Ten of my favourite male duets

Several years back, to mark International Women’s Day, I’d compiled a list of ten female duets: songs celebrating the friendship between women, women teasing friends, women performers dancing and singing together, women singing a devotional song together… a range of emotions and situations, but all featuring two women singing one song.

Sometime back, blog reader Naghma happened to come upon that post, and suggested I do a list of male duets. A great idea (and one I wondered why I hadn’t thought of). After all, there are plenty of instances of two men singing together: sometimes as friends, more often, it seems, in a competition of sorts. And more. Here, therefore, are ten songs I really like, all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen, which feature two men singing: two actors (at least) onscreen, two playback singers contributing their voices to the song. An important caveat: these songs do not include trios, quartets or more singers; they’re only all duets.

Here goes, in no particular order:

1. Ketaki gulaab juhi champak (Basant Bahaar, 1956): Manna Dey and Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Bharat Bhushan got slotted fairly early on as the classical poet/musician/singer, a historical or otherwise legendary figure with a near-mythical musical talent. Whether he was playing Baaz Bahadur in Rani Rupmati, the eponymous singer in Baiju Bawra or Tansen, or even just a musical character in a period film, like Basant Bahaar or Shabaab: Bharat Bhushan got to lip-sync to some brilliant songs which were designed as face-offs between his character and another. Here, Bharat Bhushan’s character Gopal, singing in the voice of Manna Dey, sings a stunning duet in tandem with another singer, whose voice is that of the maestro, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi. Interestingly, Manna Dey had initially refused to sing this song, arguing that he was not good enough to compete against Joshi; it was Joshi who persuaded him to accept the offer.

2. Ve ki main jooth boleya (Jaagte Raho, 1956): Mohammad Rafi and S Balbir. A peasant, confused, lost and thirsty in the bewilderingly busy and ruthless city, stumbles onto a group of Sikhs in the building he’s entered. As they break into bhangra, they sing a song, commenting on the state of affairs around them: the corruption, the every man-for-himself, the sheer lack of scruples in society. While Hindi cinema has its fair share of Punjabi words and phrases appearing in songs, this is one of the rare examples of an entire song in Punjabi (its lyrics written by Shailendra): hard-hitting and brilliant in its earthy candour. Rafi’s and Balbir’s singing is spot on, since they bring their Punjabiyat to the fore in their rendition of Ve ki main jooth boleya.

3. Jis pyaar mein yeh haal ho (Phir Subaah Hogi, 1958): Mohammad Rafi and Mukesh. There areplenty of songs between sahelis where one woman (typically the heroine’s friend) teases her friend about a lover. The male equivalent is relatively rare; while male characters may chaff their pals about a lady love, they tend not to sing about it. This song is therefore even more of a rarity: not only does Rehman’s character tease his friend (Raj Kapoor) about his love, he does so by barging in on the two lovers. While Mala Sinha’s character is shy (and occasionally amused), her lover is annoyed at this interruption and gives back as good as he gets, making this a delightful song of opposing views, though it’s all in a spirit of camaraderie.

4. Babu samjho ishaare (Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, 1958): Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey. From one of the great comedies of old Hindi cinema comes this gem of a song. Real life brothers Ashok Kumar, Kishore Kumar and Anoop Kumar play onscreen brothers too in a mad romp that includes everything from romance to adventure to some angst—and plenty of hilarity. Here, as the three brothers go on a mad ride, careening through the streets of Bombay (and narrowly avoiding running over several pedestrians), they sing a song of insouciance and joy. Kishore Kumar sings playback for himself while Manna Dey sings playback for both Ashok Kumar as well as Anoop Kumar. Pure fun all the way.

5. Ek chatur naar karke singaar (Padosan, 1968): Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar. Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey sang some great songs together, and the glorious madness (though coupled with great singing by both men) of Babu samjho ishaare comes through in this, probably the most famous of their duets, in another very popular comedy. Personally, I find the lampooning of South Indians in this film distasteful and unfunny, but the songs of the film are very good. Many people—especially the die-hard fans of Manna Dey—find it hard to stomach that Kishore Kumar (singing playback for himself/Sunil Dutt) beats Manna Dey (singing for Mehmood) in a rivalry of classical vocals, but I find it admirable that Manna Dey found it acceptable. It’s a fantastic jugalbandi, as far as I am concerned.

6. Pyaar ka maara hoon main Julie (Private Secretary, 1962): Manna Dey and Mohammad Rafi. I haven’t done any research into this, but it seems to me that Manna Dey and Mohammad Rafi probably led the pack when it came to duets with other male singers—each of them seems to have sung more songs with other men than most of their contemporaries. This song, from a little-known film, its music composed by Dilip Dholakia, has a situation similar to the Padosan set-up: a timid lover, wanting to woo his lady love, asks a more seasoned and confident friend for help. Besides giving the sort of advice Kishore Kumar rendered in Meri pyaari Bindu (butter up the lady!), the pal also sings playback here (as in Mere saamnewaali khidki mein)—but the aspiring lover joins in too.

A little-known song, but a delightfully infectious one.

7. Kaabe mein raho ya Kashi mein (Dharamputra, 1961): Balbir and Mahendra Kapoor. Qawwalis tend to be among the songs that offer most scope for duets between males, and there are several examples of filmi qawwalis which brought together two or more great male playback singers. Here is one, a fine example not only of excellent music (N Dutta) but also meaningful, sensitive lyrics (Sahir Ludhianvi, who else?). Balbir’s voice suits the sherwani-clad qawwal perfectly, and the ‘pandit’, for whom Mahendra Kapoor sings playback, fits well too.  

8. Kaisi haseen aaj bahaaron ki raat (Aadmi, 1968): Mahendra Kapoor and Mohammad Rafi. Mahendra Kapoor was an unabashed fan and imitator of Mohammad Rafi—an aspect of his singing which I think mostly went against him, because his attempting to sing like Rafi generally fell short of Rafi’s more accomplished vocals. When Kapoor was more himself, less trying to be a Rafi clone, he was better (as in Kaabe mein raho ya Kashi mein). Here, Kapoor and Rafi sing in the only song they ever sang together: an unusual onscreen situation that features one man at a piano and another man singing alongside. Dilip Kumar (lip-syncing to Rafi’s voice) is the man serenading his beloved, blissfully unaware that the man she actually loves is his friend (Manoj Kumar, for whom Mahendra Kapoor sings playback). The duet which results has the blinded-by-love man pouring out his heart to the lady, while the other man can only pass oblique hints (oblique enough, at least, to be disregarded by all but the lady) about his misfortune.

Note: This song was recorded in two versions; in both Rafi’s was one of the voices. In the first version, Talat sang playback for Manoj Kumar, but Manoj Kumar is supposed to have made a fuss about it, leading music director Naushad to re-record the song with Mahendra Kapoor. Eventually, this version—with Rafi and Kapoor—was retained in the film.

9. Taaqat watan ki humse hai (Prem Pujari, 1970): Mohammad Rafi and Manna Dey.  War films, while few and far between in Hindi cinema, tend to offer scope for songs by groups of male singers. Most of these, like Phir tumhaari yaad aayi ae sanam or Hoke majboor mujhe usne bhulaaya hoga, or even (in more recent times) Kandhe se milte hain kandhe or Maston ka jhund, tend to feature three or more voices. Taaqat watan ki humse hai is an exception: a marching song sung in two voices, even though the men lip-syncing to Rafi’s and Manna Dey’s voices are several. A good, peppy song that’s pure adrenalin (or testosterone? I don’t know) all through, and pretty patriotic too.

10. Baat chalat nayi chunari rang daali (Rani Rupmati, 1957): Pandit Krishnarao Chonkar and Mohammad Rafi. I began this list with a classical jugalbandi starring Bharat Bhushan as one of the singers onscreen, and with playback being sung for the other actor by a classical vocalist of repute; I’ll end this list in a similar style. Pandit Krishnarao Chonkar, of the Gwalior gharana, here provides vocals for the actor (?) with whom Bharat Bhushan’s music-loving Baaz Bahadur does riyaaz. There is no competition here, no need to show oneself as better than the other—and how superbly Pandit Chonkar and Rafi pull this off, this masterpiece of classical music.

What other songs fit this theme? Please share your favourites!

57 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite male duets

  1. And why didn’t I think of this theme either? :( We seem to be not only thinking alike but not thinking alike, either. :)

    Here are some of my favourite male-male duets:
    Manna Dey-Mohammed Rafi – while Tu hai meri prem devta from Kalpana is not only a personal favourite but a fabulous composition, there’s also the funny Muh se mat laga ye cheez hai buri from Johnny Walker.

    Here’s a gorgeous Talat-Rafi duet from an obscure film called SushilaGham ki andheri raat mein.

    Rafi again, this time with Chitalkar, in the droll Haseenon ki gadi mein aashiq ka ghoda from Sagaaii

    Mukesh and Kishore singing Haal chaal theek thaak hai from Mere Apne

    Kishore with SK Bhattacharya singing Hum the woh thi from Chalti ka Naam Gaadi

    • I’m glad you enjoyed this, Anu. Yes, why didn’t either of us think of doing this list?!

      Thank you for the songs you posted – especially Hum thhe woh thhi (because I like it, and also because I didn’t know the name of the second singer – I always thought that was Anoop Kumar himself). Also thank you for Gham ki andheri raat; I hadn’t heard that song in years, and had forgotten how lovely it is.

  2. Nice post!! Here are 2 songs..

    Rafi and Manna Dey from Abhilasha. Ek Janib Sham E Mehfil

    Kishore Kumar and Manna Dey from Sholay – Yeh Dosti

    • Thank you, Usha! I’m so glad you posted these songs – Ek jaanib sham-e-mehfil was on my shortlist, so I’m especially happy to see that. And Yeh dosti is possibly my favourite 70s male duet.

  3. Oh man. I know so many songs for this theme but I can’t think of any pre-1970 ones, probably because the heyday of super gay male duets started in the 70s.

    I guess there’s that song from Padosan but I don’t like that, so.

    • Oh, but you’re welcome to post songs from after the 60s! I don’t mind readers bunging in songs from non-Hindi films, and from beyond my timeline. Those are only my restrictions on myself.

      • Okay! Get ready for some homoeroticism. Although I noticed while preparing this list, there’s a surprising number that have a verse or so from someone else. There’s one from Maha Sangram that has a verse from hjira which only makes it gayer but also disqualifies it for this list. Sadly embedding is off for like half of these but I swear they are all worth it.

        In my opinion, gayer than Yeh Dosti: Diye Jalte Hain from Namak Haram

        Speaking of which:

        Milder flavour in Bade Maze Se Guzar Jaayegi from Chor Sipahee:

        Another legendary one, Saat Ajoobe Iss Duniya Mein from Dharam Veer:

        It has an interjection and some background vocals but I don’t think that counts, Ding Dong Baba Sing Song from Do Qaidi (one of my all time favourites because of the song parodies):

        Moving into the modern era, something potent in Yeh Dosti Tere Dum Se from Dosti:

        Just when you think you’ve seen it all, shirtless mud wrestling in Jahn-E-Ishqa (Gunday):

        Finally, just be happy Do U Wanna Partner is disqualified because it has a hook sung by a woman.

        • Wow! That’s quite a list. I must admit there were only a handful of songs there that I was familiar with – the ones from the 70s, mostly. But this lot just goes to show how important the bromance is to Hindi cinema….

  4. Very good post!
    Enjoyed all the songs, nearly all were known.
    At the moment, I can think of

    Watan ki raah mein from Shaheed

    Ye desh hai veer jawanon ka, though it’s a duet, both lip sync to Rafi. Probably not suitable on the list.

  5. Dear Madhuji,

    Great Topic. Next on your list should be more than 2 singers.

    Subject to your approval, I would like to add the following :

    यह देश है वीर जवानो का from NAYA DAUR

    मामा ओ मामा from PARVARISH

    आज गावत मन मेरो झूमके from BAIJU BAWRA

    Pl keep them coming.

    With warm regards

    PARTHA CHANDA

  6. A unique theme and a great list of songs, Madhuji! I think the song from Jaagte Raho is written by Prem Dhawan. This is the only song Prem Dhawan wrote for this movie.
    The two songs I want to add are :-
    1) Usko Nahin Dekha Humne Kabhi from Daadi Maa (1966) – Mahendra Kapoor and Manna Dey

    2) Do Bechare Bina Sahaare from Victoria No. 203 (1972) – Kishore Kumar and Mahendra Kapoor https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lit2NH7cFDQ
    and
    3) Huzoor Is Kadar Bhi Na Itraake Chaliye from Masoom (1983) – Bhupinder Singh and Suresh Wadkar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wM1kBO2lrYQ

  7. Thanks Madhu for a very interesting post, as usual. One popular song we sang a lot as kids at picnics or just for fun – Johar Mehmood in Goa – Ye do deewane dil ke.

  8. Nice post! On a theme with many great songs
    I love all the songs you have chosen, some of which heard for the first time

    Here are some more:

    – Ho ke majboor mujhe usne bhulaya hoga (Haqeeqat)
    – Gham kee andheri raat mein dil ko na beqarar kar (Susheela)
    – Phir tumhari yaad aayi ai sanam (Rustam Sohrab)
    – Do bechare bina sahare (Victoria No 203)
    – Yamma yamma yeh khoobsurat sama (Shaan)
    – Sa re ga ma (Chupke Chupke)
    – Maama o Maama o pyare pyare Maama (old Parvarish)
    – Hum premi prem karna jaane (new Parvarish)
    – Saat ajoobe is duniya mein (Dharam Veer)
    – Anhonee ko honi kar de (Amar Akbar Anthony)

    • Thanks. Some of the songs you mention do fit this theme, but several don’t – Phir tumhaari yaad aayi ae sanam and Hoke majboor, for instance, are sung by more than two people. So they’re not duets. There’s a separate post on my blog featuring trios, quartets, and more.

  9. Hello Madhuji
    Another delightful write up from your stable.
    All the songs you have selected are lovely..
    I love the mischievous banter between RK and Rehman in the song from Phir Subah Hogi the most..
    While on the subject, I thought there is a song in the film Pooja (1954) sung by Md Rafi and someone… So, I looked up youtube and found the link as follows..
    The duo is Md Rafi and Master Krishnarao

    But there is no video..
    Thanks once again for the nice article.
    Rajendra Joshi

  10. Fun theme, Madhu! You’ve included some of my favorite male duets in your list, but I have many more that I like, such as:

    Waqif hoon khoob ishq ke taraz_e_bayan & Ab aise mein tujhko dhoondh ke laon -Bahu Begum/Roshan/Rafi-Manna Dey/Sahir Ludhianvi

    And this is probably the first duet by Rafi & Kishore.
    Kahin se unchi kahin se neechi – Malkin/Roshan/Kishore-Rafi/Rajendra Krishen

    Before “yeh dosti” there was this ode to male bonding. I actually like it better than the Sholay song.
    Dekho hum dono ki yaari kya kehna – Double Cross/ RD Burman/Bhupendra – Kishore/Majrooh Sultanpuri

    And finally, Manna Dey and Kishore Kumar have a ball trying out different voices in this hilarious song.
    Tak dhin tak dhin tak – Khalifa/RD Burman/Kishore – Manna Dey/Gulshan Bawra

    • I’m glad you liked this, Shalini! Thank you, and for the songs – the Bahu Begum ones were on my shortlist, so I’m especially happy to see them. The Khalifa song made me burst out laughing; I’d never heard it before, and the suddenness of that Lara lappa was hilarious! :-)

  11. An enjoyable post with a nice selection of songs!
    There have been plenty of male duets or bromance songs from the 70s onwards.

    I have a question though about the Padosan song as to whether it is technically a duet or not as Mehmood also speaks some lines and is usually mentioned in the credits of the song. He is also listed as a playback singer in the film’s credits.

    Contributing some songs related to the theme:
    Jo diya tha tumne ek din – Sumbandh (1969) – Mahendra, Hemant ( though Hemant da only sings a few lines)

    Yaaro surat humari pe mat jao – Ujala (1959) – Rafi, Mukesh

    Ye haseen bambai – Holiday in Bombay (1963) – Mukesh, Mahendra

    Yaadon ki baraat nikli hai aaj – Yaadon KI Baraat (1973) – Kishore, Rafi

    Golmaal hai bhai sab golmaal hai – Golmaal (1979) – RD Burman, Sapan Chakraborthy

    • Thank you so much – you’ve posted some really good songs!

      As for the Padosan song, while Mehmood does speak some lines, he doesn’t sing them, so I prefer to think of it as a duet. ;-)

  12. USNE KAHA THA – Chalte Hi Jaana – Manna Dey and Mohd. Rafi

    UMANG – Aaja Pyaare – Mahendra Kapoor, Kishore Kumar

    AB DILLI DOOR NAHIN – Bhej Chhana Chhan – Mohd. Rafi, S. Balbir

    AKELI MAT JAIYO – Chal Chal Chal Mere Dil – Mukesh, Johnny Whisky (I don’t think one can call it a duet though, but Johnny Whisky lends his voice to the puppet carried by Rajendra Kumar)

    AROUND THE WORLD – Aao Aate Kyun Nahin, Jaao Jaate Kyun Nahin – Manna Dey, Mohd. Rafi

    BHABHI – Mautanki “Laila Majnu” – Manna Dey, S. Balbir

    HANSTE ZAKHM – Yeh Maana Meri Jaan – Mohd. Rafi, S. Balbir (Chorus involed though)

    KHATTA MEETHA – Frenny O Frenny – Shailendra Singh, Amit Kumar

    MAACHIS – Chappa Chappa Charkha Chale – Hariharan, Sudesh Wadkar

    NAYA ANDAZ – Duniya Ke Bazaar Mein – Mohd. Rafi, Kishore Kumar

    PARWANA – Yun Na Sharma Phaila De APni Gori Gori Baahen – Kishore Kumar, Mohd. Rafi

    • That’s quite a collection! Thank you. Some of these songs I hadn’t heard before, and some I had heard so long before, I’d forgotten them – or forgotten that they were duets.

  13. Thanks Madhuji, for the post. Am bit surprised, that you hadn’t thought this theme, while compiling female duets list.
    Want to add one Rafi Mukesh song from Do Jasoos.

  14. This has always been an interesting blog. I read our lists as well as your reviews with great interest.
    Now here is an unexpected duet from Kohinoor. Along with Rafi, there is another singer, one of the finest classical singers from forties and fifties who adds some amazing taans in the interlude, picturised on Mukri. Unfortunately he was not given any credit and the song is invariably presented as a Rafi solo.
    Question for the followers of the blog- who is the second singer?

  15. Big B was part of many such duets in the 70s and early 80s.
    Some are posted already, here are few more:
    Darbar mein uparwale ke – Hera Pheri – Kishore, Mahendra

    Ek rasta aaha aaha – Ram Balram – Rafi, Kishore

    Bane chahe dushman zamana hamara – Dostana – Rafi, Kishore

    And one song from the 80s sung by Kishore and SPB and picturized on my two favorite actors – Rishi Kapoor and Kamal Haasan. Looks like they had a blast picturizing this song
    Yun hi gaate raho muskurate raho – Saagar

    • Oh, yes. Bachchan acted in so many of these movies where he was paired with another male superstar, so these male duets were not uncommon in his films. Thanks for these, and for the Saagar one – I like that one! Here’s another Rishi Kapoor one, Tera jalwa tauba hai with Rakesh Roshan, with Rafi and Kishore singing playback.

      • Aap Ke Deewane had some enjoyable songs. The film was also good in parts, though had the typical scenes of the 80s.
        Here’s another Rafi-Kishore duet from the film- Tumko khush dekh kar main bahut khush hua

        And one more Rafi-Kishore song featuring Rishi Kapoor again, this time with Jeetendra, while heroine is same Tina Munim.
        Mere dildaar ka baankpan allah allah – Deedar-e-Yaar

  16. What a fun post! I love the Kishore Kumar- Manna Dey duets! <3

    I see I am late to the party and a lot of songs I wanted to share are already here but my favourite duet which came to my head the instant I started reading the post was, the Sa Re Ga Ma song from Chupke Chupke. For me the song captured the amazing comradeship and comfort the two characters shared, which would result in amazing hilarity, and quirky situations. Oh, how much I love this movie.

    Thanks for the post!

  17. Late to the party , but here are a couple of male duets (there do seem to be innumerable of them!)

    Haathon ki chand lakeeron ka , from Vidhata, sung by Suresh Wadkar and Anwar.
    Also a pleasure to watch Dilip Sa’ab and Shammi Ji in this

  18. ‘Kaisi haseen aaj baharon ki raat hai’ is my favourite too. Especially the Talat-Rafi one. Those silky vibrations in Talat’s voice can be experienced clearly in this song.

    One comes to my mind is ‘Tu muze suna, mein tuze sunau’ from ‘Chandani’. I won’t accuse this one of extraordinary lyrics but there is some magic which I can’t put it in words. Of course 2 good actors and fresh picturization always help.

    Then there is delightful ‘Halchal thikthak hai’ from ‘ Mere Apne’

    Would ‘Yeh desh hai veer jawano ka’ qualify? It has slight chorus but essentially it is a duet.

    • I have to admit the Chandni song was new to me. But Haal-chaal theek thaak hai is a very good duet, as is Yeh desh hai veer jawaanon ka. The latter, in fact, was on my shortlist for this post; I dropped it only because I’d featured it on several song lists recently.

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