Trios, Quartets, and More: Ten of my favourite songs

When I was in school, all school functions—even, on special occasions, school assembly—would have one particularly talented child presenting a solo (the first time I heard Ae mere pyaare watan was in school assembly, sung brilliantly by a classmate of mine; her rendition made me want to listen to the original song because I guessed that if she sang it so well, what must the original be like?). For very special occasions, like the annual day, there would be a couple of solo performances. But the norm for school songs (most of which, by the way, were patriotic, with the occasional folk song here and there) was the group song. A choir, picked from those who could more or less hold a tune, had loud voices, and didn’t mind standing and singing Tu zinda hai toh zindagi ki jeet par yakeen kar while the rest of the school trooped slowly out of the assembly ground.

In contrast, ‘group songs’ in Hindi cinema tend to be relatively few and far between. Yes, choirs there are aplenty, singing for dancers, supporting actors, and so on—even, at times (Ajeeb daastaan hai yeh being a very good example) providing a certain magic to the song without which one now cannot imagine the song being complete. But the overwhelming bulk of Hindi film songs tends to consist of solos or duets. With, as I mentioned, a choir joining in now and then.

But how many good songs are there that have three (or more) well-established singers in them? Not ‘Rafi and Lata with chorus’, but ‘Rafi, Lata, Manna Dey, Asha Bhonsle’ (or along similar lines)?

Trios and quartets: 'Group songs' from Hindi cinema

This post, therefore, which has been the pipeline for a long time now. Here I cover ten songs that I like and which have three or more well-known singers. All, as is usual with song lists on my blog, are from pre-70s films that I’ve seen. These are in no particular order of preference.

1. Hoke majboor mujhe usne bhulaaya hoga (Haqeeqat, 1964); Bhupendra, Mohammad Rafi, Talat Mahmood, Manna Dey. This was the song that actually sparked off the idea for this theme. I remember hearing Hoke majboor mujhe long before I saw it; my father told me then that it was “picturized on a group of officers singing together”, and I had imagined men sitting happily clustered in a mess, perhaps around a warm fire, some of them with whiskies… the truth, of course, couldn’t be more different.

Because these men aren’t officers, they’re jawans. They’re not in a comfortable mess, but out in the mountains, exhausted and sleepy and weak. There is little likelihood of succor; the chances of them returning to their homes and families grow dimmer with every passing hour. And they sing of the women they miss, their wives and sweethearts. A beautiful, very touching song, and impeccably rendered by four of Hindi film music’s biggest names. Bhupendra even appears onscreen, singing for himself.

Hoke majboor mujhe usne bhulaaya hoga, from Haqeeqat

2. Sun le pyaar ki dushman duniya (Pyaar Kiye Jaa, 1966); Asha Bhonsle, Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Manna Dey. Lovers in Hindi cinema are rarely bashful when it comes to expressing their feelings in song; I’ve lost count of the number of songs in which two lovers sing of their love with an entire chorus joining in. Much less common is this situation: two pairs of lovers go dancing and singing through the gardens. Perhaps it’s because the women are sisters and the men are best friends that they don’t feel shy about expressing their love before someone else. Perhaps, too, it gives them some much-needed morale-boosting, since the chances of the girls’ father agreeing to his daughters marrying these men are dim. Whatever; this is a fun song, combining some good old-fashioned wooing with a chest-thumping defiance of the big bad world that frowns on romance.

Sun le pyaar ki dushman duniya, from Pyaar Kiye Jaa

3. Jab-jab bahaar aayi aur phool muskuraaye (Taqdeer, 1967); Usha Mangeshkar, Mahendra Kapoor, Usha Timothy. Taqdeer had three versions of this very popular song: one, a solo by Mohammad Rafi; another, a solo by Lata Mangeshkar—and this. An old man, missing (and with his mind gone for a toss) for the past many years, regains his memory and returns home, only to find that his wife, believing herself to be a widow, has married his rich friend. The three little children he had loved are now adults—but, just as he’s beginning to despair and think that he’s dead for them, they sing the very song he used to sing to them years ago: and he realizes that even if their father is dead (as they suppose him to be), they will not forget him. A touching and sweet song about love.

Jab-jab bahaar aayi, from Taqdeer

4. Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai (Barsaat ki Raat, 1960); Manna Dey, Mohammad Rafi, Asha Bhonsle, Sudha Malhotra, SD Batish. If I’d arranged this list in order of preference, this one would have topped it. Barsaat ki Raat had the very best qawwalis in Hindi cinema—and this was the best qawwali in the film. The sheer perfection of this song blows me away. Sahir’s brilliant lyrics; Roshan’s music, the singers. The fact that it’s such a long song (combined with Yeh ishq ishq ishq hai, into which it segues, it clocks in at an impressive twelve minutes), but there’s not a false note anywhere. Not in the music, not in the rendition, not even in the picturization. A superb song, and one of Hindi cinema’s finest ever.

Na toh kaarvaan ki talaash hai, from Barsaat ki Raat

5. Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar (Taj Mahal, 1963); Asha Bhonsle, Suman Kalyanpur, Manna Dey, Mohammad Rafi. Another superb qawwali, another coming together of Sahir’s lyrics and Roshan’s music. A take on the classic battle-of-the-sexes theme, Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar has the men praising the beauty, the adas, the general peerlessness of the women they love—and the women, by turn, dampening their ardour , poking fun at them, and letting them know that their advances aren’t entirely unwelcome.

Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar, from Taj Mahal

6. Mohabbat kar lo ji bhar lo (Aar Paar, 1954); Mohammad Rafi, Geeta Dutt, Suman Kalyanpur. A trio, with the man (Guru Dutt, as a taxi driver frustrated by all the canoodling going on in the back seat as he takes two lovers on a jaunt) cribbing about the idiocy and uselessness of love—while the women are all for love. They concede that love has its pitfalls; the world frowns down on it, but the joy of love is such that it makes up for everything. Interestingly, this song is in two versions. The one that is shown in the film is the trio, with Rafi singing for Guru Dutt while Geeta Dutt and Suman Kalyanpur sing for various women. Another version, not used in the film but available on the record, is a duet with only Rafi and Geeta, supported by a chorus.

Mohabbat kar lo ji bhar lo, from Aar Paar

7. Phir tumhaari yaad aayi ae sanam (Rustom Sohrab, 1963); Manna Dey, Mohammad Rafi, Saadat Khan. Although Saadat Khan wasn’t anywhere in the same league as Rafi and Manna Dey, he does sing solo in this haunting, nostalgic song about a love left behind but never forgotten. In a situation somewhat reminiscent of Hoke majboor mujhe usne bhulaaya hoga (but not as desolate or despairing), a group of soldiers out on a campaign strike camp for the night—and, as they sit around their campfire while their commander walks the ramparts deep in thought—they sing, remembering the sweethearts they have left behind. A wonderful tune by the oft-ignored but immensely talented Sajjad Hussain, with lyrics (“Haal-e-dil yaar ko likhoon kaise, haath dil se judaa nahin hota”) that borrow from the classic Urdu poet Momin.

Phir tumhaari yaad aayi ae sanam, from Rustom Sohrab

8. Ramaiyya vasta vaiyya (Shree 420, 1955); Mohammad Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh. A classic song, from a classic RK film. The poor but upright young man, swayed by wealth and the illusion of happiness, comes away from one of his grand parties, still clad in tuxedo and patent leather shoes—and happens upon a song and dance among the people with whom he was once best friends. Sheila Vaz and a fellow dancer (does anyone know who lip-syncs for Rafi?) sing most of the song while an emotional Raj Kapoor watches from the sidelines. It’s only when he finally comes into their midst that he can pluck up the courage to sing of his own disillusionment—in the voice of Mukesh.

Ramaiyya vasta vaiyya, from Shree 420

9. Bas mujhko mohabbat ho gayi hai (Biwi aur Makaan, 1966); Mukesh, Manna Dey, Hemant, Talat Mahmood. An utterly comical song from a laugh riot of a film. Bas mujhko mohabbat ho gayi hai is not notable for the music—which is forgettable—but for the lyrics, the situation, and the picturization: the entire package. Mukesh sings for Ashish Kumar, who, while pretending to be a much-married man, has gone and made the mistake of falling in love with his landlord’s niece. His four friends (one of whom, in drag, is acting as his wife) team up to try and jolt their pal out of this idiocy. So much fun, including that delightfully shocked gasp from Biswajeet when Keshto Mukherjee (in Talat’s voice) sings, “Marna ho toh ispe mar lo, aur kisi pe yoon nahin marte”.

Bas mujhko mohabbat ho gayi hai, from Biwi aur Makaan

10. Khile hain sakhi aaj (Grahasti, 1963); Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle, Usha Mangeshkar. And, to end the list, a song that features three of the four Mangeshkar sisters: Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsle and Usha Mangeshkar sing for Rajshree, Shubha Khote and Indrani Mukherjee in this all too brief song. It’s light and peppy, fast-paced but in a very typically Indian style. Three young women celebrate their coming nuptials, looking forward with anticipation to their weddings and their meetings with their respective beloveds.

Khile hain sakhi aaj, from Grahasti

Which songs would you add to this list?

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76 thoughts on “Trios, Quartets, and More: Ten of my favourite songs

  1. Interesting theme Madhu! I like “mohabbat kar lo” a lot. Didn’t realize that two different versions exist.

    My addition would be from Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya – the tile song sung by Rafi, Suman Kalyanpur and Mukesh.. very melodious tune and soulful lyrics that make me want to see the movie.

  2. A bit of trivia on No.3. The older lady shedding tears is Shalini Mardolkar, who also acted the same role in the Konkani movie (1966) Noxib (pronounced Noshib=Naseeb in Urdu, meaning fate) on which the movie Taqdeer (1967) was based. Both movies were directed by A Salam.

  3. I always thought, that there were three distinct female voices in mohabbat kar lo, but haven’t listened to the song recently and I trust your research.
    humko tumse ho gaya hai from Amar Akbar Anthony must be having the distinction of bringing together Lata, Kishore, RAfi and Mukesh, but is isnot one of my favs and it is not in your range. The 70s with its multi-starrers, gave more scope to such songs.

    • I listened to Mohabbat kar lo ji bhar lo again when I was researching this post, and checked out the information for the song on the Geeta Dutt site too, and yes, there are two female voices and one male. :-)

      Humko tumse ho gaya hai pyaar had occurred to me as a song that would fit the theme even if it was outside the time range – but like you, I’m not very fond of it either. There are several other songs from the 70s (including one classic qawwali) that do fit, though.

  4. hain aag hamari seene me from Jish Desh Me Ganga Behti Hai should fit in this category quite well, I think. It is quite a nice song.

    Another multi-starrer song from the 70s, which I like a lot is kahiye kahan se aana huwa from Heeralal Pannalal.

    • I’d forgotten about Hai aag hamaare seene mein, so thank you for reminding me of that, Harvey! And I don’t remember ever hearing (or seeing) Kahiye kahaan se aana hua. Have just been watching it; a fun song, and several people whom I like a lot (no, not Randhir Kapoor, but the others).

      • Two more songs, which I remembered, from the blog period:
        ek chatur naar badi hoshiyaar from Padosan with Manna Dey, Kishore and Mehmood
        har dil jo pyar karega from Sangam with Lata, Rafi and Mahendra Kapoor

        One from the 70s:
        aap ke kamre me koi rehta hai from Yaadon Ki Baaraat with Kishore, Asha and Pancham

        And then there is this Satte Pe Satta song, but since it is Anu’s favourite, I’ll let her post it. :)

  5. Madhuji, here are a few more songs to add to the list. One song which I presume is fairly well known is from Sangam i.e Har dil jo pyar karega which was picturised on all the three main actors and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, Mukesh and Mahendra Kapoor. One more song I can recall hearing on Vividh Bharathi years ago is the title song from the 1961 movie, “Kabuliwala” sung by Ranu Mukherjee, Usha Mangeshkar, Hemant Kumar and Savita Bannerji.

    On a search for more songs of this type, I came across this song from the 1956 movie, “Paisa Hi Paisa”. The song is: Bas Ek Tum Bin Kal Na Pade and is sung by Kishore Kumar, Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhonsle. Finally, I also came across this song from a 1947 movie titled “Saajan”. The song is Chor aa gaye nagariya hamaar and is sung by Lalita Deulkar, Mohammed Rafi and Geeta Dutt.

    • I had forgotten that Kabuliwala‘s title song was a ‘group’ one! Thank you for reminding me of that. Bas ek tum bin kal na pade and Chor aa gaya nagariya hamaar were new to me.

  6. K.C.Dey, K.L.Saigal, & Uma Shashi in Dharti Mata (1938). Such a sweet celebration of the world we live in. This is a song that never fails to elevate my mood when I’m down in the dumps. Duniya rang-rangeeli re baba

    Manmohan man mein ho tumhi
    Mohammad Rafi, S.D.Batish, & Suman Kalyanpur in Kaise Kahoon (1964)

    Shamshad Begum, Mohammad Rafi, & Asha Bhosle in CID (1956) (the sad version) Leke pehla-pehla pyaar

    Mahendra Kapoor, Manna Dey, Asha Bhosle, Shamshad Begum in Upkaar (1967) Aayi jhoomke basant

    Mhammad Rafi, Mukesh, & G.M.Durrani in Beqasoor (1950) Duaaein maang rahe hain

    • I hadn’t heard – as far as I can remember – Duaayein maang rahe hain before, but the others are all familiar – and well-loved. I somehow didn’t interpret Leke pehla-pehla pyaar as actually been a trio, because it seemed to me that the Shamshad-Rafi section was a ‘memory’, no more, but technically of course it’s a song by three singers.

      By the way, may I please make a request? When posting a song, please mention the name of the song. Youtube videos are so unreliable that even a few months from now, it’s very likely that several of these will have disappeared – in which case a reader may not be able to understand, in the absence of the song name, which one you meant. I’ve edited this comment of yours to include the names.

  7. Here’s a lovely boat song featuring “Lata, Shamshad, Rafi and Balbir”. Set to Punjabi folk tune, the men provide the chorus while the women reveal their thoughts and feelings through a series of Q&A. Picturisation on real-life sisters – Madhubala & Chanchal – is an added delight.

    Dhadke Dhadke Reh Reh Ke Dil Bawra – Naata

  8. There are quite a few songs of music director Naushad involving three or more singers. Just to name a few, two songs of MOTHER INDIA immediately come to mind. ‘ duniya me hum aaye hain to ‘ sung my Lata, Usha and Meena Mangeshkar. ‘ dukh bhare din beete re bhaiya ‘ sung by Shamshad, Rafi, manna dey and Asha . Another one ‘ nadi kinare saath hamare ‘ from BABUL sung by talat, Shamshad and Rafi.

    • It hadn’t struck me that Naushad had several songs with three or more singers – that’s interesting. Thank you for those; the best-remembered (even if too morbid for my taste) as far as I am concerned is Duniya mein hum aaye hain toh.

  9. Ha, Madhu, lovely post, and a very interesting one. Trios and quartets are not uncommon in our films, no? Most of our quawwalis, for instance? I notice Harvey has posted Har di jo pyar karega which is the song that popped into my head after I read your post. (And that he’s been kind enough to leave Pyaar humein is mod pe le aaya [Kishore, RD, Sapan Chakraborty, Bhupinder, Gulshan Bawra] for me.)

    Another Amitabh song from TrishulMuhobbat bade kaam ki cheez hai [Kishore, Yesudas, Lata]

    Here’s a satirical song from 1949. Rafi, Kishore and SD Batish singing Duniya mein ameeron ko aaraam nahin milta from Kaneez.

    Main ik shola aag babola from Rangeen Raatein [Shamshad Begum, Geeta Dutt and Uma Devi]

    • I absolutely love Mohabbat bade kaam ki cheez hai. Thank you, especially, for that, Anu! The Satte pe Satta song, of course, is also great. The 70s, with their multi-starrers, as Harvey pointed out, were certainly good for songs sung by three or more singers.

  10. Thanks for a nice post! I haven’t heard some songs before and they are beuytiful! I would like to add one of me favorite funny song in Bollywood ever – Babu Samjho Ishare from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (Kishore, Ashok himself and Manna)

    and bubbling Sunle Pyar Ki Dushman Duniya from Pyar Kiye Jaa (Lata, Asha, Kishore and Manna)

      • Dear Madhu, I’m so sorry! It does not mean that I read your posts carelessly, it all because I wanted make two thing in one moment: to answer to your post and to send to my friend Sun le pyaar ki dushman link:) The second song that I wanted to add was Zindagi hai kya from Satyakam (Kishore, Mukesh and Mahinder). There is a chorus there but not all the time

        And there is another song (as an apology) – it is bengali and out of you time frames but I suppose you like it – Jana Ajana Pathe Chalechi from Troyee (Kishore, Asha and R.D.Burman)

        • That’s all right, Anna. :-) I should have remembered Zindagi hai kya – it’s a good song, and a fairly unusual one. I had never heard Jaana ajana pathe chelechi, but it’s a fun song, very typically RD Burman. Thank you for those!

  11. What a lovely post. Great selection by you (lifting the cream of songs) and the rest provided by the readers in the comments section.

    Many qawwalis qualify for this category, and here is one of my favorites – an early Mumtaz one. I translated this for Tom who cleaned up a blackened film to produce this.

  12. the overwhelming bulk of Hindi film songs tends to consist of solos or duets

    So true, though this had never struck me before! Apart from qawwalis, there aren’t many group songs in the pre-70s era. And naturally, the first group song that occurs to me is the Haqeeqat one that you have listed. I love how voices soar one after the other and then meld into the poignant chorus. Haqeeqat had lovely songs.

    And here is my contribution for the group songs list:
    Woh apni yaad dilaane ko from Jugnu. I can distinguish several different male voices, though I can only identify Rafi’s.

    And this one from the 70s multistarrer ParvarishJaate ho jaane jaana sung by Asha Bhosle, Amit Kumar, Aarti Mukherjee, and Shailendra Singh.

    • Thank you, Bollyviewer, for Woh apni yaad dilaane ko. A fun song, and of course pretty landmark. :-)

      Talking of Hoke majboor mujhe, yes: I agree with you about the voices soaring. I think that song is a very good example of voices melding together beautifully: each of the voices has a distinct identity and space of its own.

      Since several others have posted other songs, including from later films, but no-one’s posted this song (which always reminds me – in theme, and in situation, of Hoke majboor mujhe), I guess I should post it… Kandhon se milte hain kandhe from Lakshya. The voices are of Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, Hariharan, Roop Kumar Rathod, Kunal Ganjawala and Vijay Prakash.

  13. It’s a wonderful list and my top pick in this list is the 1938 song “Duniya Rang Rangili”. I never heard this song before. Anyway, I thought to add one of my favorite sung by Lata, Satish Batra & Rafi. Music composed by Vinod. The link is below:

    • This is such a coincidence, that you should post Hum chalein door! A friend of mine, of Kashmiri ancestry, is right now visiting Srinagar and yesterday posted (on Facebook) photos of his visit to Pir Dastagir Sahib. I was reminded of this song, and shared this with him – and today I see it here! Thank you. :-)

        • Yes, it’s so amazing, especially since it’s not as if the song is extremely popular or anything of the sort. If one doesn’t already believe in a divinity, then this is the sort of coincidence that should make one believe. :-)

  14. I recall few more as below:
    Suman, Kishor & Rafi combo (Na jaane kaise, from Badalte Rishte)

    Rafi, Asha & Sudha Malhotra combo (Humko duaaein do, from Pehli Raat)

    • I hadn’t heard Na jaane kaise for years – it’s a lovely song. Thank you so much for that. HUmko duaaein do was a new one for me (I hadn’t even heard of the movie before). Good song, perfect qawwali.

  15. Madhu,
    This is a nice theme and you have included some excellent songs. My great favourite is Khile hain skhi aaj. This composition is very atypical of Ravi. One would find that kind of folk female songs by Roshan or Chitragupta. Here is another by three Mangeshkar sisters:
    Are koi jaao ri piya ko bulaao ri by Lata Mangeshkar, Usha Mangeshkar and Meena Mangeshkar from Patrani (1956)

    Qawwalis have generally three or more distinct singers. Since you have added qawwalis, here is the earliest all-female qawwali:
    Aahein na bharin shikawe na kiye by Noorjahan, Kalyani and Zohrabai Ambalewali from Zeenat (1945)

    A great trios song is this one from Dil-e-Nadan (1953)
    Mohabbat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho by Talat Mahmood, Jagjit Kaur ad Sudha Malhotra

    AK

    • AK, so glad you liked the list. And yes, Khile hai sakhi aaj is very unusual for Ravi. I had forgotten that Ravi had scored the music for Grahasti, so it came as a surprise to me.

      The Patrani song was new to me (I’m sure if one were to delve deep into the sakhi songs, there would be several more songs to be found that had three female singers). I have seen Dil-e-Naadaan, but so long ago that the only song from that which I remember is Zindagi denewaale sun; I’d forgotten Mohabbat ki dhun beqaraaron se poochho.

      Thank you also for Aahein na bhari shikwe na kiye – what a classic that is!

  16. We have seen many movies….but many times we think the old movies were awesome. Awesome collection of old movies Madhu….My mom reminds me every time how old movies were….they have concept..dialogue…dance and more important story…and now they have nothing…only KISSING bus…hahahaha…thanks Madhu, my mom will be happy, when I will tell this names to her.. I have found a link where there is old movies collection here – http://bit.ly/2hvdnXl

  17. hmm, since no one has mentioned this yet..and just because it does have well known names singing :) Senorita from Zindagi na milegi Dobara, sung by Farhan Akhtar, Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Deol and María del Mar Fernández..

  18. also that many of the songs from movies like Hum saath saath hain and kabhi khushi kabhi gham have more than three singers , but not posting them individually as i, personally, dont care much for those songs :(

  19. This is an interesting one .. Amit Kumar , Shailendra and Asha Bhonsle … Aana re Aane re dil hai deewana re from Gurudev…and RD all said and done..in the 80s-90s

  20. hi,
    i have a few songs to add to the list

    sapanon mein mere koi aaye jaye by lata usha mukesh

    a song from banarasi thug 1962
    i coulndnt guess the singers, but there r 3 for sure
    one sounds like mahendra kapoor, may b usha mangeshkar also
    dilabar jab tera naam liya

    not very gr8 but fits the theme.

  21. aayi aayi basanti bela from angulimal by lata manna dey & meena kapoor

    mubaraq hai woh dil from banzir by mangeshkar sis

    zara sambhalo from aaya toofan by lata mukesh kamal barot

    badariya baras gayi from moorti

    this one by mukesh khurshid hamida bano

  22. a few more

    are jare hat natkhat from navrang

    the opening lines r sung by c ramchandra himself

    damadi damadi paisa paisa

    kishore talat and durrani

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