The haunting music of Hemant Kumar

‘Haunting’ is the first word I associate with Hemant Kumar (as a composer). I use the word haunting in a broader sense. Haunting does not mean spooky or ghost songs or ‘voices singing mournfully in the night’. By haunting, I mean songs that for some reason remain etched in your mind and you keep humming or visualizing the song often. Or, when a song conveys deep emotions that are unforgettable or which leave an impact even when you are not listening to the song.

In relative terms, Hemant Kumar composed music for fewer films when compared to other stalwarts of the golden era. But he left indelible memories of his tunes in movies like Nagin, Kohraa, Bees Saal Baad, Khamoshi, Anupama, Shart, Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam among others. I am not knowledgeable about Bengali film music, so I will restrict myself only to Hindi films for which Hemant Kumar composed music.

I have discussed some of his best songs (as a music composer, not as a singer) in the commentary below.

Enjoy his songs in the playlist below.


If you are in the USA or Canada, you can also enjoy his songs in the player below.  You can skip a few songs, if required. On repeated plays, the player automatically shuffles songs. Click on the play arrow below and enjoy!

A tip to enjoy the songs

(The player stops playing when you click the back button or go to another link on this page or somewhere else. This happens because the player is embedded on this page. To ensure you can enjoy listening to these songs without any break, open another window after clicking the play arrow. If you want to browse further on this site or another site, use the newly opened window. The player will keep playing the songs as you browse in the new window).


All of us listen to songs all the time. But, when a song leaves a deep impact it can be truly haunting. Most Hindi movies obviously have the usual dose of love, romance and songs about love. To me, one of the most hauntingly beautiful love songs in Hindi films is a Hemant Kumar composition – Humne dekhi hai (Khamoshi).

Pyar koi bol nahin, Pyar awaaz nahin

Ek khamoshi hai sunti hai kahaa karti hai

Noor ki boond hai

Sadiyon se bahaa karti hai

Sirf ehsaas hai yeh, rooh se mehsoos karo

Pyar ko pyar hi rehne do koi naam na do

These lyrics by Gulzar for this song capture deep, caring and sensitive feelings of love. The lyrics, the simple tune and Lata’s magical voice express the finest feelings of unconditional love in a very mature way. To me, this is a gold standard or benchmark for songs about love. Every time I hear this song, it gives me goose bumps for the sensitive feelings expressed in this song so beautifully. This is truly a haunting song that remains etched in your entire being.

Resonance multiplied

resonanceThere are many other reasons why Hemant Kumar’s music is haunting. One obvious reason is Hemant Kumar singing his own compositions. Blessed with a rich, deep and sonorous voice, his singing left a deep impression. When you hear his songs, you can feel the vibrations and deep resonance of his voice. When such a rich and resonant voice sings songs of yearning, love, wistfulness the effect can be very haunting. There are several songs that Hemant Kumar composed where he sang songs that are full of resonant humming and stress on a few notes like Tum pukar lo (Khamoshi) or songs that touch low notes and accentuate his deep resonant voice as in Ye nayan dare dare (Kohraa). In Tum pukar lo, the music, the humming, the ‘whistle’ and the words leave you spellbound. Similarly, the humming in Ye nayan dare dare leaves you enthralled. These two are perhaps the best examples of his resonance where you can feel the vibrations and humming long after the song is over. A similar song, but without humming is Ya dil ki suno (Anupama). The song without any percussion has Hemant Kumar resonating beautifully with its heart tugging melody. These songs keep playing in your head over and over again long after you finished listening to the songs.

Hemant also developed a good association with Kishore Kumar. Perhaps their bond was the resonance in their voices! The extremely popular Woh shaam kuch (Khamoshi) is a memorable Kishore number. I do feel however that Hemant Kumar need not have used the chorus in this song since the words and Kishore’s deep resonant voice were enough to make an impact.

Lively dances


Hemant Kumar skyrocketed to fame with Nagin. This was a great musical hit. One of the reasons for the appeal of Nagin’s music is the seamless integration of the been sound with the main melody. Kalyanji (of the Kalyanji-Anandji duo), played a new instrument called clayvioline for the first time in Hindi film music to produce the been sound heard in the chartbuster Tan dole mera man dole. The been is constrained and can only move from one note to an adjacent note. It cannot jump suddenly from a note to another note which is not adjacent. Also, you cannot produce short, staccato sounds on the been. The main melody in Tan dole mera man dole also is composed like been notes with adjacent notes smoothly woven into one another without short notes or breaks. The effect of the been sound and the lengthy, graceful flow of the melody is very lively and depicts the dance movements beautifully. Ye mard bade dil from Miss Mary, set to simple dance steps is a lovely song of the teasing variety. In contrast, Chali gori pee se (Ek hi raasta) is a lovely song set to classical dance movements and Meri jaan (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam) is set to a mujra setting.

Haunting melodieshaunting

Hemant Kumar’s haunting songs are also of a different variety – the expected ‘lone voice singing mournfully in the night’ type. Lata and her voice are truly captivating in Kahin deep jale kahin dil (Bees saal baad). The instrumental music and arrangements, the voice and the ebb and flow of the lovely composition make this song a really memorable and haunting one.

Lata’s Mera dil ye pukare raja (Nagin) and another ‘lone voice singing mournfully in the night’ song  – Jhoom jhoom dhalti raat (Kohraa) are also extremely haunting. Jhoom Jhoom dhalti raat (Kohraa), perhaps added to Hemant Kumar’s brand as the composer for ‘haunting’ (as in spooky) movies. Unfortunately, Bees saal pehle dissappointed with westernized tunes that were a big let down for heightened expectations of a repeat of the haunting effect from Bees saal baad.

Many moods of love

Among Hemant Kumar’s ‘love theme’ compositions, Beqarar karke hame (Bees saal baad) is the one that stands out. This number is cheerful and set to a catchy rhythm that captures the playful and teasing mood beautifully. Raah bani khud manzil (Kohraa) is another lively number set to great music that again plays on your mind mainly because of the sound of the instruments and Hemant’s voice. This song expresses the comfort and and the joy of being with a loved companion. His duet with Geeta Dutt in Fashion, Tum aur hum is also a lovely number that captures joy, optimism and hope. Dheere dheere machal (Anupama) is a well composed tune that expresses beautifully the longing, waiting associated with love.

Perhaps another reason why his music is haunting is the use of singers like Geeta Dutt in songs like Piya aiso jiya or Na jao saiyyan (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam). Geeta brings out the anticipation, desires, pathos, longing and unfulfilled desires so beautifully with her rich voice.

Moonlight vigilmoon

Hemant Kumar songs seem to take on an additional allure when it comes to moonlight settings. Miss Mary is a remake of a block-buster Telugu hit, Missamma. Miss Mary is a delightful family movie full of situational and light-hearted comedy. This movie has a lovely song asking for the moon to mediate in a couple’s tiff – O raat ke musafir, that is easy flowing and a delight for the years. And how can one forget the promise of undying love so beautifully captured in another moonlight song – Na yeh chand hoga (Shart). Jadugar saiyyan (Nagin) is another delightful tune composed for a night setting. Khoyi khoyi akhiyan (Chand) flows easily and is set to silken notes in the moonlight setting.

Natural settingsnature

Apart from moonlight, natural surroundings also seem to bring out the best in Hemant Kumar. My personal favourite is Hawaaon pe likhdo (Do dooni char) with its soft instruments and music complementing Kishore’s lovely voice. Bheegi bheegi faza (Anupama) and Sanwale salone (Ek hi raasta) are two other delightful numbers with natural ‘tours’ in two different modes of transport – a bicycle and a car! But, the song that perhaps takes the cake for natural setting songs in Bhanwra bada nadaan (Sahib Biwi aur Ghulam). Asha Bhonsle is truly a delight in this song. She sings in a variety of tones, sometimes teasing, sometimes endearing about the bhanwra. Though the lyrics are about gardens and bhanwra, Waheeda does not venture out of her room while singing this song!

Hemant kumar

Hemant Kumar also groomed music composer Ravi, who went on to become one of the stalwarts of the golden era.

Hemant Kumar is obviously well known as a singer and he used his resonant voice to great effect. He was also a gifted composer. He would choose the right instruments to produce the desired sounds and tone and focus on making the melody touch the right notes to leave an everlasting haunting impression. Hats off to this gifted composer who left an indelible mark with some of the most haunting songs in Hindi film music that keep reverberating in our minds, hearts and soul.




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14 Responses to The haunting music of Hemant Kumar

  1. coolone160 says:

    Great post! Hemant Kumar’s voice had a inherent sweetness and softness that pleased one’s ears.Some of his songs had a soothing effect such as “Yaad Kiya Dil Ne Kahan Ho Tum ” from Patita-

    “Na Tum Hamen Jaano” -Baat Ek Raat Ki (1962)

    and my most favorite song of Hemantda is “Ya Dil Ki Suno ” which you have mentioned above-

    Humne dekhi hai (Khamoshi).is indeed his masterpiece!

    • RSBAAB says:

      Thanks Coolone……Yes, Humne dekhi hai is truly a masterpiece both for the great lyrics and composition. I also like Yaad kiya dil ne and Na tum hame jaano…..However, I restricted myself to showcasing only the songs composed by Hemant Kumar and did not include songs by other composers in this post.

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  3. Ravi,
    This is an excellent post on Hemant Kumar, one of my most favourite singers and composers. You have covered many of his most melodious songs. I am tempted to add many more, but I would like to mention two of my greatest favourites which are probably missing:

    1. Pyasi hirni ban ban dhaye koi shikari aaye re by Lata Mangeshakar from Do Dil
    2. Bas ek chup si lagi hai by Hemant Kumar from Sannata


    • rsbaab says:

      Hi AK…. Yes, indeed these two are very melodious songs. The mukhda of Pyasi hirni is especially delightful and also ‘haunting’. Thanks for adding these two to the list.

  4. raomsrl says:

    your musical knowledge is very very good, beautiful, and excellent,

  5. Avinash says:

    Excellent post on Hemant Kumar. Please continue your writing on composers and singers. In the golden era of Film music Roshan, Ravi, Kalyanji-Anandji ( early melodic period as you stated), Salil Choudhari, khayyam, could not dominate in popularity. They were themselves fine composers just the same.

    That is what made the era golden.


    • RSBAAB Ravi says:

      Thanks Avinash…..Glad you enjoyed the post (and hopefully the songs on the player as well). Yes, as you rightly said, the era was golden because of the many fine composers of that time.

  6. wingedream says: we are happy to have found tour site.I am sure you shall bring joy to many.And we shall be sharing your posts while some would comment while passing by.Keep singing the song of writing !

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  8. ramrao says:

    In Raah bani khud manzil (Kohraa),
    (1) what are the important instruments (non-percussion) besides accordion and sitar? I would have called one a steel drum — but am a bit confused about this.
    (2) what is the beat pattern called?

    • RSBAAB Ravi says:

      Mr Ramrao….Thank you very much for going through the post. I must admit I am not an expert in recognising sounds of various instruments. If you referring to the superb sweet sound that you hear in the prelude (playing the same tune as Raah bani khud manzil line), I think it could be a combination of clarinet and flute. Also, the accordion sounds sweeter in the prelude with a vibraphone playing along with the accordion. I am not sure of these though. I am also not aware of the beat pattern of the bongos – though it is a basic beat pattern, not very complicated.

      If you do get answers that you think are the right answers to your questions, please do share. Once again, Thanks for going through the post. I hope you enjoyed the haunting beauty of Hemant Kumar’s compositions.

  9. KB says:

    Excellent post. He sang many good songs in films such as Munimji,House no 44 and Ek hi rasta. There is one film Faraar (1965) where the most melodious Pyar ki dastaan song was there. His compositions in lesser known films such as Payal and Miss Mary were outstanding. His utilisation of other singers like Rafi was also excellent.

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