Ravindra Jain – An Outlier

The 1970s saw a gradual transition from social, romantic movies of the 60s and early 70s to more of crime oriented and dishum-dishum movies made by big banners in the late 70s. And the 80s saw the arrival of disco music and a gradual decline in the quality of film music.

Among music composers, some of the stalwarts of the golden era (50s and 60s) like Madan Mohan, Shanker-Jaikishen saw a decline in their influence in the 70s. RD Burman, Kalyanji-Anandji and Laxmikant-Pyarelal dominated the 70s and cornered all the big banners and big star movies.

In the midst of these big changes, Ravindra Jain made a strong impression in the 1970s – very quietly and unobtrusively. Among the big composer names and popular movies dominated by big stars, Ravindra Jain was an outlier in more ways than one.

First – the quality of his music was different and very unusual in the 70s; it was melodious, soft with relatively simple orchestration unlike the large orchestra songs in the big name movies.

Second – a number of his movies were the small budget, no big star cast movies (there were however some Shashi Kapoor movies) but his music was outstanding even in small movies.

Third – he used well known singers like Lata, Rafi and Kishore but at the same time created lovely melodies with relatively unknown singers like Hemlata, Aarti Mukherjee. That called for real bravery. He was also brave enough to use Yesudas, the South Indian legend in many songs.


Despite being so different and an outlier in the 70s and also in the 80s, millions continue to hum his songs even today because they were so melodious – whether they are sung by big names or Yesudas or anyone else.

For these reasons, I think Ravindra Jain deserves a special place as an outlier and a wonderful melody maker even though other composers grabbed big banner and big star movies. Unfortunately, not many write about him, though his music is among the best in the 70s and 80s.

It is said that Ravindra Jain was born blind. Perhaps this made him pour his heart out in the soul stirring song of a blind man, Nazar aati nahin manzil in one of his earliest movies, Kaanch Aur Heera. The emotion and melodic content of this song may make you think it was a Ravindra JainMadan Mohan or Naushad composition – if you did not know the name of the composer.

After scoring big hits in movies like Geet Gaata Chal, Chitchor, Chor Machaye Shor, Saudagar, Fakira and many more in the 70s, he finally landed a big banner in the 80s when he scored music for Raj Kapoor’s Ram Teri Ganga Maili followed by Henna.

Though he had a number of lovely songs, I restricted myself to only 15 to compile a playlist. Here is the link to 15 of Ravindra Jain’s best songs.

Link to 15 of the best songs of Ravindra Jain

(This link will take you to Gaana.com where you have standard features of Play all, Shuffle and Skip song available. Sometimes, you may have to skip Ads to enjoy the music! Unlike my earlier posts, this player opens in a new window/tab. Since the music player opens in a new window/tab, you can browse through this site or others and enjoy the music playing in the background while you browse!)

Gaon, Naiyya and Lilting Melodies


Even when scoring music for small budget movies, Ravindra Jain’s music stood out and was a big asset to the movie. His songs had relatively simple orchestration dominated by flute, mandolin and violins.

All the songs in Chitchor were big hits with two classical numbers and two breezy numbers standing out – Aaj se pehle and Gori Tera Gaon, were the breezy numbers. Amitabh and ChitchorNutan starrer Saudagar also had lovely songs (before Amitabh became a big name) with Lata’s Tere mera saath rahe standing out for the melody.

Geet Gaata Chal songs were a big rage with Jaspal Singh standing out with his full-throated singing in the title song. Aarti Mukherjee also had a cheerful number Main wohi darpan wohi. Yesudas was a regular in Ravindra Jain’s songs and his solo in Sunayana also became a big hit. Another Ravindra Jain regular Hemlata had a big hit in Ankhiyon Ke Jharokon Se.

Two boat songs of Ravindra Jain are worth listening to over and over again – picturized on relatively unknown faces. Naiyya had the lovely O Goriya Re and Do Jasoos had Shailendra Singh and Lata singing the melodious Puruvaiyya leke chali meri naiyya that has a lilting folksy touch.

Stars, Banners and Popular Melodies


Ravindra Jain scored music for the Shashi Kapoor starrer Chor Machaye Shor. His Le jayenge Le jayenge Dilwale Dulhaniya Le jayenge became a cult song and inspired a film title that became one of the biggest hits of the 90s. There were also two lovely duets from the same movie – Ek daal par with melodious flute and Paon mein dori with a folksy Chor Machaye Shortouch. Another Shashi Kapoor starrer Fakira also had a popular duet Tota Maina Ki Kahani, again with a sweet touch of flute.

Perhaps Do Jasoos brought Raj Kapoor and Ravindra Jain together. After working with Laxmikant-Pyarelal for a few movies, Raj Kapoor chose Ravindra Jain for Ram Teri Ganga Maili. Sun Sahiba Sun was a huge hit in this movie. Some say this tune was an old tune from Raj Kapoor and Shanker-Jaikishen days and Raj Kapoor reused it as Sun Sahiba Sun.

Raj Kapoor apparently could not get over his close association and musical partnership with Shanker-Jaikishen. Later, in another Raj Kapoor movie Henna, some songs like Main hoon khushrang Henna sound like the descending style songs popularized by Shanker-Jaikishen! Raj Kapoor known for his discerning musical ear, perhaps influenced Ravindra Jain to adopt the Shanker-Jaikishen style. Some of Ravindra Jain’s songs also unwittingly shared another characteristic of Shanker-Jaikishen songs – long preludes!

Though Ravindra Jain was not in big hits of Amitabh Bachan, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna or Rajesh Khanna or the other big stars of the day, his melodious music, simplicity in style of music and brave choice of singers made his music stand out and made him truly different – an outlier in the garish world of 70s and 80s.

Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nothing but melody

Melody and Rhythm are two essential elements of any Hindi film song. In film songs, melody is mostly identified with the vocals or the singable part and rhythm is usually identified with accompanying percussion instruments like Tabla or Bongo or Drums. Most film songs have vocals and percussion and these two are distinctly heard as they are essential elements in the song.

If you try to list songs that do not have tabla, bongo or any other percussion instrument, you may find it difficult. However, you may be surprised to learn that some of the most popular songs of the Golden era (mostly 50s and 60s) do not have any percussion instrument. Yes, you read that right. There are no percussion instruments in some of the most popular songs. In short, these hugely popular songs have Nothing but melody.

After some reflection, you may think that the songs that do not have percussion are sad, slow songs. The songs that are Nothing but melody are not necessarily slow, sad songs. There are some bright, cheerful songs as well that have Nothing but melody.

Madan Mohan’s immortal song for Lata, Lag Jaa Gale (Woh Kaun Thi) does not have any percussion instruments. Similarly, the bright number Main hoon Jhum Jhum Jhumroo (Jhumroo) composed by Kishore Kumar also does not have percussion instruments.

Double Bass

If Tabla or Bongo are not used in a song for rhythm, what do composers do? It is possible to create the rhythm for a song without using percussion instruments. Most composers create rhythm by using guitars, banjo or some other stringed instrument like a Double Bass or even a Piano. In film songs, guitar can be played in three ways – as a lead guitar, bass guitar or rhythm guitar.

Here is a playlist of songs from the 50s and 60s that do not have any percussion instrument at all (No tabla, Bongo or drums….). The rhythm is provided by a variety of stringed instruments like Double Bass, Guitars and so on. I hope you enjoy these extremely popular Nothing but melody songs.

Lively, energetic songs

Apart from Main Hoon Jhumroo, there are other lively numbers that have Nothing but melody. The cheeky Ek ladki bheegi (Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi) composed by SD Burman does not have percussion. During the song, Kishore Kumar is seen using many instruments to create rhythm including spanners! Interestingly, this song is ‘inspired’ from the song 16 tons by Tennessee Ernie Ford. (The other song from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi Hum the woh the is also inspired from another Tennessee Ernie Ford song, The Watermelon song. These two inspired songs do not take anything away from the superlative work of SD Burman, who stood tall among his peers with his own inimitable style of music)

Nothing but melody

Composer Ravi is known for creating simple melodies.He has a big share in creating songs that have Nothing but melody. Yeh Raaten Yeh Mausam (Dilli Ka Thug), Aa Bhi Jaa (Gumrah) and Aage bhi jaane (Waqt) have strong base of guitars and double bass to create the rhythm. The original rhythm king, OP Nayyar created many songs with lovely rhythm. He excelled in using side percussion instruments like Castanets.

There is an interesting anecdote about the song Main pyaar ka raahi (Ek Musafir Ek Hasina). Apparently, the tabla and percussion players who were supposed to play in the song did not arrive in time for the recording. OP Nayyar, a man with very strict views, went ahead and recorded the song without the tabla and percussion!

Hemant Kumar too seems to have a penchant for composing songs without percussion. His lively Bekarar karke (Bees Saal Baad), surprisingly does not have any percussion instruments, very unusual for the situation in the movie.

Memorable tunes

Apart from Madan Mohan’s Lag Jaa gale, there is a wonderful song in Khamoshi composed by Hemant Kumar. Tum Pukaar Lo is a very haunting tune without any percussion that keeps playing in your head over and over again. Anupama is one of Hemant Kumar’s best musicals. Kuch Dil Ne Kahaa is a lovely song by Lata that has no percussion at all.

SD Burman’s Jalte hain jiske liye is a delightful tune that is sung over the phone in which SD Burman also uses Piano to provide rhythm.

Pathos filled

SN Tripathi’s Na kisiki aankh ka noor (Lal Qila) is perhaps the best example of a typical slow, sad song where you do not expect percussion. Rafi fills the song with pathos in his unbeatable style.

In Anupama, Hemant Kumar created an unforgettable tune – Ya dil ki suno. This haunting melody is one more example of a Nothing but melody song without any percussion instruments. Hemant Kumar also sang one more pathos filled song in SD Burman’s masterpiece Pyaasa – Jaane woh kaise log in which piano supplements guitars and double bass for rhythm.

SD Burman was a composer who paid a lot of attention to vocals, the singer and the emotion. He would therefore bring out the emotion in a song by using the right singer and by eliminating unnecessary elements in the orchestra. SD Burman’s Waqt Ne Kiya in Guru Dutt’s Kagaz ke phool is not only beautifully rendered by Geeta Dutt, but is also a visual masterpiece.

Innovative rhythm

Ilayaraja, the South Indian genius created an innovative song where you hear Nothing but melody. This song Paruvama from Mouna Geetham (Telugu) is a song where the lead pair go on a jog. Ilayaraja used the sound of footsteps to create the rhythm. Enjoy the song with folksy vocals, beautiful violin, guitars, flute like a Western symphony and footsteps!

I hope this post brings out a hidden and enjoyable dimension of film songs and the creativity of our music composers. I hope you enjoy these songs and this unusual dimension of Nothing but melody.

(This blog is meant for appreciating various dimensions of film music but is not meant to be a deep analysis or discussion on technical aspects of film music. Technically, apart from Melody and Rhythm, some also add Harmony as the third essential element of a song. Also, while we may separate melody and rhythm, in reality, melody finally conforms to a rhythm, technically speaking.)

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Many moods with Saxophone

Hindi film music is primarily about conveying emotions. The tune, lyrics, vocals and the variations in vocals are all creative processes to convey the emotion. Apart from these creative processes, the instruments in the accompanying orchestra also have a key role to play in conveying the emotions. Music composers normally choose instruments based on the range of the instrument and how it can support and convey the primary emotion in the song. Most instruments serve a single purpose and primarily support a limited range of emotions. However, a Saxophone is a versatile instrument and composers have used it effectively to convey many moods with Saxophone.

Many moods with Saxophone


It is easy to confuse the looks and sound of a saxophone with the looks and sound of a trumpet. However, there is a distinct difference. Trumpets are classified as ‘brass instruments’ and saxophones are classified as ‘woodwind instruments’ (though both of them are made mostly from metal). A saxophone is played by blowing into a plastic mouthpiece against a reed (mostly made from wood – hence the term woodwind).

Many moods with Saxophone


A trumpet, on the other hand, does not have a reed and is played by blowing air through the lips into a mouthpiece (that is mostly made of metal with a round shape). Check out the differences in sound below.

Here is the sound of a Trumpet.

And here is the sound of a Saxophone.

There are many types of saxophone that enable a composer/musician to express many moods with saxophone. Check out the medley of 15 saxophone pieces from hindi film songs (runs for about 4 minutes) to understand how composers created many moods with saxophone. Click the arrow below for the medley.

While each of the saxophone pieces in the 15 songs is a delight, there is one composition by the genius Ilayaraja that elevates the saxophone into a different level altogether. His theme music in Cheeni kum is a lovely instrumental saxophone melody. If you were not aware, you may think that this melody was composed by a western composer. Ilayaraja’s mastery of western music enabled him to create this outstanding melody – check out the theme music from Cheeni kum below.

This article is not about deep, technical analysis of moods or understanding the psychology of the actors in the song. It is a simple commentary on how composers created many moods with saxophone, nothing else. I, therefore, took the liberty of commenting on the songs by grouping the songs according to the ‘feel’ of the song.

Enjoy the playlist below of songs that used saxophone. These songs are mostly from the 60s and early 70s and are in the same order as the medley above. Apart from the 15 songs, the playlist also includes Ilayaraja’s instrumental saxophone melody from Cheeni kum.

Joyful, Playful

Many moods with Saxophone

Manohari Singh

It is not a coincidence that a number of songs by SD Burman and RD Burman featured saxophone as one of the main instruments. Manohari Singh, a musician, was proficient in many instruments, but was a genius with Saxophone. He was a key member for both SD Burman and RD Burman as Assistant, Arranger, Key musician and a number of their tunes contained wonderful saxophone pieces by Manohari Singh. Gaata rahe mere dil (Guide) has superb joyful tones of the Saxophone. The playful duet, Choodi nahi hai mera (Gambler) also featured Saxophone.

Manohari Singh on Saxophone and Kersi Lord on Accordion also combined to come up with brilliant interludes in Roop tera mastaana (Aradhana), but that is a different story.

Kalyanji Anandji created a wonderful, innovative effect with Saxophone in Lata’s expression of joy in Mere dil ne jo maanga (Rakhwala). The Saxophone plays with a echo like trailing effect that was innovative and catchy. Salil Chaudary, the master of arrangements created a joyful but difficult to sing song in Gujar jaye din (Annadata). The arrangements in this song are truly a delight and sound fresh even today – this song can fit into most joyful situations in today’s movies and will sound far better than the percussion heavy cacophony in current movies.

Shanker Jaikishen introduced new types of arrangements into Hindi music, the trumpet and saxophone were prominent in many of their songs. Aaj kal tere mere (Brahmchari) contains extensive and joyful tones of the Saxophone to accompany the playful dance on the screen.

Sad, Wistful, Nostalgic

If you followed the saxophone medley above closely, you may have observed that the two adjacent Saxophone pieces (the third and fourth pieces) sound similar. These two pieces are from two popular, wistful and nostalgic songs  – in Tumhe yaad hoga (Satta Bazaar) and Woh bhooli dastaan (Sanjog). The raag base is also similar though these were composed by two different composers, Kalyanji-Anandji for Satta Bazaar and Madan Mohan for Sanjog.

Salil Chaudary made unusual use of Saxophone (apart from haunting use of Picollo) in Jaa re Jaa re (Maya). Apart from the interludes, the saxophone also provides an eerie, wistful background tone when Lata sings the antras.  Shanker Jaikishen again used Saxophone extensively in the sad and hugely popular song, Bedardi balmaa tujhko (Arzoo).

Perhaps one of the best uses of Saxophone for sad moods is by Kalyanji Anandji in Zubaan pe dard bhari daastaan (Maryada). The low, resonant notes of the saxophone are really heart tugging.

Romantic, Tender, Affectionate

Naushad experimented a lot in Saathi, especially with arrangements. He created a soft, romantic and tender mood with Saxophone in the prelude to Mere pyaar bhi tu hai.  SD Burman was a master in creating tunes that reflected the scene, visuals and emotions beautifully. The tender Tere Mere Sapne is a lovely soft song in Rafi’s silken voice and the soft, low tones of the saxophone supplement the tender mood beautifully.

In all the moods, you will find a Shanker Jaikishen tune that uses Saxophone extensively. Janam Janam ka saath hai (Tumse achaa kaun hai) also has extensive Saxophone to convey the romantic and affectionate emotions.

Reflective, Contemplative

A bar is a place where one holds forth on one’s views about life (especially after a few doses of the good stuff). I call this Bar Philosophy. Indian actors often expressed their views (mostly remorse) about love in particular and life in general, in a bar setting.

OP Nayyar made the Saxophone play the same tune that Rafi was singing in Hai duniyaa useekee (Kashmir ki kali). This accentuates the reflective mood of Shammi Kapoor.

Mujhe duniya waalon (Leader) is one more song of the Bar philosophy type, reflecting Dilip Kumar’s views on Life.

There are innumerable instances of Saxophone in Hindi film music. I selected only a few songs from 60s and early 70s to highlight how our creative composers and musicians used it effectively in a variety of situations to convey many moods with Saxophone. The saxophone is truly a versatile instrument and a delight to the ears. Hope you enjoyed this article.

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Romantic melodies from the 90s

Most music connoisseurs consider the 50s and 60s as the golden era of music. All the music directors of this era were at the height of their creativity and prowess. The 70s saw a gradual decrease in melodic content with each passing year, due to the increase in crime oriented, dishum-dishum films leaving little scope for melody. The 80s saw plenty of techno and disco oriented music, with melodies a rarity. I paid very little attention to music during the 70s and 80s, but my interest perked up when I started hearing a number of romantic melodies from the 90s.

Music directors like Anu Malik, Nadeem-Shravan, Viju Shah and Jatin-Lalit deserve a lot of credit for creating a number of genuine, musical hits with pleasing, romantic melodies during these years. These songs are not high pitched, percussion heavy but are very soulful and pleasant. In many cases, the composers also used technology and instruments imaginatively to create attractive embellishments to the melodies.

While there were several romantic melodies from the 90s, this decade was also known for innumerable charges of plagiarism levelled against almost all music composers. Apart from copying western songs, composers like Anand-Milind also used South Indian hits extensively in their films. The song Dhak Dhak Karne Laga (Beta), a super hit song on Madhuri Dixit and Anil Kapoor, is a straight copy of an Ilayaraja chartbuster from Telugu, Abba nee teeyani debba.

Some of the romantic melodies from the 90s were also breakthrough films for some composers and singers that enabled them to grab the limelight and rise to the top. Roja was a breakthrough film for A R Rahman and he had a number of notable films in the 90s – I will devote a separate post for this genius.

Here is a playlist of 20 romantic melodies from the 90s.

A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the songs in the playlist, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play the songs in the current window while you are browsing)

Breakthrough melodies

Romantic melodies from the 90s

Anu Malik who debuted in 1978 had a lackluster period in the 80s. Later, he started using more of western arrangements and orchestration and finally got a big breakthrough with Baazigar. Anul Malik must be credited with creating outstanding music despite the fact that this movie was all about deception, crime and murders. The title song Baazigar O Baazigar is a good example of romantic melodies from the 90s, with attractive orchestration and arrangements, especially the imaginative use of the violin.

Nadeem-Shravan also had a lackluster period prior to the release of their breakthrough movie Aashiqui in 1990. Apart from Nadeem-Shravan, this was also a breakthrough movie for Kumar Sanu and Anuradha Paudwal. For listeners who were groomed on Rafi and Kishore, there were a number of years of disappointment where many aspiring singers tried to sound like Rafi, but failed to make an impact on the listeners. Kumar Sanu came as a welcome relief during these times. The initial reaction to Kumar Sanu’s voice in Aashiqui was negative for a number of people, till the voice grew on them. Nazar ke saamne and Saanson ki zaroorat were two popular songs among many other popular songs from this movie.

Anuradha Paudwal, who got a big boost with Aashiqui competed briefly with Alka Yagnik for the top spot among female singers, but gradually faded out.

Viju Shah (son of Kalyanji, the elder brother in the famous Kalyanji-Anandji duo) had a Romantic melodies from the 90smajor role to play in the music of Tridev in the late 80s. He was an arranger and musician for a number of music directors. Mohra was his breakthrough movie as a composer. Again, Viju Shah deserves a lot of credit for creating a blockbuster musical hit in a movie full of gory killings, revenge and deception. Subah se lekar shaam tak is a delightful romantic melody with pleasant arrangements.

Jatin-Lalit were popular even before Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. However, this movie can perhaps be considered as the ultimate of all breakthroughs, having smashed a number of records. Tujhe dekha to ye jaana sanam became a benchmark among all the romantic melodies from the 90s.

Soulful melodies

The soft, crooning voice of Kumar Sanu was a perfect fit for many soulful and romantic melodies from the 90s. Do dil mil rahen hain from Pardes is a good example of a soulful melody with meaningful lyrics. The easy flowing Ek ladki ko dekha from 1942: Love story (R D Burman’s swan song) is one more feather in Kumar Sanu’s cap.

Na kajre ki dhaar also from Mohra, was a lovely melody in the voices of Pankaj Udhas and Sadhana Sargam. Interestingly, this song written by Indivar, was originally recorded as a Kalyanji-Anandji composition in Mukesh’s voice, but was never used in any film. I do not want take anything away from Pankaj Udhas or Sadhana Sargam, but I urge you to hear the original Mukesh song (click below). You will realize why Mukesh was loved by so many fans, mainly because of his crystal clear diction, emphasis on key words and his unique soulful rendition of any song.

Chupana bhi nahin aata from Baazigar and Pehla pehla pyar hai (Hum aapke hain kaun) are also soft, romantic and soulful melodies. Saajan also featured some soulful numbers from Nadeem-Shravan like Jiye to jiyen kaise and Mera dil bhi kitna paagal hai.

Embellished melodies

Jatin-Lalit came with a strong pedigree – they are nephews of Pandit Jasraj. Most of their songs are wonderful melodies with a strong classical and folk connection. In addition, they created several chartbusters using instruments and arrangements creatively to add attractive embellishments to the main melody.

Pehla Nasha (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar) is a super hit song with lovely use of the piano. Another of their super hits, the title song of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai has a very attractive rhythm pattern with percussion instruments in the prelude that can also be heard in several places in the song. In a similar vein, they made superb use of guitar and percussion to create an attractive rhythm pattern in Jo haal dil ka (Sarfarosh).

Jatin-Lalit also created a song with pleasant use of saxophone and chorus in Meri duniya hai (Vaastav).


Nadeem-Shravan were known for their use of the same repetitive rhythm pattern and not for imaginative use of instruments or arrangements. However, Tumhe apna banane ki kasam (Sadak) features pleasant use of guitar. Two songs from Deewana also feature attractive, fast paced arrangements – Aisi Deewangi and Sochenge tumhe pyaar. Sochenge tumhe pyaar has lovely sitar and flute embellishments. Incidentally, Aisi deewangi is based on a Rajan-Nagendra superhit song in Telugu, Merupula Raali.

Uttam Singh, for some strange reason, did not have many Hindi films to his credit, despite creating the blockbuster songs in Dil to Paagal hai. Arre re Arre ye is a lovely song with interesting arrangements including the beautiful sound of the whistle.

Lengthy melodies


As mentioned earlier, Anu Malik made the transition to western instruments and arrangements and shot to popularity. Some of his songs were melodious and endearing, but it appears that he carried his enthusiasm for arrangements too far and created lengthy songs with long preludes and interludes. In some cases, the antras are longer than usual and occassionally, he repeats the same lines over and over again. All his songs in Border vary from 7 minutes to 10 minutes in length!

Consider the soft and soothing song Raah mein unki (Vijaypath). Apart from the lengthy prelude and antras, he also literally translates the lyrics about rain into the sounds of the rain. Churake dil mera (Main Khiladi Tu Anari) is an attractive song that has lengthy antras and for good measure, Anu Malik also added a lengthy ending.

The 90s were pleasant with a number of musical hits created by talented composers. They dared to swim against the tide and brought melody back into film music. Hats off to the composers, lyricists and singers who created these romantic melodies from the 90s.


Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Sweet melodies with flute

The violin was perhaps the most frequently used instrument (apart from the mandatory tabla, bongos or other percussion instruments) in Indian films from the 1940s to the early 70s. The Flute will perhaps come a close second to the violin as the most frequently used instrument.  Many music directors created memorable sweet melodies with flute in this period.

Of course, any song featuring Lord Krishna featured the flute. But there are also several other songs where the flute was used in a variety of ways. The flute appeared to be a natural fit for some situations. In other cases, the music directors seemed to have a liking for flute and used it extensively. A number of music directors also created attractive sounds and interesting arrangements by using the flute with other instruments.

Many songs featuring flute use the combination of flute and clarinet in Hindi film music. This combination allows the composer to combine the relatively high sounds of the flute with clarinet and provides flexibility in using the flute across multiple pitch levels. This combination also creates an overall sound that is both rich and mellow. Sometimes, composers use multiple flute instruments in the same song, at different pitch levels. Interestingly, there are many types of flute – ranging from the classical bansuri, the recorder, common man’s flute, and electric flute to the piccolo. Our composers created many sweet melodies with flute, but the sounds of the flute are not the same across all the songs. As an example, here is the sound of the piccolo that has a relatively high pitch.

And here is the sound of the classical bansuri at a different pitch.

Here is a medley of 17 flute pieces from Hindi film songs that runs for 5 minutes. The medley shows how different types of flutes were used to produce a wide variety of sounds and effects. However, the sweet sound of flute is the common factor across all the songs.

If you want to enjoy the complete songs with vocals, check out the playlist below. Enjoy 20 sweet melodies with flute (other than Lord Krishna songs). Most of the songs are from late 40s to early 70s (with one exception). 

A tip to enhance your listening pleasure: When listening to the songs in the playlist, if you want to browse further on this site or another one, open a new window for further browsing. The player will continue to play the songs in the current window while you are browsing)

Extensive flute

Stalwarts like Naushad, S D Burman and Roshan seemed to have a preference for flute and used it extensively in some of their songs.

Gaye jaa geet milan ke (Mela) and Tu mera chaand main teri chaandni (Dillagi) are two of Naushad’s songs that have beautiful and extensive use of the flute.

Another stalwart, Roshan used the flute extensively in Bahut diya denewale ne tujhko (Soorat aur Seerat). The flute sounds sweeter in Roshan’s songs!

S D Burman used flute in many of his songs to provide a breezy and light touch to complement the vocals composed in his unique style. But, it is his sad number Jaayen to Jaayen kahaan (Taxi Driver) that has extensive use of flute. Talat’s voice and the flute combine to create unforgettable pathos.

(I missed including Chup Gaya Koi Re (Champakali) in the original list. A reader Mukesh Ladiaji pointed out this omission. This is a lovely number composed by Hemant Kumar with extensive flute that touches the heart. Thank you Mukesh Ladiaji for pointing it out. )

Situational flute

Situations and visuals with green or snow-capped mountains and streams seem to be a natural fit for flute. And romantic duets or solos in the moonlight are tailor made situations as well. And to top it all, if the hero is a flautist, it is only natural for flute to figure in the song.

Shanker-Jaikishen were at the top of their profession for a long time because they were masters of all types of genres from classical to modern. Basant Bahar, at one end of the spectrum, had lovely songs like Main piya teri that featured beautiful flute interludes played by the hero.

Composer Ravi was a master in creating simple and beautiful melodies often with the use of santoor and flute. Two of his lovely songs with flute are set among the hills and streams in the movie Hamraaz– He nile gagan ke tale and Tum agar saath dene ka vaada karo.

Kalyanji- Anandji created the super hit Mere mitwa mere meet re (Geet) also amidst hills, streams along with a hero playing the flute. There is another equally attractive Sweet melodies of flutesong in Geet, Jiske sapne humen roz aate rahe that also makes brilliant use of flute. Apart from the lovely flute interludes, observe the delightful use of flute as a countermelody.

S D Burman gave some of his best music in Dev Anand movies that had good doses of romance and mischief set amongst beautiful backdrops. While Dil Pukare (Jewel Thief) was set amongst the hills, there were additional elements of fog and moonlight in the lovely song Tu kahaan ye bataa (Tere ghar ke saamne).

And S D Burman’s long time assistant, Jaidev gave us some memorable songs as an independent composer. One of his best songs with flute is Yeh dil aur unki (Prem parbat). There are many variations in flute which make this song among the best flute songs.

Attractive flute

Sweet melodies of flute

Some of the music composers used their creativity, inspiration and their expertise in arrangements to make attractive use of flute, sometimes in situations where the flute was not a natural fit.

Salil Chaudhary was a composer who could play the piccolo and who loved the instrument. He used the piccolo attractively in the prelude in Jaa re Jaa re (Maya).

The song Jis dil mein basaa tha (Saheli) was a Binaca Geet mala topper. This is a sad song but Kalyanji-Anandji used the flute attractively in the interludes like a normal song. Kalyanji-Anandji also made unusual and attractive use of the flute in the song Jo tumko ho pasand (Safar). This attractive flute piece creates a haunting effect as well and will remain etched in your mind long after you finish listening to the song.

Another sad song, Chahunga main tujhe (Dosti) by Laxmikant-Pyarelal was a big hit. The flute was used attractively in this classical song.

Shanker-Jaikishen’s Shree 420 was a blockbuster musical. The song Pyaar hua ikraar hua, perhaps evokes many images in the mind and one of the unforgettable images is of Raj Kapoor playing and dancing to the common man’s flute. The flute is also attractive in one more Shanker-Jaikishen movie, Teesri Kasam in the song Duniya banane wale.

RD Burman’s Aaja piya tose pyaar (Baharon ke sapne) has a superb flute piece in the first interlude that sounds very modern. And among relatively modern songs, Zara Zara (Rehna hai tere dil mein) has a superb heart touching flute prelude.

Mind blowing flute

Sweet melodies of flute

Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia – Photo courtesy: Wikipedia

If you want to enjoy truly magnificent and the best flute in film songs, you have to turn to regional songs.

Dadasaheb Phalke award winner K Viswanath also won multiple National awards. His movie Sirivennela (in Telugu language) is about a blind flutist and a mute painter. Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia played the flute in a number of songs in the movie. When you hear his flute, you will run out of words to describe the effect – magnificent, heavenly, soulful, brilliant are some of the words that will come to your mind. Enjoy two of the songs below from this movie with heavenly flute. The composer, K V Mahadevan needs to be credited for creating tunes that were melodious and became hugely popular without being overshadowed by the brilliance of the flute. Even though the language may be alien, if you can listen to the songs patiently till the end, I am sure you will enjoy the mind blowing flute (and also the songs).

The first song from Sirivennela, Ee gaali is a joyous one – note how the mood is set by the outstanding flute in the prelude. Though S P Balasubrahmanyam has a major share of the song, do not miss the magnificent flute set to the visuals of rain before P Susheela begins her singing.

The second song from Sirivennela, Vidhaata thalapuna  starts with words about the sound of ‘Om’. Again, observe how Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia sets the mood in the prelude with his flute as well the brilliant interludes, background and the soulful end to the song.

Apart from these two songs, there is a song from another K Viswanath movie Salangai oli (Tamil version of his Telugu movie), Mounamana neram that also has gorgeous flute. This silken smooth melody was composed by Ilayaraja and is considered one of the most romantic songs in South Indian music.

Sweet melodies with flute

The talent, skills and creativity of the music composers and the beautiful sounds of flute gave us many evergreen and sweet melodies with flute. I hope you enjoy the songs, admire the sounds of flute and the greatness of our composers.

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Enchanting Salil Chowdhary

Among the stalwarts of the Golden Era (1950s, 60s), Salil Chowdhary has a special place in the hearts of music lovers and connoisseurs. And there is a strong reasonsalil1 for this special place. A number of his songs were light, elegant, easy on the ears and leave you enchanted with a pleasant feeling. He had a distinct style of composition that seemed to make the songs flow quickly with brisk and graceful movements among notes. His passion for Western classical music and flair for instrumentation also made his songs cheerful to lift your mood as if you were waltzing on the clouds!

He was a passionate man with strong views on a wide range of interests, I am restricting myself to his film songs here. I am not familiar with his songs in Bengali and Malayalam, so this post is only about his Hindi films.

Jaagte raho, Madhumati, Maya, Do bigha zameen, Anand, Rajnigandha were some of his major films with Madhumati recognized by many as his best with all the songs topping the charts.

Enjoy 18 of my favourite songs from Salil Chowdhary by clicking the link below. These songs are from the 1950s to early 70s and many of them feature brisk movements among notes and wonderful arrangements to create an enchanting experience.


(This link will take you to Gaana.com where you have standard features of Play all, Shuffle and Skip song available. Sometimes, you may have to skip Ads to enjoy the music! Unlike my earlier posts, this player opens in a new window/tab. Since the music player opens in a new window/tab, you can browse through this site or others and enjoy the music playing in the background while you browse!)

Enchanting melodies


How did Salilda create songs that made you feel as if you were waltzing among the clouds? Many contemporary songs are percussion heavy and feature too many instruments (most of them electronic). The effect of such songs is to make you feel as if you have fallen to the earth with a thud. In contrast, Salilda used brisk movements among notes to create light, breezy melodies. In addition to these light, breezy melodies, his skill in arranging and creating effects like western symphonies transported you to the clouds.

Consider the song Itna na mujhse tu pyaar badhaa (Chaaya) where the prelude is like a piece from a western symphony. The mukhda itself is inspired by a Mozart symphorchestrationony. And enjoy the brisk and graceful movements in Rim jhim ke yeh pyaare pyaare (Usne kahaa tha) that make the song a delight. The interludes contain a blend of western symphony type arrangements and Indian arrangements. And as a grand final flourish, Lata sings effortlessly in western classical style at the end of the song. Baagh mein kali (Chanda aur Suraj) is one more song where you can experience a delightful combination of Indian melody and western arrangements.

Two extremely popular songs from Madhumati, Dil tadap tadap ke and Ghadi ghadi mora dil dhadke also feature brisk movements among notes. At the same time, these songs are easy and light on the ears with attractive rhythm devoid of heavy percussion.

While Salilda’s songs may sound light and easy, they are not easy to sing! Some of the movements among the notes require mastery of pitch and ability to jump notes across the octave. The title song in Rajnigandha and Na jiya laage na (Anand) are two such examples. They are very pleasant and light songs, but try singing them and you will realize the difficulty in moving among notes quickly.

Memorable masterpieces


Apart from the light and brisk melodies, Salilda also created memorable masterpieces that come to mind as top songs in certain situations. Ae mere pyaare watan (Kabuliwaala) is one such masterpiece. Though this song is about Afghanistan, it will rate among the top songs that come to mind when you think of “motherland”. Mannadey’s emotion filled singing and the simple orchestration (mostly rabab – a stringed instrument) create a patriotic feeling and a longing to go back to your roots. Dharti kahe pukar ke (Do bigha zameen) is one more masterpiece that takes you back to your roots.


Apart from the above two earthy masterpieces, he created light songs that were a great fit for idyllic and picturesque settings. Two songs from Madhumati, Suhana safar aur yeh mausam (Madhumati) and Aaja re pardesi are examples of such masterpieces that also have strong appeal to a romantic heart. And when you think of rain and raindrops, perhaps the top song in your mind will be O sajna barkha bahaar (Parakh).

Imaginative arrangements


Salilda was passionate about Western classical music. He could also play many instruments and knew how to make the best use of instruments. Earlier, I highlighted a few of his songs that feature preludes and interludes that sound like elements from western symphonies. In addition to creating sounds like western symphonies, he also used instruments imaginatively.

Jaa re Jaa re ud jaa re panchi (Maya) starts with a beautiful piccolo flute. And in the antras he uses Saxophone imaginatively to accompany Lata’s voice. In totality, this song is outstanding for the melody and arrangements. O Sajna barkha bahaar also uses the same imaginative technique of using saxophone to back up Lata’s voice in the antras.

His knowledge of western music and flair for instrumenrajeshkhannats stood him in good stead in transitioning into the 1970s. While he used saxophone in the 60s imaginatively, in the seventies he shifted to trumpets! Observe the beautiful use of trumpets in Zindagi kaisi hai paheli (Anand).

Jaaneman Jaaneman (Choti si baat) also uses brisk movements in the vocals as well as instrumentation to create a light and breezy effect. If you listen to Guzar jaye din (Annadata), the instruments and arrangements sound fresh, modern and relevant even today and can be easily used in any contemporary movie! The deep sonorous voice of Kishore was used to great effect in this brisk song. Try singing the song and you will realize the difficulty of moving from bass notes to higher notes.

Another song from Annadata, Nisdin nisdin has interludes with rich sounds of a full western orchestra. Salilda’s mastery of instruments and arrangements also gave him the reputation as an expert in background music. Sometimes, he was asked to compose background music even when the songs in a film were composed by someone else. Kanoon and Kaala Pathar are two examples of movies where Salilda’s background music was an attraction.

Salil Chowdhary was truly a man with many passions, flair and creativity. His unique talents created a special place for him in the history of film music and in the hearts of music lovers. Hats off to this creative genius who gave us many enchanting and evergreen songs.

Posted in Great music directors - Hindi, Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Southern Spice in Hindi Music

Our wonderful world of Hindi film music absorbs, adapts and accommodates styles and influences from all over India and the world. In this post, I will highlight key aspects of South Indian music that have been absorbed in Hindi film songs, that have added what I would call as a dash of Southern spice in Hindi film music. I do not mean vocal styles from South India, but instruments from South India.


Mridang or Mridangam

Three instruments play a key part in Southern music, especially classical music – Mridang, Ghatam and Morsing. These 3 are percussion instruments played with the hand. Morsing is considered side percussion. All three share a common ‘twangy’ sound that can be considered spicy! The Mridang is called Mridangam in South India.

While these 3 instruments are used predominantly in Southern classical music (also called Carnatic music), other regions of India also have instruments that are similar or closely resemble these 3 instruments. Interestingly, Morsing is played with the hands but the instrument is placed in the mouth.

Southern Spice in Hindi Film Music

Check out the sounds of these instruments in the short audio samples below (less than 6 seconds each). Here is the Mridangam.

Here is the sound of Ghatam.

And enjoy the sound of Morsing below:

A number of Hindi film songs have used these three instruments and as you can observe, the songs that I highlighted are very popular.

Enjoy 12 of these songs from the playlist below. All the songs are from 1940s to 1960s (with one exception). In some of the songs, the instruments can be heard clearly. In others, they are a part of a wider range of instruments and you have to listen very carefully to hear them.


(This link will take you to Gaana.com where you have standard features of Play all, Shuffle and Skip song available. Sometimes, you may have to skip Ads to enjoy the music! Unlike my earlier posts, this player opens in a new window/tab. Since the music player opens in a new window/tab, you can browse through this site or others and enjoy the music playing in the background while you browse!)

Naushad’s spicy touch


Among the music directors of the golden era (1950s and 60s), Naushad was a perfectionist. He worked very hard to get the vocal melody right. In addition, he also paid a lot of attention to the accompanying instrument arrangements and introduced a number of innovative arrangements and combinations. (You can check out Lively songs from Naushad for some of his innovations). It is not surprising therefore, to find that Naushad used the 3 instruments in a number of his songs.

Tu kahe agar (Andaz) features Ghatam that captures the rhythm of the song beautifully to accompany the graceful dance on the screen. And observe, how he starts with Ghatam with a folksy rhythm in the hugely popular Door koi gaaye (Baiju Bawra).

Tere sadke balam (Amar) is a song that I love very much. I can hear it a thousand times without getting tired of the song. I enjoy the beautiful waves in the song that take you up and down for a sweet and melodious ride. You may not observe the Ghatam, but it is playing throughout and lends a beautiful twangy background to the song. Incidentally, this song is not easy to sing – once you try it, you can appreciate Lata’s ability to move smoothly from one note to another in waves.

Naushad made innovative use of Mridang along with bongos in Mera pyaar bhi tu hai (Saathi).(See Enjoyable western beats)

Naushad also used Morsing in a number of songs. Check out the sound of the Morsing in Na toofan se khelo (Udan Khatola) from 00:30 to 00:40 in the song below.

The twang of the Ghatam


Many stalwarts from the golden era used Ghatam to great effect.

Shanker-Jaikishen used Ghatam beautifully in Yeh shaam ki tanhaaiyan (Aah). Ramlal used Ghatam to create an impact in Tere khayalon mein hum (Geet gaaya patharon ne) and add to the haunting effect.

Nashad (not to be confused with Naushad) was actually Shaukat Ali who composed several popular songs. Apparently, a director Nakshab Jarachavi approached Naushad to compose music for his film. And when Naushad did not agree, he was angry and got Shaukat Ali to compose music after changing Shaukat Ali’s name to Nashad. Baradari has a lovely Talat Mahmood song Tasveer banataa hoon that features Ghatam prominently.

Madan Mohan, the master of soulful songs used Ghatam in Mere piyaa se koi jaake (Ashiana). As always, he stretched Lata’s voice in this song as well to add a delectable touch.

Spice in the Golden Era


SD Burman made heavy use of Mridang in Tere naina talaash (Talaash). You can hear the tabla and other instruments  in the first few minutes. After those few minutes, the mridangam takes over and can be heard clearly, and in several places, as the sole percussion instrument to accompany the dance on the screen.

The Mridang becomes a natural accompaniment for Mehmood, the dance teacher from the South in the comic Ek chatur naar karke (Padosan) by RD Burman.

Pakeezah is actually a golden era movie even though it was released in the early 70s. The Morsing is actually playing throughout the song Mausam hai aashiqana. However, you may not observe it except between 3:08 and 3:11 in the song below where it is played as the lead instrument.

AR Rahman masterpieces

A R Rahman

AR Rahman raised the bar in instrument arrangements, even in the days of computerized arrangements. He introduced new sounds and rhythm patterns in percussion, among many other outstanding features in arrangements. In many of his songs, you can hear each instrument distinctly even when the percussion and rhythm appear to be heavy and all encompassing.

Jiya jale (Dil se) is a masterpiece that is a beautiful fusion of folksy vocals from Kerala with the vocal melody of Lata Mangeshkar. You can hear the Morsing and Mridangam in this song clearly. The Morsing accompanies Lata’s voice from 0:05 onwards and can be heard through most of the song. The Mridangam starts with a short roll at 1:05 and is used primarily to create the percussion roll through the rest of the song.

Another of his masterpieces is Taal se Taal mila (Taal). He used many percussion instruments to emphasise the Taal, but the Ghatam can be heard clearly from 1:23 to 1:37 and later whenever the line Taal se Taal mila is repeated.

Thus far, I discussed songs that had one or two of the 3 instruments being discussed. Is there a song that has all 3 of them? Yes, but it is a regional song that truly embodies the Southern Spice. Check out the section below.

Authentic Southern Spice


There are of course innumerable songs from South Indian films that feature the 3 instruments. However, I would like to draw your attention to two special songs.

Madhura madhura tara Meenakshi (Telugu movie – Arjun) is one such special song. If you listen to the song carefully, you will observe that there are many percussion instruments used in the song. Apart from this, the combination of percussion instruments and the pattern they play in the song changes frequently – it varies between female and male singers, between chorus and interludes, between high and low pitch and in every possible combination you can think of. These variations really call for perfect arrangements and orchestration. Mani Sarma composed this song and you can hear all 3 instruments in the song (though not all of them at the same time). From 1:41 you can hear the Mridangam joined shortly by Ghatam and other instruments till 1:51 and shortly thereafter you can also hear the Morsing join the percussion from 1:53 to 2:17.

The music of Ilayaraja, the genius from South India defies description. He combines many different styles to create amazing effects. Listen carefully to Poongathave thal thiravai (Tamil movie – Nizhalgal) below. In his arrangements and Ilayarajaorchestration, there are sounds of western symphonies, ‘conversations’ between the keyboard and violin, beautiful use of humming, seamless transition from western to traditional instruments and as a final flourish in the song, the blending of the sounds of violin and the humming. And all of these superb combinations and blends are in addition to a wonderful vocal melody!

In the midst of all this wizardry, did you notice the use of Mridangam? The Mridangam adds a final twangy beat to complete the pattern played by bongos. This single beat on the mridangam is one more amazing combination among the many wonderful combinations in the song.

We are indeed fortunate to enjoy the wide variety of influences and styles that Hindi film music gives us. I hope you enjoyed the twangy sounds that added southern spice in Hindi film songs!

Posted in Hindi film music, Orchestration and arrangements, Special themes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments