Ten of my favourite Shyama songs

Happy birthday, Shyama!

Today is the 78th birthday of one of my favourite actresses, the gorgeous Shyama. Born in Lahore on June 7, 1935, Shyama debuted at the tender age of 9, when she appeared onscreen as one of the chorus in the Zeenat (1945) qawwali , Aahein na bhareen shiqve na kiye. In a career that spanned 40 years and close to 150 films, Shyama played everything—from the shrew to the vamp, the tomboy to the domestic goddess. And she invariably shone, quite literally. Shyama’s sparkling eyes and bright, 1000-watt smile could light up the screen like few other actresses were capable of doing.


So, to celebrate Shyama’s birthday, a list of some of my favourite Shyama songs. Shyama has had some lovely songs picturised on her, both solos as well as duets—and songs that feature a panoply of singers (Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai is a stellar example). If I went about listing each Shyama song I love, my list would run into dozens. I have therefore, restricted myself: these songs are all solos, in which Shyama lip-syncs to the song, and they’re all from pre-1970 films that I’ve seen. Furthermore, no two songs are from the same film.

Here goes, in no particular order:

1. Saiyyaan pyaara hai apna milan (Do Behnen, 1959): I did mention that this list isn’t in any particular order, but if the songs here had been in order of preference, this beautifully romantic one would’ve been pretty close to the top—if not the first song on my list. It’s a suhaag raat song, sung by a lovely bride to her new husband. Everything—from the unmistakable affection, now shy, now teasing, in Shyama’s eyes (and for Rajendra Kumar, too! What splendid acting!) to the words—“Baat hi baat mein, raat hi raat mein, ban gayi main tumhaari dulhan” (“In the course of a conversation, in the passage of the night, I have become your bride”), to the very soothing music—is perfect.

Saiyyaan pyaara hai apna milan, from Do Behnen
2. Kaare-kaare baadra jaa re jaa re (Bhabhi, 1957): Shyama is the sole emphasis of this song as she dances through a seemingly empty house, scolding the darkening clouds and shooing them away. They have woken her from sweet dreams (of her love, no doubt), she says—and tries to cajole the pawan, the breeze, into taking her side and blowing the clouds away. A very melodious song, and one which allows Shyama to hold centrestage.

Kaare-kaare baadraa, from Bhabhi
3. Ae dil mujhe bata de (Bhai-Bhai, 1956): I tend to confuse this song with the one before it when it comes to picturisation, because Ae dil mujhe bata de is also all about Shyama, singing to herself in a large and seemingly empty house. (Not really, though; unknown to her, the man she loves—and whom she has been eagerly awaiting—has arrived even as she’s singing, and is walking towards her, entranced by her song).

This is a song that makes me think, as I’m watching it, that while Shyama may not have been one of the top dancers of the league, what she may lack in talent, she makes up for in enthusiasm. To see her trip about the room, leaping and frolicking, going from piano to divan to bed to parapet, her smile never dimming and her eyes always sparkling, makes you forget that she may not be as accomplished as some of her contemporaries.

Ae dil mujhe bata de, from Bhai-Bhai
4. Mujhe mil gaya bahaana teri deed ka (Barsaat ki Raat, 1960): Barsaat ki Raat was full to the brim with some of the best songs ever—definitely the best qawwalis in any one film. All of them, too, had Shyama in them, and if I’d decided to include songs other than solos, I’d have been torn between Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai, Nigaah-e-naaz ke, and Pehchaanta hoon khoob (not forgetting Garjat barsat saawan aayo re, which—while not a qawwali—is a brilliant song).

But, this list is about solos, and here is a Shyama solo from Barsaat ki Raat.  Here she dances and skips about while her ‘sister’ (played by Ratna) accompanies her on a dholak. The song embodies all the joy of an upcoming Eid, the celebrations of which will give our singer a legitimate excuse to meet and talk to the man she loves. Shyama at her chirpy, starry-eyed, best.

Mujhe mil gaya bahaana, from Barsaat ki Raat
(Incidentally, while I am a die-hard Madhubala fan, this is one film where I feel she was upstaged. Shyama is sublime in Barsaat ki Raat: lovely, sensitive, wise, sweet. Perfect).

5. Le jaa meri duaaein tadpaake jaanewaale (Lala Rookh, 1958): In a complete about-turn from the romantic, starry-eyed songs that I’ve listed so far, this one, which is addressed to a lover—but a seemingly faithless lover, who has broken the heart of the woman who loves him. Lala Rookh’s best-known songs were either Talat’s or duets (or, in one case, Mohammad Rafi’s), but this sad yet beautiful song is Asha’s—and Shyama’s. Her eyes are so expressive, that even without shedding tears, Shyama manages to convey all the pain and betrayal she feels.

Le jaa meri duaaein, from Lala Rookh
6. Barkhaa ki raaton mein (Shrimatiji, 1952): The lyrics of this song bear a passing resemblance to the previous one: our heroine is bemoaning the loss of her love, the roothna of the man she had hoped was going to be hers for ever. That, though, is where the resemblance stops. Shyama in Shrimatiji was no shrinking violet; she was the ultimate kick-ass heroine. In this song, too, even though she talks about “aankhon se aansoowon ka dariya chalta-chalta hai” (“rivers of tears flow from my eyes”), you can see, now and then, that she is fairly certain of being able to get back the man in question; there’s steel beneath the silk.

Barkha ki raaton mein, from Shrimatiji
7. Dil se main mujhse dil (Bus Conductor, 1959): At first glance, this song looks very much like another Ae dil mujhe bata de or Kaare-kaare baadraa: Shyama dancing and singing all by herself in an otherwise empty house. But, even though it begins with the lady sitting at a dressing table (and looking very sweet in a fluffy towel robe), it then moves outside—to a swing, to the beach where she sits under an umbrella or splashes along the shore, and finally to a boat. A lilting and frothy little love song, and there’s the bonus of seeing Shyama not just in sari or salwar-kurta (not to mention that robe!), but also in trousers—she looks wonderful.

Dil se main mujhse dil, from Bus Conductor
8. Yeh lo main haari piya (Aar-Paar, 1954): From Aar-Paar, my favourite song that features Shyama unfortunately doesn’t qualify for this list—because while it has her at her athletic best (dressed in overalls, and climbing all over a car), it is also a duet. But this song comes a close second, and it is a Shyama solo, so here it is. This one’s featured in other lists of mine, and with good reason too: it’s a good example of not just great music and direction, but also excellent acting and lyrics.

Our heroine here is setting out to woo back her huffy sweetheart, and she uses everything she has in a fairly formidable arsenal: she begins with apologies and pleading, then goes on to emotional blackmail—telling him how her poor little heart will break if he goes on like this—and ends up with a threat to get angry and fling a few abuses at him. Along the way, she also swings into sultry seductress mode for a little while.

It’s easy to understand why Guru Dutt’s character, by the end of the song, is back in a good mood.

Yeh lo main haari piya, from Aar-Paar
9. Yeh zaalim nigaahon ki ghaat (Khota Paisa, 1958): Besides her beauty, her vivacity and her acting ability, one thing I really like about Shyama is that she doesn’t seem to have had any qualms about which roles she’d do and which she wouldn’t. At a time when actresses swiftly got typecast—good girl (read wife material), vamp, suffering mother, sister, etc—Shyama did it all. In Aar-Paar, Shrimatiji, Mai Baap, etc, she was a convincing heroine; in Bhabhi, Chhoti Bahen, and Dil-e-Naadaan, she was the shrew; in Barsaat ki Raat, the woman who loved the hero but never spoke of her love—and in Bhai-Bhai, the other woman.

And here, in a madcap film opposite Johnny Walker, Shyama shows her flair for comedy too. She doesn’t get the nuttiest lines, but she’s quite clownish for a leading lady—and she gets to dance this absolutely delightful club song, where she puts on a seductive act for the benefit of an approving NA Ansari.

Yeh zaalim nigaahon ki ghaat, from Khota Paisa
10. Dil toh razamand hai (Mai Baap, 1957): To end, a song that is very quintessentially Shyama: bubbly and cheerful and just so full of joy that it makes me want to get up and dance. Although there were two versions of Dil toh razamand hai, I prefer this one, which appears only about five minutes into the film. It’s a sweet panghat song, with Shyama’s character telling her friends—all of them ostensibly here to fill their matkas, but combining it with some dancing—about her views regarding her husband to be. Shyama, even with just a matka for a prop, steals the show.

Dil toh razamand hai, from Mai-Baap
Do you have any favourite Shyama songs? Please share!

(By the way, there’s a nice little interview with Shyama, here).

75 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Shyama songs

    • Considering she was born in 1935, and Zeenat was released in 1945, she must’ve been about 9 when the qawwali was filmed. She mentions it in the Cineplot interview I’ve linked to, at the bottom of the post.


  1. Wonderful list dear Madhu!
    Enjoyed each and every song here in the list. It has many of my favourites as well.
    6, 7, and 9 were new for me Thanks for the intro to them!
    One of my most fav songs of Shyama not mentioned on the list is na ye chand hoga from Shart
    That is the first one that came to my mind


      • I’d never heard this song before! I got very excited when I saw who the MD was, but the music, while adequate, wasn’t particularly fabulous. What really made the song for me was Shyama. You’re so right; she manages to light up even this murky video. Thank you. :-)


    • Thank you, Harvey! Glad you liked the post. Of these songs, #9 actually happens to be among the Shyama songs I first heard (after, of course, the really popular ones, like those from Aar-Paar and Barsaat ki Raat). One day, Yeh zaalim nigaahon ki ghaat was being shown on Chitrahaar, and since the VCR was connected and a blank tape was in it, we recorded the song. It remained a huge favourite for many, many years.

      What a coincidence, your embedding Na yeh chaand hoga – because while I was uploading this post, I was listening to a Hemant songs playlist on Youtube, and found this song on it. It was the first time I’d seen it, and there was a moment of “Oh! Shyama again!” :-)


  2. There is one wonderful song filmed on Shyama from film Panchayat. It goes : Aai Aai bahar aaj re, karke solah singaar aaj re. It’s so melodious, one would like to listen again & again.
    I remember one more song which is a duet from Apna Ghar. Shyama & Prem Nath singing : Tumse hi meri zindagi, meri bahar tum.

    Wishing Shyama a happy long life.

    IPS Pahwa.


    • Unfortunately, despite quite a bit of searching, I haven’t been able to find the Panchayat song – the only one I’ve been able to locate is Ta-thhaiyyaa karke aana, which is a duet:

      I love Tumse hai meri zindagi a lot too, though since it’s a duet, I couldn’t include it in my list. Maybe, for her next birthday, I should compile a list of my favourite duets that have been filmed on Shyama – that will be quite a list!


  3. What an absolutely delightful post! You are so right about Shyama’e eyes just lighting up the screen! Now I know I’ll spend my day first listening to these songs instead of editing. Dil se main mujhse dil and Yeh zaalim nigaahon ki ghaat were both ‘new’ songs to me. Thank you for introducing me to them.

    I see you have mentioned my favourite song from Aar Paar even though it does not meet the conditions of this post. :) Out of your list, my favourites are Ae dil mujhe bata de, Saiyyaan pyaara hai apna milan, and Mujhe mil gaya bahaana teri deed ka . Harvey put in my other favourite Na ye chand hoga.

    One song of hers that I really like (though it doesn’t quite fit your criterion of solos) is Thandi thandi hawa pooche unka pata from Johnny Walker. Shyama glows as she sings about being in love and her sakhi teases her…


    • Thank you for linking to one of my favourite Shyama duets, Anu! I love Thandi-thandi hawa: both Shyama and Sheila Vaz are so lovely and sweet in it. And the music is wonderful. I was watching this song yesterday on Youtube after I’d published this post and was still in Shyama mode.:-)


      • In addition to “ThanDi thanDi hawa” which I LOVE, this film has another lovely duet by Asha and Geeta, also picturized on Shyama – Jhuki jhuki pyaar ki nazar. A fairly hard-to-watch film with outstanding music by OPN. Shyama is able to make the film watchable to a small degree :-)


        • Just found it!

          Lovely. :-) Thank you for that – really lovely song. I haven’t seen the film, but the songs (despite your indication that it’s an avoidable movie) make me want to watch it.


  4. I saw Shyama for the first time in Bhabhi. Although she was vampish there, I did not fail to notice how her eyes sparkled in the Jaa re kare badra song.

    You are right about Shyama being so fabulous in Barsaat ki raat. I felt so bad for her there. But she sure got a lot of lovely songs to appear in.

    There are a lot of songs in this list that I have never listened to. :) Good fodder for viewing.


    • I really was rooting for her all the way in Barsaat ki Raat. Though, considering Bharat Bhushan isn’t one of my favourite actors, perhaps it’s just as well her character didn’t get him in the end! But what with all those lovely songs she featured in, she was more the leading lady for me than Madhubala was.

      The first film in which I remember seeing Shyama, she was in a negative role, too – as the shrewish wife of Talat in Dil-e-Naadaan. My main memory of that is of Talat sitting and singing Zindagi denewaale sun, teri duniya se dil bhar gaya… all because of Shyama!


  5. >from the unmistakable affection, now shy, now teasing, in Shyama’s eyes (and for Rajendra Kumar, too! What splendid acting!)

    You don’t understand us (Shyama and me, maybe there are others). Do you? ;-)

    Now if you want to see really good acting from Shyama then here’s an example. The melody is soooo exquisite that it makes me want to cry. Shyama looks so fresh and beautiful singing this song to …..*eye roll* Deepak (I think he is).
    Just watch.


    • But coming to this Birthday post – Happy Birthday Shyama.
      #9 was new to me. Nice tune, and a different Shyama. Like the detailed information about the places she sings the particular song in :-D.
      LOL at her singing in empty houses.
      Of course the Barsaat Ki Raat songs and qawaalis are unbeatable, and Shyama had an important role, standing up to Madhubala so successfully. One of her best films I think.
      Now I’m going to be a thorough spoilsport and post a sad song :-)


      • That is a sad song. Even Le jaa meri duaaein is a sad song, but it doesn’t have this air of utter despair and mournfulness. But Shyama manages to look gorgeous even when she’s looking fit to cry her eyes out. :-)

        Here’s another of Shyama’s sad songs, from one of Shammi Kapoor’s earliest films, Gul Sanobar. Ise aur na lootiye has a lovely Middle Eastern sort of lilt to it, which I like, and poor Shyama, despite those heavy chains, manages to dance about pretty well.


    • Aiyyo! Yes, Deepak makes even Rajendra Kumar look fabulous. ;-) This is a lovely song, pacifist – such a pity the hero is such a wimp. Thank you for linking to it!

      Incidentally, one of my favourite Shyama duets has her with Rajendra Kumar. I couldn’t include it in my list, of course, since it’s not a solo, but I may as well add it here in the comments.

      (Actually, now that I think of it, Rajendra Kumar featured in some really good romantic duets. And one of my favourite ghazals ever – the title song from Mere Mehboob).


  6. I love Shyama too, in part because it’s my Mom’s name…thought the sparkling eyes and dazzling smile help too. :-) You’ve mentioned some of my favorite Shyama songs – #1, 3 and 7 but here are a couple both – interestingly both from movies with music by Hemant Kumar.

    Gum sum sa yeh jahan – Duniya Jhukti Hai

    Piya main to hui banwari – Shart


    • That is such a sweet reason to like Shyama – similar to my reason for liking Sadhna so much (my mother looks uncannily like her – or used to, back when both she and Sadhna were younger).

      I love Gumsum sa yeh jahaan – so much that I watched Duniya Jhukti Hai for it. I thought some of the other songs in the film (especially some picturised on Kumkum) were very good, but nothing approaches Gumsum sa yeh jahaan. It remains one of my favourite Geeta Dutt duets. Thank you for embedding it here!

      Piya main toh hui baanwari is good, but I just wish I could substitute someone else – almost anyone else – for Deepak.


    • Thank you, Karthik! Yes, I do like Chhupaakar meri aankhon ko – she’s so especially lovely in it (yes, I know I end up saying this for nearly every Shyama song, but so what!) I also like Jaaoon kahaan bata ae dil, even though she doesn’t sing in it – I didn’t even remember that she appeared in the song.

      Now I have a confession to make: I’d never seen Kya rang-e-mehfil hai before, though I’ve heard the song, of course. So this was a very pleasant surprise. Thank you so much – I loved that. Seeing Shyama in colour (not that that was unusual) reminded me of Teri duniya se door, from Zabak, which also is picturised on Shyama. Another good song, and very well-known.


  7. Lovely post Madhu. I didn’t remember Shyma from her movies, not having seen any of them. I became aware of her through Youtube videos linked on your site as well as Songs of Yore and Conversations over Chai. You are absolutely right about the sparkle in her eyes and the way her smile lit up her face. That’s what I noticed first – in contrast to Meena Kumari – in ‘O Chaand jahan wo jaye.’ It is not a surprise that her best songs have been sung by Geeta Dutt or by Asha Bhosle during the phase she was aping Geeta. Geeta’s voice had the same naughty sparkle as Shyama’s eyes. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and listening to the songs. Thank you.


    • Thank you! I’m so glad you liked this post. I agree with you about Asha’s (in her Geeta Dutt phase) or Geeta’s voices suiting Shyama best – and, in some situations, Shamshad Begum. For example, in the delightful Ae babu o babuji from Shrimatiji, a totally madcap Shyama tries to get out of a tight spot, with Shamshad singing playback:


        • Shyama is an utter madcap in this film – it had good songs too, and despite the presence of a hero (played by Nasir Khan), Shyama was the focus of the film. Very much so.


          • Speaking of Shamshad for Shyama, one of my all-time favorite duets is “hamne jab dil tha diya” from Choo Mantar. Both ladies exemplify mischievous sweetness.


      • Sorry to take this off the primary subject here, but Asha did not have a Geeta Dutt phase but vice versa. Geeta was set in the more traditional 40s style of singing – somber, slow with none of the sparkle that you are referring to here. Asha started to come into her own singing frothy numbers even in the 40s. And then O P Nayyar used that tone on both singers. But that is probably a whole other controversy :-)
        But coming back to Shyama, I think the lovely Lata/Asha duet from Sharda has already been mentioned elsewhere. Probably my favorite duet by the sisters.


        • Taking the topic off the primary subject is the norm here, and much encouraged! :-) So be my guest. Besides, you make a good point, which I hadn’t thought about before. Now that I think of it, of course: it was only in 1951, with Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana de that Geeta joined the ‘club song’ gang – dominated, I think, till then by Asha.

          Yes, someone did post the Sharda duet. I love that song; would have included it in my list had it been a solo and if I had seen the film.


  8. Madhu, what a treat! You have covered just about any Shyama Hindi solo song that I could think of and, as always, you described them very well.

    But I can suggest another Shyama solo which isn’t Hindi:

    And since people are suggesting duets in the comments, I think you know about my favorite Shyama duet:


    • Thank you, Richard – glad you liked that! And thank you so much for linking to Chhad de tu mera dupatta – that really rounds off the Shyama experience. She is so effervescent and lovely in it. I should try and look out for Koday Shah

      Mmmm. Bol papihe bol is lovely. Such a sweetly romantic song. Taraana is one film I must get around to watching someday soon; all the songs seem to be so wonderful, and there seems to be no end to the eye candy. :-)


  9. “Na to caravan ki talaash hai” is my favorite qawaali ever :D And Shyama looks stunning throughout the whole movie. “Ye Lo Main Haari Piya” was pictured perfectly as well- Guru Dutt’s expressions make my day <3 He will forever be one of my favorites.
    The other song that comes to mind when I think of Shyama is "Bol Papihe Bol" from Taraana. I think she held her own against Madhubala quite well in this song, even though she had to stay shut up on a balcony instead of getting to roam in the countryside. But it's a duet- so it wouldn't have made the list…


    • I wish Guru Dutt had acted in more light-hearted films: Aar-Paar and Mr & Mrs 55 (despite its rather misogynistic message) and 12 O’Clock are much more enjoyable films than Kaagaz ke Phool or Chaudhvin ka Chaand (I’m leaving Pyaasa and Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam because those two, despite being depressing, are just very good cinema, in my opinion). And I do wish he’d acted in more films with Shyama – they were great in Aar-Paar :-)


      • I know! He was actually pretty good at comedy- Chaudvin Ka Chaand really annoyed me even though the songs were fantastic. I think I would group Kagaaz Ke Phool under very good cinema along w/ Pyaasa and Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam. Mr & Mrs 55 <3 <3 Guru was both endearing and rude in Aar Paar so I had a love-hate relationship with him there, but love finally won out, haha. Especially because Aar Paar had Shyama and Shakila in it! Who can help but fall in love with Sun Sun Zalima and Yeh lo main haari piya? I certainly can't.


    • Beautiful song. Heard it for the first time.

      Madhubala certainly had a thing about straw! This is the third one I have seen, after ‘Beimaan tere nainwa’ and ‘Main soya ankhiya meeche’. I wonder if it is possible to make a list of ten ‘Romancing the Haystack/straw’ songs!


  10. The fact that most of the songs referred to in the article, and the discussions that have so vigorously been followed, seem more related to pre-60s period, would lead us to believe that by the 60s Shyama, like another “heroine’ of 50s, Shashikala, had switched to roles other than those of heroine.
    This appears to be a bit strange, since the competing contemporaries were also ageing as much. Or was it the success of the characterization of a beautiful wife who can keep the “brother” husband under her spells and yet can play all malevolent tricks on Chhoti Bahen motivated her, and the producers, to grab the life line to extend the career?
    A separate post on her duets, as heroine, also would as compelling listening as the songs presented here.


    • I think one reason for Shyama having shifted from heroine roles to others was that she’d put on a fair bit of weight. Even in Bahurani (1963), she’s looking rather filled out. Also, perhaps, by then there was a new crop of younger actresses – Sadhana, Asha Parekh, etc – who were a threat to women who’d been heroines since the 50s. I think some of her contemporaries, like Nutan or Waheeda or Vyjyanthimala, perhaps maintained themselves a little better. (Though Nutan too had begun shifting into slightly different roles – all those AVM Productions’ family dramas).

      What I find interesting is that it wasn’t always negative roles that Shyama got in her later films – for example, in Jaanwar, she is very much a sympathetic character. Of course, Beti (where she plays the shrewish stepmother) is probably more the norm from that period…


    • If it’s songs like this you’re going to post, Shalini, you’re welcome to go on and post as many as you like! :-) This is lovely. I’d never heard it before. I must look out for Baap Bete too – thank you for the recommendation.


  11. I am late as usual. I was busy and was also concentrating on the Benazir post. Shyama was really a very delightful actress, full of life. Your song selection as usual is good. One of my favourites is of course garjat barsat saawan aayore from Barsaat Ki Raat.– Shilpi


  12. You seem to have forgotten “Sharda” 1957 where she starred as the jealous wife of Raj Kapoor. The film gave her a filmfare award as best supporting actress


    • No, I haven’t ‘forgotten‘ it; If you read the introduction to the post, I did mention that the songs are only from Shyama films that I’ve seen. I haven’t seen Sharda. But you’re more than welcome to embed a good Shyama solo from the film. Be my guest!


  13. Nice list! I am not a die hard fan of Shyama.Althogh She was a good actress but I did not like her face cutting.Quiet awkward, it was broader and fat from the bottom somewhat like a bucket(in Mujhe mil gaya bahana).But yes she definitely looked very pretty in Sun Sun Sun Zalima and Lehraye jiya.


    • Ah, well. Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.

      I have always been very fond of Shyama (and she didn’t think she aged well, by the way – there was a sweet interview in which she laughingly admitted that she got fat later, and then nobody wanted to give her good roles).


  14. I like Shyama best in yeh lo mein from aar paar. I was watching it because I like Guru Dutt and wondered who’s this beautiful actress and that lead me here. Thanks for the list. There’s something quite delightful about her that I couldn’t find in other actresses probably more beautiful than her. She looks quite sure of herself and what a wholehearted smile!


    • I love your description of Shyama’s smile as a ‘wholehearted’ one! :-) So true. And her eyes. When she smiles, she really lights up the screen. I do agree that there is something about her that is missing from actresses often considered more ‘beautiful’ than her.


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