Ten of my favourite ‘This is what I sell’ songs

When, some weeks back, I posted my list of ten of my favourite ‘This is my work’ songs, several people who didn’t read the introduction to that post got a bit confused and assumed that the post was about people selling things as well as services (the post was about people specifically selling services, not things).

So, to rectify that and to let people post links to all their favourite songs about people selling things, this post. It features all those onscreen vendors of everything from flowers to jewellery to cosmetics to—well, whatever they feel called upon to draw attention to.

As in all my other song compilations, here too the songs are all from pre-1970s films that I’ve seen. Furthermore, I’ve only gone by the basic theme of the song’s lyrics: they should draw attention to something being sold. A detailed description of the item is not necessary, and (to cover some bases in a couple of the songs here), it’s not necessary that the person should actually be a vendor; merely acting as one is sufficient.

Here we go, then. This list is in no particular order.

1. Zindagi hai kya sun meri jaan (Maya, 1961): Ice cream. This song appears first on my list because it was the one I mentioned as an example, in my previous post, of someone selling something. Dev Anand’s character in Maya is a wealthy man who, disillusioned by the greed and materialism of the world he lives in, leaves that world behind and goes to live in a chawl, as an ‘ordinary’ man. There, to make ends meet, he is forced to look for work—and becomes an ice cream vendor. Wheeling an ice cream cart along, he sings this song of how life is (or should be) all about spreading sweetness and love. The love will come to you from the Almighty, he says; let me give you the sweetness. Given the way he freely dispenses the ice cream, even giving it free to those who can’t afford it, he certainly seems to exemplify that message.

2. Chana jor garam babu main laaya (Naya Andaaz, 1956): Roasted chickpeas, peanuts, sugarcane, jalebis. Not one, but several food stuffs are on sale in this song. Meena Kumari and Kishore play two actors who perform onstage, and their performance consists of them using their song to sell various goodies. The song begins with her talking of how good her roasted chickpeas, with a dash of garam masala, are, while he extols the virtues of the delicious peanuts he sells. The next time around, they’re selling completely different things: she’s talking of sweet, cool sugarcane, while he’s taken charge of a sweet stall and is selling jalebis, all filled with the syrup of love: so good that anybody whom you feed them to will fall in love with you.

3. Mera naam Abdul Rehman (Bhai-Bhai, 1956): Pistachios. The same year that he was onscreen singing alongside Meena Kumari to sell all the eatables in the previous song, Kishore Kumar also appeared ‘selling’ other things in this song from  Bhai-Bhai. This too is a performance of sorts: it’s on the street, but Kishore Kumar’s and Nimmi’s characters are performers, not actual sellers of dry fruit and nuts. As they dance and prance about in front of a crowd of eager spectators, they talk of the excellence of their pistas, their almonds and more. ‘Abdul Rehmaniya’ is more inclined to sing of her relationship with her beloved, but ‘Abdul Rehman’ gets the song back on track, back to business. Whoever eats his pistas, whether Muslim or Hindu, Sikh or Christian, will feel their hearts fill with love.

4. Le lo ji hamaare gubbaare pyaare-pyaare (Bandish, 1955): Balloons. From a delightful film about an orphan who latches on to a total stranger, this song is designed to appeal to children. Bhagwan, as a balloon-seller, wanders through the streets, singing to children to buy his colourful, beautiful balloons: yeh dharti ke phool, gagan ke hain taare (‘these are the flowers of the earth, the stars of the sky’). They will be good friends to you, he promises: sit on them, and they’ll float you right away to school (I don’t think I’ve ever known a child, myself included many years ago, who thought something or someone who took you to school counted as a friend).

5. Rang-rangeeli botal ka dekh lo jaadoo (Shriman Satyawadi, 1960): Wrinkle Remover Face Cream. Most ‘This is what I sell’ songs are the songs of the itinerant vendor, the hawker who walks through the streets singing to draw attention to his or her wares. But why should it stop at that? After all, as anybody who watches TV (or reads newspapers, surfs the net, watches cinema) knows, big business too does a lot to advertise its wares.

Rang-rangeeli botal ka dekh lo jaadoo is an example of a song when big business advertises a product. Mehmood, playing a character whose company has produced a wrinkle removing face cream, sings of it at a big bash. Against a backdrop on which Wonder Wrinkle Remover Face Cream is written in fairy lights, dancers dance holding small jars of the face cream. The singer, who sings of how this magic cream will turn the dark fair (yes, Fair and Lovely comes from a long line of racist fairness creams) and turn the aged young and the young fair—also wanders through the upscale diners sitting at the venue, handing out jars of the wonder cream. An interesting example of the crassly commercial side of the ‘buy this!’ song.

6. Laila ki ungliyaan bechoon (Ghar ki Laaj, 1960): Kakdis (Armenian Cucumbers). This absolutely horrible film had the distinction of having not one song but two in which a character uses a song to sell an item. Johnny Walker here plays Babulal Churiwala, who (true to his name) is a bangle-seller. At the beginning of the film, Babulal goes about selling bangles, singing Le lo churiyaan main laaya niraali rangdaar; but later in the story, wandering through town with his girlfriend (played by Sheila Kashmiri), Babulal comes across somebody selling Armenian cucumbers or kakdis.

He immediately jumps in, using the popular poetic call of kakdi vendors in North India, likening the long slim kakdis to Laila’s fingers and Majnun’s ribs. His song is inventive, singing of how Shirin and Farhad couldn’t marry because they never ate his delicious kakdis; he even talks (rather tangentially) of how everyone should turn vegetarian. But my favourite line of his song (written by Rajinder Krishan) is this one, using a brilliant metaphor for the refreshing coolness of kakdis: Pyaas bujhaa lo garmi mein, saawan ki badliyaan bechoon (‘quench your thirst in this heat; I sell the clouds of the monsoon’).

7. Le lo le lo do phooldaani (Jaadoo, 1951): Bouquets. Another performance in which the performers are pretending to be vendors; in this case, what the two ladies are selling are flowers. ‘Phooldaani’, actually, which is usually applied for vases, but I suppose in this case is taken to mean the huge bouquets the two flower-girls are trying to persuade the man to buy. They entice him by listing all the flowers they’ve got: gulaab, nargis, bela, chameli, raat-ki-raani (rose, narcissus, Arabian jasmine, jasmine, night-blooming jasmine). Soon after though the song develops into what seems too obviously double entendre, with each woman begging the man to try out the sweetness of her buds… and he hoodwinks them by leaving them singing and dancing while he makes off with both bouquets.

8. Phoolon ke haar le lo (Inspector, 1956): Garlands. This Shakti Samanta film had Ashok Kumar playing an inspector trying to track down a murder in the red light district of Bombay. Shyam (Ashok Kumar) has come to the conclusion that the culprit is probably a well-heeled frequenter of the kothas, likely to be identified by a distinctive handkerchief he favours. To find out who exactly, he uses a rather hit-or-miss method, which consists of going into each kotha and flicking out the handkerchiefs of the patrons sitting there. All as part of a song and dance: he poses as a seller of garlands, barging into kothas, dancing with the women, and teasing everyone around.

A good, peppy song, as much about the beautiful flowers as about the phoolwaala (from Banaras, and temperamental). And equally as much about the kothas, the dancing girls, and the patrons: alluring, beguiling, but corrupt, deceptive.

9. Le lo churiyaan (Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thhi, 1970): Bangles. Blue, yellow, red, green, azure: the many colours of bangles a bangle-seller offers to a pretty girl. This bangle-seller, however, isn’t really a vendor; like many other suitors in Hindi cinema, Sanjay Khan’s character has merely donned a disguise in order to woo the girl he’s fallen for. As soon as she realizes who he really is, she happily joins in the song, telling the churiwaala how much he means to her, and how much she would like for him to put bangles on her wrist (a symbolic reference to marriage).

10. Le lo ji le lo gudiyaan (Suvarna Sundari, 1958): Dolls. An apsara is banished from the celestial court of Indra and ends up on Earth, befriended by a seller of toys. One day the eponymous Suvarna Sundari takes her friend’s place to sell toys, and does so in style, not merely going around with her handcart full of dolls, but singing and dancing, too. Her song is mostly about her dolls: this one, a doll dressed as a bride, has her ghoonghat pulled down low. This one sways from side to side; this one is lighter than a flower; that one is so delicate, she’ll wither away at a harsh glare. That one clinks her bangles together… a good song which focuses well on the item being sold.

Which songs can you add to the list? Please share!

48 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite ‘This is what I sell’ songs

  1. Great list Madhu! I remember a song from Bachpan – Aya re khilone wala khel khilone le ke aya re – filmed on Sanjeev Kumar.

    Another Abdul Rahman song filmed on Kishore and Sadhana – Ek tha Abdul Rahman from Manmauji – they are definitely selling but there is no mention of their wares in the song.

    • Glad you liked these songs, and thank you for these two songs. I especially like Ek tha Abdul Rehman, even though it doesn’t strictly qualify, since they say nothing about what they’re selling.

  2. Will ‘Dil ka heera’ qualify? Kishore does refer to himself as an ‘asli pheri wala’.

    Kishore Kumar, ‘Are Le Lo Ji Le Lo Hai Yeh Dil Ka Heera Sachcha’ (Half Ticket, 1962)

  3. Madhu,
    Nice list. Three songs were new for me.

    ‘Chakku chhriyan tez kara lo’ I find quite interesting. Jaya Bhaduri does not sell any goods, but sells a service which has gone obsolete. I don’t know if it fits in your list.

    It seems selling bangles was a favourite occupation of our actors. Raj Kapoor did it a bit aggressively in ‘Paapi’ – ‘Choodiyan le le gori’. He tempts the women by telling them they would be like Nargis and Geeta Bali with his bangles.

    But the loveliest is Mumtaz Ali’s ‘Choodi main laya anmol re’ in ‘Achhut Kanya’ ((1936). He is delicate and establishes an easy friendship with the women, which is a must for a bangle-seller.

    AK

  4. This list looks good. Madhu, I understood that your last post was about people who sold services, but I also thought that it might be easier for others to work with a post about people who sold items.

    I am going to have to return to YouTube to view most of the songs that you listed… Although I am very familiar with the song from Bhai-Bhai and also that great number from Jadoo, which was on my list of dances in my old post on Krishna Kumar. (Unfortunately, the clip that I used got dropped by YouTube, and I could not find a replacement anywhere – until now. Thank you!)

    But first, I would like to add my favorite song about someone who sells things (toys, mainly, but quite a few other things, too, while he also entertains children with fatalism and misanthropy):

    • Thank you, Richard. I’m glad you liked these songs – and that you got to see the Jaadoo song again because of it. It’s a pity it’s such poor quality; the movie is an unusual one, and I’d loved to have a better quality print available.

      Tera khilona toota baalak is a song I should have remembered! Thank you for this. What lovely songs Anmol Ghadi had.

  5. What an interesting list! How do you come up with these ideas? And so much research! I can never remember songs for ‘listings’. I do recall songs when my friends are being beasts and I want to indicate my displeasure. For instance, ‘Jab dil hi toot gaya’ by KL Saigal. My friends call me a drama queen for a reason.
    So I will refrain from adding any to the list and say, this is utterly cute! I roared with laughter when I read this, “This absolutely horrible film had the distinction…” So polite even in your condemnation. Have you ever done a list of songs you like to listen to when you work? Or have you already compiled that list (I will also check!)? Or maybe that list would be tooooo long, no?

    • Thank you, Simrita! I’m glad you enjoyed this. This particular theme seems to be fairly popular with bloggers – I know Harvey did one years ago on his blog; Anupji also did this theme some months back, and Anu, in her comment, says she also has a list ready. :-) For me, at least, it’s a question of coming across a particular type of song often enough to be able to guess that I could compile a list of ten songs of that type.

      I don’t listen to songs when I work, because I need complete silence to be able to focus. Other than ambient noise – fan, AC, etc – I cannot focus if there’s anything else.

  6. Nice complement to your previous list, Madhu. :) It’s amazing the number of things our heroes and heroines got to sell, no?

    Here is Tanuja selling ber in Paisa ya Pyar, Ber liyo ber liyo

    Mehmood selling clothes cheaply in Miya Biwi Razi, Main hoon bhola byopaari

    This one from Andher Nagri Choupat Raja

    Then there’s this one I heard a long time ago – couldn’t find the song itself, but it is from a children’s film called Daak Ghar – Mukri selling dahi.

    Daisy Irani selling Gods. From Naag Mohini, Bhagwaan bechne aaya hoon

    Here’s someone selling ‘attar’ from Baap, Henna motia aur khas bechti hoon

    Someone selling revdi – from an obscure film called Zaalim Jaadugar, Laaya revdi kadaakedaar

    … and two competing sellers, excoriating each other’s wares. From Jhumroo, Babu aana sunte jaana

    Raste ka maal saste mein indeed, from Nateeja; Hum albele saudagar

    (As you can see, I had a list of ‘sales’ songs, too. :) )

    • Oh, yes. I was hoping someone would post Lelo re lelo babu naariyaal paani. Talking of coconuts, here’s another song where someone sells coconuts – though other than an opening “Coconut! Coconut!” and some vigorous slashing away at coconuts, Helen doesn’t do anything about trying to sell them. From Ustaadon ke Ustaad, Maine kaha thha aana Sunday ko:

  7. This is an old favourite … though not sung by the seller herself, but perhaps you will consider it? It’s phirki wali after all :)
    O Phirkiwali from Raja aur Rank

  8. I’m sure I know more of these but I can’t remember them now, because the only ones I can think of are the candyman song from Saudagar and one involving coconuts from a movie I can’t remember. The heroine is going around saying she sells coconuts you can drink coconut milk from. Anyway, the conclusion I have drawn from this is that these songs are all euphemistic.

    This might be more of a work song because I can’t remember the exact lyrics, I just remember laughing at its entendres.

    I know of at least two songs about being a thief, though, probably more.

    • “I know of at least two songs about being a thief, though, probably more.

      Yes. Several thief songs were added by readers in the ‘This is my Work’ list. Why a thief should go around proclaiming their profession, I can’t fathom, but whatever floats their boat, I guess.

      Har haseen cheez ka talabgaar doesn’t fit, sorry. The lyrics are about how he needs beauty – he’s not selling flowers, beauty, whatever – he’s needing them.

  9. Enjoyable songs and a nice follow-up to your previous post of Work songs.

    Some inputs from my side from the vintage and golden era:

    Le ja le ja babu ye meri nishani phoolon ki rani main
    Darogaji 1945 – Geeta Dutt – Bulo C Rani

    Le lo le lo le lo gubbare rang birange pyare pyare
    Amardeep 1958 – Sung and composed by C Ramchandra

    Le lo ji le lo paanch panch aane aayenge phir na aise zamane
    Mera Ghar Mere Bachche 1960 – Rafi – Sardar Malik

    Le lo le lo ji le lo tarkari le lo malan to aayi malo des ki
    Dhola Maru 1956 – Asha – S K Pal

    Layi re layi re lo gajre le lo le lo ji
    Nai Kahani 1943 – Manju, G. M. Durrani – Shyam Sunder

    Koi le lo bhaiya taabiz hai mera bade kaam ka
    Meenakshi 1942 – K C Dey – Pankaj Mullick

    Koi le lo le lo main meetha doodh laayi
    Brandy Ki Bottle 1939 – Raj Kumari – Dada Chandekar

    • Very nice! These are such rare songs, most of them. I had come across a few – the one about tarkari and the songs from Amardeep and Brandy ki Bottle – before but the rest were new to me. Thank you.

  10. Halwa wala from Disco Dancer ..not sure if this is an exact fit , but the halwa wala does make a rotund appearance… very rare Khomchewala appearance in films

  11. Here are some more sellers:

    Do Hawaldar 1979
    Usha Mangeshkar – Bappi Lahiri
    Jo bhi chahe aake le le chaar aane me do do kele
    bambai ki mai kele wali

    Sone Ka Dil Lohe Ke Hath 1978
    Rafi – Usha Khanna
    Aaya re aaya khilonewala aaya
    bachhon aao jara dekho main naye khilone laya

    Hatyara 1977 – Kalyanji Anandji – ? Singer
    Raakhi le lo ji le lo

    Aulad 1987
    Usha Mangeshkar – LP
    Raste ka maal saste mein

    Biwi Ho To Aisi 1988
    Alka Yagnik – LP
    Main hoon paanwali bina dukanwali

  12. While working on Songs of 1945, I came across
    Mera Chana Masaledar, Kahata Hum Sabse Lakar – Chhamia – G M Durrani and Chorus -Gyan Dutt

    Similarly, while working on an article on Hemant Kumar, I landed upon
    Yaad Rakhana Pyar Ki Nishani Yaad Rakhan – Nagin (19654- Hemant Kumar, Asha Bhosle
    Pradeep Kumar has taken camouflage of a bangle seller

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