Ten of my favourite ‘background songs’

I love it when readers comment on my blog posts. I love it when they add songs to lists, introduce me to new songs, remind me of songs I’d forgotten about. I love it even more when they write in and suggest themes for song lists.

Here, therefore, is a song list that arose out of a suggestion. Ashish—who has been reading my blog and commenting on it regularly—sent me a request: how about a post on ‘background songs’? Songs that are relevant to the storyline, but which nobody lip-synchs to? That was a thought that had come to my mind earlier as well, but Ashish’s mail spurred me on to actually compile that list. So here it is: ten songs that appear in films and are relevant to the story, but which nobody is shown actually singing. One important restriction that I placed on myself was that the song should not be a ‘credits song’—it should not play out during the credits. (That, because a credits song list could be a pretty good post in itself).

Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, from Kaagaz ke Phool

As always, these are from pre-70s films that I’ve seen (barring Pakeezah, which in my lexicon, doesn’t count as 70s, really), and are in no particular order.

Spoiler alert: Some of the following descriptions give away important plot points, so watch out. 

1. Dekhi zamaane ki yaari (Kaagaz ke Phool, 1959): Kaagaz ke Phool had some absolutely superb songs—and the two very best (in my opinion) were both background songs: Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, and Dekhi zamaane ki yaari. I was torn between the two, since both are favourites of mine, but finally settled on this one. ‘Sung’ not in one stretch but here and there, at important points of the film, Kaifi Azmi’s cynical lyrics capture the ephemerality of fame and wealth so brilliantly. The ragged, now-unknown Sinha Sahib, once the darling of the cinema industry but now reduced to looking for roles as an extra (and even those he cannot manage) looks back on a life where the world was his oyster, where crowds adored him. Now, old and broken, he has nobody—even the one person to whom he means something is separated from him by her fame.

I love the combination of SD Burman’s music, so slow at the beginning, rising up into a crescendo later—and Azmi’s lyrics. And Rafi’s voice, so full of feeling, so controlled and restrained at the start, so desperate at the end—“Kaagaz ke phool jahaan khilte hain, baith na un gulzaaron mein”… I did write at the beginning of this post that these songs were in no particular order, but this one has a very special place in my heart. It’s unforgettable.

Dekhi zamaane ki yaari, from Kaagaz ke Phool

2. Chal ri sajni ab kya soche (Bombai ka Babu, 1960): A wedding song, but with none of the uninhibited joy that seems to mark most shaadi ke gaane—because this is a bidaai song. The beautiful bride, leaving her parents’ home for her husband’s, hesitates on the doorstep, knowing just how much she is going to miss all of this: her loving parents, her friends, the very familiarity of the home and neighbourhood where she has grown up. And, will she not also remember the man whom the world knows as her long-lost-but-now returned brother, but whose secret she knows: that, far from being her brother, he is the man who killed her brother? And that he is in love with her—and she, too, is not completely devoid of feelings for him? A poignant song, and beautifully sung by Mukesh.

Chal ri sajni, from Bombai ka Babu

3. Chhodo kal ki baatein kal ki baat puraani (Hum Hindustani, 1960): When I’d done my post on my favourite Sunil Dutt songs, several people had commented: Why not Chhodo kal ki baatein? That’s quintessential Sunil Dutt! But no, I said: my list was for songs to which Sunil Dutt had lip-synched, and Sunil Dutt did not lip-synch to Chhodo kal ki baatein. No-one did. This catchy song (composed by Usha Khanna), celebrating a newly-independent India and charting out all that the country had to do to become modern plays in the background as we see a panorama of India’s achievements, past, present, and future. The Taj Mahal already built, the Taj Mahals we have to build.

Chhodo kal ki baatein, from Hum Hindustani

4. Preetam aan milo (Mr & Mrs 55, 1955): Preetam aan milo is one of those oft-used songs that crop up every now and then in old films (and sometimes, not in films either). CH Atma sang a Saigal-like rendition of it; Deven Verma sang a hilarious version in Angoor, in which the lyrics were totally lunatic—a world apart from the yearning-for-beloved poignancy of the original.

Mr & Mrs 55, too, had this song—a brief song, sung by Geeta Dutt when Madhubala’s character, having come to the realization that she really does love the husband whom she’s always suspected of having married her for mercenary reasons, goes rushing to the airport to stop him from leaving her. She finds that the plane has already left, and as she stands at the railing looking out onto the runway, crying, the song plays in the background. Hauntingly beautiful, inimitably Geeta Dutt.

Preetam aan milo, from Mr & Mrs 55

5. Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat (Kohraa, 1964): Based on Rebecca, Kohraa had two versions of Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat: a sad, slow one which was picturized on Waheeda Rehman; and this, a slurring, almost intoxicated-sounding version. Neither version, interestingly, was lip-synched: both were background songs. The Waheeda Rehman version showed the naïve young bride, haunted by the looming shadows of her husband’s first wife. This version—which I prefer—shows what that first wife was really like: a woman obsessed with her own beauty, uncaring of society or morals. Faithless, perhaps also more than a little lonely. And understood only by the devoted maid (played by Lalita Pawar) who has looked after her, adored her, all her life.

Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat, from Kohraa

6. Main jab bhi akeli hoti hoon (Dharmputra, 1961): Though Dharmputra—Shashi Kapoor’s first film as an adult—had plenty to recommend it (a good cast and a hard-hitting take on communalism, for instance) one element of it that I especially love is the score. N Dutta’s music and Sahir Ludhianvi’s lyrics combined to give this film some memorable songs—and of them all, my favourite is Main jab bhi akeli hoti hoon. A young woman, pregnant and separated from the lover who has been shooed away by her furious Nawab of a father, remembers the days past: every little memory of their shared love comes to her, tormenting her in her solitude. Beautiful words, beautiful music; and beautifully rendered by Asha.

Man jab bhi akeli hoti hoon, from Dharmputra

7. Chhupa lo yoon dil mein pyaar mera (Mamta, 1966): When he wrote in with his request for a post on background posts, Ashish tried to give an indication of what he meant: philosophical songs that have a bearing on the story, but aren’t lip-synched. When I started researching this post, I realized that not all background songs are philosophical ones—in fact, as you can see from the songs in this list, the tone of background songs runs all the way from romantic to introspective to patriotic to downright spooky. And (with the exception of Chhodo kal ki baatein, which has a chorus), most background songs that I like tend to be solos.

Not so Chhupa lo yoon dil mein pyaar mera, which is a lovely, poignant duet sung by Hemant and Lata. This is a love song with a difference: the two characters were once sweethearts, but their lives have changed. She is now married (and estranged); he, embittered by what he thought her faithlessness, has come to realize how wrong he was, and has taken on the task of looking after her daughter. They love each other still, but in that deep, mature, platonic way that is something more than the deepest of friendships yet not a forbidden love. A love, instead, that needs to be hidden away deep in the sanctum sanctorum of one’s heart.

Chhupa lo yoon dil mein, from Mamta

8. Chalo dildaar chalo chaand ke paar chalo (Pakeezah, 1972): Yes, I do think of Pakeezah as an earlier film than the 70s—simply because it was so many years in the making, and if Kamal Amrohi and Meena Kumari hadn’t gone through the many upheavals in their relationship, it may well have been released years later. Pakeezah had simply sublime music (Ghulam Mohammad at his very best), and this sweetly romantic song is one of my favourites—and it’s a background song.

The two lovers have only now come face to face (though he has seen her—and admired her—while she was asleep on a train), and their love has blossomed, instantly. What follows is this song of going away, only the two of them, on a journey far away, with only their love to keep them company. I think the fact that the lovers don’t lip-synch to the song makes it more romantic than if they had been shown singing.

Chalo dildaar chalo, from Pakeezah

9. Mere mann ke diye (Parakh, 1960): This is the sort of song that comes automatically to my mind when I think of background songs: a song so deeply personal, so very private that the singer cannot have anyone listen to it, even by accident. A song that speaks of pain, of despair, of no light at the end of the tunnel: a darkness in which her only hope can be to somehow keep the flame within her own heart burning. A beautiful little song (Salil Choudhary’s music is wonderful, Shailendra’s lyrics are touching), and Lata—with very little in the way of instruments to either help her along (or drown her out!) sings it with so much feeling. Add to that, the picturization: a quietly sad Sadhana going about her little home, lighting the evening diya at the little shrine, looking up at the stars, trying to keep herself from breaking down.

Mere mann ke diye, from Parakh

10. Gumnaam hai koi (Gumnaam, 1965): Any proper Hindi ‘supernatural suspense’ film (by which I mean a story that seems supernatural at first glance—Woh Kaun Thi?, Bees Saal Baad, Mahal, Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, etc—but actually has a good, old-fashioned crime-based explanation) always has a signature song. The song that’s sung by the spook (who is always female) intermittently through the film, especially at times of great stress for the leading characters. Gumnaam was no exception (even though the secret of the ‘supernatural’ element of it was revealed relatively early in the film).

Snatches of Gumnaam hai koi appear here and there in the film, and the last occurrence (only a line or so) does have someone lip-synching to it. But the first time you hear the song (which is also the only time you hear it in its entirety), there’s nobody to be seen singing it. A bunch of marooned travellers, finding themselves on a deserted island, walk through forest, ruins, an eerie-looking coconut plantation, and up rocks—and are followed throughout by this song, a song of doom and despair. Jo paida hua, woh faani hai: not really cheering.

Gumnaam hai koi, from Gumnaam

Which songs would you have put into this list if you were compiling it?

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130 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite ‘background songs’

  1. What a lovely list, Madhu! Almost all the songs that came to my mind instantly are here. :)

    Preetam Aan milo incidentally was one of OPN’s earliest compositions, said to have been written by his wife and sung by C.H. Atma. OPN reused it in Mr and Mrs 55.
    Has it appeared in any other movies, besides Angoor?

    I would also add three more songs (not as a substitution as such- but more because they fit the theme) all by Mukesh btw!
    1) O Jaane wale ho sake toh laut ke aana (Bandini) – the only one from the 60s –

    2) Yeh din kya Aaye –

    3) Kai baar yun bhi dekha hai (Rajnigandha) –

    • Thank you, Harini – glad you liked the list! I hadn’t known that Preetam aan milo was one of OP Nayyar’s earliest compositions, though of course I’ve linked to both CH Atma’s version and the loony Angoor version in my post. I’ve no idea if it’s been used elsewhere as well – not to my knowledge (but that, as I’m the first to admit, is really rather limited)!

      I love the three songs you’ve suggested. Especially Kai baar yoon hi dekha hai, which is one of my favourite songs from the 70s.

  2. Thank you so much for honoring my request Madhu. This list is absolutely wonderful! I like all the songs you listed here. I couldn’t agree more with your choice #1 – Dekhi Zamane ki Yaari. You covered the complete spectrum from patriotic to romantic so wonderfully! Great job!

    I would add a few that I also like and I think might fit the theme:

    1. Sun Mere Bandhu Re (Sujata – Singer and Music Director – SD Berman, Lyrics – Majrooh Sultanpur)

    2. Saphal Hogi Teri Aradhna (Aradhna – Singer and Music Director – SD Berman, Lyrics – Anand Bakshi)

    3. Kar Chale Hum Fida (Haqueeqat – Singer –Rafi, Music- Madan Mohan, Lyrics – Kaifi Azmi)

    4. Kai Baar Yunhi Dekha Hai from the seventees – (Rajnigandha – Singer Mukesh, Music-Salil Chaudhary, Lyrics-Yogesh)

    “Sun Mere Bandhu Re” may slightly miss the qualification because a fisherman seems to be singing it, though not shown lip-synching directly.

    Another background song (though it is from the seventees) that I like, is from Tapasya (1976) – Jo Raah Chuni Tune (Music – Ravinder Jain, Singer – Kishore) but it also happens to be a “Credit Song”.

    Thanks once again for making my day!

    • Thank you, Ashish, for the idea, in the first place! I liked it so much, and it got me so excited, that I ended up sitting down and compiling this post within a couple of days of your mail. :-) Rarely am I able to create a list where I love every single song in the list.

      Yes, Sun mere bandhu re, like another song which I thought of including (Tum pukaar lo), even though the lip-synching isn’t shown up close, seems to be sung by someone onscreen, so I disqualified it for myself. Kar chale hum fida jaan-o-tan saathiyon was on my shortlist too, but I eventually dropped it – I find that song a little too melodramatic for my taste. ;-)

      Jo raah chuni tune was a new one for me. Keep that in abeyance – I will certainly do a ‘credits songs’ post someday!

      • :) I’m sure you know what I’m going to say to your last sentence. Actually, you should blame Harvey for giving me the idea. When I’d posted the RK quiz, and asked him what he wanted for a prize, he had written in saying, ‘A post on title songs’ or the review of Hum Sab Chor Hain. Since the songs needed some amount of research, I kept it aside and reviewed the film. So, somewhere in my Drafts folder is a list of ‘title songs’, played during the credits – which is what I interpreted that as (and not songs that contain the title of the film) – waiting to be written up. :)

        • And I’d already – after I imposed that restriction of ‘no credits songs’ on myself for this post – started thinking of what songs I’d put in a ‘credits songs’ post. No draft yet, but it’s there in my mind. :-) Let’s see which of us first ends up publishing that! (Though AK, over at Songs of Yore, had done one of those quite a while back, if I remember correctly).

          • Eh. We think of too many of the same posts anyway that I don’t feel the need to rush to get a post published. :) I like your posts and what you have to say about the songs; my draft has been sitting there since a year ago, and I haven’t done anything about it. I don’t think I’m going to do anything about it for the next month or so, either. So more power to you if you finish the post first. :)

      • I realized that you did all the research and finished the post in such a short time!

        Loved the additions your viewers added. A couple more songs here, (both by Suresh Wadkar), though way past your preferred time line:

        1. Seene Main Jalan – Movie Gaman – Music – Jaidev, Lyrics – Shaharyar

        2. Dhadkan Zara Ruk Gayi Hai – Movie Prahaar – Music Laxmi-Pyare. Lyrics – Mangesh Kulkarni

        • Seene mein jalan is a lovely song – the lyrics are so good. Dhadkan zara ruk si gayi hai was new to me. But it doesn’t really qualify as a background song, does it? Granted that the main characters aren’t ‘singing’ it, but there’s a guy in the background who is. I can definitely see an extra who’s lip-synching to the song.

          • You are right. Dhadkan Zara is not quite the background song…

            I just also remembered Andhi (1974) song Tere Bina Zindagi se Koi. Singers-Kishore-Lata, music-RD Berman, Lyrics – Gulzar. Besides the dialogues in between, Sanjeev and Suchitra do not seem to lip-synch, though it very much sounds like their inner voice, and is the very essence of this classy movie.

            • Oh, yes. What a lovely song this is! Thank you for adding that.

              An observation: Suchitra Sen didn’t act in too many Hindi films, but she seems to have been part of several good background songs – two of them appear in my list itself, and here’s another you’ve given us.

  3. Interesting list. I’d rather have “Waqt ne kiya” instead of “Main jab bhi akeli” or “Gumnaam hai koi”, but then every such list is, by definition, personal.
    Off the top of my head, I can think of the following to add to your list:

    “Ye jeevan hai, is jeevan ka” from Piya Ka Ghar
    “Safal hogi teri aradhana” from Aradhana
    The poignant, haunting “Tum pukar lo” from Khamoshi. (Dharmendra has his back to the camera throughout the song and is never shown in close-up. Therefore I’m taking the liberty of classifying it as a background song.)

    I wonder if I can include Neeraj’s great poem, “Karwaan guzar gaya”, used in Nayi Umar Ki Nayi Fasal? Most of the six and a half minute long song is essentially a background song, playing over flashbacks, nature scenes, group scenes, etc. The lead actor lip syncs (badly!) to the refrain just two or three times. In some other close-up scenes his lips do not move, nor does his mouth open.

    • “but then every such list is, by definition, personal.

      Thank you for that! I wish everybody could be so accommodating of other people’s preferences. I’ve lost count of the number of irate commenters who come by this blog telling me I should have included so-and-so song on my list. Considering it’s my favourites, I don’t see why! But I do want to hear of other people’s favourites, so I like seeing the songs readers suggest…

      …which brings me to yours. I love Yeh jeevan hai (despite memories of a classmate from school who used to deliberately sing it in a very wailing voice, making that the rendition stuck in my head). Safal hogi teri aradhana is nice, though not my favourite of SDB’s songs which he’s sung. And Tum pukaar lo… well, even though Dharmendra is not really shown lip-synching to it, I’ve always thought of it as a song that his character sings, not a song that just plays in the background. But, again, that’s individual perceptions.

      I’d completely forgotten the Kaarvaan guzar gaya ghubaar dekhte rahe from Nayi Umar ki Nayi Fasal, though I have heard it, and I like it. But I wouldn’t include it in this list, because no matter how badly the actor lip-synches to it, and for how little time, he does do so. :-)

  4. Dear Madhulika, in the film Bandini the song by Mukesh OJaane Wale Ho Sake to Laut Ke Aana may be added in this list. Nutan leaving her paternal home forever, keeps looking back and this song stresses on her mood of profound sadness. A beautiful rendering by Mukesh

  5. Nice collection and post, Madhu. Two songs I like and recollect are SD Burman’s “Orem ke pujari …” (I like the way he says Himaalla(y), zameeeeen, etc) and “sansaar ki har shay ka” from Dhund. Unfortunately, both are played during the credits and hence get disqualified…

    • Sansaar ki har shay ka is a fabulous song, isn’t it? It always gives me gooseflesh. Keep it in abeyance; I’ll be doing a credits songs post sometime; you can always plug it into the comments (even though, thanks to my self-imposed restriction on songs from after the 70s, I won’t include it in my list).The same goes for Prem ke pujari… nice song; I’d forgotten about that one. Somehow, the songs I remember from that film are always Phoolon ke rang se, Taaqat watan ki humse hai, and Rangeela re.

  6. Quite a memory-provoking post…
    The songs that come to my mind..

    Aana Hai To Aa – Naya Daur (1957)

    Chale Sipahi Dhul Udate – Rajhath (1956)

    Jaanewae Sipahi Se Puccho Who Kahan Jaa Raha Hai – Usne Kaha Tha (1961)

    • Thank you for those songs! Aana ha toh aa was on my long list, until i had a closer look and saw that it’s not a background song. Someone is lip-synching to it, though you can’t see him close up (you get a glimpse of him first at 0:20 into the clip you’ve posted).

      I really like Jaanewaale sipaahi se poochho – much more poignant and, for me, patriotic than another background song, Kar chale hum fida.

  7. The film is out of your time range but as the song is itself from the 30’s, the average might make it?
    Jagjit & Chitra Singh’s first major break in Hindi cinema, and a beautiful background song: Babul Mora from Aavishkar (1973)

    • I mean this version of the song-music is from Street Singer.

      Songs from Haqeeqat like Kar chale hum fida always upset me a lot – too emotional

      • Kar chale hum fida doesn’t upset me, actually – it irritates me. I somehow don’t like the music and rendition of it; too melodramatic for my taste. The song Ashok Vaishnav’s suggested in his comment – Jaanewaale sipaahi se poochho, from Usne Kaha Tha – has less of that wailing emotion and more subtle, more touching poignancy.

    • I have to admit I’d never heard this version of Baabul mora before (and I haven’t seen Aavishkaar). But the original is my favourite Saigal song. :-)

      • J S was a relative, and one who hung around often as a young man (he was also a bosom pal of one of my chachas) before setting off to make his fortune.
        I wasn’t allowed to go & see this “adult” film, but my elder sister & cousins this, and their way of promoting him consisted of loudly pretending to discuss the marvellous singer when the song came up. #smalltownstories

        • Wow! That’s interesting.

          Do you know, I still haven’t seen Bazaar? I wasn’t allowed to see it when it was released because it was an ‘adult’ film, and somehow I’ve still not got around to it. I should, really.

  8. Thanks for post, especially for the song from Hum Hindustani – I haven’t known it and it is amazing!

    I’m not sure is Tum Pukar Lo feets the list but nobody lip-synchs it so I suppose that yes.

    And there is one song out of period limits but Kishore is gorgeous here
    Mera Jeevan from Kora Kagaz.

    • I can post ten of my own favourites too, but here are two that I really like because of the lyrics
      wahan kaun hai tera

      and this one from Waqt

      There are two more that are not strictly background songs,actors are shown to be singing the songs but they are in a way background songs. Once again the lyrics appeal to me
      this one from Bandini

      and this one from Jyot Jale

      • Shilpi, Waqt se din aur raat and Wahaan kaun hai tera were both on my shortlist, but I dropped the first because there were other songs I liked more; and Wahaan kaun hai tera – which I really wanted to include – is a ‘credits song’, not strictly a background song, as I’ve explained in my introduction to the post. :-) And Mere saajan hain us paar – I would’ve loved to have included that too, but yes, somebody – even though I don’t know who it is – does lip-synch to it, so that got excluded.

        I did hope you would post that song for your father, because I remember the trivia you’d written about it! Thank you for that.

        • Another of my fav back ground songs. The film opens with this song, everybody is happy, the country is finally independent, a soul-stirring song and then…… you see ruthless dacoits invading the paradise of the villagers.

          • This is – as far as I can remember – the first time I’ve seen Ab koi gulshan na ujde ab watan azaad hai. Have heard it plenty of times before (what a lovely song it is), but hadn’t seen it, so hadn’t known it was a background song.

    • Thank you, Anna! I’m glad you liked the post – and that you discovered Chhodo kal ki baatein; that song’s been a favourite of mine since I’ve been a little girl. :-)

      I love Tum pukaar lo, but even though one doesn’t actually see Dharmendra lip-synching to it, I’ve always considered it a song sung by a character, not just something playing in the background. But that’s a perception, and we can agree to disagree! Thank you for Mera jeevan kora kaagaz – I remember a time when it used to be very, very popular on radio. I hadn’t actually seen the visual of it until now.

      • I think you are right about Tum pukar lo. And I have almost forgotten to add some bengali songs here:)

        Muchey Jawa Dinguli from Lukochoori (1958) – another example of women reflections illustrated by male voice (after watching all these songs in comments I became really curious about this fenomenon:)

        O Nodi Re from Mrinal Sen’s Neel Akasher Neeche (please, don’t take notice on make-up of Kali Bannerjee:) – this is the reflection of chinese worker in Kolkata and surely he cannot sing himself in bengali but can think:) And I love these delicate chinese hints in the melody!

        And absolutely amazing Asha Chhilo Bhalobasa from Anand Ashram. It’s 1977, and the music style is very 70s, but it is brilliant. There is absolutely another song in a hindi version (Tere liye maine sabko chhorda), I don’t know why. The MD is the same (Shyamal Mitra), but the melody in bengali version for me is much more poignant and touching. The text is pretty similar meanwhile.

        • Thank you for those songs, Anna! The only one of those which I was already familiar with was O nodi re – which is absolutely lovely.

  9. What a pleasant list it is!
    Love all the song son the list, except maybe the Hum Hindustani song.
    Simply wonderful!
    Do make a playlist!
    Your readers have put in many of my favs too, like o jaane waale from Bandini, kai baar yun bhi from Rajnigandha and yeh din kya aaye from Chotti si Baat, sun mere bandhu re from Sujata or the lesser-known babul mora from Avishkar. tum pukar lo is my fav too, but though we don’t see it, Dharmendra is supposed to be singing it, if I remember right.

    My contribution:
    piya tune kya kiya from Zindagi Zindagi

    I can’t find the video of this song, but I remember it as a background song
    piya maine kya kiya from Us Paar

    one of my very fav songs
    ambar ki ek paak surahi from Kadambari

    a short, but very intense song from Guide, allah megh de

    Another short song and again by SDB from Sagina, chotte sapne hamar

    Zamane ne mare jawan kaise kaise from Baharon Ke Sapne

    From Baharon Ke Sapne to its Manzil
    ye daman ab na tootega kabhi

    This is an angst-ridden song
    main apne aap se ghabra gaya hoon from Bindiya

    Now, I think, I’ve hogged enough space here and that too with many songs post-70s.
    Thanks for the wonderful post, Madhu.

    • Your selection is pretty wonderful too! So many songs that one forgets & good to be reminded of them like “Allah Megh De” or “Main apne aap se ghabraa”

    • Wow! That is quite a selection, Harvey – you could do a post of your own, on your blog. Lovely songs, all of them – and the only one which was on my shortlist too was Allah megh de. I love that song, but decided to drop it, because I’d already used it in a couple of posts (the monsoon songs post, the cloud songs post) and thought there might be a case of overkill. ;-) I’m glad you added it!

  10. Very nice topic and songs. Every song is a joy to listen. I really liked “mere man ka diya” . I just started watching Parakh last night. Both Kavi Pradeep and S.D. Burman have sung a lot of background songs, some your readers have already mentioned.
    I would like to add two by Kavi Pradeep
    Dekh tere sansaar ki haalat from Nastik and Mukhada dekh le prani, zara darpan mein from Do behne. I also like “pinjre ke panchi re” I have not seen ant video of this one so not sure if it is a background song.

    Koi door se awaaz de chale aao from Sahib Bibi aur Gulam
    Rimjhim ke taraane leke aayi barsaat

    Chal ud jaa re panchi from Bhabh
    I will post songs separately as I might loose the comment.

    • I took the liberty of linking each song to the Youtube videos for them, Neeru – I hope you don’t mind!

      Lovely songs – and a particular favourite of mine is Koi door se aawaaz de; it had been on my shortlist, but I’ve had it on a couple of lists recently (and have it lined up for yet another upcoming list), so decided to give it a break this time. ;-) So glad you posted it here.

      I should have remembered the song from Do Behnen, considering I’ve seen – and liked – the film. Thanks for adding that!

    • Oh, yes. Dekh lo aaj jee bharke is such a beautiful song. So poignant. I somehow think some of the deepest emotion is expressed in songs which don’t have someone lip-synching to the words… this is a fine example of that. The expressions, the gestures, convey much more than if she had been ‘singing’ the song.

  11. I thought I’d cheat with ‘Tum Pukar Lo’ (since Dharmendra’s merely not seen to be singing it – whether he is or not remains a matter of conjecture). But now I see several others have got the same idea too. So let me cheat with this one. Cheat because it has one brief shot, at 1.54 or so, of some klutz lip-synching to the track. Lip-synching and trying to look as un-BadeGhulamAliKhan-like as possible.

    Prem Jogan Ban ke (Mughal-e-Azam 1957)

  12. Love the songs and your post, and what a terrific idea it is, to post songs that are in the background! Chal ri sajni … and Chhupa lo yoon dil mein … were the first ones that came to me, followed by O jaane wale … and Safal hogi teri aradhana … and you had the first two in your post, and the others were in the comments. I can think of another song which is also in the background and which reflects the thoughts of the viewer as well as the heroine, Daaman mein daag laga baithe … from Dhool ka Phool:

    I love the song O jaane wale … from Bandini, and the emotions it brings forth – the fact that Nutan is leaving the village, possibly forever, especially the part where he sings, Bachpan ke tere meet tere dard ke sahare, dhoondhenge tujhe gali gali sab yeh gham ke maare … I can feel that lump in my throat every time I hear that song.

    Thanks for the wonderful post!

    • How could I forget about this one? Yes, Daaman mein aag lagaa baithe is a good song, too. Dhool ka Phool had excellent music.

      I find it interesting that so many songs (this one, Chal ri sajni, Prem jogan, Mera jeevan kora kaagaz, among them) are background songs which express a female’s feelings, but have been sung by a male singer…

  13. What a terrific post, Madhu! And I can understand why you said you like every song in this post. I do, as well. :) This really needs a playlist of its own.

    Your readers have added some lovely songs, especially Koi door se awaaz de, which I would have added myself.
    Here’s one from Kala Bazar: Rhimjhim ke taraane leke aayi barsaat. I like it because while the lead pair on whom it is picturised, are silently walking (alone) together, their memories come pouring out in the form of this song.

    Main zindagi mein har dum rota hi raha hoon from Barsaat

    O, jaanewale mudke zara dekhke jaana from Shree 420

    Even if it is has Nargis ‘singing’, the song is really in the background – this is what Nargis would have sung if she could only get past her principles.

    Ek samay par do barsaatein from Jhoola

    Past your blog’s timeline, but oh, what a poignant song this is. From Jaidev and Do Boond PaniApne watan mein aaj

    This one’s way past the timeline of your blog, but I love it, so here you go: Tadap tadap ke is dil se from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam

    • Oh, nice lot of songs, Anu (though I don’t particularly like Main zindagi mein hardam rota hi – not because of RK, but just because the song is just too morose for me). And, yes: I love the song from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam too: such a nice song.

      And since you’ve put in a background song from so recently (well, relatively speaking), let me add another one, which I absolutely love: Maula mere le le meri jaan from Chak De! India: this one actually brings the tears to my eyes.

  14. Another one from the seventies:

    Rajesh Khanna in Aap ki Kasam, reflecting on his past and his actions and how he is all alone now. I used to love this song but now it seems excessively gloomy to me.

  15. If I had to create a desert island playlist, most of my songs will fall under the category of background songs, and so I delighted to find a post on the very topic. As ever, between your inimitable choices and your knowledgeable readers’ contributions, hardly any song worth listening to has been missed out. Here are a few more that never fail to move me, although they are slightly outside your selection criteria, but as far as I am aware they are playing in the background

    Gharaonda(1977) – Tumhe Ho Na Ho (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqKcH804fb4)

    Rimjhim Gire Sawan (Manzil) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmD6GfZgKX8)

    Tujhse Naraaz Nahi Zindagi (Masoom) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KbhG64nLaM)

    – Sandeep

  16. What a wonderful post and comments!

    And here’s the background song that Tom Alter described thus: “….and with Sharmila, with her so tidily hiding in matching towels, and him still callow and on the verge of completeness, and the fire burning and the two of them circling it, and each other, and all of us, as her roop made him mastana and in darkened cinema halls from Mussoorie to Mangalore and back again, desire was no longer a dirty word, and we were freed”.

    • Suhan. :-) You have plugged in a song which I should have remembered! Yes, Roop tera mastaana is pretty iconic when it comes to romantic love that wasn’t all nodding flowers and cooing birds. Thank you for adding that!

  17. Hah! I just remembered Main zindagi mein har dam rota hi raha hun …, went to Youtube, found it and came here to post it, only to find that it has already been posted!

  18. actually some of the better newer movies seem to have a lot many songs in the background mode..perhaps as a nod to ‘realism’? And i discovered that most current songs that were likeable were usually background songs !

    here are a few
    two from Talaash (jee le zara and jiya lage na)

    From Life in a Metro (in dino…)

    From Zakhm (Gali mein aaj chand nikla)

    From Gangster (Bheegi bheegi si )

    And actually its quite a long list !!

    • Yes. In fact, a couple of years back, I’d written an article for Forbes Life, on 100 years of Hindi cinema, in which I’d picked one song representative of each decade of Hindi film music. For the first decade of this century, I chose Maula mere le le meri jaan, and in writing about it, I mentioned that it was a song that reflected the increasing realism in (at least the better) Hindi films of now. Because people usually don’t burst into song and dance about on streets, gardens, etc. So songs too are gradually becoming more commonly background songs, and they tend to be shorter – or at least (as in Maula mere…, split over several scenes, spread across the film).

      Thank you for these songs, AK!

      • yes it is quite obvious isn’t it… and thus the list is endless, not counting the ones in credits and even the ones in parts (because as you said, they appear as refrains ) . these songs very often take the story forward . Though i must say that nostalgically and academically i like the madness of the song and dance sequences of Indian Movies… reality can take a hike :) (sometimes)

        • And, before I forget: one of my favourite background songs from one of my favourite movies from the past 10 years: In Lamhon ke daaman mein, from Jodhaa Akbar:

  19. This is a very interesting category of songs and you have chosen some of the best! One background song which I particularly like is “Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh” from Amar. It is beautifully sung by Rafi, and Dilip Kumar’s acting, the way his face portrays the guilt and conflict implied in the song, is superb

    SD Burman sang many great background songs. His deep, rich voice, so evocative of rural Bengal, added weight and poignancy to the situation depicted in the film. Most of his background songs have been covered in the comments, but I would like to add “Meri duniya hai maa” from Talash (though I think it is a part of the credits and therefore may get disqualified as per your criteria)

    Another category of songs which may merit a post, somewhat related to ‘background songs’, is where the hero and/or heroine are present but the song is sung by a third party, usually a folk singer/dancer or a wandering minstrel type, and more importantly, the words of the song mirror the thoughts and yearnings that lie unarticulated in the heart of the hero/heroine. Examples include “Aaj sajan mohe ang laga lo” from Pyaasa, “Aan milo aan milo shyam sanware” from Devdas and “Leke pehla pehla pyar” from CID. Guru Dutt had a knack for such songs – they are there in Mr & Mrs 55 and Aar Paar also.

    • Thank you! Yes, how could we have forgotten Insaaf ka mandir hai yeh? I should’ve remembered that… nice song. I don’t seem to recall Meri duniya hai ma tere aanchal mein before. What a hauntingly beautiful voice SD Burman – so very evocative, so memorable.

      That’s another interesting idea for a post you’ve suggested. Dhalti jaaye raat keh le dil ki baat or Us paar saajan is paar dhaare would also qualify for that… should do it sometime! Thank you for the idea. :-)

    • Somehow I’ve never found the songs of Mother India too memorable. Offhand, I cannot recall the words or music of any one of them. :-(

  20. continuing from the previous thought, i suppose its an ode to the realism that crept into our movies slowly with the plausibility of people breaking into a song becoming remote…lost of Amol Palekar songs , typifying a sperecific type of cinema….. lots of Hrishikesh Mukherjee movies…etc. etc. So here is one more… Tumhe ho na ho from Gharonda

  21. Its really a wonderful compilation. Very thoughtfully put together with many important comments as well. Loved it! :) I don’t think I’ll find topics like these anywhere else on the net. Its pretty informative as well.
    There are two songs from the 1955 Devdas film by Bimal Roy: Woh na aayenge palatkar by Mubarak begum and Manzil ki chah mein by Mohammed Rafi which are played in the background. Unfortunately they appear for a very short duration but both are undoubtedly lovely especially woh na aayenge….. I felt even these should have been there on the list.
    But your blog is the best!

    • “But your blog is the best!

      You have made my day! Thank you so very much. :-)

      And thank you for the two songs from Devdas – yes, both good. On a related note (considering both films feature tawaifs in a major role), the background thumris of Pakeezah are gorgeous, too. Mostly heard only in snatches – not full-fledged songs – but lovely.

  22. And, since nobody has mentioned this song in the comments (and I didn’t use it in my list, partly because this song ends up on a lot of my lists, and partly because – as in the case of Tum pukaar lo – it’s pretty obvious who’s ‘singing’, even though the actual lip-synching isn’t shown). Aayega aanewaala, from Mahal:

    • Yes, that’s another lovely song! This film had some great music, even though the self-sacrificing and melodramatic nature of the film didn’t appeal to me at all.

    • That’s actually not totally a background song. if you watch it carefully through, you’ll see the scene shift to a recording studio, where the singer (I don’t know who the actress is) is lip-synching to the song. Somewhat similar to the situation in Humne dekhi hai un aankhon ki mehekti khushboo: the focus is someone else (the lead/s), but there is a singer shown, too.

  23. A couple of more background songs. This heart-rending Kishore Kumar song from Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Mein is, surprisingly enough, a background song – there is no lip-synching by Kishore on screen.

    This one from Sikander-e-Azam is a bit too jingoistic, but quite rousing.

    • I’m wondering how I’d forgotten Jahaan daal-daal par sone ki chidiya karti hain basera: yes, jingoistic, but also rousing – I remember being quite fond of it when I was young (the music is really nice). Hadn’t known that Koi lauta de mere beete hue din was a background song. Nice one.

  24. What a wonderful collection of songs you and everyone else has compiled, Madhu! Apparently, the background is where the music happens. :-D Here’s my contribution – a rather poignant number from Kishore and Bappi Lahiri (!).

    • Thank you, Shalini! I too really like all the songs other people have contributed. :-) And I had never heard Nanha sa panchhi re tu – good song. Bappi Lahiri could be good; sad he got into that not-so-nice groove. Wasn’t Maana ho tum behad haseen also from this film, Toote Khilone?

  25. I don’t think this has been posted yet although another good song from this movie has been, I found this interesting because this a background song in duet, not like a male/female version, but a proper romantic duet. That is unusual. Perhaps there are others like this.
    Yeh zulf kaisi hai from Piya Ka Ghar

  26. Madhu, I know I am late to the party. I haven’t gone through all the posts, hence there may be repetitions. Apologies in advance.
    I had compiled one for my blog but I will let it go now. My picks were kaheen deep jale kahin dil, humne dekhi un aankhon ki mehek khushboo (there is a lovely background version), main apne aap se ghabraa gaya hun, subah na aayi shaam na aayi. Chal ud ja re(all 3 versions)

    • I’ve taken the liberty of linking to all the songs you’ve mentioned. I’d forgotten about Shubh din aayo raj dulara, and had never seen the picturization of the other two songs, so hadn’t known they were background songs. All good songs, though I especially like the Naunihal one.

  27. Although there is a category of awards for it, still background scores often go masked as sometimes the side-artist do. Without lavishly stressing my memory-lane, I just figured a way out. I just had to mark-out the songs that otherwise give me company in my wee hours (Often Being Played In Background ), running ceaselessly one after another, are whether being played in background or not….!! The tracks that straightaway come to my mind are:- Tujhse Naraaz Nahi Zindagi—from Masoom, Dil Hoom Hoom Kare—- from Rudaali,
    Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera—from Swadesh ,
    Tu Bin Bataye Muhje Le Chal Wahin and Lukka Chuppi —from Rang De Basanti,
    Dil Se Re—from Dil se and baring few all from film Taare Zaamen Pe—Both Maa one and the ending score— Kholo Kholo Darwaazey ….. were absolute magic!!!

    The onesss from movie Udaan— Naav, and Aazaadiyaan. Marvellous tracks Amit Trivedi has created…!!! Then again Ye Honsla from Dor — sheer classic..!!! ….
    Ek lau Is Tarah Kyun —–from Amir … Ik Taara the Male Version —-from Wake Up Sid are my all time fav tracks… Khwaabon Ke Parindey—-from ZNMD…

    Another classics’ being Bade Ghulam Ali Khan sahibs’ thumris in Mugal-e-Azaam….

    Then this particular one——Bawara Mann Dekhne Chala Ek Sapana — from movie Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi rendered beautifully by Swanand Kirkire is another one of its kind…..

    This one being my pick of the day—- from Water rendered by the Sadhana Sargam—Naina Neer Bahaaye !!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh624vlcx6Y

    P.S. —– Just love these long weekends……..

  28. I do love “Ye Lucknow ki Sarzameen” from Chaudhin Ka Chand, though underrated and very seldom heard, but beautifully sung by Rafi Sahab, and equally written and composed by Shakeel and Ravi respectively.

  29. Babul ki Duaen, From ‘Neel Kamal; simply love this song, though love and hate relationship is associated with the bloggers relating to this song. Initially, I thought this song is lip-synch by Balraj Sahni but a closer look suggests its a background song. Another song which comes to mind is Sathi na koi Manzil from ‘Bombay ka Babu’ also picturised on Balraj Sahni. I wonder if Balraj Sahni lip-sync at Rafi voice in any song.

    • Saathi na koi manzil is a lovely song too, thanks for mentioning that. Offhand, the only Rafi song to which Balraj Sahni has lip-synced that I can remember is Raat bhar ka hai mehmaan andhera – I’m sure there must be more.

  30. Wow, this list seems to have inspired a whole lot of comments.Let me add one more to the count.

    This song “Ulajh Gaye Do Naina Dekho” from Ek Saal – appears for less than 30 seconds – just before the end credits roll. I can’t believe that the director could not find a few meters of reel to film this wonderful Lata-Hemant duet.

    Complete song can be heard here:

    • I’ve seen Ek Saal, but I’d forgotten about this song. Yes, it’s hard to believe that this appears only for the duration of the credits and no more – it’s a good song and definitely deserved more.

  31. oMG,
    i couldnt find the vdo of this song, but i am sure it is a background song, as all of us have seen it many a times in chitrahar or rangoli.

    nigahein kyun bhatakati hai from baharon ki manzil

  32. also,
    we can think of neele gagan ke tale from humraaz

    i think this song sholu have been here already!
    dont u think so?
    i also realized it late
    :-)

    its not lip sync!

    chirag kahan roshani kahan,
    ajab hai malik tera jahan by rafi

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