Ten of my favourite ‘imprisoned singer’ songs

No, this song list isn’t the result of a dear relative landing up in jail or anything of the sort. It just popped into my head one day when I was looking up a song on Youtube and saw Lapak-jhapak in the side panel. It occurred to me: Hindi cinema has its fair share of people who are in prison, at times in really dire straits (not the case with Lapak-jhapak, where David’s character is really quite comfortable), but still being able to summon up the energy to sing. As a character writes in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, Why do tired people sing?… Too tired to do anything else. Maybe that’s the case with film characters in prison: lots of time on their hands and too depressed to do anything else.

But, without further ado, on to the list. As always, these songs are from pre-70s films that I’ve seen, and in all cases, the singer is in prison. It doesn’t matter what sort of prison—the locations of these songs range from a police lock-up to a dungeon, to a ‘prison on the move’—but the basic premise should be that the person is kept captive, under some sort of governmental (or other entity in political power) discipline, which is why Helen keeping a blind Rajesh Khanna imprisoned in her house and singing Aao na gale lagaao na doesn’t qualify.

Here goes, then, in no specific order:

1. Lapak-jhapak tu aa re badarwa (Boot Polish, 1954): David’s ‘John Chacha’, a kind-hearted old bootlegger, is arrested and finds himself in the lockup after he falls neatly into a trap laid for him by someone discreetly enquiring about moonshine. In the lockup, he meets an old pal (played by Bulo Advani) and a bunch of shiny-pated fellow inmates. As they wait for the rain to come that night, John Chacha entertains his new friends with a song.

And what an odd song it is. Whose idea was it to combine a beautiful piece of classical music (and rendered brilliantly by the inimitable Manna Dey) with lyrics mostly about the beauty of the rains, but adding lyrics about the rain growing hair on bald heads? The forced ‘comic’ character of the song is intrusive enough to make it irritating, but thankfully—if you overlook those lyrics and focus only on the music, the singing, and most of the lyrics, it’s lovely.

2. O panchhi pyaare saanjh sakaare (Bandini, 1963): A very different situation, and a very different set of prisoners. O panchhi pyaare is one of two songs in Bandini (the other is Ab ke baras bhej bhaiyya ko baabul) set in a women’s prison. This one wins hands down for me: I love its music, the spontaneous cheerfulness of the singer as she and the other prisoners go about their work, sifting wheat, milling flour, making clothing, washing it… and I love the lyrics. So poignant, so symbolic. Main toh panchhi, pinjre ki maina, pankh mere bekaar (I am a bird, a mynah caged; my wings are useless) is so true: Kalyani (Nutan), jailed for having murdered the wife of her ex-lover, is trapped in prison, unable to go in search of the man she still loves. And that is probably true of all these other women, too, whatever their crimes: they have all left someone dear outside, someone for whom they long.

3. Mohabbat ki jhoothi kahaani pe roye (Mughal-e-Azam, 1960): The prisoners in the two previous songs have it easy compared to this one—but then, in Mughal times, having the gall to flaunt one’s romance with the heir apparent, and that in the face of the Emperor himself: that called for some pretty severe punishment. So Madhubala’s Anarkali finds herself in the dungeons, loaded down with chains (and with the décor of her cell consisting largely of more forbidding-looking chains). Even though she can barely get to her feet, she insists on tottering about the cell while she sings of how her love story has broken her heart, leaving her to weep for what was doomed from the very start. A depressing song, but beautiful nonetheless.

4. Mohabbat choome jinke haath (Aan, 1953): Madhubala’s co-star from Mughal-e-Azam, Dilip Kumar is the one in a dungeon here. But he’s in a far lighter mood, because his crime—while similar to Anarkali’s, that of presuming to romance royalty—is not that heinous, since the royalty in question (Nadira, in her debut role) is, deep in her heart, not utterly immune to his charm. So what if she doesn’t know it yet, and doesn’t acknowledge it. Hindi film hero that he is, he will woo her ardently, even if it means singing of his love from deep in the dungeons (what flimsy walls this prison has, that the princess and her women should be able to hear him inside the palace…).

Oh, and this prisoner has it easy: he has a friend as a fellow captive, and the princess’s maid is firmly rooting for him as well.

5. O aasmaan waale (Anarkali, 1953): Seven years before Mughal-e-Azam was released, there was this much less opulent version of the love story of Salim and Anarkali. It was known more for its superb music than for anything else, and here’s an example, a situation identical to the one in Mohabbat ki jhoothi kahaani pe roye. Bina Rai, as the doomed Anarkali, is imprisoned for daring to love Prince Salim, and while in prison, weeps for her love—and sings. Her cell is really rather more like a large hall than anything else (even the windows have pretty carved stone filigree instead of ugly bars!), and those chains hanging about her look more decorative than restrictive—she pretty much seems to be able to wander about wherever she wishes in the cell.

But, a beautiful song, and I like the fact that the music is subdued enough to let Lata’s voice shine through.

6. Mohabbat zinda rehti hai (Changez Khan, 1953): The theme of people who love well but not wisely provides plenty of scope in Hindi historicals for:

(a) The audacious would-be lover being imprisoned; and
(b) singing a song of love

As we’ve seen, (b) is often a case of mourning doomed love. In this case, however, with the Tatar warrior Sherwa (Premnath) and his girlfriend, Princess Azra (Bina Rai), it’s not a song of doomed love but a paean to everlasting love. Sherwa and Azra’s love has come up against a formidable foe indeed: none other than Changez Khan, who is ready to put thousands to the sword in his quest to have Azra for himself. Now, with Azra in a dead faint and Sherwa captured by Changez, Sherwa sings to Azra to take heart, because their love can never die out. Not an indoor prison, this (the Mongols, after all, were pretty much nomadic, so that makes sense); but Sherwa and his men are tied to trees and left to the mercy of the elements. Driving rain and chilly breezes can be even more killing than four walls, I guess. But an iconic song, and Rafi’s rendition seems so effortless.

7. Zulf ke phande phans gayi jaan (Mujrim, 1958): And, for a break from all those emotional romantic songs sung by those taken captive, here’s one which goes in the opposite direction: it complains about what disaster befalls one who has fallen in love. Johnny Walker’s character finds himself in the police lock-up on suspicion of being a thief (the actual thief being Shammi Kapoor’s character). The lockup’s so full of bedbugs and mosquitoes that our man can’t sleep—so decides he may as well get up and sing about how romance has been the death of him.

Thankfully for him, his fellow inmates seem to take this abrupt awakening in their stride; they join happily in dancing about the spacious cell. Even the constables on duty outside come to have a peek and see what this unusual entertainment is all about. A delightful song, a great showcase of how wonderfully comic the Johnny Walker-Mohammad Rafi combination was.

8. Apne liye jeeye toh kya jeeye (Baadal, 1966): This swashbuckler may not have been a huge hit, but it had some eye candy (notably, in the form of a very handsome young Sanjeev Kumar and a pretty Helen), and some nice songs. Of the songs, Apne liye jeeye toh kya jeeye was the best (and, it seems, was recognized as such by director Aspi as well as composer Usha Khanna, since it appears repeatedly in the film). In its entirety, the song is in two versions, and both have an interesting connection to prisons. The first time the song is sung (by Sanjeev Kumar’s character, the eponymous Baadal) is in a prison—but he’s not the prisoner. Instead, he’s wormed his way into the prison, and while he and his pals go about being the rescue party, unlocking cell doors left, right and centre, Baadal sings.

The second time the song appears (and that’s the one I’m referring to in this list), Baadal is the prisoner. Even though he’s out in the open, singing full-throatedly, the truth is that there are ropes tethering him to the soldiers who are taking him away, captive, to the frontier to be exiled. Still, our hero is not one to be cowed so easily, and he goes on singing lustily, while trying to get free. With some help.

9. Mohabbat mein aise zamaane bhi aaye (Sagaai, 1951): At first sight, this song looks as if Premnath—incarcerated in a cell, lying on a bed of straw (and reduced to chewing it)—is the only prisoner here. The truth is somewhat different, though: our hero is a prisoner, but his girlfriend (played by Rihana) is just as much a captive as he is: a prisoner of a gilded cage, trapped by a wily and lustful king on a faraway island and being forced to get married to him. She can’t escape, so even though she’s in relative comfort (as can be seen), she is not free to leave, either. What amazes me is how two people who can’t even hear each other can sing so perfectly in tandem. Perhaps that’s what true love is all about.

10. Mera rang de basanti chola (Shaheed, 1965): I began this list with a song (Lapak-jhapak tu aa re badarwa) which has absolutely nothing to do with romantic love (which, as you’ve probably seen, seems to be a common theme for captives to sing about). Neither does this song—and yet, the two songs could not be more different. Far from the light-hearted caper that is Lapak-jhapak, Mera rang de basanti chola is deathly serious, notwithstanding the determinedly smiling faces of Bhagat Singh (Manoj Kumar), Sukhdev (Prem Chopra) and Rajguru as they go to their execution. This is imprisonment of a different kind: it is final, fatal. It is for country, for freedom. And these men, knowing—from the start—that they would probably not live to see the end of the revolution they had begun—are proud to lay down their lives.

A very short song, and interspersed with dialogue, yet a classic song of desh bhakti.

Which songs would you add to this list?


129 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite ‘imprisoned singer’ songs

  1. A prison is a prison,be it bars or wallls or personality.I have a different take,songs without any prison of personality.Songs lipped by heroes who lacked histrionics and flamboyance,heroes who were jockeys for Mohd. rafi,like dharmendra and Joy mukherjee.Songs that are poetry rendered by the maestro rafi like: Door bahut mat jayie le ke karar hamara or In baharo me akele na firo or Panchi re o panchi or Dil bekarar sa hai humko khumar sa hai or Ek haseen sham ko dil mera kho gaya.


    • Of course there can be countless interpretations of a theme. The point of narrowing a theme is to make it more challenging – and, at the same time, of making it more focussed.


  2. A nice list madhuji,
    a nice idea in itself, a song picturised in jail!
    right now no song to add from my side.
    the song selection is nice.
    so finally you stopped thinking about closing ur blog?
    that’s so nice!


  3. I feel “O Aasmaanwale from Anarkali ” really tops the list , music wise and lyrics wise.

    Tu dekhta rahe aur
    duniya hamein sazaa de
    kya zurm hai mohabbat
    itna zara bataa de
    manzil pe quon loota hai
    har karwan khushi ka…….

    itnisi iltizaa hai
    tujh se meri dua ki
    Allah sharm rakhna
    duniya mein tu wafa ki
    Hota hai maut hi to
    anjaam zindagi ka

    It is difficult to imagine more pathetic, moving words from an anguished, loving heart.
    Hasrat Jaipuri excels here. Very moving to listen to this song.


    • Yes, it is a beautiful song.

      Your comment reminds me that I should try and do a Hasrat Jaipuri song list sometime… I have done song lists of only two lyricists so far (Sahir and Shailendra) and should really do more.


  4. well Anarkali seems to have got the brunt of this in Hindi films..Here is Beqas pe karam kijiye from Mughal-e-Azam.. i am sure you thought of this and chose the other one over this..so i post this to start with :)


  5. Lovely idea for a list! And fabulous songs on the list.

    Another song from Anarkali – the final Yeh Zindagi usi ki hai. Bina Rai not quite in prison, but worse, standing tall as her tomb is built up, brick by brick, around her.

    I can’t remember, but I think there is a song from Uran Khatola which may fit the list. The hero is not imprisoned, but confined, by the princess. But maybe it is not the hero who sings but his ladylove. Not sure.


    • Thank you for this! I had toyed with putting this in (because it’s such an iconic song, actually) then decided it was not literally a prison. It is, though, since there’s no way she can escape.

      The Udan Khatola song escapes my memory. Ages since I watched that film, and to be honest, despite the good songs, I’m not tempted to rewatch it… too depressing.


  6. and this one is poignant..like the Shaheed song..because finally its not about the individual, but the collective desperation
    Itni shakti humein dena data from Ankush


  7. and Sangharsh in 1999 had some really nice songs, including this one .. pehli pehli baar baliye (though of course they take off to switzerland !), but the song IS set in a prison right ?

    and this one is actually quite depressing but realistic to an extent as compared to most prison songs in indian cinema


    • I never got around to watching Sangarsh, but this was the film with Mujhe raat-din bas mujhe chaahti ho, wasn’t it? I remember getting very annoyed about that because it was so blatant a copy of Mujhe dekhkar aapka muskuraana.

      But Pehli-pehli baar baliye and Naaraaz savera hai are both good, especially their lyrics.


  8. but what would bollywood be minus the lost and found ! even if its a prison ! so here is Aana Jana laga Rehta from Geraftaar :) (though i do wonder at the ‘prison’)


  9. and as the 80s led us into the hero on the wrong (but justifiably) side of the law, led by Mr Bachchan , we finally had broken away from jilted/wronged lover in prison ..
    So here is Kaun kisiko baandh saka from Kaalia


  10. To fall in line,i will go along with others but will take liberty to suggest songs that are directly connected with prison but not necessarily inside it.Tujhko pukare mera pyar aaja mai to mita hu tere pyar me(neel kamal),babul pyare(johny mera naam),mera naam hai chameli(raja aur rank),chedo na dekho na(jigri dost).


  11. Lovely selection, Madhu. And Premnath being featured twice!! Wow!!! However, Sukhdev in Shaheed was not played by Premanth but by Prem Chopra. Premnath did play the role of Chandrashekhar Azad to Shammi Kapoor’s Bhagat Singh in another movie based on the lives of the revolutionaries. Incidentally, the songs of THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH and 23rd MARCH: SHAHEED are pretty good too whether it is Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna or Mera Rang De or Ae Watan. We really had some good shayars during the freedom struggle.

    Anyway to move away from patriotic poetry, here’s one of my favourites – Mere Khayalon mein aa ke gale laga le mujhe from GUNAAH. Talat is absolutely marvellous in this.


    • “However, Sukhdev in Shaheed was not played by Premanth but by Prem Chopra.

      That was a typo. Thanks for pointing it out; have corrected it. I hadn’t known Premnath had acted in the Shammi Kapoor version of the film – have never seen that, much as I like Shammi.

      I don’t recall hearing this song before. Talat is wonderful, as ever… very poignant.


  12. Your imagination in coming up with these themes as usual is in full bloom. Cool. Here is an addition to the list and not a bad song.
    Song: Aaja re pyaar pukaare
    Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
    Film: Dil ne phir yaad kiya (1966)
    Composer: Sonik-Omi
    Picturized on Nutan and Dharmendra – she is the one in prison


  13. And this one is appropriately from a film called “Jail”. Not in the time period you pick though.
    Song: Daata sun le maula sun le
    Film: Jail (2011)
    Singer: Lata Mangeshkar
    Music: Shamir Tandon
    Picturized on Neil Nitin Mukesh and a bunch of other inmates


      • Amen to that. Though she was age appropriate when she sang for Waheeda in Rang de Basanti. I visibly cringe when I hear a lot of the songs from the late 70s and all through the 80s – the phenomenal success of the songs from “Hum aapke haiN kaun” astounds me.


  14. Oh I wanted to share this from 23rd MARCH: SHAHEED.

    Naaz tujhgo to hoga Bhagat Singh ki Ma (though I wish they had shown Bhagat Singh’s aunt (Ajit Singh’s wife) as she was the one who had brought him up).

    The lines: ‘Jaanewalon ko dekho watan ke liye; shama azadi ki wo jala jaynge’ are especially poignant.


  15. Well, Madhulika you have made me go all patriotic, so here’s another one: Kasam Tumko watan walon from THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH. I like this one esp because it is about Jatin Das who has been marginalised in our official historiography despite the epic hunger strike and a record crowd presence during his funeral.

    And I love the line: Nigahen Maut Se Bhi Hum, Milane Se Nahi Darte…..so true. These young men were a class apart.


    • Oh, nice song. I actually remember rather liking this movie. I think because Ajay Devgn and Sushant Singh brought a certain unforgettable intensity to their roles. The others too, but they stand out. And in a period when Hindi film music was pretty loud, this had some good songs – as this one is.


      • Both Ajay Devgan and Sushant Singh were very good though I felt that Sushant was just that wee bit better. He really brought Sukhdev out of Bhagat Singh’s shadow. And so I was very disappointed when he did not win the National Award though Ajay did.


  16. Nice one, Madhu. Anarkali seems to be dominating this list. :-) Other songs that come to mind, though I would certainly not add them to this list, are
    – mehbooba mehbooba (the parody from Johar Mehmood in Hong Kong, not the Sadu Aur Shaitan version)
    – safachat song (Preetam)
    You know I never had high standards! :-)


    • “You know I never had high standards! :-)

      Hehe. :-D

      Since I couldn’t remember either of the songs you’ve mentioned (even though I’ve seen both movies), I may as well add the links to them:

      Insaaf hua duniya se ae yaar safachat:

      And Mehbooba mehbooba:

      (which, of course, once it started playing, I remembered immediately).


  17. Wonderful idea for a list, Madhu!

    “which is why Helen keeping a blind Rajesh Khanna imprisoned in her house and singing Aao na gale lagaao na doesn’t qualify.”
    What a pity! I love that song, although I wouldn’t have thought of it as a prison song. But I did think of aa jaa re pyar pukare from Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya, which also wouldn’t qualify. Pity!

    Lapak-jhapak tu aa re badarwa is such a beautiful song, but so are all Manny Dey’s classical and semi-classical songs.
    Similarly frolicky in mood is the song main nikal jaaounga from Shareef Badmash

    O panchhi pyaare saanjh sakaare is the first song, which came to my mind, when I thought of prison songs.
    Would mat ro mata from the same film also qualify?

    I used to love mohabbat ki jhoothi kahaani pe roye, I still like it, but not high up on the list any more.
    I had nearly forgotten o aasmaanvale, Thanks for reminding me of it again.
    Mohabbat zinda rehti hai was such a favourite with Chhaaya Geet on TV.
    Mohabbat mein aise zamaane bhi aaye: *sigh*
    Mera rang de basanti is a song, which I didn’t understand for a long time.
    One of my favourite prison song, which is not included in your list and not mentioned by other commentators is aaye aaye re from Doosri Sita


    • Thanks for posting the song from “Doosri Sita” – an unusual film with a great soundtrack by R D Burman.
      BTW, why does the song from “Dil ne phir yaad kiya” not qualify? I have not seen the film, but it seems like Nutan’s character is being held captive in some kind of fortress – so I assumed it was by somebody in authority.


      • Thanks for the appreciation, dear sangeetbhakt.
        I thought that aa jaa re pyar pukare won’t qualify, because Nutan is being held captive by Jeevan and he is not a local raja or even subedar or something. He is, if I remember right, her lover’s (Dharmendra) stepbrother, with no authority to hold anybody captive.


        • I hadn’t realized Nutan was not being held captive by some sort of authority, either. Yes, in that case, that wouldn’t really qualify.

          But – since we’re on a tangent, of people captive but not held by an authority, here’s another song that I really like. Parvati is locked into her room by her mother and sings Jaa re baadal jaa in Kailashpati:


    • Thank you, Harvey! Glad you liked the post – and thanks for the songs you suggested. I had never heard, as far as I remember. Aayi aayi re. Such a touching song. Would make for a very unusual addition to a lullabies post…

      Mat ro maata is a song I love, too. Yes, I think it should qualify. :-) I had forgotten about Main nikal jaaoonga – ranks right up there with Lapak-jhapak and Zulf ke phande as a ‘prisoners having fun’ song.


  18. What a cool topic! Apropos your ‘lovers who loved well but not too wisely’, I’m sure you would have more than enough songs to fit that theme. Hindi film lovers seem to have a penchant for being imprisoned. Here’s one from Rajdhani – a lovely Talat Mahmood-Lata duet, where Sunil Dutt is the incarcerated and Nimmi (Nimmi!) who, even with her pained (and painful) expressions who’s coming to rescue him from the dungeon.

    Re: the song from Sagaai this is what I wrote in my Talat-Lata duets post:
    I love these duets, the ones where hero and heroine sing in tandem, with the same tune and same lyrics in the chorus, when they are in different places. How do they know the words? And the tune?

    So I had to smile at your query. :)


    • “Hindi film lovers seem to have a penchant for being imprisoned.

      Yes! And bravely singing on, no matter what! (Would they perhaps be better advised to spend their time thinking of ways to get out, instead?)

      I have heard (I think) Bhool jaa sapne suhaane, but hadn’t seen it. Nice song, actually, despite Nimmi (who was pretty painful at most times; she’s one actress I find difficult to like).

      “I love these duets, the ones where hero and heroine sing in tandem, with the same tune and same lyrics in the chorus, when they are in different places. How do they know the words? And the tune?

      You know, I’m sure there’s an idea for a song list there… ;-)


  19. That’s such a unique topic! My favorite from your list is Zulf ke Fande Rafi/JW.. Thanks for reminding me of this song.. Its kind of an emotional painkiller.. Works every single time..

    I was thinking about listing “Kiska Rasta Dekhe” but by the time I got around to write, it was already mentioned by AK.

    “The theme of people who love well but not wisely provides plenty of scope in Hindi historicals”. That is so true… It’s almost comical in so many movies.. Also, the ease at which anyone can be put in jail (in Indian movies) is also amazing…

    btw, I hope your topic has nothing to do with the recent events in India.. Well, I am sure it is not..


    • “btw, I hope your topic has nothing to do with the recent events in India.. Well, I am sure it is not..

      Hehe! When I posted a link to this post on Facebook yesterday, somebody did wonder what Ram Rahim was singing in jail… :-D

      But no, this post was written up a long while back (I completed it around the same time I watched the Sanjeev Kumar starrer Baadal); it was mere coincidence that I published this yesterday. :-) And it never even occurred to me that there was a timeliness to it!


    • Hehe! It’s been ages since I heard this. I remember listening to this (never seeing the original, though) when I was a kid. Delightful. Thanks so much!

      And one bit of branching out, outside Hindi cinema, deserves another. So here’s Elvis singing Jailhouse Rock, from the movie of the same name. Another song I loved as a kid, even though I’d never seen the movie. Not really a prison, but I’m taking a liberty here.


  20. Another a special one , since we are going a bit tangential, this is the Violin interlude from the Final Episode of the BBC series Sherlock Holmes, in a state of art prison..


  21. Nice theme for a list of songs. If you think, the film Aradhana would be a flash back from a prison cell, Sharmila Tagore in her prison cell, in a long flassssh back!!

    I am biased, being a Rajesh Khanna fan!!

    Do anke Bara hath, had some nice songs, and that movie was set in an ‘open’ prison,with Shantaram the Jailor.

    Enjoyed and ended a nice long weekend on a happy note
    Girish Vaidya


    • Thank you! Glad you liked these songs. :-) Do Aankhen Baarah Haath occurred to me only much later (after this post was written) as a possibility – it did have some great songs, and it would’ve been an unusual type of ‘prison’ to include. If Sanjeev Kumar singing while being taken in chains can count, so can some of the songs in that film. I think Umad-ghumadkar aayi re ghata has the prisoners joining in the singing too, though I am not sure.


  22. This beautiful “every daughter’s song” from the film Johny Mera Naam can also make a bid for this list: The theme and picturisation of this song focuses equally on the imprisoned father of Hema Malini although she alone does the singing part.


    • This is such a coincidence. Just as I was logging into my WordPress account, Pagla Kahin Ka occurred to me, and I wondered if any of the songs from that would count. But, on second thought, I don’t think so – because this is really a mental hospital and not a prison, even if there are bars. So no to Ae mere dil yahaan tu akela (no, also, to Tum pukaar lo and Ruk jaa raat thehar jaa re chanda… which gives me an idea for another song list!)


  23. hello,
    finally i came with one song at least!
    bas ek saza hi to hai zindagi from jailor

    also one from Marathi film, Jagachya pathivar…
    Jag he bandishala…. the world is a prison!


    • The song from Jailor had been on my long list, but since I haven’t seen the film (and don’t want to, particularly, since I’ve not heard very good reviews of it), it didn’t really stand a chance of making it to the final list…

      Is it just me, or is the audio for Jag he bandishala not very good? I can barely hear it. :-( But thank you for adding that; I always welcome songs from other languages that fit the theme.


  24. What a um, captivating theme, Madhu. ;-) I’m surprised to see the number of songs that meet the theme criteria. Apparently nothing dissuades characters in a Hindi film from singing. :-)

    Anyway, here’s one that I think hasn’t been mentioned – this one is set in the brig of a ship.
    Hum hain tere deewane gar tu bura na mane – Shabistan/Talat/Geeta/C Ramchandra


    • This is interesting! I’ve heard of this film, but have never got around to even trying to find it. Nice song – and just goes to show, nothing stop people from singing romantic songs, even playful ones. :-)


  25. This is another fine post, and I always enjoy a good prison song! Madhu, among the ones you listed, I guess the Bandini song is my favorite. But there are quite a few good ones in your post and in the comments.

    I have noticed that the Anarkali tale has been the source of a few Indian movies with highly regarded prison songs. But my favorite Anarkali prison song comes from Pakistan. Noor Jehan gets a couple of jail songs in the Pakistani Anarkali (released in 1958, I believe, though this clip says 1957), and the real stunner is “Jaltey Hain Aman.” Noor Jehan’s voice is so wonderful here, and I love the dramatic music (the result of a collaboration between Master Inayat Hussain and Rasheed Attre). And Noor Jehan looks great in this, too!


    • For once, a Pakistani song I have seen before – and I’m pretty sure you were the one who introduced me to it, Richard! Thank you; I do like Jalte hain armaan. Lovely song, and Noorjehan does look beautiful here.

      The Bandini song is my favourite from my list, too. The music is wonderful, and the lyrics are so poignant. Not to mention the picturization, of course…


  26. Madhu,
    This is an interesting theme. Your list included most of my favourites. One great song Mat ro mata has already been added by a reader. But I wonder, why the jailers who allow dancing and singing, some even declaring an intention to commit jailbreak, are not pulled up.


    • “But I wonder, why the jailers who allow dancing and singing, some even declaring an intention to commit jailbreak, are not pulled up.

      I know! Imagine. :-) But the way Hindi cinema plays fast and loose with depictions of just about everything – cops with long hair, doctors diagnosing any and every thing by checking a pulse, and so on – I’m not really surprised.


  27. Madhu ji,

    Such an off-beat and challenging theme. Hats off to commentators who could instantly recall so many related songs. I knew all the songs posted above. But, barring a few, I could not have associated them with prison. I rarely watch movies, but love listening to songs which are the best part of Hindi films. In that sense I found the theme discriminating. The only “music in prison” scene that I could recall was from ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ that I had posted above. If one could include songs in a police van then the following may qualify (it seems no video of Manoranjan song is available on YouTube).

    Yeh do deewane dil ke (Rafi & Manna Dey in Johar Mehmood in Goa; MD: KA)

    Dulhan maike chali (Lata, Asha, Usha, Chorus in Manoranjan; MD: RDB)


    • Thank you for these two songs! Yes, people in prison vans definitely qualify. :-) I had heard Do deewane dil ke before, but not the Manoranjan song. It’s amusing how both songs use the ‘sasuraal/maika‘ theme to refer to prison. :-D


      • Anu if this song qualify, then “Khilona jaan ker tu tau mera dil tod jate ho” also qualifies because here also “there’s no way this man is going anywhere. ;-)”

        Just kidding, I know this song qualifies for mental asylums only:-).


  28. What a contrast Madhu G !!!

    Such a serious kind of a post having d actors in prison
    a very humourous begining of the post saying ,
    “no , this song list isn’t the result of a dear relative landing up in jail ”

    nd so njoyed d post right from the begining.
    Nice selection of d top 10.

    Let me add one more song.

    ” Ye kya Zindagi hai , ye kaisa jahan hai ”
    Kohinoor / 1960 / Lata Mangeshkar / Meena Kumari


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