Ten of my favourite ‘woman pianist’ songs

When I created a list of my favourite car songs, blog reader Ragni requested a list: of songs that feature women playing a piano. I riffled mentally through the film songs of the 50s and 60s, and quickly responded: there would be just too many; how could I choose just ten? Another reader, Chris, came up with a suggestion: songs only from black-and-white films.

When I actually got down to compiling this list, however, I realized how impetuous I’d been. A closer look at most of the piano songs that sprang to mind, and I discovered that even if it’s a woman singing (as in Tu jahaan-jahaan chalega or Mujhe tum mil gaye humdum), it’s a man sitting at the piano. Songs where a woman is the one actually playing the piano are, when I came to think of it, relatively rare. I had to, perforce, expand the scope to colour films too.

Simi plays a piano in 'Yeh kaun aaya', from Saathi

So, with thanks to Ragni and due apologies to Chris (and thank you for the suggestion, anyway), a list of my ten favourite songs that feature women pianists, whether from black-and-white films, or colour.

These are all from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and are in no particular order.

1. Jawaan hai mohabbat haseen hai zamaana (Anmol Ghadi, 1946): Richard will probably be glad to know that Jawaan hai mohabbat was the first song that came to my mind – for me, this one’s simply iconic. Noorjehan, with her laughing eyes and that gorgeous smile, is such a sight for sore eyes that even though not very much happens in the song (other than those brief flashbacks to earlier scenes from the film), I never get bored of watching Noorjehan just sitting at the piano and singing.
And what a great song, too: lovely vocals, and fantastic music from Naushad (though I’m not sure a piano actually does figure in the orchestra. Can anybody tell?)

Jawaan hai mohabbat, from Anmol Ghadi

2. Tum apna ranj-o-gham (Shagoon, 1964): Not a great film (in fact, rather tedious), though it had some wonderful songs, courtesy Khayyam and Sahir Ludhianvi. This one, picturised on Libby Rana (aka Nivedita, in her later films) and sung by Jagjit Kaur, is my favourite from Shagoon:  a song offering comfort and companionship – even an almost defiant champion who begs to be allowed to take on herself the anguish her beloved undergoes.

Tum apna ranj-o-gham, from Shagoon

3. Sab kuchh lutaake hosh mein aaye (Ek Saal, 1957): I love the way the piano is introduced in this song. Sab kuchh lutaake hosh mein aaye begins with only Lata’s voice singing the aalaap or prelude, with only the faintest hint of a musical instrument here and there. Then, when she begins the song proper, it is to the notes of a piano. One of the best songs there is of heartbreak and hurt at having been betrayed.

Sab kuchh lutaake hosh mein aaye, from Ek Saal

4. Yahaan main ajnabi hoon (Jab Jab Phool Khile, 1965): An unusual woman-at-a-piano song, in that while the piano is played by a woman, she does not sing, herself – she merely accompanies the singer, who is male. A posh high-society party (no wonder the piano, without which stylish parties in 50s and 60s Hindi cinema seem to have been incomplete). A made-over Kashmiri boatman who has suddenly realised that he’s a fish out of water here. And the chic (if you think crimson satin, cut unflatteringly, and with a profusion of fake jewellery, is chic) urbanite who begins to fear that her dream is coming to an end.

One thing I especially like about the picturisation of this song is that it uses the piano as a very major prop, using it in interesting frames and showing it from different angles.

Yahaan main ajnabi hoon, from Jab Jab Phool Khile

5. Dheere-dheere machal ae dil-e-beqaraar (Anupama, 1966): Along with Jawaan hai mohabbat, one of the first songs that occurred to me when I began thinking of this list. This sweet little song is a lovely reflection of a happy marriage: the wife sits at her piano and plays, singing in anticipation of her husband’s arrival. He arrives midway through, and though she interrupts her song, he urges her to complete it. Romantic, yet in an affectionate, domestic, comfortable way.

Dheere-dheere machal, from Anupama

6. Chehre pe khushi chhaa jaati hai (Waqt, 1965): I had been torn between two great songs from Waqt – both featuring Sadhana playing a piano. One was Kaun aaya ke nigaahon mein chamak jaag uthi (which is similar in tone to Dheere-dheere machal, though the man in question isn’t the one the singer awaits). The other was this one, a serenade to the man the pianist/singer loves: a joyful and proud declaration of their shared love for each other.

The reason I chose Chehre pe khushi chhaa jaati hai over Kaun aaya ke nigaahon mein chamak is because in this song, the player sits at the piano all through the song. A small distinction, but there. What’s a piano song if the player only sits at the piano for a few seconds?

Chehre pe khushi chhaa jaati hai, from Waqt

7. Tera jaana dil ke armaanon ka (Anari, 1959): And this is where I contradict what I’d written for the previous song I selected. Here, the pianist is at her instrument only for a very brief spell. But this is such a lovely song, I couldn’t omit it.

If songs like Dheere-dheere machal and Kaun aaya ke nigaahon mein celebrate the anticipation of a meeting with a beloved, Tera jaana dil ke armaanon ka is just the opposite: it mourns the departure of the loved one, perhaps for ever. Even though Nutan doesn’t sit at the piano for long, it remains an important part of the room where she sings of her woe – and the dramatic opening notes are enough reason for me to include this song in this list.

Tera jaana dil ke armaanon ke, from Anari

8. Ae dil dekhein hain humne (Shriman Satyawadi, 1960): The setting of this song reminds me, in its rudiments, of Yahaan main ajnabi hoon. A party, with a woman at a piano as the centre of attention. A man, the woman’s romantic interest – but whose depth and wisdom she is only now beginning to appreciate – doing the singing. And, of course, one of the Kapoor brothers.

I’m not a Raj Kapoor fan, but I love this song, and Shakila is an absolute favourite of mine. As is Edwina, who features prominently in this song.

Ae dil dekhein hain humne bade-bade sangdil, from Shriman Satyawadi

9. Tum jiyo hazaaron saal (Sujata, 1960): Another party song, and one I’ve loved for many, many years. This is also a song where the woman sitting at the piano (Shashikala) is only the one accompanying the singer. In this case, though, the singer is a woman instead of a man – the character is played by Meena Fernandes. A peppy song, the quintessential ‘birthday song’, but with a poignancy to it, because the birthday girl’s foster sister – played by Nutan – realises, all over again, how much of an outcast she is.

Tum jiyo hazaaron saal, from Sujata

10. Dil se milaake dil pyaar kijiye (Taxi Driver, 1954): I invariably remember this song for the mesmerising Sheila Ramani, dancing so elegantly to SD Burman’s music. I remember it for Lata Mangeshkar’s voice, singing Sahir’s words, of grabbing love with both hands.

I usually forget that this is one song where much of the music that accompanies the singing can be seen being played: the guitar, the maracas – and a piano. The Corkes, the landlords of the Anand brothers, were roped in to play parts in Taxi Driver, and it’s Mrs Corke who is seen as the pianist in Dil se milaake dil pyaar kijiye, playing with what seems to indicate a certain level of comfort with the piano.

Noel Corke and his mother in Taxi Driver

And, because I couldn’t resist it, a bonus song: Baanki adaayein dekhna ji dekhna, from Amaanat (1955).

I couldn’t include this in my list, because I haven’t watched the film. But this song has been one of my favourites for as long as I’ve loved Tum jiyo hazaaron saal – both were on a ‘The Best of Geeta Dutt’ LP that my parents owned. I’ve adored this song for decades, and actually saw the visual only last year. Okay, Bharat Bhushan isn’t my cup of tea, and neither is Asha Mathur (who lip-synchs to Geeta’s voice), but Chand Usmani – as the pianist – is fine. And really, Salil Choudhary’s music and Geeta Dutt’s singing are by themselves enough to put Baanki adaayein dekhna ji dekhna on this list.

Baanki adaayein dekhna ji dekhna, from Amaanat

Which are your favourite songs with a woman at a piano?

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174 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite ‘woman pianist’ songs

  1. Wow. Superlative list. Got goosebumps as I went through the list. I am in the office and cannot hear the songs, but know them well enough to imagine them.

    What a beautiful theme and such lovely songs to accompany them.

    The Taxi Driver song is so Valentine’s Day as well, hai na.

    • Thank you, Ava! I thought you’d be able to enjoy the post even if you didn’t hear the songs, because (except possibly for Baanki adaayein dekhna ji dekhna), they’re all fairly well-known ones. :-)

      Yes, Dil se milaake dil pyaar kijiye is very Valentine’s Day. (I’d initially wondered if I shouldn’t wait till tomorrow to upload this post – I thought my readers would probably expect a romantic post today). But then, a few of the songs here do celebrate love – Chehre pe khushi chhaa jaati hai, Jawaan hai mohabbat, and even Dheere-dheere machal.

  2. My personal favorites are #4-Jab Jab Phool Khile & #6 Waqt “Kaun aya nighaon me” and one more from Vandana (1975) “manmohana” featuring Sadhna and Sarika———————–

    • It wouldn’t make my list, because of the time period, but I am more than happy to have readers suggest their favourite songs, no matter from which period! I remember this song being very popular when I was a kid. Nice one.

  3. Madhulika, as usual a winner post. I don’t care for all the songs, but that shouldn’t matter. The Tax Driver song is astounding on so many levels–she just looks so modern and of today. Sheila Ramani looks far more naturally sexy than Priyanka Chopra, I dare say. You have chosen the better Waqt song, for sure. (both the above songs were written by Sahir). And his third contribution is from Shagoon, a lousy film with great songs. The one you have chosen is probably the best in it. Like

    • Thank you so much, Sidharth! (And for the bit of trivia about the Corkes being the landlords for the Anands – I hadn’t known that before I read your book).

      I agree with you completely re: Sheila Ramani. She is very sexy in a stylish way. While most people tend to rave about Jaayein toh jaayein kahaan from Taxi Driver, I prefer the songs picturised on Sheila Ramani far more. She is such a pleasure to watch.

  4. Asha Mathur was one of three college girls who came to Bombay from Kanpur (or Lucknow) to try their luck in the movies. One among them was Bina Rai, who made it. The other two didn’t, and you can see why

  5. Madhu, thank you for the reference, and for another great list. You are right that I was glad to see a classic by Noor Jehan spring to your mind first. :) Of course, that film has another woman at the piano, too:

    And here’s Suraiya again in Dastan:

    And here she is doing the singing for Mehtab in Sanjog:

    • Mmm. Thank you for all of those, Richard! I particularly like Ae shama tu bata – nice song. Aa more saanwre saiyaan was a discovery for me; I’d never heard it before.

      Looking at all these old songs, one tends to get the impression that anybody wealthy and urban back in those days had a piano in their homes (and knew how to play it, what’s more). I wonder how true that ever was – the only piano I’ve come across in somebody’s home was at my mum’s cousin’s place, and she used to teach the piano, so that was hardly surprising.

  6. Madhu, great post! I had this post themed up for my blog, but you beat me on this :-)
    Here are a few songs I had lined up-
    This is one of my favourites from Amar-again the instrument is shown late in the song-
    2 points to watch-Madhubala’s pimples at 0:29 and her “fluent playing” towards the end.

    Vandana- look at the way Sadhana plays the piano

    • Oh, but you can always do a post of your own, Karthik! Please do – I’d love to see what songs you’d put there, other than the two you’ve linked to here.

      2 points to watch-Madhubala’s pimples at 0:29 and her “fluent playing” towards the end.

      LOL!! Yes, her piano playing is really rather unreal, and it’s surprising to see her makeup done so patchily there…

      Another Sadhana song on a piano! She seems to have excelled in that. :-)

  7. A slight digress, but you know what Madhu, my favourite piano song happens to be “Jo Diya tha tumne”. for it has the sound for piano clearly.and it is a male duet, by 2 unlikely singers-Mahendra and Hemant Kumar!and superb lyrics by Pradeep. Sounds like a good topic for a post, isnt(all male duets)?

    • Sounds like a good topic for a post, isnt(all male duets)?

      Oooh, yes! Sounds like an awesome topic for a post. Please do, do. :-)

      And, just for the record, here’s the song:

      Haven’t heard that song for a long time, but it’s very nice – and the piano really shines in it.

  8. Ah! A piano list. Something most of us have desired for so long :-)
    Thank you DO. This is a treat.
    Love Noor Jehan’s and Taxi Driver’s, the honorary mention of Amaanat song, and others too.
    Nope. One doesn’t hear the piano (at least I think so) in Jawan hai Mohabbat.
    I remember Richard had posted a coloured version of this.

    My two contributions. I’m sure you didn’t forget this, but have not seen Bhai Bhai, so couldn’t inlcude it on the liat :-)
    Good, now I can.

    • OK, after the beginning she doesn’t really go back to the piano, and I remeber you’ve seen Bhai Bhai :-/
      But here’s a Geeta Bali one.
      The clip isn’t too good. Quite dark, but it it shakes less than another clip where the picture is brighter.

      • I’ve never come across this one before, pacifist – very nice, and yes, I agree that Geeta Bali’s hands – both at the start of the song, and later – do appear as if she knows how to play the piano. I wonder if she actually did, or was being as conscientious as Dilip Kumar had been in Madhuban mein Radhika naache re – learning to play just that bit, so that it would look right onscreen?

    • Thank you, pacifist – glad you liked this post (and I’m already beginning to think: what would I put in a post of ‘men at pianos’?)

      I did have Ae dil mujhe bata de on my long list, but then decided to drop it, largely because she’s barely at the piano – and, unlike in Tera jaana dil ke armaanon…., even the notes she plays on the piano aren’t very dramatic. But it’s one of my favourite songs, nevertheless. :-)

  9. Aaah, what a wonderful list, Madhu. Favourites? Umm, definitely Tum apne ranjh-o-gham, Aye dil mujhe bata de, Dheere dheere machal and Sab luch lutake hosh mein, though if I go on, I’ll probably just repeat your list!

    Your mention of Nivedita brought to mind a song I’d heard only recently
    Diye jalaayen pyaar ke from Dharti ke Lal

    Love, love love this Shamshad solo from Dard picturised on Husn Bano (Munawar Sultana and ? as the audience).

    And this one, which will fit into your ‘Lovely songs from films you wish you hadn’t seen’

    One of Geeta Dutt’s (then Roy) earliest songs:from Kaneez with Kuldeep Kaur, Shyam and Munawar Sultana

    Now I shall go away and listen to your lovely selection.

    • What a lovely selection you’ve contributed, Anu! Lovely songs, all of them – and out of those four, three I had never heard before (the exception is Kai din se ji hai bekal – and yes, I totally agree that Dulhan ek Raat ki is a film I wish I hadn’t seen. Such lovely songs, such a great cast, and such a oh-how-horrid film. :-(

      I find Husn Bano’s playing the piano with one hand while gesturing with the other rather odd. I can’t play the piano (don’t even know the rudiments of it), but is that really practical?

      • LOL at Husn Bano’s playing the piano – it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it, that she is doing nothing of the sort? I wish the director would pay some attention to these details. And no, you cannot play the piano with only one hand – I mean, there has to be specially written music for that to happen. (Happens to concert pianists who injure a hand, for instance, but not usually…)

        • Thank you! I’ve seen pianists – actual ones, not movie ones – but this was the first time I saw anybody playing with one hand. How difficult (or inconvenient) would it have been for the director to phone the music director and ask if that was possible?

    • P.S. I wasn’t sure which song you’d wanted to embed from Kaneez – something wrong with that link, there – so I’m hoping I’ve embedded the correct one, Paake nazaron ka ishaara. It does fit the bill.

    • Except for the Nutan song I hadn’t heard the others, Anu. Lovely selection. Really LOL at Husn Bano’s single handed expertise.

  10. My links don’t seem to be embedding :( Could you please fix them, Madhu.

    I just wanted to add this lovely Salilda composition (Asha’s vocals for a change, on a very young and very lovely Chand Usmani)

    • Hadn’t heard this song from Amaanat before, but it seems to be a film in which Chand Usmani did a good bit of piano-playing (there’s Baanki adaayein dekhna ji dekhna too). Lovely song, Anu. Thanks!

  11. :-)
    Lovely post, dear madhu!
    Absolutely fantastic! What I also liked about the list is that you didn’t restrict yourself to songs, where the lady sitting on the piano is also singing the song. The songs, which come to my mind as soon as I think of lady playing the piano have already been taken by Anu and Pacifist. The songs are dil chhed koi aisa nagma and kai din se dil hai bekal. Anu has already done a post on a similar topic! ;-)
    But there is one, which has not been posted and doesn’t come in oyur range and that is dil to hai dil from Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. The picturisation of the song moves from the piano to the fantasies of the two male onlookers but basically she remains seated at the piano.

    • Thank you, Harvey! Glad you liked this post. And much thanks too for appreciating that my list included songs where the pianist was not the singer. I have to confess that happened because I was scraping the barrel for songs that I really liked and which featured women at pianos! ;-)

      I’m glad you posted Dil toh hai dil. After I’d published my list, I was surfing Youtube and just happened to come across this one. Good one, thanks for that. :-)

  12. Lovely list and of these my favourite if you ask me besides dheere dheere machal(of course)l is chehre pe khushi cha jaati hai. I saw your readers’ contribution and started despairing, I was thinking I am late and everybody has beat me. Then Harvey came to my rescue by posting that Aawara song which reminded of this song, I do not think anybody has posted this one. It is a lovely song and also one of favourites.

    • Oh, Shilpi. :-) Thank you so much for posting this song. I love it, simply love it. I’ve seen the film, and love all its songs – but had completely forgotten the picturisation of this one, so didn’t associate it with a woman at a piano.

      This theme of a woman sitting at a piano and singing about anticipating the arrival of her beloved seems to be pretty prevalent… this one, Dheere-dheere machal, Kaun aaya ke nigaahon mein chamak and Yeh kaun aaya roshan ho gayi.

          • :-D

            You know, I have this feeling that I’ve seen some song – in colour – in which an actress (possibly Helen? don’t recall) actually lies down on top of the piano – not on the keys, though. Pretty sultry and all.

            Haven’t been able to figure out which song that could be, but in Aao huzoor tumko Babita does drape herself over the piano a little. At about 2:15 in this clip:

            • I don’t know if I have seen a Hindi song in the situation mentioned but I think such gimmicks were used widely in the Western Hemisphere (read, I have seen it in some Hollywood or European movie).
              Sort of a lady on platter, sort of thing! Some go for that stuff, you know!
              (read, but I can’t recall which).
              ;-)

              • You may be right – it may have been a Hollywood film. Actually, Marilyn sings the last song (the title song) from The River of No Return sitting on a piano, as far as I recall…

  13. Wow, I like most of the songs including the ones from other commenters. The first one is probably my favourite Noor Jehan song. ‘Taxi Driver’ is one of my favourite soundtracks of the 50s and I wonder why Lata (and not Asha) singing for a ‘club/cabaret dancer’ in the film didn’t surprise anyone.
    I don’t mind color songs , it is the films with sad/depressing storyline in color that I don’t like.
    Anyway, most of the ‘woman pianist’ songs have been mentioned already. I’ll add just a few.
    from ‘Jailor’,

    from ‘Deedar’

    • I agree with you, Chris, re: Taxi Driver – Lata’s voice somehow fits Sheila Ramani and the songs perfectly. I’d have definitely expected it to be Asha, but one doesn’t miss her in this case.

      This is the first time I’ve seen Hum pyaar mein jalne waalon ko – I’d no idea it was a ‘woman at piano’ song. Beautiful.

      And though I’ve seen Deedar, I’d forgotten about Chaman mein rehke veeraana mera dil. Probably blanked out because the film was so terribly depressing. :-(

  14. There is a piano in “Jawaan hain muhabbat”. It plays exactly two notes between 0:29 and 0:30 the first note is emphasized the second is diminished and then the piano exits..

    • Another song I’ve heard but had never seen: Humse na poochho… poochho bahaar se. Lovely!

      Mann gaaye woh taraana was a new one for me: I hadn’t heard it before. Am I the only one who thinks it sounds a bit like Rangeela re?

      Had forgotten about Uljhan suljhe na being picurised at a piano, though I’ve seen Dhund. The ‘sound’ of the song – the music, and the way it’s been orchestrated – somehow remind me more of the late 50s or early 60s than something that was made in the early 70s.

      • A few more,
        from ‘Pehli Jhalak’ , interestingly Pran plays the piano halfway through the song

        from ‘Ek Paheli’

        from Kudrat

        from ‘Saajan’

        2 songs from ‘Khamoshi the musical’ , both featuring Helen
        though her usage of piano is not much in these,it is an important part in both songs and her role in the film

        • Some familiar ones (surprisingly for me, the newer songs – that Saajan one used to be especially popular back then). While I’ve seen pianos in songs even in recent films (like Parineeta and Khoya Khoya Chand), I don’t recall any recent songs where the pianist is a woman.

  15. Lovely list here – I am still on song No. 5, thanks to my on again, off again connection, because I love all those songs, but I don’t remember hearing the song from Shriman Satyawadi – maybe I will recognize it when I listen to it. I am trying to think of other songs, but my poor addled brain refuses to function, so I will just be content to listen to your songs for the next week or so.

  16. Madhulika, I am enjoying the comments on this post. An observation–the piano, especially one placed in a home setting, was a prop to signify the modern attitudes of the family and their upper class economic background. Waqt, for example, was the typical 1960s film where everyone is smartly dressed and lives in grand homes. It is natural, therefore that the daughter of the house has studied the piano in her finishing school. The only exception to this rule is Taxi Driver, where the piano is placed in a seedy bar, where the underclass gets together for a drink and a song. Naturally the music there is provided by the Anglo Indians, always perceived to be good musicians. How these little touches add up to make the film more interesting!

    • Your comment echoes something I wrote in one of my earlier comments about a wealthy urban home (at least in Hindi cinema in the 50s and 60s) being ‘incomplete’ without a piano. Very true – and I think Waqt, with its stylishness, was the epitome of that stereotype. It actually made me wonder how many young women of that period actually did learn to play the piano? I remember a number of classmates, back in the 80s, who learnt Indian classical music or dance – but none who learnt a piano.

      And since we’re both so fond of Taxi Driver, here’s another Sheila Ramani song from it, with Mrs Corke on the piano, again. Ae meri zindagi aaj raat jhoom le:

      • Mrs Corke is Sylvie’s mother in the film though that is not overemphasized. But lovely Sheila got four songs in Taxi Driver, while poor Kalpana just two, one of them forgettable (dekho mane nahin). This is a terrific one, though my all time favorite in the film continues to be Dil Jale to Jale. Truly a post that has thrown up some beauties.

        • It’s certainly not overemphasized – in fact, I’d completely forgotten that she was supposed to be Sylvie’s mother. Possibly the fact that Syvlie looks nothing like the rest of her family. (Yes, well, not a criterion, but still…).

          Dil jale toh jale is another gem.

  17. I love the way everyone pitches in with their own songs here. Each post of yours becomes encyclopedic in a way, something you can refer to in future if you wan to look at ‘Piano songs’

    • “I love the way everyone pitches in with their own songs here.

      One major reason why I love doing list posts! I learn so much, and get introduced to so many songs I’d never known before.

  18. Lovely post, Madhu. My favourites from this list would be jawaan hai mohabbat, dheere dheere machal and tum apna ranjh-o-ghum.

    Enjoyed reading the comments as well. I think this hasn’t been mentioned by anybody yet (akhiyon ka noor hai tu):

  19. And here’s Vyjanthimala for a wee bit on the piano in this song “har dil jo pyar karega”. Seeing as it has your two favourite RKs (Raj and Rajendra), you might want to go straight to past 3.00 into the video. :-) It’s a nice, catchy tune though.

    • Heh! Yes, both RKs in one scene gets a bit much for me – but the tune is nice and catchy, and frankly, Vyjyanthimala redeemed this film for me. It’s one of the few RK films that I don’t really mind that much. ;-)

  20. The more one learns, the more one becomes aware of the depth of one’s ignorance. Till about three years back I considered myself an expert on old Hindi film songs. Then my friend AK started ‘Songs of Yore’ and through that I was drawn into the world of Dustedoff, Anu and Harvey. I already have a list of over a hundred songs from the 60s and earlier that I hadn’t heard before and the list keeps growing everyday. This post and its comments have added another ten-odd. This is without counting songs that I heard for the first time during this period, but didn’t like enough to include in my list.

    AK was once toying with this very theme and I had tried to help him with some research. All songs in my list are here, either in the post or the comments. The sole exception is ‘Bachpan ke din bhi kya din the’ from Sujata; but in that song Shashikala spends hardly ten seconds on the Piano.

    Thanks for a lovely post. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience to go through the songs and read your write-up on each.

    • Thank you, Subodhji. One major reason I continue to write this blog – even when I’m snowed under with other work – is that I get to learn so much through the people who read it and leave comments here.

      I had thought of Bachpan ke din bhi kya din thhe too, but as you rightly point out, she is at the piano only very briefly – and, in any case, I’d already chosen Tum jiyo hazaaron saal from Sujata, so I had no qualms about omitting this song.

      • ‘ One major reason I continue to write this blog – even when I’m snowed under with other work – is that I get to learn so much through the people who read it and leave comments here.’
        So tell me how manage it, you right novels, you blog, post replies quickly, post comments in several blogs. Look at poor me I post my replies after 24 hours, find it extremely difficult to visit all the other blogs regularly, even when I do, I run short of time and am not able to post a comment. Well hats off to you!

        • :-)

          Thank you, Shilpi! Well, one major time-spender that I avoid is TV – I don’t watch any TV, so that saves a lot of time. And, any way, checking my blog, reading other blogs, and writing are all activities I enjoy immensely, so it hardly seems like work.

    • :-D

      I love that connection to pianos! Yes, my vote would go to Ashok Kumar too. The others are usually to be seen in suits; the dinner jacket was much more Ashok Kumar’s style.

  21. Wow! Superb post. The comments are just pouring in and I have enjoyed reading them too. I have watched a lot of Hindi movies but I’m sure I could not have come up with the songs you and the others have posted here. But the most interesting part of the post was the link to Edwina. I must have missed that post, so did not know about Edwina. Keep ’em coming.

    • Thanks so much!

      I hope you followed up the Edwina post and read the three other Edwina posts that followed it – they’re all loads of fun, and very informative. A superb insight into Hindi cinema back in Edwina’s time.

  22. I must register a strong protest here, I see others muscling into my territory and posting 70’s pure masala film songs :)))
    And this after I had used two of them in my own post :)
    Leaves me with nothing to do but simply enjoy this post, and which is something I am always glad to do :)

  23. When I read the title of the post, I had given up any effort to ‘search’ the moemory – too challenging a subject. And, now, as the comments have poured in the gems on a ‘tough’ subject, I am (simply ) awed!

    It seems that ‘aristocracy’ in Hindi Films far more plural than the ‘common’ citizenry – piano seems to outnumber any other instrument – harmonium, sitar, piano piano accordion, violin – in so far as ‘knowledge’ of playing the iinstruments while singng a (hindi film) song goes.

    I wholeheartedly second Subodh Agrawal’s feelings – more I get involved with these ‘innovatively crafted’ journeys into HF world, more I realize how little I had enjoyed these songs.

    • Yes, the piano seems to be pretty ubiquitous in Hindi films, though I wonder how ever-present it was in real life, even among the ultra-rich. Though I’ve seen the sitar in a fair number of songs too, I do agree that piano songs seem to outnumber the rest.

      Here’s yet another one, a fairly nice one (thought not great) in my opinion, but it certainly qualifies for the list. Yeh zindagi hamaari, from Pyaar ka Sapna:

          • I think the whole reason why the piano was ubiquitous was, Madhu, because it didn’t require any great talent to even look you were playing; and what’s more, you could take a shot from the front so your fingers wouldn’t show.

            Whereas, for most Indian instruments, you had to at least know how to hold it properly – which most actors seemed incapable of doing – have you seen the way some of the so-called musicians hold a guitar (another ‘western’ instrument) for example? They look like they are going to shoot someone with it!

            And as Siddharth opined earlier, it served to show the characters’ wealth and sophistication in a way that the sitar or the veena didn’t. The latter two were used only if one of the characters was an ‘artiste’, preferably starving. [At least that is my opinion. :)]

    • The Coca Cola! Yes, that’s what lends such a feel of informality to the whole thing, doesn’t it? Not a band (all adults) wearing dinner jackets etc, but so very different in a comfortable way.

          • Eek! Can’t have minors in a whiskey bar. :) Maybe you know this already but at 1:55 of the song 2 girls bring out a table for Sheila Ramani to dance on and then spend the rest of the song dancing around the table with others. The one in the lighter colored dress is Edu’s older sister, Philomena. There’s just no escaping that Lyons family, even if you wanted to.

            • Yes, I think I remember having noticed Philomena there earlier and been surprised to see someone who looked like Edu – because, of course, Edu wasn’t in the movies yet. Edu enlightened me. :-)

  24. Madhu,
    As Subodh has mentioned, I was also toying with this theme for some time. But my experience is that whenever my theme is taken away by others, I am a huge gainer. Lovely post and great selection of songs by you. The readers have added many gems which I was not aware of.

    My great favourite is Dil se mila ke dil pyar kijiye. I think the fact that Lata Mangeshkar has sung it has made it special. Now I cannot imagine it in the voice of Asha Bhosle. In any case, I am not a great fan of hers. In the picturisation, I cannot forget the kid, must be Master Corkes! What is the thing he holds in his hands called – dumbells? It is strongly etched in my memory since I saw the movie more than three decades back.

    While preparing for my post I came across an interesting article on the grand piano in The Asian Age, New Delhi of July 31, 2012, titled “For pianos, last note is thund in dump”. This was about how in the Western countries, the pianos are ending up in junkyards, where they would be busted up with a sledgehammer. With thousands of moving parts, pianos are expensive to repair, requiring long hours of labour by skilled technicians whose numbers are diminishing. With moving costs of several hundred dolars, even giving a piano away can be expensive.

    So, not only an era in Hindi films has ended, when a piano song spelt class and elegance, it is dying even in the US and UK. Sad. When did we last have a piano song in a Hindi film?

    • What is the thing he holds in his hands called – dumbells?

      No – maracas. I’ve mentioned it in the paragraph about the song. I love the jhann-jhann sound of them: there’s something very peppy yet sophisticated about them. Makes me want to get up and dance. :-)

      That’s an interesting (though sad) reflection on pianos and where they’re ending up. I suppose it’s only in specialised contexts – music schools, for example – where they are loved enough for people to spend the effort, time and money to look after them.

      The last Hindi film in which I saw a piano was in Yeh nigaahein from Khoya-Khoya Chand:

      And before that, Piyu bole from Parineeta:

      Both period films, of course – which probably is a reflection of the fact that pianos have more or less disappeared in real life in India.

  25. Awesome post – my favourites from your original list would be:

    Dheere Dheere Machal – This was my nani’s favourite song :-) And the movie is one of my absolute favourites – I can watch it many times. Amazing music and this song is magic.
    Tum Apna Ranjh – Love it. Sung so well and incredible lyrics.
    Sab Kuch Luta Ke – Sung so sweetly and Madhubala on screen means :=)

    I was immediately thinking Na Shikwa Hai koi but I saw someone has suggested it above. I love the music of this film, particularly this song and Tere Sadke Balam and Na Milta Gham.

    And from the other suggestions I like Yeh Kaun Aaya Roshan Ho Gayi and Kayi Din Se Jee Hai Bekal (all those Dharmendra movies he did with Nutan, Mala Sinha, etc in his early years had great songs but were often disappointing films – like this one, Dil Ne phir Yaad Kiya, Jab Yaad Kisi Ki aati Hai etc etc).

    Thanks for a lovely post,

    S.

    • Thank you, Salim!

      I agree with you re: some of Dharmendra’s films in his early years. Though, to contradict that, I’d also put forth films like Bandini, Anupama, Mamta and Aankhen – the last one a guilty pleasure of mine, so OTT but so much fun too. But even when Dharmendra was in an otherwise dud film, at least the music was usually good. Come to think of it, that could be applied to most films being made at the time. Even some of the most unwatchable films at least had good music.

  26. Oh, this is so cool! Sorry for not responding earlier, my idiot computer decided not to connect to the internet, so I was stuck. I don’t know too many, women pianist songs, but now that you point them out, I know some at least. Talk to me about guys on the piano, though… :D

    I’ve been doing a LOT of Hollywood film watching recently, to entertain me while my internet was down. Love you, TCM. I watched a couple Cary Grant films, man, he can handle so many types of roles. Like the suspicious husband in “Suspicion”, or the frustrated but funny guy who gets stuck between two wives in “My Favorite Wife”. Hehe.

    I also watched a couple Gregory Peck films, ’cause I wanted to see the similarities with him and Dev. No, didn’t spot too many. But who cares? I love them both for who they are. And I rewatched “Spellbound” too because it is such a gooooood film. Guess what? I’ve fallen for Gregory Peck too. :) He is just so good-looking in that film, it blows my mind. Why did I not watch his films earlier?!

    Oh, and there’s this presenter on TCM, that other younger guy, not Robert Osborne, and he said, “At first I was surprised to know so many fans in their 20’s and 30’s like old films.” I just thought, “Heh, I’m 14. Beat that.” :D

    • “Heh, I’m 14. Beat that.” :D

      Hard to beat!! :-D

      Gregory Peck looks a little like a very young Dev Anand from some angles – I’ve seen old photos where there’s a definite similarity, but Dev’s face filled out as he grew older, and Peck became more gaunt as he grow older, so they actually began to look less like each other. But he’s a wonderful actor too, very very watchable – as is Cary Grant. I can watch Arsenic and Old Lace again and again and again, and not tire of it – all because of Cary Grant!

      • Hehehehe, I love blowing people away with my age. I just never get tired of it.

        Yeah, I didn’t notice much at all, except I do remember one of your comments about their hairstyle. Yeah, I see the hairstyle bit, though Greg (I’m gonna call him that. ‘Cause the presenter on TCM did and I think it’s a cute name.), his hairstyle wasn’t quite like Dev’s, uh, “puff”. But I love them both, and I still can’t get over how handsome Greg is in “Spellbound”.

        Oh, and in school, we’re going to read “To Kill a Mockingbird”. Oh, dear. I’m going to end up on the floor in stitches. Because I’ve seen the movie, and when we read the book, I’m just gonna keep imagining Greg. Even when I was watching the film, I kept laughing for no good reason. During the courtroom scene, I was laughing so hard. Any time Atticus says something, I laugh. And I also did notice some similarities about Greg in there and “Spellbound”. There’s this thing he does, I don’t know, but he sometimes says a word, stumbles on it, but then picks back up with such ease. He did that in both films. :D

        Oh, I love Cary Grant films. I love his comedies and I love his more serious roles. I also like to read parental guides for fun on some movies, and there was one for “Rebecca”, and it said, “Iffy for 13+”. I just sat there and laughed. No way the censor board would’ve allowed that kind of film.

  27. We have 40+ songs in the “Comments” on such a difficult subject.

    Would it not be a great service that such ‘unique” compilations be availbale as ‘playlist: a la Harveypam style, to enable easy access as well as a (possibly) better documentaion for the future?

    I am not a tech-savvy person, hence I have raised this question.

  28. I’m very late to the party, but I bring a song with me. :-) The Asha version of Dil laga kar hum ye samjhe has Faryal for the duration of the song. Alongwith, “Koi aaya dhadkan kehti hai” this is probably my favorite “woman at piano” song.

    I also thought of “sabhi kuch hai tujh mein” from Pyar Mohabbat but Saira’s at the piano only briefly and seems to regard it as a pillow rather than an instrument to play.:-)

    • Shalini, thank you for this! I love this song, though this is the first time I’m actually watching it – it always gives me gooseflesh to just listen to it. Faryal’s playing of the piano looks a little heavy-handed to me, but never mind. The song more than mkes up for that. :-)

      And since you’ve mentioned the Pyaar Mohabbat song (which I must admit I’d forgotten, though I’ve seen the film), here it is:

  29. Really wonderful topic and I adore most of the songs in your list!

    This is another piano which I love. Lataji is simply awesome in this!

    Inspector (1956): Ae Dil Chhed Koi Aisa Naghma

      • You’re most welcome DO and please accept my apologies; I read the article attentively but only fleetingly perused the comments while on bottle/diaper duty and so must’ve missed the post. One comment I do remember reading was a suggestion for a topic on duet piano songs. If and when you have the time please, please do write on this as it would be a really intriguing read. Bearing in mind, love triangles is such a common theme in Indian films, there must surely be quite a few songs out there. However, in my mentally whacked state I can only recall one; Aadmi – Kaisi Haseen Aaj Baharon Ki Shaam Hai…

        • “but only fleetingly perused the comments

          Considering there are well over hundred of them, you can hardly be blamed! :-)

          Hmm. Love triangle songs? Or piano duets? Offhand, I can think of neither (I’d forgotten all about Kaisi haseen bahaaron ki shaam). And for me, a love triangle song, would be one where all three members of the triangle get to sing – and I can’t recall any. There are several, though, in which all three are present, though only one sings.

          Let me think about this. It promises to be a toughie!

  30. Please don’t hate me for this – the print is baaaad. :-/
    But the song is nice, and for about a minute and a half, Shyama sits at the piano. :-)
    Film Ghar Basake Dekho 1963
    I’m sure there’s a better print somewhere, because once I did see it, and also the whole film is on youtube.

    • Despite the print being bad, this is such a nice song! (And Shyama? Just her being there is more than half the battle won for me. I love her!)

      Thanks, pacifist. This was the first time I’d come across this song.

  31. Dil me tu mere dil me tu from Kali Ghata (Lata, Shankar-Jaikishan) features a lady at the piano, too. She is, however, neither the singer nor a leading character in the movie.

    • Oh, it doesn’t matter if the pianist isn’t the singer or a main character – if you look at my list, there are songs there which don’t meet either of those criteria. As long as the pianist is a woman. So this one fits perfectly. Thank you! Hadn’t heard that song before, so that’s even more reason to thank you. :-)

  32. The ONLY actor, as far as i know, who REALLY, and ACTUALLY knew the piano, ie. how to play it, was Raaj Kumar. He appears to be actually playing it – in wide contrast to many many piano songs – where the actor or actress makes a fool of himself – the way they “play” it. Watch Raaj doing it in Mere Huzoor’69 -Jo Guzar Rahi Hai Mujh Par, and Geet Gaata Hoon Main – Lal Patthar.

    • Even though I’ve seen Mere Huzoor and Laal Patthar, I’d never paid much attention to the picturisation of those songs. Yes, he does look as if he knows how to play the piano and is comfortable with it. I wonder if he’d already known how to play or (like Dilip Kumar for Madhuban mein Radhika naache re, where the actor learnt how to play those particular notes on the sitaar, from what I’ve heard), he just showed an immense dedication to his art.

  33. hey!! i just stumbled on your blog while looking for something to read about old hindi cinema(my newly found love). And i must say that your knowledge and writing are both amazing. I am becoming addicted :) .
    My favourite song in this category is Aa jao tadapte hain armaan from the movie Anari.

    • Thank you! I’m so glad you like this blog. :-)

      Aa jaao tadpte hain armaan is a lovely song, I agree. Beautiful. It’s from Awara, by the way – not Anari.

  34. I’ve been re-reading your blog today after the tragic news of legendary actress, Sadhana’s ,passing away.on Christmas day. What a beauty she was & so subtle too. Her Auxillium convent classmates will be mourning her loss too, along with countless numbers of her old & newly-acquired fans who are only now discovering her incredible beauty & talent.Sanjay Leela Bhansali said Sadhana was his favourite actress, who preferred mellow-drama to “melodrama”. May God rest her soul in peace. Don’t you think it’s the right time ,now, to write a lavish post on her, Madhulika ? We always look forward to your posts and insights, they’re so balanced and impartial & yet have solid facts. Do it for your mother, if no one else…….Rest In Great peace,dear Sadhana..

  35. Superb blog and a great collection of songs !

    Wonder if ‘Poocho na humein’ from ‘Mitti mein Sona’ would’ve made the list.

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