Ten of my favourite Minoo Mumtaz Songs

The vivacious Minoo Mumtaz is gone. She passed away, at the age of 80, on October 23.

Minoo Mumtaz, who invariably got slotted in supporting actress roles, sometimes as the heroine’s friend (Akeli Mat Jaiyo), often as the vamp (Bank Manager, Mai Baap), but who was just as often to be seen only in a cameo as a dancer (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, Naya Daur, Jahanara). And who, to her credit, also appeared in leading roles (Black Cat is the one that comes most readily to mind, in which she was paired with no less than Balraj Sahni). It’s a pity that the news article I read started off (even in its headline) by referring to her as Mehmood’s sister; while Mehmood may be more well-known to the general populace, Minoo Mumtaz was not to be sneezed at—but you can read more about that at this wonderful little tribute  Richard posted over at his blog.

I will, instead, restrict myself to what the title of this blog post indicates: a list of ten songs that feature Minoo Mumtaz. Some are dances, some are not. Some have only her lip-syncing to the song, some have other people too joining in. But all feature, in ways that make me remember her, Minoo Mumtaz.

As always, these songs are all from pre-70s Hindi cinema, and are in no particular order.

1. Boojh mera kya naanv re (CID, 1956): This is the first Minoo Mumtaz song I ever saw—from the very first Hindi film I recall watching. I was perhaps eight or nine years old when my parents took me to a cinema hall to watch CID, and I remember being enthralled when this song came on. There’s lots to love about the picturization of this song, from the way the women’s hands beat on the water in time to the music, to the chemistry between Dev Anand and Shakila. And, ruling over it all, Minoo Mumtaz as the coquettish, bold village girl who teases these two not-yet-lovers from the city.

2. Jaanu jaanu ri kahe khanke hai (Insaan Jaag Utha, 1959): Placed in an unusual setting (the construction site of the Nagarjuna Sagar Dam), Insaan Jaag Utha had some wonderful songs, most set in and around the construction site. This one, where two sahelis, played by Madhubala and Minoo Mumtaz, tease each other about their beaus, is my favourite. It’s dusty, the girls are not glamorous, and those oversized tires do not provide an especially romantic backdrop; and yet, the effervescence, the fun and playfulness in this song, make it a classic one. Interestingly, there’s a story about how SD Burman, in trying to figure out the beats of the tune, actually measured the distance between the tires, so that the picturization would fit with the tune.

3. Thodi der ke liye mere ho jaao (Akeli Mat Jaiyo, 1963): Akeli Mat Jaiyo was one of those films I’ve watched just because of one song. It turned out to be a pretty idiotic film otherwise, but Minoo Mumtaz, playing the role of the heroine’s friend, at least did not disappoint. I find it refreshing that the heroine’s friend is a ‘Western’ dancer (or faux Arab dancer?) in a club—and it doesn’t take away from the fact that she’s a ‘good girl’. The music (Madan Mohan’s) and the rendition (Asha Bhonsle’s) are superb, but a good bit of the seductive sultriness of this song owes itself to Minoo Mumtaz, who does it brilliantly, running the gamut from mysterious to bold, to vivacious to teasing.

4. Jab-jab tumhe bhulaaya (Jahanara, 1964): As good as she was doing a somewhat exotic (in the sense of non-indigenous) dance in Akeli Mat Jaiyo, so was Minoo Mumtaz superb at Indian dance forms, including the hybrid versions, dominated by (I think) Kathak, that were so common in Hindi cinema. In this period film centred round the Mughal princess Jahanara (played by Mala Sinha), Minoo Mumtaz appears in a dance along with a very young Aruna Irani. The energy and the verve are striking as these two women dance up a storm at court. I love the contrast between Minoo Mumtaz’s somewhat more mature, assured beauty, and Aruna Irani’s girlish prettiness.

5. Chaandi ka badan sone ki nazar (Taj Mahal, 1963): Another Mughal period film, which also featured Minoo Mumtaz. Here, in one of the greatest qawwalis of Hindi cinema, Minoo Mumtaz is paired with Jeevan Kala, the two women forming the leads of a women’s qawwali ‘team’ as they exchange banter with their male counterparts. The men’s teasing flirting and the women’s sharp put-downs, all in the spirit of the song, are delightful. In a somewhat unusual departure from the norm for qawwalis, the women get up and dance too, but I guess that’s partly a way of taking advantage of Minoo Mumtaz’s dancing abilities.

6. Saba se yeh keh do (Bank Manager, 1959): For those who know Minoo Mumtaz primarily as a dancer, this song may come as a surprise. Not only does she not dance a single step here, she barely even moves as she stands, demure and beautiful, reciting a poem at a mushaira. I was taken aback, and impressed, when I first saw this song, without knowing the context of it: this gentle, genteel shaayara was not the onscreen persona of Minoo Mumtaz I was familiar with. It took a viewing of the film to understand that her character here is actually playing a role, pretending to be someone she isn’t, in love with someone she’s out to ruin.

But oh, what a lovely song. How melodious and elegant. As is Minoo Mumtaz.

7. Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam, 1962): Contrast Minoo Mumtaz in this song with her in Saba se yeh keh do and you realize how underrated an actress she was. Here, as the naachnewaali, she is brash, brassy and bold: there is none of the softness and sweetness (even if fake) of the shaayara of Saba se yeh keh do. If anything, here, she is almost predatory as the vamp, bold in her assertiveness of her own beauty and sexuality.

Minoo Mumtaz was one of Guru Dutt’s regulars; she appears in most of his films, even if only in a cameo. In Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi, everything is uniformly unforgettable. The cinematography so exquisite (the other dancers are almost completely in the shadows), the acting so good, the scene and setting so evocative, and yet Minoo Mumtaz holds her own, stays centrestage.

8. Main tumhi se poochhti hoon (Black Cat, 1959): On the blog post at Richard’s blog, about which I wrote in the introduction to this list, I commented briefly about why I think Minoo Mumtaz appealed to so many people. I think it’s because she’s not precisely perfect when it comes to beauty: her face is perhaps too broad and her jaw too square, her lips too thin for her to be considered one of those classic beauties. She’s very striking, I think, rather than conventionally beautiful, and that somehow makes her less intimidating and more approachable—when she’s acting as the ‘good’ girl. (As you can see in Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi, when she sets out to act all vampish, she is very good at that!)

Here, in one of her (rare?) roles as a leading lady, Minoo Mumtaz sings a romantic song, singing of her love to her sweetheart. In a very forgettable B-grade thriller by NA Ansari, this song was probably the main highlight.

9. Dil ki kahaani rang laayi hai (Chaudhvin ka Chaand, 1960): Another Guru Dutt film, and another mujra picturized on Minoo Mumtaz. As in Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi, here too she is the daring dancer and singer. But in Dil ki kahaani rang laayi hai, the lyrics are more about the dilemma the hero (played by Guru Dutt) is facing, and Minoo Mumtaz’s expressions, her general tone, is somehow less predatory than in Saaqiya aaj mujhe neend nahin aayegi: she comes across as somewhat understanding, perhaps even mildly sympathetic, a woman who’s looking on at this man, torn as he is, and trying to hold up a mirror to him—even though this dance and song are a part of her job, nothing else.

10. Gora rang chunariya kaali (Howrah Bridge, 1958): And, given that most people today seem to associate Minoo Mumtaz only with her being Mehmood’s sister, a song that features the two of them. Madhubala’s Edna, looking for a place to shelter, happens to take refuge in a crowded garage, where a new car is being heralded. The two dancers who lead the group are played by Mehmood and Minoo Mumtaz, and they show the Mumtaz Ali genes: their father, after all, was one of the great male dancers of Hindi cinema. A playful, joyous song, and the boisterous Punjabiyat of it is really brought alive by the brother and sister pair, who match each other well in being pretty uninhibited.

RIP, Minoo Mumtaz. Thank you for the cinema.

30 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite Minoo Mumtaz Songs

  1. A fitting tribute.
    She was pretty in a slightly matronly way but for me her attraction was in her very apparent and inherent ‘niceness’.
    So much so she was not really convincing in vampish characters.
    May be this decency was a product of a bygone era.
    RIP.

    • I agree with you, Minoo Mumtaz had an apparent and inherent niceness about her – she came across as unassuming and approachable. I think for me personally that was reinforced in the delightful interview of hers that AK posted on his blog some years back.

  2. Are you surprised that our lists not only overlap (by almost 90 per cent) but even our screenshots are relatively similar? :)

    I knew you would write a tribute to Minoo Mumtaz, but I hadn’t watched any of her films as a heroine, so I decided to let the chips fall where they may. But even I didn’t think we would pick almost the same songs. :) :) Thank heavens we didn’t also write the same things!

  3. Saying she was his sister is the most annoying thing to say about her. And that’s aside from the fact that I like her better. Anyway, not someone I’ve sought out on her own (although maybe I should) but always love her when she pops up in something.

    Dance wise, I think her gestures are slightly imperfect but I really like her footwork which I think is very, very good.

    • I hadn’t thought of it, but yes, her footwork is really good.

      As for Mehmood, I have liked him in only a very, very few films. He could be good (if the script and the director were good), but he could also be mind-bogglingly irritating. Minoo Mumtaz was definitely better; it’s so unfair that she never made it as big as Mehmood did.

  4. Beautiful selection of songs. Always remember doordarshan and sundays for the old hindi film slot. Thank you for the nice review.
    Girish Vaidya

  5. Madhu, thank you for linking to my post, and many thanks for the nice words! But you did the good kind of work that I avoided in my tribute this time :) , selecting some of the best songs, screen-capping them and linking to them, and writing great descriptions. (Oh, and Anu did that too!) I did post a screen cap from one of Minoo’s mujras for the top picture of my post… I didn’t credit it, but since it is one that neither you nor Anu included, I’ll add it here. This is from Anjaan (1956). And I particularly felt inspired to add this after you and Popka Superstar commented on her good footwork. There is a nice close-up of that near the end, interchanged with the most hilarious admiring expressions from Johnny Walker. He was definitely funnier than Mehmood.

    But I don’t mean to slight Mehmood too much… I didn’t mind him that much in the films that I saw him in – though I didn’t see him in many. As you mentioned in your selection number 10, he also took after his father in terms of being able to dance well. (But was it all genes or also the fact that their father taught them? As the saying goes – “nature or nurture”? I tend to believe more in the latter.) Right now, I am thinking of another film, Mastana (1970), in which he is paired in two dances with Padmini. His dances are deliberately comedic – so often kind of silly – but he also kept up with Padmini surprisingly well. (And, by the way, I shared a copy of one of those dances tonight on Facebook.)

    • Thank you for posting Yeh duniya badi bewafa ho gayi – it’s been a long time since I watched Anjaan (and I have to admit I’ve forgotten it pretty much completely), so this was nice to see. And her footwork is good!

      I have seen Mehmood in many roles, in many films. In some (Pyaar Kiye Jaa stands out for me), he’s excellent. In many others, I find him very irritating – but, given that he could actually be very good too, I have a feeling that his irritating turns are a result of him being typecast as a buffoon. When the script writer and director have a somewhat refined sense of humour, Mehmood can be very good. I agree with you that his and Minoo Mumtaz’s prowess as dancers is probably more to do with the ‘nurture’ aspect than the ‘nature’ one.

      I saw a still of the song from Mastana. Padmini with fake buck teeth, was it? That was enough to put me off not watching it. :-)

      • You’re welcome – happy to bring that song back to mind for you!

        Regarding Padmini in the dance in Mastana… I think you are referring to the picture that appears at the front of the video? I think that this picture just didn’t come out right. No, I don’t think Padmini is wearing fake buck teeth. But she is eating something during the dance – berries, I think. It fits the scene and the dance. This dance with Mehmood is far from a formal classical affair. But she performs it marvelously (as usual), considering.

  6. Very nice tribute! I liked all the songs that you have posted specially “Main tumhi se poochhti hoon”. It is one of my favorite songs. I watched the movie just for that song.

  7. Nice tribute, Madhu. You and Anu really must have a telepathic connection. :-) As I mentioned on her blog, great set of songs! Indeed, between the two of you, you’ve covered almost all of my favorite songs featuring Minoo Mumtaz – save one.

    Years ago, I chased a gorgeous Lata-Rafi duet into an obscure movie titled Nadir Shah and was rewarded with a lovely dance performance by Minoo Mumtaz to go with the beautiful music.

    Mohammed Shah rangeele re sajna – Nadir Shah/S.N. Tripathi/ Lata Mangeshkar – Mohammed Rafi/Majrooh Sultanpuri

    • Thank you, Shalini – both for the appreciation, and for Mohammad Shah hai rangeela. I watched Nadir Shah earlier this year, and mostly because of this song (though I did also want to see how they would translate to screen the historic incident of Nadir Shah’s invasion – stupid me, I had hoped for some real historicity there!)

  8. Hello,
    Commenting late as I was preparing my own post on Minoo Mumtaz.
    I uploaded it yesterday. Many of the songs overlapped, but I think it’s too obvious. Still I could highlight a few more in my post. As you know I’m bad at shortlisting songs.

    I’ll add one of my favourite Mujra,

    Tumhari Qasam Tum Bahut Yaad Aaye

    • Thank you so much for this song, Anupji! I haven’t seen Gaban, and I don’t recall having seen this song earlier either. Very nice. I must go and check out your list too.

  9. I guess it is a typical Indian trait of celebrating the leading lights of Indian cinema while ignoring the rest. Minoo Mumtaz was a name I was familiar with but did not recognise her as such in many song sequences whereas Mehmood was one name easily seen and recognised. A posthumous salute to this talented lady and thanks to you for helping us to get to know Minoo Mumtaz.

  10. A well-written and apt tribute!! Minoo Mumtaz had a distinctive and appealing screen presence and regaled us with many wonderful dances and songs.
    I understand from the comments that many have written well-deserved tributes to her. Hope to read them too.

    You have all the usual favorites in the list, barring Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka.
    I would like to add two lesser known ones from films that I had recently seen.
    Dhake Ki malmal mangana balam ji – Dushman (1957)

    And one with my favorite 60s hero, Shammi Kapoor, I like her dance here.
    Ukkad dukkad bamba – Basant (1960)

    She also acted in a Marathi film Ranglya Raatri Asha, in which she had 3 Hindi songs picturized on her.
    Here’s one – tere waade bhi sapne dikhate rahe

    May she rest in peace!!

    • Thank you so much for these! I had got Reshmi salwar kurta jaali ka on my shortlist, but these other songs had slipped my memory (and of course, I didn’t know the songs from Ranglya Ratri Asha. I find it interesting that there should be Hindi songs in non-Hindi films. Of course, this isn’t the only such example; there is a Helen song in Hindi in a Bengali film, Gali Theke Rajpath, and even in Satyajit Ray’s classic Jalsaghar, there are performances in Hindustani.

  11. Minoo Mumtaz’s demise couldn’t gather news as I myself have come to know it through this article of yours only. You have jotted down the all time great songs featuring her. Most of them are my favourites. Great job indeed. Hearty thanks and compliments to you. And may the soul of the highly underrated artiste named as Minoo Mumtaz rest in peace.

    • Yes, it’s such a shame that her passing away was barely even mentioned, let alone prominently enough to make an impression.

      Glad you liked this post, thank you so much!

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