still, a classic qawwali.


  21. I though someone would mention “aaj kyon humse parda hai” from Sadhana, but since no one has, here it is. Great qawwali and scene.


  22. Re Aziz Nazaan, I think his claim to fame was this qawwali. An original composition of his, it was used in an I. S. Johar film. It was the vinyl era, and this LP was a particular favourite of paan tapris, where it was fashionable, as of 8 pm, (latish in those days when TV had not spread beyond metros) to gather for a “kalkatta” paan and a cigarette. This was also a favourite recording to be played in wedding ceremonies and bands. Here’s the best version I found online…… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-RkWIuGjtsA&feature=related


    • Anything that has a bit of Ghalib’s poetry in it is always up my street! Thank you, Richard – this song was nice (and I like the ladies a lot. Especially Noorjehan. ;-))


    • I have a feeling I’ve heard this one, but I’m not sure. I think the other songs of Mera Naam Joker far outshone this one as far as popularity went, so those were the ones we heard on radio (and later saw on TV) when I was a kid.


  23. Does anyone know if Qawwali ki Raat is available on DVD? induna.com, my usual supplier, only lists a VCD, and that too out of stock.

    Finally, since most of the songs on my compilation CD have been mentioned, here’s a cheery little one that hasn’t been:


  24. Hi,
    There’s a problem with your site, it is taking too long to be accessed. New tabs are taking too long to be of any practical use. Most annoyingly, posting comments is taking terribly long periods, by which time the spontaneity has gone away, not to mention the point to be made. Please check this out. BTW, is it Nadira who is in a menacing avataar on your homepage? if otherwise pl provide the details of who she is, really awesome pic!


    • I am sorry to have unwittingly suppressed your spontaneity and for having got you so annoyed. Do accept my sincerest apologies.
      Quite a lot of people access my blog daily, and nobody’s ever told me that it’s taking a terribly long time to post a comment… have you checked out your net connection speed? Incidentally, if you’re opening multiple tabs of pages that have a lot of videos embedded in them (like this post), they will take a lot of time to load.

      Yes, it’s Nadira in the header. That still is from her debut film, Aan.


      • Thanks for the reply. My net connection speed is fine, but I was unaware about the multiple tab thing. Anyway, your dedication to blogging is fantastic. Hats off to your consistency and concern for your readers. Wish more bloggers were so reader friendly and conversational in approach.


  25. One of the advantages of coming to your post late is that you do not have to add anything. But I find that this song is perhaps not yet mentioned:

    Marna bhi mohabbat mein kisi kaam na aya by Raghunath Jadhav and others from Azaad, music C Ramchandra

    You do not associate Azaad and CR with a qawwali. The main charm is the real qawwali feel. Someone has commented there is a difference between a real qawwali and filmi qawwali. Yes and no. The real qawwals who have sung for films are especially charming. Therefore, I would have included Humein to loot liya and Jhoom barabar jhoom sharabi. Nigaahe naaz ke maro ka haal kya hoga is a great example of Roshan deftly straddling the two worlds – Shankar Shambhu, a pucca qawwal, combining with filmi singers. It must have been difficult to restrain yourself to only one from Barsaat Ki raat! But you have made up by including some great qawwalis. I especially liked Meri duniya lut rahi thi. This is not a song that easily comes to mind. Two songs were new to me – Mere banne ki baat na poochho and Hum deewane tere.

    A great post.


  26. You have mentioned most of my favourite qawallis. I really love teh ones from Barsaat ki raat, Taj Mahal and Mughal-e-azam. I second your opinion that Roshan was the master of qawallis. He was also a Lata favourite along with Madan Mohan, simply bcoz these two people stood by her when many others made an attempt, at least once, to replace her with others.


  27. Very nice post, however disappointed that no mention for Isharoon Ko Agar Samjho, from DHARMA and shoddy treatment for brilliant qawwalis from RUSTAM AND SOHRAB, Phir Tumhari Yaad aye Ae Sanam, DHARAMPUTRA, Mere Humdam Mujh Per Khafa Na Ho and SADHNA, Aaj Kyon Humse Parda Hai.

    Secondly you have created unnecessary controversy by seperating Ye Ishq Ishq Hai and Na tau Karawan Ki Talash Hai, because if you ask any music lover they will say these are in continuation as both are played simultaneously in the movie.
    No sense in treating individually.


    • I must admit to being very puzzled at your comment that it was a ‘very nice post‘, since all you seem to have found in it are flaws. ‘shoddy treatment’, ‘unnecessary controversy’, ‘disappointment’, ‘no sense’…. what did you like?

      By the way, if you’ve noticed, in the introduction, I’ve written that the qawwalis I’ve picked are only from films I’ve seen. The ones you’ve accused me of treating ‘shoddily’ are from films I haven’t seen. And, if you read the comments carefully, you’ll see that I’ve tried to justify why I think Na toh karvaan ki talaash hai is a separate qawwali. And yes, other blog readers have agreed that we’ll disagree. Disagreeing does not mean that we must hurl insults at each other.


      • Sorry if my mail offended you, which is obvious from tone of your reply.

        I simply wrote what I felt instinctively, however have no intention of any conflict with you.

        Your contention that you have chosen only those qawwalis of films you have seen make very little sense as this might be acceptable in reviewing a film but not in case of a song. I hope most readers will agree with me, in that case many brilliant songs are overlooked and mediocre songs inds the place as in case in most of your posts.

        Please don’t take this personally, I know its your blog but we love this blog and wants to make it even better by constructive criticism, please please don’t feel insulted of the criticism and take it positively.

        If you want mail only praising your posts then i am sorry won’t write you anymore. Bye


        • “many brilliant songs are overlooked and mediocre songs inds the place as in case in most of your posts”

          So most of the posts I write up highlight mediocre songs and overlook the brilliant ones? And you wonder why I’m offended?

          Akash, I do not want comments only praising my blog. If that were the case, I’d have deleted quite a few of the comments that I receive. Constructive criticism is good, as long as it is given constructively. I do not see the point of using insulting language to try and change somebody’s mind about something.

          Incidentally, have you noticed the title of my post? ‘Ten of my favourite qawwalis‘. Not your favourite, or so-and-so’s favourite. Mine. Liking or not liking a song is very subjective, you know. Among the comments here, for example, people have listed lots of qawwalis they like, and I don’t have a problem with that – even though I may not like the song in question. That’s okay; it’s good to discover a new song. but to think that just because you like a song, someone else must include it in their favourites? A little presumptuous, no?


        • Akash, if you like a qwaali just praise it and post it!!

          Did you read ANYWHERE that dustedoff has stated these are the 10 BEST QWAALIS *EVER*!!

          It’s clear you’ve just seen what qwaalis there are in the list and then posted your comment without reading the explanations.

          Posting from films which dustedoff has seen narrows down the list for her and offers a challenge – AND it leaves a very
          big opportunity FOR US, HER BLOG READERS, to be able to post some greatr choices too – WITHOUT having seen the film too, because that’s NOT A CONDITION FOR US!!

          It’s all about a challenge, you see. Try finding 10 favourites ONLY from films you’ve seen.


          • Thak you for the support, pacifist. And I agree with you – I impose restrictions on myself to make my post more challenging for me, and not just a list of great songs (if I began doing that, I’d probably never reach an end). But those restrictions do not apply to my readers, and I love seeing people come up with songs I’d forgotten about, or have never heard.


  28. Sorry for reading this so late. You have really created a benchmark of your own so maybe you are supposed to have heard Meri Tasveer lekar, Fir tumhari yaad aayi ,Nigahein milane ko ji chahta hei. But you have clarified that you have included qawallis from films which you have seen.
    Once again a nice collection and nice narratives. One movie you missed from 60’s – Palki. Great qawwali – Mein idhar jaoon ya udar jaoon

    Another one which is not a great qawaali and from 70’s – i remember it because i went to watch the movie for this qawaali only as it has Amitabh- guest appearance

    One more Amitabh qawalli was in hera Pheri – Darbaar me upar walo ke…

    Qawaali as a music form is unique. It was mainly sung by sufi’s in dargah’s. What is unique is that though sung by muslim sufis in dargah’s, the verse is highly influenced by hindu mythology..the best example is ye ishq ishq hei ishq- in Barsaat ki Raat..where the singer if refering to Janak Dulari , Radha and Meera.
    This is our Ganga Jamuna culture. Music binds people and I hope that no more Assam or Pune haapen in this great country.Happy Independence day,


    • Happy Independence Day to you too! Thank you.

      – and thank you for Main idhar jaaoon ya udhar jaaoon. I’ve not seen Paalki, but I’ve heard this qawwali before, and it’s very good. The Amitabh-Dharmendra qawwali was so-so, I agree. Here, by the way, is Durbar mein uparwaalon ke:


  29. Excellent post Madhu. Picking favorite qawwalis is easy. I love almost all of them. It is my fond with to compile a lot of mp3’s of lovely qawalis and listen to them.

    Most qawwalis are also picturised beautifully. I just adore most of them. Here is my contribution. This is the qawwali I helped translate for Tom:


    • Thank you, Ava! (and very specially for Kahnewaale tu bhi keh – pacifist pointed it out to me, and I liked it from that moment on). Lovely! And anything with Mumtaz is always up my street. ;-)


  30. while reading comments about two songs in continuation, if my memory is correct, one such composition is in Naya Daur. Ye desh hei veer jawano ka comes just after Dil leke daga denge…another one which I remember is Pratigya from 70’s. Just after the song mein jatt yamla pagla, comes the beautifully sung Uth neend se mirjiya jaag ja…
    Carry on with the great work you music lovers.

    And on the subject of qawallis, in recent times, Pardes climax qawalli is surely a nice one considering its in a 90’s movie.


    • It’s been a long time since I watched Naya Daur (and I haven’t seen Pratigya) so don’t recall whether Yeh des hai veer jawaanon ka comes right after Dil leke danga denge – but both songs are lovely!

      Is this the Pardes song you mean – Nahin hona tha?


  31. Sahir was well aware of the fact that, Qawwali is nothing but the song in praise of the God therefore, he expressed the true sense of love through this Qawaali. Each word in the praise of the God has special meaning and the way it is rendered by all the talented singers is just to be listened and experienced. It is beyond the explanation.


  32. One of the Best Qawwali is from Film “Dulhan Ek Raat ki”.. Kabhi Ey Haqiqake Muntazir, Nazar aa libase mazar me”.. from Fil Laila Majnoo ” Hoke Mayus tere dar se & Me tere Dar pe aaya hu”


  33. Hi. I am fairly new to your blog, found my way here via Memsaab.
    One of my favourite qawwlis is Jaate Jaate Ek Nazar from Qawaali Ki Raat

    and another one is Na Tum Hato from Shadi Karlo

    This is the longest qawwli I have come across so far, but as it has the king of qawwalis singing, the outstanding Mohd Rafi, it can never be too long for me.


      • Thank you for commenting – and for both qawwalis. Good ones, and Na tum hato na hum hatein is really a long one. Definitely some sort of a record (and I still stand by – despite the debate about it – my stance that Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai and Yeh ishq ishq hai are two separate qawwalis)!


  34. Madhu, I always liked the idea of touching old threads, to keep them alive.
    As far as this thread goes, I found one thing interesting or disturbing, isn’t it a irony that
    top top actors of that era, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand, Ashok Kumar, Shammi Kapoor or for that matter Shashi Kapoor have not a single Qawwali picturized on them.
    Bharat Bhushan and Pradeep Kumar are the ones on whom most qawwalis are picturized.


  35. Excellent post!! I really liked it as I am a Avid qawwali lover, especially from bollywood. However, I am surprised to see few of my favourites missed here.

    Burning train – Pal Do Pal
    Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai – Title
    Dilli 6 – Arziyan
    Bajrangi Bhaijaan – Bhar Do Jholi Meri
    Atif Aslam – Tajdar-e-Haram
    Tanu Weds Manu – Rangrez (Hey Rangrez Mere Hey)
    Parthiv Gohil – Halka Halka Suroor



    • Thanks.

      “few of my favourites missed here.

      That’s because this blog focuses exclusively on pre-70s cinema. All the reviews, all the songs featuring in song lists – everything to do with cinema – is about cinema from before the 1970s.


  36. I m adding one more fantastic Quawwali of
    movie ” Bahurani ” of 1963.

    ” Ye husn mera , ye ishq tera , rangin to hai , badnaam sahi ”

    It is sung by Asha nd picturised on Shyama.

    So many things to njoy
    The naughty style of Asha ,equally naughty expressions nd dance by Shyama , the chorus in singing nd dancing ,the rhythm maintained by music director C.Ramchandra nd above all, as a bonus , the entry of handsome Feroz Khan.


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