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That Song in Your Head: Shankar Mahadevan, Amitabh Bhattacharya and others share their favourite songs over the years

As a new book, 'Gaata Rahe Mera Dil: 50 Classic Hindi Film Songs', looks at some of the most iconic tunes of Hindi film history, we ask a few lyricists, composers and filmmakers to share their favourite songs over the years.

Written by Suanshu Khurana , Dipti Nagpaul D'souza, Sankhayan Ghosh | Mumbai |
Updated: September 13, 2015 8:20:27 am

As a new book, ‘Gaata Rahe Mera Dil: 50 Classic Hindi Film Songs’, looks at some of the most iconic tunes and their place in Hindi film history, we ask a few lyricists, composers and filmmakers to share their favourite songs over the years.

Swanand Kirkire, lyricist and singer

Allah tero naam (Hum Dono, 1961)

Composer: Jaidev
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
I heard this song in school, many years ago, amid a string of numbers played as deshbhakti ke geet on Independence day. At that time, we mocked those songs because they seemed so boring. But in the case of Allah tero naam, I actually listened to the words. It is so relevant and has resonated in whatever circumstances I have heard it in. It’s also one of the most secular poems I know and is full of modern thought. Sahir writes, “O saare jag ke rakhwale, nirbal ko bal dene wale, balwaano ko de de gyan”, and explains with such wisdom that empowering the poor is okay but those who are powerful need wisdom, too. I haven’t found a single writer who has been able to surpass Sahir’s ideas in this song. Also, it sounds like a bhajan but it isn’t — that’s the beauty of it.

Aap ki aankhon mein (Ghar, 1978)

Composer: RD Burman
Lyrics: Gulzar
A beautiful, romantic number, I have sung this many times, for a series of women, at various ages. It remains an absolute favourite. It evokes the inherent feeling of the first brush of romance and a lot of college guys used to sing it back in the day. This song, to me, is an elegant way to tell a woman that she is beautiful. Aapse bhi khoobsoorat aapke andaaz hain… How wonderful is that!

Varun Grover, screenwriter, lyricist

Apni kahaani chhod ja (Do Bigha Zamin, 1953)

Composer: Salil Choudhury
Lyrics: Shailendra
I was 12 years old when I heard this song. It remains one of the simplest, yet one of the most profound songs I have known in my life. When I first heard it, it was just another interesting song. I understood the depth of it much later. The lines, Apni kahaani chhod ja, koi toh nishaani chhod ja, written by Shailendra saab, for me, remain the essence of all art, this urge to create. It has inspired me to write. There is pain in the poetry, but it’s still a folk tune so it’s still not really sad. This particular contrast created by Salil Choudhury makes me return to it even now.

Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, RD Burman, SD burman, Madan mohan, Rajesh Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Kalyani Anandji, Shankar Mahadevan, Swanand Kirkire, Allah tero naam, Aap ki aankhon mein, Jidhar dekhoon teri tasveer, Jaane kya tune kahi, Kaa karoon sajani, Kuchh toh log kahenge, Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, Piya tose naina laage, Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, O mere raja, Ek chatur naar, Abhi na jao chhod kar, Dheere dheere machal, Entertainment news

Dheere dheere machal (Anupama, 1966)

Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
When I was a kid, Doordarshan put this film in the adult category and played it after 10 pm. Everyone used to sleep in one room back then, so my brother and I would act as though we were sleeping and listen to the film being watched by others. I still remember that the melody is right in the beginning and comes in later once. What mesmerises me about this song is Lataji’s voice, the inherent sweetness in it and the way it flows. It’s almost like a lullaby and still makes me stop and listen to it.

Shankar Mahadevan, singer, composer

Abhi na jao chhod kar (Hum Dono, 1961)

Composer: Jaidev
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
It’s the most romantic song I know. It’s so beautifully composed and written that when you read out the lyrics, it flows like water. The composition breaks the regular metre, yet the melody is so beautiful and intricate that it is pleasing to the lay person. It’s the song I always sing for my wife.

Ek chatur naar (Padosan, 1968)

Composer: RD Burman
Lyrics: Rajendra Krishan
It’s the craziest song I have heard in the last century. I am 100 per cent sure that this song developed over a mad jam session session, with a lot of trial and error, between three of my favourite artistes, RD Burman, Kishore Kumar, Manna De, and Mehmood. It must be difficult to create such madness.

Shriram Raghavan, filmmaker

O mere raja (Johny Mera Naam, 1970)

Composer: Kalyanji-Anandji
Lyrics: Rajendra Krishan
It’s one of the first films I saw as a kid, before I knew anything about filmmaking. It’s shot in the Nalanda ruins. The story goes that lyricist Rajendra Krishan was late for the recording. He wanted to apologise to the director and that apology ended up becoming the song. The lyrics go: Khafa na hona der se aayee, door se aai majboori thi. It is a terrific mainstream song where actors suddenly burst into song.

Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar (Tere Ghar Ke Saamne, 1963)

Composer: SD Burman
Lyricist: Hasrat Jaipuri
Dev Anand and Nutan share fantastic chemistry. In one of my film sets, my DoP and I were marvelling at the set of that song, the Qutub Minar, and the constant feeling of descent it evokes. It’s one of those films I saw when I bunked school in Pune to go for the special morning show that featured re-runs of old black-and-white movies.

Kuch dil ne kaha (Anupama, 1966)

Composer: Hemant Kumar
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
I’d heard the song before I saw the movie, but when I watched it much later on Doordarshan, it gave me an ethereal kind of a feeling. When I am in a strange mood, one of these old songs can make me feel at peace.

Mikey McCleary, composer

Yeh raat yeh chandni (Jaal, 1952)

Composer: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
It’s the first Hindi song I heard in London and I fell in love with the melody of the song. Many years later, it also became one of the first songs I reinvented. I had already moved to Mumbai and Dibakar Banerjee asked me to reinvent the song Tum jo mil gaye ho for an ad film he was directing then. I quite enjoyed the process and the outcome. This inspired me to borrow and listen to collections of Hindi film songs. Then, working on Khoya khoya chand for Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan, a romantic song picturised on an action sequence, further compelled me to reinvent, give a contemporary touch to, Hindi songs.

Gaata Rahe Mera Dil, RD Burman, SD burman, Madan mohan, Rajesh Roshan, Hemant Kumar, Kalyani Anandji, Shankar Mahadevan, Swanand Kirkire, Allah tero naam, Aap ki aankhon mein, Jidhar dekhoon teri tasveer, Jaane kya tune kahi, Kaa karoon sajani, Kuchh toh log kahenge, Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam, Piya tose naina laage, Dil ka bhanwar kare pukar, O mere raja, Ek chatur naar, Abhi na jao chhod kar, Dheere dheere machal, Entertainment news

Habib Faisal, filmmaker

Piya tose naina laage (Guide, 1965)

Composer: SD Burman
Lyrics: Shailendra
The complex structure of the song, which is quite a long track, is reflective of the passage of time in the heroine’s life where she is not as popular an artiste as before. The melody changes altogether and then comes back to the original and conveys more than just what the lyrics say. I attempted something similar with the song Mannat in Daawat-e-Ishq where I wanted to show a passage of time.

Amitabh Bhattacharya, lyricist, singer

Waqt ne kiya kya haseen sitam (Kaagaz Ke Phool, 1959)

Composer: SD Burman
Lyrics: Kaifi Azmi
I loved it right from my childhood although it’s only now that I fully appreciate its content. The earliest memory is that of running from one room to another in our old house in Lucknow as the song would play on the radio. I’d also written the song down in my diary to learn it. Although it’s sung by a female singer, in 1998, I chose to sing it for an audition of Saregamapa. The simple and profound lyrics give an overview of life and in the line, Tum rahe na tum ham rahe na ham, it talks about how we all change.

Kuchh toh log kahenge (Amar Prem, 1972)

Composer: RD Burman
Lyrics: Anand Bakshi
It talks about something we all face in life day in and day out: what other people say. The opening lines sum up the song. The melody and singing, not just in this song but all of Amar Prem’s songs make it one of the most original albums ever. When I’m asked to sing a song, sometimes when I’m with friends, I often choose this one. In my struggling days as a singer, I’ve sang it in orchestra and karaoke recordings where I’d imitate Kishore Kumar.

Prabha Atre, classical vocalist

Kaa karoon sajani (Swami, 1977)

Composer: Rajesh Roshan
Lyrics: Amit Khanna
This song introduced me to Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan saab’s music. I heard it when I was very young. This composition, playing on the radio one day, cast a spell on me. I liked this one so much that I had learnt it accurately, in great detail. I began singing it at concerts. No matter where I went to sing, there would invariably be a request for this Mishra Bhairavi thumri.

Ja re badra bairi (Bahana, 1960)

Composer: Madan Mohan
Lyrics: Rajendra Krishan
Sung by Lata Mangeshkar, this composition made me aware of the tonal quality of voice, her ability to change texture; the clarity of words, their musical pronunciation and effective emotional expression.

Amit Kilam, vocalist and percussionist with Indian Ocean

Jaane kya tune kahi (Pyaasa, 1957)

Composer: SD Burman
Lyrics: Sahir Ludhianvi
I heard this song back in my Kashmir days. I must have been eight or nine then, and this song used to play on my father’s record player.
The LP used to get stuck so often that one odd line would just whir in agony often. As funny and fascinating as that was, I would actually count the beats during this because there was a constant repetition. It was much later in life that I understood the concept of taal or a seven-and-a-half beat time cycle. It was this song, which quite unconsciously, made me think about the idea of rhythm and its crazy and wonderful world. It still remains a favourite.

Jidhar dekhoon teri tasveer (Mahaan, 1983)

Composer: RD Burman
Lyrics: Anjaan
I watched Mahaan in the hall as a young teenager and heard the Kishore Kumar version of the song. It’s heard again later when Amitabh Bachchan sings it on the phone to his lost wife. Now the latter is just voice, without any instrumentation or arrangements. The former, according to me, is not a great song. But the Bachchan version in his deep baritone is absolutely fantastic. I realised that a wonderful piece of music can be simple and does not need too much instrumentation to sound brilliant. I hum it even now.

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