Ten of my favourite spooky songs

Some days back, I watched A Shamshir’s Woh Koi Aur Hoga (1967), starring Mumtaz, Feroz Khan, and Sohrab Modi. It turned out to be one of the most incoherent and illogical films I’d ever seen: Sohrab Modi’s character, a professor, is drugged (by Asit Sen in yellowface, a Chinese villain pretending to be the professor’s Indian servant) and made to do the dirty work of the Chinese: that is, inject hapless victims with something that will drain the blood from their bodies. The corpses are then covered with wax and sold off as mannequins to the wealthy gullible who want realistic-looking statues in their homes (and are possibly not averse to the frightful stench).

But, digressions aside: there was also, in the film, Mumtaz. Wearing a shimmery white dress and roaming about the hills at night, singing a sad song. Repeatedly.

Watching Ae raat ke andhere mujhko gale lagaa le, I was reminded of many other songs with a similar premise: a ghostly figure (invariably female), wandering about in the night and singing a signature spooky song. There is often an echo, sometimes other props, something else perhaps to suggest darkness, mystery, ghosts.

So, without further ado, my top ten list of such songs. As always, these are all from pre-1970s Hindi films that I’ve seen. In no particular order:

1. Ae raat ke andhere mujhko gale lagaa le (Woh Koi Aur Hoga, 1967): Given that this song was the one which prompted this post, it’s worth beginning the list with Ae raat ke andhere. Usha Khanna’s music and Asad Bhopali’s lyrics come together in a pleasant song. Asha Bhonsle’s voice is lovely, clear and bell-like when it’s not being obscured by some rather irritating sound effects that are supposed to suggest spookiness. And Mumu makes for a very pretty ghostly figure.

2. Mere mehboob na jaa aaj ki raat na jaa (Noor Mahal, 1965): Before we move on to the somewhat more coherent films, another one that didn’t quite hit the mark. Noor Mahal, with Jagdeep as hero, really had only thing memorable about it (or memorable in a good way): Mere mehboob na jaa. Chitra, as the white-clad female, wandering through a ruined haveli with a candle in her hand, lip-syncs to the voice of Suman Kalyanpur. This iconic song, by the way, was the work of a composer who is pretty much forgotten now: Jani Babu Qawwal. Jagdeep’s reactions are more comical than anything else, but the song itself is lovely.

3. Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh haseen raat (Woh Kaun Thi?, 1964): And now it’s time for one of my favourite songs, irrespective of genre, singer, composer, actor, anything: for me, Lag jaa gale is one of those rare songs that manages to tick every single box. Madan Mohan’s music is impeccable, Raja Medhi Ali Khan’s words, of a moment that must be snatched out of eternity, are superb. Lata’s rendition is perfect, and Sadhana is gloriously lovely. But she is, all said and done, playing a spooky woman, a very spooky one indeed. This woman wanders around in graveyards, gates opening and shutting mysteriously where she walks. She claims to like blood, and can see through thick fog. And yet: there is about her an allure that the man she sings to cannot possibly resist.

4. Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat (Kohra, 1964): Based on Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, this was a story of a timid, newly married young woman trying to settle into her intimidating new home—a home which is still dominated by the larger-than-life, very glamorous shadow of her husband’s first wife, a woman who died in mysterious circumstances. Jhoom-jhoom dhalti raat appears in two versions, one as the drunken and melancholic plaint, shown as a flashback in the life of the dead woman; and again, drifting through the air, filling the mansion, as Waheeda Rehman’s terrified character stumbles about, trying to escape… what? It is this, the latter version, that I find especially spooky. The picturization is excellent, what with those curtains billowing in the breeze, the wraith of a white-clad woman drifting along, and Waheeda’s expressions, conveying her terror so well.

I love the music (Hemant’s) and the echoing, haunting tones of Lata’s voice. Plus, the sound effects: the deep booming, so foreboding; and the brilliantly placed silences, hanging suspensefully in the air.

5. Kahin deep jale kahin din (Bees Saal Baad, 1962): Two years before they co-starred in Kohra, Waheeda Rehman and Biswajeet had worked together in Biswajeet’s debut Hindi film, Bees Saal Baad, a Hindi remake of the Bengali Jighansha (which, in turn, was an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles). Here, the tables were turned: instead of being the young woman frightened out of her wits by an apparition, Waheeda’s character was the one singing the spooky song. Making her way through stretches of dense, high grasses, her voice echoing eerily as she sings her song. Very atmospheric and very good.

6. Har tukda mere dil ka deta hai duhaayi (Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, 1966): Biswajeet again, intrigued by a mysterious woman who sings a lonely song. Personally, my top song from Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi is the beautifully melodious Yehi woh jagah hai yehi woh fizaayein, which does have an element of spookiness about its lyrics (the implication of reincarnation and love-across-multiple-lives is creepy), but more apt for this list is Har tudka mere dil ka. It’s a somewhat unusual song, too, in that the woman in this case isn’t alone: she’s on a raft, being taken across a lake by a boatman, no less.

7. Aayega aanewaala (Mahal, 1949): The name of Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi was derived from a song that was part of probably the first ‘supernatural suspense’ film in Hindi cinema: Mahal, which began (? I’m guessing) the trend of mysterious females flitting about and singing songs. Madhubala, like a precursor to Sharmila Tagore’s character form Yeh Raat Phir Na Aayegi, sings of a love that transcends lifetimes, which endures through birth and rebirth… an emotion that comes through impactfully in the hauntingly beautiful Aayega aanewaala, a song I’ve written about time and again on this blog. Khemchand Prakash’s music is wonderful, Lata’s voice sublime, and what really adds to the song are the little details in both audio as well as visual: the clock booming out midnight; the swing, empty; the cat scurrying away.  

8. Akele hain chale aao (Raaz, 1967): Rajesh Khanna’s first hit film, Raaz had this very popular song in two versions, male (Rafi) and female (Lata). In the first version (the female one) that appears in the film, Babita’s character is clad (of course) in white and sings of a lost love for which she aches à la pretty much every other female character in this list. She comes across as the quintessential mysterious female, though as the film unfolds, you realize it’s not this woman who’s odd, it’s Rajesh Khanna’s character: he has a past that seems very mysterious indeed.

9. Saathi re tujh bin jiya udaas re (Poonam ki Raat, 1965): Like Biswajeet, Manoj Kumar too acted in several suspense films that had a mysterious female thrown into the mix. Poonam ki Raat, not as well-known (or well-made) as Woh Kaun Thi?, Anita, or Gumnaam, had his character staying as a house guest at a grand haveli ruled by an imperious and rather nasty old invalid. On his very first night, the visitor is summoned from his room by the song of a spooky woman who wanders, garments billowing white, through the rooms and corridors of the haveli. She continues, on subsequent nights, to put in an appearance.

While Saathi re tujh bin udaas re was composed by an old favourite of mine (Salil Choudhary), I think the orchestration in this song is a little too loud, a little too in your face; something more mellow, allowing Lata’s voice to hold centre stage, would have been better.

10. Sau baar janam lenge sau baar fanaa honge (Ustaadon ke Ustaad, 1963): Male ‘ghosts’ seem to be relatively rare in Hindi cinema (though there are some). My favourite is this, Pradeep Kumar, glimpsed fleetingly through the shifting mist as he sits on a rock in the middle of a swiftly-flowing river. Everything about this song is exquisite. There’s the beautiful Shakila, who stands on the bank, miserable because her lover is missing, presumed dead. There’s Ravi’s superb music, Asad Bhopali’s words (that kismat humein milne se rokegi bhala kab tak—till when, after all, will fate be able to stop us from meeting?—always stirs me). There’s Rafi’s hauntingly beautiful voice. And there’s the cinematography, by Rajendra Malone, which makes this one of the most gorgeous ‘spooky locales’ I’ve seen in Hindi cinema, the spray rising all around, the trees glimpsed through shafts of sunlight… lovely.

Which are your favourite songs of this type? Please share!


73 thoughts on “Ten of my favourite spooky songs

  1. Great list as always! Though I thought Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim was the spooky song from Woh Kaun Thi not Lag Ja Gale?
    I’d probably add the staple “Gumnaam Hai Koi” to my list along with Rafi’s “Aaja Tujhko Pukare Mera Pyar” from Neel Kamal. I also like “Mere Naina Saavan Bhaado” from among the post-70s songs.


    • Gumnaam hai koi was on my shortlist too, so especially glad to see you mention it. Somehow to me Naina barse (which, by the way, I have mentioned, if you read the post carefully….) always comes across as less spooky because of the bright sunshine. I guess there’s something about perception here. Aaja tujhko pukaare and Mere naina saawan bhaadon are wonderful too – I especially like the latter. Thank you!


    • The first and the third ones I too had shortlisted, but eventually dropped. Glad to see you add them! As for Koi door se aawaaz de, I always find it haunting in a deeply poignant way. Perhaps because I know the context – that she’s a sad and lonely woman, waiting for her neglectful husband – rather than a woman just pretending to be a ghost, that I don’t find it strictly ‘spooky’ in that sense. But one of my favourite Geeta Dutt songs, it’s so beautiful.


  2. Lovely post! 1, 4, 6, 9: I can’t recall these songs, will check. Yes, Lag Ja Gale is an absolute favourite! The film is also very mysterious. Also Anita (but I don’t remember it very well, as I watched it many, many years ago). I like ‘Akele Hain, Chale Aao’ and ‘Saur Baar Janam Lenge’.

    I really liked that song from Nagina ―’Bhooli Bisri Ek Kahani…’ enjoyed the way it’s been shot ―the khandhar, and one moment Sridevi is walking on the rooftop, the next she is in the courtyard. :)

    And I didn’t know Kohra was based on Rebecca. Will watch. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bhooli bisri ek kahaani was new to me – thank you for this one. Glad you liked the songs you knew of; some great songs seem to have been composed on this theme.

      Kohra‘s resemblance to Rebecca is not carried right through the movie, just to warn you! ;-) It’s an entertaining enough film, and the music is great, but don’t expect the same thing.


  3. The list is a fantastic list, though Naina Barse Rimjhim(Woh kaun thi) could have been there . The movie Ustadon ke ustad was remade by Modern Theatres in Tamil & Telugu . Although both versions had the respective versions of the song listed by you & despite being well composed & well written they fell short of Sau Bar janam lenge . The Tamil version is still popular though sung at a much higher pitch by TM.Soundararajan. Thanks a lot. Will we ever see the golden era of Indian film music in out life times?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have mentioned Naina barse rimjhim rimjhim in my post, with reference to why I chose Lag jaa gale. :-)

      Just out of curiosity, I would like to listen to TM Soundarajan’s Tamil version of Sau baaar janam lenge. Could you please give me a link? Or at least tell me the name of the song, so I know what to look for? Thank you!

      “Will we ever see the golden era of Indian film music in out life times?

      I doubt if that age will ever come back. While there are some nice songs now and then, they are so few, and the entire feel of the music has changed so completely that we must perforce look back to enjoy the best. :-(

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely selection of songs, as always. I too like the songs -‘ Lag jaa gale ke phir yeh haseen raat ‘ and ‘sau baar janam leenge’ . There was the Dev Anand & Vijentimala song from Jewel Thief- ‘Rula ke gaya sapana mera’. Not sure if she is a ghost in the film!! But a haunting tune, melodious and both look great. Thanks for the memories over the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Rulaake gaya sapna is beautifully haunting, but no, there’s no spookiness there, really, since he knows her well enough, and there is no element of any ghostliness there. But out of context, I suppose!


  5. “Lag Jaa Gale.. is one of those rarest songs that is being played even today by all music or video channels.
    This song may be an exception here unless one see the movie to figure out the real situation. Sadhana looks gorgeous on screen with floral black Chiffon Sari, hugs and cries on the shoulder of hero. All this doesn’t give an impression of a sooky woman singing haunted melody, unlike a lady with white Gown, dress or Sari.
    Its only my personal opinion. I may be wrong.
    The song fits perfectly in this theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The context is everything, really. As I’ve mentioned in the description for Lag jaa gale, there’s something very odd about this woman – she comes across as pretty spooky from the hero’s previous encounters with her. And what she’s wearing right now, how she’s looking, turns out (in its way) to be spooky – because when she suddenly leaves him and disappears, and he goes back home to his wife, he finds her (who of course is the spitting image of this woman) looking exactly the same…

      I guess this is one of those songs where the spookiness comes through context, not otherwise. Vice-versa from Koi door se aawaaz de, which sounds spooky, but in the context of the film, is sad and lonely rather than ghostly.


    • Hi Nishi, and thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Aaja re pardesi and Ae mere dil-e-naadaan are both, I think, songs that come across as definitely spooky if you watch them out of context (or even listen to them out of context). But, in context of the film, I think it’s in both cases a case of a beautifully haunting song, without any spookiness to it. No attempt to pass it off as supernatural, if you understand what I mean.


  6. So nice to read this post which (I feel) should have come from you several years ago. Most of the songs listed by you are there in my own list of Top Ten Bollywood Suspense Songs. You haven’t listed Gumnaam Hai Koi from Gumnaam (1965) and Naina Barse Rimjhim Rimjhim from Woh Kaun Thi (1964). Anyway, hearty thanks for this wonderful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think (according to me), this may sound weird, the mahal (1949) song “yeh raat phir na ayegi” can be added. I don’t know whether the film itself or the two ladies dancing, look absurdly frightening. Something creepy. May be I felt it because the entire film was such or be it any cause. Also this scarcely looks like a jolly mujra rather the augury of a disaster

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment made me laugh! :-D Even if we may come across as iconoclastic, I have to agree – there’s something weird about the song and those two dancers. Just – off. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s scary, all right.


        • I really can’t say – as I wrote, I can’t put my finger on it. Perhaps it’s just that, looking at those two women from 70+ years later, maybe our concepts of beauty and grace have shifted a bit, and neither their looks nor their style of acting/dancing now come across as beautiful – to me, at least, there’s something a bit disjointed about them. How about you? What do you feel?


  8. Madhu,
    This is a very nice list. And, of course, ‘Lag ja galey’ has to tower over any such list. I was wondering whether we had any male spooky character when I came to #10.

    I don’t know why we had more female ghosts. A very nice male bhoot in recent memory was Amitabh Bachchan as ‘Bhootnath’. While he was scary to others he had an easy relationship with his grandson. Though the kid knew that his Dada was a bhoot, he was not frightened of him. An interesting film at many levels.

    Since male and female boots have to be roughly equal, I could appreciate why some political correctness vigilantes took up sanitising the language of Ronald Dahl when he said the witches were all females. Bollywood would take a long time to bring about balance.

    Liked by 1 person

    • What an interesting comment, AK. Yes, I do too wonder why Hindi cinema tends to make all its ghosts (or nearly all) female. It’s not as if folklore has only daayans and pishaachinis – plenty of male spooks. Or could it be that Hindi cinema is overwhelmingly shown from the point of view of the hero, the straight male – which is why the potentially romantic alliance with a supernatural being must therefore have a female being elusive and spooky? Perhaps there’s also something about the proverbial ‘mysterious female’… who knows.


  9. What a set of lovely songs and probably the loveliest ghosts!!! Aren’t we supposed to be scared of ghosts? Most of the songs are covered in your post or in comments, so will add a few from relatively recent movies.
    ‘Muskan zoothi hai’ from ‘Talaash’

    ‘Bepanah pyar hai aaja’ from ‘Krishna Cottage’

    ‘Mere Dholna’ from ‘Bhul Bhulaiyaa’

    I am not sure if ‘Kajal Ratine odhun Nela’ from movie ‘Ha khel Savalyancha’ would qualify there is only reference to a ghost. I could not find the video but luckily movie is available on youtube so captured the song from it. Beautifully sung by Asha Bhosle and composed by Pt. Hridaynath Mangeshkar.

    And if you really want to have a good shudder, you should perhaps watch this. The sets, acting (by otherwise decent actors) and whole premises will make your skin crawl though that was not the intention of the director, I am sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That Jaago Mahadev…, oh God. That made my skin crawl. Couldn’t watch it past I think the first couple of seconds! Yikes.

      Thank you for these songs. I must admit I had only ever watched one of them, the very first one. It reminded me how much I liked Talaash – I should watch it again! Thanks for reminding me of that.


  10. I am surprised to learn that you hadn’t done a Spooky Songs list before this! If I’d thought about it at all, I would have assumed you did. But it won’t surprise you to learn that six songs overlap on our lists? :)
    Plus, we have two other films in common, though we chose different songs.

    I thoroughly enjoyed your list however, and revisiting my own. Lag ja gale is definitely a winner, isn’t it? From my list, Aa jaa re pardesi from Madhumati which is reprised several times in the film – well after Madhumati’s death.
    And Aaja tujh ko pukaare mera pyaar re from Neel Kamal.

    Others: Akele hain chale aao kahaan ho from Raaz (though I personally think Babita is more frightening than any bhoot).

    Mere naina saawan bhadon from Mehbooba

    p.s. While revisiting my post, I realized that I’d blamed you for the list, and that you had commented on it, saying that you had been sitting on your list for over two years then – and this was in 2012! :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remembered that you’d done a list of songs on this theme, Anu, but I didn’t go and see which songs you’d included (to prevent myself being inadvertently affected – hah! As if that would mean we didn’t have overlaps!). I did remember one song, though: Janam-janam ka saath hai. :-)

      “you had been sitting on your list for over two years then – and this was in 2012!

      You know, I have a feeling something happened on my hard drive, and some of my WIP posts vanished. This one that I had talked about was certainly not around, and I am sure I had also done a post on lullabies, which too has disappeared.


      • Talk about the mystery of missing posts, I could have sworn I’d reviewed Baat Ek Raat Ki; I even remember what I wrote, but the post is not there on my blog. Pouf! And I swear there are a couple of song posts that I remember writing, but there’s no sign of them on the blog!

        That takes the cake but what takes the icing is there are posts on which the comments have completely vanished, and these are posts on which I vividly remember responding to comments! No idea what happened to them.

        It’s like wandering over to your blog to read an old post because of a comment on the side bar, and wondering where my comments went. Because, as far as I know, once I began commenting, it’s very rarely that I have missed a post. And again, these are posts on which I remember commenting!

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s so odd! I remember you mentioning this several times recently, about comments disappearing. But posts too? *Shudder*

          The two song lists I was talking about, though, weren’t online. I write all my posts on Word well before I publish them, sometimes months before I publish them. Mine seem to have vanished off my laptop. Or maybe I am just losing it, and had only thought about what I would write.

          I fear WordPress and I are both losing it…


  11. We can actually see some Wannabe bhoots in the title song of BHOOT BANGLA, 1965.

    RDB, Mehmood…singing and acting.

    I think the title song of
    PHIR WOHI RAAT, 1980, is a ghost song.

    Some songs of LEKIN are definitely sung by the glamorous ghost. I am sure
    Main ek sadi se baithi hoon..
    is mouthed by a grand old bhootni or Atma, however one likes to call it.

    MR BHOOTNATH was spooky or comical?

    Though PAHELI has a theme befitting the post, the songs are pleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was wondering if anybody would remember the sequence from Bhoot Bangla. As a song, I don’t really like it, but it’s memorable as a ‘spooky’ song, indeed. :-)

      Thank you for the other suggestions, especially for reminding me of Paheli. Yes, indeed; the songs are pleasant. And though they don’t come across as spooky, the very fact that SRK’s character is a ghost is enough!

      As for Bhootnath, I haven’t seen it, so can’t comment.


  12. Yaara seeli seeli from Lekin is definitely in :) The whole movie did leave one a little disturbed, and looking over the shoulder (We watched a night show from the hostel, so you can imagine) .
    Also a friend would creep out if we just mentioned the name ‘Rewa’ to her henceforth (and we took cheap pleasure out of spooking here by chanting that)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. And this thumri, in Hindi, Kaise Kate Rajani, but from a Bangla film Khudito Pashan… Please watch if you haven’t yet. A Tapan Sinha movie, based on Rabindranath’s story , with Soumitro Chatterji, and music by Ustaad Ali Akbar Khan Saheb..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have heard of <i<Khudito Pashan, but have never attempted to search for it. Thank you for the recommendation, and for this song – how absolutely lovely. I want to watch this now.


    • Anitaji, I had completely forgotten about this song! Yes, this song fits the bill perfectly. It’s been ages since I watched Ek Mahal ho Sapnon ka, but from what I remember, this is one of those songs where she’s not really a ghost, but pretending to be all mysterious in order to lure the man – both with mystery and with the song, which he’s familiar with. Rather like in Khilte hain gul yahan from Sharmilee:


  14. I could recollect the frustration I had while watching Woh Koi Aur Hoga. I had gone to see it in the theatre ( during the good old days of reruns) for my favorite lead actors and mystery genre. Wonder why Sohrab Modi did the film.

    Anyways, coming to the post – What an excellent post with all the enjoyable spooky numbers! Lata’s career took off with a haunting song and many of her best and most popular songs belong to this genre.

    Here’s one from Intaquam – Geet tere saaz ka
    Appears spooky on its own but not, as per the storyline.


  15. The second version of Mere mehboob qayamat hogi (Mr X in Bombay) is definitely spooky – with an invisible KK appearing like a ghost


  16. Some lesser-heard Lata numbers:

    Bindiya tarse kajra barse – Phir Wohi Raat

    Tere bin jiya na lage aaja re – Parde Ke Peechhe ( Video quality not good)

    Sunsaan raaton mein jab tu nahin aata – Sannata


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